What is Hi-Res Audio?

Hi-Res Audio is “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.” *

In its simplest terms, it refers to music files with a higher sampling frequency and/or bit depth than CD (which is 16bit/44.1kHz). Hi-Res Audio is therefore able to reproduce sound which is incredibly close to the sound originally created by the musicians and engineers in the studio at the time of recording. In short, Hi-Res Audio is the closest thing to actually being there when the artists recorded the track.

In order for Hi-Res Audio to work, the entire “sound chain” will need to support it: from the music files to the playback device (e.g. smartphone, music player etc.), right up to the listening device (e.g. headphones, speakers etc.): similar to Bluetooth audio codecs, both the source and the receiver need to speak the same language.

The Hi-Res Audio certification for headphones

For headphones to be considered capable of Hi-Res Audio (and feature the Hi-Res Audio badge on their packaging), they need to be certified by JAS (Japan Audio Society) and able to produce an upper frequency of at least 40kHz. This means that the headphones can reproduce the full spectrum of Hi-Res Audio (assuming that the music file you’re listening to is also Hi-Res).

What files support Hi-Res Audio?

Music file formats which do not support Hi-Res Audio are the common MP3 and AAC files. Both are convenient for storing music on smartphones and music players (with AAC used for iTunes downloads, Apple Music streaming and YouTube streaming), however the price you pay is a compromise on quality.

WAV files, the standard format for CDs, are the most common Hi-Res Audio-supporting files. The next in line are FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and Apple’s ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec), with DSD, MQA and AIFF bringing up the rear in popularity.

What playback devices support Hi-Res Audio?

Hi-Res Audio support has made its way into all sorts of audio gear, from DJ controllers to computers and even smartphones and car stereos. Just like headphones however, this varies from device to device, so always research whether the device supports Hi-Res Audio before buying. On top of that, all of your audio components need to be able to support the bitrate required for Hi-Res Audio, from the file to the source device, to the cable and finally the listening device.

For example, you can have a Hi-Res Audio-enabled headphone, connected to your iPhone with a high-quality DAC/AMP lightning cable, but, if you’re trying to listen to an AAC track from iTunes, you’re missing the last piece and your audio will revert to a lower quality.

Can I listen to Hi-Res Audio wirelessly?

Unless you are using LDAC technology, the transfer bitrate for even the highest quality of Bluetooth audio codecs is still too low to support Hi-Res Audio. Furthermore, your playback device needs to support the LDAC codec, which is not as common as AAC or Qualcomm aptX.

For the safest bet to guarantee a Hi-Res Audio playback with all of your Hi-Res Audio certified devices, we recommend wired listening with a cable which supports the required bit depth.

Will I notice the difference between Hi-Res Audio and normal audio?

If you usually use your smartphone and no other audio source to stream and listen to music, you will perhaps not receive the full benefits of a device tuned for Hi-Res Audio as, once again, your devices will not be speaking the same language.

If you do however use high-quality files for producing, DJing, mixing, critical music listening, studio sessions, streaming and so on, you will notice the difference with Hi-Res Audio, making a Hi-Res Audio-enabled device a true benefit and well worth choosing.

This has been confirmed by a study published by QMUL (Queen Mary University of London) which, after comparing data from 12,000 different trials, concluded that “people can hear the difference in high-resolution audio”.

The increased bit depth of Hi-Res Audio improves the dynamic range, giving you a greater range of tones and details to hear from the recording.

Think of standard audio content being like looking at a beautiful view on a foggy day, and Hi-Res Audio content like looking at the same view in perfect weather. Everything is just a little clearer, brighter, more vivid.

*Source: prosoundnetwork.com
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