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primephonic: Classical Music's Preeminent Service for Digital Audio

By Charles Wisniewski on Jun 02, 2016 06:36 AM EDT

Like many of you, I used to spend untold hours tracking down SACD (Super Audio CD) releases of my favorite classical albums. Before the convenient era of digital downloads, they were my preferred classical music format -- I always sought the highest quality method to enjoy the full richness and nuance the music had to offer.

With those days long gone and SACD manufacturing now all but obsolete, I had a quandary. There was no single, reliable and reputable digital audio service for classical music.

Fellow Classicalites, I believe our day has come. primephonic is a new download service you should definitely check out.

But first, let's examine the reasons why we prefer our music in the best quality possible.

Why is it so important to listen to classical music in high resolution?

The antecedent to that question should be how is classical music being delivered to you when it comes as download?

Well, there are 3 good answers and 1 that will surprise you...
if you know the details!

The keywords are sample and bit rate. Digital audio signals are produced from analog signals using pulse-code modulation to reproduce the sound. How is it reproduced? By creating samples of the audio to recreate the analogue sound and capture it with digital signals. The higher the sample rate, the better the quality and the more you can enjoy the music -- this applies to any and all classical music.

So which format suits your preferred method of listening to classical music?

What's the difference between WAV, FLAC and DSD... and how do I play them?


"Superior sound for premium music." (Photo : primephonic.com)

WAV - HIGH (CD Quality)

Wave (WAV) files are the industry standard audio coding format for audio CDs, which is why primephonic makes them the minimum benchmark for high quality music. WAV files at primephonic are sampled 44,100 times per second, which gives them a frequency of 44.1 kHz with 16 bits per sample. You don't need a special setup to download and listen to WAV files. primephonic actually makes it easy to get full albums, multiple files, with their downloader.

FLAC - PREMIUM (Studio Quality)

FLAC is a relatively new format -- its development started in 2000. It took about three years to become an audio format used by discerning listeners. FLAC uses lossless compression to reduce the size of an audio file, making it perfect for archiving purposes. Furthermore, FLAC files can contain up to 8 channels of audio, excellent for surround sound audio. On primephonic, an album offered as FLAC is at 88 kHz, 24-bit.

DSD - PREMIUM PRO (Expert Format)

DSD is the real deal format for audiophiles. Instead of using a large bit rate, DSD is only 1-bit but has a very high sample rate (at least 2.8224 MHz) which makes it the most data heavy format -- the best format to enjoy classical music. Its clarity of sound is incomparable. When compared to WAV and FLAC, DSD has a much more robust, analog sound. It is also perfect for stereo and surround. However, to play DSD files you will need some extra resources, which is why this format is marked as "Premium Pro" on primephonic. You'll need extra software and equipment to listen to the music.

...but why listen to high quality audio instead of just plain old MP3s?

The first reason is that, to our ears, digital audio is still a strange phenomenon. The analog file is cut in bits and pieces during the conversion to digital, and it's later converted back to analog, restoring those bits and pieces for playback. The lower the sample rate, the higher the distortion occurring in this DAC (digital-to-analog converter) process. This is the main reason for a bit rate threshold of at least 44.1 kHz (preferably higher). With a 96 kHz file is used, distortion is practically immeasurable. A higher sample rate will sound less digital -- and more natural -- than a lower sample rate.

However, the biggest advantage of high resolution audio is less obvious. When listening to MP3s or poorly recorded material, your ears get tired after listening for just a couple minutes. The absence of details, the compression -- your ears and your brain have to work harder to fill in that missing information. With the proper audio files, you can sit back and simply enjoy your music. Less distractions, higher quality and more pleasurable to listen to.

Want to hear the difference? Go ahead and download your first album! Make sure you have the correct settings for your audio system if you want to try DSD. (Hover and click album cover to select.)

WAV

FLAC

DSD

All audio that delivered to primephonic is evaluated by some of the most respected classical engineers in the world. When uploaded to their servers, the engineers determine its given quality. After that, every audio track is checked to make sure it matches that quality. For example, if a DSD track is uploaded to their system, but the engineers notice it is an up-sampled WAV, it is outright rejected from their database. This way, they ensure that every track on the site is of the highest possible quality. After checking the audio, the engineers create a spectrogram, visible to every customer, to prove that the track passed the audio-check:


Spectrogram generated by primephonic engineers (Photo : primephonic.com)

primephonic is an amazing download service for all lovers of classical music. Be sure to check out their free compilation for Classicalite readers -- details below.

primephonic recently released a compilation consisting of selected works inspired by the Spring season, gathered from across the centuries, featuring diverse labels, artists and composers. It includes an interactive booklet which has been carefully curated by primephonic's team of musicologists.

Download this compilation album for FREE today with the voucher code: SPRINGLITE

Simply add to your cart and enter the discount code at checkout:

www.primephonic.com/primephonic-selected-spring

primephonic.com

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