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LongtimeListener

Why it is not a good idea to buy music file downloads (and CDs/streaming music probably, too)

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Hi All,
Please have a look at the PDF attached since it has become a little bit longer article. I also have sent the article to the ACCC.

Background is, that I have started to buy over the last 3 years music files for about $300. Within those I had 5, some potentially my music equipment harming faulty products.

 

Those 5 examples are just the ones where the problems are obvious. I did not have time yet to look through all my files, so I expect more problems to come up.

 

I hope this helps others.

 

Cheers

 

Why it is not a good idea to buy music file downloads.pdf

Edited by LongtimeListener

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this is a really good bit of  work. and a real pity its the case.

 

I happily use streamed music. we have both music in the past. but mainly for convenience. or if not available any other ways.

 

but for buying I think i'll continue to stick to disc

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Not that you should be expected to do so, of course, and nor is it the real issue, but examples 1 and 3 should be able to be corrected using the software that has displayed the waveforms of the music files.

Thanks for bringing the issue to attention.

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This is interesting, well spotted.

A couple of things:

First, a question. Was (2) a download issue rather than the file?

Secondly, I wonder if anyone has the CD of (3) to check.

 

It would seem that the other entries here are just carelessness. (1) is probably a FLAC file made from the CD with the wrong software or settings. (4) can be avoided by buying standard resolution downloads, but suggests a  lack of care across the recording process. (5) is intriguing. That's a highly regarded recording with several reviews giving top marks for sound quality, and what you have looks like an messy edit (removal of either a wrong note or a spike like in (3).

 

As far as streaming goes, we should expect that these faults will get through as the files are often the same as the download copies. From what I've been listening to recently, Tidal has improved its gapless playback, and you may find that some players would play the download correctly as well - I've found that with some gapless files.

 

The general comment I would make is that this sort of thing is sheer carelessness that would be unlikely to happen with LPs because a mastering engineer is always involved and checking the process.

 

 

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19 minutes ago, Eggcup The Daft said:

First, a question. Was (2) a download issue rather than the file?

Secondly, I wonder if anyone has the CD of (3) to check.

2, was a faulty file provided by the label.

3, yes, would be interesting if the CD has the same issue. Does anybody has this CD and could check, please? I can  assist if necessary.

 

4, is the biggest culprit and my biggest disappointment. There is a crackle now and then but the fault is in the in-audible hearing range, very bad!

Channel Classics made this recording and is also the distributor. I bought it directly from them. They bride themselves as high standard audiophile See here. They offer all formats even all DSD formats, having statements how much they care about the sound engineering down to the cables they use, etc.

Why their high res files should be faulty is unclear to me.

 

Cheers

 

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The final example looks like plain ol' brickwalling to me, so I wouldn't be optimistic about a solution. The others appear to be unplanned quality failures, as compared to brickwalling which is a planned quality failure.

 

In the absence of 100% inspection by the supplier before despatch, then your action of inspecting on receipt is sensible.

 

I don't think the problems you've shown are enough to justify saying "Don't buy downloaded high res files." Instead it's like buying LPs - don't expect to find an occasional bad pressing or pressing fault.

 

Your ideas are excellent, of viewing the file on receipt with the free and wonderful program Audacity, and first listening through headphones.

 

It's a risk decision too. Someone with a stereo worth several tens of thousands of dollars to replace, would certainly want to be cautious and assured about the quality of product that's played through it.

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Hello, and thank you for this topic. It is very interesting to me, as I am thinking of subscribing to a streaming service like Tidal's top grade.

 

I understand what the complaints are, but I am not sure if I am missing something? What is the big issue, beyond 5 individual matters, that justifies the advice to refrain from purchasing music via download? What is the ACCC being asked to do?

 

(By the way, problem #4 is very likely standard DSD noise shifting present in the 30-50 kHz region, nothing to worry about and not a flaw. That's how DSD recording works. And #5, to me, looks like any other CD with a bit of clipping, and really has nothing to do with the retailer. Only the most considerate and kindly of retailers, IMHO, would refund a CD that doesn't have the maximum possible dynamic range. I have so many CDs with some clipping that I would almost call it routine, and although it is annoying to think that the industry could probably serve fanatics like myself better, I don't see it as a 'call the cops' problem, and I don't see it as a downloaded music problem?)

 

Regards,

Grant

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10 minutes ago, Grant Slack said:

problem #4 is very likely standard DSD noise shifting present in the 30-50 kHz region, nothing to worry about and not a flaw. That's how DSD recording works.

