HD Music Download Sites (a list)

High Definition music downloads are part of the next big wave in the evolution/revolution that is computer audio. As with most things computer audio, there’s some confusion, disagreement and dissension regarding exactly what a High Definition audio file is.

Should we restrict the use of this term to only those records that were originally recorded using high definition equipment at greater than CD-quality resolution? Or is a FLAC download of a file that’s been re-mastered and in the process re-sampled to 24/96 worthy of inclusion? It’s no surprise that the people most closely involved with this issue, recording engineers and producers, have strong and differing opinions.

For the purposes of this overview we've included all websites that offer downloads of higher than CD-quality music regardless of the original recorded resolution. Before the flames begin (or continue), AudioStream will be reporting on and looking into this ongoing debate in the hopes that the industry can come up with some simple language to help consumers know relevant information about what they're buying before they buy it.

A good start might be something along the lines of differentiating between upsampled and native high definition recordings by calling them something like - Native or Upsampled.

[Updated: 9.17.2013]

Acousence

Website: www.acousence.de

Description: Jazz and Classical Recordings. FLAC downloads available from Acousence when purchasing DVD+FLAC192 or as direct downloads through Linn Records.

Resolution: up to 24 Bit/192kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Acoustic Sounds

Website: store.acousticsounds.com/superhirez

Description: Audiophile recordings.

Resolution: up to 24 Bit/176kHz and DSD

File Formats: FLAC, DSF

Analekta Records
Website: www.analekta.com/en

Description: ANALEKTA is a Greek word which can be translated as "a collection of the finest works". Since the inception of the company in 1988, founder and President François Mario Labbé and his team of dedicated people have worked diligently to represent its corporate name.

ANALEKTA has become the largest independent classical record company in Canada. Being the recipient of many distinguished prizes, notably for the quality of its recordings and the rigorous musicianship of its artists, ANALEKTA has earned a reputation of excellence on the international music scene. The company is now considered a benchmark within the Canadian music industry and a true gem of Canadian culture..

Resolution: up to 24 Bit/88.2kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Artist Connex
Website: www.artistconnex.com

Description: Beta

Resolution: up to 24 Bit/192kHz and DSD

File Formats: WAV, DSDIFF

ATMA Classique
Website: www.atmaclassique.com

Description: It's been almost 15 years since ATMA Classique was created. Based in Montreal, ATMA welcomes musicians from Canada and from the four corners of the world. Our CDs are distributed in more than 25 countries, and are available on-line worldwide.

There are now more than 300 titles in our catalogue, and they span a broad spectrum from medieval to contemporary music, with multiple detours along the way into traditional and world music, tango and popular song, and experimental music. At ATMA,we like to surprise, dazzle, and take artistic risks.

What inspires us is simply our passion for recording sound, and for sharing, both through the traditional medium of the disc and through cyberspace, our acoustic images of imagined worlds.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96 kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Bleep
Website: www.bleep.com

Description: Bleep was started by independent film and record company Warp. This of course allows us to have a really great understanding of the processes of both artists, record labels, arts and film companies have to go through to reach its audience. We like to take this understanding and apply it to all of the record labels, distributors, and arts companies that we work with.

Bleep sells more music than just Warp artists. We work with over 300 labels and aim to provide you with the highest quality products available - regardless of where it comes from.

24 Bit WAV
Selected titles on the store are available in 24 Bit wav. We do not encode the 24 bit from a lower quality file the 24 bit WAV is produced in the Mastering of the release and is the highest quality we can provide. All 24 bit WAV are 24bit/44.1kHz. Please be aware the file size is considerably larger than the 16 bit version and there will be compatibility issues with some music players. (24 bit – 1.06gb / 16 bit – 720mb)

Resolution: up to 24 bit/44.1 kHz

File Formats: WAV, FLAC

Blue Coast Records
Website: www.bluecoastrecords.com

Description: Exceptional Acoustic Recordings

Resolution: DSD

File Formats: DSD DFF

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Website: www.bso.org

Description: Now in its 131st season, the Boston Symphony Orchestra gave its inaugural concert on October 22, 1881, and has continued to uphold the vision of its founder, the businessman, philanthropist, Civil War veteran, and amateur musician Henry Lee Higginson, for well over a century. The Boston Symphony Orchestra has performed throughout the United States, as well as in Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, South America, and China; in addition, it reaches audiences numbering in the millions through its performances on radio, television, and recordings.

