New exclusive music – plus 24-bit FLAC option

dave stewart

This month, on top of the regular Society of Sound album – Dabe Touré and Skip McDonald’s In Session – we have exclusive lossless versions of 4 tracks from musical genius and ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart’s new album.

Dabe Touré and Skip McDonald created their album in one intensely creative week in the Big Room at Real World studios. The spontaneity in their collaboration and composing meant that the resulting album has an incredibly natural and live sound to it.

In turn, the combination of recording the music in such a remarkable studio together with delivering the file in lossless audio quality means that the listener gets a true a reproduction of this unique recording as possible. Which is what B&W Music Club is all about.

Music Club members have requested even higher quality files as well as the 16bit ALAC and FLAC files we currently offer, so from the next artist –the 2008 Mercury Music Prize nominated Portico Quartet – we’ll also be offering 24bit FLAC files.

We’d like to know if you have enjoyed the music you’ve heard, if the quality is what you would expect from us or any comments about Society of Sound.

Tell us what you think.

39 Comments

  • Willsy says:

    Really enjoyed the Daby Toure album, was interesting to hear what Dave Stewart has been up to. Was not sure he was still making music!

    Looking forward to hearing, and comparing the Portico Quartet. Have not heard much about them apart from their nomination for the Mercury Prize and that they are from South London. Even better to hear it in 24bit Flac.

    Anyone got recommendations for the best way to listen to it?

  • Carl says:

    Very much enjoyed the Dave Stewart songs. Great songs from a great musician. Thanks!

  • TheMunros says:

    We loved the music! My husband put it on. (I honestly forgot about ever having downloaded it.) As it started streaming through our “football” – filling up our home, we all; small children and adults gathered around. Our 6 year old unbeknownst to him, just started moving around, tapping with his feet. We then listened to the 4 tracks over and over again. Thank you for making this music, and thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Peter says:

    Good sound quality and the music wasn't bad either. Takes a while to absorb new music.

    What I would really like though is to download music @ 24/96 or even better 24/192 quality. Sure the files are way larger, but these days with fast connections and huge hard drives, file size shouldn't be a big issue. We are, after all, after the best possible quality for our music.

    I've just bought a DVD player to use as a transport into my Stello DAC. Using appropriate software, I can convert 24 bit files, or any file for that matter, to play on the DVD. A universal transport would do the same thing. 24 bit files are definitely the way of the future, however there is so little of it around in a useable format.

    How about it B&W?

  • Gary says:

    The Dave Stewart cuts are very enjoyable, from both the musical and technical perspectives. Stewart’s voice is fabulous and the songs are great. (“Mercenary Man” gives new meaning to the term “wall of sound!”) The technical quality of the recordings is superb — well-mixed and balanced. The clarity of the lossless format is a quantum leap from standard MP3 formats. Even on my car CD player (a low quality, 6-year old factory-installed unit), the difference in sound quality is distinct. Good work, all!

  • Pete Wilson says:

    I put the digital files into iTunes as Apple lossless (that is, less space but all the bits on a CD) , which syncs with an AppleTV, which is HDMI connected to an Integra DTC9.8 front end, which delivers music to the amps and speakers (B&W 801 Series III)…. which sounds lovely. I like Darby et al – nice music! and Gwyneth! And a few others. But this is musical taste – some artists appeal more than others…

    I strongly suspect that things will get better in the future, and so I'm very interested in higher bit rates and more bits.

    I am confident that I can tell the difference between the feel of an SACD recording and an ordinary CD, so I'm confident that improved quality is a Very Good Thing that I can hear right now – albeit subtly.

    So I'm all for higher bit rates and more bits per sample.

    – Pete

  • MichaelCPE says:

    As with most club CDs – great music, bad sound.

    Why bad sound?

    Because in the mixing / mastering the music has had too much dynamic range taken away. The Darby recoding needs at least another 6db. True hi-fi would use about 9db more than the current CD!!

