Upgrade Your Sound with High-End Audio
Explore The New Options in High-End Home Audio
A curious thing has happened in the past 15 years or so with the advent of the iPod and the revolution it brought to how you could listen to music. To be sure, the iPod (which wasn’t even the first product of its type) was a revolution, but it was the second one when it came to digital music. The CD was a monumental change which brought music into the digital age. CD technology put music in a high-quality digital form factor which was very portable, and unlike the vinyl records and cassette tapes that ruled before it, CDs did not degrade over time.
When the portable digital players first came out, they were somewhat limited in how much digital music they could hold. Converting uncompressed digital CDs to digital formats like MP3 for portable players took up a lot of storage space, so people started listening to music at something less than optimal quality. The portability and convenience of music on devices like iPods, and now smartphones, took precedence over the quality of the sound. Enter the massive popularity of streaming music today, and in most cases that still holds true – most of the services today like Spotify and Pandora stream at something less than CD quality, although that’s improving.
Why all this (admittedly brief) history? Because advances in digital audio technology are changing this landscape, bringing new options for enjoying high-end audio in your Houston home with all the convenience and flexibility of today’s digital music. Read on to learn more.
Sonos and Wireless
As a high-end home systems integrator, we are careful about how we recommend wireless options, especially when it comes to audio. But we recognize that sometimes a wireless option is the right solution for a space, and that’s why we work with Sonos. If you want high-quality audio in every room in your home, we have many options for you to consider. One of the beauties of the Sonos system is that while one of its main features is the wireless capability, it’s not the only one. The Sonos app aggregates all the major music streaming services you could want – like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music – and lets you direct what you want to hear to any room. It also makes it just as easy to access your digital music library stored on a computer, like iTunes.
Here’s the best part. Sonos’s wireless speakers are excellent for smaller spaces like bedrooms and offices. They can even be paired together to form a wireless stereo system in a room. But if your tastes run to something with more impact, you can still have the convenience and elegance of Sonos with higher-end audio equipment. The Sonos Connect and the new Sonos Amp are excellent ways to combine other audio systems into a whole house Sonos-based system. The Sonos Amp can power architectural (In-wall or in-ceiling) speakers in a room and make that room a part of a Sonos system. A Sonos Connect can be plugged into a high-end listening room or home theater system and instantly make that a part of a whole house setup with superb audio quality.
If you already happen to have some parts of your home wired for architectural speakers, we could show you how Sonos can bring a whole new dimension of ease of use and content choice to your whole house audio. And if your old built-in speakers could use an upgrade, we have audiophile brands like Revel that can bring hi-fi sound to your space without taking up space or upsetting your décor.
Lossless and High-Resolution Audio
One of the latest trends in the move to higher resolution music formats. CDs from their inception were made with a lossless digital music format. But as music was transferred to computers and portable devices for easier management and access, they were often moved into “lossy” formats like MP3 and AAC. Since the cost of storage and memory keeps dropping every year, and network speeds both in the home and over the Internet have rapidly increased, storing and accessing music in a lossless format is much easier. Sonos and other systems have long been able to handle lossless, but until recently few music streaming services either streamed at better quality or offered lossless capability. Today, popular music services like Spotify and Amazon Music offer a higher tier of streaming quality, and Tidal offers lossless streaming equivalent to CD quality. This is a difference you can hear.
High-resolution audio goes beyond CD quality, offering greater bit depth and frequency range for music. CD quality recording is 16bit/44hz quality, while high-resolution recording ranges from 24bit/96hz to 24bit/192hz. With the right equipment, this is also a difference that can be heard. Another new technology is MQA, which was originally developed by Meridian Audio. MQA is a method for streaming high-resolution music uncompressed, reducing the bandwidth requirements over the Internet by clever technology that squeezes the size of the bitstream without compression. High-end audio manufacturers have been adopting MQA and Tidal offers MQA streaming of high-resolution music. If you are an audiophile, you may want to consider MQA-compatible equipment to get the most out of your home audio.
As architectural speakers have been around a long time, they were often not thought of as critical listening speakers. While the speakers were typically full range, they didn’t have the same kick of a good bass driver from a full range larger bookshelf or tower model. That has also dramatically changed over the past several years. Larger designs with multiple drivers offer excellent bass in sleek in-wall speakers. And many architectural subwoofers have been introduced that can vastly improve the bass response in any room. New designs which include either separate amplifiers or compact digital amps offer more choice in subwoofer installations, making it easy to achieve audiophile sound in any room without the speaker and wiring clutter.
Ask us about building a high-end audio system that fits your lifestyle. Reach out to us today!