Do you want to jump into the exciting (and sometimes overwhelming) world of Hi-Res Audio? There is so much knowledge to be found about High-Resolution Audio, but the lingo might feel like an alphabet soup of acronyms and confusing terms.
Not to worry. Our goal at Sony is to arm you with the Hi-Res Audio knowledge you need to become an audio expert, enabling you to have the best music experience possible.
Here’s a list of the basic Hi-Res Audio terms buzzing around in the audiophile realm today and their definitions:
Audio that uses a higher sampling rate than in CDs and MP3s for the encoding and playback of music. Characterized by pin-sharp clarity and nuances, Hi-Res Audio brings your favorite songs to life by retaining more data than the conversion process of original recorded music to MP3 files. Hi-Res Audio file formats include WAV, DSD, ALAC, FLAC and AIFF.
DSD vs. PCM:
There are two main ways of processing/encoding audio into digitally usable formats — PCM and DSD. In a nutshell, PCM is easier to manipulate. However, DSD is the master archive format used in recording studios, and some would say that DSD provides the closest digital file samples to the original analog source. Here are the specifics for each:
Direct-Stream Digital uses pulse-density modulation encoding to store audio signals on digital storage media. The sampling rate for this technology is either 2.8224 MHz or 5.6448MHz, which translates to 64 times or 128 times that for CD Audio sampling.
Pulse Code Modulation is a technology that converts standard audio signals into digital audio. It is the standard form of digital sound in computers and CDs. The amplitude of the signal is sampled at uniform intervals, and then each sample is restricted to the nearest value with a range of digital steps.
Lossy file compression results in lost data and quality from the original version and is associated with MP3s and AAC files. The resulting file takes up much less space than the original version, but much of the quality is sacrificed.
Lossless compression allows the original data to be reconstructed almost perfectly from the compressed data achieved by a class of algorithms. File sizes for lossless data are generally bigger than lossy files, but the sound quality is significantly better. Some example file formats of this kind are FLAC and Apple Lossless.
Uncompressed audio is exactly what it sounds like — original data with no compression. Generally speaking, the greatest audio quality comes from uncompressed audio files such as WAV and AIFF formats. The drawbacks to uncompressed audio include the large amount of space they take up and the bandwidth necessary to open and play these files.
This is the standard denotation of the sampling frequency over the bit depth.
The number of kilohertz (kHz)
measures the sampling frequency, which is the number of times per second audio is sampled. So, the higher the kHz number, the better the sound quality.
The bit depth
measures how many bits (or the amount of data) are in each sample. Bit depth directly corresponds with the resolution of each sample. The higher the bit depth, the better the sound quality.
Now that you are armed with a new high-resolution audio vocabulary, take a moment and experience those terms in real life.