    Turn this up on a great system with great speakers and it sounds bad.

    Most people don't notice this because they are used to even worse compression than these recordings, and these recordings would sound great on an iPod or in a car.

    I see no point in providing dynamic range compressed music in higher bit rates. It will still sound bad. In fact the extra resolution might make it sound even worse!

    If only you could get someone to mix / master club recordings without the excess compression
    and you would have something that would really sound great, and show off great speakers.

    Does anyone and B&W understand what I am saying? Or are we doomed for all future music to sound bad?

    Regards,
    Michael

  • Henry says:

    Wonderful sound on some great music!

  • MichaelCPE says:

    Anyone who owns a CD purchased in the early 1980′s can do a very simple demonstration to hear how things have changed. This change is called The Loudness Wars.

    Play the Dave Stewart CD at a moderate volume.

    Then play the CD from the early ’80s.

    You will probably find that the early 80′s CD is so quiet you can hardly hear it. Take note of how much you need to turn the volume up to make this CD sound as loud as the Dave Stewart.

    That volume change is the dynamics which is now missing from most modern recordings.

    It is this lack of dynamics which makes these overly compressed recordings sound bad on a good system, and makes the music sound nothing like real instruments.

    It is called The Loudness War because the modern recordings all get louder as they are compressed.

    And, as you can tell from most of the comments on this blog, most people are happy with this modern compressed sound :-(

  • Barnett Dawson says:

    I'm extremely pleased with the fidelity of the lossless downloads. To top the sound quality, though, is the excellence of the performances offered thus far. Tom Kerstens and Juliana Raye both surpassed excellence, while Benjamin Grosvenor's handled compositions from Scarlatti to Chopin with an incredible lightness of technique.

    Dave Stewart — I expected him to be outstanding, and his songs did not disappoint.

    But the biggest surprise, and most pleasant experience, so far has been the album from Dabe Toure and Skip McDonald. Whereas I had at least heard of the other artists, these two guys created some aural magic that I'll be enjoying for years.

    All in all, I'm still excited to have discovered the B&W offerings. Many thanks!

  • Peter says:

    I downloaded it ok but I could not open it. I don’t how it sounds or how good the music is?

  • Christoffer says:

    Love the Eurythmics Dave Stewart album!

  • Rob says:

    I loved the music, as for the quality, I don’t think my speakers are good enough for me to tell the difference, but it’s made me want to fully subscribe to the music club (I’m in my 3 month free trial)

  • Nicolas says:

    Hi ..

    I enjoyed pretty much all the music i got to download , since i like all kinds of musical expression as long as the quality is there ..

    You contribute to it and i’m grateful for that ..

    Like previously said , file size is no longer an issue so i do expect the “best” experience from studio recordings you provide ..

    Lossless sound is great , i’m not much of a techie so i’m afraid i can’t really make any valuable suggestion on how to improve the quality of sound , i’ll leave that to the pros ..

    I’m looking forward to discover new music and wish the best to all fellow listeners ..

    May the experience live on ..

  • bblue says:

    I have to agree with MichaelCPE, too much peak limiting and loudness maximizing. Also there appears to be a fair amount of boost below 100Hz and above 10kHz.

    As a recording engineer/mixer I listen on B&W N801's powered by a Pass Labs x250.5 amplifier, directly from my work station. I can appreciate why this tailoring is done, but it is done to excess not only on these last two recordings but on most before them. On a couple of tracks there was even severe clipping distortion because of over-driving the maximizer.

    For a high end company sponsoring music productions supposedly aimed at audiophiles, this is quite disappointing. Back it off a few notches, please.

    Otherwise, for the most part the music is great and the initial recording seems top notch.

  • Danny Haikin says:

    I'm Danny, and I'm B&W's Brand Director.

