Warner Classics is releasing Daniel Barenboim’s recent recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle on a USB memory stick. This is an interesting idea, a good way to distribute digital files. Or is it?
Not really. What Warner Classics is offering (Amazon UK) is a USB memory stick with 320 kbps MP3 files and uncompressed WAV files. This is a good way to get the MP3 files – though you can buy them by download for £5 less (Amazon UK) – but WAV files are essentially useless. WAV files – or AIFF files, for that matter – are not tag-friendly, so if you buy this USB stick, you’ll have a bunch of files that you will have to manually tag.
Warner should offer the USB stick with FLAC and/or Apple Lossless files, which are the same quality, and which can handle tags. I know, there are some audiophiles that think that WAV files sound better than FLAC or Apple Lossless, but they’re wrong; the compressed files are bit-for-bit the same as the original WAV files. But if this is why Warner decided to sell WAV files, rather than lossless files, they’ve made life very hard for those who will buy the USB stick and who want better than MP3.
On the other hand, the USB stick does include extras that you can’t get with the download. It’s got a couple of video documentaries, full libretti, and some other stuff. If you’re a Ring fan, you’ll find that this is a good deal at only £35. (Sorry, but it doesn’t seem to be listed in the US yet.)