Speaking at a special event at London-based high-quality A/V retailer, Audio Lounge, Erik Kingdon, senior technical marketing manager at Sony, told CE Pro Europe his company has created a strategy to enable installers to make the most of the growing interest in and availability of High Resolution Audio (HRA).
Sony has created a whole range of products bearing its Sony Hi-Res Audio logo and Erik believes the time is right for installers to promote the benefits as product, improved compression techniques and increasing availability, offer similar opportunities to the revolution Ultra HD viewing has offered.
What makes Erik convinced the world is ready for HD Audio? “I think that most people can hear the difference between an MP3 file and an HRA file. Many people have said to me that they can quite easily tell the difference between a low bit-rate MP3 and a higher bit-rate MP3. “The file sizes are bigger, but they’re not necessarily, in proportion, that much bigger. Because once you get above that CD level of quality, there are lots of different sorts of HRA files. You can have Lossless ones and you can have ones that use no kind of compression at all, and – something quite special – a file type we refer to as DSD.”
Erik explains: “These HRA files can be downloaded from the Internet – you can buy them from certain sites – and you can also actually get them on a disc. For instance, Super Audio CD and Blu-ray Audio – these are physical media that actually contain these types of files, already packaged in a physical format that a player or device can replay.
“The advantage I think, with the Internet, is that you can take these files and store them on devices and then enjoy them. And because memory has become cheaper, you can now have in your home very large capacity storage systems at reasonable cost. And of course, as broadband and 4G speeds increase, the speed at which you can get these files is also improving. That’s why we believe that now is the right time to drive this kind of thing forward.”
Erik explains that in reality all that is happening is that technology available to installers has caught up with the HD Audio recording techniques that studios have been using for years for archiving and master recordings. The progression to making these available to installers and end users for Sony is a natural one.
In terms of hardware, what does this actually mean on the ground? “For a company like ours, where we’ve got lots of different products, we’re in a fortunate and also a very challenging position where we’re presented with the option of: yes, you can launch a HRA player where you can download files onto a hard disk or a memory storage device. But we actually undertook a bigger challenge, to launch a range of products that would knit together and create a kind of eco-system, or a world in which people could take those musical experiences and take them on the move as well.
“So for example, we launched the flagship product, an amplifier and a matching one terabyte disk drive player, for the highest quality playback; then a system which integrates an amplifier and a smaller hard drive; and then of course most of this material is downloaded or placed onto a computer first. There’s no reason why the humble PC can’t deliver High Resolution in partnership with an HRA-capable separate digital-to-analogue converter – a little silver box, in our case.”
He adds: “And you can then take those files and put them into a portable product like a Walkman, or even a phone, which is something that everybody out there has got. The chipsets in phones are becoming HRA-capable. So when you put the ability to listen to better quality into lots of people’s hands, I’m pretty sure they’re going to try it out.”