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From analog to digital audio

An analog audio signal is composed of a sine wave, like an electrical signal. A digital signal is simply the reproduction of this sine curve which represents the sonic wave. There are many ways of going about this reproduction with a fair amount of precision and fidelity. The more precise the digital reproduction is, the more faithful the end result will be. This precision depends on the format chosen and the quality of the file.

Choose a sound quality to view the modelling:

Sound wave MP3 320 Kbps

The MP3 file is a lossy audio compression format. It is a destructive format which greatly alters the sound quality. The bit rate of 320kbps corresponds to the number of bits per second, in this instance 320,000. The MP3 notably allows for a file size considerably smaller than that of a CD file, hence its mass use in the streaming industry.

This corresponds to the sound quality similar to that of a Compact Disc which you would listen to on a CD player. Digitally, CD quality corresponds to a specification which has a format equivalent to that of the original file: 16-Bit / 44.1kHz. On Qobuz, the CD quality files are available in FLAC, a lossless compression format which reduces the size of the files without altering their original quality.

Hi-Res Audio is dedicated to audio files that deliver sound with a quality superior to that of a CD. These files are encoded with 24-Bit resolution (as opposed to 16-Bit for CD quality). This is also called studio quality because 24-Bit resolution is used in a recording studio. The difference in richness of sound and feeling is very substantial compared to MP3 files or even CD quality.

How do you guarantee optimum streaming quality and download quality?

The best musical experience is guaranteed by a number of different factors, each responsible for a different part of the music. Qobuz strives to ensure that requirements are equally met at every single step over the course of music’s journey of creation.

How does this work?

Composition Composition

Illustration de composition

It’s the first step that an artist, performer or band takes when they embark on the creative process, which results in a finished musical product. It is during this crucial stage that an artist defines the musical direction they wish to take.

Composition is also the step which helps refine the musical identity of an artist and assigns them to a certain style.

Recording

Recording Recording

Illustration d'enregistrement

It’s the moment an artist enters the studio. Broadly speaking, the sound engineer’s practical and analytical viewpoint helps an artist obtain an end product that appeals to the audience and remains within the defined genre.

The recording determines the final quality of the sound and gives it a particular tone. The sound engineer chooses certain techniques and equipment in order to guarantee the best possible quality of sound.

Mixing

Mixing Mixing

Illustration de mixage

Mixing is the step where different effects are added — compression, equaliziation, reverb, echo — which will effectively define the sound and identity of the song and/or album.

Mixing is an important part of the artistic process because this is the step when the sonic balance is struck between the different components of a piece. It is important that every instrument has a well-defined role in the spectrum of sound, especially in pop music. The sound engineer attends to this process as well to ensure optimum sound quality.

Mastering

Mastering

The main goal of this final step is to ensure a level of uniformity between pieces using a standard equalization process. Pieces need to be brought together with the help of different tools. The sound engineer tasked with the mastering process determines which treatments are needed in order to obtain a product with a high quality of sound and a satisfactory level of volume.

Finally, depending on the desired format and the destination of the product, a reduction in resolution may need to be applied (with studios recording in 24-Bit quality and CDs having a resolution of 16-Bits). The application of ‘dither’ allows the resolution to be changed by reducing the noise of quantization. Without this final step, quantization would happen simply by ‘truncating’ the extra bits; the resulting quantized sound does not sound like music at all.

Apps / Audio source

Apps / Audio source Apps / Audio source

Illustration d'applications Illustration de source sonore

In order to guarantee the proper implementation of all these links in the chain — and thus the work of all the artists, sound engineers, and producers — and maximum fidelity to sound, a reliable audio source is necessary. Before any analog amplification, a conversion from digital is necessary.

Qobuz offers the optimum quality so that you can enjoy a high fidelity listening experience, no matter what kind of equipment you use. Whether you choose to listen on a smartphone or on a desktop computer, the Qobuz apps guarantee the best quality available with the equipment used.

Sound equipment

Sound equipment Sound equipment

Illustration d'enceintes Illustration d'amplificateur

Sound equipment is generally made up of an amplifier and speakers, usually in a pair to benefit from a stereo listening experience. As well as having an amp which can amplify sound in the purest and most faithful way possible, it is important that the speakers can technically recreate all the nuances of a song.

A good speaker should not color the sound in any way but reproduce it in the most musically faithful way possible. Therefore it is important to have the adequate equipment to make the most of the audio sources being used.

How to enjoy music in high resolution?

Discover the Hi-Fi equipment adapted to your needs through this short interactive questionnaire.

Illustration d'équipement

1. In what context do you find yourself ?

2. What type of device are you using ?

3. What type of connectors are you using ?

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on Mac

To enjoy Hi-Res sound on a Mac with a wired connection, you can use Hi-Fi equipment which is suitable for this use, such as a 24-Bit DAC.

