Do you consider yourself an audiophile? Do you know the lyrics to every song in your vast music collection? Or do people frequently mistake you for a member of the music industry? We don’t think it matters what genre is popular or which band is number one these days. Preferences may shift, but your unwavering love of music endures. This is where Hi-Res audio can fit the picture.
The way we listen to music has changed dramatically in the last decade, and it will continue to change. As a result of this shift, two things have happened. First, this paved the way for the general public to enjoy music. Second, having more songs hasn’t resulted in better sound quality.
We’re sure you’re aware that your favorite songs can sound much better if you put some effort into them. Usually, it isn’t the sound card, speakers, or headphones, but a Hi-Res format of the song and a decent audio player capable of playing this format can make music sound deeper and clearer.
High-resolution audio is a treat for your ears and thus can take you to new horizons in listening to audio music. When you download hi-res music, it takes up more space on your hard drive and requires more bandwidth to stream because it retains all the audio information from the original recording. However, digital audio files in high-resolution audio formats sound great and are easy to store.
The price of hi-res digital music may be a little higher, but it’s a small price for music lovers to pay for the clarity of HD audio. This article will walk you through all the details of high-resolution audio music that what it is, where to find it, and what you need to play. So, let’s dive deep into the world of hi-res audio.
What Is High Resolution or Hi-Res Audio?
High-Resolution Audio refers to a set of digital processes and formats that enable the encoding and playback of music at sampling rates higher than those used in CDs.
The Digital Entertainment Group and The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing defined high-resolution audio as “lossless audio capable of reproducing the full spectrum of sound from recordings mastered from better than CD quality (48 kHz/20-bit or higher) music.”
In the realm of high-resolution music, the term “Hi-Res” serves as a benchmark. A sampling rate of more than 44.1KHz and a bit depth of more than 16bits is considered high-resolution music 192kHz/24bit and 96kHz/24bit are the most common digital formats for high-resolution music.
Is FLAC Hi-Res Audio?
There are a lot of formats that for streaming hi res audio. They include the widely used FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) formats, which both compress audio but in such a way that you lose no information in theory.
Additional formats include WAV and AIFF (uncompressed), DSD (the format that is used for Super Audio CDs), and the MQA (Master Quality Authenticated).
While one can argue that there are merits of each format, the most critical consideration will be that the file is compatible with your chosen products and software.
Unlike other hi-res formats, FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a bit-perfect copy of a CD. It is compatible with many devices, including smartphones, portable music players (PMPs), and hi-fi equipment. You can purchase FLAC files for the same price as an MP3 file in online stores, but they sound better.
How to Play Hi-Res Audio?
But should you be concerned about high-resolution audio? If you want the best digital music experience possible, or at the very least better sound quality than you’re used to (and why wouldn’t you?), hi-res audio is worth looking into.
It can be a frightening prospect. After all, what exactly is hi-res audio, what do the various file formats and numbers mean, where can you download or stream these higher-quality files, and what devices are required to play it? What about high-resolution audio?
FLAC (high fidelity) and WAV (low commitment) compression formats, which support high-resolution sampling rates, can store metadata in less space than WAV. Because it is royalty-free and widely supported, high-resolution albums can be downloaded and stored in this format.
How to Play Hi-Res Audio on PC and Mac?
High-Resolution Audio refers to the audio content in a higher-quality format than the CD standard. For example, add High-Resolution Audio files to the “Music Center for PC” library. Then, using the following devices, you can enjoy the content in high sound quality:
You can also listen to High-Resolution Audio on your computer, but the sound quality may vary depending on the environment or the specifications.
“Music Center for PC” recommends the following settings for High-Resolution Audio playback. For example, you can connect and use speakers or headphones to listen to content on your computer.
- Show the [Sound] display.
- [Control Panel] can be accessed by clicking on it, then going to [Hardware and Sound] and selecting [Sound].
- Select a speaker using the [Play] tab and then click [Properties].
