Just a short time ago (2 pm EDT June 12, 2014), the press release on defining “high-resolution music” was made public. The title of the press release reads:
“DEG, CEA The Recording Academy® and Major Labels Reach Agreement on Definition for High Resolution Audio”. The subtext is “Project includes Descriptors for Master Quality Recordings”.
I’ll make the entire press release available on the FTP site so you can read it for yourselves.
The opening couple of paragraphs say it all:
DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, in cooperation with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® and The Recording Academy®, announced today the results of their efforts to create a formal definition for High Resolution Audio, in partnership with Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group.
The definition is accompanied by a series of descriptors for the Master Quality Recordings that are used to produce the hi-res files available to digital music retailers. These can be used on a voluntary basis to provide the latest and most accurate information to consumers.
The motivation for solidifying a “formal definition” for all parties is to “convey a clear message” about what is and what isn’t high-resolution audio. This is a laudable goal and as an insider to this process, I applaud the efforts of all involved. The mere fact that they produced a definition that received the support of the major labels, the NARAS, DEG and CEA folks may be a first. I personally see this as only a first step but more on that in another post.
Here’s the definition that they’ve agreed to:
High Resolution Audio is defined as “lossless audio that is capable of reproducing the full range of sound from recordings that have been mastered from better than CD quality music sources.”
[NOTE: I don’t know why the press release used quotes starting at the word “lossless” but they did.]
So the bottom line is this…any recording that’s “better” than a compact disc (44.1 kHz/16-bit PCM) is considered by these organizations and the labels as “high-resolution audio”. If either the sampling rate or the word lengths increase, then a recording is considered high-resolution. All you have to do is move the sample rate to 48 kHz and you qualify.
The piece goes on:
“In addition to this definition, four different Master Quality Recording categories have been designated, each of which describes a recording that has been made from the best quality music source currently available. All of these recordings will sound like the artists, producers and engineers originally intended.”
Master Quality Recording sources
The descriptors for the Master Quality Recording categories are as follows:
From a PCM master source 48 kHz/20 bit or higher; (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content)
From an analog master source
From a CD master source (44.1 kHz/16 bit content)
From a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8 or 5.6 MHz content)
These descriptors are an attempt to deal with the “provenance” issue and actually do make some sense…but there’s so much more to say. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether this definition and the accompanying “descriptors” are going to be enough to get you…and more importantly, the mass market…to continue to support HRA with purchases from high-end retailers.
The press release closes with:
“To further expand the High Resolution Audio initiative, The Recording Academy, the DEG and the CEA are sponsoring a special High Resolution Audio Listening Experience event, which will be held at Jungle City Studios in New York on Tuesday, June 24 from 6pm to 9pm during CE Week.”
I’m headed to NYC to participate in the June 24th event. I will have 10 minutes to demonstrate some of my favorite recordings and provide a quick comment on the world of high-resolution audio. I’m looking forward to it.