As more and more vendors and artists try to jump on the high-resolution bandwagon, it’s clear that a lot of them are confused. Take this example of the Grateful Dead. Yesterday, the band send out an email saying that they now have “High Definition Dead.”
And they are offering high-definition – or high-resolution – files in “AAC and FLAC.”
Oops. It’s not AAC, but ALAC, or Apple Lossless, as you can see when you go to their website:
Okay, so it’s only one letter, but it is an example of the confusion around these file formats.
But there’s something else: they make a distinction between Apple Lossless files and “HD FLAC” files. They could provide high-resolution files in either format; both Apple Lossless and FLAC support the 24-bit 192 kHz format they are offering. And to confuse things even more, the Grateful Dead have long sold CDs in the HDCD format; they’re the only artist or label I’ve ever seen selling these. These are hybrid CDs that “encodes the equivalent of 20 bits worth of data in a 16-bit digital audio signal by using custom dithering, audio filters, and some reversible amplitude and gain encoding,” according to a Wikipedia article. (I’ve never understood what this is, but it sounds like some sort of lossy compression used for the extra bit depth.)
You won’t find many of these CDs; this may be, in part, because Microsoft bought the format from its original creator, and most likely has some arcane licensing rules for it.
In any case, the Grateful Dead always highlight the fact that their CD releases are in HDCD format, and now they’re talking about “high definition Dead” downloads; this will only confuse people.