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Lossless Audio - Coming to a Stream Near You!

Lossless Audio - Coming to a Stream Near You!

The music you play is as important as what you play it on and what you play it through. If better ingredients make a better pizza, then the truest, cleanest, highest bit rate content will yield the best sound when “baked” under all the right conditions (connections, components, calibrations). Analog may be the “original”, but accessing vinyl presents a challenge. But the tides are changing.

So What’s Missing?

We want our music and we want it now…but are we willing to either compromise on quality or pay added subscription fees to access HD content? That answers seem to be yes, but to a point.  While quality earbuds paired with a smartphone can produce a rather impressive sound, we understand that digital content is compressed and that we’re missing out on some of the depth (think standard definition vs. 4K). Portions of the music that are determined undiscernible to the human ear are carved out.  This may be acceptable for casual on-the-go listening or during your workout at the gym, but not when you want to really experience the music.

On a quest for top-quality digital sound at a reasonable cost, rocker Neil Young is preparing to launch a high-quality streaming music service, Xstream. Xstream is based on a technology developed by Orastream and will be an adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth. His feeling is that the higher bit rate will provide a more authentic analog sound vs. the more “squared-off” (more compressed) bit-rate which loses, in some ears, the essence of the music. While the technology behind the service is amazing in that it is capable of complete high resolution playback, Young himself expressed doubts that smartphone chips could adequately decipher the high-quality files. 

Tidal has made a “splash” as the first subscription streaming service to offer High Fidelity music along with High Definition music videos. Their lossless audio will stream on Apple devices and Android systems, as well as on a PC or when integrated in a wide range of hi-fi network players. To really appreciate the difference, they offer an audible demonstration of Lossless 1411 kbps (kilobits per second) music as compared to the Vorbis 320 kbps of Spotify’s desktop version and AAC 256 kbps of iTunes*. 

Popular streaming service Spotify is reportedly testing the market for lossless audio too.  The service tier referred to as Spotify Hi-Fi would be competively priced between $15-$20/mo. Great news for those who want to access a vast library of tunes on a quality sound system. 

If you’re one who enjoys hearing every note that every instrument plays which, until recently has meant analog, then these new streaming options are music to your ears. What you play it through (aka hi-end audio system) is another story, and one in which we at Automation Design + Entertainment are eager to assist!

*As reported by Tidal

Additional References:

How to Build the Audiophile’s Listening Room

Bowers & Wilkins Blog: Digital Music – a Quick Guide to the Best Lossless files

Sony Music Goes Back to Vinyl Records