Audio News for February 28, 2014
Published on February 28, 2014
Sony to Expand Hi-Res to More Products – In addition to its new AVR with hi-res decoding, the 7.2-channel STR-1050 and PCM-D100 hi-res portable which records DSD and 192/24 PCM, Sony will add Blu-ray HTiBs and an active tabletop speaker: the SRS-X9, which features Wi-Fi, AirPlay and DLNA for wireless streaming. It plays back hi-res files, but recommends a wired Ethernet or USB connection to a computer or NAS drive for that function. It has a 154-watt 2.1 biamplified stereo speaker and incorporates Bluetooth, AAC and AptX streaming over Bluetooth, NFC and music-streaming services. It’s part of a new X series of wireless tabletop AC/DC speakers with rechargeable batteries. Some lesser versions lack hi-res decoding but all feature mice for hands-free calling.
Reasons for Hi-Res – It’s putting the fidelity back into digital hi-fi of the MP3 variety. The former editor of Sound and Vision says “It’s like cleaning off a dirty windshield. You can’t quite see what’s there, and then all of a sudden…” The audio industry has finally discovered hi-res and is making a big push for getting the output that you hear to match more closely to the input that went into the music at the mixing board. Your ears won’t believe the detail and clarity, if all you’ve been listening to are data-compressed audio files. It speaks to the poetry of music and engineering. Jared Sacks of Channel Classics says “At the end of the day, it’s emotion.” The higher the resolution—that is, the more data bits in a second of time and the more samples of audio taken—the more sharpness, details, breaths, more echoes you will hear.
The standard established in 1980 of 44.1kHz/16-bits just doesn’t cut it anymore, altho advancement and improvements in CD mastering and pressing have resulted in much better sonics even from that now-obsolete format. Mark Waldrep of AIX Records says that even 48K/24-bit recordings equal or exceed the capability of most human ears, which generally hear sounds between 20 and 20,000 Hz (when young). Formats above that level are abounding. 96K/24-bit is a very sensible one, keeping in mind the much greater amount of disk space required for higher resolution files. Some online articles decry 192K/24-bit as causing more problems than it is intended to resolve. And DSD and double-DSD is absurd. The CEA has jumped into this with a website hiresaudiocentral.com, but don’t believe everything you see there. The audio files are distributed not as MP3s but as AIFFs, FLACs, DSD or PCM files. Engineers have used the latter two to mix tunes for decades and they are similar. It’s unfortunate that the whole focus has recently been on two-channel reproduction. While there are some good pseudo-multichannel processes available, genuine discrete 5.0-channel surround sound (as available on SACDs and Pure Audio SACDs) is the last word, in spite of many listeners being unwilling to have five speakers in their listening room. Once you have heard good multichannel, it’s hard to go back to two channel. Just like 3D movies, there have unfortunately not been many excellent productions to listen to. The masses are now going to be exposed to hi-res and let’s hope they will buy it.