If you are music lover, you heard about high-resolution audio in digital recordings. You most likely look for the best sound. But can hi-res music sound better than CD quality? This quick start guide explains: what means hi-res audio, how do you listen to HD music, could you improve sound via upsampling? In the first approach high-definition quality should be better. However, it's not so easy. Keep reading.

July 30, 2023 updated | since January 19, 2023

Author: Yuri Korzunov,
Audiophile Inventory's developer with 25+ year experience in digital signal processing,
author of the articles that make audio easy for beginners
Hi-Res Audio Explained



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What means hi-res audio?

High-resolution audio (hi-res audio, HRA, high definition, HD) is designed as the next step after CD digital quality (44.1 kHz / 16 bit). HRA appears to improve sounding of compact disk.

In simple words, HRA has higher resolution than traditional audio compact disc. From technical point of view, hi-res audio has higher bit depth and sampling rate, than 16-bit and 44100 Hz of CD.

On the consumer market, hi-res audio began to spread in end of 1990's. And now we have a wide range of HD music formats in online stores and audiophile streaming services.


Hi-Res audio file fosmats

WAV, FLAC, AIFF are most popular audio formats with high sampling rates and bit depths.

DSD (Direct Stream Digital) occupies a special place in family of high-definition recordings. It's 1-bit format with very high sampling rate.

Also, modern lossy data-compressied formats MQA and AAC support hi-res recordings.

  • Lossless formats
    • AIFF is a widespread format with flexible structure. Size limitation 4 GB.
    • WAV is a widespread format with flexible structure. Size limitation 4 GB.
    • FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) provides resolution up to 32-bit/384 kHz.
    • WAV RF64 is a WAV extension to allow file size above 4 GB. It may have compatibility issues with devices and software.
    • WMA lossless is a data-compressed audio format.
    • DSF is a DSD audio format. Standard metadata support.
    • DFF is a DSD audio format. Metadata-support issues may be there.
    • SACD is a physical optical disk with DSD audio.
    • SACD ISO is a DSD audio file with ripped image of optical SACD medium.
    • DST (Direct Stream Transfer) is a DSD data-comressed format. It's applied for SACD, DFF and SACD ISO.
    • MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is an audiophile data-compression format that provides lossless audio up to 17-bit/96 kHz.
  • Lossy formats
    • MQA - audiophile audio format with special apodizing filtering and data compression (lossy above 17-bit/96 kHz).
    • AAC - in the first approach, it's "next generation" of mp3 with improved sound quality, as AAC developers promise.
    • WMA - data-compressed audio format.

Read more about audio formats...


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Is hi-res audio worth it?

As often declared, the most important advantage of hi-res audio is sound quality that is higer than CD.

Some people consider high-resolution audio as a useless format that wastes huge space on a hard disk of computer. Many myths are there. They think that the recording of ultrasound is an important feature of HD systems. Other people think that this audio improvement is "marketing gimmick".

But in fact, HRA allows solving some issues of low sampling frequencies.

Do you get benefits? There is no answer the question. It is personal choice. Should you try high resolution? Definitely.

There is nothing terrible. Many modern devices already supports wide range of sampling rates and bit depths. And, you get for free hi-fi music downloads for testing of your setup's abilities. Read about all about it below.


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How can I listen to HD music?

To lictening HD music, you need capable device that is considered below. Also, you can download hi-res audio files in the Internet.

Your loudspeakers or headphones should be qualitative enough.

You can convert the downloaded recording in the music files with various resolutions. Now, you can compare their sound. Let's get started...



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Does hi-res audio sound better than CD quality?

In theory, high-resolution audio allows for reduction of distortions that happen for recording and playback in CD quality.

In real life, just a higher sampling rate and bit depth bring nothing without a complex approach to a music system.

And more or less expensive equipment may work better on CD resolution than another device in HD.

All this is considered in details in the article...


Watch and share: How Hi-Res audio works


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Is 320kbps hi-res?

Any audio file has a bitrate. Currently, lossy files has bitrate 320 kbps and below. In instance, AAC format can provides high resolution.


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How do you listen to hi-res audio?

To listen to hi-res audio you can use a mobile phone or computer with audio player applications.

Also, hi-fi devices provides this format:

You can read more about audio players...


Can any speaker play hi-res audio?

For speaker, it is not matter, that resolution of digital audio is played back. Some setups are capable to play ultrasound. But, above, we discussed that this sound range is out of primary aim of hi-res music. In the first approach, it doesn't impact to audio quality.


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Could you improve sound via upsampling?

Just changing of sampling rate improves nothing. It is an abstract thing in a vacuum.

But, if you consider a higher sampling rate and bit depth with your musical device, it may give advantages.


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Where to download hi-res audio?

Hi-res audio samples are available at various online stores and websites.

Here you can download audio files in different high resolutions.

And look at the list of audio websites with downloads.


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High-resolution audio is a great way to improve sound quality. However, to discover its abilities, proper music equipment and recording may be required.

Read in details about hi-res music...


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