Gimmick or Great Episode 1: Hi-Res Audio

Welcome to Gimmick or Great, where I look at marketing bullet points from the worlds of Tech, Audio, and Gaming, and possibly throw them under the proverbial bus.

Today: Hi-Res Audio.

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I’ve gone back and forth on this one myself, both declaring it stupid, and saying there’s something to it.

In that second article I was just in a weird mood, and I was wrong. I just gave away what’s coming.

Is Hi-Res Audio a Gimmick, or is it Great?

IT’S A GIMMICK. And here’s why:

The hi-res audio logo above was created by the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA). To earn it, a consumer product must meet certain minimum specifications for audio playback. Typically, this product must as least reproduce 24-bit/96khz audio, and most of the time they go much farther than this.

More numbers seems like a good thing…but outside of the professional production world, these increases mean nothing for the average listener.

I could never hope to write a better takedown of hi-res audio than THIS article, from some of the folks that developed the excellent Ogg Vorbis codec which powers Spotify among other things.

Basically, hi-res audio files can often damage the playback quality compared to “standard” files. CD-audio or well-made lossy/lossless audio at 16-bit and 48khz is more than enough for any music.

Many of you won’t believe me.

And that’s fine.

But “hi-res audio” is just a fancy marketing badge companies can use to raise the price of headphones and subjectively convince you you’ve got something better.

Bias is a huge factor in audio listening, and if you think something should sound better, then it probably will.

Now, source is still important! A nice FLAC or a CD is probably going to sound a lot better than an old MP3 from the 90’s. But beyond a certain threshold of quality, compression stops mattering. And different albums can be better mixed or recorded than others…but this has nothing to do with the use of hi-res formats and everything to do with the skill of the sound people and the equipment used.

Don’t pay more just to get hi-res audio. If you like some gear that uses it, then that’s fine. But hearing the difference is essentially impossible and not worth extra money by itself.

Please clap for this! It helps other people find my work. And find my personal site over at www.worldbolding.com if you want more of this business. Thanks!

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I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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