Vinyl + Digital Downloads – Why Not Lossless Digital Audio?


Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible was finally released on vinyl (Merge copy: “LP is double 180-gram audiophile quality with three sides of music and an etching on the fourth side.”). I picked up my copy yesterday after work. On the way home I noticed a red sticker on the shrink wrap promising a coupon for digital downloads (pictured above).

I’m super glad that Merge is accommodating their customers’ portable audio reality (Saddle Creek does the same). The downloads are the free prize inside (at least I hope it’s free and not built into the price, the double album set me back $21.99 ($3 more than at an indie record store I visited the next day, damn!). I had a little trouble at first downloading the zipped album: I had to dig the price tag and its bar code number out of the trash (the album jacket doesn’t have any bar code I could find), enter the serial number and bar code number (after many erred bar code number entries I figured out I needed to drop a leading zero) and then download the zip file. The download page warned me that I only have 3 downloads left. The files are DRM free.

The MP3s were ripped using iTunes at 192 kbps. This is perfect for iPod casual listening, but I want more. You’d think that for serious home listening I would be satisfied listening to the vinyl album. But with the chaos of my children, the ritual of removing the disc from its jacket, giving a few anti-static Milty zaps, placing the record on the turntable, dry cleaning it with a carbon fiber brush and finally dropping the needle on side A is near impossible. You think I’ll ever get to sides B, C, D?

So, Merge (and any other record labels that want to care about their customers), why not offer a secondary download in a lossless format? I would sing your praises if with the purchase of the vinyl album, I could download a zip file full of FLAC or Apple Lossless files in addition to the low-res MP3s. The lossless album would be a larger download: maybe 300–400 MB compared to the MP3s’ 65 MB, but bandwidth is cheap these days.

The lossless files would not make me feel so bad about spending around $20 an album (I have this mid-80s figure of $8 stuck in my head as the “right” price for a record). Any digital downloads at all is a great first step, though.

One thought on “Vinyl + Digital Downloads – Why Not Lossless Digital Audio?

  • May 17, 2007 at 11:00 am

    I think it’s nice that Merge offers the MP3 downloads with some of their vinyl releases. One of my friends bought the LP for the new Camera Obscura, and yes, Merge had included the download ticket you’ve pictured here. It’s nice to be able to hear the record at home, and throw the MP3’s on your iPod, etc.

    I’m with you on the quality of the MP3’s, though. Most normal people are perfectly happy with 192 bitrate…..I’m a little pickier, and would rather “rip” my own. It would be nice to offer LP buyers an option of a FLAC download, which I would prefer.

    However, most of my friends shy away from FLAC, and seem to be perfectly happy with just MP3’s….

    Doesn’t Pearl Jam offer an option of high-bitrate MP3, as well as FLAC, download purchases of their live concert recordings? If so, it would seem like they’re probably not the only ones doing so (hopefully).


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