"The Beginner’s Guide to Hi-Res Audio"

  • 7 December 2021
  • 92 replies
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The 13.4.1 S2 update added hi-res (Ultra HD) and Dolby Atmos audio support from Amazon Music Unlimited. With this update, Sonos released this great article about hi-res audio and how you can listen to it on Sonos. It’s a very detailed and well-written article:

https://blog.sonos.com/en-us/hi-res-audio-guide


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And, as of today, you can now listen to hi-res (24-bit, 48 kHz) audio on most Sonos products by streaming from Amazon Music Unlimited. Why would you want to listen to music in hi-res? Again, McAllister explains. “The benefit of listening to hi-res music is that you’re listening to the actual file from the studio,” he said. “No conversion had to take place to change the 24-bit track into a 16-bit track. Listening to a track at 24-bit is a guarantee that you’re hearing the audio exactly as it sounded in the studio. To get a bit technical for a moment, if all digital files are made up of just ones and zeros, the file you’re listening to in 24-bit is made up of the exact same ones and zeroes that came out of the studio.”

 

I don’t think I accept this reasoning.  It basically implies that the process of going from 24 bit to 16 bit can corrupt the audio somehow.  I don’t think that’s the case.  If I read the article correctly, seems like there should be more concern with the audio file is lossy or lossless as that’s where audio could be removed. It sort of feels like asking a waiter  to bring out an entire cake, even though you can only consume a slice of it.

Also thought the list of supported devices was interesting, since the new SYMFONISK picture frame was not compatible with hires, even though it’s one of the newer models. 

So what audio quality do you get with a home theatre room setup where the rear speakers are not hi res compatible? For example, a Beam with Play:1s for surround.  Does it matter if you are in full mode or not?

 

It begs the question, who controls the IKEA speakers? Are they designed and manufactured by Sonos and sold by IKEA, or are they designed and manufactured by IKEA, using parts purchased from Sonos, and just use the Sonos software to operate, with some sort of reduced fee structure due to not using the latest version of the hardware that supports Hi-Res?

It begs the question, who controls the IKEA speakers? Are they designed and manufactured by Sonos and sold by IKEA, or are they designed and manufactured by IKEA, using parts purchased from Sonos, and just use the Sonos software to operate, with some sort of reduced fee structure due to not using the latest version of the hardware that supports Hi-Res?

 

My guess is that it was decided to use hardware that was as functional as the bookshelf and lamp had.  Costs, availability of parts from supply issues, or a combination of both.  IMO, I don’t think hi res is really worth it on the ikea speakers, but it’s my opinion and I haven’t actually heard the frames yet.

It depresses me Sonos bought into the hogwash.  Marketing got the better of them. 

It makes me wonder if there was a certain amount of “everyone else is doing it, we’ll lose sales if we don’t too” in the decision.Sometimes, being the lone voice of reason in the wilderness isn’t the ideal position to be in when you’re trying to sell stuff. Of course, other times, it’s the perfect thing...so who knows? 

It is ok to do it because everyone else is. What is not ok is using science in a misleading way to proclaim the benefit. Especially having used science in the past to justify not offering hi res.

The bigger net thing is the biggest crock I've ever seen in print.  The 16 bit "net" is already big enough to record a mosquito in the room followed by a jack hammer.  How big a net do you need? 

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As far as I can see the only real result of this change is that your Sonos will have to move more bits to play your music. No big deal for most of us but for folks that are fighting WiFi or SonosNet issues it may push them over their limit and into having dropping issues.

Does the generation 2 of the sub support Amazon Music high res 24 bit audio? I do not see anything about the compatibility of the subs. I did the update on the app and currently I am only seeing HD and no Ultra HD song tags (which I know are UHD). My current set up uses two fives with a gen 2 sub. Thanks. 

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Does the generation 2 of the sub support Amazon Music high res 24 bit audio? I do not see anything about the compatibility of the subs. I did the update on the app and currently I am only seeing HD and no Ultra HD song tags (which I know are UHD). My current set up uses two fives with a gen 2 sub. Thanks. 

From the article:

As of this post’s publish date, the following Sonos products are capable of playing 24-bit music at 48 kHz: RoamArcBeam (both generations), FiveSub (all generations)MoveOneOne SLPortAmp, SYMFONISK Bookshelf, SYMFONISK Table Lamp, Play:5 (Gen 2), Connect (Gen 2), and Connect:Amp (Gen 2).

