The best hi-res audio and music download sites

Audiophiles hoping the music streaming explosion would lead to a bigger market for higher quality audio have been sorely disappointed. Even with services like Tidal — which pushes supersonic supremacy as its killer weapon — the market response to high-fidelity audio wholly classifies as niche. In turn, although it’s become easier to find pristine digital tracks, the overall selection is still relatively limited, and in many cases, you still have to pay top dollar for them.

At a glance

Although more and more high-end stereo receivers and even cell phones have emerged with top-notch digital-to-analog converters on board, finding high-resolution music to take advantage of all that advanced audio processing technology remains a difficult task for many. The issue stems from a lack of digital recordings at the high sample rates and bit depth (starting at 48kHz/24 bit and up) needed to produce crystalline sonic quality.

Subscriptions

If you’re looking to stream music in the highest possible quality, you now have a few solid options. The first is the Tidal music service. Despite its quirks, Tidal allows subscribers to stream at up to 24-bit/96kHz quality, which is among the highest resolutions of the major streaming service. Best of all, many modern receivers have network connections, making it easy to pair up a Tidal account with your hi-fi setup.

The second is relative newcomer Qobuz. Qobuz has actually been around for a while, but it recently debuted its streaming subscription plans in the U.S. With one lossless, CD-quality tier, and two hi-res, 24-bit/96kHz tiers, it definitely gives Tidal a run for the money.

Amazon is the newcomer to this fight, with the company hosting an HD tier of its own for Amazon Music. Add $5 to the standard $10 premium and you’ll get “millions” of tracks at 24-bit/192kHz, in addition to over 50 million in lossless CD quality. Strangely, Amazon doesn’t offer these tracks in its music store despite being the most popular online retailer to sell individual downloads.

If you’re looking for new material and want to own the music for all eternity — rather than “rent” it monthly — you still have options. There are quite a few online stores out there that offer a wealth of music to add to your catalog if you know where to find them, and after you’re done with this article, you most certainly will. Read ahead for what we feel are some of the best music download websites to satisfy your hi-res audio fix.

HDtracks

HD Tracks

File formats: WMA/WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC
Highest resolution: 24-bit/192kHz

The veritable Mac Daddy (or is it Daddy Mac?) of online stores, HDtracks has one of the most extensive collections of high-resolution pop, rock, classical, and jazz music on the web. David Chesky, a noted composer, musician, and producer, co-founded and chairs the site, and continues to develop its catalog.

Virtually all of the files on the site are available in multiple formats, with resolution rates that reach up to the highest industry standard, though many are only available at CD quality. You’ll find a host of your favorite artists here, from Bob Dylan to Bob Marley, Rush to Marvin Gaye — but don’t look for any Beatles tunes. If you’re looking to amass a big hi-res audio collection quickly, this is a great starting point.

Qobuz

A screenshot of Qobuz in 2020.

File formats: WAV, WMA, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, MP3, WMA, AAC
Highest resolution: 24-bit/192kHz

Remember we mentioned that Qobuz was one of two options for streaming hi-res music? Well, it’s also a place where you can buy and download it, too. Qobuz operates its own hi-res music store, with a wide selection of genres — everything from pop/rock to classical and plenty in between. Though it doesn’t offer as many hi-res file formats as some of the other stores, it’s the obvious choice to buy your music if you’re a Qobuz Sublime Plus streaming subscriber.

With a membership — the privileges of which can be yours for a $250 annual payment — you have access to over 50 million tracks in lossless CD quality (16-bit/44.1kHz), with a small fraction of those available in hi-res. To be clear, the easier-to-swallow $15 Studio Premier monthly plan (there’s a free month on avail to try) nets a similar haul, but with Sublime Plus, you’ll get preferred pricing on downloads, often saving as much as five dollars per album. If you buy a lot of hi-res music, that discount alone could justify the cost.

Acoustic Sounds

A screenshot of Acoustic Sounds in 2020.

File formats: FLAC, ALAC, DSD
Highest resolution: 24 bit/192kHz

Acoustic Sounds is so much more than its title implies. This site offers a bevy of pop and rock selections from familiar artists that are sure to stop that all-too-common HD feeling that you’ve wandered into a soundtrack from a Sundance film. You’ll find big names like Norah Jones, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Depeche Mode, and Eric Clapton, as well as more indie stuff like The Civil Wars.

