Saturday , January 21 2017
hi-res-audio

Is High-Res Audio Worth the Hype?

If you’re a music lover or just enjoy keeping track of the latest high-tech gadgets, you may have heard about high-resolution audio. The digital music format has been developing over the past decade to provide new ways of consuming music, and you can now store a seemingly infinite number of tunes using streaming services. High-res audio technology focuses less on the amount of content and more on sound quality.

hi-res-audio

What is High-Resolution Audio?

Today’s standard MP3 or AAC audio tracks are based on the CD standard, which hasn’t changed since the 1980s. Music files are encoded at 16-bit/44.1KHz. By contrast, high-resolution audio tracks are encoded with 24-bit depth and a 96 kHz sample rate, or even higher. This higher sampling level leads to better sound quality, because more bits of the music are captured.  This puts a high-res digital audio track closer to the old standard that vinyl used to provide or better, giving a higher quality music listening experience.

Is your device equipped for it?

Some are predicting that 2015 will be the year that high-res audio breaks through to the mainstream. The hype surrounding high-res audio was given a big push with Neil Young’s Kickstarter campaign for the PonoPlayer. This device provides a high quality of sound and is paired with its own musical download store to access high-res tracks, much like the iPod. Many thought that the iPhone 6 would come equipped with high-res audio capability, but for now Apple’s staying away. This doesn’t mean that it would take much tweaking to enable the iPhone to play high-res tracks, however. You can use the Lightning connector on the device to access this feature. Sony’s released a high-resolution Walkman, and there are several smartphones that are now equipped to support 24/192 audio files. These include the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Sony Xperia Z3, among others. Today’s WCDMA networks are also able to handle the increase in data speed that these types of features require.

Is it worth it?

High-res audio technology may become increasingly available in the coming year, but will you use it? There’s some debate as to whether most consumers will really be able to tell the difference between a standard CD track and a high resolution one. High-res audio can go up to a 192Hz sampling rate, but it’s uncertain whether anyone is able to hear frequencies that high. A standard set of smartphone headphones may not provide the optimal listening experience that you would need to tell the difference. Yet with high-quality equipment and excellent mixing, a track may sound different.

At the moment, many think that high-res music is nothing more than a lot of hype. But the success of Neil Young’s Kickstarter project and the development of high-res audio players shows that there’s certainly demand for it, and many believe that they can hear the difference. It could become a standard feature in the next generation of smartphones, taking your music library to the next level in 2015.

About William Chambers

Digital Strategist at Lithe Pty Ltd and Reviews Editor at Tapscape.com

One comment

  1. “High-res audio can go up to a 192Hz sampling rate,”
    Missing the “k” aren’t we?

    “By contrast, high-resolution audio tracks are encoded with 24-bit depth and a 96 kHz sample rate, or even higher. This higher sampling level leads to better sound quality, because more bits of the music are captured.”
    I think you mean rate and not level. And higher sampling rates really have little to do with better sound quality.

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