R.E.M.’s Chronic Town EP now available in DSD and hi-res PCM

  • New adventures in hifi. This week in 1982, R.E.M. released their debut EP. That’s right: the prologue to Murmur, Chronic Town is now 32 years old. Let that sink in for a moment: thirtytwo. Makes you feel kinda old and creaky doesn’t it?

    In terms of release formats, Chronic Town has had a bit of a chequered history. Initially only issued on vinyl and cassette tape and then a limited blue vinyl for Record Store Day in 2010, it has never enjoyed its own official standalone CD release.

    The EP’s five tracks first appeared as CD-only bonus tracks on 1987’s B-sides and oddities collection Dead Letter Office. Then in 1995 a European 3CD ‘Originals’ box set emerged with (possibly) the first CD release proper.


    Earlier this year this little-known title slipped silently into HDTracks’ catalogue to become available as 24bit/96kHz (US$18) or 24bit/192kHz (US$25) PCM downloads. If you reside in mainland Europe and can’t access HDTracks due to region restrictions then Qobuz has a 24-bit release available for €8.73. The sample rate isn’t specified so caution is advised.

    I might have previously scoffed at the prospect of a DSD release for Chronic Town but sure enough Acoustic Sounds has one such download available for US$22. Whilst conceding that spending almost twenty bucks on five songs might prove a little too rich for some I can confirm that it does sound quite a bit better than a Redbook FLAC rip of the aforementioned Dead Letter Office bonus tracks. DSD’s softer edges make for a nice counterbalance to Chronic Town‘s garage rocking, angular aesthetic.

    Anyway, happy birthday Chronic Town – you are awesome.

    Further information: Qobuz | HDTracks | Acoustic Sounds

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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    1. Slightly off topic, but what do you think of the premium HD Tracks and others charge for the 24/192 versions over the (lowly) 24/96 versions? I get that they do it because they can (i.e., the market supports their pricing), but it seems as if there is an element of gouging at play.

      • I can definitely see why HDTracks do it but I can’t say that I like it. Contrast this with Bandcamp who charge the same price no matter what the preferred listening format; that is, they don’t charge more for a FLAC than an MP3.

    2. I agree with John, in general, on the sound of DSD with ‘softer edges’ etc. What irks me though is how Acoustic Sounds and the like, can get away with selling people DSD upsamples of PCM and charge a premium for it. Unless they are going back to the original tapes and doing a DSD master its not really pure DSD. Anyone can convert PCM to DSD at home for free. The other comical point to be made is that converting PCM to DSD is not ‘recommended” by some in the audio hardware business (iFi). At best this is quite confusing for the consumer.

    3. I picked up both this and Fables…while Chronic Town aged well, Fables didn’t have much life to give in a DSD format. It seems to be the one REM record that doesn’t get reissued often and for good reason.

      • It’s a dank, murky record for sure. You can definitely tell it was recorded in London. 😉

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