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7digital Offers Radiohead Album As FLAC Download

David Gilbert


7digital Offers Radiohead Album As FLAC Download

For years now audiophiles have been fighting against the wholesale movement towards digitizing music because of the poor audio quality given by compressed files. Now 7digital seems to be a taking a step in the opposite direction by offering the new Radiohead album as a 24-bit FLAC download.

With storage capacities of home and mobile systems growing exponentially these days, there is going to be more and more room for these high quality audio files and the move by 7digital could signal the first steps in a move towards HD digital music. This is the first release in the 24-bit format and 7digital has announced that it will also be making future release available in this format. “The overall aim is to pioneer the move to a higher quality digital format, ahead of competing digital music services, and encourage the music industry to adopt new, higher quality formats,” a statement said.

The album, The King of Limbs, is available exclusively as a digital download from 7digital costing £8.99 and will include a 16-bit FLAC and AAC 320kbps version of the album. This will allows listeners to easily sync and playback on music devices that do not support FLAC format, such as Apple's devices. Currently only a limited range of devices support FLAC including the PSP, Samsung Galaxy S, SanDisk PMPs, BlackBerrys and Logitech’s Squeezebox. Recent reports suggest that Apple is in talks with major record labels to distribute FLAC downloads which would probably fast-track the popularity of the HD format.

Ben Drury, CEO 7digital said: “We support listener choice and strive to offer our customers the highest quality music downloads possible. That’s why we’re pioneering the move towards higher quality audio formats that offer higher quality music than the CD equivalents.” As television and video has moved in recent years towards HD, it seems only a matter of time before the audio world does the same and the better-than-CD quality of FLAC looks like being the format of choice.

The Kings of Limbs by Radiohead is now available as an FLAC download in 32 territories including the UK and US. You can download it from here

Source: 7digital Blog

Pendejo Sin Nombre

March 29, 2011, 8:40 pm

'it seems only a matter of time before the audio world does the same'

You could probably legitimately quibble about their slightly differing markets and genres but Linn has had high bit rate/sampling rate downloads for quite a while.


March 29, 2011, 8:53 pm

"As television and video has moved in recent years towards HD, it seems only a matter of time before the audio world does the same and the better-than-CD quality of FLAC looks like being the format of choice."

The public's apparent indifference towards high quality formats like SACD and DVD-Audio would seem to indicate that actually, most people couldn't care less about the relatively minor improvements of 24-bit FLAC over the usual common formats, like iTunes' 128kbps AAC.

Besides, when played through those ubiquitous white Apple earphones that few bother to replace, I doubt that most people could tell the difference.

Martin Wainika

March 29, 2011, 10:09 pm

Bowers and Wilkins Society of Sound has been doing it for a while. Nice to see it go mainstream though


March 29, 2011, 10:10 pm

@Chris. I respectfully disagree with your comments here. I think that music today is about convenience. That's the main reason why iTunes has been so successful. SACD and DVD-Audio failed with mainstream consumers because consumers were required to buy new hardware and the music (software) was expensive and difficult to find.

If 32-bit FLAC is supported in iTunes, I can see it taking off. I think audiophiles will rejoice the most, but I think mainstream consumers will soon follow. If we use the HDTV example, most people want to watch HD, even if their HDTVs are too small relative to their seating position to make the extra resolution actually worthwhile. I think most people will go for "HD music" if given the choice and the price premium is reasonable.


March 29, 2011, 11:01 pm

I think a lot of people lie about being able to hear the difference between 320kb/s and FLAC tracks, sure for some, with specialist equipment, it may be probable, but I have no doubts that many people are just making it up, or have convinced themselves that there is a difference.


March 29, 2011, 11:42 pm

@Chris SACD and DVD-Audio failed to take off for practical reasons - people were just NOT prepared to be ripped-off and pay EXTRA for it.

Likewise iTunes' 126kbps AAC and such formats are popular because of the file sizes and hence the number of tracks one can conveniently carry around and hence the cost. After all the 'kids' don't have that much dosh to splash out and hence the popularity of file 'sharing' etc, etc. Such REAL-WORLD issues don't come into considerations in the gilded ivory towers of the Executives. Profit margins and sales graphs/charts are what they look at through their myopic tunnel vision eyes.


March 30, 2011, 12:15 am

"like iTunes' 128kbps AAC." What? Am i missing something, surely they are higher quality that that?

Michael Kilbane

March 30, 2011, 2:17 am

At last a digital music seller has saw the light! To many people it is still all about quantity over quality but there's a reason why vinyl records are still selling after over 80 yes 80 years! That's because of the sheer quality of the sound being uncompressed it's true HD and even though digital formats such as CD and mp3 have come along for convenience which they have been very. They have not matched vinyl quality simply because they have to be compressed because digital memory isn't big enough to cope. Now that mp3 players and smartphones are starting to have 16 GB or more memory they are big enough. So better quality digital music is the way forward.


