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Sonos announces exclusive new ‘HD’ music service that streams CD-quality audio

Sonos today announced the addition of an exclusive new streaming service available on its popular multi-room speaker systems called Deezer Elite. With the ability to playback millions of songs at CD-quality, the service is able to take advantage of the highest resolution at which Sonos speakers can perform to offer a much better sonic ride than other streaming sites on the system. As such, Sonos is calling the new service “high definition.”

Related: Sonos redesigns its streaming app

Most other streaming services that work with Sonos speakers, like Spotify and Pandora, top out at MP3 quality audio. As you may know by now, MP3 audio loses a lot of the digital information contained in the original recording in order to condense tracks for easier storage and streaming, with sound quality taking a hit in the process.

In theory, Deezer Elite’s music should sound much better, able to reach the same quality as those CDs you’ve got stored in the closet, or a claimed 16bit/44.1kHz resolution. Since that’s as high as Sonos speakers can handle, that’s all the system should ever need.

However, it’s important to note that while Sonos is calling the service “high definition” (HD), that term is a bit misleading. Listeners who’ve been following the rise of devices like Neil Young’s PonoPlayer, or Sony’s new NWZ-A17 Walkman will likely be familiar with another term: high-resolution audio. Also called hi-res, the term is used to describe any audio that is above CD-quality sound, usually starting at a resolution of 24bit/48kHz.

Theoretically, audio at that higher resolution should offer even better sound than CDs, and there is a big push in the audio industry to move from the paltry sound of MP3s (far below CD quality audio) to the growing availability of high-res files for a better user experience. However, HD, or high definition audio, is a looser term, often thrown around in similar contexts as hi-res, but not as precisely defined.

Confused yet? We understand. Even industry specialists are having trouble differentiating all the terms being thrown around these days. In fact, we’ll be launching an HD vs high-resolution explainer piece soon to further clear away the confusion.

Related: High resolution audio: Everything you need to know

Sony, LG, and other audio company’s have recently come out with wireless speakers that can stream high-resolution tracks from your music catalog at up to 24bit/192kHz resolution, which should far outperform the quality of Deezer Elite’s “HD” audio tracks by offering a higher dynamic range and better detail. However, Deezer Elite is in small company as a service that can stream files from the Web above MP3 resolution, so it should be a much better listening experience than what you’ll normally hear on other streaming sites.

Suffice it to say that, while we don’t like the befuddlement created by Sonos in calling this new service “HD,” Deezer Elite offers tunes that should sound better than any other major streaming service on Sonos’ ecosystem, allowing the speakers to perform at their best.

Other details as far as the full song count, what kinds of song are available, and the price of the service are still unclear at this time. We’ll likely be giving the service a try soon to find out more, and if you own a Sonos system, you can too — Deezer Elite will begin in beta form in the U.S. on September 15th with a free 30-day trial.