US audiophiles can now buy studio master discs. If they don't mind strange jazz...
It's a long-running audiophile argument – how do you know whether your system sounds as good as it can? Are you listening to an inferior copy of what was recorded in the studio?
The only answer, some say, is to get access to the studio masters – used to be 'master tapes', but we've moved on a bit since then. Trouble is, that's not something most people can do.
Now, audiophiles in the States are being offered the chance to buy one-to-one copies of 192kHz 24-bit master discs from Chesky Records, in the form of Gold Studio Master DVD-R discs.
Each disc contains up to 4.7GB of data, and they're designed to be copied to your computer's hard drive, and then played back through a DAC able to handle 192kHz/24-bit audio, an amplifier and speakers.
Chesky makes it very clear that the discs won't play on DVD-A, CD or SA-CD hardware, making these releases just like Linn's Studio Master downloads, or Naim's high-resolution packages.
Where the Chesky recordings differ from the Linn offering, however, is that the disc you buy contains uncompressed .WAV files, whereas Linn gives you a choice of lossless FLAC or WMA. Naim, meanwhile, combines 24-bit/88.2kHz .WAV files on a data disc with a separate CD of the same music.
Only two problems I can see with the Chesky recordings. First, they're only available to buyers in the States, at $45 (£30) a pop. And second, the choice of music in the initial releases isn't exactly inspiring.
A jazz quartet version of the whole of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, anyone...?
And one more thing: Chesky says 'these discs are not limited editions".
In which case, I suggest you have another look at your packaging, chaps...