June 20, 2014

Formal definition of High-Resolution Audio


By Lam Seng Fatt


The term “hi-res” music files has been used widely by consumers, audiophiles and those in the music industry for the past few years with figures like 24/88.2, 24/192 flaunted without anyone actually knowing what “hi-res” actually meant.


Now, there is finally a formal definition of the term “high-resolution audio”. However, controversy erupted as soon as the definition was announced.


In a press release dated June 12, the Digital Entertainment Group, in cooperation with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and The Recording Academy, announced the results of their efforts to create a formal definition for High Resolution Audio, in partnership with Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.


The definition is accompanied by a series of descriptors for the Master Quality Recordings that are used to produce the hi-res files available to digital music retailers. These can be used on a voluntary basis to provide the latest and most accurate information to consumers.


In essence, there are four categories of hi-res music:


Master Quality Recording sources


The descriptors for the Master Quality Recording categories are as follows:


From a PCM master source 48 kHz/20 bit or higher; (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content)


From an analog master source


From a CD master source (44.1 kHz/16 bit content)


From a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8 or 5.6 MHz content)


High Resolution Audio is defined as “lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music sources.”


In addition to this definition, four different Master Quality Recording categories have been designated, each of which describes a recording that has been made from the best quality music source currently available. All of these recordings will sound like the artists, producers and engineers originally intended.


The controversial part is that music from a CD source is also considered “high resolution” and this is the part that has been debated and commented on in numerous audiophile websites and forums.


What Hi-Fi reported:”The idea of a CD master source may seem somewhat at odds with the definition of high-resolution audio, but it”s understood this will mean that CD masters are used as the source material and then upsampled to a high-resolution format.”


“The DEG is proud to have played a key role in coordinating the work behind finalizing this important agreement” said Amy Jo Smith, president of DEG. “Thanks to this initiative, the industry can take a unified approach in offering digital music services a variety of information concerning the growing number of hi-res music titles being distributed today.”


Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, stated, “The Consumer Electronics Association is pleased to have partnered with the DEG, The Recording Academy and major music labels in creating this new High Resolution Audio definition. The contributions made by our Audio Division Board will help consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers alike in their efforts to market the latest compatible devices and help provide more clarity about HRA for consumers.”


“Leading members of The Recording Academy”s Producers & Engineers Wing provided valuable feedback on this new High Resolution Audio definition and descriptors for Master Quality Recordings, and we”re grateful for their input and expertise,” said Neil Portnow, president/CEO of The Academy. “When properly implemented, we believe this agreement will be welcomed by our members and the music community, enhancing their ability to improve the music creative process.”


Said Darren Stupak, Executive Vice President, U.S. Sales and Distribution, Sony Music Entertainment, “We are pleased to be supporting this definition for High Resolution Audio. We believe that a fundamental way to enable increased development of high def content and hardware, and more awareness and adoption of high-quality listening solutions, is to provide common language and technical descriptors for the music marketplace to use. We think that product offerings that reproduce the full range of sound from recordings, exactly as the artist intended, are a new and compelling option for increasing numbers of music and electronics consumers.“


“Universal Music Group is pleased to work alongside the DEG, CEA and The Recording Academy to reach agreement on a High Resolution Audio definition and Master Quality Recording descriptors,” said Jim Belcher, VP of Technology & Production. “This initiative brings further clarity for consumers of HRA content, and UMG looks forward to making more high resolution tracks available for music fans to enjoy.”


Matt Signore, president, Artist & Label Services, WEA, added, “We support the creation of clear and formal definitions for master quality sources. As high resolution music services continue to grow, we encourage and look forward to all partners in the music value chain meeting the definitions of High Resolution Audio, and providing easy-to-use and exciting experiences. We expect 2014 and 2015 to be years of important developments around High Resolution Audio.”