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HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO: THE FUTURE OF CI


Rob Sullivan, director at CEDIA member Electric String, discusses the importance of high resolution audio, and why every installer should back it.

We all care about quality. 

When did you last install screen or projector, without asking the client whether they wanted 4K or at least 1080p HD? When it comes to screens and projectors, we’re focused on giving our clients the very best that their budgets can buy. 

So why does this principle not apply to audio? 

Do we think that the client won’t notice the difference between high resolution and low resolution audio? And, if we think that way, do we conclude that there’s no point in offering homeowners the high resolution option? 

If we do, we’re crazy. 
 
Let’s face it, listening to low resolution audio is like looking at a fuzzy image of the Mona Lisa. It approximates to the same thing but isn’t at all how Leonardo intended us to view his masterpiece. He wanted us to be able to fully appreciate the subtle colour tones, the interaction of light and shadow, and the beauty of that mysterious smile. 

If you take this analogy into music, why should it be any different? Our musical heroes surely want us to be able to appreciate every nuance, every note and the atmosphere of their music. Listening to compressed MP3 files in no way conveys the full experience the artist intended. 

It’s a scientific fact that the human ear is more than capable of picking up the difference between a 192 kHz/24-bit recording and an MP3 file. An MP3 file loses approximately 90% of what was recorded in the studio to make the file small enough to download. High resolution audio makes this lost 90% available to the listener, and contains the subtler elements of the recording that are still vital to the musical experience, adding so much depth, character and realism. 

Even if the client can’t tell the difference between high and low res audio, then we need to inform and educate them, and spread the word about the best available technologies to deliver it for them. Why? Because it offers us the opportunity to deliver them a premium solution that carries higher margins for our business and provides a better audio experience for them. 

In our view, having this conversation is not the uphill battle it might have been a few years ago. Clients are becoming increasingly aware of high resolution audio, and the performance benefits that it brings over compressed audio. 

Recent research from the Consumer Technology Association found that 53 per cent of customers who purchased an audio product online or in-store were interested in high resolution audio. This demonstrates that not only is there awareness of high resolution audio but that consumers are actively engaging in it. 

Technology is also changing in our favour. The Consumer Technology Association found that 86% of consumers now use streaming services and apps at home. The growth in this market, alongside faster internet speeds, has allowed new players such as Qobuz and TIDAL to enter the market offering high fidelity streaming with libraries as large as their lower resolution peers.

Beyond this, there is a growing eco-system of hi-res audio technologies from companies, such as Meridian, that are making it easier than ever for us to deliver great quality, integrated and user-friendly hi-res audio solutions for our customers. 

Hi-res audio is a clear win-win for the Home Technology industry. By championing its superior performance and the added depth and character of the music it produces, we can help drive its adoption which will ensure we provide a better product for our clients; creating a higher value for our service.


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