Resolution: not specified

File Formats: WMA

Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound
Website: www.bowers-wilkins.com

Description: Subscribe to Society of Sound to download high-quality albums from Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Resolution: Up to 24bit /192kHz

File Formats: Apple Lossless, FLAC

Burning Shed
Website: www.burningshed.com

Description: Burning Shed is an online label and store specialising in Singer-Songwriter, Progressive, Ambient/Electronica and Art Rock music

Established in 2001 by Tim Bowness , Peter Chilvers and Pete Morgan, the company is now run by co-directors Tim Bowness and Pete Morgan.

Burning Shed hosts the official online shops for Porcupine Tree, Panegyric (King Crimson), Kscope, Ape (Andy Partridge/XTC), No-Man, Jethro Tull, Thomas Dolby, Medium Productions (Jansen, Barbieri and Karn), Peaceville and Hatfield and the North, amongst others.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Cedille Records
Website: www.cedillerecords.org

Description: Cedille Records is the label of The Chicago Classical Recording Foundation — a foundation dedicated to preserving Chicago’s rich musical heritage by documenting the work of its finest musicians, ensembles, and composers.

Resolution: Up to 24bit /192kHz

File Formats: FLAC, MP3

Channel Classics
Website: www.channelclassics.com

Description: Channel Classics is selling physical hybrid SACDs/normal CDs of our complete catalogue and offering High Resolution Audio Downloads including DSD format. All Channel Classics Hi-Res Downloads are taken from our DSD (SACD masters) that are all recorded in pure DSD.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/192kHz and DSD

File Formats: FLAC, DSD

Dacapo Records
Website: www.dacapo-records.dk/en

Description: Classical and New Music from the Danish National Label.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/192kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Downloads NOW!
Website: downloadsnow.net

Description: Your Music, Your Downloads, Your Way. The Artist or Label's MicroStore for selling DSD Audio, High Resolution 96khz 24bit Full Size WAV or CD Quality WAV Downloads.

Resolution: Up to 24bit /96kHz and full DSD

File Formats: WAV, DSDIFF

eClassical
Website: www.eclassical.com

Description: High Quality Classical download store.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Gimmel
Website: www.gimell.com

Description: The first Gimell recording was made on March 22nd and 23rd, 1980, in the Chapel of Merton College, Oxford. Single-artist labels have become commonplace in recent years: Gimell was the first, predicting the trend by at least a decade. This gave Peter Phillips and Steve Smith a head-start both in the technique of recording a cappella singing and in gaining irreplaceable experience with a single repertoire and one artist. This experience is unique and enduring, informing every one of the 50 discs and more which Gimell has produced.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/176kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Gubemusic
Website: www.gubemusic.com

Description: Welcome to Gubemusic! We are an eclectic Music Store for downloads of High Quality Music and Sound. We offer downloads in full CD and 24Bit sound Quality! Mp3 for free with any purchase.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/192kHz

File Formats: FLAC

HDMusicStore
Website: www.hdmusicstore.it

Description: HDmusicStore is the first Italian music distribution platform offering "liquid" high resolution.

The site offers music tracks available for download and you can listen to a preview (whose format is compressed in low resolution). You can browse the site to discover new musical hits and oldies favorites.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96 kHz

File Formats: FLAC

HD Tracks
Website: www.hdtracks.com

Description: HDtracks is the premiere online music store for audiophiles who demand the best sounding music. As consumers are left with few options to purchase high quality recordings, HDtracks was founded to fill the void. It is our purpose to allow our customers access to the largest online library of DRM-free CD and DVD-Audio quality downloads complete with liner notes in a PDF format.

