Where can you buy hi-res music? Here are the top download sites

Where can you buy hi-res music? Here are the top download sites

Want to build a library of high-resolution music but don't know where to start your shopping? Whether you've only just taken the plunge into hi-res audio, or are wondering what other online stores have to offer, we've rounded up some of our favourite hi-res download websites to show you what each has to offer.

In its simplest terms, hi-res audio tends to refer to music files that have a higher sampling frequency and/or bit depth than CD (16bit/44.1kHz), giving the potential for better sound quality (with the appropriate listening equipment, of course).

With major music labels such as Sony, Warner and Universal making their extensive music catalogues available to these hi-res download services, there's a huge variety of genres, file formats and download options available for fans of high-resolution audio.

We've focused on the biggest and most popular UK download sites that let you buy and download single tracks and full albums in various hi-res formats. Each has its own distinct flavour, bitrates and features to offer.

You may ultimately end up with a favourite go-to site, but even then, it's worth checking across the different sites for the same album or track, too, as some stores can offer better prices than others.

7digital

Rating: 5 stars

Hi-res sampling rates available: 24bit/44.1kHz - 24bit/192kHz

Hi-res file formats available: FLAC

With a strong catalogue of hi-res music (around two million tracks now) from all genres and a website that makes buying music easy, 7digital is an excellent all-rounder.

There's an accurate search function and the website is simple to navigate. You can easily spot hi-res recordings thanks to a '24bit FLAC' badge on an album or song's thumbnail, and there's also a dedicated hi-res section for some focused browsing. You can preview 30 seconds of a song before buying it, too.

The sole drawback is that it only offers hi-res downloads in the FLAC format. Prices are affordable, though, and you can buy individual tracks as well as full albums - something that not every site offers.

Read our full 7digital review

HDtracks

Rating: 4 stars

Hi-res sampling rates available: 24bit/44.1kHz - 24bit/192kHz

Hi-res file formats available: FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC, DSD 2.8 and 5.6MHz

HDtracks may be one of the longest-established hi-res download stores, but it's in need of a refresh both in terms of looks and catalogue.

It feels aimed at an older audience (there's strong focus on jazz, classical and dad-rock), which can be off-putting for wider audiences (especially fans of more current, popular music). The cluttered interface looks dated, you can't really buy individual tracks and hi-res albums tend to be pricey.

On the other hand, whereas other download sites offer FLAC as default (and in some cases, only FLAC is available), HDtracks lets you choose between FLAC, WAV, AIFF and ALAC (and the sampling rates for each) formats before downloading. There's a selection of tunes in DSD and double DSD, too, which is great for audiophiles.

Read our full HDtracks review

Onkyo Music

Rating: 4 stars

Hi-res sampling rates available: 24bit/44.1kHz - 24bit/192kHz

Hi-res file formats available: FLAC, MQA

Onkyo Music (like the now-defunct Technics Tracks) is a hi-res download store resulting from a partnership with the 7digital music platform - so it shares the same catalogue and pricing as the other two sites.

What makes it stand out from the crowd is offering music in the MQA format. It has an entire section dedicated to MQA downloads, with hi-res (FLAC) and MQA logos clearly visible, so you know exactly which format you're buying.

While we didn't find it as intuitive to use as the others when we first tested the service in 2016, the interface and search functions have since been through a redesign - which we'll be putting to the test in due course.

To date, Onkyo Music offers 870,000 tracks in FLAC and 105,000 in MQA. New arrivals for each format are in separate sections, too, which is a helpful touch.

Read our full Onkyo Music review

Qobuz Sublime

Rating: 5 stars

Hi-res sampling rates available: 24bit/44.1kHz - 24bit/192kHz

Hi-res file formats available: FLAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA Lossless

Music discovery and front-end intuitiveness get full marks on French download store Qobuz.

Both the website and dedicated app are easy to navigate. Hi-res albums are clearly labelled, and you can search by genre or new releases, which can be sorted by sample rate. Hi-res albums in 5.1 surround sound are available too. There is a strong Francophile focus, although the hi-res catalogue - a million tracks - is growing more varied every day.

It's worth noting that you choose the file format and sampling rate you want to download your hi-res album in after you've made your purchase. You can also choose the streaming quality - MP3 320kbps or FLAC 16bit/44.1kHz - when previewing songs (even when you can't buy individual tracks).

Pricing is competitive, but if you opt for the hybrid download-and-streaming Sublime+ service (£350 per year for streaming 24bit/192kHz files) you do get discounts when buying hi-res albums.

Read our full Qobuz Sublime review

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