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The Audiophile's iTunes Alternative
The music download revolution is passing audiophiles by. The quality of tracks offered by Apple's iTunes store leaves much to be desired for people who want to hear lossless music played over a high quality stereo system.
For years, this has meant supporting the less-than-high-tech CD format, and ripping files to a computer's hard drive in the FLAC format. Now, at last, there is another way. After three years of tinkering, Chesky Records launched an online store this month (in Beta mode, for now) that sells only audiophile-quality music downloads.
The choice of FLAC, AIFF (for iPods), or 320kbps Mp3 files at HDTracks.com cost more than iTunes' 99 cents (they're typically $1.49), and the company will soon also sell 96K/24-bit FLAC files - an even higher quality file type.
All of HDTracks.com's files are DRM-free, meaning they carry no built-in restrictions on where they can be played and how many times they can be shared or copied. The files also come with a PDF file of liner notes and cover art.
The music selection at HDTracks.com isn't huge, but it is growing. The site currently focuses on classic, jazz, and world music, with fewer offerings in rock and pop. But the company insists that a partnership with a music distribution and marketing company called The Orchard will beef the catalog up quickly. -Rachel Rosmarin