Resolution: Up to 24bit /176.4kHz

File Formats: FLAC. WAV, AIFF, ALAC

hi fi track
Website: www.hifitrack.com

Description: HifiTrack.com is owned and operated by Music Powerhouse Limited to provide digital music download services for audiophiles. It is the first music download site for audiophiles in Greater China and is one of the few pioneers in the world. The digital music available on HifiTrack.com is in high resolution WAV format including "Direct studio master version"(DSMV), a music file that is made directly available on HifiTrack.com from the studio with no extraction or processing for the end users to buy and download, for the audiophiles’ pursuit of the ultimate hi-fidelity and music enjoyment. Among them are state-of-the-art 24 bit/96 kHz and 24 bit/48 kHz song files.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96kHz

File Formats: WAV

High Definition Tape Transfers
Website: www.highdeftapetransfers.com

Description: High Definition Tape Transfers specializes in rare classical recordings mastered with the best mastering equipment available. They are available in Redbook CD, 24/96 DVD and HQCD. We also offer our releases in 24/96 and 24/192 (on select titles) Flac downloads for playback on a High End Computer Audio System.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/192 kHz

File Formats: FLAC

HIGHRESAUDIO
Website: www.highresaudio.com

Description: Designed, edited and operated in Germany, HIGHRESAUDIO is the first commercial music download service for audiophiles worldwide offering only high-resolution 24-bit albums and songs at sampling rates from 88.2kHz up to 384kHz. HIGHRESAUDIO brings online music distribution to the next level – far beyond from existing heavily compressed audio download services; to include extensive editorial data, detailed album description, biographies, reviews and artist related content.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/192kHz

File Formats: FLAC, WAV, AIFF

iTrax
Website: www.itrax.com

Description: iTrax is a website for people that love music and appreciate that it deserves to be experienced at its very best...at the highest possible fidelity, with or without video.

Resolution: Up to 24bit /96kHz

File Formats: MP3, Dolby Digital, DTS, WMA PRO, WMA LOSSLESS, PCM 96/24

Linn Records
Website: www.linnrecords.com

Description: Classical and Jazz recordings from the same company as Linn audio products.

Resolution Up to 24bit /192kHz

File Formats: FLAC, WMA, and MP3

Melba Recordings
Website: www.melbarecordings.com.au

Description: The Melba Foundation is a charitable trust founded to promote Australia’s finest classical musicians and artists in the national and international music world.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96kHz

File Formats: FLAC, WAV, AIFF

Naim Label
Website: www.naimlabel.com

Description: Naim Audio, the Salisbury-based creators of some of the worlds greatest sounding home entertainment systems, have channelled their uncompromising obsession for outstanding music through their record company for over fifteen years. This desire to champion the artistic and not just the technical is what makes Naim Label, now one of the biggest audiophile labels in the world, so special.

Resolution: Up to 24bit /96kHz

File Formats: MP3, FLAC and WAV

2L
Website: www.2L.no

Description: Welcome to a voyage in an acoustic landscape – with the contours of classical, contemporary, jazz, pop and folk music.

Resolution Up to 24bit /192kHz

File Formats: FLAC and CD-quality WAV

Pristine Classical
Website: www.pristineclassical.com

Description: 32-bit remasters at the world's leading historic recordings site.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/48kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Qobuz
Website: www.qobuz.com

Description: Être fidèle à la musique, c'est l'esprit Qobuz ! Qobuz : un site de téléchargement haute-fidélité, d'écoute à la demande, d'information musicale et d'échanges comme vous n'en avez encore jamais "entendu" ! Un site où tous les styles se côtoient et se répondent, en pleine intelligence et en parfaite harmonie. Un site en haute fidélité, où la musique est plus belle. Un site fidèle à la musique.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96kHz

