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.


  • ironbut says:

    I’m listening to the Portico Quartet flac download now and it sound great! Wonderful sound and while the music is a little on the “soft” side of what I usually prefer, it’s very nice.
    I think that this one has the best soundstaging of all the releases I’ve heard from the “Club” and I greatly appreciate that.
    Congratulations to the recording crew! I get the feeling that I’m hearing everything that could have been captured in the studio.

  • bblue says:

    This is a top notch recording! Musicianship is great, as is the mixing.

    Danny H. mentioned in a Jan 16 post: “We’ll offer the music club 24bit files at 48khz initially and seek your feedback. ” But this is release while 24 bit is at 44.1K. What happened?

  • TerenceH says:

    I may be sounding a bit cynical here, but it would be really great as a paid up subscriber that I can actually download this album and not have to stare, day by day, at the same web-site error message preventing me from logging in. This after I have, 2 days ago, sent an email to notify of this issue. Am I alone in this?

  • Susanna says:

    I'm sorry you are having problems logging in. I will check with our customer services officer that she has received your email and will ensure you are responded to properly today.
    In the meantime, could I just check that you used this address to register your problem: musicclub@bwgroup.com
    B&W Group

  • Ralph Holt says:


    I am having the same problem that you describe, most frustrating.

    I too emailed and have not received a response.


  • David says:

    Is anyone able to burn the 24-bit flac to DVD-Video?
    It seems that these files are 44KHz which can not be burn to DVD-Video (48/96KHz). Anyone?

  • Susanna says:

    In response to some of your comments:
    You should have received a response from us by now and we are looking into the issue you have.

    Regarding bblue and David’s comments on 24-bit FLAC files, they should indeed have been supplied as 24-bit at 48khz and we will be resupplying them.

    Thanks for your feedback, it’s been very useful and I’m really glad people are enjoying the music.

    Keep commenting!

  • Jessie says:

    I have no problem logging in, but I am unable to download this album, and have been unable to for about a week now.

    I’m selecting the apple lossless format and then clicking the download button as I do every month. Then I get an error message in the window that says “you’re download has failed, please close this window and try again”. I’ve attempted this a few different times, and on a couple different computers now. I’m using Safari on a Mac OSX system, but I have also tried with IE on a Windows XP system and I get the same result.

  • David says:

    I had similar case as Jessie’s and got the same message two or three times. I tried to download later and it worked fine again.

  • Shaun Marin says:

    Hello everyone, Shaun from B&W here.

    We're very sorry over the confusion regarding the new 24-bit files. They were wrongly encoded at 44.1 khz, rather than the 48 needed for burning to DVD discs.

    The engineers at Real World are currently re-encoding all the files, and have promised to supply them by this afternoon. We will then upload them to the server and I'll post on here again to let you all know so you can download them again.

    We are sorry about all the confusion, but hopefully this will sort out the issue now and in the future.

    Thank you so much as always for your interest in B&W Music Club.


  • Se?n says:

    I would simply be happy if I could actually download the album.

    Since the day it came out I have tried all three versions more than once and get to various %ages then it stops.

    What happened to simple RESUME download capability so a failed download can be restarted where it fails?

    I did report this to musicclub@bwgroup.com this morning but no-one has yet responded…I suppose the downloads keeping failing up to now has been a blessing as the encoding fiasco shows I would have been loosing out.

    Anyway – I will soon be on vacation in the UK and was wondering if the factory accepts visitors?


  • Hugh Gabriel says:

    I initially had problems downloading, and got a download failed error. I tried downloading it overnight (hoping for lower server loads) and had no problem.

    The FLAC files sound fantastic, and as usual for Portico Quartet (I’ve had their first album for a while) the music is very different. However with the exception of “News from Verona”, the Black and White Sessions don’t show off what the band is capable off in my opinion. I find Knee Deep in the North Sea (the album) to be more upbeat, and a more engaging listen, with Zavodovski Island, Cittagazze and Pompidou as the highlights of that. If you like Black and White Sessions, I would highly recommend investing in their earlier album.

    Keep up the great work.

  • Mark says:

    My original reaction was rather negative to the album, but as I listened more I appreciated it from both a musical and also mastering/engineering perspective. Parts of the music are not melodic in my thinking, which would explain my initial reaction, but again I came to appreciate the experience.

  • Mark says:

    I am also unable to download the album.

  • Keith says:

    Congrats to recording, mixing and mastering staff.

    An exemplary stereo soundscape…pity about the so-called music.

  • Mark L says:

    Keith hit the nail on the head. Music??

