High Resolution Audio (HRA) Explained

(24 Sep 2015)

We've all thought it, when watching the news in Ultra HD or 4K. You can see all the pores, stray hairs and wrinkles in the anchor's clothes. Not glamorous, but very real. So is it the same experience when you listen to 'high resolution audio' (HRA), the audio counterpart to high definition films and TV? Does it highlight all the flawed minutiae of a recorded track? Or is it resonant and spine tingling, reminding you quite why you loved that song in the first place?

When an artist records a track in a studio, the audio is transferred to a 'studio master file' - the purest replication of the original performance. This is then translated to CDs and vinyl; the good old fashioned physical entity for the diehard music fan but, in the process, elements of the original recording are lost, removed or altered to suit the limitations of the format. Now, in the era of cheaper, more convenient digital formats - think streaming and downloading through YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music or Amazon - the original recording is even further compromised. This lesser quality audio is then further degraded by being played through poor quality sound systems. A sad state of affairs for music lovers.

Enter 'High Resolution Audio'. The big boys club of Sony, Warner, Universal and the Consumer Electronics Association has pushed hard for HRA recorded tracks to be more of an industry standard and more readily available. In response, manufacturers have been producing new speakers and sound systems that are HRA-compatible to play this new quality of recording to its best advantage and large file storage is more available - and less expensive - too so that storing these more substantial files is a piece of cake.

Once your ears have tasted the audible good life of high resolution audio through a superior, high quality sound system, such as those by Wisdom Audio, Steinway Lyngdorf or Linn, you'll not want to go back. The cohesive clarity of all instruments, no matter how insignificant, together creates a rich tapestry on which the pure and silky vocals can drape themselves. All the subtle inflections of the artist that were caught in the master copy ooze from the speakers without having been remastered into bland uniformity, which gives the impression of sitting in on a private live performance. The highs are appropriately high, clear and bracing, while the lows still envelop you with sonorous bass and depth.

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