Technical & Editorial

Editorial: Playing Downloaded High Resolution Music Albums on a Universal Player Instead of Your Computer


Although SACDs and DVD-As have not succeeded as much as music studios had thought, and audiophiles had hoped, they are still being released in small quantities, particularly by independent labels.

However, there is another alternative, which is downloading the high rez albums if they are not available commercially on discs in stores.

The most prominent of the high rez download stores was started by Chesky records, and is the website HDTracks.

They offer downloadable albums in standard 16/44.1 format (CD) if you wish, but also they have the 24/96 store, where hundreds of albums (the number is increasing steadily as studios sign up) are available in high rez, mostly in 24 bit, 88.2 kHz FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) format (*.flac). CDs and DVD-As are in the WAV format (*.wav), and most universal players don't recognize the music files with flac as the extension. The front panel of the player will just say, "No Disc".

On the HDTracks website, they say that you will need a media player (software) such as Media Monkey, and that you will also require a DAC that supports the FLAC music files. The idea is that you play the high rez music from your computer, using software such as Media Monkey and output the digital bitstream to your DAC.

Well, if you are like me, you may not want to have to use your computer to play your high rez music, and use a CD player or SACD player for the rest.

JJ to the rescue - - - - -

I use a program called HD-Audio Solo Ultra for creating 24/96 and 24/192 test files in DVD-A format, and the program burns them to a DVD+R as a DVD-A. The files are sine waves or sweeps for use in reviewing universal players.

I have several 24/88.2 albums that I downloaded from HDTracks, and when I updated the program to version 3, I decided to try a little experiment.

I loaded one of the 24/88.2 FLAC albums into HD-Audio Solo Ultra and set the output to WAV. Then, I burned the DVD-A. The burn was successful, but none of my players would recognize the disc. None except the OPPO BDP-83 that is. The OPPO read the contents and played the music via HDMI into my Denon AVP-A1HDCI SSP. The front panel read 88 kHz, and the music played.

There is something about the way HD-Audio Solo Ultra creates the DVD-A that some universal players can't recognize. I had informed Jason Liao of OPPO about this some time ago, and he fixed it in the OPPO players. That is why there is no issue with DVD-As created using HD-Audio Solo Ultra and being played in the OPPO BDP-83.

So, if you have been wanting high rez music but don't want to have to play the albums through your computer, a solution is at hand. HD-Audio Solo Ultra version 3 is $64.95, and it will let you create DVD-As with the 24/88.2 FLAC files downloaded from HDTracks.

Here is the main screen of the HD-Audio Solo program, cut up into sections so it can fit in the space here on our website.

On the left, you browse through your music files until you get to the album you want to burn, shown in the first photo below. Highlight the tracks and drag them to the next panel on the right, shown in the second photo below.

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The third panel, which is on the far right, has several menus. The three main menus are shown below. The "Import" menu (first photo) shows you the sampling rate and bit depth of the Input (the music tracks you highlighted from your music directory) and the Output (you want to make sure that the output is also 88 kHz and 24 Bit, but you can select whatever you like). The "Settings" menu (second photo) lets you select WAV as the output file format under "Rip Options". The third photo is the "Export" menu, and this is where you need to put a blank DVD+R in your computer drive tray. The bottom of the screen will then read "DVD+R Disc". At that point, click "Write" (just above the "Export" button), and you will see various lines of text appear in the bottom window as the disc is being burned. On my computer (Windows 7, 64 Bit), it took about 10 minutes to burn a DVD-A that contained 2 hours of 24/88.2 music.

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High resolution music lovers rejoice! You can download the music and burn it to a DVD-A. You don't have to play the music from your computer. I am happily listening to some albums being played on the OPPO BDP-83 NuForce Edition through the Lamm LL1 preamp that I reviewed and purchased for our reference lab.