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Downloads - General Queries

What are downloads?

Downloads are an alternative way to purchase recorded music without the need to physically send discs in the post. The music is transferred electronically to your computer's hard drive, and can then be played on the computer or transferred to a separate device such as an iPod.

What's the difference between MP3 and FLAC?

MP3s - pros and cons

We offer our MP3s in the highest bitrate available, 320kbps.

  • MP3s are extremely widely used, so pretty much all music players and programs can play them.

  • The file size is relatively small, due to the compression of the file (so they are quicker to download and take up less memory, even while still offering near-CD quality sound).

  • This also means they are cheaper.

But:

  • The sound is of a lower quality than FLAC audio.

  • MP3s are inherently unable to move seamlessly from track to track; this means that if you have a continuous work split into more than one MP3 tracks, you will be able to hear the "join" between one track and the next, regardless of what device or program you are using to play them.

FLACs - pros and cons

Our downloadable FLACs are at least equal in quality to CDs, at 16-bit 44.1kHz sampling resolution. We also offer Studio Quality FLACs; these are higher-quality files (mostly with a bit depth of 24 bits, ie with each sample containing 24 bits of information as opposed to 16, and a sampling rate of 96kHz), which are superior in quality to CDs and are the closest quality to the master files used in the studio.

  • FLACs are a "lossless" audio format, meaning the sound quality is higher than it is in "lossy" formats such as MP3.

  • Despite being lossless, FLACs are neverthless compressed - but in such a way that no audio data is lost. This means that you get some of the advantages of a compressed file - quicker transfer, smaller size - while losing none of the quality.

  • Unlike MP3s, FLACs support perfectly seamless playback - in theory. Unfortunately, some audio playing programs nevertheless have difficulty moving seamlessly between FLAC tracks. VLC has this problem; Winamp and FooBar2000 do not suffer from it.

But:

  • Because they are not as compressed as MP3s, FLACs are somewhat larger, and therefore more expensive as well as being slower to download. Studio Quality FLACs in particular are substantially larger than MP3s.

  • While very common, FLACs are not as ubiquitous as MP3s, and some media players and devices are unable to play them - in some cases you might need to download and install an extension, but some players simply do not play FLACs at all, notably Apple's iTunes and QuickTime Player.

  • For some reason, Microsoft Windows Explorer does not display the tagged metadata (artists, conductors, etc) when you are browsing through FLAC files. The metadata is still there, and will "reappear" when you play the tracks or albums in a media player - it just isn't visible when you are looking through your collection. Some other media players are similarly selective about which metadata they will display.

  • Some systems, for example the Sonos, only support 16-bit FLAC and will not play Studio Quality 24-bit files.

How long will it take to download a track?

This is mostly dependent on your own connection speed and bandwidth. The faster your connection and the higher your bandwidth, the faster your download will complete. As a general rule (and please note that these are only very rough estimates!) for an average-sized single track of 3-4 minutes, DSL broadband users should expect a download time of about 60 seconds, while 56k dialup users might need to wait up to 10 minutes for the download to complete. The time will be proportional to the size of the file.

Tip: Please note that the download versions of very large box-sets - containing dozens of CDs' worth of music - can take an extremely long time to download, even on a fairly fast connection. If you suspect your connection may not be reliable enough to let you download the whole ZIP archive in one go, you may prefer to download the tracks the slow way, on an individual basis.

Do you have a download manager?

Not yet, though we are working on this. In the meantime you are of course welcome to use any download manager you may already have installed on your computer.

Please note: Some download managers may not work with our site, or some of their features may not be available. In particular, we don't currently support restarting of downloads, so download managers that have this functionality won't help with unreliable internet connections.

Can I download directly to my iPad/tablet/smartphone?

Downloading direct to a tablet or smartphone isn't quite as straightforward as downloading to a laptop or desktop; you'll need some kind of "file management" app to handle the initial downloading process, and from this you can then assign downloaded files to be opened with whatever program you choose (in the case of music files on the iPad/iPhone, generally iTunes). It's also best to ignore the Zip files and download the individual audio files instead if you're downloading this way.

Presto doesn't officially endorse any one app, but this page has a selection of options, some free and some not.

Alternatively, if you do have a laptop/desktop, you may find it simpler to download to that instead, then sync your iTunes library to your other devices in order to play your music on those as well.

Working with FLAC files

Most modern media players will happily play FLAC files; however, it is best to check which formats are supported by your preferred player or program before purchasing them. One notable exception is Apple's iTunes software, which has never supported FLAC.

To listen to your FLAC files in iTunes, you will first need to convert them into Apple's own equivalent format, ALAC. Happily, since both formats are lossless, you will not lose any sound quality by doing this. Conversion utilities exist that can turn FLAC files into ALACs - FFmpeg, dbPowerAmp (not free) and X Lossless Decoder (Mac only), to name just a few.