Hi, I rather don't like a noise in the 30-50 kHz region, to be honest. And yes, you can hear a crackle, too. It is also not a DSD file but a 192/24 file. I also compared it to a 96/24 file of another interpretation/orchestra/label of the work and that one looks as it should without the high pitch overlay.

 

Quote

What is the big issue, beyond 5 individual matters, that justifies the advice to refrain from purchasing music via download? What is the ACCC being asked to do? 

The issue is that

  1. The companies are operating abroad and not the shop around the corners anymore
  2. Downloaded files cannot be returned
  3. I have found 5 issues without even looking through my collection, so the issue is far larger than expected (tip of the iceberg for me)
  4. It cannot be that I have to run after the labels to get the quality I have paid for. They have to raise the bar in their product quality as it is my time and my costs to chase them (case 4 was a 3.8 Gigabyte download)
  5. It is important to get ACCC involved for those reasons above and especially to raise awareness to the issue of sound equipment damage resulting from those faults.
Edited by LongtimeListener

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Hello, thanks for replying. Yes but it is a DSD recording. It will contain the shifted noise energy, despite conversion to 24/192. This could be removed by filtering at, say, 22 kHz... :) 

 

It is best to avoid DSD and SACD if you object to electrical noise shifting into the inaudible frequencies.

 

Regards

Grant

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1 hour ago, Grant Slack said:

What is the ACCC being asked to do?

I have no idea. The consumer guarantee only applies to Australian businesses

 

https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/consumer-guarantees#consumer-guarantees-on-products-and-services

 

Quote:

Consumer guarantees on products and services also apply to:

  • bundled products and services
  • gifts with proof of purchase
  • sale items
  • online products and services bought from Australian businesses
  • second-hand products from businesses, taking into account age and condition.

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38 minutes ago, eltech said:

The consumer guarantee only applies to Australian businesses

My understanding is that is not correct .... although there are obviously many big issues getting a remedy from a business which is not homed in Australia.    My rights aren't diluted by where the perpetrator (lol) is located.

 

Quote
  • online products and services bought from Australian businesses

My understanding is that this is intended to mean "online products or devices".     For example an "online product" like purchasing a digital image...  or an "online service" like hosting my data.

 

 

This page has a little more:  https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/online-shopping/shopping-online

 

Edited by davewantsmoore

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2 minutes ago, davewantsmoore said:

Thanks Dave,

and there it says - Quote

 

Shopping online with an overseas business

If you buy from an online seller based overseas, you should be aware that you may experience practical difficulties in obtaining a remedy from them.

If your seller is based overseas and writing to them doesn’t resolve your problem, try asking the consumer protection agency (link is external) in their country if it can help.

Our Scamwatch website provides tips on how to spot online shopping scams (link is external).

Also, you should be aware of your rights when buying parallel imports online (i.e. products that you buy from a seller who does not have specific permission from the manufacturer to sell those products in the Australian marketplace).

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3 minutes ago, davewantsmoore said:

  My rights aren't diluted by where the perpetrator (lol) is located.

I think you'll find your rights are severely diluted.

Even in Australia you'll have one heck of a time trying to get a suitable remedy if the supplier doesnt want to play ball.

If you've got a fancy lawyer, you'll be OK. But if you dont want to spend a cent, and dont want to go to VCAT (or whatever it is in your state) then your stuffed.

What we need is police force that turns up at the vendor, hears both sides and compells the vendor to do the right thing - "on the spot".

This VCAT messing around is total nonsence. I agree it can work, if you can be bothered with it. Most people probably cant be bothered.

 

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1 minute ago, eltech said:

you may experience practical difficulties in obtaining a remedy from them.

Absolutely.   Wasn't suggesting that it's easy/practical at all.

 

Just that I've seen it said a fair bit that it doesn't apply to overseas purchases .....  but the intention is that it does apply.... and companies can be found in breach of Oz law if they don't follow our rules .... which I appreciate isn't a lot of help for the sorts of things discussed here (or any small-time individual anywhere, really)

 

:)

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1 minute ago, eltech said:

I think you'll find your rights are severely diluted.

The law says you still have all the same rights as an Australian consumer where ever you buy from.

 

In practise....  You got buckley, of course.    You would need to have the ACC make some sort of ruling to stop the product/service being sold/imported in Australia to prevent it from continuing .... and you would need to play "international law" to get any redress, ie. have the business submit to Australian legal process, or have them extradited. 

 

ACCC can make announcements.... but they're not going to do that for the corner cases described here  (ie.  if you play broken music, you could in v. extreme cases damage equipment).

1 minute ago, eltech said:

Even in Australia you'll have one heck of a time trying to get a suitable remedy if the supplier doesnt want to play ball.

Yep  :)

 

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1 hour ago, Grant Slack said:

This could be removed by filtering at, say, 22 kHz...

