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At last: legal music downloads, no DRM, no lossy compression

HDtracks is offering music downloads in no-compromise AIFF or FLAC formats. Currently they are CD quality; coming soon is 96/24 FLAC which is in theory better than CD, though some argue that the benefits are inaudible. All downloads are DRM-free. If you insist, you can have MP3 instead. Prices are $1.49 per track, $11.98 per album.

This is the kind of online music store I can enjoy. Although music files of similar quality are available from Linn and DGM (Robert Fripp’s download store), these are individual labels, whereas HDtracks carries a number of labels – though sadly restricted to speciality rather than mainstream companies. The company was founded by David and Norman Chesky of Chesky Records, which has a good reputation for both musical and audiophile quality. You will find a few well-known names here, though they are voices from the past: Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Jerry Garcia, Roger McGuinn, Tom Paxton, Blue Oyster Cult, The Byrds, Judas Priest, The Kinks, Don Mclean, and more. There’s also a generous selection of Jazz, Chesky’s first love.

The bad news: US only for the moment.

What about Music Giants? These are lossless downloads too, and a wider selection, but mostly in DRM-protected WMA format. That said, DRM-free downloads are popping up there as well. Again, US only.

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