Hi-resolution support required (eg: AIFF 96kHz/24bit)

  • 13 August 2013
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PLEASE add hi-resolution file support (eg. AIFF 96kHz/24bits) In a world where CDs are becoming obsolete, I believe a good share of Sonos customers are still looking for hi-fi quality, not only the mediocre (format) quality provided by most digital music services/stores. It is rather purpose less to invest in the acquisition and maintenance of such a high quality product as a Sonos system and, not being able to play the best sound quality available with it! Thanks for kindly prioritizing such improvement :o)

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"Prioritizing?" Uhhh, I don't think so. Hi-res support is currently marked "Not Planned": https://ask.sonos.com/sonos/topics/support_high_resolution_flac_files_purchased_from_hdtracks_com
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For Sonos not to provide quality is pathetic. How does this make me feel? I feel like Sonos believes that their equipment is "good enough" and everyone should be happy with average Joe "C" student performance. The future is DSD, which light years beyond 24bit/192kHz. Sonos is not even 24bit/192kHz.
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"Prioritizing?" Uhhh, I don't think so. Hi-res support is currently marked "Not Planned": https://ask.sonos.com/sonos/topics/support_high_resolution_flac_files_purchased_from_hdtracks_com
True. Not only won't Sonos take advantage of the high resolution files, it won't even let you play hi-res files period. So if you have hi-res files and a Sonos system, you either need to create downsampled copies on your own and incorporate them into your libraries, get used to not having a significant portion of your library available with Sonos, or just dumping Sonos altogether. 
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"Prioritizing?" Uhhh, I don't think so. Hi-res support is currently marked "Not Planned": https://ask.sonos.com/sonos/topics/support_high_resolution_flac_files_purchased_from_hdtracks_com
http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/3/6100765/sonos-whole-home-audio-keeps-getting-easier-cheaper-and-better
I just called the help desk and they said they can't comment on whether or not they will be supporting hi-res in the future.  Regardless, I'm thinking about dumping my Sonos system for Bluesound if they won't play my music
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I would not plan on support in the near future if ever if you have decisions to make.
Hi Bernhard

Would you please explain further how it is that playing hi-res files across a multi-room setup would be challenging to the Sonos components? Surely each Connect or Play acts individually, even in a multi-room setup and therefore decodes its own data stream, regardless of what else is happening on other Sonos components within the same system?

I can appreciate that there might be a strain on the home network, especially using wireless connection rather than Ethernet. But given a hard-wired setup I cannot see why Sonos itself would find it difficult. I have all my CD collection currently encoded as FLAC, presumably as 16/44.1 as they were ripped direct from CD. But I have a small collection of 24/96 files on disc, and some legal downloads from hi-res sites, and having to down-convert them all first to allow Sonos to play them is a pain.

To Guy's point - I agree that "good enough" quality is NOT good enough. Good enough for whom? Once upon a time there was a common conception that MP3 @ 128 was "good enough". Back in the turn of the century, wax cylinders were no doubt "good enough", but that didn't stop them being replaced with shellac discs. And then with the microgroove record. And then with CD (Better? Separate discussion entirely). The point is that time and technology advances the art of what is possible, and companies should not be dismissing these advances.

Playing to the lowest common denominator is not acceptable in these days of choice. Saying that there isn't a market out there for higher resolution and quality replay is simply not true - audiophiles and music-lovers all over the world still pursue their ideals of perfection, with whatever means suits them - physical media or data files.

Current streaming solutions from traditional hi-fi manufacturers such as Naim, Chord and so on prove that hi-res replay and the convenience of streaming are not mutually exclusive. Sonos generally beats them all hands-down on the usability experience however, with simple multi-room setup, and a (generally) great user interface. It's one of the reasons I chose it after all. So it's a shame that Sonos doesn't see the need (benefit?) for hi-res support.

What proportion of Sonos users need to get behind the request to make the company reconsider? 

Just as an aside - I think this issue is as much about the convenience of not having to generate multiple copies of files in different qualities just to be able to support different equipment in different rooms, as it is about the actual replay quality through Sonos. I appreciate that the rest of the equipment in a Sonos replay chain may not necessarily be able to make the most of the higher-resolution file, but being able to just have ONE file in the highest quality available, and to allow all kit in the house to be able to handle that would be a massive benefit. So even if Sonos has to downsample for replay, fine, as long as the same file can still be accessed by a (non-Sonos) audiophile streamer in the main listening room and played at full quality. Having to manually make copies of files is time-consuming and can take up a lot of additional storage space on a NAS
Please add 24bit / flac support in Sonos ☺️ A workaround is to play from a PC (Windows 10 built-in music player), then select 'play on device', then select the Sonos player from the PC. The Sonos controller app must not be active for this to work.
There is no requirement for 24-bit audio for anyone, it adds nothing that can't be done in 16-bits.
Please add 24bit / flac support in Sonos ☺️ A workaround is to play from a PC (Windows 10 built-in music player), then select 'play on device', then select the Sonos player from the PC.
So, since Sonos won't accept 24-bit streams, your Win10 media server must be down-converting the file. To save all this hassle why don't you simply do a one-time conversion to 16/44, store the resulting file in your network share and index it into your Sonos library? You'll benefit from any superior mastering which went into the 'hi-res' version.

