What is high-resolution audio?
Here we explain high-res audio, and what difference it could make to your music library
05 Mar 2015
Revolutionise your music library and hear your digital music collection as the bands and producers intended - the vocal straining for a high note or the drag of a strummed guitar chord - by embracing the world of high-resolution audio…
What is high-resolution audio?
Digitally recorded music with a sound quality far higher than either MP3s or CDs. Music will sound closer to how the musicians and producers intended when recording in the studio - rich, full and pin-sharp.
Why do we need it?
The way we listen to music has changed dramatically over the past decade. People have replaced CDs with digital music that exists only as computer files; music we download from the internet and play on iPods and laptops.
This made music easy to access, listen to and buy. But to keep digital file sizes manageable, both CDs and some other digital formats selectively delete information from the original recording - meaning a loss in quality. Because information is lost in compression, these formats are called 'lossy'.
How is high-resolution audio better than MP3 and CD?
When music is digitally recorded in a studio or at a gig, engineers use the highest quality available to capture as much of the original sound as possible. This recording will use a 'lossless' format that doesn't delete any information and so takes up more space. The quality of a digital recording depends mainly on two things: the sampling rate and the bit depth.
- Sampling rate = the number of samples taken per second and is measured in kilohertz - kHz
- Bit depth = the amount of information retained by each sample
High-resolution audio files are usually in PCM (Pulse-code modulation) or DSD (Direct-Stream Digital) formats. These formats are able to hold a much higher volume of information. This allows for a much higher sampling rate and bit depth, producing a richer and smoother sound.
CD format only allows for 44.1 kHz/16bit whilst MP3 and DAT format (Digital Audio Tape) can hold 48 kHz/16 bit. These files sound good, but they could be better. With high-resolution audio, they are.
High-res audio - the official definition
The Consumer Electronics Association, the Recording Academy and the Digital Entertainment Group define high-resolution audio as:
'Lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music sources.'
Tech for listening to Hi-res audio
Want to listen to your favourite albums in hi-res audio? There are a number of options. Sony is leading the way in hi-res audio with a series of products for listening at home or on the go:
Listen to hi-res audio files stored on your tablet or laptop without a cable in sight through Sony's SRSX9 Hi-Resolution Audio wireless speaker.
Have better-than-CD music in your pocket with a Sony High-Resolution Audio Walkman. This device can play back your hi-res audio files for high-end listening on the go. Small and light enough to slip in your pocket, the NWZ-A15 is the smallest high-res audio player - weighing just 66g.
Plug in a pair of Sony MDR-1A headphones to make the most of your high-res audio. With an impressive 3 Hz - 100 kHz frequency range, they are great for any genre of music.
Where can I download high-res audio albums?
Now you've got your hi-res audio player you need some music to listen to on it. Check out Qobuz: This French site launched a UK download store years ago. Find thousands of high-res audio (24-bit) files for better-than-CD quality alongside many more CD-quality (16-bit) albums. Find out more
Join the revolution in sound
CDs gave us music in a portable package. MP3 made music easy to buy and listen to. But both sacrificed sound quality. Now high-resolution gets you closer than ever to professional quality audio with no compromises. Are you ready for the revolution in sound?