Getting Started In High-Resolution Audio

Not a day goes by, when I don’t get an email asking me for equipment advice, clarification on a point made in a post or suggestions on how to get started in high-resolution audio. I’m happy to help audio enthusiasts with issues or questions of this type…but I prefer to do it with a post rather than individual responses. I’m sure you understand that I can’t answer everyone’s individual questions…but I will try to cover topics of general concern here on the site.

The nature, sequence and subject of my posts over the past year have been somewhat disconnected. As I sit down to write everyday, I write about whatever is relevant that day or in response to a recent post or article that I’ve read. The indexing of the site is less than ideal (I will look into deriving a meaningful index to the articles…I promise) and finding information on a specific topic is difficult.

So I’m going to start a series of basic informational posts that cover answer a few basic questions. And then, I’ll build on that information as a sort of primer on high-resolution audio. I think we’ve all pretty much figured out that HRA is only as good as the original recording, so let’s move on from there.

So you say you want a system capable of playing high-resolution audio? First, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:

1. Do you want a dedicated music server or are you willing to deal with the world of multipurpose digital computers?

2. Are you going to be doing your listening in your home/apartment in a home theater or in an audio “man cave” or do you listen on the go or in your automobile (don’t laugh, there’s plenty of audiophiles that are experiencing great audio away from home and in the car).

3. Where are you going to source your high-resolution audio content? Are you interested in doing your own CD ripping (or even from vinyl LPs, analog tapes, DVD-Audio, SACD and Blu-ray) or are you planning on acquiring high-resolution tracks/albums from a commercial digital music download site?

4. What type of music do you listen to? The best sounding high-resolution audio is not going to come from older recordings that have been re-purposed for the new high-resolution players. They will sound as good as they sound on the original format…and no better. However, if you source new HRA recordings from 2L, Linn, MA, Sono Luminous and, of course, AIX Records…the increased dynamic range and frequencies will be dramatic and noticeable. But you might not like the repertoire.

5. What’s your budget? A really great system can be assembled for a lot less than you think. Do you have $1000-$1500…because that’s enough to get a major bump in quality over what you’ve been used to listening to. There are people spending more than that for a simple 6-foot interconnect or power cableā€¦and getting no improvement in the fidelity of their system.

6. Where do you live? What sort of Internet speed do you have? These questions are important because getting large files down from the web can take a long time if you’re still using a dial up service. Using FEDEX to bring hundreds of gigabytes to your door might be a better idea.

So this will get us started. I promise to answer these questions and discuss why they are important. If you have additional questions, feel free to send them to me.


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

4 thoughts on “Getting Started In High-Resolution Audio

  • May 7, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Mark
    I have just purchased a Toshiba note book specifically for HRA music (good price too) It has all the required features I need. Will have to download the Oppo driver and probably J River. Just wondered your thoughts on J River as a music controller or any suggestions on set up. Will be using for all my music eventually as I continue to rip and download.
    Regs Ian

    • May 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      There are a number of very good music player applications and J River is among the best. I’m personally a fan of Amarra because I know its roots and the programmer that maintains it. It is a derivative of the Sonic Studio software that I use to master my recordings. I’ll be writing about many of these programs as I go through the BASICS posts.

  • May 8, 2014 at 11:36 am

    1. I prefer a dedicated multimedia server with a specific setup for the audio and video cards. A good SPDIF optical connection to use the external dedicate DAC or receiver converter.

    2. A good placement of the stereo/home theater disregarding any wife tentative to interfere with the correct setup of equipment parts and connections.

    3. Ripping as far as possible the audio tracks from my CDs BD to the dedicated server HD, download of high resolution tracks from internet.

    4. Music is all, the gear is a mean to listen music. Therefore there is no limit if not to obtain the best record I can; there is a lot of good not well known music from audiophile recordings, but much more at the moment recovered from original tapes – a good record of good music, is better than a perfect record of ugly or boring music. I refuse to listen music not recorded at a minimum quality standard like some performers does. I do not want “messages” I want good music.

    5. My two systems in different locations probably cost over 20,000$. I prefer very well setup medium cost equipment to not matched and improperly set up Expensive Hi End gears, it is more intriguing a give more satisfaction. Ambient, speaker placement, reasonable equipment selection, connections and some basic configuration like bi-amplification for serious stereo listening that I privilege. Home Theater … All effects, music is only stereo.

  • September 16, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Hi, I’m obviously way behind when it comes to the subject of getting started on High Resolution Audio. I really feel I need to explore this segment of HSA as i’m a keen music listener and enjoy the experience and past time with enthusiasm. I am over the iPod/MP3 listening experience and much prefer getting to listen to my CD collections and when possible the black vinyl.

    I am very keen to read more on your getting started articles, if you could advise where i can find them that would be really appreciated.

    Best Regards


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

twelve − twelve =