Do you offer HD downloads?

Yes - we have a wide selection of Studio Quality (HD) downloads available here in FLAC format. We're always adding to the list, so check back regularly to see the new additions!

What do I need to play HD downloads?

A growing number of devices support HD playback, and more are set to join them as HD audio becomes more widespread. The examples given below are not endorsements of a particular company's product - it's a matter of personal taste, budget and various other factors, and it depends on where and how you're intending to listen to your HD files!

If you have the files stored on your hard drive and want to listen to them via your computer, you'll need to connect your computer to a USB DAC (Digital Audio Converter) that supports HD formats, then plug that into your speakers/headphones. Quite a variety of products exist that will do this - the Arcam irDAC, the Naim DAC-V1 and the T+A DAC 8 are just three examples. Some headphone sets also have the necessary DAC built in, meaning you can bypass this step. Note that the Sonos system does not support HD audio - it only goes up to 16/44.1 (ie CD quality).

You will also need audio playing software that is capable of playing the files. Most software can do this but there are some notable exceptions, such as Apple's iTunes (which doesn't support FLAC files). Compatible programs include VLC, Winamp, Media Monkey and Songbird (Songbird is for MACs; the other programs are for PCs).

If you are an iTunes user then you can play HD files, but you'll need to convert the FLACs into Apple's equivalent format, ALAC, first. Once you've done this (the conversion is lossless), you should end up with HD ALAC files that iTunes can play with no difficulty - they'll also be playable by iPods.

If you want to listen to your music on an external storage device, you'll need some specialised equipment - a network music player and some good speakers to go with it. Various manufacturers exist - Cambridge Audio, Marantz, Linn and Sony all offer a range of network music players and accompanying speakers. You can either plug the speakers in or, increasingly, stream the music wirelessly from the storage device to speakers elsewhere. The possibilities are far too numerous to list here!

If you want to play your music on your mobile device or personal media player, then this depends what model you have. Some modern smartphones support HD audio - the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the LG G2, for example - but the majority do not. There also exist specialist HD personal media players - various models are available from Sony and Astell & Kern.

Finally, it's equally important that your listening environment and the rest of your equipment are suitable - there's obviously no point in listening to HD audio files on a noisy train, for example, no matter how good your device is! To get the most from HD audio, make sure your loudspeakers/headphones are of a similar standard to your DAC hardware - otherwise you won't get the benefit of the superior recording techniques.

Do I get a booklet?

We include booklets with purchases of complete albums, depending on availability. Where a booklet exists, the "Download Options" tab on the relevant album's product page will include the message "Includes PDF booklet", just above the button to add the whole album to your basket.

Unfortunately, some albums currently don't come with a PDF booklet. However, in many cases we are able to obtain these and add them to existing orders; if your downloaded album is missing the booklet, contact us and we will do our best to source it for you.

Can I make copies of my downloads?

Yes, provided they are strictly for personal use only.

Do I get the cover art?

As with booklets, we include cover art with purchases of complete download albums. They are supplied as .jpg images, and can be downloaded from your user page alongside the audio files and (where relevant) the booklet.

If your downloaded album is missing the cover art, contact us and we will do our best to source it for you.

Can I use my downloads for commercial purposes?

If you wish to use downloaded music for commercial purposes, please contact the label or rights holder to discuss this further. We may be able to point you in the right direction or suggest someone to speak to.

Which audio playing software should I use?

There are a very large number of media players available online, and virtually all of them are free to download. Most computers come with one pre-installed, but you can of course install a different one and use it instead.

Different media players have different strengths and weaknesses - the following list is by no means exhaustive, but we hope it will be a useful overview of the options available for getting the best out of your downloads.


Media Player Name Supports FLAC? Works on Windows? Works on Mac? Available from...
Audirvana Yes No Yes www.audirvana.com
Foobar2000 Yes Yes No www.foobar2000.org
iTunes No Yes Yes (included) www.apple.com/uk/itunes (UK)
QuickTime No Yes Yes (included) www.apple.com/uk/quicktime (UK)
MediaMonkey Yes* Yes No www.mediamonkey.com/download/
MusicBee Yes Yes No getmusicbee.com/download.html
VLC Yes* Yes Yes www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html
Winamp Yes Yes No www.filehippo.com/download_winamp**
Windows Media Player No Yes (included) No windows.microsoft.com/en-GB (UK)

*But does not support smooth/gapless transitions between FLAC tracks.

**Winamp was discontinued in December 2013; this is the final version. Following a change of ownership Winamp is being redesigned ahead of a major re-release.


Do your downloads have DRM (Digital Rights Management) or other restrictions on how they can be used?

No, none of our downloads use DRM, meaning you can use, move, and make backups of them freely.