96kHz/24-bit ‘Studio Master’ FLAC, Linn Records AKD 405 (supplied by www.linnrecords.com)

A natural for high-res downloads, Barker and band’s fourth album is the first issued on a label they don’t own. The one that they found to be simpatico is Linn, which paradoxically has embraced digital with similar force to its analogue worship (minus the politics). Barker explains, ‘What really struck me more than anything… was their care and passion in creating incredible sound right from the very beginning.’ Her material is delicate in the manner of what I call ‘post-alt.country’ with lyrics that demand intelligibility and musicianship that merits space around the instruments, a natural acoustic and silky treble recovery, so this album justifies faith in FLAC. While the stereo element denies this ‘sonic spectacular’ status, as it’s mixed to a near-mono lack of stage width, scarily ‘real’ moments like the a cappella opening of the last track, ‘The Blackwood’ will give you chills. KK

Sound Quality: 85%

Hi-Fi News Lab Report

The relatively high level of ultrasonic noise at 20-40kHz seems directly linked to Ms Barker’s vocal track as noise associated with the instrumental feeds is 20-30dB lower. Otherwise this rendering looks like a native 96kHz file. PM