How to Find and Play High-resolution Audio on the Mac

Martin Wilson

Aug 02, 2022

First, look at what qualifies a file as "high-resolution." It is common for music to be compressed when it is purchased online. At 256 kbps AAC, which iTunes sells, Amazon provides MP3 files at about the same bit rate.

There is a significant discrepancy between these bit rates and the 1411 kbps of audio CDs. Generally, most people can't tell the difference between a CD and an MP3 or other compressed file, but this can vary widely.

In addition to the bit rate, you can receive audio files with a more excellent resolution than a CD, but there's more to it. Audio on CDs is encoded at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz and a bit depth of 16 bits.

The higher the "bit depth," or the number of bits of data collected for each sample, the better; the more bits, the more accurate. As a result, this is known as the sample rate, the number of "frames" of sound a second produces.

There are 44,100 samples per second at a sampling rate of 44.1kHz. This means that 24-bit and 96kHz high-resolution files have three times as much data per second than CD-quality audio.

This is the maximum sample rate Macs can play so that I won't bother with higher-resolution files like 24-bit and 88.1kHz or even 192kHz. Also, 5.1-channel surround mixes may be purchased online, but you'll need specialized equipment to play them back.)

Finding High Resolution

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There are currently several websites that offer these files for sale. For example, HDtracks and iTrax (Rolling Stones, John Coltrane, Eric Clapton, etc.) are "stores" that offer records from various companies, such as the San Francisco Symphony and Afro Cuban Latin Jazz Project.

Many of these classical labels are run by people who own record labels. You might want to look at some smaller but higher-resolution labels like Channel Classics, Gimel, Linn Records, and Da Capo.

In addition to classical and The Classical Shop, several other classical music stores sell high-resolution files from the several labels they represent. Live recordings of Phish performances are now available in various formats, including MP3, Apple Lossless, FLAC, and FLAC-HD (24/96).

These file formats are available from various labels and bands on the internet. Even while high-resolution digital audiophile files have a cachet similar to vinyl in the digital realm, they're becoming increasingly popular among musicians.

Playing High Resolution

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iTunes or other apps can play files up to 24/96 natively on Macs. Audio files having a quality higher than 16-bit/44.1kHz will be automatically downsampled unless a few parameters are tweaked.

To begin, change your sound output to 24-bit/96-bit. /Applications/Utilities/Audio MIDI Setup is where you'll find it. Make sure that the Format section on the right is set to 96000.0 kHz and 2ch-24bit after you select the appropriate output on the left.

The lower-resolution files will be up-sampled to 24/96 (regrettably, it will not improve their sound) once you've made this modification; you may listen to files at any show a clear to and including 24/96.

Please be aware that some apps may have issues with audio files that are larger than 16/44.1. You'll have to go back to 44100.0 kHz and 2ch-16bit for the time being if any of your programs don't play audio correctly following this modification.

Now, let's go to the files. FLAC is the most used format for selling high-resolution files. Free software like Stephen Booth's Play, Vincent Spader's Cog, or the Songbird open-source player may be used to play these files as is.

You may use tmkk's free XLD to convert these FLAC files to Apple Lossless and then import them into iTunes. You'll be able to view the actual bit rate of the files if you do this, of course.

Bit rates ranged from 2400 kbps to 2800 kbps for some files in 24/96 format, while bit rates ranged from 500 kbps to 600 kbps for files converted to typical lossless files at CD quality (in Apple Lossless format). (Note that you will not be able to play these files on an iPod or iPhone).

Are High-Resolution Files Worth it?

It costs extra to download high-resolution files. CD-quality lossless MP3s can be twice as expensive as 24-bit/96kHz files. A decent stereo system is required to get the most out of these files, and an external DAC connected to your Mac is required for the highest-quality 192kHz files.

Although it's difficult to pinpoint precisely why I discovered that some files sounded better than CD-quality versions of the same songs, there was greater depth, the music was more nuanced, the soundstage was more extensive, and the dynamic range was more comprehensive in certain situations.

That is to say, whether or not larger files and higher prices are worth it depends on your preferences, listening habits, and the quality of the equipment you own. The only way to know for sure is to download any of these high-resolution files and give them a shot.

Listeners have a significant impact on the quality of a piece of music. Start looking for high-res audio if you think these files sound better and have adequate stereo equipment. If not, you're better off using CDs or downloads at the standard bit rates. Take it all in stride and have a good time.


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