While it may sound like a very general ‘catch-all’ term, when audio is “Hi-Fi”, it’s a sign of it being of a very refined level of quality, one that should please even the pickiest of audiophiles.
What is Hi-Fi short for, then? Simply, Hi-Fi means High Fidelity. We can take this to mean what it represents in terms of the very principles of how sound is reproduced: a more exact or “true-to-life” audio playback would be considered Hi-Fi.
This is important in the realm of sound reproduction. Even the best MP3 players are ultimately limited by design, as MP3 files will inevitably be of lower quality as compared to their successor, the MP4 – practically taken to be AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) files known by their .M4A extension, which, in essence, is the audio component of the MP4.
Still, have we achieved High Fidelity just by preserving more of the original signal at the same file size (making files smaller and the quality higher)?
Not exactly. For that, we’ll have to move up towards .WAV and FLAC files… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
What Is Hi-Fi Used For?
If you purchase the best studio headphones but use them to listen to an online audio stream of a local music channel from somewhere in Italy, being broadcast to the source via a free-to-air on digital terrestrial and C-Band satellite and then being replayed on a YouTube channel that you can only play in 360p due to spotty data coverage in your upper floor bedroom, then even in this hypothetical example, it’s possible that some of us might have forgotten all about those expensive headphones we started off with.
Point being; equipment can’t help with anything if the source is replicated so many times so as to be unpreserved in its original quality.
Good headphones can only work with good audio, in simpler words.
Hence, what is Hi-Fi’s primary purpose, defined by the benefits? The accurate reproduction of the signals that make up the audio in question, adding to more clarity, less noise, better ambiance, little to no communication errors, greater “mileage” for the audio (since less will be lost in replication due to the strength of the signal being robust to begin with) especially for commercial or public purposes, as well as just simply greater enjoyment and ease.
What Is Hi-Fi’s Popularity Due To?
After a decade of people being infatuated with files small enough to send and receive quickly over slow Internet connections, and streaming audio that was optimized to make sure users didn’t shut off the site in frustration, Hi-Fi audio is now rising in popularity.
Streaming and Hi-Fi audio are not incompatible now, with the global average download and upload speeds being significantly higher and more reliably than it was just a decade ago. This, coupled with the renewed interest in and a resurgence of analog formats (evidenced by the vinyl comeback), has allowed streaming services such as Tidal to lead the charge in providing Hi-Fi audio subscription packages to audiophiles, cashing in on the market previously “dominated” by indie services such as Bandcamp.
Even Spotify’s “High” quality option offers 320KBPS Ogg Vorbis, comparatively more Hi-Fi compared to the old MP3 and M4A codecs, signaling the trend of rising fidelity and a demand for better quality acoustic by music fans (and audiobook and podcast enthusiasts!).
What Is Hi-Fi Audio Listened To On?
This is the question that will complete our understanding of this concept. Hi-Fi audio isn’t some “new” form of advanced hearing only for those will heightened sensibility and a connoisseur’s taste in arts and entertainment, but in fact, possesses a more natural and comfortable audio range, thus making everything “pop out” as more clear and crisp when compared to ‘lossy’ file formats.
If we take FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) to be the gold standard of Hi-Fi audio (and indeed, that is the format Tidal streams in on both the Masters and Hi-Fi plan, then you’d need some specific apps for the iPhone, with native support limited to using AAC formats as the “Hi-Fi” format of choice. Android and Windows phones, however, are generally more receptive towards both FLAC and WAV, allowing you to listen to music, podcast, and audiobooks the closest to how it was all recorded in the studio.
However, before you go spending the big bucks on a Chromecast Audio player or a similarly dedicated Hi-Fi audio system, head over to some FLAC retailers online to test it out for yourself if the sound quality is really more noticeable. No matter what articles might tell you, the situation is – as the saying goes – of the taste of the pudding being in the eating.