I am shocked that this is not done routinely as it puts strain on the audio system. In addition I am not sure whether the frequency is in the 50kHz range in the first place as the player software is showing it in the meter bar. My understanding is that computer/digital is cutting off at 20kHz...

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6 minutes ago, davewantsmoore said:

ACCC can make announcements.... but they're not going to do that for the corner cases described here 

Second that, however, telling them does not harm. Perhaps others do that, too, and then it could become a case.

The ACCC is aware of the manifold problems of Internet shopping and that could be one they include in the future.

If they don't know they cannot fix it.

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2 hours ago, LongtimeListener said:

...The issue is that

  1. The companies are operating abroad and not the shop around the corners anymore
  2. Downloaded files cannot be returned
  3. I have found 5 issues without even looking through my collection, so the issue is far larger than expected (tip of the iceberg for me)
  4. It cannot be that I have to run after the labels to get the quality I have paid for. They have to raise the bar in their product quality as it is my time and my costs to chase them (case 4 was a 3.8 Gigabyte download)
  5. It is important to get ACCC involved for those reasons above and especially to raise awareness to the issue of sound equipment damage resulting from those faults.

Those are legitimate concerns.

 

#3 is the one that most interests me. Only glitchy or odd sounds would concern me, more than gapless playback (unless promised by the vendor) and modest occasional clipping. I look forward to your further investigation through your entire collection, and the statistics that emerge.

 

It would assist your readers were you to name the vendors in each case.

 

Regards

Grant

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Gapless playback is a player thing .... and "clipping" is unfortunately "art"  (assuming they will agree 'they intended it to be that way).

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Jared, the sound engineer responded to the case 4. It is a high pitch noise caused by the first generation of DSD recorders.

I really opened a can of worms for me with that DSD recording thingy. Oh man, always me asking stupid questions and getting into trouble...

 

Now, when you look at the data sheet of my DAC below:

As far I understand this: DSD direct it cut off at 20kHz by the DAC itself which makes sense when we want to eliminate the high pitch noise, therefore the amplifier and the speakers never see it BUT!!! FLACS produced from that DSD recording still have that noise in the FLAC and therefore pass it through as the DAC applies NO 20kHz filter to it but reproduces the high pitch noise up to 96kHZ, therefore blasts us with in-audible high pitch noise during the listening sessions. The noise level is VERY high. This would be bad news indeed and damaging to our sound system especially the tweeter.

 

 

marantz.png

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Hello again. I believe that case 4 was recorded in 2006, which would not be very early in DSD history, but perhaps they used an old recorder.


Your specification sheet seems to say that DSD mode begins to filter at 50 kHz, but probably continues to reproduce well above 50 kHz, but with a rolled off response. I would expect your DAC to still pass nearly all the shifted ('shaped') noise, since it usually peaks around 50 kHz. I would be very surprised if any DSD DAC removes all energy above 20 kHz, because that is effectively turning it into CD quality with a bit more dynamic range.

 

Here is a spectral response of 6 songs recorded in DSD and converted into 24/176 PCM:-

160527_spectra_one.jpg

© Mark Waldrep

 

There is no danger to the playback equipment, because the level is so low. The peak is -60 dB.

 

The green one is interesting, because some of the shifted noise is below 20 kHz! But, again, it would be extremely hard to hear it at such low levels.

 

I personally prefer PCM, as it is relatively clean and pure. But I would not avoid great music on DSD, which works fine in the audible range. It does not, however, deserve any special worship.

 

Regards

Grant 

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Thanks Grant for your information here, it really helps me to understand what's going on.

I have plotted the first 50 sec of frequency spectrum of the track 4. I also added the picture of the track 4. As you can see it is a low dynamic music and it is completely covered by the noise. There is hardly any music information to see...

 

Now to the frequency spectrum: There is minimal  noise below 20kHz, however it goes up quickly to 66db at 50kHz. Does that mean this is passed through to the amplifier and then re-produced into my living room?

Thanks in advance for your opinion.

 

Frequency Analysis.png

 

track4.png

Edited by LongtimeListener

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I believe so, but your amplifier will quite possibly filter some of it out, and your speakers almost certainly will.

 

It is mostly wasted 1's and 0's.

 

If you care to lose it, you could convert your files to PCM 24/48, and save a lot of storage space too.

 

cheers

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1 hour ago, Grant Slack said:

If you care to lose it, you could convert your files to PCM 24/48, and save a lot of storage space too.

Thanks, will give it a try. I have seen that Audacity has a low pass filter which seems to get rid of the noise when I set it to 22kHz.

 

Cheers and  thanks

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