Yusuke Tashiro is an acoustic engineer with Sony Mobile and part of the team that delivered the new audio features on Xperia Z3. In this post he talks about Hi-Res Audio, what it is, and why Sony is introducing it into its Xperia smartphones.
Smartphones have, for years now, been far more than just phones. They are our day–to-day camera, our diary, our email reader and, amongst many other things, our primary music player. It is strange to think about how much smartphone technology has changed and yet it’s even stranger when you think that despite all this change, the format in which we listen to digital music has staid mostly the same since the mid 90s.
All that is changing now. The main reason we kept the same format of music was file size. At first, storage was an issue so we needed to keep files small, then, as streaming services became more popular it was bandwidth – we needed files that could stream easily. But now, high capacity memory cards (up to 128GB) are relatively cheap and 4G data speeds are increasing and, as these technologies are evolving, so is the way we listen to music. Hi-Res Audio already has the backing of major record labels (including Sony) and in Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3 Compact and Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact we are making it even easier for consumers to use.
But what is it? Analogue sound comes in waves, if we want to turn that into digital files, we have to measure those waves so that the software can re-create them later. Normal audio (CD quality) samples (or measures) the audio 44,100 every second, that’s an industry standard (44.1 kHz) and it’s called the “sample rate.” The problem is that when you measure sound like this you miss bits of the audio. Hi-Res audio measures the sound at least 96,000 times per second (and often even quicker), and by increasing the sample rate you get a much more accurate recording of the original sound.
Xperia Z2 was compatible with Hi-Res Audio but you needed a converter to listen to it. So in Xperia Z3, we’ve built that converter into the phone. If you have Hi-Res compatible headphones you can just plug them in to the headphone jack like any other pair and listen away.
Hi-Res Audio sounds incredible and we’re convinced that as the barriers to its adoption come down it will only become more and more popular. However we also understand that most people’s music collections are not yet in Hi-Res. That’s why we also included Sony’s DSEE HX “up-scaling” technology in the Xperia Z3 series. DSEE HX uses an algorithm to analyse your music and automatically replace the “lost” information so that the quality is almost as good as true Hi-Res Audio quality.
Our over-riding goal at Sony is to create products that have an emotional connection with customers, so whether that’s a camera that captures a moment just like you remember it or an audio experience that takes you straight back to the gig you loved, you can rest assured that we are constantly striving deliver experiences that are inseparable from the real thing. Xperia Z3 series represents the latest developments on our road to doing just that.