File Formats: FLAC

Sound Liaison
Website: www.soundliaison.com

Description: Sound Liaison is founded by Frans de Rond and Peter Bjørnild. Their goal is to build a bridge (liaison) between the studio (engineer and musicians) and the people who love to listen to beautiful music using high-end audio equipment. To achieve this goal they organize recording sessions with a live audience in a professional studio. The recordings are available at the music store of Sound Liaison as down loadable High-Resolution Audio.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96kHz

File Formats: WAV

subradar
Website: www.subradar.no

Description: Subradar is an artist friendly website dedicated to free-jazz, noise, improvised and contemporary music. Subradar has been developed in close collaboration with musicians and record labels and is a non-profit organization run by artists.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96kHz

File Formats: FLAC

The Classical Shop
Website: www.theclassicalshop.net

Description: The Classical Shop is one of the world’s premium DRM-free download stores dedicated to classical music. As a classical music devotee, you have access to 928762 tracks from the world’s leading independent labels, with free sampling of any track. Every classical genre is supported, from early music to contemporary, and everything in-between. The Classical Shop is committed to offering you access to collections and labels that are not widely available from either retail or other download stores. The Classical Shop currently features 119 labels, and adds more labels every month; as many as 80,000 new tracks are uploaded on a monthly basis.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/96kHz

File Formats: FLAC, WAV, AIFF

Unipheye Music
Website: www.unipheyemusic.com

Description: Releases from Unipheye Music are available for download in a selection of file formats and priced accordingly. Each are fully tagged and are accompanied by full cover-art and liner-notes. A transcendent digital music listening experience is available with our SMRD - Studio Master Reference Disc. These are Full Resolution, one-to-one duplicates of our studio master .wav files, beautifully packaged and delivered on data-only DVD-R discs. Upload them to a computer for playback through a sound system.

Resolution: up to 24 bit/192kHz

File Formats: FLAC

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COMMENTS
Michael Lavorgna's picture

Thank you for taking the time to add those Russell!

deckeda's picture

I agree---higher than 16/44 should be the benchmark, specifically at least 24/88. What bugs me is record labels that offer "high resolution" downloads and you find out they mean "FLAC", as if the file format implies hires, and then come to find out it's only 16/44.

Vasily's picture

Artist Connex: http://www.artistconnex.com/

Pristine Classical: http://www.pristineclassical.com/

Unipheye Music: http://www.unipheyemusic.com/

You can find a list of 35 hi-rez sites on http://www.pcaudiophile.ru/index.php?id=31

nunh's picture

Nice selection of links - thanks!

BillB's picture

Apologies if this is not quite where you are going with this.  Lately I'm feeling a lot like my grandfather must have felt trying to make sense of the VCR back in the Pleistocene.  No hablo techno muy bien.

I recently became aware of this online store offering 24-bit wav files [also some FLAC format] in addition to the usual mp3s. 

http://bleep.com/index.php?page=dynamic&module=downloadinfo

 I love where this is starting to go.  Thanks for the post.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

This is exactly where I'd like to go with this! Bleep is now on the list.

Warp is a great label and Bleep has some of my favorites (Fennesz, Gonjasufi, Joker, etc...). And some at better than CD quality. I’m equally excited about the regular-old CD quality FLAC/WAV downloads as well. Excellent.

Thanks!

JJ's picture

I would like a little more than what was metioned above in the begining of this post differentiating between upsampled and native, although this is better than the nothing we have now.  

I would love to have the original recorded resolution to be disclosed and format.  Also if taken from an original analog tape, the year of the original recording, what speed was it dubbed at and into what resolution directly from that original. I hope this is not asking to much! We should not even have to ask for this! It should already be!

