Friday, January 22, 2010

Wheatus - Pop, Songs & Death, Vol. 1: The Lightning EP

I hope this is becoming a trend. Wheatus, an alternative rock band founded by singer/songwriter Brendan B. Brown, is letting listeners download their next EP for whatever price they are willing to pay. This is similar to what Radiohead did back in the Fall of 2007.

The cool thing about this offer is not only are they letting people choose their own price, but they are also offering the new album in a variety of formats including MP3, lossless WMA, Apple lossless, FLAC and DSD. The WMA lossless is CD quality 16-bit/44.1kHz. The FLAC is basically DVD-A quality at 24-bit/88.2kHz and the DSD (or direct stream digital) is SACD quality.

The interesting thing about the DSF files using DSD encoding, is that they can be burned to a DVD disc and played back on a Sony PS3. Someone please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the DSF files are the stereo tracks and the DFF files are the multichannel surround tracks used in a SACD. Lately, I discovered that people are able to digitally extract the audio from SACD and convert to PCM. This is probably what they've done to provide the 24bit/88.2kHz FLAC files. There's also a DFF foobar2000 plugin that will let you play DFF/DSF files in foobar. I haven't tried it so I don't know how well it works, but I assume it is a decoder that converts the DSD steam to PCM. If that's the case, then you are avoiding the DSD-PCM decoding step if you download Wheatus' FLAC version. It will probably sound the same.

I made a donation and downloaded the EP and a couple bonus tracks in FLAC format. Without going into an in-depth review, I think it sounds pretty good, both technically and artistically. It was the first time I'd heard anything from Wheatus so I had no idea what to expect. The first track kind of reminded me of something like The Eels, but with a little more range. There's even some interesting Zappa-esk elements to their music. Check them out.

Update (5/31/12): While researching methods for extracting audio tracks from SACDs, I've learned that DSF files are not limited to stereo. Sure, that's what seems to be the consensus when you search for information about the file format, but I can assure you that there are multichannel DSF files. I still don't have any definitive source of information on this, but I think the DSF file is easier to tag than the DFF file. They include exactly the same audio data, but have different information in the header. I believe you can convert between DSF and DFF by editing the header section. Anyhow, I was told the DSF format is easier to tag and the DFF format is more useful for mastering and editing the audio.

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