By Javier Ramon Brito
Hi-Fi (high fidelity) is the term we use for the reproduction of music and sound in high-quality. It normally refers to CD quality, which means a bitrate of 1,411 kbps and 44.1kHz at 16 bit. It is sometimes confused with the term "high -res" (high resolution), but technically hi-res audio refers to an audio which has a sample rate greater than 44.1 kHz or a bit depth higher than 16-bit. So high-res audio typically points to a sample rate of 48 kHz, 96 kHz or even 192 kHz , with a bit depth of 24 bit or higher.
Now, with the advent of the internet and streaming services, we can now listen to thousands of songs online. But what about the audio quality?
When it comes to the audio quality of the music we listen to on the internet, most streaming platforms (free or paid) offer only compressed versions of the music (128 kbps for free services to 320 kbps mp3 or 256 kbps AAC for paid subscriptions), as opposed to the original CD quality bitrate (1,411 kbps). It is a bit like the “diet coke version” of the original songs. Yes, it is better than nothing, especially if it is a free platform, like Youtube or the free version of Spotify. And this is also OK if you are just trying to discover new music on the internet.
If you want the hi-fi (high-fidelity) version, because you want to FEEL the music the same way you did with vinyl records, cassettes or even CDs, you need to buy and download the uncompressed version of the music (i.e. the WAV or AIFF format) on places like Bandcamp, where you can directly support the artists.
As of today, the only paid streaming platform that does offer hi-fi audio quality is Tidal (CD quality of 1, 411 kbps or 16 bit/44.1kHz in Flac format), where you even find the “master quality” (96 kHz/24 bits) of some songs. I like that.
I hope other streaming platforms follow the example and increase their streaming audio quality any time soon. Because at the end of the day we all want to listen to our music online in the best possible audio quality.
The only thing I found lacking in Tidal is a hi-fi playlist for meditation music tuned to 432 hz, so I created one there. I am happy to share it, for those who might be interested.