Technalysis Research
Previous Blogs

November 18, 2014
Making Makers Mainstream

November 11, 2014
Going Vertical

November 4, 2014
A New Wearables Forecast

October 28, 2014
The Next Evolution for Wearables: Business

October 21, 2014
Size Does Matter...When it Comes to Screens

October 14, 2014
Insider Extra: Does Windows Stand a Chance With Enterprise Mobile Apps?

October 14, 2014
Does Big Data Equal Big Brother?

October 7, 2014
Is Windows Still Relevant?

September 30, 2014
Tablet and Smartphone Futures: Specialization

September 23, 2014
Is the App Ecosystem Sustainable?

September 16, 2014
The Wearable-Identity Connection

September 9, 2014
The Password Dilemma

September 8, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk--Driving Flash Forward

September 2, 2014
Smart Connected Devices: A New Forecast

August 26, 2014
Phablets—aka Pocket Computers—Drive New World Order

August 19, 2014
Device Usage Diversity

August 12, 2014
New Life for the PC

August 5, 2014
Hot Items for the Holidays: Large Phones, Notebooks and Smart TVs

July 29, 2014
Smartphones: Life's Remote Control

July 22, 2014
The Joy of Vintage Tech

July 15, 2014
Digital Generation Gap

July 8, 2014
Virtualization Reborn

July 1, 2014
Portable Digital Identities

June 24, 2014
The Future of UI: Contextual Intelligence

June 17, 2014
Moving to Markets of One

June 16, 2014
Insider Extra: Dell and the Battle for Business

June 10, 2014
Screen Overload to Drive Screen-less Devices

June 3, 2014
Apple Drives Vision of Seamless Multi-Device Computing

May 27, 2014
Surface Pro 3: The Future of PCs?

May 22, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk: The Many Faces of Flash

May 20, 2014
The Technological Divining Rod

May 13, 2014
Computing in the Cloud

May 6, 2014
Device Usage a Question of Degree

April 29, 2014
The Next Smartphone Battleground: Durability

April 22, 2014
BYOD: A Work in Progress

April 18, 2014
Insider Extra: AMD Back in the Groove

April 15, 2014
The Mobility Myth

April 9, 2014
BYOD Dilemma: Devices vs. Data

April 8, 2014
Insider Extra: Qualcomm's Evolving Story

April 1, 2014
A Wearables Forecast

March 25, 2014
Measuring Success in Wearables? It's Thousands of Thousands

March 24, 2014
Insider Extra: Intel Strategy Moves Forward

March 18, 2014
IOT: Islands of Isolated Things?

March 11, 2014
Wearables Cautionary Tale

March 4, 2014
The New Platform Battle

February 25, 2014
Watch What Happens

February 18, 2014
Talkin' 'bout Touchpads

February 11, 2014
The MultiOS Conundrum

February 4, 2014
Computing Redefined

January 28, 2014
The Apple Problem

January 21, 2014
The 2-in-1s People Might Want

January 14, 2014
The Post Tablet Era

January 7, 2014
The Innovation Asymptote

December 31, 2013
Top 5 2014 Predictions

December 17, 2013
Holiday Shoppers Gifting Themselves

December 10, 2013
Companion Apps

December 3, 2013
Aisle Check

TECHnalysis Research Blog

November 25, 2014
Rediscovering High Resolution AV

As both a musician and an analyst who started his career studying displays, I’ve always been intrigued and somewhat obsessed with high quality audio and video. When high resolution multichannel audio formats like DVD Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD) burst onto the scene around the year 2000, I was an eager early adopter. I still even have some DTS Music discs that the company released around the same time as well as a few DualDiscs from that format’s launch in 2004. I also had one of the earliest HDTVs—a Philips 34” widescreen CRT from around 1999—that featured native 480p resolution, and weighed about 200 pounds (seriously!).

Today, of course, we’ve moved on to ultraslim 4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) TVs and high resolution two-channel audio, some of it focused around PCs as a source. To be honest, though, I’ve been a bit slow to embrace this new generation of formats, as I’ve felt like the current formats were good enough.

Part of the concern stems from my experience with the first round of high-definition audio and video playback devices—particularly around content, or the lack thereof. As an early adopter of high-def devices, I found that it was always a bit of a struggle to find sources that could really take advantage of the newest formats. Sure, there was some content available, but it was very limited for a long time. Of course, the image quality improvement from standard definition TV (SDTV) to HDTV was incredibly obvious. Similarly, the move from CD-quality stereo sound to even higher resolution, multi-channel sound was also very apparent. As a result, when you did find the right material, it was so compelling that you were willing to overlook the standard-def content you had to view and listen to most of time. Given this situation, it was hard not to get into high quality home theater gear at the time (well, at least for a guy like me…)

We’re all rather spoiled now, however, and have become accustomed to high-quality material, particularly for video. Plus, for many people, the differences between HDTV and 4K UHD aren’t quite as obvious as SDTV to HDTV at first glance. On the music side, listening has focused on convenience over quality, of late. In fact, most music listening now happens on mobile devices, which, ironically, have actually brought us down to lower-quality MP3 and other compressed audio formats.

Having recently spent some time really looking at and listening to some of the latest high-resolution AV options, however, I’m starting to rediscover my passion for high-quality sources and playback devices. On the audio side, the whole world of 24-bit, 96KHz or even 192KHz stereo audio is getting a fresh “listen,” particularly amongst younger people, for whom the phrase CD-quality is not only not very useful, it’s actually an anachronism. (Physical CDs are so old school….) To be fair, none of these high-resolution audio source types are actually new, but the growing popularity of file formats like FLAC (free lossless audio codec) are putting a fresh face onto these high-definition audio efforts.

There’s been a huge blossoming of computer-based audio developments over the last few years, as well, thanks to the rapid growth of USB-connected DACs (digital-to-analog convertors). These devices allow high-quality digital music files to be directly connected to stereo systems in either their full-resolution digital form or high-quality analog. There’s also been the appearance of new types of audio devices—such as Sony’s new MDR-1ADAC headphones, which build a DAC directly into the headphones—as well as the forthcoming PonoPlayer and matching PonoMusic service, which supports up to 24-bit/192KHz audio in a mobile format.

Even more importantly, we’re seeing more content start to become available, with downloadable music from sites like HDTracks and Primephonic, to a lossless music streaming service called Tidal. All of this is starting to put a new perspective on the whole higher resolution audio ecosystem, because it’s combining the convenience to which people have become accustomed, with high-quality source material. Up until recently, high-quality hasn’t really been that convenient to listen to. Plus, for all the younger people who’ve grown up with lower-quality MP3s, the transition from compressed music to high-resolution audio is incredibly obvious and compelling.

On the video side, 4K UHD becomes compelling for very large size TVs, which have started to come down dramatically in price. I’m not going to try and convince you that 4K UHD makes a ton of sense on a 32” screen, but on a 60” or 70” TV, it can be literally eye-opening. As with the audio world, we’re also starting to see the appearance of more high resolution sources, including 4K streaming from Netflix, as well as 4K downloads from Amazon and others.

Admittedly, not everyone is going to be an audiophile or videophile. But, if you’re the least bit interested and haven’t explored some of the latest high-resolution audio or video source or playback options in a while, you owe it to yourself to check them out. After all, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the entire holiday shopping season is now upon us, so it’s as good a time as ever. Happy shopping!

Here's a link to the original column:

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