When it comes to audio, the level of quality you yearn for will vary, some like their music as it comes, standard headphones and standard music source; on the other hand, there are those who really values how their music sounds. Being a gadgeteer, I have come to appreciate a really good sound quality, but it also took me a while to realise, there’s more to good sound quality that goes beyond just the headphones, which brings me to the revelation of Hi-Res (High Resolution) Audio. Hi-Res audio is to a standard MP3, what standard 720p resolution video is to a 4K video file. Both files are large, requires a special system to play them and once you go Hi-Res, there’s no going back.
What is Hi-Res Audio and why does it matter?
This description taken from Sony, explains it very quickly and illustrated in the charts for comparison:
High-Resolution Audio refers to a collection of digital processes and formats that allow the encoding and playback of music using higher sampling rates than the standards used in CDs.
The graphs below start with the original analog sound waves, and illustrate the low sample rate of CDs compared to the greater frequency used to record High Resolution Audio. There is no single standard for High Resolution Audio, but the most commonly used specifications are 24bit/96kHz and 24bit/192kHz.
Hi-Res audio is the closest you will get to what was recorded in the studio, and sounds as close as it can be if you were to be in the studio when each instruments were being played and the artist is actually singing it to your ears, combined with some digital mixing, all without compromising the quality. As they are using higher sample rate, they come out larger also, and thanks to fast data speeds, they can even be streamed now using services like Tidal (subscription costs applies).
How to listen to Hi-Res Audio
In order to listen to Hi-Res Audio, you will need to purchase the higher resolution files from wherever you decide to do so, for the purpose of this test I have bought some High fidelity music from services listed here on Sony’s site. You will then need to purchase a system if you are not using Tidal streaming and that brings us to the Sony MDR 1A Hi-Res headphones and the Sony Hi-Res Walkman, the NWZ A series.
Sony’s Walkman NWZ A Series is not the cheapest of the range, at £169, it is compatible with Hi-Res Audio, 16GB of built-in memory with the option to expand with a microSD card and will provide over 30 hours of music play back. Size-wise, it is very portable in every sense; it is lightweight (66 grams) and fits perfectly in the hands, pocket and even you purse, making it really easy to carry around. Its built quality also feels premium, and rugged; the removable plastic back cover makes it durable when absorbing vibrations from drops. See our video above for detailed overview of what it looks like.
To get the best sound quality also, the A series includes S-Master HX, an all-digital amplifier reduces potential distortion and DSEE-HX technology for restoring lost detail to MP3s and other compressed music files, giving you back the full experience of the original recording, whether you listen to Dvorak or electronic music.
The A series, is easy to navigate with clearly laid out buttons, and a hold button to ensure you don’t accidentally interrupt your listening experience. It has a 2.2″ screen size with a 320×240 (QVGA) resolution to aid navigation. Screen is good in all viewing angles and even in bright light. The A series also sports Bluetooth connectivity and NFC to easily pair it up with a wireless pair of headphones and did we also mentioned it has FM Radio?
The MDR-1A is designed to support Hi-Res audio, with an ultra-wide frequency ranging from 3Hz to 100 kHz and plays music loud and clear from any home system or portable device with high sensitivity of 105dB/mW. All those details are delivered through its 40mm driver that is covered in a soft comfortable ear cup and a leather finished headband for added comfort.
The headbands are not too tight or lose, and adjusting the band will ensure it fits perfectly no mater what your head size is. The ear cups rotates for when you need to just rest it on your neck when taking a break and the R/L labels are clearly labelled so you know which ear cup goes where. In the package is a carry case for securely carrying it around with you, keeping it scratch and dust free. Sony also provides two cables, one Hi-res audio cable and the other with in-line control and microphone for when you want to use it with your smartphone.
Sony mentioned that the 40mm driver sports a light but rigid aluminium-coated liquid crystal polymer (LCP) diaphragm gives to deliver more consistent and precise sound across the entire frequency range in comparison to a conventional LCP driver.
Overall, both devices deliver excellent audio quality, whether you have some hi-res music available or not. The headphones are comfortable, look premium and come with a carry case. The Walkman is portable, easy to use and feels solid in hand.
You can win the headphones and walkman together, here are the terms:
- UK only
- Leave a comment below, tell us your favourite song
- Must be over 16 years of age
- You have until Friday the 15th
- For extra points, follow @gadgetsboy on Twitter and share his post using #HighResVIP
- Winners will be selected at random by an external adjudicator.
Good luck everyone.