Per the Sonos blog on Hi Res, sound from CDs continues to sound “fantastic”. Perhaps they are still searching for an adjective for the outcome of the new science to describe what sound quality that delivers in comparison to fantastic..:joy:

The other place Sonos is being disingenuous is in equating Sonos speakers with quality headphones as being able to be like the recording studio such that this new super fantastic sound quality can be heard. Like ALL other speakers that interact with the room acoustics and have to deal with the ambient sound levels in even a quiet domestic room, Sonos speakers can never do what headphones can - eliminate the room and all that it brings to the listening, from the frame.

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I thought the blog was very open about the advantages of hi-res. Though explained within the (commercial) restraints (you would not want to bash this new feature) it does state CD-quality contains all you can hear. Hi-res is just because that's the way music is recorded and because it can be done. No claims about quality anywhere.

No claims about quality anywhere.

What about:

 Why would you want to listen to music in hi-res? Again, McAllister explains. “The benefit of listening to hi-res music is that you’re listening to the actual file from the studio,” he said. “No conversion had to take place to change the 24-bit track into a 16-bit track. Listening to a track at 24-bit is a guarantee that you’re hearing the audio exactly as it sounded in the studio. 

Implicit in the quote is that with 16 bit what you are hearing isn't exactly as it sounded in the studio...

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Does the generation 2 of the sub support Amazon Music high res 24 bit audio? I do not see anything about the compatibility of the subs. I did the update on the app and currently I am only seeing HD and no Ultra HD song tags (which I know are UHD). My current set up uses two fives with a gen 2 sub. Thanks. 


Having a similar issue but with Ones and Sub gen 2. When the sub is bonded, only HD plays. If I remove the sub so the Ones are in a stereo pair, Ultra HD will play. Rebond the Sub and it drops back to HD for the same songs that were just playing in UHD.

My Arc is bonded with Play:3 surrounds and a Sub gen 2 and I’m able to play Dolby Atmos/Ultra HD on that setup without any issue.

The bigger net thing is the biggest crock I've ever seen in print.  The 16 bit "net" is already big enough to record a mosquito in the room followed by a jack hammer.  How big a net do you need? 

 

But 24 bit is used in studio recordings, right?  Might of been better for the article just to leave that issue alone and just state what is done without going into why it’s done that way.

One other thing I didn’t like about the article is it seems to conflate recording in a studio with the final produced file coming out of a studio.  There is no doubt that what’s recorded is mixed and mashed up to remove issues and mistakes, staple together the best parts of multiple records, etc.  You aren’t really getting a perfect reproduction of what was recorded in the studio regardless of what resolution of audio you’re listening to.

 

The other place Sonos is being disingenuous is in equating Sonos speakers with quality headphones as being able to be like the recording studio such that this new super fantastic sound quality can be heard. Like ALL other speakers that interact with the room acoustics and have to deal with the ambient sound levels in even a quiet domestic room, Sonos speakers can never do what headphones can - eliminate the room and all that it brings to the listening, from the frame.

 

Quality is a subjective term, and I don’t fault Sonos in this regard for using it.  Personally, headphones don’t feel as natural to me, and the lack of external sounds, or having muffled external sounds, can be more distracting.   And obviously, headphones lack the shared experienced with others and prevent communication, etc.  I get what your saying regarding ambient noises reflections, but they are a part of reality, and certainly what you would get if you were listening to a live performance.  Removing everything but the music is different, not necessarily better.  Headphones most certainly have their place and are great for some people and situations,  but are certainly not an objectively better option than speakers .

 

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The other place Sonos is being disingenuous is in equating Sonos speakers with quality headphones as being able to be like the recording studio such that this new super fantastic sound quality can be heard. Like ALL other speakers that interact with the room acoustics and have to deal with the ambient sound levels in even a quiet domestic room, Sonos speakers can never do what headphones can - eliminate the room and all that it brings to the listening, from the frame.

Quite true, but nor can headphones create bass that one can feel as well as hear.

 

Headphones most certainly have their place and are great for some people and situations,  but are certainly not an objectively better option than speakers .

 

I did not say they are better; I just said that they can capture more of what Sonos is talking about and there is therefore a greater chance of this more accurate sound capture being heard on headphones compared to any speaker including Sonos. Not that there is any controlled blind test on headphones that establishes this for Hi Res...but I can see that they have a better chance of picking up any benefit, if  it exists.

Personally I don't like headphones and never use them, but there is little argument against the fact they offer a more accurate sound. The ambient sounds that you refer to are heard on them as well; those in the live performance, be it in a studio or concert hall.  What they eliminate, and what speakers cannot, is ambient sound in your home or mine, or in any other domestic environment. We may like the latter because we are used to it, which makes it just a personal preference.

Quite true, but nor can headphones create bass that one can feel as well as hear.

