Hi-Rez Downloads

There are some who may read this and say, “that’s easy, just play vinyl record albums. After all, doesn’t analog always sound better?” That’s not always the case as I’ve written in an earlier newsletter.

We’re not knocking the sound of CDs. They can sound fine and usually much better than compressed music such as MP3s and iTunes songs for example. However, the CD format is not perfect. When music is converted to digital for a CD, it is sliced up into 44 thousand segments every second. These segments will vary in loudness by 65,536 different voltage levels (16 bits-2 to the 16th power). Then when played, the device will reassemble these digital signals back into analog, where the amplifier makes it loud enough for it to be played over the speakers.

CD music files are pretty large, which is why compressed music formats such as MP3 are so popular. However, thanks to high speed internet it is possible to purchase and download music that has the potential to sound even better than CDs. For this newsletter, we’ll focus on two popular sites: www.hdtracks.com and www.acousticsounds.com . Both of these sites offer downloads of popular albums in higher sampling rates of up to 192 KHz. Vs CDs 44 KHz and 24 bits instead of CD’s 16 bits. There are many who maintain that when you get to this level that the sound will be as good as analog. These websites do this by obtaining the master when the album was recorded and digitizing it at the higher quality.

To really enjoy the full potential of the improved sound, you’ll need good equipment capable of playing back the higher resolution files and revealing speakers, such as our RSLs (shamless plug).

These high resolution downloads are usually available in FLAC format. This is a lossless format that helps to minimize the file size without any compromise in sound quality. One way of playing the files back is to copy them to a USB flash drive. There are home theater receivers and DVD players (such as the Oppo) that are capable of playing them back as well as separate outboard DACs (digital analog converter).

 This has been a brief overview of high resolution music. Obviously, if you’re interested in finding out more there are many websites that are dedicated to this subject including www.audiostream.com .