    I'm very excited about the release of a 24bit album next month. I've spent a fair amount of time in both Real World and Abbey Road Studios, and with no doubt the improvement in sound quality at 24bit makes music sound vital and real in a way that 16bit recordings don't.

    I hope those of you that can take advantage of these better quality files will have the patience to download them. They're big (even at 48khz, let alone 96 or 192)!

    A couple of points I'd be very interested in discussing:

    How many people have equipment capable of 24-bit replay? I'm assuming Peter, who burns the files to a DVD player – is in a minority but perhaps not? It would also be interesting to know if many people burn the standard 16bit files to CD to play on a conventional CD player?

    How many people have Networked Music Systems (Sonos, Squeezebox, Linn, iTunes etc) that can repplay 24bit files? How's the sound?

    Personally, I've been experimenting with a lot of kit, and am currently finding the combination of a Squeezebox and a high-end DAC (Benchmark Media DAC-1) is ever so good sounding and much better than I thought it woudl be. I'm finding combining audiophile sound, with iPod-like ease of use is addictive too, and am listening to more music than ever.

    I'm also interested in how people think digital music might be delivered in the future. It dawned on me that if 24bit quality sound is to have even a narrow chance of success outside of it's current very small niche, and even if bandwidth speeds increase as predicted, downloading 2-3Gb files in earnest (which would be the point I believe, as once you get used to that higher fidelity there's no going back) would take a serious commitment. Personally, would much rather wait a day or so and receive a few albums on a hard-drive, perhaps one that I then return to the content provider in a SAE ready for another purchase. Perhaps that provider might send me some free music to try perioidically too. Or lease my a whole music collection for a larger sum of money.

    Interested in what you think.

    Good listening

    Danny

  • Serpof says:

    Excelente, simplemente excelente.

    Tanto la composición artística como la calidad del sonido denotan un trabajo elaborado y no quedó nada librado al azar.

    Sinceramente, felicitaciones !!!

    SAludos

  • Peter says:

    Seems you ask and B&W responds lol.

    The post by Danny Haiken that there will be a 24 bit download available next month is very welcome news indeed.

    I use a Logitech Squeezebox into a Stello DAC. As Danny mentioned, the convenience is just fabulous. I have about 1000 CDs ripped to FLAC on my hard drive and can, for example, set the Squeezebox to random songs and play music for the next 5 weeks. It should be noted though the Squeezebox wont play 24/96 files natively, you need the Logitech Transporter for that. That's why I bought the DVD player to use as a transport, it was a much cheaper option than buying a Transporter. Most people have a DVD and current ones have a 24 bit capable DAC.

    There is a future for high quality downloads. We will get some idea from B&W's welcome addition of 24 bit albums just how strong the demand will be. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

    I also hope B&W look at the speed of their server(s). On my Australian ADSL2+ connection, I can sustain a download speed of around 10mbs. It may faster than that in other parts of the world. At those speeds, downloading 2gb files isn't such a big deal as long as the server can deliver at that rate or higher.

    And well one to B&W for providing music downloads and this forum.

  • Tim says:

    I really enjoyed both albums by Daby Toure and Dave Stewart. If it were not for B&W I would have never even thought to look at these two artists.

    About the 24 bit music. I would love to be able to enjoy as much lossless sound as possible, but dont think my equipment is capable. I have Yamaha RX V1800 reciever with my XBox 360 as my music player. What do I need to do to get the best listening experience?

    Sincerley,
    Aspiring Audiophile

  • ironbut says:

    I’ve really enjoyed the downloads so far. I use a ADAC that is 96/24 capable and while I generally buy flac files that are higher sample rates, yours do sound excellent. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a way to get around the garbage in/garbage out as upsampling would suggest and great recording techniques will always shine.
    While I really enjoyed the music on the Dave Stewart files, they did seem to sound more “digital” than the other files you’ve offered. There is a edge to the upper midrange to treble that’s a little distracting.

