high-resolution audio

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High-res audio specs

Recordings are converted to digital audio through a series of waveform samples.

The term "bit depth" tells you how detailed each sample is. High-res files usually have a depth of at least 24 bits.

The sampling frequency tells you how many samples were taken per second during the digitization process. More frequent sampling leads to smoother, more natural sound. High-res files have sampling rates up to 192 kHz.

 

Of course, all that extra information increases file size. A 24-bit/96kHz high-res music file, for example, is about three times bigger than a CD-quality file of the same music track.

High-resolution audio file types — bigger and better

It's important to know which high-resolution file types are compatible with your system.

WAV

  • Standard format for CDs

  • Can be played on Windows® and Apple® computers

AIFF

  • Apple’s uncompressed audio format

FLAC

  • The most popular lossless compressed format

  • Takes up about half the space of uncompressed files

  • Not compatible with iTunes or Apple Music

ALAC

  • Apple's lossless compressed audio format

  • Takes up about half the space of uncompressed files

  • Not always supported by non-Apple devices

DSD

  • Processes the audio signal as a stream of single bits (vs. PCM’s multi-bit chunks)

  • Most high-res players convert DSD files to PCM for playback

  • Some players support native DSD playback

MQA

  • An additional encoding process that makes PCM and DSD files small enough for streaming

  • Preserves all file information for playback through audio components with an MQA decoder

  • Backward compatible: MQA-encoded files can be played through any audio equipment

Learn more about how MQA makes high-res audio files small enough to stream.

Where to find high-res music online

Here's a short list of some of the major sites offering high-resolution downloads and streaming:

HDtracks

  • Offers the world's largest selection of high-res audio downloads

  • File formats: WAV, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC

Acoustic Sounds

  • Has a wide selection of audiophile recordings available for download

  • File formats: FLAC, ALAC, DSD, Blu-ray, SACD

HighResAudio 

  • Offers an extensive selection of music in all genres for downloading and streaming

  • File formats: WAV, AIFF, FLAC

iTrax  

  • Offers high-fidelity downloads in stereo or surround sound 

  • File formats: MP3, Dolby Digital, DTS, WMA Lossless, FLAC, PCM, Blu-ray, DVD-Audio

Primephonic

  • Offers classical music downloads and streaming

  • Subscription streaming service uses 16-bit FLAC

  • File formats: FLAC stereo and surround, DSD stereo and surround, WAV

Qobuz

  • Three levels of subscription streaming services: FLAC 16-bit/44.1 kHz, FLAC 24-bit up to 192 kHz

  • Digital album booklets for many titles

  • Download file formats: FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WMA, WAV

TIDAL 

  • premium subscription streaming service uses 16-bit FLAC with MQA encoding

Amazon Music HD

Amazon Music HD offers three sound quality options:

  • SD — Bitrate:  320 Kbps

  • HD — Bitrate: average of 850 Kbps; Sample rate: 16-bit/44kHz Ultra

  • HD — Bitrate: average of 3,730 kbps; Sample rate: up to 24-bit/192kHz

If you're after a high-res download of a particular song or album, Find HD Music is a great site to search on.   

 

Reprinted from Crutchfield, Mar, 2020