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Q&A with David Chesky

High-Resolution Audio Isn't Just for Audiophiles Anymore

If you want to hear from someone who's been in the High-Resolution Audio game since Day One, you'll want to arrange some time to speak with a guy named David Chesky.

Chesky was born with music in his veins. He's a composer best known for a unique, contemporary style that spans jazz and classical music. He's received multiple Grammy® nominations and won the Lancaster Symphony Composer's Award in 2013. He's also a tech head audiophile and the CEO of HDtracks, an online music store that offers studio-quality, high-resolution music downloads and has partnered with every major music label, including Sony.

Read on to learn more about what inspires Chesky's music, his tips for those just getting started in High-Resolution Audio and his take on the future of the music industry.

Q: What made you decide to pursue music as a career?

Chesky: Music is something you're born with. It's a calling. You don't choose it, it chooses you. I'm sure any musician would tell you the same thing. I mean, why does someone choose to be a painter? You just fall in love with the art form.

Q: How would you describe your musical style?

Chesky: I mostly do classical and jazz. I'm a strong believer in the idea that art reflects time and culture. I live in a really tough city where everything is fast. My music reflects this—it's very urban and rhythmic. This is the style of music I tend to write—and it's not a conscious thing; it's subconscious. This is the music I feel. If I lived up in the mountains in Colorado by a beautiful lake or perhaps in the Caribbean, I'm sure my music would sound much different. It all depends on your environment.

Q: What was the inspiration behind HDtracks?

Chesky: I was walking down the street with my brother one day when we noticed that all of the record stores were closing down. I told him that we needed to find a better way to sell our Chesky records.

We've always been in the High-Resolution Audio world. This is nothing new to us. We make hundreds upon hundreds of High-Resolution Audio albums. In fact, we're the only High-Resolution Audio service that actually has a record company that makes High-Res records.

So I said to my brother, "We need to find a better way to do this." We started playing around with the Web, and it was a little too slow. But then it started to speed up and that's when we got HDtracks off the ground.

It's a really efficient way to get high-resolution files to our customers instantaneously. If you live in North Dakota and you have a really good stereo system, all you have to do is click a button, and five minutes later, you have your product in High-Res. I think HDtracks was the catalyst for the High-Resolution Audio movement. When we first started, there was nothing else like it, no digital-to-analog converters or anything.

Q: Is High-Resolution Audio just for audiophiles?

Chesky: It's not for everyone. If you like to listen to music while vacuuming your apartment, High-Resolution Audio is probably not for you. But you don't necessarily have to be an audiophile to enjoy High-Res music. If you're someone who loves music and wants to sit down with a glass of wine and listen to music for an hour and really savour it, High-Resolution Audio will make it that much more enjoyable. It will bring the performer into your home.

It's really up to the customer to figure out what kind of vehicle he or she wants to ride. You can drive a basic car and it will get you to your destination, but it's not like driving a luxury sports car. Our goal is to create a better experience for the people who are truly passionate about music and view it as an important part of their lives. High-Resolution Audio is not for people who view music as background noise while they're busy doing something else.

Q: How'll High-Resolution Audio gain wider adoption?

Chesky: It will gain wider adoption once music lovers are exposed to it. There are audiophiles who are into just cold technology. But there are a lot of people who love music and want better sound. Those are the people that will benefit greatly from High-Resolution Audio in the years to come. Once they've experienced it, they will want it more.

Q: What high-resolution products do you recommend?

Chesky: I travel with the Sony NWZ-A17 High-Resolution Walkman®. You can get a pair of $200 headphones and you'll be set. You can also go crazy and spend hundreds and even hundreds of thousands if you want. But if you want to get in the ball game, get the Sony NWZ-A17. That's what I take when I go backpacking, hiking, jogging and to the gym. You can easily get in the game for as little as $200 to $300.

Q: How can people learn about High-Resolution Audio?

Chesky: You can hit magazines like Stereophile, Head-Fi and The Absolute Sound. There are tons of educational resources out on the Web.

Q: What music do you listen to in high resolution?

Chesky: Whatever I listen to, I listen to it in High-Res. I like classical and jazz, that's my thing. In terms of artists, I like them all. It's hard to pick one. It's like being in your favourite ice cream shop — there are so many flavours; I just like them all.

Q: How do you think music impacts our lives?

Chesky: We connect emotionally and organically to music. It's something that every culture in the world can relate to. Sometimes, there's a group that plays drums in Central Park just for fun. The other day, I saw someone bring a two-year-old toddler out there, and he's sitting in front of this group and staring at this spectacle for five minutes. And then he starts dancing. No one tells this young child to dance, he just does it instinctively. Music is in our DNA.

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