  • nic says:

    Always interesting to hear new world music so enjoyed the Daby Toure album. However the Dave Stewart would not download. Strange – same day, same pc …

    Not to worry my whole PC is dead now so can’t do anything about it anyway!

  • kieron says:

    Purchased a zeppelin and listened to the music on that as well as my b&w 801s and was really impressed,particularly the dave stewart tracks .The sound on the zeppelin is far beyond what i expected from a docking station well done b&w and keep up the good work.

  • Danny Haikin says:

    Peter, I think you’ll find – and the recording engineers and digital electronics engineers I know concur – that the huge jump in sound quality is from 16bit to 24bit, even at 48kHz. There’s a demonstrable inprovement to 96kHz too (there’s not many studios that work natively at 192kHz so I have to reserve judgement on that) but to my ears it’s relatively slight compared to the enormous difference that you hear when the bit depth increases from 16 to 24bit.

    We’ll offer the music club 24bit files at 48khz initially and seek your feedback.

    Our digital department are looking at server speeds and the download tool we provide as I write. At the time we launched, it seemed prudent to provide a tool to try and make the download process as robust as possible. It should be as quick as anything out there from anywhere in the world, but we’re reviewing this. Some users have also expressed a desire to use third-party download tools like DAP, which can’t work with our current tool.

  • Andrew says:

    Looking forward to the 24 bit files …

  • Jeff Cowan says:

    Danny,

    Albums I like:

    - Gwynth Herbert
    - Dub Colossus
    - Benjamin Grosvenor
    - Dave Stewart

    Albums I missed by signing up too late:

    - Little Axe
    - Grindhouse
    - Brett Anderson

    By deduction, I didn't enjoy the other releases.

    All recordings have been very well recorded. Perceived quality is only as good as the DACs/Systems used for listening. These recordings make me want to upgrade.

    I download all files in Apple Lossless, load into iTunes, stream to my AppleTV which is digitally connected to my Lexicon processor. AppleTV won't handle the 24bit content so I'll need to find another way to get that to my processor…I may use the DVD-burn workaround mentioned here until such time that I do upgrade to a high-bitrate streaming server. But otherwise, I love this readily available, easy to use, low cost solution to stream music around my home. As a result of how much "fun" this was, I digitized my entire CD collection (1700+). Now all my music is available whenever I want it without a loss in quality. I love it!!

    I have a Linn LP12 and listen to records regularly. 16-bit digital has yet to top that listening experience. Would be great to have some of these releases on LP too.

    I'm REALLY excited about 24 bit sound and completely agree the big jump in quality comes from more bits. I had the fortune of sitting in a mastering session at A&M studios many years ago and listened to an analogue recording, a 16bit sample, and a 20bit sample. The 16 bit paled. The 20bit (some Sony pro hardware I can't recall now) was nearly the equal to the analogue. I don't think the sample rate was particularly high. BRING IT! :-)

    My expectation of the future of media delivery to the home is that it will all be "on demand" download or stream (internet/cable/satellite) without the need for physical media. I'm already doing this with music and movies. But I do expect high quality.

  • 704 says:

    Veny nice set of high quality song!

    THX

  • Kaj S says:

    I´m a new member so the Daby/Skip album is the first one I downloaded from B&W Music club.
    And no, it does not sound good.
    First of all it is heavily compressed, why?
    Secondly, the low end is between 4-6dB too high.
    And third, it sounds too dry, lifeless. So, I made a remastered version :) It sounds way better than the original version. I was also able to remove some of the compression.
    If anyone at B&W is interested, I can send a copy. :)
    CD can sound great but we need to keep the dynamics that cd can deliver and stop compressing.
    Dave Stewart did sound better but I haven´t really had a serious look at it yet.

  • Susanna Wendler says:

    Great sound quality for the majority. Great songs! I really like “Time Has Come”. Some places the bass on “Dioguano” might be overshadowing and strong making it somewhat challenging to hear the vocal part.

