Hi-Res Music – Who Wants It?

Dave Business, Cracked Up (Blog), Music/Audio, Opinions, Tech 4 Comments

I saw a post on Bobby Owsinski’s blog entitled: Can Hi-Res Music be in our Future? It pointed to an article that Steve Guttenburg wrote for CNET mentioning a summit that he attended with Warner Brothers on their plans to start releasing and marketing Hi-Resolution music.

Think 24-bit / 96kHz digital files – that kind of hi-resolution.

It’s going to be an interesting campaign to watch.  Given the DVD-A and SACD format “wars” that barely registered attention from Joe Consumer, I’m going to guess that Warner and other labels are approaching this cautiously.

I also recalled that there was a bit of a hullaballoo about Apple potentially offering higher-resolution files on the iTunes store a couple months ago.

Damp Towel – Enter Stage Right

Personally, I’d LOVE it if hi-res music became the norm.  However, I’m a bit skeptical as to whether this will fly – at least in the near future. Mark Millan’s CNN article mirrors my skepticism quite succinctly:

“Many models of Mac computers can play 24-bit sound, and the iTunes program is capable of handling such files. But most portable electronics, and many computers, don’t support 24-bit audio.”

Portable devices don’t support hi-res audio AND these files are going to be HUGE! One of the main reasons that iTunes is successful is the fact that the “products” being sold (downloaded) are consumed on portable devices that have fairly limited storage capacities.  One of the first steps to some sort of success will have to be portable devices being designed, developed and manufactured to handle these files.

Has Anyone Checked with Joe Public?

With the general public, music is consumed in a passive sense – on the go, in the background and typically with small ear-buds plugged into heads – what is exactly the motive for pushing hi-res music?  Expensive high-end high fidelity systems and listening parties in living rooms are essentially things of the past.

Except for consumers who proclaim themselves to be “audiophiles” and the folks who are working in music creation / production, I (unfortunately) haven’t really heard any cries for something other than the status quo from those out in the general music consuming public…

Which leads me to believe that this is probably another pipe dream from a desperate record industry executive who is looking to find an emergency brake for their plummeting profits.

It’s going to be an interesting song and dance to watch …

Comments 4

  1. Unfortunately Dave, we have crossed the convenience line when it comes to music that gets to the masses. The people have spoken, and they just want the music, they don’t care what form it comes.

    1. Post

      Definitely true Jesse – I think more dynamics might have a fighting chance, but hi-res music has a pretty big uphill battle. I really don’t see this being a reality until the whole stream – production, distribution, consumption – has the proper infrastructure in place (i.e. Joe Consumer doesn’t have to think about it) and getting it from end-to-end is a non-issue.

  2. I think you’re right, – hi def audio will likely remain an esoteric option for people with too much time on their hands 🙂
    Mind you, I would like to buy a better than iTunes copy of “Pink Floyd – The Wall” but I hate to pay the CD store prices for it.

    Back in March of this year I read an NPR article about recent high def music sources, and went down the rabbit hole to try out some free examples. I “Google Buzzed” about my experiences:


    It was entertaining, and I now get weekly emails showing what new tracks are available from hdtracks.com , but long gone are the days when I would sit down and listen to an album without interruption. Hard to justify the expense.

    1. Post

      I know what you mean Gord. I got sucked in to the “promise” of DVD-A and SACD – even started a little collection: perusing the “new on DVD-A” forums every week.

      I got frustrated with the whole exercise before it started petering out… Besides the obvious expense of setting up my system to properly handle these discs and their respective premium price, I had to devote a big chunk of uninterupted time – in one specific spot to enjoy them.

      A few car manufacturers started integrating DVD-A into their audio systems, but unfortunately, I didn’t think I could justify a new car purchase based upon the audio system… 😉

      Personally, I enjoy listening to music on the go – and it’s mainly for the theoretical/arrangement aspect of the track. 80-90% of the time, I’m not necessarily missing or paying attention to any of the nuance that a 24-bit/96kHz recording “might” be able to reproduce.

      I think though, if they aim to provide “Hi-Res” audio in a downloadable digital (non DRM) format, then I can see that the main issues that plagued the adoption of DVD-A and SACD ( a physical disc! ) will be diminished.

      Well, that and making sure that new digital devices coming out will be able to play those files properly…

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