Q&A With David Chesky of HDtracks Part 2

Based on the comments from Part 1 of our Q&A with David Chesky of HDtracks, I sent along some additional questions. I should say that this process is not perfect and David's answers are obviously to a large extent a reflection of my questions. That being the case, David has offered to continue this dialog so consider this a work in process.

The main issue that's come up in the Comments on the Q&A relate to provenance. There seems to be a general question of how HDtracks physically receives files from the labels. Are they delivered on disc, through an FTP site, on hard drive, or does HDtracks rip from a commercial DVD-A or SACD release?

We used to get physical discs but I would say most things come now via SFTP [SSH File Transfer Protocol] from the labels. It is a file that their engineers made from the master that must be approved by the artist, producer, and label.

If we do get a physical disc our mastering houses can rip bit perfect and test. We have done many tests and digital data is digital data and will null out in the studio if done correctly. If it passes that test it is bit perfect and is a perfect copy of the master. I have done this test many times with my own Chesky recordings.

With SACD or DSD files we have to filter HF noise as to NOT blow up tweeters. Remember SACD players have analog filters to filter out the HF dither noise, PCM DACs do not. And realize many of the SACDs and DVD audio discs are out of print. The point of HDtracks is to make all of these recordings available to everyone all the time in a Hi Res format.

On the same subject of provenance, two examples were raised - The Doors and Yes Fragile - where it was unclear what mix was used as the source of the HD download. Could you clarify the source of these releases and can this information be made available on the HDtracks website?

I am looking into Yes and the Doors and will get back to you. [I will add this information as soon as I get it. Ed.]

A few readers commented that they experience ongoing problems with the HDtracks download Manager app - slow downloads, crashes, etc. What do think are the causes of these problems and are there plans to address these issues?

Download speeds are really a function of the local provider. In NYC at home I have Time Warner and it works well at around 10 Mbps. The office is fiber and runs really fast at around 100 Mbps.

We are currently building version 2 of our DM. This new DM will be a lot better and have a lot more flexibility and cool things. That should be out before the end of the summer, and it will be a big game changer for the best.

In closing what I don't think people realize is I have spent hundreds of hours listening to different files at different sample rates, ripping devices, format converters, A/D converters, etc, with my own hi-res recordings that I think have a much lower noise floor than any commercial rock album. And you can rest assured this is under ideal studio conditions where we have the best playback gear.

"...it is and will always be about pushing the audiophile envelope to try to one day be able to really make a recording where you cannot tell if it is live or not, and until we do that, we have to keep trying."

I am fanatical about getting the best resolution sound. I want to hear every last inch of reverb tails. Chesky Records and HDtracks is, and will always be about the best quality and resolution, that is our thing. We come from the world of setting up mics in rooms and making records the old fashioned way...And that is why we are doing our new Binaural+ series on Chesky as well.

Do you really think we are doing this to make some new format to make billions from the masses? No, it is and will always be about pushing the audiophile envelope to try to one day be able to really make a recording where you cannot tell if it is live or not, and until we do that, we have to keep trying. That is our business model.

See Part 1 of our Q&A with David Chesky of HDtracks here.

kavon yarrum's picture


You are setting new standards here.

This is really going the extra mile.

Hats off to Mr. Chesky for coming in for another round.


-He confirms my assertion that a good bulk of the catalog was built on ripping commmerically realeased DVD-A and SACD. Fine.

(BTW, a good indicator is that back catalog 96 khz material is DVD-A sourced, and 88.2/176.4 Khz material is SACD sourced)

-It is hard to beleive Mr. Chesky does not know what mixes were used on the Doors and Yes releases. I am honestly not versed on the Yes, release, but the Doors download is absolutely the 2007 remix.

-For the record, I have NEVER had an issue with downloading from HDTracks. The DM works just fine for me, and I have no issues with speed. On a technical level, I am very happy customer.

Thanks again.


Michael Lavorgna's picture

Some of these issues are not exactly straight forward and may take a few back and forths to get to a thorough answer. I’m very happy that David has agreed to stick with this process as I find it very interesting.

BTW - I just heard from David regarding the source of the Doors S/T release and these files were provided to HDtracks via FTP from the label. So they were not ripped from disc.

kavon yarrum's picture

Thank you again Michael. And again thanks to Mr. Chesky for agreeing to lend his time. In the end I believe this benefits him too, as I truly believe an informed customer is a loyal customer. I will repeat, no other Computer Audio blog is getting these scoops and you are doing a great job.

Jitterjabber's picture

Indeed, thanks for the further investigation,

"The point of HDtracks is to make all of these recordings available to everyone all the time in a Hi Res format."

While I appreciate Chesky making these discs available for download, they are hardly using a purists approach. I certainly appreciate and understand the market limitations at the moment, so I won't be too hard. It is important and needed, so this push from Chesky to make hi res downloadable is admirable.

It is interesting to note that SACDs and DVD audio discs are being transferred and converted to PCM data then FLAC. I guess they also receive files over ftp that are PCM 24 bit (hopefully checked with a bit scope) and mastering engineer) & whatever sample rate. I don't know about you guys out there, but I am waiting for DSD to hopefully become more usable on computer hifi setups...think Mytek DAC. I wish DSD was actually widespread and used...geez!

I don't care to download new 24 bit releases that were limited to death. It is important for audiophiles to understand the recording/mastering process so they can make sonic decisions. The artists, especially new pop artists, think the best sound is LOUD...Who cares if I have tons of dynamic range if it isn't even used! I would be interested in learning about Chesky or other companies requesting pre-limited Masters. This would obviously require more artist involvement, but I think it is a worthy cause.