    Basically, an excellent effort here and I hope to hear more with this collaboration of these two outstanding artists.

    Thank you.

  • MichaelCPE says:

    The comments in this blog are no surprise to anyone who has followed the Loudness Wars.

    Most people are happy with the sound of music which has been compressed to sound louder, and thus some say more suitable for iPods and background listening.

    And 3 people (including me) are disappointed that a company that one would have thought was all about high quality sound are providing compressed music which we think sounds bad.

    My questions are:

    Would those who are happy with the current sound also be happy if the music was uncompressed?

    The electronic delivery allows us to choose which version of club release to download. Why doesn’t the club give us the option of an uncompressed download?

    As most popular CDs are heavily compressed these days, being able to get some uncompressed music would be very popular with those who want something that sounds good on a good system.

    This is what I had expected from the club, but (so-far) this has not happened.

  • Lissandra says:

    Interesting and beautiful collaboration between Daby Touré and Skip McDonald, so good vibes and feeling in this work. Great voices !. I really enjoyed and hope hear more very soon !

    Bonne année 2009 !

  • Susanna says:

    Hi,

    Thanks to everyone who’s commented so far, it’s made very interesting reading. There will be a new album up in the next couple of the days from the critically acclaimed Portico Quartet recorded, as usual, especially for our club.
    So please feel free to come back to the blog and let us know what you think.

    Susanna

  • bblue says:

    MichaelCPE wrote:
    As most popular CDs are heavily compressed these days, being able to get some uncompressed music would be very popular with those who want something that sounds good on a good system.
    ———————

    I don't think that most of this range of music could be successfully mixed without compression at all. Compression and Limiting are a good thing when used in moderation. Even a loudness maximizer or peak limiter can be useful in *extreme* moderation.

    But in the Dave Stewart Songbook and several others, these processes are severely overused to the point of distortion, over articulation, you name it. Generally speaking this kind of sound will be acceptable (even preferable in some cases) on your ipod or other lower-fi systems, but not on good high quality systems, as the artifacts and distortion will be clearly audible. These *are* B&W projects and they should represent the best of the best I would think. Honestly, though, I don't know how much influence B&W actually has over the production techniques used in these recordings.

    The Daby Toure & Skip McDonald tracks were handled much better in this regard. Still 'pushed' pretty hard but not to the point of distortion.

    In contrast, no compression or limiting on anything would leave many tracks not so enjoyable and very sensitive to playback equipment, not to mention very low in apparent volume. Virtually nothing (commercially produced) since the 60's has been released without some form of compression, with a few notable exceptions. But that was before the loudness wars and extreme processing was more the norm.

    So B&W: Moderation Please!

    –Bill

  • Sergio V. says:

    I have missed the album for a few days, the first one since I’ve subscribed!! I would be extremely glad if someone would tell me more about this album at svazzana@esa.int.

    Thanks in advance!

    Sergio

  • Ben says:

    Regarding the SB3 and 24/96…

    SB3 and the other non-Transporter players have a CPU limitation that limits them to 24/48.

    The latest version of SqueezeCenter 7.3.2 uses SOX to downsample 24/96 to 24/48 at high quality.

    Previous versions of SqueezeCenter resampled these files to MP3!

    http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/Release_Notes

    ———————————————–

    I have a SB3 + DAC and it’s great. Would love to see more 24bit music for download.

    I also agree with above comments regarding dynamic range 

    http://www.cdmasteringservices.com/dynamicrange.htm

  • Stu says:

    I have tried out Little Axe “Brought for a dollar, sold for a dime”, 24 bit 48k sampling and found the early tracks rather odd.

