CES 2007: High Performance Audio and Home Theater First Look

We attended a pre-CES show floor sneak peak at the latest trends in high-resolution audio, otherwise known as HD audio, at the High Performance Audio and Home Theater press event. This unique press event seemed more like a music industry CD listening party as several tracks were compared between a downloaded HD audio file from musicgiants.com (24bit 88.2kHz) and a standard iTunes tune (128kbit aac file) including Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones), Temptation (Diana Krall) and a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Also played was an original mono recording of Sloop John B (The Beach Boys) which sounded excellent as well.

Of course, the high end system setup in the demo room running Thiel speakers (the much anticipated CS3.7 at $9,900/pair) really showed a dramatic difference between the formats. We disagree at how much of a difference we’d notice using an iPod with the standard headphones that come with the iPod.

Basically, High Definition audio is not a new technology but a marketing speak (made up by CEA) for lossless audio. The “truth” came out when one prickly press guy accused the presenters that HD Audio was just a CEA marketing campaign and not a new technology.

Musicgiant’s FAQ describes High Definition Music Download™ as:

High definition music downloadsâ„¢ are the highest quality download available for your home theater. The sound quality of this download is equal to a CD. It is an uncompressed digital file, unlike the MP3 which is compressed 7 times. The High Definition download is encoded in the Lossless WMA (Windows Media Audio) format.

The Geeks are not sure why you would spend between $15 and $20 for an album download from MusicGiants when you could purchase the Red Book CD (audio CD) for less and have physical media that you could rip in a format without loss.

We did score a couple of tickets to the Benson and Jarreau concert on Tuesday at 10pm in the Venetian Ballroom. Since we can’t make it, if you are interested and at CES, leave us a comment and we’ll pass them over to you Sunday or Monday.