After I posted the last note on "High Resolution Audio Expectations", I got a few "tips" to have a look at some tracks on Morning Phase in more detail... So I got my friend who informed me about the DR6 from HDTracks to send me some pictures:
Track 4 - "Say Goodbye"
Spectral frequency display:
Looks like there's almost nothing after 22kHz but low level noise. Essentially a 44kHz "upsample" for many of the notes. Actually, my friend says a number of tracks he looked at is like this; for example tracks 3 and 5 also (I don't think he checked every track). Since this is a multi-tracked recording with synthesizers and various studio effects, this is actually not surprising - many synth/pop/rock albums are like this. Many samplers and DSPs operate in the 44/48kHz domain so what's laid down is "limited" and there's just no 'genuine' 96kHz sound available.
Track 10 - "Phase"
Now this is interesting:
Track 11 - "Turn Away"
My word... It looks like tracks 10 & 11 are sourced from some kind of lossy original! Notice the characteristic low-pass from about 16kHz! Might as well be the output from LAME 320kbps (on second thought, 320kbps usually retains up to a full 20kHz with the psychoacoustic model so we're likely looking at 192-256kbps).
Now I'm definitely going to be purchasing the CD rather than any high-resolution download (assuming I want it... Haven't listened to any samples yet). I don't know if folks have checked the CD or if the Qobuz version is any better.
Seriously, HDTracks... Do you guys ever look at these files for quality control purposes before declaring the album fit for high-resolution and charging folks $18USD? I know you claim to just sell what the label gives you, but isn't it a bit disingenuous to be calling much of this album "Audiophile 96kHz/24bit"?
Given the publicity Beck's album received a week ago and now the revelation of the quality issue, I do hope this serves as a meaningful wake-up call to HDTracks specifically and the audiophile download community as a whole.
If HDTracks sticks its head in the sand on this, it would be telling that their commitment is clearly not to their customers and they certainly cannot maintain any quality control to assure their product is "HD" in any sense of the acronym. Upsampled 44/48kHz is bad enough, but lossy sold as "HD" is just ludicrous!
Thankfully, I did not buy this album from HDTracks... I suppose if I did, I'd be asking for a refund ASAP or at least demanding a higher quality download.