For those of you that really enjoy listening to your favorite music Hi-Res Audio may be worth considering. This relatively new technology pairs the convenience of purchasing your music online with sound that rivals a vinyl album and exceeds the sound quality of a CD. In fact, by definition Hi-Res Audio is used to describe audio signals with bandwidth and/or dynamic range greater than that of the CD.
The technology is all about how you convert musical (analog) information as recorded by the artist into digital information that can be easily downloaded or streamed. The more bits of information you break the analog signal into the more detail you can gather resulting in better sound quality. This is done through two devices. An Analog to Digital converter (ADC) converts the music into bits of information and a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) converts it back into something we can hear. The more samples of the musical information you take the more natural the end product and of course the larger the data file. While convenient, the MP3 compression format used widely today in most streaming and portable devices does the worst job of this function creating the poorest possible sound because of its file size limitations. A CD sounds much better because of its ability to store a much larger file on the disc. A CD samples a musical selection approximately 44,000 times per second creating a vast number of bits of information that can then be converted back into analog information. The downside of course is that a CD can’t be downloaded from an online store. Hi-Res Audio on the other hand can be downloaded and samples at up to 192,000 per second. Think of this in relationship to some numbers you already know. Your TV has progressed over the years from 480, to 720 to 1080 resolution. As HD TV and now UHD TV has increased our viewing pleasure dramatically Hi-res Audio takes sound to the next level.
So, how do you take your listening quality to the next level? Here is a step-by-step guide to going Hi-Res.
- Download Hi-Res Library Software – You will be purchasing your Hi-Res files from several online providers and you need software that can organize and play your new files. iTunes is limited in its ability to play Hi-Res so its time to try something new. There are several software options including Audirvana+, Amarra Hifi, Pure Music and BitPerfect. Check them out.
- Start downloading some Hi-Res music files. There are several online stores where you can purchase Hi-Res content. Check out HDtracks, and Tidal.
- Get a Great DAC – the quality of the Digital to Analog Converter is directly proportional to the quality of the music your hear. These come in many forms including standalone Hi-Res digital music players that connect to a headphone (not a cheap earbud) that range in price from $100 to over $3000, USB –powered dongles that plug into your laptop and output to headphones, desktop models that feed headphones or connect directly to your existing audio equipment, and A/V receivers that incorporate DAC’s that can handle the bandwidth (look for the Hi-Res audio logo)