High-Resolution Audio : All you need to know

by June 4, 2015 0 comments

High-res audio (HRA) is emerging as the prominent choice for audiophiles, but what’s it all about? Lets dig in and find out

Online portals have completely changed the way people used to procure music. Online downloads from sites such as iTunes are pushing users away from physical media like tapes and DVD/CDs. Audio formats like MP3 are easy to buy and light on storage as well.

However, with regards to audio quality, these formats don’t satiate the ear buds of true audiophiles. They use lossy compression techniques, meaning the data is lost in the encoding process, which further means original resolution is sacrificed for the benefit of convenience and smaller file sizes.

Both MP3s and EarPods are convenient and portable storage options of audio quality. However, you will notice an appreciable amount of improvement in the sound reproduction by using either better hardware or better source files. And yes, the better gear means nothing without better files. That’s where high-resolution comes in.

What is High-Resolution Audio?

High Resolution Audio is typically an audio format that has a sampling rate of 96 KHz/ 24 bit and can reproduce very close to original sound as recorded in a studio or concert hall. With high resolution audio, listeners can experience fine details of audio like artist’s breath, subtlety, depth, pressure, expression or concert hall atmosphere. Better frequency sampling rate and high bit rate makes the playback audio very close to the original audio track while a CD recording cannot capture and playback the fine details of the original audio source. Popular high resolution audio formats are FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF and DSD.

With its digital lossless capture, High-Definition audio returns to the rich, full superior sound of original analog audio sources.

Sampling rate simply means the number of times samples are taken per second during the conversion of analog sound waves to digital. Thus the more bits there are, the more precisely the audio signal can be produced in the first place, so from 16-bit to 24-bit is definitely a step ahead sound quality.


Advantages of High-Resolution Audio

The main advantage of high-resolution audio files is high fidelity sound quality over compressed audio formats. Speaking of bit-rate for example, the highest quality MP3 has a bit-rate of 320kbps, whereas a 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution file is transferred at a rate of 9216kbps.

Thus, 24-bit/96k or 24-bit/192kHz files replicate more closely, the sound quality that the musicians and engineers work with in the studio.

High-resolution audio tends to reveal every music nuance with startling integrity from powerful sub-bass lows to crystalline highs bringing listeners closer to the original performance.

How to buy and download High-Res Audio

Currently there are only a few online sites, but the number is likely to increase in future. Some of the popular sites include Nail Label, Linn Records, Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound etc. Naim offers sound in mp3 320k bit rate, and Hi-Res (flac, wav, alac) format in 24 bit.

What you need to play

A wide variety of AV receivers like Marantz NR1504, music streamers like Cambridge Audio Minx Xi and Pioneer N-50 to all-in-one music systems are capable of handling and playing high-resolution audio. Some of the headphone models that produce Hi-Res Audio are Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 and Sony MDR Z. Several of the latest smart phones play music in 24-bit quality, including the LG G3, Sony Xperia Z3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4. As of now Apple iPhones do not support Hi-Res audio and dos not offer more than 16 bit audio.


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