What is high-res audio? High quality audio explained

It pays to know your bit-depths from your sampling frequencies

Digital music recorded at a higher sampling frequency and bit depth than CD can be considered high defi nition, but no hard and fast standard has yet been set.

24-bit/ 192kHz are the numbers you most often see associated with high-resolution downloads, and these denote the bit depth and sampling frequency. 96kHz is also popular because it still trumps CD's 16-bit/441kHz.

There's also a confusing list of high-res fi le formats to choose from, and few players can read them all. The usual suspects are:

  • FLAC – lossless compression
  • ALAC – lossless compression
  • WAV – uncompressed
  • AIFF – uncompressed
  • DSD – lossless compression

But remember, not every one of these formats is necessarily high-resolution. If you rip a CD to FLAC, for example, it will still be CD quality. It just takes up a lot more memory. So when shopping for highresolution tracks, you'll need to fi nd some assurance that they were created from the studio master.

Portable high-res players

Take your high-res music with you wherever you go.

Sony NW-ZX2 - £950

Sony's fi rst real foray into portable high-res audio is a beast of a player. Running on Android with a four-inch screen, the player has 128GB of storage and will play for approximately 33 hours on a single charge.

Astell & Kern AK JR - £389

The mack daddy of audiophile-grade portable players, A&K has released the AK JR, a more affordable device with a 3.1-inch screen and 64GB of on-board storage. It's also tiny, being 6.9mm thin.

Ponoplayer - $399

Pono is ageing rock star Neil Young's venture, and it's the quirkiest-looking high-res device out there. Underneath its yellow, Toblerone-esque exterior, you'll fi nd 64GB of storage and support for most formats.

iBasso DX90 - £249

This Chinese player isn't going to win any awards for its looks, or its screen for that matter, but it sounds the part – thanks to dual ES9018K2M DACs – and is a relatively cheap way to experience the thrills of high-res.

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