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RIAA CTO David Hughes Responds To Hi-Res Music "Confusion"

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Last week we published a piece by Bobby Oswinski of Music 3.0 describing what he sees as the “confusing" new RIAA campaign to promote Hi-Res music.  Today, David Hughes, the Chief Technology Officer for the RIAA responds.

Guest post by RIAA Chief Technology Officer David Hughes

I understand there might be some confusion about exactly what constitutes ‘high resolution music.’ This confusion is likely because a number of similar sounding terms have emerged to describe music being offered in some form of enhanced quality (i.e. better than the customary mp3 or AAC files).

In an effort to dispel some of this confusion, the ‘Hi-Res MUSIC’ logo was created so music fans can identify music that qualifies as high resolution, and music that may be high quality but not quite hi-res. Let me first explain what hi- res music is, and what it is not.

Let’s start with some facts.  First, the term ‘Hi-Res MUSIC’ is very specific. It refers only to music files that are quantifiably “better than CD quality.” Second, there are currently no ‘Hi-Res MUSIC’ streaming services, as no streaming service is offering better than CD quality (at the moment). There are, however, a number of music retailers, such as HD Tracks, Super HiRez, and Pono that sell ‘Hi-Res MUSIC’ downloads – all of which offer music that fits these hi-res standards.

Finally, and what I think might be the catalyst of most of the confusion, is that there are great services that do offer music of enhanced quality, such as Tidal and Deezer. These services describe their music with a variety of terms but not ‘Hi-Res Audio’ or ‘Hi-Res MUSIC.’ This is because the music they offer is high fidelity, which – while much better than heavily compressed mp3 or AAC files – does not qualify as high resolution. Tidal, for example, offers lossless and compressed CD quality audio they refer to as “high-fidelity CD sound quality” (see here), and Deezer uses the term “Hi-Def Audio” (admittedly close to, but not the same as, ‘Hi-Res MUSIC’) to describe their uncompressed CD quality audio streams.

Ultimately fans today have more options than ever to listen to enhanced quality music, including Hi-Res MUSIC. The major labels have worked hard to make fans’ desire for top quality music a reality. The market for Hi-Res MUSIC is only beginning to blossom and that’s a great thing for everyone who loves music. If you need more examples of retailers that offer Hi-Res MUSIC, we provided a list here. Happy listening!

David Hughes
CTO, RIAA

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