- Select [24 bit, 192000 Hz (Studio Quality)] as the default format in the [Advanced] tab, and then click [OK].
When we’re in the mood for a new song, we overlook that iTunes is the default audio player on our devices. However, we’re confident that you know how better your favorite songs can sound if you just put in some effort.
It’s not always the sound card, speakers, or headphones that make a difference in how well music sounds; instead, a Hi-Res formatted song and an audio player capable of playing this format make music sound the best. Unfortunately, most Mac audio players play more than better. You can’t appreciate a song’s quality if it’s subpar. This was before Apple stepped into the hi-res audio space.
A major player in the streaming music game, Apple Music couldn’t stand by and watch as its competitors jumped into the Hi-Res Audio space. The service’s catalog of over 75 million songs is now available in the CD-quality Apple Lossless Audio Codec format, which preserves the sound quality of a music file. Even better, you can go into the app’s settings and enable the audiophile-friendly Hi-Resolution Lossless option, which allows you to listen to music at 24 bit/192 kHz. The streams support Spatial Audio, which provides an excellent, immersive experience.
How to Play Hi-Res Audio on iPhone?
To play Hi-Res music on iPhone, you must first connect your headphones so that they can output Hi-Res audio at its maximum bit rate and sample rate. Many headphones with Lightning connectors limit the sample rate, and they’re usually not forthcoming about doing so.
One option is to buy a pair of headphones with Lightning connectors. DACs (Digital to Analog Converter) are safer, but they’re also more complicated.
AudioQuest DragonFly Red and Cyrus soundly require a USB-to-Lightning adapter to connect to the iPhone, which means you’ll have two separate devices dangling from your phone and your wired headphones. After clicking everything, the external DAC takes the place of the iPhone’s own internal DAC, allowing you to listen to Hi-Res Audio at its original, unaltered quality.
You can set an iPhone DAC can using the following steps:
- Plug your headphones into the DAC unit’s 3.5mm jack and turn on the device. Almost any pair of headphones will do, including wireless models with a detachable 3.5mm cable, but for the whole Hi-Res Audio experience, you’ll want something of a higher spec. See our best headphones list for inspiration.
- Connect the USB-to-Lightning adaptor to the DAC via USB. If you’re using a USB-C DAC, check if your Lightning adapter has a USB-C port instead of Apple’s official USB-3 adapter.
- Connect your iPhone to the adapter. Hi-Resolution Audio playback on iPhones will be possible, but the result will be more cumbersome to carry around than a pair of wireless earbuds.
- Enjoy some high-quality music.
Apps that let you play Hi-Res Audio files stored on your iPhone and streaming services like Deezer, Tidal, and Qobuz are also available for download.
Using an Android device, you can listen to your music in Hi-Res quality either directly through your phone or wirelessly. Using a wired connection, you can listen to your phone’s speakerphone. Your phone may support Hi-Res audio, as with the most recent Samsung and LG models.
To enjoy your music in Hi-Res quality, you may need to purchase a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Connecting a DAC to Android devices via a wired connection is possible. For example, USB Audio Player Pro, a Qobuz-integrated app that costs just a few pounds, can be used to stream Hi-Res music from some of these devices directly to Qobuz.
The DAC option is valuable and versatile when you fit the chosen DAC with a battery, which preserves the smartphone’s battery while you use it.
If you do not like the hassle of wires, you can get a wireless device that allows you to listen to music on your phone. Since files are compressed before your Bluetooth device reads them, you cannot preserve the quality of Hi-Res files using Bluetooth.
Few Tried and True Options
The following are a few tried-and-true options:
- There is built-in support for Google Cast and Chromecast.
- Qobuz is compatible with Google Cast/Chromecast built-in on Android (as on iOS), so you can stream Hi-Res music to devices that support this service (in 24-bit at 96 kHz in most cases and up to 24-bit at 192 kHz on some other devices).
