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Whilst audiophiles decry MP3 downloads from the iTunes store as the inevitable malodorous damnation that follows the streaming phenom, companies like French Qobuz enter the fray with CD-quality uncompressed downloads in the most popular formats over a good cross section of musical styles. You can select compressed versions if you insist of course. The selection menus even indicate eventual master-quality versions but the six albums I bought thus far came without that option. Francophile transplant Frederic Beudot on staff who is presently emigrating from the US to Canada to follow work first turned me on to Qobuz. He warned that it's presently in French only but anyone with half a brain and pas du français, dommage really should have no trouble navigating the site. It runs its own player for 1-minute chunks of track previews so you needn't launch iTunes or any other software. It also has its own le downloader to assure auto reconnects should your Internet connection interrupt in midstream and, merde!, shut down your paid-for download. It's all very civilized and stress free.

While Apple users could go for AIFF files, le downloader warns that associated file sizes mean a very lengthy process. It advises to select ALAC instead. If you check out the online store with four CDs in tow, the interface window will look like the below to show your progress. Yes it will take time even with a fast connection but unless you leave with a monster stack, that time will be rather less than hitting your local record store in traffic and back home.

You might have this snafu pop up just as your greedy finger is about to consummate the purchase. Resident code breakers who do speak French came up with a solution. The program allows an exception if you enter a French address. It wants a street, zip code and city. If your imagination won't stretch as far as entering the stats for any French hotel accessed via Google—the one you stay at during your (cough) annual vacation in La Provence perhaps—you'll simply have to hit real traffic and your local shop after all. So select a nice hotel, enter its street address and presto, your payment will be accepted and your music trickle into your hard drive in due course. Splendide.

Qobuz website