DEG, CEA, The Recording Academy® and Major Labels Reach Agreement on Definition for High Resolution Audio



At the Poor Audiophile, we’ve long been advocates and proponents of high resolution audio.  We’re currently finishing up our time with Sony’s new high-res digital Walkman and high-res headphones and we’re likewise putting the finishing touches on our full review of the Benchmark AHB2 Power Amplifier.  Both the Sony Walkman and the Benchmark AHB2 Amplifier been meticulously designed to be part of a high-res music system chain.

Although we’ve advocated for high-res music, we’ve also cautioned that just because something says it’s high-res doesn’t mean it truly is high-res.  Last year, we wrote an article asking if high-res music was a farce.  We felt strongly that both the recording labels and the music download sites should list out the recording and mixing chain of the music work so that consumers could be confident that they were indeed getting true high res music as opposed to up sampled CD-quality. 16/44.1 files.

This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the industry hasn’t come forth and defined exactly what high resolution music is… until now.

Much to our delight, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, in cooperation with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® and The Recording Academy®, announced 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.

“Thanks to this initiative, the industry can take a unified approach in offering digital music services a variety of information concerning the growing number of hi-res music titles being distributed today,” said Amy Jo Smith, president of DEG said.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, stated, “The Consumer Electronics Association is pleased to have partnered with the DEG, The Recording Academy and major music labels in creating this new High Resolution Audio definition. The contributions made by our Audio Division Board will help consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers alike in their efforts to market the latest compatible devices and help provide more clarity about HRA for consumers.”

“Leading members of The Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing provided valuable feedback on this new High Resolution Audio definition and descriptors for Master Quality Recordings, and we’re grateful for their input and expertise,” said Neil Portnow, president/CEO of The Academy. “When properly implemented, we believe this agreement will be welcomed by our members and the music community, enhancing their ability to improve the music creative process.”

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.”  This latter definition will help alleviate the problems audiophiles have had with some high res audio, which was produced from CD-quality sources.

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.

The descriptors for the Master Quality Recording categories are as follows:

MQ-P: From a PCM master source 48 kHz/20 bit or higher; (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content)

MQ-A: From an analog master source

MQ-C: From a CD master source (44.1 kHz/16 bit content)

MQ-D: From a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8 or 5.6 MHz content)

Needless to say, we should all applaud the industry for moving in this direction.  These developments are welcome news to all of us audiophiles who value the fidelity of our music.