  • Jeff Cowan says:

    I had some of these initial download issues right after the release date, but upon trying multiple times, one of them worked.

    I really like the music and the quality. I’m listening to the ALC files. The music makes me think a bit…it’s a bit “off colour” but I like that.

    Thanks for keeping it interesting!

  • Jeff Cowan says:

    Oh, here's a problem. I have downloaded both the original 24bit FLAC files (wrongly encoded at 44k) and the ALC version. So my max download limit has been reached. How can I download the proper 24bit, 48k version?

    Also FYI, it would be much appreciated if a few contact names/emails could be listed on the Music Club site. It's a bit disconcerting to go back to the main B&W site and dig for a support email without any confidence that it's actually getting through the right filters…hence the issues listed above by Terrance and Ralph.

  • Stephen Coles says:

    The soundscape is, indeed, excellent. I’m also enjoying the music. I didn’t expect to do so, but find it very refreshing. An unexpected pleasure.

  • Lyndon says:

    The Portico Quartet album is fantastic. Love the music and the recording quality is superb. It's the best Music Club album I have downloaded so far and I would have been equally happy if I had paid full price in a shop or online. Of course I wouldn't have bought it normally, as I had not heard them before!! Well done B&W. I am now a huge fan and I am currently trying to find their first album.

  • Scott says:

    Any update on re-posting the album as 24-bit 48 kHz FLAC files? Any tips on how to burn these files to disc to actually hear them at 24/48? Thanks!

  • Laax says:

    I'm listening to the ALC files, apple lossless, in earphones at home or with my iPod. I think the music from B&W Music Club is a bit "different" an that is interesting. It might take some time to get "used" to some of the music but that is fun. I like the quality and soundstage of this recording.

    I also had some initial download problems right after the release date. Why is it only possible to download 2 of the 3 available files? Now with the 24-bit as well would I like to download all 3 formats to "play around with".

  • B says:

    I was very pleased about this club from the moment I downloaded Dub Colossus. I was thrilled as well with Tom Kerstens and Daby Toure’. But this Portico Quartet release entirely validated my annual membership! The music is fantastic, and the recording techniques are wonderful. The sound is just so great.

    After downloading the ALC I realized that there was a 24bit version. What a great improvement! My only wish is that there was a way to purchase previous releases in 24bit. I don’t mind paying a bit extra for the privilege!

  • MIkel says:

    I just downloaded the 24 bit FLAC. It has excellent sound quality and soundstage. As of today (Jan 31), it is still in 24/44.1 format. What do you use for recording? Do you record at 24/192? Why not allow us to download 24/96? Most equipment that could play back 24/48 files could also play back 24/96? I’d love to see all future recordings available as 24/96.

  • Jessie says:

    After numerous re-attempts I am still unable to download the alac version of the album, but I was able to download the 24 bit flac version, although apparently this was before the re-encoding at 48khz.

    I would like to have the alac version as well as the re-encoded 24 bit flac version, if this is possible. (my download limit might need to be reset?)

  • Michael Bishop says:

    FWIW, I had no problem downloading the FLAC 24/44.1 version about a week ago, using Firefox. I am enjoying the music and the stunning sound quality. (But I would like to get the 48kHz version too.)

    Regarding formats, thank you so much for providing FLAC (on all but the first album). I am a PC user and I loathe iTunes, so I don't want ALAC. Having said that, in an emergency MediaMonkey will play it – without all the issues that iTunes seems to have.

    Overall, I'm pleased that I joined the B&W Music Club, and I've enjoyed experiencing some different music recorded with better than average sound quality.

  • Bert says:

    Nice music from these guys. Remembers to music of Philip Glass.
    Can’t fully judge the quality of the 24 bit FLAG tracks. Only heard them on my computer soundsystem. Sounds verry smooth but without any depth. Later on i will try it on a Slim transporter connected to my HE installation.

  • Anthony Morton says:

    A wonderful sound – but I cannot move away from Andy Sheppard when I listen to it.

    Still an excellent piece of work.

  • YTT says:

    Nice acoustic soundscape and very tasty and stylish music. The only thing I missed was more distinct melodic lines.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Tom Pidgeon says:

    I did enjoy these strange sounds coming from my 800D’s but would not remotely describe them as music.

  • Shaun says:

    Hi everyone, Shaun from B&W again here.

    Sorry about the delay in getting the 24-bit/44 files uploaded, but we've had a couple of technical issues.

    They are in the process of being uploaded now, and should be ready to download by the end of today (Monday). I'll post again when I have confirmation.

    As for download issues, we are looking into it seriously now, and we are very sorry for the problems that some people seem to be having.