There’s even a nice peppering of funk and bluegrass in the mix, plus choice selections from many other popular genres, all of which are offered in high-resolution DSD, ALAC, and FLAC files. If you want to bolster your selection of quality radio hits and classic recordings, this site should be on your shortlist.

Chandos

chandos-classical-shop

File formats: WMA, WAV, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, FLAC Studio surround 5.1
Highest resolution: 24 bit/96kHz

Formerly known as the Classical Shop, and now going by the name Chandos (featuring the Classical Shop), this store hosts music from more than 200 labels and boasts a massive collection of classical and jazz tracks numbering over a million. There are also a claimed 80,000(!) new tracks being added every month across other musical genres such as pop and rock, though many are offered with only CD quality as the highest resolution. A host of subgenres in the classical and jazz realm are also available in hi-res studio masters.

Unfortunately, since Chandos took over, the helpful search tools for sorting by format are now gone. Still, this is a massive database of instrumental mastery with tracks that are totally affordable.

ATMA Classique

File formats: FLAC, CD
Highest resolution: 24 bit/96kHz

Though not nearly as extensive as The Classical Shop, this 15-year-old French-Canadian site has a great selection, good organization, and even a cool catalog section with pages that turn like a virtual book. The site hosts hundreds of titles, and can easily be navigated by composer, artist, or genre, though we also love perusing the curated album collections. Atma makes it easy to check out all albums that prominently feature the piano, for instance. There’s even a moderate list of exclusive releases that you won’t find anywhere else. Perhaps best of all, the prices are very competitive, coming in at around $13 to $15 per album.

Blue Coast Music/Downloads NOW!

File formats: WAV, DSD, FLAC
Highest resolution: 24 bit/192kHz

For those looking for something a bit more eclectic and under the radar, Blue Coast Records offers a nice selection of indie rock and pop hits, many of which were recorded by the label. Users get a few free downloads upon signing up, and there are more selections available on the excitably titled sister site, Downloads NOW! These sites aren’t the prettiest on the web, but they do have some cool live music from artists you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. With a $50 annual subscription, you can take 15% off any purchase and a few dozen PRIME tracks, which were recorded directly to DSD256 formats by Grammy-nominated recording artist (and founder of Blue Coast) Cookie Marenco.

Pristine Classical

A screenshot of Pristine Classical in 2020.

File formats: FLAC, CD
Highest resolution: 24-bit/48kHz

Pristine Classical has a large selection of music that offers a serious blast from the recording past, with many selections pulled from recordings that reach back into the early 1940s, plus occasional additions from the early scenes of jazz and blues. All of the tracks have been meticulously remastered, though they will cost you a pretty penny in some cases.

Speaking of which, Pristine offers a streaming arm with over 10,000 tracks from thousands of composers and artists, and 1,000 of those are exclusive. Collectors and connoisseurs may also be interested in the Pristine Collection. The company delivers a 2TB hard drive to your doorstep with the entirety of Pristine’s recordings. That’s worth $1,300 right now, so this route is mostly reserved for rich enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, Pristine’s best available resolution sits in the lower realm of the spectrum at 24-bit/48kHz, but if you want to hear the music your grandparents (or great-grandparents) went to see live, this is one of the best ways.

Niche Music Sites

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The sites above are just some of our favorites for grabbing the most quality choices for your precious online time. However, there are plenty of others to choose from, and we’ve listed more of the notable ones below. All of the sites on this extended list offer HD audio files, but some are hosted outside the U.S., which may impact your ability to actually buy the music you so desire. With so many choices, though, you shouldn’t have too many issues.

Analekta Records: Classical
Boston Symphony Orchestra: Local performances from the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops orchestras, etc.
Cedille Records: Music from the Chicago Classical Recordings Foundation
Channel Classics: Classical
Gubemusic: Classical, jazz, world
High Definition Tape Transfers: Classical, jazz
Melba Recordings: Classical performances from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Naim Audio: Indie rock, classical, folk, pop
Sound Liason: Classical, ensemble works, pop covers
Subradar: Free jazz, free rock, contemporary, electronic

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