Download app
Connector(s):
DAC

You can also use :

Equipment image

Audirvana on Mac

Connector(s):
DAC
Equipment image

Roon on Mac

Connector(s):
DAC

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on Mac

To enjoy Hi-Res sound on a wireless Mac, you have many options such as using Google Cast (Chromecast) technology.

Download app Protocol(s):
Bluetooth Quality warning (no aptX)
Google Cast

You can also use :

Equipment image

Audirvana on Mac

Protocol(s):
Equipment image

Roon on Mac

Protocol(s):
Google Cast
Bluetooth
Roon
Ready

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on PC

To enjoy Hi-Res sound on a PC with a wired connection, you can use Hi-Fi equipment which is suitable for this use, such as a 24-Bit DAC.

Download app
Connector(s):
DAC

You can also use :

Equipment image

Audirvana on PC

Connector(s):
DAC
Equipment image

Roon on PC

Connector(s):
DAC

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on PC

To enjoy Hi-Res sound on a wireless PC, you have many options such as using Google Cast (Chromecast) technology.

Download app Protocol(s):
Bluetooth Quality warning (no aptX)
Google Cast

You can also use :

Equipment image

Audirvana on PC

Protocol(s):
Equipment image

Roon on PC

Protocol(s):
Google Cast
Bluetooth
Roon
Ready

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on iOS

To enjoy Hi-Res sound on an iOS device with a wired connection, you can use Hi-Fi equipment which is suitable for this use, such as a 24-Bit DAC.

Download app Connector(s):
DAC Mobile
MiniJack

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on iOS

To enjoy Hi-Res sound on a wireless iOS device, you can use a compatible Hi-Fi device such as Google Cast (Chromecast) technology.

Download app Protocol(s):
Google Cast
Bluetooth Quality warning (no aptX)

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on Android

If your phone is natively compatible with Hi-Res audio, you can enjoy studio quality audio straight away. If this is not the case, you can use a 24-Bit DAC.

Download app Connector(s):
DAC Mobile
MiniJack

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on Android

To enjoy Hi-Res audio from your wireless Android device, you can use a compatible Hi-Fi device by using Bluetooth aptX, Google Cast (Chromecast) or even Bubble UPnP.

Download app Protocol(s):
Bluetooth Quality warning (no aptX)
Google Cast

You can use the following setup:

Use this configuration to unlock the full potential of your music and enjoy your favorite artists, songs and albums. This setup offers you a sound in its purest form with our largest selection of albums in CD & Studio quality (Hi-Res).

Equipment image

Qobuz on Android Auto

Android Auto does not natively read Hi-Res files.

Learn more Learn more Learn more Learn more Learn more
Equipment image

Qobuz on CarPlay

CarPlay does not natively read Hi-Res files.

Learn more Learn more Learn more Learn more Learn more

Glossary

  • Resolution is measured in bits. For a CD, each sample has a resolution of 16 bits; its dynamic range is expressed over a range of 96 dB (decibels), with 1 bit corresponding to 6 dB.

  • Sampling rate corresponds to the number of samples per second. For a CD, the sampling rate used is 44.1 kHz, meaning that each second of sound, when converted, is divided into 44,100 samples. This affects the precision with which the sound is reproduced: the higher the sampling rate, the more natural and precise the sound reproduction will be.

  • The Bitrate, the flow of binary data, expresses the speed of information per second. It is measured in bits per second and is calculated fairly easily. For CDs: 44,100 samples per second, each one sampled over 16 bits, everything over two channels (left-right stereo). We therefore get a bitrate equal to 44,100 x 16 x 2 = 1,411,200 bits per second: the bitrate of a CD is equal to 1.411 Mb/s. Immediately it’s clear that there is a massive difference between a CD’s bitrate of 1.411 Mb/s and an MP3 encoded at 192 Kb/s.

  • The quality of an audio product is often defined by its bitrate and therefore by its resolution. To reproduce a sound with maximum fidelity, ensuring its resolution is important. For example, Hi-Res sound uses 24-Bit resolution with a sampling frequency ranging between 44.1 and 192 kHz. 24-Bit resolution promises a dynamic range of 144dB and therefore an optimal listening experience for a lossless converted audio product.

  • The use of different audio qualities generates files with extremely varied sizes. The higher the bitrate, the bigger the sizes of the files generated. An hour of music in Hi-Res 24-Bit / 192 kHz takes up 2GB whereas 635MB are required to store the same amount in CD quality. In the case of streaming, the size and therefore the quality of the files should be chosen depending on the bitrate of internet available. With a theoretical maximum bitrate of 13 Mb/s, an ADSL is adequate for CD quality streaming (at 1.411 Mb/s). For Hi-Res sound streaming at a bitrate of 9.2 Mb/s, it is clear that you can quickly reach the ADSL limit. A fiber connection would therefore be preferable. For smartphone streaming, most platforms offer an MP3 format with a maximum bitrate of 320 Kb/s.

