Last week, Sprint announced plans to acquire 33 percent of TIDAL, the streaming music service owned by rap mogul Jay Z. The hook on this service isn’t its famous owner or the eclectic selection, but that the service can deliver High-Resolution Audio streams.

Many services are now streaming hi-res audio, with manufacturers clamoring to deliver the type of equipment that can decode the formats for those discerning listeners. But what exactly is it—and is it something you should add to your daily musical diet?

What is High-Resolution Audio?

If you’ve ever streamed anything, you’ve probably encountered buffering. This is because it takes a lot of bandwidth to deliver audio and video content over the web. Most digital formats compress that content to make it easier to stream. However, it also diminishes the quality of that content. That’s not the case with High-Resolution Audio.

Hi-res audio delivers the best of both worlds. These digital files are easy to stream, but have a quality that rivals what’s featured on CD. While there is no actual standard for hi-res audio, it generally includes files that have been sampled at 24-bit/96kHz or 24-bit/192kHz.

Types of High-Resolution 

Just like with most digital formats, there are several types of hi-res audio files. When choosing equipment, make sure it can decode the ones you plan to use. The most popular are FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, and DSD.

FLAC stands for “Free Lossless Audio Codec,” and is one of the most popular hi-res audio formats. If you rip a CD in FLAC, it will sound identical—but at half the size. It’s an open format, with support for things like metadata, album art, and other user perks. However, it’s not typically compatible with iTunes, without some type of software intervention.

ALAC is also known as the “Apple Lossless Audio Codec. This lossless format is basically Apple’s answer to FLAC. This is not to be confused with AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format), a hi-res format for Macintosh computers, which Apple first developed in 1988.

WAV is a popular format for PC users. Also known as the Waveform Audio File Format, it was developed by Microsoft.

And finally, DSD is a trademark name used by Sony and Philips. This hi-res format is typically found on Super Audio CD (SACD).

Where to Find High-Resolution Audio

If want to find new music in the hi-res format, don’t think of looking in iTunes. These formats are specific to certain services. There are several of them out there, but here are three of the most popular:

TIDAL is definitely one of the most high-profile services, thanks to that Jay Z connection. The company streams in the FLAC format through the TIDAL HiFi plan, which costs $19.99 per month.

HDTracks delivers hi-res audio in AIFF, ALAC, WAV, FLAC, and DSD. Of course, not all tracks are available in all formats, so download with some care. This service does not have a monthly fee, but instead charges for each download. That price varies, depending on both the format and the title.

Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez offers a wide variety of popular recordings in the ALAC, FLAC, and DSD formats. Like HDtracks, pricing is per download and based on the format and title.

If you can’t find the music you’re looking for, check out Find HD Music, a hi-res music search engine that can track music by album, artist, genre, and more. If you’re still stumped on where to get hi-res music and how to play it, contact EDG at (888) 406-2782.

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