Exclusive new Portico Quartet album for Music Club Members

Nominated for the Mercury Music Prize Best Album of 2008, Portico Quartet have gone from cult secret to broadsheet double-spreads in very little time.

Their distinctive sound comes in part from their use of the hang drum and two years busking outside the Royal Festival Hall. Described in their press release as a dance friendly, melodic brand of hook-heavy post-jazz, Time Out could only add that they “sound like nothing you’ve ever heard” and promptly awarded them Best Folk and World Music Album of the Year.

They’ve recorded an album especially for B&W Music Club members, Black & White Sessions which is available now, so have a listen and let us know if you like it.


  • Steve says:

    Is there anywhere on this site which explains how to use the 24/48 files? What the hardware requirements are etc? There is a good section on how to burn the Apple Lossless files to CD what about “How to”s for 16 and 24 bit Flac?

    Also are there plans to provide files at 24/96 as this would make a real quality difference.

    That said, burning the Flac files to CD seems to give an excellent result.

  • Richard says:

    I used Lplex v 0.2 beta win32 to create an iso image file then used ImgBurn to burn the image to a DVD+R (all running under Vista x64).

    Both are (I believe) free of charge.

    Then played it on Tag McLaren DVD32FLR dvd player (sadly not free of charge) with no problems.

    End result sounded superb to me (but I’m no expert).

  • Peter says:

    Love the Album. It is most definitely music and it's brilliant. Haven't listed to much else all week.

    Used it as a test track on some new B&W's (with a beautiful VALVE amp) last weekend, just beautiful.

    None of the Albums are, in my view, easy to get into, they take time and are designed to challenge .. In my humble opinin they achieve that end goal.


  • David says:

    Download the 24bit flac and burn to DVD-V. Very simple and encounter NO issue.

    Asa for the music, all I can say is "Wow. What an experience". Take some time to like the music but the sound quality is great. I am going to joint the club.
    B&W keep up the good work.


  • Kaj S says:

    I had no trouble downloading both the 16bit and the 24bit FLAC files of Portico Q. My internet connection is 100Mb/s. and I am still using Windows XP SP3.
    After downloading the tracks I first listen to them on my computor, to my surprise I noticed that the 24bit tracks were in 44,1kHz sampling rate. It is easy to demand 24bit instead of 16bit, simply because it´s a higher number, and the higher it is the better it is right? Well actually no it isn´t. Serious tests have been done to determine whether a humanbeing can hear a diffrence between SACD and 16bit. The results are clear, you can´t hear any diffrence.
    I compared 16bit versus 24bit tracks on my computor listening to them with my headphones, Sony MDR-SA5000. I can´t honestly say I hear any major diffrence.
    Then, I made a cd, and listened to the cd on my B&W 802D. The 802D are in a room with acoustic treatments and the room resonances have been taken care of with four huge helmholtz resonators. The sound quality on this recording is much better than on the Daby/Skip cd.
    The music on Daby/Skip was better thou. The good thing about Portico Q is that the placing of the instruments are easy to spot and the recording is not too compressed, more about that later. I did compare this recording to other good recordings such as SACD from Patricia Barber and some Opus 3 Recordings and I then noticed that what the portico Q is missing is the sence of being there, in the room with Portico Q. There is still room for improvement in this area. To check the level of compression I opened up the tracks with Adobe Audition.
    I could see that the peaks are of equal hight. so that means that some form of limitation has taken place.
    The 16bit and the 24bit tracks are equal, no diffrence at all. The music of Portico Q is such that you should not be tired when you listen to it. It demands your full attention.
    Then a few words on how to improve B&W MC. Don´t give us 24bit tracks, 16bit is good enough for stereo.
    Why not give us DTS-CD? This would able us to hear the music in surround sound. That would be new and innovative and in line with what b&W stands for.
    Stereo was a fun invention back in 1965 surely it´s time go forward. 24bit stereo is not the way forward. Surround sound is the way forward. Check out Alan Parsons: On Air DTS-CD and you will see what I mean. DTS-cd can be downloaded as well as flac files.
    Anyway, next week I will be getting my new blu-ray player so all my attention goes to that media now.

  • B says:

    I downloaded both versions and ripped them to my server that plays 24bit tracks. I then arranged them in a playlist where I could compare both tracks next to each other. The 24bit version clearly is superior. Of that I have no doubt. And if someone can’t hear the difference between proper SACD and 16bit, something must be wrong with their ears.

  • Kaj S says:

    When you compare the SACD layer against the CD layer of a hybrid disc you will of course hear a diffrence.
    But that´s because they are diffrent masters.
    So, what i´m talking about is scientificly conducted tests.
    But don´t take my word for it, read for yourself.

  • Kaj S says:

    Here is a better link to the lab report that was done in 2007. http://drewdaniels.com/audible.pdf
    It includes SACD vs DVD-AUDIO vs 16Bit audio.
    I know it´s chocking to read but it is true.
    Note that the test took a year to finish.
    Please try to prove that this lab test is wrong.

