High-End Audio

Listening To Music Can Change Your Life

 

Home

 

Our Goal

 

Music Formats

  

Events

 

Share The ♥

 

 

Music Formats

  Over the years there has been technological advancements to increase the sound quality and ease of use for the music you love. While the goal has always been to deliver the same sound quality artists heard within the recording studio, it has been a challenge when one considers the millions of dollars in equipment sound engineers use to capture and record sound. Another factor is providing music within a format that seamlessly fits within your ever-changing modern lifestyle. Today we have a variety of music formats to choose from, which now includes the new Hi-Res Audio (HRA), MQA and other formats that bring to you the same audio resolution as found within recording studio and mastering facilities. Today, we finally have the ability to enjoy music in the same resolution as the recording artists heard during playback within the studio! 

We're listing the most popular music formats available today so you can learn more about each one.

 

 

MP3 Digital Audio

  For nearly two decades the MP3 lossy compressed audio format has been the choice for music downloading. During the early days of the Internet many people used dial-up modems with download speeds of around 56kb/s (as compared to 1000 times faster 5MB many use today). Due to both bandwidth and memory storage limitations there needed to be a way to compress the digitized audio signal to make the file smaller. Based on studies of how humans perceive sound, the MP3 codec was created. Since compact disc (CD) files are much larger than MP3, it is obvious that by compressing a CD WAV file you would throw out some of the music's digital audio in the process; hence the term lossy compression. There are other file types that follow the MP3 scheme, yet the basics are generally the same in that you are not getting all the digital audio as available within a compact disc. General advantages of the MP3 format are small file size and ease of use in many music players. The sound quality is less than that capable with the compact disc and higher resolution digital audio file types including Hi-Res Audio. You can learn more about MP3 at Wikipedia.

Pros: Small digital file size
          Easy to use in virtually any device

Cons: Compromised sound quality due to lossy compression
           No liner notes or high quality cover art

 

 

 

Vinyl Record LP Analog Audio

  Perhaps one of the oldest formats within the market today, with new releases still being widely available, the vinyl LP comes in a variety of sizes such as 7", 10" and 12". Playback speed can also vary, usually 33.3 and 45 rpm, depending on how fast the LP master was being rotated under the cutting head. While it takes many steps to manufacturer the vinyl LP you find in stores, it takes far more effort to produce a high quality pressing than virtually any other 'modern' format type.

While the original signal sent to the cutter head could be from an analog or digital audio source, playing vinyl is virtually always an analog affair. A turntable (record player) rotates the LP pressing at a stable speed as a diamond-tipped needle (cartridge) transverses the record's grooves. During the beginnings of making a vinyl record the cutter head carefully etches these grooves in an analog fashion on a specially prepared disc. There is also a specific equalization curve applied since it is challenging for a cutter head to accurately achieve severe movement as needed for low frequencies (bass). This is why if you do not you use a phonostage or some other type of device that employs proper equalization, your vinyl LP has virtually no bass. By adding a phonostage within the signal path you are applying the same equalization curve, yet in reverse, of what the cutter head used. These two equal, yet opposite, EQ curves naturally will cancel one another out and thus you get a natural sounding recording.

Over the years advancements have been made in vinyl formational and record pressing production. When very high quality vinyl records are played back on high-end audio turntables there may be little to no noise or 'pops and tics', which is called vinyl noise. Modern techniques on many levels have resulted in extremely high quality sound. If a vinyl record is played back at 45rpm versus 33.3 you have more information available and thus higher sound quality. This is part of the reason why audiophile seek out 45rpm LPs. On the other hand a vinyl record loses the potential recording quality with the grooves closer to the center label than those at the outermost edge. Basically, there is less storage material being moved under the needle the closer it gets to the innermost part of the LP.

For decades DJs have prized the vinyl record and turntables not just for their sound quality, but as a type of musical instrument! While the sound quality might be subjective, dare we say controversial, generally speaking the vinyl record is considered higher quality quality than the MP3 and CD. You can learn more about the vinyl LP record at Wikipedia.

Pros: Great sound quality capability
           Liner notes and high quality cover art

Cons: Generally for home use only
           Vinyl record LPs can be damaged if not handled with care

 

 

 

Compact Cassette Tape Analog Audio

  Making an interesting comeback as of recent is the cassette tape format. First offered in 1962 to the public, this magnetic tape format was originally designed for dictation yet found its way to become a four-track audio storage medium. With two audio channels (stereo) per side, the cassette tape could easily hold an album and you would 'flip the tape over to hear the other side'. Tape width is 1/8" and tape speed over the recording and playback heads is 1 7/8" per second. Advancements in magnetic tape formulation and more accurate motors and recording/playback heads provides impressive sound quality.