- A simple and universal solution, the FLAC format provides excellent sound quality. Using your smartphone as a remote control, the files are streamed directly from the Qobuz servers to your Google Cast/Chromecast-enabled device, so it won’t drain your battery.
The second is known se BubbleUPnP.
- It is possible to stream audio files from an Android device to a DLNA/UPnP-enabled network device using the BubbleUPnP app.
- It’s a bargain, and Qobuz is built-in to 24-bit Hi-Res audio files up to 192kHz (depending on the receiving devices).
Is Hi-Res Sound Quality Better Than Normal Sound Quality?
Undoubtedly, Hi-Res audio is better than normal sound quality. As the name itself reveals, high-resolution sound means crystal clear sound. As we know, high-resolution in video means a very clear picture, and same is the case with audio.
The main advantage of high-resolution audio files is that they have better sound quality than compressed audio formats like MP3 and AAC.
Downloads from sites like Amazon and iTunes and streaming services like Spotify use compressed file formats with low bitrates. Spotify, for example, uses 320kbps Ogg Vorbis streams (unlike Amazon Music and Apple Music, which have not yet ventured into higher quality).
Because of lossy compression, you lose data during the encoding process; choosing convenience sacrifices resolution. However, it impacts sound quality because those formats don’t tell the whole story of our favorite songs.
It is fine if you listen to Spotify playlists on your smartphone on the morning commute bus, but severe audiophiles and music fans should expect more. It is where high-quality audio comes into play.
What Does Hi-Res Audio Certified Mean?
Hi-Res Audio Certified means the entry point of High-Resolution music is above CD quality; in simple words, music above CD quality is called Hi-Res Audio Certified.
Hi-res audio is defined as any higher quality audio than a CD and uses at least 24 bit/96 kHz for playback. The official Certified Hi-Res specification also includes particular speaker and headphone performance requirements. Bookshelf speakers and headphones must be capable of reproducing frequencies up to 40 kHz or higher to be Certified Hi-Res.
This is far superior to conventional hi-fi speakers, which may have a frequency response of up to 20 kHz. Furthermore, Certified Hi-Res playback devices, such as digital bookshelf speakers or audio receivers, must be capable of converting 24 bit/96 kHz digital signals into analog audio for listening.
Hi-Res Certified speakers, such as the Edifier S3000Pro bookshelf speakers and other best audiophile speakers, can process digital audio sources at 96 kHz or higher, resulting in deeper lows and brighter highs thanks to their incredible frequency response range of 38 Hz to 40 kHz. These Hi-Res Certified digital bookshelf speakers will reveal intimate details in your favorite songs and provide an immersive home theatre experience that will impress you.
Is Spotify Hi-Res Audio?
Spotify does not require an introduction. You must be living in the Stone Age if you don’t know what it is. Spotify is a digital music streaming service that provides access to millions of songs, playlists, and podcasts from artists worldwide. There was a lot of excitement in 2021 when the company announced the Spotify HiFi service, and for a good reason. While Spotify is a well-known music streaming service, it is not known for its audio quality.
One of the most frequently requested new features by Spotify users is high-quality music streaming. This is why Spotify Hi-Fi would have been a godsend for audiophiles looking for the ultimate listening experience. But, alas, the company has still not rolled it out.
Currently, Spotify defaults to a variable ‘Automatic’ setting on most devices and offers four fixed playback tiers: 24 kbps (Low), 96 kbps (Normal), 160 kbps (High), and 320 kbps (High) (Very High).
When using Automatic mode with a strong Wi-Fi connection, you might expect Spotify to ramp up to 320 kbps (after all, 320 kbps is nothing compared to modern video streaming), but the service is, as far as we can tell, will max out at 160kbps with this setting. In addition, 160 kbps (with the Ogg Vorbis codec used by Spotify on most devices) isn’t bad, but it’s much easier to distinguish from lossless than 320 kbps.
As a result, if you want the best sound quality on Spotify, you must manually activate the best settings. Keep in mind that the 320 kbps setting is only available to Premium subscribers.
