Do We Even Want High Definition Audio? by Matthew Slater

In this modern age we have all manner of advancements  in terms of consumer technology. In the eighties we saw the advent of CDs and home video, and everything since then has grown and grown. CRT went on to become LCD, which was overtaken by Plasma and LED. DVDs gave us a better picture and then Blu-ray came along and blew us all away – in 3D.  All this technology has become standard in homes across the nation, with many of you considering the upgrade at the very least. Shame we all still listen to CDs. Worse than this, what technology has evolved that's given us a better listening experience? Few of us have surround sound, MP3 players allow us to listen to more music but at a lesser quality than CD – quantity over quality. Even those of us that care about audio in the digital realm listen to the FLAC format, usually downsampled from CD, so still not any better! The problem is that those formats that do feature a higher quality of audio (like Super Audio CDs and DVD-Audio) are only bought by a small audience, so it isn't as widespread as say, Blu-ray is. Even if we bought into it, it'd still be listened to on terrible equipment. We as a nation are prepared to spend more money on a TV that gives us a better picture, but not on speakers and setups that give us a better sound. It's because we don't perceive audio as finely as we do picture. You could argue that tis is because it is our first, and most prominent sense – featuring more in our daily lives than anything else. We live in the age where we prefer low quality MP3s and over-compression and all of these other sound no-no's. The only way that high definition audio is going make any sort of inroads is if we find an affordable way of giving listeners sounds that they've never heard before – a way of blowing them away. The formats that we've come up with just aren't cutting the mustard, and if we don't find a way then music, sound effects, dialogue and everything else in the sonic soundscape that we hold dear might be given a backseat and left out in the cold. We need to find a way to save sound - sadly that's not going to be with the cinema, where we'll be more obsessed with what we can see than what we can hear, until we learn to listen a little closer.