Hi-resolution audio is here at last!

If you are an audiophile or music enthusiast, you “listen” to the music while others merely “hear” it. That means your aural senses are tuned to carefully discern between the ordinary and high resolution audio. While listening to a track on a music system, you’re likely to notice that the deep bass notes or the crisp highs are missing. And like me, you’ll invest in a lot of audio gear before being truly satisfied.

While there has been a lot of progress in display technology with HDTV, Ultra HD and now 4K technologies, I haven’t seen much happening on the audio front. What we have witnessed rather, is the integration of PC connectivity (wired and wireless) technologies with audio receivers — HDMI, USB, BlueTooth and Wi-Fi connectivity is now built into Pioneer, Harmon and Onkyo receivers, for instance. Even car audio systems have evolved a lot, and now include all these connectivity options, plus larger LCD screens.

But the hard disk component was always missing, or was rare in home audio systems. We also had to contend with hooking up our laptops and phones to home audio receivers via the headphone jack — or buy expensive media streamers that accommodated hard disks. You couldn’t plug your hard disk into older DVD players with USB ports because those ports didn’t supply power.

And we music enthusiasts were never happy listening to compressed MP3 songs — the fidelity was always missing, even at higher bit rates.

Sony introduces hi-resolution

500GB Hi-Res Music Player System

500GB Hi-Res Music Player System

So I was pleased to discover that Sony has launched hi-resolution audio.

The product range includes HDD audio player systems (with in-built receiver), USB DAC amplifier, receivers, hi-res speakers and premium speakers.

These products are also tied to online services such as HDtrack.com, ProStudio Masters, Super HiRez, Blue Coat Records, iTrax, and Native DSD Music. More on these later. First let’s try to understand the new format and then take a closer look at Sony’s products.

Hi-res format

The big claim is that the audio quality offered by hi-res audio surpasses CD or MP3. I cannot confirm that at this moment, as I am yet to review these systems. From what I’ve read so far, the new format is  “lossless digital”, meaning you’ll hear something that’s very close to the original; it would be like actually sitting in a recording studio or in a concert hall, watching a live performance. Back in 1982, they said the same thing for CDs too, but then audiophiles discovered that something was missing, and went back to vinyl.

There are various lossless formats and you would have heard about FLAC and Wave. But there are others like AFLAC, AIFF, DSD (DFF) and DSD (DSF).

The  new Sony systems are based on the DSD (Direct Stream Digital), a 1-bit professional format. DSD (DFF) is used in studios for recording and mastering super audio CDs. The DSD (DSF) format is the PC version that’s used to burn files on DVDs. I am betting that by next year, we will see the proliferation of this standard on PCs, and online music stores like iTunes will also offer music in this format (though it might take a bit longer with Apple).

Products

Sony Hi-Res Speakers

Sony Hi-Res Speakers

Now let’s take a tour of the various hi-res products on offer from Sony. You will soon see similar stuff from the likes of Pioneer, Panasonic, Toshiba, Harmon, Denon and others.

Sony’s new hi-res audio products include HDD Audio Player Systems, USB DAC Amplifiers, Receivers, hi-resolution speakers and premium headphones.

If you’ve read this far in my post, you are surely keen to know more about the Sony Hi-Res Audio products.  Here’s the official website.

Go get ’em!

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