I’ve been picking up one 24bit release per month to enjoy on the PonoPlayer, and while they have been slow to be released (my theory on why is below), I do really enjoy the ones I have.
My current 24bit collection includes:
- Hotter Than July by Stevie Wonder
- Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones
- III and Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin
- This Boot Is Made For Fonk-n by Bootsy’s Rubber Band
- The Cars by The Cars
- Quadrophenia by The Who
- Portrait of a Legend – Sam Cooke
- Slave by Slave
- Machine Head by Deep Purple
The reason why labels aren’t quick to put out 24bit FLAC files is because this in effect gives away their masters with no copy protection.
Labels know and understand that the album, the CD, and mp3 were not the full (master) version of the music. These are called consumer formats, and they are created from the master but are degraded from the master.
Vinyl degrades as it is played and it also cannot be copied easily. With MP3 the degradation is obvious to most. The CD format tricks many because they were marketed as being more than they are, but most music was recorded in a way that provided more detail than a 16/44 CD translates.
Along comes Pono pushing for selling the full masters with no copy protection. Some labels will drip some stuff out but I doubt they will open the vaults.
24bit FLAC IS the vault – and they can fashion new profitable file formats from it. FLAC is open with no DRM or loss.
This is why I think the labels, along with Apple, will get behind (buy?) the new MQA encoding and push it as the next audio format. It uses MP3-like concepts in the encoding layer to allegedly deliver HD-quality at regular bitrates, and more importantly, it needs a new DAC, making it not backwards compatible.
MQA is claiming they can get near CD-quality PCM (1200k) into 320k MQA format. They are also claiming they can get 24bit PCM quality (2000-4000k) into a 1200k MQA encoding. Very few people have heard this yet, and it’s a longshot to make it as the next consumer encoding format, but it is intriguing.
I think the MP3 engineers made some very poor audio decisions and no one has revisited them since the early 1990’s. MQA’s claiming to address them.