Which audio format to buy?

I’m not convinced that I can hear a difference between CD and hi-res, but I have an additional caveat to offer when it comes to purchasing downloads from Qobuz, particularly of newly released albums.

Sometimes Qobuz will have a CD version and hi-res version available. I take this to mean that the label has provided both of these versions to Qobuz. In this case you can download (or stream) either version with confidence.

However… when Qobuz only shows a hi-res version of an album, I am wary of purchasing a CD quality download. Why? Well, reducing sampling and, more importantly bitrate, is not necessarily straightforward. Reducing bitrate without effective dithering can lead to audio degradation. If Qobuz only keep a hi-res version of an album on their servers then I don’t know what they do to that album to offer it as a CD download (or stream). I don’t have the same concerns about Bandcamp as their downloads are provided directly by the label.

I’m in the process of substantially increasing my local library so I’ve recently upgraded to Qobuz Sublime. This gives me a whole year to access their excellent reductions on hi-res files, which nicely compliments what is available on Bandcamp.

You might as well worry about what the label did to the multiple versions they provided. I would think possible that different versions were mastered at different times and went through different mastering processes. I’d be more comfortable with Qobuz down-sampling hi-res, since in that case the differences should be inaudible. Considering that even Audacity is perfectly capable of applying perceptibly-minimal noise shaping, they’d have to try hard to screw it up.
That being said, I doubt Qubuz - or any non-label music store - is altering anything on their side.

That’s true. More generally, any 16 bit PCM ought to be dithered. But why would you think that’s not an automatic part of the resampling process that Qobuz uses?

I find that unlikely. Storage is cheap compared to having to resample the same track every time someone wants to purchase the “CD-quality” version.

All good points. I suspect that I am concerning myself with something that may well not be an issue and, even if it is an issue, it’s probably an inaudible issue.

Nothing less than FLAC or MQA , as simple as that !

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Once your hearing reaches its limits don’t bother paying any more……

Aren’t we already born with a limit around 20kHz? Red book FLAC is fine, and you can to pass your music on to your kids too.

To be honest ALAC is fine for me these days and I’m not sure if kids are bothered by flac.

To me no sens buying.
Any streaming service will come with cd or hi res!

Wrong for me. Better is better! And deterioration is relative to the SQ offer. As such better quality sounds better, being better masterings or better sources.My ears are getting the relative, maybe not so much the absolute frequency range. Still, I’m happy to hear quite well with trained years and a lot of brain support! :slight_smile:

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ALAC or FLAC is the same. Apple took FLAC and changed very little. For me I chose ALAC because at this time my system was more responsive to ALAC files than to FLAC files. So UX was deciding. SQ is the same as both are lossless.

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I’m sure not all will agree with you as some state they can hear a difference.
I’m just pointing out that at 52 with occasional tinnitus I probably don’t warrant high res but I’m not saying that others don’t have the ears of a bat and systems to warrant it.

I buy to support the artists. Not many of them can earn a living from streaming services. Things have improved slightly now that live music is back on, but many artists are still struggling.


Me too. I use streaming to ‘try before I buy’


With 53, not being a bat I fully accept your concern. But my experience is that better remains better independent of the deteriorating performance. In my case it is not 44.1 kHz was my youth and 32k is now way sufficient. No, 48k sounds more natural and 96k at high reproduction volume is softer, more natural, maybe my imagination. But, knowing of my ears limited frequency range, by the way the annual medical check still gives me certainty that my ears are more than good compared to what is considered a hearing impairment, I’m still able to discern differences in bandwidth and lossy formats. Blind tests? Yes, I did some successfully, but even this is n=1, so no generalization.

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Agreed, it’s only one letter.


Confusing answer, because you can rip to FLAC and still have MQA.

I perfectly agree with you! MQA would be my first choise.

I would never go for MQA, simply because it is a proprietary, closed-source format, and it is not even lossless. You (or the hardware vendor including the codec, which at the end charges you) need to pay a license to “unfold” it. Without the coded, it still works, but without the high-res part, which is what you pay for when you buy it. I’m not questioning sound quality here, just the concept of being bonded to a proprietary format and software.
FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF are all open formats.

Personally, I have ALAC and FLACs. I’ve done the “lossless” tests, converting a WAV to FLAC and back to WAV, verifying that the final wav file was perfectly bit-identical to the original one. In terms of sound I cannot really hear any difference between flac/alac and wav, if the source is the same of course. Disc space is cheap, ok, but still I prefer not to waste it and stay with a compressed, lossless format.

Hi-res is a different story. I have lots of hi-res files, even DSD. Not completely sure they sound better enough to justify the price, or better at all in some cases, but… Disk space is cheap, right? :smiley:

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I am 60 and I have been working around jet engines and helicopter rotors for 37 years. I get the annual hearing tests and they tell me my hearing is not the best but it is within the acceptable range of old folks like myself and I do have to say that I do hear and enjoy the Hi-Res difference.

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