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SoundStage! Update

The Upside of Downloading

May 1, 2007

One of the first stops I make when I visit Montreal and the Festival Son & Image is at the Fidelio Audio room. I want to say hello to the Canadian audiophile label's head, René LaFlamme, and hear the new recordings he has come out with in the previous year. I also use the Fidelio room as something of a sonic checkpoint. René always puts together one of the better-sounding systems at the show. It was no exception this year. Fidelio also had a couple of new titles, which was good news indeed.

But those new recordings -- German Romantic Works for Violin and Piano [Fidelio Audio FACD18] and the obligatory FSI Fidelio Reference 2 show disc [Fidelio Audio FACD910] -- were just the beginning of the news. After the pleasantries and discs were exchanged, René dropped a bombshell. Given the slowdown in the physical-media market he has decided that the time is right for Fidelio to go the download route. René said he has become increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of the CDs and SACDs he’s been receiving from the pressing plants. He feels that each stage his recordings go through in the process of making the physical disc contaminates the recording's sonics, depreciating sound quality by about 10% after each stage. By offering downloads, a procedure that René readily admits also causes a one-time 10% loss, he feels that more of the music he spends so much time and energy recording will be heard.

These downloads will encompass some live concerts and all new releases in either 16-bit/44.1kHz or 48kHz formats. René recommends that playback be accomplished via a USB-enabled DAC. For those who refuse to accept or are unable to access downloading, Fidelio will offer slow-burned CD-Rs. Down the road, René foresees being able to offer cryogenically treated CD-Rs and CF cards with 24-bit/96kHz or 48kHz data.

All of this is good news for audiophiles. I’ve always found Fidelio Audio recordings to be among the finest-sounding in my library, though they can be hard to find. The chance to acquire the music via download in higher resolution will be a great boon to audiophiles all over the world....John Crossett, johnc@soundstage.com

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