    I’ve listened to a lot of blues material, but never any recorded in 24 bit format, so I was interested to see how this would play. I was using Grado RS1 phones on a Yamamoto headphone amp. The combo is ruthlessly revealing

    Track 1 “Take a Stroll” everthing is very, very clear (clinical really), the individual instruments sound good but the mixture sounds like someone has multitracked a clump of tracks together. The way things move around all over one another in the soundstage, sounds artificial on phones to me

    Track 3 “Hammerhead” The backing vocals don’t melt into the other tracks, sounds like the multi-tracking thing again. I don’t feel like I’m listening to a perfromance, but rather a studio concoction. Its not an organic whole. All the same I think this one could be good on speakers

    Track 5 “Come back Home” Great bass, harmonica, but once it gets going it still sounds like a clump of tracks wandering over and under each other. Its not ideal phones material, they are just too revealing of what the producer has done

    Track 6 “Temptation” Very nice indeed, the backing keeps coming from the same place instead of crisscrosing the soundstage

    Track 7 “Can’t Sleep at Night” This one all holds together too, very nice again

    Track 8 “2 late” The material is not my thing, harmonica is nice

    Track 9 “Another Friend” The material is not my thing, its a semi-funk version of a hymm

    Well,well I have just down-loaded the conventional 44.1 16 bit files

    Track 1 Instantly the sound is just what you would expect, fine indeed. The backing was dropped away from the main threads and the criss-cross issues have gone away. What sounded clinical is now integrated and organic

    I wonder where the issue lies – the 24 bit mastering/remastering, Slimserver, my dac or the squeezebox feed to the dac. Hmm

    There was a note in the download that said tracks 4,6,7 and 9 had been software upsampled, so its the ones presumably resampled from the masters that I didn’t like

  • Nicos says:

    I really love the quality of the offered recordings. After years of ever worse garbage, listening to that stuff is close to a revelation, even if it is material that I wouldn’t listen to otherwise.

    However, I find it a bit disappointing that some material is being upsampled to 48kHz from 44.1kHz masters. That is a conversion that must be lossy somewhere, so I think it clashes with the absolute quality claim that is made.

    I would propose offering an “optimal” package that provides 48kHz material where the masters allow it, and keep 44.1kHz where they don’t.

  • Stu says:

    Following on from my comments on Little Ax (#35 below)

    I have just retired the Squeezebox and am running an Empirical Audio Offramp 3 between PC and dac. The problem I had has vanished, the 24/48 recordings sound fine now

  • Phil says:

    I would like to know what software members are using to burn flac files to CD/DVD. I use Burnn (not a typo.) for CD and DVD Audio Solo for DVD. Both are easy to use and the results have very good.

  • DIS says:

    speaking of lossless quality…..and also dynamic range (see references to “loudness war” before)….I recently discovered the homepage of the Pleasurize Music Foundation (http://www.dynamicrangemetering.com/) whose aim it is to bring back sound quality and fighting compression. I think the SoS Music does follow a similar direction and approach but unfortunately some of the releases also rather tend to be on the compression side. This counts e.g. for Charlie Winston, Dub Colossus and Brett Anderson. From the aspects of mastering these releases are not much better than today’s regular (pop/ rock) releases although many of them are far worse. You can download a Dynamic Range metering application and upload results to a database built-up at http://dr.loudness-war.info Really intersting to see how mastering music has degraded over time. So my wish is to find most of the B&W SoS Music releases to be on the “safe side” because that was one of my hopes and motivations to join. Please master carefully! DIS

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

Mister Heavenly 12 (2011)

Album review: Mister Heavenly – Out of Love (Sub Pop)

Mister Heavenly's debut album, Out of Love Is packed with violent imagery and musical nods to the classic doo-wop era. This record … Read more

Tramp_IslanderVinylFRONT

Society of Sound artists Urusen release 7 inch vinyl single

Urusen combine intrinsically British folk with contemporary Americana and have been voted 'one to watch' by those in the know. Society … Read more

Debate_cloud

Debate: Will cloud-based music ever replace physical formats?

Will music in the cloud ever replace physical discs? Can you imagine clearing your shelves of CDs and LPs, and instead just access … Read more