Good point; but I haven't used headphones enough to say more, In any case, this isn't applicable to the Hi Res subject that isn't about such macro - if I may use that word - effects.

 

Headphones most certainly have their place and are great for some people and situations,  but are certainly not an objectively better option than speakers .

 

I did not say they are better; I just said that they can capture more of what Sonos is talking about and there is therefore a greater chance of this more accurate sound capture being heard on headphones compared to any speaker including Sonos. Not that there is any controlled blind test on headphones that establishes this for Hi Res...but I can see that they have a better chance of picking up any benefit, if  it exists.

 

 

I assume you were referring to the following statement.

However, if you’re listening to a hi-res track with quality headphones or a Sonos speaker, you’re setting yourself up with the best possible circumstances to experience that track as it sounded in the recording studio.

It’s probably intentionally vague, I think, as Sonos can’t really say that 24 bit is better.  Again, I think the statement is silly as it implies nothing is done to the track between it’s recording and the final production file you’re hearing.  But regardless, I think the point was about producing the audio rather than eliminating any other audio you may hear.

Honestly, I think it’s odd that they mention headphones at all, particular since they don’t mention quality speakers that Sonos doesn’t make.  My guess is that the only reason they mention headphones is Sonos is very likely to sell their own headphones very soon.

 

Personally I don't like headphones and never use them, but there is little argument against the fact they offer a more accurate sound. The ambient sounds that you refer to are heard on them as well; those in the live performance, be it in a studio or concert hall.  

 

 

No, I was referring to ambient noises in the actual listening environment, not on the recording.  I personally don’t care for recorded ambient noises, such as you would get in a live recording.  

 

What they eliminate, and what speakers cannot, is ambient sound in your home or mine, or in any other domestic environment. We may like the latter because we are used to it, which makes it just a personal preference.

 

Right, I generally don’t want those eliminated, personally preference.  I use headphones mostly at work, when I cannot use speakers.  The other time I would use headphones is when I need hearing protection or trying to block out annoying sound.

Does the generation 2 of the sub support Amazon Music high res 24 bit audio? I do not see anything about the compatibility of the subs. I did the update on the app and currently I am only seeing HD and no Ultra HD song tags (which I know are UHD). My current set up uses two fives with a gen 2 sub. Thanks. 


Having a similar issue but with Ones and Sub gen 2. When the sub is bonded, only HD plays. If I remove the sub so the Ones are in a stereo pair, Ultra HD will play. Rebond the Sub and it drops back to HD for the same songs that were just playing in UHD.

My Arc is bonded with Play:3 surrounds and a Sub gen 2 and I’m able to play Dolby Atmos/Ultra HD on that setup without any issue.

It would appear that there is an issue with the sub and a stereo pair of speakers playing the UHD files. I have seen this discussion here and in other forums as well. 

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So what audio quality do you get with a home theatre room setup where the rear speakers are not hi res compatible? For example, a Beam with Play:1s for surround.  Does it matter if you are in full mode or not?

 

I am curious about this. 

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Also I am curious what the difference is with Amazon’s HD vs Sonos Radio HD or are they the same?

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Also I am curious what the difference is with Amazon’s HD vs Sonos Radio HD or are they the same?

Sonos Radio HD streams in 16-bit/44.1 kHz 

IIRC Amazon HD streams in up to 24-bit/192 kHz, but on Sonos it is 24/48. 
 

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So what audio quality do you get with a home theatre room setup where the rear speakers are not hi res compatible? For example, a Beam with Play:1s for surround.  Does it matter if you are in full mode or not?

 

I am curious about this. 

 

I can get Dolby Digital/Ultra HD where Play:3s are used as surrounds with an Arc and gen 2 Sub. 

When Dolby Digital is playing, the full/ambient setting does not apply, but you can switch between them for Ultra HD songs and it plays under both settings without any issue.

Also I am curious what the difference is with Amazon’s HD vs Sonos Radio HD or are they the same?

Sonos Radio HD streams in 16-bit/44.1 kHz 

IIRC Amazon HD streams in up to 24-bit/192 kHz, but on Sonos it is 24/48. 
 

 

“HD” for Amazon sort of has two different meanings.  HD is the name of the service level you can get within Amazon music.  Within that service, you’ll have SD (Standard definition) tracks of the lower quality.  HD tracks are 16-bit/44.1 kHz (CD quality)  and then there are Ultra HD tracks at 24 bit.  There is also now the atmos music as part of this service.  When playing Amazon music on Sonos, Sonos will have no label for SD, HD for HD, Ultra HD label, and Atmos label.