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Sony Centers Its Audio Focus On High-Res

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. – Sony is taking a leadership role in the fledgling high-res audio market but is intent on cooperating with rival companies to ensure that market can grow.

In an executive roundtable held here earlier this month, Sony president Mike Fasulo sat beside Universal Music Group’s VP of technology and production VP, global digital business, Jim Belcher, and extolled the virtues of market creation.

“It would have been easy to have someone from Sony Music here to talk about high-res audio, but by having Jim here I wanted to illustrate the importance of creating a market,” Fasulo said. “Like we did with 4K TV, it’s going to take all brands working together to support the format, to make it as simple as possible for the customer. I liken it to the rollout of high-definition TV. There were many companies, many of them no longer in the TV business, who had their own terminology, their own definitions of what high-def was. There was not a unified message to the consumer, and because of that there was confusion. Confusion can stall a category.”

Belcher agreed that keeping it simple is key. “Our message for high-res audio is that now we have the technology and ability to give the customer the exact same file — not a derivative of that file — but the exact same file the artist, the producer and engineer heard in the mastering facility, and we find that people really react to that. … They want to be in that studio with that artist. It’s really what drives high-res audio.”

Though the category is only in its third year, Belcher sees great promise. “We have seen a lot of growth in the download business for high-res audio. It’s still a very small category but we probably tripled our revenue in the last year, which is very encouraging. We look for even more growth when the more entry-level high-res players become available in the market.”

Belcher said Universal and Sony are working together, along with the third major music company, Warner, through the Digital Entertainment Group and Recording Industry Association of America, to standardize definitions and terminology and share best practices.

But, Fasulo added, Sony is not intent on taking a backseat to anyone in the market. “We have the broadest line of high-res audio hardware on the market, with 29 products. We will continue to lead this category and, as we are doing with 4K TV, continue to offer the highest- quality user experience to the consumer. We hope that we can resonate the needs of the customer and bring back the sense of quality in the music.”