A Crash Course in Hi-Res Audio


hiresWhat is Hi-Resolution Audio?

Hi-Resolution Audio is defined as “lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music sources”. Hi-Res has a higher sampling frequency and bit depth than CD quality, which is 16-bit/44.1kHz. Hi-Res audio files usually use a sampling frequency such as 96kHz or even 192kHz, and a higher bit depth of 24-bit.

There are a few different file formats to choose from, such as FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF and DSD. ‘Lossy’ file formats such as MP3 or AAC files on iTunes are not Hi-Res.

Why is Hi-Resolution Audio Better?

Put simply, Hi-Res Audio files offer a superior, uncompressed quality over standard compressed audio formats. They can more closely replicate the sound quality intended by the artists and engineers who created the music you are listening to.

Where Can I Find Hi-Resolution Audio Files?

There are various places Hi-Res Audio files can be downloaded. Popular stores include HDTracks, 7Digital, and Qobuz. Some vinyl players offer a facility where you can rip your vinyl collection to Hi-Resolution Audio files.

What do I need to listen to Hi-Resolution Audio?

To get started, you will need a player that is compatible with the file formats, sample rates and bit depths discussed above. As Hi-Resolution becomes more popular, there is a growing number of models on the market that are suitable for playing Hi-Res Audio. Here are some of AMP3’s favourites:FIIOX5IIILARGE

  • FiiO X5iii – an excellent, Android based, lossless playback compatible music player, with rapid charging capabilities and a whopping 544GB maximum storage capacity.
  • Cayin i5 – a robust and user friendly player that offers 12 hours of continuous Hi-Resolution Audio playback. One of the smallest and lightest DAPs on the market, and a great entry level model for dipping your toes into the Hi-Res marketplace.
  • Sony NW-A35 Walkman – with a long battery life and a range of colours to choose from, you can now get the classic Sony sound in Hi-Resolution with a price tag that won’t break the bank.
  • Cowon Plenue D – small but powerful! A well-built player with expandable memory, 100 hour battery life, and a huge range of excellent sound enhancements and EQ filters so you can fine tune your Hi-Res files so they sound just how you like them.
  • iBasso DX200 – featuring what iBasso refers to as an ‘Audiophile Quality DAC’, the DX200 will be picking features out of your favourite records that you’d never noticed before.
  • Astell & Kern KANN – an extremely powerful portable music player, featuring balanced connectors and the capability to play files up to 32-bit/384kHz to deliver a perfectly detailed sound.

What about headphones?

For a set of headphones to be classified as Hi-Res, they need to be able to produce an upper frequency of at least 40kHz. Though this is far beyond the range of human hearing (20kHz), the sound information sitting outside of this range will allow the headphone to render the complete harmonic structure of the sound you are listening to, rather than clipping off the harmonics produced above the average hearing range of a human. You will only be able to get this frequency range from Hi-Res music files played back on a Hi-Res player. Here are some of our top picks for Hi-Res headphones and earphones that won’t leave you disappointed:MDR1000XLARGE

  • Sony MDR-1000X – a set of over ear headphones that provide a rich and detailed sound, with the added benefits of Bluetooth and noise cancelling.
  • Pioneer SE-CH9T Earphones – built from a solid combination of brass and aluminium, these earphones come with a detachable cable, meaning those with a player with a balanced port can use these earphones without having to use the standard 3.5mm input. We recommend the FiiO RC-SE1B balanced cable for this situation, which can be bought as part of a bundle deal from AMP3.
  • HiFiMAN HE-400i Open Back Headphones – for a pair of over ear headphones, these are both incredibly light and very efficient. No need for a powerful amp to drive these headphones!
  • Dunu DK-3001 Earphones – a pair of hybrid earphones boasting three armature driver units and an additional dynamic driver to produce a highly detailed sound across the entire frequency spectrum.
  • Westone UMpro50 Earphones – meticulously built by a staff of dedicated artisans and lab techs, these five balanced armature driver earphones feature Westone’s True-Fit Techology, guaranteeing you a comfortable fit.
  • FiiO EX1ii Earphones – a comfortable, lightweight pair of high quality earphones at a low price we’ve all come to expect from FiiO’s products.

If after taking this all in you still need further advice or would like to hear about different models from the ones we have recommended here, don’t hesitate to give us here at Advanced MP3 Players a call or a message. We’ll be happy to help!