  • Jessie says:

    Since you ask, I do have a problem with your download manager. Most times it’s fine, but there have been months where I’ve had to try multiple attempts before I’ve been able to actually download an album. This month in particular I have been unable to download the ALAC version of the album on every attempt I’ve made, from multiple computers, on both mac/pc platforms.

    This is of great frustration to me at this point as I have posted about it already on the portico quartet thread, as well as emailed customer service as instructed, and I haven’t heard back.

    I don’t see the need for a download manager of any sort, why can you not simply post a link directly to the exact file location?

    What is the purpose of the download limit? It seems to only cause people problems, do you think you can stop the spread of the albums if people decide to share them simply with a download limit? It’s just as easy for one to send the file to whoever they want to share it with or burn the disc or put it on a flash drive and share it with someone as it would be to login and download it on multiple computers… Anyhow, just my two cents on that subject….

    Now as I mentioned earlier, I had no success downloading the alac version on multiple attempts and considering I primarily listen to these albums on my ipod I would still like access to the ALAC version of this months album before its too late.

    I also may have used up my download limits by downloading the first 24 bit/44.1khz flac version, only to realise I needed to later download the updated 24 bit/48khz copy. (the only reason I grabbed the flacs was because I kept getting a “problem with your download” error screen when trying to get the alac version and I wanted to get SOMETHING before it was too late and the next album was posted)

  • Kaj S says:

    Maybe B&W Music Club is testing us here.
    Let us look at the technical facts present here.
    We have a 16bit 44.1kHz signal against a 24bit 44.1kHz signal. Both have the same frequency response. That is half the sampling frequency which gives us 22.05kHz.
    So both files have exactly the same end point at 22050hz. It is not possible to hear any difference there.
    What are we left with then? Right, the resolution. 16 against 24. 16 bits gives us a signal to noise ratio of 96dB. 24 bits gives us 144dB. These are theoretical values. Anyone who has ever read a real world measurement of an amp or cd-player knows that we can not achieve 144dB S/N. Maybe we can reach 120dB. That gives us a real world resolution of 20bit. If you listen dangerously loud in silent parts you can actually hear a diffrence here. But if you use normal listening levels then no diffrence is possible to hear. Surely people at B&W knows this, so why did you release both files? Or am I mistaken somehow?

  • David says:

    If you read through the whole message blogs, you should know that the 24bit/44.1KHz flac file was a mistake and B&W music club corrected it already.
    It should be played on DVD-A or DVD-R.

  • Giles Guthrie says:

    I’m finding Portico Quartet’s music to be a little to dischordant in places for my taste. However, its sound is truly superb.

    Interestingly, I find that my iPod Touch “runs out” of decoding power at around 256Kb, and oftentimes 320Kb tracks sound rougher than those at 256Kb, but the Music Club tracks are always superb. It’s as if they bypass the iPod’s consumerism.

  • Dorian says:

    Is this album still available and must you be a subscriber to purchase. I am after as much recorded Portico Quartet music as possible.

  • Bowers and Wilkins says:

    Dear Dorian,

    The Portico Quartet album ‘Knee Deep In The North Sea’ is still available ; you can see a full list of albums available on our website at http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/Society_of_Sound/Society_of_Sound/Music/albums.html.

    You can subscribe to the society of sound via http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/Society_of_Sound/Society_of_Sound/Music/Subscribe.html.

    If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask.

    Hope you enjoy the music!

  • Dorian says:

    Thank you. I already have “Knee Deep….” and Isla but have found “Gaia”, “November” and “The Full Catastrophe” on you tube and was hoping they may have been on the Black & White Sessions hosted by your site. Any plans to make it available again?


  • Bowers and Wilkins says:

    Dear Dorian,
    Unfortunately we only have the rights to the albums for a limited time and then they go back to the artist so once an album is not available on our site we cannot re-provide the music. However some of the songs that featured on the Black & White Sessions are on the Isla album. You could try contacting the band at http://www.myspace.com/porticoquartet.
    It might be worth also noting that the version we have available of ‘Knee Deep in the North Sea’ is a remixed, transformed version by John Leckie at Real World Studios.
    Hope this helps,
    Kind Regards

Older comments

Add a comment

We welcome debate within Society of Sound, but please keep it friendly, respectful and relevant. We have a few house rules which we ask you to abide by to keep the debate intelligent. Read more.
Product enquiry or support issue? Please click here.

Related posts

Is Blu-Ray the saviour of high-quality stereo?

It’s been known for a while that Neil Young’s long-awaited Archives is going to be released on Blu-ray. But now that Amazon in the … Read more

Steve Van Zandt’s vinyl top 10

There is something very unappealing about recommendation technology. Amazon’s is almost patronising in its banality and does anyone … Read more

Listen with Prejudice – Susanna Grant

I have been thinking a lot about listening. I don’t have time to listen to music properly any more - I always seem to have a pile of … Read more