Does Apple Music Have Hi-Res Audio?
Apple Music has undergone a significant makeover in the last few months. With the addition of CD-quality and high-resolution lossless audio, the music streaming service now provides its users with significantly improved sound quality. In addition to Dolby Atmos-powered Spatial Audio for immersive audio playback, the service now offers Apple’s top-tier spatial audio with dynamic head-tracking if you have certain AirPods or Beats buds and a recent iPhone or iPad.
Lossless and Spatial Audio is available for all Apple Music subscribers. We have to agree with Apple that these enhancements are the “biggest advancement ever in sound quality” for Apple Music.
Can Bluetooth Stream Hi-Res Audio?
Bluetooth’s reduced output of 400 kbps makes it unsuitable for broadcasting CD-quality audio files, which require a 1411 kbps output when uncompressed. However, even using lossless compressions such as FLAC, the output of this connection still exceeds its capacity.
As a result, until recently, the Bluetooth connection could only transmit lossy compressed audio files like MP3 and AAC. However, things have changed since some devices compatible with Bluetooth have integrated an aptX decoding chip. An aptX decoding chip is a highly advanced compression process with (small) losses, whose manufacturer insisted that the aptX codec allowed for a sound reproduction close to CD despite a compression ratio of 4/1, resulting in a 1411 kbps starting output.
However, the few devices that could decode aptX offered a sound reproduction that was very close to what we would have gotten if we had played the CD or the uncompressed 16-Bit/44.1 kHz audio file directly.
As with any codec, you can only enjoy aptX’s benefits when both the transmitter and the receiver are aptX-compliant, just like any other codec.
What Is the Best Hi-Res Audio Format?
It won’t be easy to answer because the criteria are so subjective. In any case, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
There’s a new set of files you can play with: FLAC (along with ALAC, WAV, AIFF, and DSD). Learn to appreciate them. Although FLAC and ALAC are compressed formats, they do so in such a way that no digital information is lost.
Compared to some of the other file formats I’ll discuss below, these are still quite large, but they’re much smaller. Many audiophiles consider FLAC a standard, and it is most likely the most widely used lossless format.
When it comes to the latest generation of ultra-high-end audio systems and headphone setups, most people prefer the DSD format because of its large file size and difficulty playing it on many budget devices.
The audio quality of Wav files is excellent; it is among the purest available. There is no discernible difference in sound quality between it and FLAC, but we are disappointed by the peculiar way it handles metadata and tags.
Does YouTube Support Hi-Res Audio?
Compared to rivals like Spotify (320kbps) and Tidal (1411kbps), which both stream in CD quality and even offer hi-res via Tidal Masters, YouTube Music currently serves up tracks at a lowly 128kbps. Audiophiles should check out Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Qobuz, or Tidal for master-quality sound. However, they should also look at the best audiophile headphones to further enhance their hi-res experience.
Thanks to a slew of new products and services, it’s now easier to enjoy high-quality audio, whether at home or on the go. Even without Spotify and Apple hardware support, there are many increasingly affordable ways to enter the hi-res audio realm. If you’re a music lover looking for a more immersive music experience, immersive formats like Sony 360 Reality Audio, Dolby Atmos Music, and Apple spatial audio are also making headway in offering higher quality but not necessarily ‘hi-res’ music experiences.
You must have gained a greater understanding of hi-res audio after hearing about the results of our extensive research into this topic. You now know that hi-res audio is the future of music streaming. It has engulfed iOS, Amazon, Android, and even Spotify is trying. So we can say the future belongs to Hi-Res Audio. Hi-res audio’s next biggest challenge is its incompatibility with lossless Bluetooth transmission and thus wireless headphones.
Still, the greater accessibility of hi-res from both a software and hardware perspective means that more people can learn and understand what high-resolution audio is and its benefits to music.
Now you know where to turn for those looking for the ultimate sound experience.