Head­phones can be hi-res too...

It’s not sim­ply play­ers that can reap hi-res ben­e­fits

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Feature -

There’s no deny­ing the hi-res au­dio boom that’s oc­curred over the past few years, and just as con­sumers have upped their in­ter­est in get­ting their ears around bet­ter qual­ity mu­sic, so man­u­fac­tur­ers have sup­ported this de­sire with kit that’s ca­pa­ble of play­ing it.

To help make the buy­ing de­ci­sion eas­ier for con­sumers, the Ja­pan Au­dio So­ci­ety (JAS) and the Con­sumer Tech­nol­ogy As­so­ci­a­tion (CTA) de­vel­oped a stan­dard for high-res­o­lu­tion au­dio in late 2014, and in the process, de­vel­oped the Hi-res Au­dio logo you’ll have seen on all man­ner of au­dio prod­ucts. This can be dis­played, un­der li­cense, on any kit that sup­ports the stan­dard as agreed by this al­liance.

And that in­cludes, of course, head­phones. But are hi-res head­phones just a gim­mick or is some­thing to be said for buy­ing the badge? It's not quite as clear cut as you might think…

What are hi-res head­phones?

There is at least a spec­i­fi­ca­tion for hi-res ear­phones. In or­der to carry the Hi-res Au­dio logo on their pack­ag­ing, head­phones need to pro­duce an up­per fre­quency of at least 40khz.

That’s way above the lim­its of hu­man hear­ing, which sits around 20khz (or lower, de­pend­ing on your age), but that doesn’t mean the sound in­for­ma­tion sit­ting out­side this range is use­less to the lis­tener. If head­phones are ca­pa­ble of play­ing back the full har­monic struc­ture of a note, it will help to en­sure the part we can hear is as fully formed as it can be, rather than be­ing clipped in any way.

Ask the man­u­fac­tur­ers and they will tell you that head­phones with­out the logo may ex­pe­ri­ence a fre­quency roll-off when your mu­sic pushes the outer lim­its of the 20Hz-20khz range. They ei­ther don’t re­pro­duce ex­treme fre­quen­cies par­tic­u­larly well, or they can’t han­dle them at all.

Hi-res Au­dio head­phones claim to han­dle the full spec­trum of hi-res au­dio with­out break­ing a sweat to en­sure no sonic de­tail is lost. And ul­ti­mately, your mu­sic sounds bet­ter. That's the the­ory.

Of course you're go­ing to get this fre­quency range only from hi-res mu­sic, so if your col­lec­tion doesn’t stretch past CDS or stream­ing, it’s un­likely you'd ben­e­fit from this par­tic­u­lar spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

Do hi-res head­phones sound bet­ter?

This is where things get just a lit­tle bit tricky. Just be­cause a pair of head­phones is em­bla­zoned with the Hi-res Au­dio logo, doesn’t mean they’ll sound bet­ter than a pair that doesn’t have the badge.

This is a tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tion (and ul­ti­mately, to be frank, a clever mar­ket­ing ploy – head­phones have been ca­pa­ble of this band­width long be­fore the Hi-res Au­dio logo) and so has no say over bal­ance, tim­ing, dy­nam­ics, de­tail or any­thing else that makes a pair of head­phones great.

So are hi-res head­phones go­ing to sound bet­ter than 'nor­mal' head­phones? As ever, the proof can only be in the ears of the be­holder and in the lis­ten­ing.

What hi-res head­phones are avail­able?

But if you do want to buy into the brand­ing, most of the big-name man­u­fac­tur­ers do now have head­phones car­ry­ing the Hi-res Au­dio logo. These in­clude Au­dio-tech­nica, Onkyo, Philips, RHA, Sennheiser and Sony. In­deed smart­phone man­u­fac­turer HTC was ship­ping Hi-res Au­dio cer­ti­fied head­phones with the ex­cel­lent HTC 10 smart­phone more than a year ago.

It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing, though, that just be­cause a prod­uct doesn’t have the logo, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t reach the stan­dard. Man­u­fac­tur­ers have to pay to use the Hi-res Au­dio badge, and so it’s worth look­ing at the head­phone’s spec­i­fi­ca­tion if you want to be sure it can meet your lis­ten­ing re­quire­ments.

Even bet­ter, keep your eye on the head­phone re­views on whathifi.com, where we’ll tell you which in-ear, on-ear and over-ear head­phones are worth your money - Hi-res Au­dio logo or not.

Sony’s new noise­can­cellers (re­view on p12) sport the Hi-res Au­dio logo

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.