Product: High quality classical music downloads
Supplier: OnClassical - Italy
Cost: from 6 to 20 euros (actual price is up to you!)
Reviewer: Nick Whetstone - TNT UK
Reviewed: January, 2009
It's all very well having a first-rate hifi system but you need something good to play on it. Even back in the heydays of vinyl, recording and manufacturing quality could (and did) vary. I don't recall in those days if there was any guide to which were the best quality recordings. But even if a performance was considered to be one of the better ones, there was no guarantee that the pressing you bought in the shops was a good one (unless you knew what to look for). So buying music was a bit of a gamble unless you were very well in with your local record shop and could take stuff back.
It could be argued that the CD era brought an even worse situation with many a poor recording being turned out with little regard to what it sounded like through a hi-fi system. Fortunately today, with the convenience of the Internet, we have another option for buying our music. Sites are appearing across the WWW that offer us the chance to download music. That music can then be burned on to a CD, or perhaps more conveniently, stored on a hard drive. The advantages are obvious. No more trips to the nearest shop selling recorded music. For those of us not living in a large city, most of these shops have a quite limited range anyway. And as somebody who suffers with a bad back, I always hated leaning over those racks of CDs trying to find what I wanted until the pain got so bad, I gave up and went home, often empty-handed and disappointed. And I'd probably spent the cost of a CD on petrol driving to and from the shops.
Another advantage offered by most of these download sites, is the option to listen to a sample of the music on offer, either as a short snippet at high quality, or a longer sample recorded in MP3 (OnClassical let you hear the full album in MP3). While most self-respecting audiophiles will cringe at the thought of listening to MP3, it at least gives us the opportunity to hear a piece of music before we part with our money (and contrary to popular belief it won't permanently damage our ears). And with online music downloads, there are no packaging costs, no shipping costs, and no waiting for the postman to arrive.
OnClassical (physically located very close to Bassano del Grappa (Italy) is one such download site and they specialize (as their name suggests) in high quality classical music. More than that, they cater for what they call 'self-produced recordings'. These are typically a performance of some classical work by an artist that OnClassical produce. The recording is then offered through the OnClassical site. You can listen to the performance in MP3 quality to see if it is the sort of music you like or not. If it is, you can opt to download the (44.1 kHz * 16bit) WAV files to keep and play at full quality. The price you will pay for the WAV files is not fixed. You can pay as little as 6 euros for an album, or as much as 20 euros. They leave it up to your conscience, and how much you think the album is worth, or perhaps how much you would like to sponsor the artist. I think that it's a great way to distribute music, and to give artists a chance to earn something for their work. The artist actually gets 50% of what we pay to OnClassical which I believe is more than the usual arrangement with a recording company.
The OnClassical advantages go further too.
OnClassical offered TNT the chance to try some of their catalogue to assess both the quality of performance and recording. I download several albums including the Chopin Recital Preludes, Brahms String Quartet , Bach Partitas, and what was one of my favourites, Pablo Lentini Riva, Guitar, by Monsieur Blancrocher. I'm not going to attempt any flowery classical music review here. I'm not into classical music that much to be able to compare the performances with those by other performers. But I do know what I like so suffice to say that all these pieces are very easy to listen to and enjoyable (as ever with classical music, you may need a few listenings to fully appreciate them), and emotionally involving. And the sound quality on all of them is excellent. You can expect that the recording quality is going to be good because OnClassical is run by sound engineer and musician, Alessandro Simonetto. For once in a review, there is no need to take the reviewer's word for any of this. You can easily try the music for free, and for as little as the cost of a few drinks at your local watering hole, you can listen to some very high quality classical music on your own system. It doesn't come much easier than that!
I'll be keeping my eye on the OnClassical site as I seek to expand my classical music collection and suggest that you do the same. If you are not yet really into classical music, why not allow OnClassical to help you discover what is one of the great delights of being an audiophile? They've already got a great selection and I'm sure that their method of promoting lesser known artists will attract many more. This is surely one of the best gifts that the Internet has given the audiophile since a certain hi-fi magazine was started some years ago!
Do not miss our exclusive interview with Alessandro Simonetto, recording engineer of OnClassical.com!
© Copyright 2009 Nick Whetstone - www.tnt-audio.com