  • Razvan Bestea says:

    First, please excuse my English.

    About two or three months ago I accidentally discovered this great instrument: The Hang Drum.
    I have listen all the records I found on the internet and, although I do not have a HE sound system and all my auditions are made at a small B&W shop here in Bucharest by the kindness of the staff here, I wanted very much a record of where I could hear that absolutely special sound , but closer to reality. Thus, the immense joy that I receive every time you notice the appearance of a new album at the Music Club whose membership I am from the first realization (LittleAxe) was even greater when I saw this last issue contains what I wanted. And more than that can be downloaded in 24 bit.
    What I heard just now on my little system for the PC makes me burn to anxiously waiting the moment when I'll go again to the B&W representative (hope I make it this week) to listen to the CD or DVD on a Rotel player and amplifier and on the wonderful 804s (the best that they have for the moment in the showroom but better than anything I heard before at all other competitors and moreover the one that give me that passion for B&W several years ago)
    I'm not a specialist, but frankly, it seems to me like real quality music, nice harmony with an surprising approach. I do not know, maybe I is easier for me to perceive this because here they are few kinds of folk music with similar compositions. I love that album. Like those before. After the audition I will return to let you know about what is my opinion regarding the record itself.
    I have not had any problems with downloading up now and I am extremely happy that I became a member of this club. I hope that, after I'll recover from the financial decline in witch I am right now, I will be able to buy at least a pair of 683s and a decent amplifier so I will comment quickly on what now I wait a month to get and yet a week or two to listen. :)

  • Andrew says:

    Do the trial members get to try the 24 bit files? I hope so!
    I am a trial member and I see only one download link which happens to be 16 bit ALC files. For an earlier download, I found a choice of FLAC and ALC although you were not offering 24 bit files then. How can I get the 24 bit files?

    At what sample rate were these recording made? If they were made at 44.1/24 or 88.2/24 it is better that they are not converted to 48/24 just so that a few can write it to DVD-V. DVD-A and computers support all sampling rates and so please do not do a non-integer sample rate conversion as it could affect the sound quality.

  • David says:


    Can you commend on whether people who had download files TWICE already can get the 24bit/48KHz flac?


    I am trial member and I can see the 24 and 16 bit flac options when download. I am about to become the paid
    member after B&W fix the 24bit/44KHz issue.


  • Audiolibre says:

    What a great album.

    This is of the standard of e.s.t. (Esbjörn Svensson Trio) which, in my personal opinion, is no small compliment!

  • Bill says:

    I enjoy the quality of the recordings and being introduced to different music but the Portico Quartet is a little too leading edge for my tastes.

  • Andrew Immanuel says:


    Where do you find the link for the 16& 24 bit FLAC files? I see only one "download now" button in my login screen and it gives me ALC files! Here is my music club screenshot:

    Can you or Shawn or somebody else show me where to find the FLAC links?


  • Shaun says:

    Hello everyone, Shaun here again.

    You’ll be as pleased as I am to hear that the 24 bit/48khz versions of the Portico Quartet EP and LP are now live on the site for you to download.

    Again, I’m really sorry over the confusion of the sample rates: obviously this was the first time we have offered 24 bit files, and they were originally wrongly encoded at 44khz.

    Anyone who tries to download the new files but discovers that they have hit their download limit please contact us via the usual musicclub@bwgroup.com email address and we will try and sort out any issues you have.

    Thank you once again for your patience, and we’d love to hear what you think of these new 24 bit/48khz files.

    Best wishes


  • David says:


    It is in the DOWNLOAD NOW link. Not thing special about the 24bit flac. There are 3 options: AFLAC, FLAC (16bit), and FLAC (24bit), on the same pop-up page. If you can not see all of these options, something is wrong. Send B&W an e-mail.

    Can't wait to listen to the 24bit FLAC.


  • Miha says:

    This is a great album, i absolutely love it. A very detailed recording with an excellent soundstage.

    I’m all for the 24/96 as a few users suggested, if that is at all possible.


  • 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

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

Album Review: Portico Quartet – Art in the Age of Automation (Gondwana)

Four is the perfect number Portico Quartet have not always been thus, their last album Living Fields was made by only three members …

Our ten favourite Modern British Jazz albums

Jazz is timeless. Jazz is borderless. However, there are movements within Jazz that can certainly be categorised, and not just …

Mahler’s Third Symphony and Portico Quartet’s third album now available through Society of Sound

Portico Quartet very graciously agreed to perform at our P3 headphone launch last week and have also agreed to make their eponymous …