March 30, 2011, 6:04 am

@DrMaustus, @Enigma: I agree that digital music services succeed primarily because they're so convenient, and to most consumers convenience trumps quality. This is not contrary to the point I was trying (and failing) to make, which was merely that most consumers don't place a high priority on audio quality. It would seem that consumers are willing to accept very little inconvenience or expense in the name of audio quality.

I can't see iTunes offering lossless (much less 24-bit) formats as their standard offering any time soon since to do so would be asking the customer to accept an inconvenience in the form of dramatically increased file sizes, at least 3x larger than 256kbps files. I'm not saying that it will never happen, but it'll only happen once portable storage has become so capacious that users struggle to fill it. As the hard disk DAP is now virtually extinct, I think that point in time is still some ways off.

To put it another way, if audio quality really mattered to the public at large:
- SACD and DVD-Audio would have broken into the mainstream, at least to some degree. Widespread adoption would have eventually driven prices down.
- All digital music services would offer high bitrate or even lossless options at no extra cost, and they would openly compete with each other in this regard.
- High capacity hard disk DAPs would still be alive and kicking, at least until flash storage capacities increase somewhat.
- Bundled earphones would be of far higher quality.
- The DAP with the largest market share (the iPod) would be aurally superior to what Apple have currently deemed acceptable. Minnows like Cowon wouldn't be capable of exploiting an SQ niche left open by giants like Apple.
- Apple would advertise the next generation iPod with claims like 'Improved audio quality'.



@Simon: Yeah, iTunes provides 256kbps as its standard offering these days, but for years 128kbps was all you got. Apple managed to cement iTunes' position as market leader whilst also offering the lowest bitrates available.


March 30, 2011, 6:55 am

While I agree with some of the comments that most people don't care and are quite happy with 128kbps AAC, there are some people who do care and would love to see 24bit FLAC files. Although I think it will take Apple getting on board and pushing out an update so iOS supports FLAC before this really takes off.


March 30, 2011, 12:02 pm

I, for one, welcome it. Of course loads of people have got themselves locked into the i{tunes/phone/pad/pod} garden, and they may not notice the difference between FLAC and low bit-rate stuff when listening on the move, I doubt I could. But that's not the be-all-and-end-all, for them or me.

I have my music digitally stored at home in a high quality format (using MediaMonkey). When playing at home through my half decent seperates system, I use the high quality stuff. My portable music player (Dell Streak) may not support FLAC, but it doesn't need to. When I want music on the move, I transcode a copy to medium bit-rate MP3 and stick it on my phone, portable HDD, or burn to data disc for my car.

Even though I don't, and probably never will use itunes, I hope Apple pick this up for their store 'cause that will help drive the rest of the industry. Then I can download very high quality music to listen to at home, and transcode to something more appropriate for on the move.

Bring it on!


March 30, 2011, 1:15 pm

Really good 320kbps content in near indistinguishable for the uses that upwards of 80% of people use music for. I don't think the file sizes/quality for FLAC justify the cost of distribution, price consumer will pay, current lack of support (a LOT of people use iTunes), lack of demand etc...

AAC content sounds really good at lower bitrates and with a comparable file size to mp3. At this point, I would go for keeping mp3/aac the mainstream standards and letting those who want FLAC to do it themselves, or create a store that sells just FLAC, then see how you survive in a market where consumers always want more for less, but resist paying for it and justify piracy.

That's just my take.


March 30, 2011, 1:56 pm

"To many people it is still all about quantity over quality but there's a reason why vinyl records are still selling after over 80 yes 80 years! That's because of the sheer quality of the sound being uncompressed it's true HD"

Well, its not exactly uncompressed. It's equalised to maximise the amount of time that can be pressed onto one side of a platter. Unfortunately, many record companies still 'doctor' their vinyl releases with either high pass filtering to remove bass <50Hz, audio compression or both. And another very annoying trend is the pricing - it has risen astronomically in the last 2-3 years.

However, that aside I am a vinyl junkie and, as yet, have not heard any reason why I should shift my alliegance because when it is good, it is still unbeatable IMO.

FLAC is the way forward for digital audio, but as with everything the hardware is essential to get the best out of it.

Jay 6

March 31, 2011, 5:25 pm

Some musicians already offer consumers the ability to purchase FLAC tracks/albums so isn't it about time that this was offered universally? The film/tv industry already offers at least two choices regarding the quality of content to view/purchase. A lot of people probably wouldn't care for FLAC but for those that do it would be great to have the same choice of music as everyone else, even if it does come at a premium cost. I use a Mac and have just purchased an iPad but I am loathe to make purchases through iTunes and happily use Songbird to listen to music on my Mac. I currently don't want or have the need for an iPod and don't want my music to be compressed and would like to keep to one file format. I think there are a number of people in a similar position and eventually the needs of what may seem a minority will be realised. Hats off to 7digital for daring to be different.

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