High Quality digital downloads
With the surging popularity of digital downloads and a lot of high quality options out there, we thought we should put together a page on how to easily get started with high resolution downloads.
Getting Started with DAC's and Media Players
The first step in high resolution music is finding the right equipment to play back your shiny new high resolution music. The two most popular ways of achieving this are USB DAC's and Networked Media Players.
In general you get better sound quality for your money from a networked media player, but a USB DAC will play back anything your computer will and doesn't require any existing home network.
Networked Media Players
A networked media player will access music files stored on you home network, it can take advantage of the error correction built into network protocols so that with a stable network you can have a reliable, high quality source for your traditional stereo.
A USB DAC plugs into the USB of your computer, which then sends the music digitally to the DAC which then converts the signal into an analogue waveform that can be easily played by a traditional stereo. Not all DAC's were created equal, so its worth having a listen to a few and choosing wisely.
Some proven quality choices include:
Now that you have the equipment under control there is a huge array of digital download websites to choose from. The most popular site worldwide is HDtracks.com. They have a huge variety and large library and so are a good first choice.
Sampling Rate and Bit Depth
Quality of "high resolution" downloads can vary. The two key numbers to look at are: Sampling Rate and Bit Depth.
Sampling rate is the number of digital samples taken every second and bit depth is the accuracy which each of these samples can be taken. A higher bit depth allows more dynamic range and a higher sampling rate increases the level of detail and timing.
CD's are usually 16bit and 44.1kHz, higher numbers than these are usually called "high resolution".
Bear in mind that some downloads are mastered in these higher resolutions and in general will sound better than those recording not originally designed to be released in this way.