Streaming Series, Part 1: Expert Opinions on High-Res Audio  

Streaming Series, Part 1: Expert Opinions on High-Res Audio  

A decade or so ago, consumers favored convenience over quality, but a focus on the latter has become far more prevalent—especially for those who are willing to pay for it.

“People are paying up for better quality,” says Joe Piccirilli, CEO at Rosewater Energy Group.

Piccirilli, who has a formidable background in the AV industry, believes there has been a significant shift in the industry with individuals—particularly Millennials—beginning to seek not only accessibility in their audio and video services, but also the highest resolution available.

“It’s like what’s happening on college campuses with vinyl records,” says Piccirilli. “The fact is people are looking for something different and better. It’s a huge trend.”

In part one of our streaming series, we will focus on this trend of high-res audio and how it relates to the luxury market.

If clients are able to afford it, odds are they will pay the price for the best possible quality. LUX builders can capitalize on this with the right service, equipment and a strong network to tie it all together.

RELATED: Hearing the Future: High-Res Audio in Multifamily

Tidal Making Waves in Streaming Audio Industry

TIDALPiccirilli points to a specific service capitalizing on the high-res audio trend—Tidal Music. It’s a subscription-based streaming service that features lossless audio, which is a far higher standard than MP3s or the streaming quality of popular services such as Pandora and Spotify.

In fact, Piccirilli often conducts his own qualitative straw polls with friends and family by queuing up the same song on Tidal versus another streaming platform. “I have never had anyone say to me they can’t hear the difference,” says Piccirilli. “Everybody goes ‘Wow! What’s that?!’”

Joe Whitaker, founder and president of Joe Whitaker Designs and The Thoughtful Home, vehemently agrees with Tidal’s presence in the industry, deeming it the “Pandora Killer.”

Currently, small speakers, such as those from Sonos, work wonders with Tidal. But the future is in whole home audio.
Currently, small speakers, such as those from Sonos, work wonders with Tidal. But the future is in whole home audio.

“Tidal is the future of music. Its build, its format, the way it works, its usability and having that quality—it’s the future of music. Hands down,” says Whitaker, who is also on the board of directors for the Custom Electronics Design & Installation Association (CEDIA).

Whitaker and Piccirilli both point to Sonos and a few others for embracing Tidal, yet Whitaker argues that much of this is still high quality audio passing through small speakers and headphones.

He believes the crux of the luxury industry will be based in whole home audio—big distribution amps, great audio switching and including Tidal service in your packages to tie it all together.

Network Infrastructure: Wired v. Wireless

Devices will therefore make services, such as Tidal, better. For the luxury market, Whitaker says Tidal, Amazon and Sony are the industry kings with solutions for 4K video and high-res audio.

“They’ve done a brilliant job partnering with manufacturers to build the stuff into boxes. Sonos and Control4 are perfect examples. You buy one of those boxes and it already comes with the high-res streaming service,” says Whitaker.

Now, however, he adds that builders and integrators need to keep a close eye on their network.

“The network portion has to be legitimate,” says Whitaker. “It has to be basically small business class to be able to handle the bandwidth of the streaming.”

Piccirilli agrees, believing that the focus must not be only on convenience but also how to realistically achieve sonic quality AV in the TecHome.

Expect more wired solutions to handle all the bandwidth of streaming services.
Expect more wired solutions to handle all the bandwidth of streaming services.

“If I’m at home listening to Tidal, and my kids are streaming high definition movies, that’s some serious strain on the wireless system,” says Piccirilli. “And if my power goes down, now I’m totally out of business. I’d have to sync everything back up.”

In order to handle this bandwidth, Piccirilli says that more often than not, people are going to seek wired solutions.

“You have to have as many lanes on the highway as possible, because traffic is going to get heavier, not lighter. If you can install wired properly, you’re going to use it. You’d have to be out of your mind not to,” says Piccirilli.

Whitaker agrees there will be far more wired networks for supporting streaming devices. However, he also believes we are going to encounter faster and larger wireless networks, because these devices will need to be controlled by something running on Wi-Fi. This includes home automation touchscreens, smartphones and tablets.

“The interface has to be as fast and responsive as the media,” says Whitaker.

streaming graphic

Stay tuned for Streaming Services Part 2, where we will focus on 4K streaming, home theaters and how to best market these technologies to your luxury clients.

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About The Author

Greg Vellante is a staff writer and multimedia specialist at TecHome Builder, as well as a content coordinator for AE Ventures events. He has over a decade of experience writing for various publications on topics that range from cinema to editorials to home technology. His favorite technologies fall into the A/V and home entertainment realm, and he’s keeping a close eye on the rising trends in robotics and virtual/augmented reality. Greg resides in Boston, holds a degree in Media Studies from Emerson College and pursues screenwriting/filmmaking in his free time.

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  1. Mike Grubb

    I have a great amount of respect for Joe Whitaker and Joe Piccirilli. This article does not present any tangible market data to support the claims. When it comes to whole house audio it becomes a totally different mode of listening and to draw a distinction between High Res (example Tidal) and medium quality (example Spotify) it then becomes passive listening where High Res is not needed or a noticeable difference. The small segment of business that comes from the Luxury market compared to the broad market is a clear differentiator. Mainstream goes the way of convenience. I totally agree with Joe Whitaker on the necessity of a reliable networking system comparable to small business enterprise grade products.

  2. Joe Whitaker

    Mike couldn’t agree with you more. The purpose of this article was to address the Lux market, not necessarily the broad market. In the Lux market these hold true. When high end architectural or free standing speakers are used in a distributed audio environment that require a minimal of crystal clear 100 watts per channel the above holds as fact. over 50% of our clientele meet this criteria. For broad market it is a totally different scenario indeed. Which creates are go to scenario of Sonos and the Control4 EA1. Don’t get me wrong, Both brands are still used in our Lux installs as source components! Thanks for point out the difference between broad market and Lux market. That contrast does need to be noted.


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