Current streaming solutions from traditional hi-fi manufacturers such as Naim, Chord and so on prove that hi-res replay and the convenience of streaming are not mutually exclusive. Sonos generally beats them all hands-down on the usability experience however, with simple multi-room setup, and a (generally) great user interface. It's one of the reasons I chose it after all. So it's a shame that Sonos doesn't see the need (benefit?) for hi-res support.

Naim says they are mutually exclusive - hi res on Naim only works on a wired connection. I think we can agree that this isn't convenient for most users.

Sonos has chosen to offer other features in preference to hi-res support. In a utopian world there would be no trade offs, but in a real one there are. Which of the Sonos features that you say you love would you choose to live without for obtaining hi - res support for which there is not a single controlled test that demonstrates audibly superior sound quality?
Sonos has chosen to offer other features in preference to hi-res support.
It appears that it wasn't a case of trade-offs. Sonos were smart and went with the scientific consensus:
http://www.whathifi.com/news/sonos-plans-brighter-and-brighter-wireless-music-future
Hi-res numbers don't add up
While we’re talking about the competition, we can’t help but ask Sonos about its feelings on hi-res music. No matter who we asked, the answer was the same – don’t hold your breath.

“We’ve looked really hard at it”, says Tom [Cullen]. “Of course we want to make sure we’re not missing anything and we feel pretty good that we’re not. There are arguments you could make about deeper bit depth, but we are unable to make a meaningful argument on sample rate. We tried, we can’t – the math just isn’t there.”

Giles Martin agrees: “There’s a huge, cheap miscommunication about high-resolution music. Manufacturers try to put a number to it, like 0 to 60 in a car, and it’s not that simple. I think we need to improve the overall quality of listening full stop. When everyone is listening to the quality of music they were listening to 15 years ago, then we have a discussion about pushing it further.

“Once we get to that stage where there is a huge consumer demand or it, we should accept it. For now, there are neither enough tracks, nor enough value in it for the majority of consumers for us to chase it.”

We ask about downsampling, which Sonos currently doesn’t offer - meaning any high-res music you own is completely unplayable on Sonos unless you downsample it yourself.

Jon Reilly admits: “We want to play everything, so we should do and that’s fair feedback. It’s something we’re considering.”

Which of the Sonos features that you say you love would you choose to live without for obtaining hi - res support for which there is not a single controlled test that demonstrates audibly superior sound quality?


In fact the reverse is true...

The Engineering theory is that hires causes intermodulation products when played back on hifi kit and this actually damages the sound quality. There have been some basic tests performed which demonstrate this intermodulation distortion exists in real-world systems, is measurable and, probably, audible.

Cheers,

Keith
I am familiar with the possible downsides to hi res that may at times be audible.

But allowing hi res music, as bought, to be played on Sonos is definitely a feature of some value to some people, as Jon Reilly also admitted. And for it to be played without on the fly downsampling of the kind that Jon alludes to, is another feature with value to some with a very vocal subset.

The only point I was making is that every company has finite resources and therefore has to prioritise. Only if this was not the case could Sonos have done these lhings AND everything it has done so far. Strategy is nothing but trade offs, be it war or business.
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First, do you need "hi res" audio? Absolutely not. 16bit 44k/48k is more than sufficient to play back pretty much anything. One of the reasons all the various hi res formats like DSD have died in the consumer world is consumers couldn't hear the difference. Those that do are more likely suffering from consumer bias ("I spent a lot of money on this, it must be better") and/or differences in playback volume (FAR greater impact on perceived quality from volume differences than actual recording quality), etc. The only place 24bit makes sense is in a studio/during mixdown. The final audio mix does not need more than 16bit.

That said, it would be nice if the Sonos players could consume some of the higher resolution FLAC files, so one doesn't have to convert purchased FLACs to something Sonos supports. But FLAC is actually pretty computationally difficult to decompress (much more so than MP3/AAC as I understand it), and adding transcoding on top of that to bring it down to 16bit/44k in the player combined with the DSP Sonos is using is only 16bit, supporting 24bit files natively would probably be too slow for Sonos to decode).

Also, I don't see why high-res FLAC would need wired Ethernet. The files are still trivial in bitrate compared to even a piss-poor, over-congested 2.4Ghz network.
Pretty sure Sonos' internal buss is 24 bit. That way they can allow volume adjustment of a very wide range without Truncating bits. I may be wrong.
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It's a 16-bit TI DSP: http://www.qobuz.com/nl-nl/info/hi-fi-guide/sonos-hi-res-ready-or-not-qobuz177054

(That entire article pretty much says no F'ing way to do "hi res" audio on the current Sonos hardware platform.)
It's a 16-bit TI DSP: http://www.qobuz.com/nl-nl/info/hi-fi-guide/sonos-hi-res-ready-or-not-qobuz177054
Presumably the volume control is elsewhere then, since long ago the ZP80 was tested and found to be populating the lowest byte of the 24-bit word on the S/PDIF. The findings were also confirmed by Sonos reps at the time
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I would also like Sonos to support high-resolution audio (i.e.: 96kHz/24bit)
I would also like Sonos to support high-resolution audio (i.e.: 96kHz/24bit)
They've said they have no intention of doing so. http://www.whathifi.com/features/sonos-plans-brighter-and-brighter-wireless-music-future

The science simply doesn't support it. http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html
In the recording studio there are advantages to using 24/192 (and higher), but there is no proven advantage for distributing more than 16/44.1.

