The range of avaliable audio-playback formats has reached an unprecedented diversity. For a long time vinyl, CD and tapes dominated the market, though with the rapid development in computer technology, digital formats and similar transfer technologies are ever establishing themselves attractive alternatives. The development of new technology and innovation is by no means complete and with the increasing diversity and complexity has increased significantly. All this is reason enough for Hifi-und-Friends.de to address the essential premise of better listening by a blog series of the same name, focusing on new and old technologies.
In the first part of the series the ‘local’ streaming is the focus. “Local” because the streaming of music wasn’t just through the internet, but via special streaming devices. Digitally stored content from one device – i.e. a Mp3 player, a laptop, or a dedicated audio network players – is transferred digitally to the amplifier and eventually to the speakers. Here are the two key factors creating the highest possible quality transmission: the data format and the transmission method.
Rather than jumping straight into the jungle of abbreviations (.wav, .flac., .aac, aiff, .ogg … the list could go on and on) so let’s make some basic distinctions. First, there are compressed and non-compressed audio formats. The rationale is to reduce the amount of data in sub-optimal transmission opportunities (to compress the data), so that a liquid stream is guaranteed.
In this context, one needs an understanding of the importance of the bit rate, as it is the index of Mp3 files (i.e. common values of 128 kbit/s , 192 kbit /s, 320 kbit/s). Here, the data ‘throughput’ rate per second is measured and limited so that per unit of time a certain amount of data is not exceeded. This ensures that the weaker links are not overwhelmed with large amounts of data.
But this still is not enough. The compression of audio files can be both lossy and lossless. Algorithms that are lossless, allow a bit-identical reconstruction of the original signal, while the latter store the signal in less relevant shares only approximately saved or rather totally clipped. The concerns about very high frequencies are that at the upper end of the human auditory spectrum with the assessment of lossy codecs, the bit rate provides the decisive clue about the expected audio quality.
A good reference point when assessing lossless formats is the good old CD. Because the music is stored in digital form on it, there is no continuously varying groove like on an analogue record, but so-called “pits” and “lands” that are scanned by the laser in a CD player. The disc cooperates with a word width of 16 bits and a sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz. These values refer to the accuracy with which the audio signal is digitally represented. Audio files can also be refined much more and, for example, with 24 and 32 bit word length; sampling boasts up to 192 kHz. This particularly high word lengths and sampling frequencies has played area of music production a role. Since there takes place the first A/D conversion of the recorded signals takes place first, usually weighs the argument here the highest possible precision in digital imaging far greater than aspects such as the file size or the transmission speed. Meanwhile, however, space is hardly worth mentioning and also the data transfer is faster and more stable. Thus, the high-resolution files are also interesting for the end user.
Methods of Transfer
Much like the file formats, there are also the subject of transfer different systems and, accordingly, merits and limitations which need to be considered . One option is the transmission via the Ethernet port. This wired version (with CAT6 or CAT7 network cable) provides a fast and reliable transfer of even large amounts of data – great for high quality audio and video material.
Alternatively there is the option to stream via wireless LAN. On cable can be largely avoided. This ensures order and looks good. However, there are also some disadvantages. Wi-Fi networks spark in a relatively small frequency range, so that they interfere with each other often in confined spaces. This can just lead in urban areas to problems with the connection speed. The use of wireless repeaters affects the transmission also. In order to better assess which networks are active on site and are available which channels for interference-free connection as possible, there are corresponding analysis tools, such as the program inSSIDer (http://www.metageek.net/products/insider/) .
As a rule of thumb, data at CD quality and below can be relatively easy to stream via Wi- Fi. However, high-resolution music and video files, trip-up most wireless networks: sporadic errors and drop-outs can occur during transmission. This can be remedied a PowerLAN in this case. This data is fed via socket adapter of a network cable into the household power supply. The high speed and easy set-up are for the PowerLAN standard. In addition, the system is relatively secure against interference. Problems can occur when different circuit breakers are made available.
Advantages of Streaming
Some of the benefits have already been addressed. To provide “hi-res” audio files in studio quality, audiophile pleasure that can go far beyond the familiar CD quality. First there is the option of convenient access from anywhere in the house with its own repository and various parameters such as volume, song selection, etc. to be able to adapt to the situation, especially those when you just do not want to get up from the sofa. Thanks to a wide range of online radio stations, online streaming services and download portals, also have new content at any time.
Another highlight: so-called multi-room solutions bring picture and sound in all rooms. This can range from a central point and from each according to need multiple screens and speaker arrangements — both classic in stereo, as well as in multichannel setups — are recorded . The integration of different devices, for example, iDevices, smartphones, MP3 players or USB sticks, opens up a tremendous flexibility and the many Apps and individual control options for your system
Although the topic of streaming in home electronics has only just reared its head, it’s certainly no short-lived trend rather the future for such technology. The haptic media is relegated into a niche market and while it retains relevance high-quality digital contents fluctuate in ever faster and more stable network and available to the user at any time and any place available.
The desire for high-end digital music enjoyment has now arrived in industry and music distributors. Recently saw Neil Young with his PonoPlayer headlines, let its crowdfunding campaign within 24 hours of the initial target of $ 800,000 far behind. In addition, there are rumors that Apple may soon offer high-resolution music files from the iTunes Store. This step in turn would put competitors under pressure. Thus, the chances are good that the offer audio files grows at “Hi-Res” in the future and the access by the large suppliers is greatly facilitated .
If we’ve got you full of curiousity, we want to advise you comprehensively. We are available by phone: 030 253 753 10, by email: eShop@hifi-im-hinterhof.de and of course face-to-face at Großbeerenstraße 65/66 in Berlin-Kreuzberg from Monday to Friday 10:00 to 19:00 and on Saturdays 10:00 to 15:00
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