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In the early days, to enjoy lossless audio quality, one had to convert CDs personally or resort to some 'less conventional' methods. However, in recent years, various online streaming platforms have officially introduced legitimate lossless audio quality services. So, what are the platforms that provide lossless audio quality, and how can we listen to lossless audio quality using existing devices? This article aims to address common questions about lossless audio quality, helping enthusiasts quickly set up their 'mini' home theaters!
Is Hi-Res Equivalent to Lossless Audio? Can my Headphones/speakers support Hi-Res?
The term 'lossless audio' doesn't have a concrete definition. Generally, CD quality is considered lossless. Hi-Res Audio, on the other hand, is an audio specification set by SONY, requiring a minimum sampling frequency of 24bit/96kHz, surpassing the standard CD's 16bit/44.1kHz. Hi-Res can be seen as a benchmark, but achieving true lossless sound for your ears involves various conditions. Next, we'll dissect how to listen to lossless audio quality on wired, wireless, and traditional audio systems.
Source of Lossless Audio: Signal Sources
Well-known KKBOX officially launched its highest-quality 16bit CD audio (Hi-Fi quality) and 24bit Hi-Res at the end of 2020. Available for both iOS and Android with two plans: individual and family.
Family Plan (up to three members)
Advantages of KKBOX Lossless Audio Service
KKBOX's main advantage is its relatively lower cost compared to foreign services, with a vast collection of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean music. No need for complicated setups like VPNs; it can be used directly. Additionally, you can switch audio quality directly in the app menu, making it relatively convenient for testing devices. Audiophile Chen Ning's review mentions solid drum beats, deep dives, and impressive power.
Disadvantages of KKBOX Lossless Audio Service
Relative scarcity of English and Western songs, and the biggest drawback is it doesn't compatible with Roon.
Advantages of Tidal Lossless Audio Streaming
TIDAL is arguably the earliest platform to introduce lossless and Hi-Res music streaming. It supports a maximum of 24bit/384kHz MQA-encoded music streaming, compressing music to approximately CD quality, allowing for high-quality enjoyment while saving bandwidth. Many users find it a good choice for those who love listening to hip-hop music.
Disadvantages of Tidal Lossless Audio Streaming
Tidal has not launched its service in Taiwan, and registration is not possible. To use Tidal in Taiwan, you can either use VPN, register with a U.S. Apple account, or purchase Roon services.
Additionally, after the closure of MQA-encoded music streaming, Tidal officially announced parting ways with MQA around April this year, adopting Hi-Res FLAC services instead. This change has diminished the platform's distinctive features.
Advantages of Qobuz Lossless Audio Streaming
Qobuz is often compared to Tidal. According to subjective listener opinions online, Qobuz is considered better than Tidal, especially in classical and jazz music. It not only offers a rich selection of tracks but also boasts excellent tuning.
Disadvantages of Qobuz Lossless Audio Streaming
Similar to Tidal, direct purchase is not possible in Taiwan, requiring VPN, group purchases, proxy purchases, or downloading the APK file on an Android phone. Some users have also faced issues with credit card payment failures.
How to Listen to Lossless Audio with Wired Headphones?
Before purchasing relevant equipment, it's recommended to consider your music listening habits and assess existing devices. As mentioned earlier, to use wired headphones for lossless audio, you must first familiarize yourself with the DAC, a small device well-known among digital enthusiasts.
DAC, or Digital-to-Analog Converter, restores digital signals to analog signals, allowing us to hear the sound of digital audio files. The difference between analog and digital signals lies in continuity; analog signals are continuous, while digital signals, composed of 0s and 1s, are discontinuous. DACs come in various types. If you're using a computer, it will have its own DAC, and the same goes for using a phone. This article won't delve into DAC discussion.
How to Listen to Lossless Audio with Wireless Headphones?
The conditions for listening to lossless audio with wireless headphones are more complex. Due to Bluetooth's inherent 2,000kbps transmission speed (bandwidth) limitation, most wireless headphones do not support complete lossless formats. Hence, if you insist on comparing wired and wireless, using wired headphones with a DAC is a better choice.
Currently, on the market, wireless headphones supporting HiFi-level transmission are mainly Qualcomm's aptX HD (High Definition Audio) and SONY LDAC (Low Latency Encoding). However, Apple's iPhones and Mac computers do not support these two wireless transmission formats. Meanwhile, AirPods series headphones only support Bluetooth AAC transmission, limiting the advantage of enjoying lossless audio quality. All current AirPods and Beats headphones can only support Dolby Atmos spatial audio.
Although wireless headphones cannot deliver lossless audio quality, Apple users can at least use AirPlay to stream at 16bit/48kHz, achieving audio quality comparable to CDs. In terms of bandwidth limitations, Bluetooth cannot surpass AirPlay based on Wi-Fi.
How to Listen to Lossless Audio with Traditional Audio Systems?
This question largely depends on your budget, as most audio enthusiasts would tell you. The well-known audio magazine, What Hi-Fi, provides three guidelines:
- Consider usage scenarios and budget: Decide what type and level of audio products to purchase based on your music sources, functional requirements, space limitations, and budget.
- Pay attention to equipment compatibility and placement: Ensure compatibility and coordination between audio equipment, adjust the position and angle of speakers based on room size and characteristics for the best soundstage and dynamics, commonly known as the 'emperor's seat.'
- Don't overlook cables: Invest in good-quality cables, audio racks, and speaker stands to enhance the performance and stability of the audio system. Avoid interference from power cables and signal cables, and use dedicated power outlets.
Indeed, assembling a good traditional audio system requires significant effort and cost. This is why Aerix is dedicated to the design and development of all-in-one audio systems, aiming to bring high-quality audio that aligns with modern lifestyles and situations.
How to Listen to Lossless Audio with DUET MK3 All-in-One Audio System?
The WiFi connection guide for iPhone users
For iPhone users, simply connect the phone's AirPlay to DUET MK3 during the initial connection. Afterwards, just open the streaming software, and (Android users need to install DTS Play, refer to the manual for detailed connection steps).
1. Enter the phone's "Settings" > "Wi-Fi," wait for about 30 seconds, and a prompt will appear to “Set up new AIRPLAY speakers.”
2. Click "Play-Fi Device (XXXXXX)," and customize the speaker name or set a password as needed.
3. After clicking next, wait for the machine to display "WiFi Connected," indicating a successful connection.
This article compiles common questions related to lossless audio quality, including methods to listen with wired and wireless headphones and a comparison of lossless streaming platforms. Due to Bluetooth's bandwidth limitations, it's basically impossible to transmit lossless audio quality. Traditional audio systems require the purchase of various devices and cables to achieve lossless audio quality. Therefore, we recommend using DUET MK3 with AirPlay. Simply plug in the audio cable and follow three easy steps to effortlessly enjoy lossless audio quality at home!"