HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO (HRA) GEAR MARKET GROWS
*Excerpt re-published with permission*
Lend me your ear, and I’ll tell you a well-known secret: You don’t have to have your ear to the ground to realize that headphones, headphone amps and compact digital audio converters are a hot industry sector for companies of all sizes. Now, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff. I could talk your ear off about the pitfalls of lifestyle audio accessories, but I’d rather say this: If you have an ear for quality, there’s never been a better time to record, mix and/or listen via laptop.
While we’re waiting to see what Neil Young’s Pono download service/format/player entails, at least there are HDtracks and Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez, among others, helping proliferate high-resolution DRM-free albums. And while we can’t directly hear the benefits of “Mastered for iTunes” releases under all the compression, at least Apple’s requirement to deliver uncompressed tracks in 24-bit/96 kHz is promoting higher fidelity sessions (and hopefully the distribution of more advanced bit-rate masters at a later date, whether via download or Blu-ray). In early September 2013 the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) even threw its support behind the promotion of high-resolution audio (HRA) hardware, which it expects to be a trend at retail in 2014.
Laptops and personal digital audio players (DAPs) are increasingly more powerful, more capable of full-fidelity playback, and storage continues to go down in price. While no signal chain can fully compensate for garbage in, garbage out, there are more and more ways to assure you have a compact monitoring set-up that won’t trash your signal, break your bank or require you to remain tethered to a traditional mix station. It’s not too late to get ahead of the HRA trend, because gear to monitor mixes for and from the perspective of this more dynamic range-focused audience is already here.
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