What is High Res Audio? - Everything you Need to Know

May 23, 2023
What is High Res Audio? - Everything you Need to Know
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While most industry experts prefer the term “Hi-Res Audio”, you can decide for yourself if you want to call it “high resolution audio” or “HD audio”.

Gone are the days when it was strictly the domain of audiophiles. Now that the major streaming music services like Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, and Qobuz have embraced it, almost everyone can take advantage of what hi-res has to offer in terms of digital audio that goes above and beyond the level of sound quality you can expect from the usual MP3 file and even CDs.

What does the term ‘High Res Audio’ mean?

When compared to common audio formats like MP3 or CD audio, Hi-res audio often has a higher sample rate and bit depth. Bit depth is the number of bits used to represent each sample, whereas sampling rate is the number of audio samples collected per second. 

Hi-res audio seeks to record and reproduce a more accurate and detailed rendition of the original sound by enhancing these qualities.  Compared to the typical CD audio sampling rate of 48 kHz, the most popular hi-res audio sampling rates are 96 kHz and 192 kHz.

A Brief History Of Hi-Res Audio

The term, "Hi-Res Audio” was coined by the Digital Entertainment Group, the Consumer Electronics Association, and the Recording Academy in 2014.

It is used to describe lossless audio that can produce a wide spectrum of sound from recordings that have been mastered from sources superior to CD. 

This "standard" was created at that time.

High Res Audio

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

To listen to Hi-Res Audio, you will need the following components and considerations:

Source Material:

Hi-Res Audio files: Obtain Hi-res audio files in formats such as FLAC, ALAC, WAV, or DSD. These files contain the higher sampling rates (e.g., 96 kHz, 192 kHz) and bit depths (e.g., 24-bit) associated with hi-res audio.

Playback Device:

Hi-Res Audio player: Use a dedicated Hi-res audio player capable of handling the higher sampling rates and bit depths.

Computer or mobile device: Some computers and mobile devices can support hi-res audio playback. Ensure your device's hardware and software are compatible with Hi-res audio formats.

Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC):

A DAC is responsible for converting the digital audio signal into an analog signal that can be played through headphones or speakers. 

Look for a DAC that supports hi-res audio formats and offers high-quality digital-to-analog conversion to ensure accurate playback.


Consider the amplification stage in your audio setup. High-quality amplifiers or headphone amplifiers can help drive headphones or speakers and deliver the full potential of Hi-res audio.

Headphones or Speakers:

Choose headphones or speakers that are capable of reproducing the higher frequency range and nuances present in Hi-res audio. Look for models with a wide frequency response and low distortion.

For the best audio quality, opt for wired connections between your playback device and headphones or speakers. Wireless connections may introduce compression or other limitations that can adversely impact audio quality.

Quality of Music Production:

Well-recorded and well-mastered Hi-res audio files will better showcase the benefits of hi-res audio compared to poorly produced recordings.

Also Read: Welcome to a New Age Audio Revolution, with High-Resolution Music

What’s the difference between lossless and Hi-Res Audio?

Difference between lossless and hi-res audio

A method of compression used in lossless audio files ensures that all of the original audio data is preserved. Lossless files are the way to go if you are interested in converting your CD collection into files that sound precisely the same but use less storage. Examples of lossless audio file formats include FLAC and ALAC.

A Hi-res audio source, such as an SACD or DVD-Audio, or music that has been professionally mastered at high-resolution bit-depths and sample rates, can also be used to preserve 100% of the information using lossless audio.

Why is High resolution music so popular?

High-resolution music

High-resolution music, also known as High-res or Hi-res music, has gained popularity for several reasons:

  • Better Audio Quality: High-res music offers better sound quality compared to standard audio formats such as MP3. It typically has a higher sampling rate and bit depth, allowing for more precise representation of the original recording.
  • Appeals to Music Enthusiasts: High-resolution audio appeals to audiophiles and music enthusiasts who appreciate the finer nuances of music, and high-res formats allow them to capture a wider dynamic range and finer details that might be lost in lower-quality formats.
  • Innovative Technology: Advancements in digital audio technology and increased storage capacities have made it easier to produce, distribute, and store high-resolution music. Also with smartphones and streaming services, people can now enjoy high-res music conveniently.
  • Artist Intention: High-resolution audio formats enable musicians and producers to present their work in the most accurate and faithful manner.
  • Growing Demand for High-Res Music As awareness and accessibility of high-resolution audio have increased, music labels and streaming platforms have responded by expanding their high-resolution music catalogs. This has led to a broader selection of high-resolution albums and tracks, making it easier for consumers to enjoy their favorite music in high quality. 

It's worth noting that while High-resolution audio can offer improved sound quality, the extent to which it is noticeable depends on various factors, including the quality of the recording, the playback equipment, and the listener's discernment. 

Nonetheless, the popularity of High-resolution music continues to grow as more people recognize and appreciate the benefits it provides.

Also Read: 5 Tips to Take Your Hi-Fi Experience to Next Level

Where can I buy and download High-Res music?
Where can I buy and download high-res music?

Wondering where you can buy and download High-resolution music? We have you covered!

There are several well-known platforms that allow independent artists and labels to sell their music directly to fans. One such popular platform is Bandcamp. Also, there are dedicated online music stores that specialize in high-resolution audio downloads. They offer a wide range of genres and have an extensive catalogue of high-quality music. 

You can check out HDtracks. An interesting alternative could be a music streaming and download service that offers high-resolution audio, like Qobuz. They have a large library of high-quality music. 

A music platform like 7Digital offers a selection of high-resolution music downloads. They have a diverse catalogue and provide downloads in various formats, including FLAC and ALAC. If you are looking for a High-resolution audio service, then Tidal is worth checking out.

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