    Standards & protocols

  • Bluetooth is a wireless communication exchange standard between two devices. To read audio files, Bluetooth uses various codecs which reduce the quality of transmitted files.

  • DLNA, Digital Living Network Alliance, is an association which brings together many manufacturers. It is tasked with guaranteeing the automatic functioning of its devices under the same operating system. The protocol used for this guarantee of automatic functioning is UPnP (Universal Plug and Play). It simply accesses the ensemble of multimedia data available on devices connected to the same network, in the same place and in real time.

  • Chromecast is a protocol and hardware solution developed by Google, which functions as a multimedia data exchange device. There is an audio-only version which allows for the exchange of audio files and is simply connected to with a jack. By connecting Chromecast to a Wi-Fi network, you can wirelessly send audio files directly to a hi-fi channel. The latest version of Chromecast is compatible with 24-Bit Hi-Res audio / 96kHz.

  • Multi-room usage consists of placing a hi-fi system or speakers in several rooms of a home. The speakers are connected to each other via Wi-Fi and connected to a wireless audio source (smartphone, computer or tablet). These multi-room systems all have one central computer which establishes the link between the audio source and the satellite devices.

    Devices

  • A DAC, Digital Analog Converter, is a device whose purpose is to convert digital signals into analog ones. We use these for a more precise and faithful conversion than a CD player or a computer’s internal sound card is able to provide. However its primary usage is dedicated to the reading of Hi-Res files. Indeed, DACs are the only devices able to convert Hi-Res files at 24-Bits / 192 kHz. DACs have a digital input to receive and process the information and an analog output to send the signal to a hi-fi amp.

  • A network drive can be a streaming platform for domestic use. Connected to a network via Wi-Fi or via Ethernet cable (RJ45 protocol), the drive downloads multimedia files over the network before broadcasting them in their original quality. This therefore presents a good solution for listening to locally stored Hi-Res files.

  • NAS ou Network Attached Storage is simply a multimedia file storage server. An NAS is made up of a hard disk drive connected to a network through an Ethernet cable. It allows for the storage and sharing of multimedia files, even outside of the network.

  • Connected speakers are wireless speakers. They are connected to the Internet and often accessible over a touch screen, this interface allows for the exchange of files, or other smart home operations.

  • Smart Speakers is a term to describe connected speakers which have voice-controlled user interfaces.

  • Also called a Digital Audio Player (DAP), portable audio players make listening to Hi-Res audio files on the move possible. Most models display the resolution and sampling rate of the track being played. They are distinctive because they are equipped with powerful converters and often feature Wi-Fi access to Hi-Res streaming.

  • An amplifier (amp for short) receives analog signals from various sources - CD player, DAC, vinyl - and amplifies them. Different technology exists to reproduce the signal being received more or less faithfully. Particularly sought after by audiophiles, tube amps have an excellent reputation. Their level of amplification is clear, precise and gives a very warm sound thanks to the use of vacuum tubes for the amplification and pre-amplification.

  • Smartphones which can handle the Hi-Res audio format have a DAC chip which affords them a stronger processing power and the capability of playing 24-Bit / 192 kHz audio files.

  • Used since 1877 in the telephone industry, the jack plug is a coaxial electric connection. The female jack socket is also commonly called a “jack”. It allows for the transport of mono or stereo signals; it is a format still widely used today in the world of audio; since 1979, it has equipped portable players and smartphones. Often featuring three pins, the jack can have a fourth pin which can transmit a video signal or an audio signal in the context of a headset which has a microphone.

  • An RCA connector, also called a Cinch connector, can send an electric analog signal or digital data. It is widely used in audio equipment and is present on most hi-fi devices.
    Its main drawback is only being able to transmit one channel per cable, hence the development of a color coding system to identify the difference between left and right channels.

  • Fiber optic is a type of cable whose core made of glass or plastic allows for the transfer of digital data through the medium of a beam of light. The data transmitted is coded using the difference in intensity of this light signal. The bitrate flowing through a fiber optic cable is considerably higher than the maximum bitrate of an RCA.

  • A coaxial cable is an asymmetrical link used nowadays for the transmission of digital signals. It can be used to connect digital audio devices to each other.

  • An Ethernet connection is used in computing for local networks. The most commonly used connector is the RJ45. This is an international standard.

  • USB (Universal Serial Bus) is an industry standard which allows the connection of external peripherals to a computer. USB ports equip devices which use this protocol with the ability to connect to media playback support..

  • The power supply of a device makes the link between an electric circuit of a certain place and the device. To ensure proper functioning and optimal results, a separated power supply and circuit are preferable. For a proper signal/sound link, it is important to have your amp plugged into a “clean” electrical current that guarantees a constant cycle of electricity. To do so, there are filters and other conditioners that generate a supply voltage once they are connected to the current to ensure a constant, “clean” current, so that they are not affected by various kinds of interference.