Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I don't know why I hadn't come across download site HDtracks before. Maybe it's because of the relatively small amount of content, or the fact that it's a US-only site. Maybe I had noticed it but somehow put it out of my thoughts; it's only in the last few months that I've seriously been looking at downloading from sources other than eMusic.
Anyway, HDtracks was launched a couple of years ago and specializes in high-quality downloads from independents. Classical labels there include 2L, ASV and related labels, BIS, Cantaloupe, Chandos, Delos, Dorian, ECM, Harmonia Mundi, Ivory Classics, Marquis, MDG, Musical Concepts, Naxos, New Albion, New World, Orange Mountain, PentaTone, Reference, and Vanguard. Others like CPO and Phoenix Edition are listed as "coming soon". The selection isn't as impressive as the label list suggests, though. There's fewer than 200 BIS titles, for instance. But there are some labels there, like ASV and MDG, that I've not seen for download elsewhere (right now I'm listening to this wonderfully vibrant collection of music by Christoph Graupner - "I like your music!" - Amelia). Prices are relatively good - $11.98 as opposed to the usual €9.99, for FLAC or MP3 - and everything comes with a PDF booklet. They also do audiophile-quality downloads, for a bit more money.
But hold on a second, Nereffid! I hear you mew. I thought you said it's a US-only site? Why yes, I did say that, didn't I? Not sure whether it's a bug or a feature, but they accepted my credit card and the perfectly legitimate US address I gave them (OK, not technically my residence but I've spent about 4% of the last decade there).
One snag with the site was its Java-based download manager. I couldn't get the download manager to run initially, but while I was waiting for them to reply to my request for assistance I managed to fix the problem myself - turns out I had multiple competing versions of Java, one of which was preventing the download manager from working. Unfortunately the download manager's the only way of downloading anything, which seems to be an unnecessary situation and probably causes a few headaches for users and HDtracks itself.
Given the fact that most of HDtracks' labels are also on eMusic, it's unlikely I'll be spending much time or money there, but it's nice to have an extra option, especially for those labels that don't otherwise want me to download their music. Hey, ASV: you were one of the 4 labels that attracted me to eMusic, and then you disappeared soon afterwards. It's not like your CDs are readily available in the Irish shops, either. You clearly don't want to take my money. But by God I will find a way to give it to you.

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