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Should be posted and it also should be included in the metadata. This brings up a larger and more serious issue, imo, which is the absence of any standards for metadata in digital downloads. One example is the "Year" field that I’ve seen used to represent the year of reissue, not the original recording date.

dmawhinney's picture

High definition audio files should refer to any file generated at resolutions higher than the red book standard of 16/44.1 with the caveat that such files can only be created from analog sources. Analog sources must be live perfomances or original analog masters of previous recordings and be directly encoded to the High Definition format.

Upsampling from red book masters cannot be High Definition by definition. The information that could have been captured by a higher resolution conversion from analog can never be recreated by upsampling. The only advantage of upsampling a redbook file is that it moves the sampling rate and noise filtering process in the digital/analog convertion further away from audible frequencies. Whether upsampling  provides an audible improvement in sound depends on how well the execution of the redbook standard playback is carried out in hardware. Many manufactures (and recording engineers) have given upsampling the thumbs down on this basis leaving the upsampled versions of redbook files as purely a marketing gimmick and certainly is not high definition.

bissie's picture

Please be aware that www.eclassical.com does not - contrary to above information - charge fixed prices.  They charge per second, 24-bit files starting as low as 0,3 cents/sec, which works out at Dollar 12:60 for a 70-minute album.  They also chip in the booklet and have a watertight guarantee:  all money refunded, for whatever reason, should the customer want to, no questions asked.  Also free download of 16 Flac AND mp3 320 when buying 24-bit material.  if hard drive crashes, free re-downloading of all bought material.  Special offers every day.

Geoff's picture

How about some clarification concerning 24 bit material?

I understand most Hi-res music is 24 bit and at least 88.2 Hz. However I recently puchased the Beatles USB collection. When it arrived I was disappointed because it is 24 bit but only 44100 Hz. Fortunately, when I played the music it is clearly hi resolution. The quality is wonderful and the improvement over the CD versions quite noticable.

Can someone explain the relationship between the bit number and the khz number?

Also, why on a Mac when one sets the Audio Midi Setup, it shows 32 bit? On my older G4 laptop there is no option. It is 32 bit for everything. Yet I know of no 32 bit music. Moreover we are cautioned to set the Hz setting correctly for every recording. Why does that not seem to be crucial (or even possible) for the bit setting?

Many thanks!

Michael Lavorgna's picture

The answer to your questions is an essay, and a long one. But to be concise to the point of near-uselessness ;-)

Sample Rate refers to how much information is captured every second. If we think of sample rate as being akin to the number of frames captured per second for a movie, the greater the number of frames per second captured, the more fluid and lifelike the movement in the movie. The CD-standard 44.1 sample rate refers to 44.1 thousand samples per second. The higher the sample rate, the greater number of samples per second.

Bit Depth refers to the amount of information captured in each sample. The most common analogy, and one that works for me, is the digital image; a 16-bit image captures more detail than a 4-bit image. The other important aspect of bit depth relates to dynamic range - greater bit depth provides more headroom.

For more on this topic, here's a nice intro from Dolphin Music.

I have to point out that this overly simple explanation is in theory and people can and do argue over the merits of higher bit/sample rates endlessly. But as you’ve offered with your Beatles USB example, the relevant proof is in the listening.

As to your last question, what audio output device do you have your Mac connected to and what media player are you using?

Mike Galusha's picture

Another one for the list: www.highdeftapetransfers.com

They transfer from R2R tapes that are in the public domain and offer up to 24/192 downloads at reasonable prices.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

High Definition Tape Transfers added to the list.

Geoff's picture

Michael,

Thanks for your reply.

In answer to your question, my primary computer music setup is an Apple G4 laptop running OS 10.5 with a M2Tech USB reclocking adapter (modified by Mapleshade) connected to a Bel Canto DAC 2.5. On that Mac the only choice in the Audio Midi Setup is 32 bit. This is not an Intel Machine so 10.5 is the latest OS it can run.