It's a numbers game. 24 MUST be better than 16, right? The golden ear types will always claim that things sound better when they know the music is rendered at 24/192, and it is a great story, but to date no one has been able to demonstrate the ability to identify the 24/192 streams in blind, well managed studies. The results are no better than 50/50.

These studies are very difficult to setup. Many times the 16/44.1 source is simply a CD bought at retail, while the 24/192 file is a special mix and mastering -- and the 24/192 version really does sound better for many reasons. However, if this same 24/192 master is carefully down sampled to 16/44.1, then the "obvious" differences disappear into chance selection by the listening jury.

If you have access to some of the Mobile Fidelity Ultra Disc releases, compare them with regular retail CD's. Even though these two products originated from the same session and master tape, they can sound starkly different. In some cases I had to listen, and re-listen for an excruciating number of trials before I was satisfied that the two releases actually came from the same session. You can experience similar differences when comparing a well mastered 24/192 with its mass release retail version. These differences are not due to the 24/192, more careful attention to detail makes a difference. Really, these products were prepared for different audiences. Retail versions are designed to be relevant in a noisy portable environment while the 24/192 is targeted at audiophiles and better listening environments.

There is nothing wrong with purchasing a 24/192 version of something, then down sampling for the SONOS system. This will give one access to the high quality mastering while still allowing the advantages of practical multi-room wireless music at home. It is much more difficult to stream 24/192 at home. It is unlikely that the home wireless environment would reliably support more than a few streams because of the large amount of data to move around. While the current 16/44.1 SONOS streaming is very robust, there are always a few complaints centered around difficult wireless environments that keep SONOS on edge. In a 24/192 environment there would be exponentially more of these complaints. Since no one has been able to consistently demonstrate that 24/192 rendering offers any advantage, it seems foolish to drag the system reliability down, just to show better, but irrelevant marketing numbers. Look at the competing hardware that can render 24/192. How many simultaneous 24/192 streams can they support? (not many) A SONOS system can support up to 32 16/44.1 streams.

Could we stream higher bit rates? Certainly. If you dig around you can find ways to use networking to stream multiple 4K video sources to multiple TVs. (dozens of sources and dozens of TV's) This represents much more data flow than 24/192 audio. However, everything is wired and this cannot be done with networking equipment found at your local big box retail outlet. Unless you are a network pro during the day, professional installation is recommended. This approach is quite different from picking up a couple SONOS boxes at retail and setting them up in a few minutes to run over the home networking that is already in place.
A "simple" first step would be for SONOS to ignore a higher res file and move on to the next song in a playlist/artist/category, etc. That way you do not have to keep separate libraries (as I do now) for casual listening and "serious" listening in iTunes or any other playback system. One library is more user-friendly.
Doesn't Sonos do this already, in the way it handle files with other issues? If not, I agree this is an essential feature but one that will not work for many hi res fans of course.

I only have one library of all my music. It is good for both serious and casual listening. Perhaps over half the files are iTunes 256kbps downloads. They are however from quality recordings from folks like ECM, Mapleshade, HighNote, Blue Note/Rudy Van Gelder, Smoke Sessions, Philology and the like, and that is the secret of great sound quality. Many are of performances from more than 50 years ago.
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A "simple" first step would be for SONOS to ignore a higher res file and move on to the next song in a playlist/artist/category, etc. That way you do not have to keep separate libraries (as I do now) for casual listening and "serious" listening in iTunes or any other playback system. One library is more user-friendly.

The logical thing to do would be to forget the High-Res files and delete them. As has been previously repeated, almost ad nauseam, there is NO peer reviewed scientific evidence that the human ear can differentiate between the 16/44.1 and 24/192. You are fooling yourself if you think you can and what's worse you may be paying for some supposed "extra" quality that simply isn't there - you're also having to pay for more storage AND, what's worse, your Sonos experience is significantly affected in a negative manner.

The people trying to sell you this have an agenda to make money, pure and simple. They want you to buy your whole music collection again at "Super Dooper Hi-Res Gold standard" - No matter they have zero evidence of any quantifiable benefit to the consumer. They make me mad.

The people trying to sell you this have an agenda to make money, pure and simple.

They make me mad.


They shouldn't make you mad; they are just trying to bring food home, in the best way they know! And there are a lot worse things happening in the consumer markets, to make people want what they don't need. The entire global economy and the growth story of the times is built on this behaviour on both sides.

One upside of this particular issue is that it has opened eyes to the mastering subject and how critical that is to get good sound quality at home. All CD albums are equally well recorded is the belief I had for a long time.