Blog: High Res Audio is a fantastic business opportunity argues Meridian

posted on Monday, 25th January 2016 by David Slater

Meridian  High Res Audio  ISE 2016 

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Have you worked on a custom installation project recently where you installed a standard def television or projector, without asking the client whether they wanted 4K or at least 1080p HD? Somehow, I doubt it, writes Barry Sheldrick, Meridian Audio’s Director of Sales.

We all know that CI clients care about quality. As an industry, we are set up to give them that quality with the very best resolution screens and projectors that their budgets can buy. So why does this resolution principle not apply to audio? The prevailing wisdom seems to be that the client won’t be able to tell the difference between high resolution and low resolution audio, so what’s the point in going for the high resolution option?

Two reasons: firstly, the human ear is more than capable of picking up the difference between a 192 kHz/24-bit recording and an MP3 file, which loses approximately 90 per cent of what was recorded in the studio to make the file small enough to download. This lost 90 per cent is made available to the listener by high resolution audio, and contains the subtler elements of the recording that are still vital to the musical experience, adding so much depth, character and realism.

Secondly, even if the client can’t tell the difference between high and low res audio, it is in your interest as the AV professional, to inform and educate them about the available technologies. It offers you the opportunity to deliver them a premium solution that carries more margin for you and provides a better audio experience for them.

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With the advent of the iPod in the mid-2000s, MP3 became the dominant format thanks to its convenience and ease of use, and in recent years internet streaming services such as Spotify have exploded in popularity, their ability to share libraries across multiple devices bringing an added level of convenience for homeowners. In adopting these lower quality formats, the CI market was pushed away from its foundations by clients who demanded convenience over quality. But times are changing.

There is growing consumer awareness of high resolution audio, and the performance benefits that it brings. Recent research from the Consumer Technology Association found that 53 per cent of customers who purchased an audio product online or in-store were interested in high resolution audio, which shows that not only is there awareness of high resolution audio but that consumers are actively engaging in it. This same report stated that 86 per cent of consumers now use streaming services and apps at home, and the growth in this market, as well as faster internet speeds, have allowed new players such as Qobuz and TIDAL to enter the market offering high fidelity streaming with libraries as large as their lower resolution peers.

MQA is another major advance in high resolution audio delivery. It goes back to the master copy of the recording and captures all the timing details and nuances of the sound in the studio, using advanced digital processing to deliver 100 per cent of the original recording, as opposed to the 10 per cent offered by MP3s and streaming, in a file small enough to download or stream.

As a result of these trends, installers can now create user friendly audio systems that couple the convenience of internet streaming with the quality of high resolution audio.

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One of the most important factors in high resolution audio is the ecosystem through which the audio travels. Each component of an audio system must be optimised to maintain the resolution of the audio, from the source, whether that’s a CD player or NAS drive, to the end point, either an in-wall or free standing loudspeaker, and the distributed audio system, such as, Meridian’s Sooloos. There are a fast-growing number of products on the market that can form part of a high resolution audio ecosystem, but compatibility is key; high resolution audio needs seamless integration and at Meridian we have done everything we can to ensure that our products work well across a range of different systems. The Japan Audio Society (working closely with Sony) and the RIAA have developed their own Hi-Res Audio logos to try to build awareness in the consumer base of better quality audio systems, so it is crucial that installers understand high resolution audio and the benefits it can bring to the client.

For high resolution audio to develop further it needs everyone in the industry, suppliers and installers, to work together to inform and demonstrate to our clients why it offers the premium quality they expect. By championing its superior performance and the added depth and character of the music it produces, the custom installation market can help drive adoption of high resolution audio, providing a better service to clients and creating higher value for their service.

To learn more about high resolution audio, come and hear Richard Hollinshead presenting Making the Most of HD Audio at ISE 2016 on February 10, at 9:30 am. To find out more information on this exclusive training course, visit www.iseurope.org/meridian.

For more stories about Meridian Audio, visit our partner page here.

For more on ISE 2016, check out our resource page here.

 

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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