However I also have an iMac running Snow Leopard in a different room. That is connected to an Airport Express attached to my stereo system (same system the G4 is connected to). However, because the Airport Express cannot handle Hi-Res files (to my knowledge) I don't play those files through the iMac. On the Audio Midi setup on that computer there are three choices: 2 channel 16 bit, 20 bit and 24 bit. (No 32 at all.)

Thanks again,

geoff

Michael Lavorgna's picture

It’s likely that the 32-bit setting in your Audio MIDI Setup has to do with the M2Tech device. Have you installed the proprietary drivers from M2Tech for 10.5 Leopard (available here)?  

If you have, you can try removing the M2Tech and connecting the Bel Canto DAC 2.5 directly to your G4 and see if the 24bit option is available in the Audio MIDI Setup. If it is, you’ll know it has to do with the M2Tech’s drivers.

It’s worth noting that neither the M2Tech or DAC 2.5 support 32-bit data rate. But I suppose the more relevant question is, assuming this setup is working, how does it sound?

Geoff's picture

Michael,
Thanks again. You were absolutely right. I unplugged the device and swapped it out for a Musical Fidelity V-Link. Now the choices are different. But this has only led me to more questions! Not sure this forum is appropriate for me to use as the answers to some of my questions may be utterly obvious to others who know more about computer audio. Wonder if I could send them to you via email? I will certainly understand if they are too detailed for you to take the time to answer. Or I can post them here if you prefer. Could you let me know what's best?
Many thanks,
Geoff
Geoffandlisa@earthlink.net

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Sure, send me an email with your questions. I'd be happy to help.

bas72's picture

Hi Michael,

Two more for you and all AudioStream readers interested in electronic music:

You also might want to take a look at this page on Head-Fi, and see if there's anything worth adding to your list there.

Cheers,

Bas

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Boomkat is listed on the Music Downloads Sites since last I checked they do not offer HD downloads.

It appears as if www.djshop.de only offer MP3s? As such, they unfortunately don't make the grade for either list.

bas72's picture

Both sites do not belong on the HD list, but rather on the Music Downloads Sites. Sorry about that. The djshop.de site does offer 44.1/16 flac downloads though, not just mp3's.

Thanks for this wonderful list - it's already been very useful!

terryd's picture

My old band, Klaatu has recently remastered our first two albums at 176.4 and 88.2 as well as 44.1. We own the masters for Canada… Capitol/EMI owns them for the rest of the world. We need to find a Canadian-based company in order to make these tracks available. Are there any? Thanks for your time…… Terry Draper (Klaatunes Records)

Axiom05's picture

Hyperion Records is now offering 24/96 downloads of some of their recordings. Also, you can download their monthly sampler for free as 16-bit files.

http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk

Oh Canada's picture

Hello, not sure if anyone can help me find some high resolution 24 bit audio resolution for Luciano Pavarotti and his Greatest Arias to download. I have been looking for a while and can not find any...I hope it is okay for me to do this here...Very new to the site.

thank you

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Try searching on Find HD Music.

findhdmusic's picture

Hi Michael,

Here's another one for your list. ATMA Classique has 20 96/24 HD albums in thier catalogue of around classical 400 titles.

Unfortunately they don't seem to have any way to search for just the HD albums, but you can find a list of them here.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Thanks!

findhdmusic's picture

Here's another one for the list. HDmusicStore has 28 HD albums.

 - Brett

midfiguy's picture

Three quick things:

HD Tracks now supports AIFF, ALAC & WAV formats. The Boston Symphony also offers AIFF files.

Second, the HDmusicstore appears to be offline. I don't know if the URL is incorrect or whether they're kaput of have server issues or what.

Finally, Ariama, which offered redbook quality classical music downloads has been shut down. While I wish they'd offered higher resolutions, I happen to live in a rural area, a long ways away from the nearest record store. I'll miss them.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I added the additional file formats to HDtracks and will give HDmusicstore a few days to see if the site comes back.

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