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High-Res Hi-Fi Gets High Five At CES

Industry efforts to expand awareness of high-resolution audio (HRA) have shifted into higher gear, and HRA suppliers are positioning themselves for the resulting growth by expanding their product selections with dozens of new products at CES.

New products on display include high-res streamers and DACs, a two-channel stereo receiver, new portables, wireless home-theater systems, and an expanded selection of high-res car audio in-dash head units.

In car, dealers will find the first high-res aftermarket in-dash head units from Clarion, Kenwood and Dual, joining a Sony model.

In portables, dealers will find the first high-res portable players from Pioneer and Onkyo, an expanded selection from Astell & Kern, and a new Sony model

A new Mytek DAC/headphone amp is also on display.

For the home, new products include a WiSA-certified wireless home theater system with high-res playback from Klipsch and startup Axiim, multiple powered active monitors from Klipsch with high-res inputs, and Auralic’s network streamer/DAC.

MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) decoding is also appearing in more products, including the Mytek device and the Pioneer and Onkyo portables. MQAencoded files are positioned as delivering higher performance in smaller files compared to other types of high-resolution music files. The technology will also make high-resolution music streaming practical, inventor Bob Stuart has said.

A time frame for the launch of MQA downloads or streaming content wasn’t available at press time.

For their part, suppliers say high-res awareness is still growing, and recent education efforts underway will step up awareness levels.

“High-resolution audio has been an important feature in the AV specialty and CI channels for quite some time now,” said Kevin Zarow, D+M Group VP/GM for the Americas. And now “we are now seeing national retailers embracing HRA and making investments in staff education as well as dedicating floor space to High Resolution Audio formats.”

Until now, he said, “education and the ability to easily access content has been some of the most notable shortcomings, and both are being addressed.”

Bob Goedken, GM of Yamaha’s AV division, agrees that demand is building, but “developing the demand from the non-audiophile customer will take time.” Streaming services have started to go after these consumers, but “demand building for high-resolution audio will take a lot of effort from all in the audio industry to make it desirable to mainstream customers.”

Recent education efforts include Sony’s High-Res Listening Stations, which rolled out late last year in almost 80 Best Buy Magnolia Design Center stores nationwide. Also late last year, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) teamed up with Sound & Vision to develop a High-Res Audio (HRA) guide to help retailers demonstrate and sell high-res audio products. The two also developed a consumer guide available online at Sound & Vision’s website.

For his part, David Chesky, cofounder of high-res download site HDtracks, contends the “market is starting to expand beyond audiophiles to the serious music collector with the advent of all these new high-res lifestyle players, such as the new Sony and Astell & Kern models, compounded with the dozens of portable high-res DACs and players coming out every few months.”

He also says he is satisfied with the level of high-res promotion to date.” High-res music is something you cannot promote on every billboard and sidewalk,” he said. “It has to be promoted via the hardware to a serious music fan who is interested in better audio. And the giant hardware companies such as Sony with their new listening stations in the Magnolia/Best Buy stores are doing just this.”