If you’re like me and migrated to CD’s after growing up with audio cassette tapes then you're fully aware of the step-change in quality. I can now admit (because of the statute of limitations - we do have that here right?) that I used to record tunes from the radio. Apart from the DJ speaking over the beginning of the track and at the end, the recording was usually good enough for my walkman!
Of course one was always limited by the amount of tapes you were able to carry. This is probably why I know the words for every song on the ‘Brother in Arms’ album! When Compact Disc was released we had a much better quality audio platform we were also able to carry many more discs than tapes!
Currently the most popular forms of streaming devices and music services will only stream at CD quality or 16bit and lower, such as MP3. This has largely been due to availability of source material but the tide is changing.
Music streaming services are now realising the commercial opportunity of having higher resolution audio files available for download. ‘Hi-Res’ audio as it’s being called offers 24bit at 96khz Qobuz, through its android app was the first to offer this and now the much more popular ‘Tidal’, through its ‘Masters’ service also offer the technology.
Tidal uses a Codec called MQA or Master Quality Authenticated, a file that is compact and easy to stream but offers the 24bit resolution.
So why is 24bit important?
24bit at 96kHz is what many recording studio’s record artist’s at. With this in mind why would we compress that quality down to 16bit? The past reason was because files are very large and take up a lot of storage. Storage has gotten cheaper and smaller so why aren’t we able to purchase the very best quality audio files? With formats like MQA we now can - the next step is compatible hardware. There are a few bits of kit out there that are compatible audio players like the Pioneer XDP-100R or Onkyo’s DP-X1 but my favourite by far is the Bluesound range.
Bluesound’s generation 2 award winning multi room streaming devices are all MQA compatible. That means with a Bluesound product and a Tidal Masters account you will have one of the most advanced and highest quality systems out there! The Bluesound range starts at £299, what’s not to love?
If you know and like Sonos you will absolutely love Bluesound. The range has a similar product comparable to every level of Sonos and although slightly more expensive the step-change in performance is astounding. If you have an existing system, even a high end one you can slip in a Bluesound Node 2 and have all of the benefits. The control app is intuitive and the architecture of the system is simple to setup and use.