AVSForum member Wilderness asked:
“What can be done, when so many people are listening to music via cheap Bluetooth speakers and headphones, to effectively spread the word about the benefits of high resolution music and the equipment capable of reproducing it so that significantly more people will upgrade their music and gear?”
This is the classic $64,000 question. As you know, the emphasis over the last 10+ years has been on the convenience of listening to music as opposed to its quality. But for all the negatives we can heap onto that trend, you have to acknowledge how great it is to be able to carry enormous music libraries in our pocket, or to listen to our music without the encumbrance of wires, or get access to libraries of music that are significantly larger than we could ever hope to gather on our own.
The good news is, I think many of the major innovations in convenience have now matured and the industry can now move back to providing higher-quality audio with the same level of convenience that could only previously be achieved with lower-quality compressed audio. Improvements in compute performance, component quality, compression techniques and available bandwidth, combined with huge drops in storage costs are making it much easier to download, stream and playback the larger-size files that are necessary for higher-quality audio.
We’re already starting to see certain movements in that direction with things like Tidal, but I expect we’ll see a lot more over time. Even if the technology is available, there’s a lot more to success of a format than specs, however. People have to hear about and understand the potential value that these new higher-quality audio offerings can offer. That’s why marketing programs like Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Music are actually really important to generate wider awareness. While some people like to poke fun at them, those are the same kind of people who apparently want to keep higher-quality audio only available to their secret society. The vast majority of the music listening world needs help in trying to figure out how to improve the quality of their music listening experience. If you’ve read through all pre-AMA thread and current thread posts, you know that something that should be easy and enjoyable has become ridiculously complex. So, efforts to improve on that for avid music listeners are key to help spreading the word.
By the way, on the subject of Bluetooth audio streaming, there are different levels of quality available, though they are not typically user-selectable. In theory, Bluetooth 4.0 streaming supports data rates up to 25 Mbps, which is above the 1.4 Mbps that standard CD-quality audio requires (and which, theoretically could handle some lossly compressed hi-res files). In practical usage, however, data rates for Bluetooth are often in the hundreds of kbps range, which is below what’s required for high-quality audio. Having said that, most audio streamed via Bluetooth uses the SBC codec, which can only handle compressed audio. However, a codec called AptX supports higher-quality, though not hi-res, audio.