Is hi-res audio worth the price?

As Onkyo plans to expand its hi-res music store to the US, it’s time to decide if hi-res downloads are worth paying more for than CD-quality files.

In recent times, we’ve seen more focus on the quality of music files online. For music lovers who enjoy digital music, this is a welcome change. Folks like musician Neil Young are taking a stance against the low-quality downloads that consumers are used to getting from online stores like iTunes.

“We live in the digital age, and unfortunately it’s degrading our music, not improving,” said Young.

To combat crappy digital music, Young launched his Pono device and its corresponding hi-res audio store online. Now, Japanese consumer electronics company Onkyo is planning to expand its hi-res audio store, e-Onkyo Music, to the US, and hopefully tap into the same audiophile market that prefers purchasing higher quality files.

CD-quality audio is better than low-quality files, and hi-res audio is considered to be even better than CD-quality audio in terms of bandwidth and dynamic rage. But when the two are compared in listening tests, even to high-bitrate mp3s, a lot of people can’t hear the difference. For this reason, the question of whether hi-res is truly “better” for listeners than CD-quality is still under debate. (Try comparing them for yourself!)

So how much do places like Onkyo and Pono charge for a hi-res album in FLAC format? Here’s an example, compared to the price on murfie.com for CD-quality FLAC.

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Pono eOnkyo Murfie
quality 48kHz/24bit 48kHz/24bit 44.1kHz/16bit
price $22.99 ~$31.00 $16.00

The Diana Krall album is a new release. How about building your back catalogue with an old favorite?

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Pono eOnkyo Murfie
quality 192.0kHz/24bit 192kHz/24bit 44.1kHz/16bit
price  $24.79  ~$30.00  $3.00

High-quality music is great, but it would be outrageous to pay for a hi-res album if you can’t hear the difference between that and CD-quality audio, which is already high. Some have even claimed that the hi-res movement is profitable trickery aimed at elitists and audiophiles.

Ultimately the choice is up to you, the listener. Find out what you can hear—and can’t hear—and make the choice that makes sense for you. When you choose to buy an album from Murfie, you’re buying a real CD that you can download (FLAC, ALAC, mp3, aac) and stream on different devices (320kbps mp3 or FLAC). Then choose to store the physical disc with us, or have it shipped to you.

For us, quality is key, along with providing access to your music that isn’t limited by any brand or device. Since everything released on CD can be ripped and downloaded in FLAC, Murfie just might be the largest source of high-quality FLAC music online. See for yourself!

Published by

Kayla Liederbach

I host a reggae radio show Wednesday nights at 7pm CT on 91.7fm WSUM-Madison called U DUB.

One thought on “Is hi-res audio worth the price?”

  1. We do live in a digital age, and the sad fact is most people are just fine settling for low quality when it comes to music, pictures, video & the like. For the majority of people a low bit-rate MP3 is fine as long as they can tell what song is playing, just like standard def TV is OK, and the picture from their cell phone camera is adequate. The point that’s important to bear in mind when deciding about the “quality” of the music we listen to is this: There are two ways in which to listen to music, passive and critical listening. In order to truly appreciate the hi-res music discussed in this blog, you must invest in equipment capable of fully resolving all the extra information. Connecting a device to the factory stereo that came with your car, most portable players & headphones, even the common home stereo/home theater setup is not enough. A high quality DAC (digital-to-analog) converter is the first necessity. Some higher end home theater receivers have them built in, but they can be purchased as an add on to an existing system. Then there is amplification, speakers…all of which can run into thousands of dollars. Think you iProduct & ear buds are up to snuff? Think again. You need a built in quality headphone amplifier, DAC & a good set of “cans” (headphones) to fully appreciate the difference between CD quality & hi-res.
    So let’s say you go out & drop a load of $ on these items and pay for and download hi-res versions of your favorite tunes. The first issue is the source the hi-res was taken from. Is it a studio original tape? What was the technique used to create the hi-res file? Just because the sampling & bit rate is higher does not guarantee a noticeable difference. Even if everything about the making of the hi-res file is the best it can be, are you an active/critical listener, or do you listen as you ride the bus, drive your car, work, work-out…? Unless you’re into concentrating on every note, tone, inflection, frequency…etc. being produced, you’ll never notice any difference. Even the most ardent “audiophile” will eventually let go the critical listening and just melt into the melodies, largely negating any quality difference.
    Still, there is something to be gained by forgoing low bit-rate music such as is downloaded from iTunes & Amazon in favor of a lossless format. Even in passive listening, you’re hearing much more of what the original source has in store for the listener. A company called Fiio makes players with built in headphone amps & quality DAC’s to take advantage of the full range of CD quality music. The players are in line price wise with iProducts, and can playback a variety of lossless formats. Also, don’t be fooled into investing a lot of cash on a good set of headphones because of the name on them (Beats, Bose). Sennheiser, AKG, Audio Technica are just a few brands that make really good cans, which can be had for less than $80 from Amazon, eBay & such. Investing in this gear & listening lossless will bring musical satisfaction to all those passionate about the soundtrack of their life.

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