Which format should I download?

First time on HDTracks.com? Not sure about what formats to pick? No problem!
We offer "high definition"audio in FLAC format, which means you're going to hear everything you've been missing with MP3 and other "lossy audio formats." We also offer AIFF formats and only the highest quality MP3 formats at 320k for some of the albums in our catalog.

If getting the very best sound is important to you, you'll want to choose FLAC audio files for your purchase.

How do I play these FLAC files?
Playback is simple, and there are a host of free and low-cost applications available for Mac and Windows computers that play FLAC files. Click here to see our recommendations.

What do we mean by "lossy audio? Why is FLAC better?"
FLAC files give you all of the sound in a manageable file size, but they are still biggest than MP3 files you may be used to using. The reason MP3 files have smaller file sizes is that the sound files have bits of data removed that the conversion to MP3 processing software assumes are not that important to the sound, and removing data makes for smaller file sizes.

Get the picture?
Think of MP3 as being similar to JPG quality for the pictures you take. Smaller resolution pictures are suitable for viewing on your computer screen, but not so good for printing. Why? Because smaller JPG resolutions take away bits of data from the image that are hard to see missing on your screen, but would cause for a blurry photo when printed. MP3 vs high definition audio works much the same way.MP3 might sound OK on small earbuds, but when playing an MP3 file back through quality sound systems, or even just bigger and better speakers, you will begin to notice what you're missing.

Hear what you've been missing!
With our high definition audio, you not only get all of the sound you would hear on a CD version, in some cases you get much more, even two or three times as much data. That makes for bigger file sizes, but much better sound.

A compact disc contains audio that plays at 44.1kHz/16-bit. HDTracks sells some of its catalog in AIFF format in 44.1kHz/16-bit.

For comparison, our 88.1kHz/24-bit FLAC files gives you profoundly more musical information, twice the amount found on a CD. Think of the CD playing music vs.88.1kHz/24-bit FLAC files as similar to the difference between watching a VHS video tape vs. watching a DVD on your HDTV.

For another comparison, 176.4kHz/24-bit FLAC files would be comparable to watching Blu-Ray video on your HDTV The DVD on an HDTV is going to look a lot better than a VHS tape, and a Blu-Ray is going to look even better!

Our 176.4kHz/24-bit FLAC files are virtual clones of the original master recordings, delivering the experience of sitting in the control room of the recording studio.

For example, with our exclusive Rolling Stones release, ABKCO Records undertook a long and painstaking re-mastering process employing state-of-the-art master tape to digital file transfers using the best in Analog to Digital converters to provide HDtracks with the highest quality music files possible. These albums are unprecedented in quality and are available as FLAC files from HDTracks.com.

What now?

So which format should you choose? That really depends on your preference for file sizes, budget, storage available for music on your computer, and your desired level of sound quality. At HDTracks, you've choosing better High Quality and Highest Quality. Either format is going to be at least twice as good as any CD you've ever played, so either way, you can't go wrong.

We've got a full range of helpful videos, links to software you can download to playback your music purchases through and much more in the FAQ found here in our tutorial section.

1. Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF)
AIFF is a format for storing digital audio data. This format was developed by Apple Computers and is therefore the standard for Apple Macintosh Computer users. AIFF files are uncompressed meaning that the sound quality of the file is uncompromised during the stream. AIFF files are at the top of the list of high quality file formats, although, since uncompressed, result in larger file sizes.
Even though compression shrinks the file into a smaller size, therefore allowing for faster streaming, and less space being taken up on your hard disk, compression slightly affects the sound quality of the file. Compression eliminates certain parts of songs that are outside the normal hearing range of a human being, and therefore unidentifiable by the listener. However, some people can distinguish between compressed and uncompressed files even on cheap stereo systems, while others cannot tell the difference.

2. Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC)
The FLAC file format has proved in many ways to be one of the best formats in terms of benefits in comparison to competing audio data formats. It is a compressed file; however, since FLAC files are lossless, there is no quality loss. Therefore it is fast, high quality, and does not occupy much space on a hard disk. In addition, the FLAC format is not restricted by patents or DRM, as well as being open format. This allows for format conversions without any loss during the process.
The FLAC format also has a good error resistance. Usually, when streaming errors occur with other formats the stream is destroyed from the point of error to the end of the file. However, FLAC files limit the amount of damage done, and therefore errors only cause about a seconds worth of data loss. The FLAC format is supported by various consumer electronic audio players on the market.

3. Mpeg-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3)
MP3 is yet another type of audio encoding format. MP3 files are compressed therefore eliminating any sounds that are outside the normal range of a human’s hearing ability. Layer 3, the coding scheme, eliminates the excessive information in the file that is redundant and unnecessary.
The main objective of this format is to allow compression of a CD quality song without noticeably affecting the CD quality sound. The compression aids in a speedy download while not taking up a significant amount of space (vs. an uncompressed) on a hard disk.