What does HiFi sound or high resolution audio mean?
To understand and appreciate why the arrival of high resolution sound will be so important, you first have to know what all this HiFi or HiRes sound means. So we go in parts.
HiFi or HiRes sound refers to high resolution audio. A qualifier that unlike high resolution video does not obey a single standard. That is, we all know that high resolution video starts from an image with a total of 1920 x 1080 pixels. From there, we have ultra high resolution video that would be the 4K that we all know with 3840 x 2160 pixels. and then the 8K with its 7680 x 4320 pixels.
However in sound this is not the case. There is no real benchmark value for any service that claims to offer Hi-Res Audio. Therefore, the best way to define it is as one that offers a material without losses.
What does lossless audio mean? Well let’s see, when an analog recording is made, the sound generates a waveform. That wave has to be digitalized and that is something that is done using a sampling technique. That is, it is divided into small sections that are analyzed and stored. The greater the number of samples, the more faithful the representation of the original wave or the captured analog signal will be.
The problem is that in order to have a wide sampling, the amount of data or bitrate that is needed is triggered with respect to what until now we have normally been using for the transmission of content via streaming or even for those files that we wanted to handle in digital players.
Until now the normal thing was to offer a 320 kbps bitrate in the best of cases, although there were some exceptions already available. Therefore, this bitrate together with formats with compression such as MP3, ACC, OGG, etc., allowed to enjoy high quality content via streaming without making a very intensive use of internet connections.
As right now both the issue of storage capacity and the speed of the connections themselves have been significantly improved, more services are beginning to join this trend of offering high-resolution audio. And that’s good for the most demanding users in terms of audio quality. Although we already anticipate that although it will be Apple Music that will make a lot of noise, they will not be the first to offer HiFi sound.
Requirements to enjoy HiRes or HiFi sound
Now that you know what all this HiFi or HiRes sound means, what do you need to enjoy it? Well, logically, it is not enough to pay for a music service capable of offering such quality, you also need adequate equipment and even have a trained ear to notice the differences, sometimes subtle, that you will find between one material or another.
To begin with, it is essential to have a device capable of handling the different formats used to broadcast content without loss of quality. These are usually FLAC, ALAC, WAV, and DSD. Without this capacity it will be useless to have access to said material as it will not be able to be managed. Luckily, it is something that most devices with an audio player offer today.
In case you wonder what are the main formats for audio themes, here we list them and quickly explain each one of them:
- MP3: This format is not high resolution, but it is the most popular. It applies compression to the information and that affects the quality, but in its favor is being much more manageable when it comes to being sent through the internet or stored
- AAC: It is also not a high resolution format, but for many it is more efficient than MP3. Apple is one of the companies that bet the most on it and they have been using it for years for the content that is acquired in its iTunes store as well as in the current Apple Music service
- WAV: we started with the first high resolution form. It is the one used in all CDs and although it offers great quality, it has the disadvantage of not applying compression, so the size of the file is important and that makes it difficult to use it online. Although it also has other disadvantages compared to more modern formats
- AIFF: It could be said that it is Apple’s alternative to WAV and with improvements such as greater support for the use of metadata that adds information such as covers, song lyrics, etc. It is a lossless and uncompressed file, so advantages on the one hand and disadvantages such as file size on the other would be a good summary of its qualities.
- FLAC: It is possibly the most popular high-resolution form today. This lossless format does offer a level of compression that makes your files half the size of WAV without affecting quality. In addition, it also stores metadata and is quite compatible with many players and software.
- A THE C: Finally, there is this other format that is also from Apple and possibly the one that ends up using its new option within Apple Music to offer high resolution sound
- DSD: it is the format used for Super Audio CDs. So its popularity is not very high to say among the majority of users
- MQA: the latest lossless, compressionless format that is primarily being used by Tidal for its highest quality option
Along with the player and the formats, another essential is the sound equipment that will be used. It does not matter if they are headphones or speakers, they have to have minimum characteristics to be able to represent so much information and frequencies. Because if you are going to pay for a high resolution music service and your headphones or speakers are limiting you, bad business.
If you have everything you need, then it is only a matter of training your ear little by little to be able to notice that jump in quality that occurs. Which is not always easy to recognize, but when you listen to music that you know well, you can notice how sounds suddenly appear that you did not know were there before.
The best music services via streaming and HiFi quality
Currently and until that launch of Apple Music HiFI that seems to be imminent, the best streaming music services with high resolution audio are the following:
One of the first streaming music services to launch the option to listen to HiFi music was Tidal. What’s more, it was one of the great values and the reason why many audiophiles decided to abandon options such as Apple Music or Spotify among others, because it was the only one that guaranteed them an experience identical or very similar to those they had with their recordings in formats. physical, where storage was not a big problem either.
With a catalog made up of more than 50,000 songs, these reach 96kHz, 24 bits and a bitrate of up to 1850 kbps, the price of Tidal is of 19.99 euros per month for HiFi sound option and also offers free trial.
Amazon Music HD
Next to Tidal is Amazon Music HD. Amazon’s proposal is not well known to many, but we must not lose sight of it because of what the company behind the service supposes and because indeed the quality of the files is incredible. So if you have the necessary equipment, give it a try and see if you can tell the differences.
Amazon Music HD offers a three-month free trial, then you would pay 14.99 euros per month.
Finally is Qobuz which offers high resolution audio. It is true that it is a less well-known service, because it has basically arrived at nothing, but its commitment to the highest quality audio is important.
In addition to a catalog made up of more than 70 million songs, where some of them are in high resolution (they say they are the ones that offer the largest Hi-Res catalog), one of the attractions of the service is that part of curation that they have through plans superiors.
The price of Qobuz with access to this Hi-Res content catalog is 19.99 euros per month (14.99 euros per month if you make the annual payment), although it can be tried for free to assess the quality of the service.
Another option in this of music in high resolution is Deezer HiFi. The Hi-Res Audio option offers 16-bit, 1,411 kbps FLAC files for high-fidelity, CD-quality listening. Regarding the price, it is not far from what the other options offer, 14.99 euros per month is what it costs.
The interesting thing about this proposal is that its application is compatible with a good number of audio players and devices. So it is also something important to assess for when you do not want to use a smartphone or a computer to access the service.
An experience for demanding ears
As you can see, there are already options that allow you to enjoy high resolution sound. What’s more, many of them offer free or low-cost trials for the first few months. So our recommendation is that you try first so you can assess to what extent you are interested or not pay the extra for the increase in quality.
However, in the coming months we will see how many more services join this trend of offering the highest sound quality. It is likely that we will start by seeing Apple with Apple Music, but Spotify has already announced that option and YouTube Music will surely add up quickly too.
*The article has been translated based on the content of https://eloutput.com/productos/sonido/escuchar-musica-hifi-alta-resolucion/ by eloutput.com
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