Chesky puts alot of custom equipment and time into their recordings...I only make the comment about a "purist approach" because of the detailed work they do on their own recordings.

HD Tracks is a service with an ongoing desire to improve the output. I can dig it! 

I just wish I couldn't Hear the DSD difference, then I would be in PCM heaven! 


Michael Lavorgna's picture

There are obviously a limited number of DSD recordings as compared to the history of recorded music. But with products like the Mytek DAC and initiatives like the DoP Open Standard, the option of having both is getting more accessible every day.

Jitterjabber's picture

Thanks for keeping such an open and worthwhile Q and A with Chesky. 

DSD is small and not widely adapted - indeed, unfortunate...

Water Lily and other Audiophile labels obviously don't use compression/limiting...

I hope to only stress the point that pre-limited Popular 24 bit masters would be much more appreciated by audiophiles. This is problamatic because it involves the creative direction of an Artist or colaboration with the mastering engineer/label.

The George Marino Mastered "Back in Black" by AC/DC would be sweet in Hi-Res!



kavon yarrum's picture


I also think DSD is a great medium, but there are realities one must acknowledge here.

First, DSD is a VERY expensive medium to purchase and manage. The work stations run into the hundredes of thousands. The file processing is very difficult due to the size of DSD files.

That is why many convert to PCM to do their processing.

Did you know those very expensive, $50 per title SACDs by EMI are upsampled from 96.24 to DSD? They are not hiding this. They claim they had no other solution since the tapes required much restoration and there is to date, no way to work with DSD files in this regard. All digital repairs and tweaks must be done in PCM.

Jitterjabber's picture

My main point is really about obtaining master mixes without tons of compression and limiting- So that we might enjoy the point of using 24 bits for listening. 

So...obtaining dynamic mixes from current pop releases on HD Tracks would be worthwhile. This requires re-educating the world about good sound...not an easy task, but Chesky is trying at least.

It certainly is PCM, here to stay...can't a young audiophile dream!

PCM is what I work with every day. I am just a fan of pure DSD recordings/transfers.

Not sure what DSD editing system that costs "hundreds of thousands." SADIE systems for DSD were around 16,000. Not sure if SADIE still makes the DSD editing systems, but yes If you need to do lots of restoration...you will most likely be working with PCM. New DSD recordings or transfers are an outstanding way to preserve analog-like quality. 


kavon yarrum's picture

There are a few DSD vendors out there..the big guns Meitner and Sonomo ain't cheap.

Of course you could be a Korg DSD recorder for two grand, but you sitll need a super hopped computer to handle the files, massive amounts of storage, and other peripherals.

Unfortunately, the boat has sailed on DSD being a mainstrteam medium.

Heck, major recording artists are still recording at 44.1 or 48 Khz 24 bit PCM and then selling them as Mp3 and AAC.

Sonly screwed up. They should have given away DSD hardware to allow recording studios to get in on the deal and then profitted on the back end. Oh well.

Jitterjabber's picture

Please request or try to obtain pre-limited master copies of 24 bit popular music albums. This is a very relevant point, but it seems like no one here is really curious about it...Hmmm

I posted three times and everyone only got that I really like DSD...Yep, I do...I work with PCM till the cows come home...

Now that we have that cleared up...Compression/Limiting, Mastering, 24 bit - these are topics I would like to see addressed for new popular or indie recordings offered on HD Tracks.

Will Chesky try to obtain more dynamic mixes for the Pop releases? The "Beach House" 24 bit release comes to mind... I haven't heard it...just asking.

I own several Chesky recordings, good work!


Michael Lavorgna's picture

My feeling is there may be some confusion about all of the steps in the recording chain so the importance of working from a 'pre-limited master copy' as opposed to a master copy or mixed master may not be readily apparent.

For example, when I read 'pre-limited master copy', I'm assuming we're talking about working with the pre-mixed master? The relevance being something like dynamic compression is applied during the creation of the mixed master so we'd ideally want a HD download sourced from a master prior to this process. But wouldn't we then also be talking about a true remaster for each release? Or creating different mixes for different formats - vinyl vs. CD vs. HD download?

I hope to publish a Q&A this coming week with a mystery guest (for now) that will hopefully shed some light on the recording chain of events and perhaps even address this very issue.

Jitterjabber's picture

 Michael, thank you for keeping me interested!

I mentioned that- This is problematic because it involves the creative direction of an Artist or collaboration with the mastering engineer/label. 

If new and current artists started production methods to ensure standard-res, low-res, and hi-res - we would be set to go. Yep, more time, more money...did I mention this is the correct way to do audio engineering. Since the artist is the client/customer - it is up to us to educate them (I work with audio) so they can make informed audio production decisions.

I don't assume or think that we will see an effort put out for previous releases.

But.. If Chesky/HD Tracks tries to educate or create business alliances, they could help promote the effort for new pop releases to be engineered/mastered for different markets (not unlike mastered for iTunes*). This would allow the audiophile market to have TRUE HD mixes in 24 bit.

What has happened with the music industry (loudness wars) has never ended. It is time that influential companies, like HD Tracks, speak up and make every effort to help the Hi-Res Market.

*This process involves educating music industry veterans about the detrimental effects of extreme limiting and codec choice. Efforts are being made to improve the sound quality for various low-res codecs. Let's hope they can offer TRUE HI Res versions (of current POP releases) in the future.