Clarity and sonic detail do little to enhance Britney Spears’ Womanizer. For Beethoven’s String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 74, however, such aural fidelity is essential. Yet to the frustration of audiophiles, the MP3—a compressed, low-quality file—has never offered acoustic brilliance. In recent years some websites have begun selling digital music in unencrypted, high-resolution formats, a huge boon for classical music (at 96khz/24bit, your laptop can reproduce the perfect timbre of a Stradavarius as fully as your stereo once did). One such boutique downloading site, HDTracks, recently allied with the French classical label Harmonia Mundi to digitize its comprehensive catalogue in high-definition. CD-quality renditions of Handel organ concertos, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and piano pieces by contemporary composer David Lang, can now be downloaded with a mere click of a mouse and a credit-card swipe. Beethoven, stop rolling over.
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