Hi-Res Audio: As the Major Labels Get On Board, Momentum Continues to Build

The problem with compressed digital files (like but not limited to MP3s) is that they all sound like crap. A lot of dynamic range is gone, the high end can sound harsh and the bass can sound undefined. Making it worse are people who insist on listening through crappy speakers and headphones/earbuds, saying that the music sounds good enough.

Ugh. This not only disrepects the artists who sweated over the every detail of the recording process, but it also shortchanges the listener from the full glory of music. Once you hear music in true high fidelity, everything else sounds–and more importantly, feels–like crap. Today’s music fans are making do with audio quality that people wouldn’t have stood for in the 70s, fer crissakes.

The good news is that there’s a big swing towards bringing back proper high-fidelity music. Yes, it’s driven by labels and electronics firms who want us to buy new recordings and new gear, but as someone who has heard this new tech, it’s worth it for someone who likes to hear and feel every nuance of a recording. Music Ally takes a look the latest developments.

Traditionally, better audio quality has been a niche, from physical formats like DVD-Audio and SACD to lossless-quality music downloads. Will hi-res audio be more than a niche for audiophile music fans?

The three major labels hope so. A panel at this month’s IFA show in Berlin featuring representatives from Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music – as well as tech firm MQA – outlined their hopes that hi-res audio can have mass-market appeal.

That includes the challenge of convincing younger fans that hi-res doesn’t just sound better than their existing method of music-listening, but that it is worth paying for.

We are at a time where we are seeing major opportunities for hi-res: to get the younger generations to move on to hi-res. Formats like MQA make it more portable, so it’s easier to have it yourself, in your car and outside the home. So I think that’s a great opportunity,” said Morvan Boury, VP of global digital development for Sony Music.

“The other one is that the devices that support hi-res audio are becoming much more affordable… it’s no longer [just] high-end premium audio for audiophiles… Portability and affordability, I think, are two amazing factors to capture that opportunity and to make hi-res audio more accessible to younger generations.”

Good. About bloody time. Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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