Performance is king in the home technology industry.
We all understand how important resolution is when it comes to TVs and projectors; no client wants to be watching their favorite movie in anything less than perfect clarity. Indeed, integrators were specifying 4K TVs before native content was even available, because they knew, with the content on the horizon and the visual performance it offers, that it would be just the kind of premium quality solution that their customers would expect, even demand.
In our view, precisely this same principle should apply to hi-res audio in the home.
Hi-res audio is a pure and accurate reproduction of the sound the artist recorded in the studio. It offers a clarity, subtlety, and depth to music that goes far beyond anything we currently listen to, including CD quality tracks.
Over the last decade, the drive for convenience has resulted in compressed formats becoming king. The small file size was instrumental in making our entire music libraries completely portable on a single device, so it’s only natural that consumers gravitated to this as standard. But, we have also sacrificed the quality of the music we listened to, for the convenience of having so much of it.
Take MP3s as an example. Because of their compressed file size, they lose up to 90% of the sound that was recorded in the studio. This eliminates many of the nuances that can add so much character to music. More than that, this compressed version of the original is, most definitely, not the way that artists intend for us to hear their music. They want us to have the full experience of their music, their lives and careers are dedicated to making it as good as it can be. Only with hi-res audio can one truly appreciate their music.
Various reports have revealed that the majority of consumers are now use streaming services in their home, so clearly for many customers, convenience is a priority. They want easy access to their music and playlists.
Convenience, however, is no longer a barrier to prevent integrators from specifying hi-res audio systems. Increasingly popular high-fidelity streaming services, such as, TIDAL and Qobuz now offer easy-to-use interfaces, similar to streaming apps like Spotify, but with music of a much higher quality. With the growth of these services, and higher broadband speeds enabling higher resolution streaming, hi-res audio systems are much more attractive to a consumer who wants quick and easy access to their music.
Some integrators might wonder whether there is any point to installing hi-res audio systems, and if customers can even tell the difference between high and lo-res audio. Extensive research indicates that most people can tell the difference. With a much higher dynamic range and frequency range, there is a clear and audible difference between high and lo-res audio.
But, asking if the customer really cares, or knows, should not be the focus of the hi-res audio debate. Even if people aren’t always able to tell the difference between the two formats, it is the duty of the home technology industry to educate customers, to provide them with information on the latest technology, and offer them a premium service.
Our industry is all about delivering premium quality. By offering a quality audio solution, integrators are positioning their advice, their business, and their reputation in exactly the right place to deal with their customers. Hi-res audio, and moving away from low resolution formats, can help return the industry to its foundations of putting quality of technology and service above everything else.
This positioning also makes sense from a financial perspective. Hi-res audio is a higher value product, so can offer higher margins and profit to integrators who take advantage of this potentially lucrative business opportunity.
Performance, convenience, and ease of use are key factors in convincing consumers to choose a hi-res audio system. Another very important aspect to consider is future-proofing. With the innovative developments, such as, MQA – a technology that reproduces the sound exactly as it was recorded in the studio – hi-res audio is undoubtedly the future of music in the home. Integrators who provide their clients with hi-res audio systems can reassure them that they are prepared for the next generation of music, and that their system will be more than capable of handling the technological developments of hi-res audio.
The eco-system through which the audio travels is essential to maintaining the hi-res. Every component must be optimized for hi-res audio, including the source, whether that’s an audio core or NAS drive, through to the end point, the in-wall or free-standing loudspeaker. A distributed audio system is crucial in maintaining the resolution of the audio across the system and provides an effective backbone for a hi-res audio system.
Hi-res audio is the future. It’s how music was meant to be played, heard and enjoyed by all. Integrators who embrace this technology and begin educating their clients on the benefits it can provide, can expect to generate greater profit for their business, set themselves apart from the crowd by offering a premium service, and have happier customers with a high performance, future-proofed audio system.