Over the years three-head cassette units and closed-loop motor/tape drive ensures extremely precise recording and playback. Many recording studios would use the cassette tape for looping audio effects, or to give a recording artists a copy of their master tape to listen to before the final production version going to mastering. Due to ease of use and its small size, the cassette was easy to play back at home, in the car, or with battery powered portable audio devices.

In hopes of eliminating tape hiss and achieve higher audio fidelity, a variety of signal processing such as Dolby and dbx noise reduction was employed. While the cassette is an impressive recording and playback medium, problems such as tape stretch and needing to keep them away from high heat and strong magnets is key. Over time, even the most modern magnetic tape surface formulation may separate from the tape backing and thus render the cassette too damaged for use. You can learn more about the compact cassette tape at Wikipedia

Pros: Good sound quality capability
           Liner notes and cover art

Cons: Can be damaged if not handled with care

 

 

 

Reel-To-Reel Audio Tape Analog Audio

  Reel-to-reel preceded the compact cassette tape and offers higher sound quality due to faster tape speeds. Just like using a faster speed on an a vinyl record LP, with more surface being recorded and played back you achieve more audio information. The magnetic tape is tape that is 1⁄4" in width and normally moves at 7.5" or 3.75"  per second. This compares to 0.15" in width and 1.875" per second for a cassette tape.  The same basic technical descriptions of cassette tape may be applied to reel-to-reel. You can learn more about reel-to-reel audio tape at Wikipedia

Pros: Very good sound quality capability
           Liner notes and cover art

Cons: Can be damaged if not handled with care
           Large tape format needs to be properly stored

 

 

 

Compact Disc (CD) Digital Audio

  With the advent of (then) more modern computers and technology in the late 1970's, the compact disc (CD) and playback hardware was introduced in 1982. Using advancement in laser and optical hardware, a 4.7" reflective disc had pits and grooves unseen to the naked eye. These pits and grooves were related as binary 1 and 0, with the laser would read and send to a digital to analog converter (DAC), which decoded the 1 and 0 to the analog format we hear. Being able to store 640MB of data on an optical disc back in the early 1980's was considered to be quite large in storage capability. The compact disc storage capability grew to around 700MB and there were 3" variants of the format called CD singles, which could store about three songs.

The compact disc was the first consumer music format to widely bring digitized audio to music enthusiasts worldwide. It was far smaller than the 12" vinyl LP and did not need to be handled as carefully. This allowed the music on CD to be enjoyed within your home, car, and on battery powered portable devices. You can learn more about the compact disc at Wikipedia

Pros: Good sound quality capability
           Liner notes and cover art

Cons: Can be damaged if not handled with care

 

 

 

Hi-Res Audio (HRA) & Hi-Res Music

  Generally defined as a platform that provides higher resolution than CD, Hi-Res Music delivers recording studio sound quality. A variety of digital audio file formats such as ALAC, AIFF, DSD, FLAC, MQA and WAV are used to provide high-resolution sound. Years ago SA-CD and DVD-Audio were also employed to provide higher than CD resolution for music enthusiasts.

      

Only within the past few years has Hi-Res Audio been defined as a standard to achieve the very best sound quality available within the marketplace today. Recording and mastering studios, major record labels, and hardware manufacturers are now working in concert to record and deliver new albums in this manner. In addition,  online retailers are now offering Hi-Res Music downloads and a variety of online music services are planning to stream music with hi-res quality. Also of note is that record labels are remastering many popular albums to this new standard.

To ensure ease of use, many home and portable device manufacturers are now delivering Hi-Res Audio (HRA) equipment that will play Hi-Res Music files. This also extends to cell phone manufacturers as new models have the internal hardware and software so you can enjoy your favorite music in high quality. While the popular MP3 is the lowest quality digital audio file type, CD offers better sound quality and the very best is Hi-Res Music.

Pros: Currently the best sound quality available today
           Liner notes and high quality cover art in digital form

Cons: Large file size uses more memory storage / bandwidth
           Old playback hardware might need to be updated

 

 

Test & Teacher Info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home    Our Goal    Our Founders    Music Formats    Manufacturers    Dealers    Events    Share The  

 

Contact Us
Copyright 2018  High-End Audio
TM
No content within this Web site may be copied or reproduced without permission.
All rights reserved.