Darko.Audio Podcast #25: For hi-fi beginners ONLY (+ further thoughts on hi-res)

Darko and I have done it again, only this time its even longer — we recently sat down for another Darko-produced podcast, this time to talk about hifi for beginners.

Clocking in at over 2 hours, there’s a lot to listen to, and a lot to digest. We dig into the details of putting together a first hi-fi and the importance of things like the room, room treatment, DSP, and more. These are unscripted conversations, I can’t work from a script, so they are not as neat and tidy as a list of rules but they are certainly livelier and offer way more information.

Without further ado, here’s Darko.Audio Podcast #25: For hi-fi beginners ONLY. Enjoy! (show notes)

I’d also like to expand on my feelings about hi-res. I’m not going to rehash what we discuss in the podcast, but I will say that I have mixed feelings abut hi-res and my position isn’t as simple as love or hate.

I’ve been writing about and listening to hi-res music, downloads and streaming, since 2011 when I was Editor of AudioStream. My views have changed a bit from the early days, as has the market for hi-res consumption, most recently with Apple’s (messy) entrance into the hi-res streaming market. While I am still a fan of getting the best sounding version of a recording, it’s important to note that a music file’s container offers no guarantee of quality, and in order to appreciate the differences that can exist between CD-quality and hi-res, we have to listen through a hifi that can reveal these differences and devote our full attention to listening. [footnote 1]

On the other hand, and from a purist’s perspective, I also believe that stuffing music into a CD-quality container for streaming and download makes little sense, seeing as there’s no reason to impose CD’s physical media limitation when we’re not using a physical CD for distribution. If a recording is mastered as a 24-bit file, there’s no reason to convert it to 16-bit/44.1kHz, unless you plan to sell the original 24-bit version, or access to it, for a premium. That’s admittedly a neat trick.

Summing these thoughts up in the real world, this means for streaming I’ll be sticking with Qobuz, which is the best sounding streaming service to my ears, and Tidal (their catalogs don’t match and I’m a music hog), and Bandcamp for downloads where possible.

  1. Spotify Premium strikes me as the best choice for those not interested in hi-res streaming as Spotify’s CD-quality service is due to launch before the end of the year, reportedly with no price increase from the current $9.99/mo. rate, and the Spotify Connect app makes playback a breeze.