Music industry titans unite to standardize high resolution audio

industries unite standard definition hi res audio hd music

You’ve probably heard about the current hi-res audio movement that’s been picking up steam. Mirroring the evolution taking place in television technology (from HD to Ultra HD), strong voices in the music industry, from Neil Young to Sony, are increasingly trying to replace lossy MP3 collections with high-resolution files and playback hardware. But, as anyone who’s looked online can attest, just what exactly constitutes an HD music file seems up to interpretation. In order to resolve the confusion and get the industry rallied around a unified goal, the music and consumer electronics industries have recently come together to create a standardized hi-res file definition and classification system.

According to a report by Twice magazine, high resolution audio’s new standard definition is, “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.” Better than CD means that the audio must chart above the standard 44.1kHz sampling rate, and 16-bit resolution, or the equivalent quality for files that don’t comply with those measurements, such as DSD/DSF files.

Perhaps most illuminating, the collaboration between industries has spawned four major ‘voluntary’ file types, described as Master Recording Qualities, which would allow file types to easily be identified with a three letter rating. The new file types are outlined as follows: 

  • MQ-P: From a PCM master source that is 48kHz/20 bit or higher (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content).
  • MQ-A: From an analog master source.
  • MQ-C: From a CD master source (44.1 kHz/16 bit content) in which legacy CD masters are employed as source material and upsampled to high resolution.
  • MQ-D: From a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8 or 5.6 MHz content).

Major players involved in the new definitions include the big three music labels (Sony, Universal, and Warner) as well as the Consumer Electronics Association, the Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineers Wing, and the Digital Entertainment Group.

For those who have scoured through the minutia of disorganized websites, and combed through the rantings of soapbox pontificators about what is or is not a high resolution audio file, the new classification system is a very welcome sight. With the new system in place, whatever your hi-res audio preference is would be easily identified. Want analog sources only? Look for the MQ-A. Scoff at upscaled files from CD sources? Stay away from MQ-Cs.

Of course, the voluntary aspect of the new system leaves the now scattered collection of HD music downloading sites free to remain so. But the hope is, as the big boys like Sony adopt the new categorization scale, other entities will follow suit in order to remain relevant. Perhaps just as important to those looking forward to the mass adoption of hi-res audio as a whole, the industry collaboration shows confidence from some of the biggest names in the field that the train is picking up steam. 

Still, if you’re among the growing number of people looking forward to an age in which music commonly sounds as rich and detailed as the artist originally intended, the next step is up to you. The new ID system is far from up and running, but until it rolls out, there are still plenty of places to find hi-res music that meets the qualifications. We’ve put together a one-stop shop of all the best HD audio sites online, just for you. Enjoy!

Product Review

What do you do with 187 megapixels? The Lumix S1R is glorious overkill

The Lumix S1R is one of the most capable cameras ever made, from its robust build to extensive feature set. But its key feature, a 187MP high resolution mode, is something few customers will have use for.
Cars

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.
Gaming

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in several genres for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Home Theater

SoundCloud hopes to add listeners with 50 percent discount for students

SoundCloud launched a student discount for it's top-tier SoundCloud Go+ membership, dropping the price to just $5 a month. It's a good deal for students, but will it be enough to keep the music platform from going under?
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation.
Home Theater

iPhone owners can finally hear the highest-quality streaming music on Tidal

If you're an iPhone owner who is after the highest possible audio quality from your streaming library, you now have the best option out there: Tidal's Masters Quality Audio (MQA) is now available on iOS.
Home Theater

Get loud with the best outdoor speakers to rock your party in any weather

From rugged, solar-powered backwoods listening companions to floating pool party jam boxes, the best outdoor speakers partner with your lifestyle to let you listen to your favorite tunes wherever you go.
Music

Apple Music offers a few subscription options. We break them down here

Competition for music streaming apps is quickly dwindling with giants like Apple Music and Spotify dominating most of the market? But how much does Apple Music cost and what does a subscription to the music-streaming platform entail?
Home Theater

If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, you now get Hulu for free

Spotify Premium subscribers have yet another reason to love the Swedish streaming service, with the company now offering ad-free Hulu accounts to all premium users at no additional cost.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Home Theater

Apple Music completes its Amazon migration, is now available on Fire TV

Amazon's popular Fire TV devices are now compatible with the most popular on-demand music streaming service in the United States, thanks to a new integration with Apple Music that has finally hit Fire TV devices.
Emerging Tech

This streaming music service pays artists in Bitcoin, plants trees if you listen

Feedbands is an environmentally friendly subscription streaming music service that pays its artists in Bitcoin, and plants trees in exchange for authenticated listens from customers.