Hi-Res Sound – Explaining Hi-Resolution Audio

High-resolution sound is getting progressively closer to the standard music in recent years, which is due in part to the rise of the audio market’s impression on emerging and new products, such as streaming services, smartphones, and, in particular, the widespread adoption of the Internet. Moreover, by default, the high definition sounds are supported by all of these products.

If you want to experience the best music and sound quality compared to your current device, you should consider hi-res as a perfect fit for you.

The decision to select high-resolution audio includes many associated factors that you must consider

  • Which specific devices support hi-resolution audio? 
  • What are precisely the different hi-resolution file formats?
  • Where is hi-resolution available for download? 
  • Which devices support streaming and playing high-resolution music? 

I am glad to clarify this subject matter to you in this article. I hope you will get more educated about its advantages after reading this article and related articles in Soundmania regarding hi-resolution.

1. What is high-resolution audio?

There is no universal standard for high-resolution audio. Most commonly, the high-resolution sound is defined as audio that offers a wide range of frequencies that are far better than the conventional high-quality music sources such as CD.

Most conveniently, high resolution refers to the music files that possess higher frequency and/or depth music files as compared to the CDs.

Frequency relates to the number of times a sound wave cycles in one second during the process of analog to digital conversion. In addition, the higher the bits, the more is the accuracy of the signal measurement. Thus a recognizable improvement in quality can be observed from 16 to 24 bits. 

High-resolution audio files usually utilize a 24-bit frequency of 96 kHz or 192 kHz. You can, however, also have 88.2 and 176.4 kHz files.

However, there is a limitation: the size of the file. High-resolution audio files usually have considerably large size, i.e., several tens of megabytes in size, meaning multiple songs can occupy space in your device. Data storage is, luckily, cheaper than ever, making external storage capacity easier to avail. Nevertheless, size can still make the streaming via WiFi or a mobile network problematic.


2. What Hi-res formats exist?

There are many different audio formats to choose from among high-resolution. Each of them has their requirements regarding compatibility. For instance, the popular FLAC (free lossless audio codec) format and the ALAC (Apple lossless audio codec) format. Their compression ensures that the information is not lost. However, there are various uncompressed formats, including WAV and AIFF, DSD, and the new MQA (Authenticated Master Quality).

Each format provides its benefits. An essential factor, though, is the file’s compatibility with your devices and software. That is why I would like to present a slightly more accurate description of the file formats.

MP3 (not high-resolution sound) is a widely known, compressed format with a comparatively small file size, but perhaps not the best quality sound. It is suitable for smartphone and iPod music storage but does not offer high-resolution sounds.

AAC (not hi-res) is an alternative to MP3 audio. It is free to use and considerably compressed but sounds better. Used for streaming from iTunes and Apple Music (at 256 kbps) and streaming to YouTube, among many other activities.

WAV (hi-res) is a standard format for encoding all CDs. It provides superb sound quality, but it does not tend to compress; Implying that it has a bigger file size (particularly for files with high-resolution). It possesses poor support for metadata, such as information about album illustrations, artist, and song title.

AIFF (hi-res) is an option in contrast to Apple’s WAV backed by improved metadata. Therefore, you can use large files as you will not lose the data, and the data will also be uncompressed.

FLAC (Hi-res) – This lossless compressed file format supports sampling rates at a high resolution. It takes roughly half of WAV space and allows convenient storage of metadata. This file format is widely recognized (except for products made by Apple) and is free to use. It is deemed the best audio format in which to download and save high-resolution files and listen to music.

ALAC (hi-res) is the proprietary lossless compressed format of Apple and can also accommodate high-resolution audio files. It allows for the storage of metadata, and it has half the file size as WAV format. Furthermore, it is an alternative to FLAC for iTunes and iOS.

DSD (hi-res) is a one-bit format that can be employed for Super Audio CDs. Although devices do not widely support it, however, it is available in 2.8 MHz, 5.6 MHz, and 11.2 MHz.

MQA (hi-res) is an uncompressed file format that can compress high-resolution files with high focus on time factor. It can be used for high-resolution streaming from Tidal Masters, although its device support is limited.

3. Why use High-Resolution Audio?

It can be summarized that Hi-res high-resolution files offer a far superior sound quality in comparison to compressed audio formats. The numerous websites used for uploading audio files, music, and movies make use of compressed files that possess a moderately low data rate, such as 256 kbps—for instance, Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, etc. 

If you use such compressed files, then it is evident that there would be a loss of the data during the encryption process. This implies that the permission is compromised in exchange for the convenience of a smaller file size that is easily downloadable. Besides, the sound quality is also affected.

You will not notice the compromised audio quality if you listen to audios or play music from Spotify during your training sessions or when you are on the go. On the other hand, if you are an avid music lover or an enthusiastic audiophile, the high resolution is of utmost importance to experience the highest sound quality.

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