Some people use music as aural wallpaper, like walking into a room and mindlessly turning on the TV. It keeps them company to simply chug along throughout their day. Others play music because it’s their favorite song(s). I wager any of us quickly turn up the car radio’s volume when a favorite comes on.
Others like to sit back and lose themselves in their music. It puts them in a certain mood, transporting them to another place where they kick back and joyfully bask in the sounds of a treasured artist or genre.
Now that Apple has tossed its hat into the Lossless Audio arena (for no extra charge, mind you) perhaps people will listen more attentively. Every song will reveal surprises if you sit down and give it a serious listen on good equipment.
In this review, I want to introduce you to a Audiofiles’ lossless audio app, Fidelia.
Fidelia is a high-definition audio player for sophisticated music lovers. With support for all contemporary audio file formats and an elegant interface that focuses exclusively on music, it gives users the power and the freedom to organize, customize and savor their digital music collection at the highest possible fidelity in any circumstance.
If you want to listen to the brilliance of Lossless Audio, you’re going to need at least some additional hardware. I have basic audio hardware. I have an old pair of Sennheiser Magnum cans (over-the- ear headphones), a pair of Audio Engine 2+ computer speakers , and AirPodPros.
For the full experience, no matter what playback device you choose, you’re going to require a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). You can go hog wild on the quality/financial scale but you can find very competent ones which are inexpensive.
Curiously, I played my iPhone through my van’s OEM radio and Apple’s Lossless Audio was louder and the breath of the music wider. And there was no DAC involved. And I can prove it by the numerical settings. Curious that.
At home though, you’ll want some sort of set-up to unlock the true range of Lossless Audio (not that you can’t accomplish this with a mobile rig but you’ll want to play downloaded music, other wise if you stream you’ll gobble up your data rate in a heartbeat). But you can make the most inexpensive kit sound fantastic with the right software. And that’s why I recommend Fidelia.
The first thing you should know about Fidelia is worry not – it will sync with your entire existing Apple Music library. All of the music you’ve collected over the years you’ll be able to play through Fidelia. If you have an Apple Music subscription, you’ve jumped into a sonic sandbox.
I like to purchase high-end mixes of specific albums that have meant something to me throughout my lifetime. Some are touchstones or often I simply love the album.
Example: McCartney’s “Band on the Run.” I have listened to this recording over a hundred times easily. But when I heard it in Lossless it was like a whole new album. I noticed things such as instruments that doubled a lead guitar line but where mixed way in the background to give the guitar a unique tone. Once realizing there’s a second instrument playing the identical line, then you really start to appreciate what the artist has done. That’s when you begin dissecting the recording.
Fidelia’s UI is excellent. The main player is made to look like a radio. And you can make it numerous sizes ranging from large to small. You have your Volume knob, a Dim switch that reduces the volume by 20db, and a Mute switch.
To the right of the volume knob, you’l find listed the recordings tie length, format, bit size, and file size. To the left is a progress bar displaying the song’s title, artist, the length of the song, plus the frequency timeline. At the bottom is where you access your plug-ins.
Fidelia will play any audio format you can toss its way. It comes installed with Apple plug-ins to tailor the sound to your liking. But if there’s a third-party plug-in you prefer, you can install that, too.
Finally, there’s your playlist window, where you can order the songs and playlists to your liking. And if you prefer to wirelessly stream your playlist to any speakers in your network, Fidelia supports AirPlay.
You can do the same with your EQ. I’ve heard several audiophiles state that it’s best to set your EQ flat (that would be zeroes all across the board, forming a straight line) then you’re listening to how the producers wanted the music to sound. But there will be variables. For instance, I’ve been told several times that my Sennheiser headphones are bass heavy. In that case, I’m not getting the reproduction as intended. So, it’s not a bad thing to set the sound to your liking.
There’s a great 5-minute video by Jeff Gamet about how to set up an inexpensive Lossless system. If you want to delve into more about Lossless
audio and how to set-up an inexpensive rig, watch his short You Tube video.
Let me end with my argument for Lossless Audio. Most people don’t really care whether how their music sounds because they listen to it passively; it’s on in the background when they’re performing chores, reading or hanging with friends. I believe that over time this will change for a fair number of listeners.
I recorded in studios for roughly a dozen years. We used to spend hours getting the perfect mix through expensive equipment. When we were finally satisfied, we would then jack a Boombox into the mixing desk and remix the entire track for the limitations of the Boombox as we knew most people where likely to listen to our compositions that way. Lossless Audio changes that.
As evidence, I point to the rising popularity of ‘lyric videos,’ videos that don’t feature the artist(s) but have a creative animation scrolling the song’s lyrics. If people are engaged in watching those for a song’s lyrical content, they are no longer treating their music passively. IMHO, the next step becomes paying attention to their music aurally. And that’s where Lossless Audio enters the picture.
The quality of the sound argument is very subjective and the variables are many. You may not have attuned ears. Music may not be important to your quality of life. Also, there are technical aspects. Was the original master recording pristine or a bit ragged? As they say – GIGO. And was the engineer converting the recording to lossless knowledgeable as how to bring out every last bit of presence? As with TV, some scientists claim the human eye cannot see beyond the definition of 5K. Yet we’re building 8K sets.
I conducted an informal poll of friends, family, and even a handful of strangers.
First hurdle was did they know what lossless audio was. A fair number didn’t, so there was no point questioning them any further. Others said they couldn’t hear a difference, some said they could but only on a headset. I have no percentages to present you as it was an intellectual pile-up.
I’m of the belief that one day people will listen to mainly Lossless Audio. And it will be nothing unusual to them. After all, try showing your Grandmother how to perform something simple on an iPad or iPhone. The logic doesn’t strike them so they struggle. They didn’t grow-up in a computer environment.
However, their grand kids were raised with computers all around, so it’s common place and part of an average day. Nothing special. But their grandparents don’t see it or understand it.
We’ve come to have the price of 4K TVs plummet as they’re now the norm. Were the owners knowledgeable of broadcasting? No. But they came to see the difference and advantages all the same. Many people are happy with their HD 55” sets. Sure, if they could afford an 85” OLED display they’d purchase one. But they’re quite satisfied with their kit. Low-end kit they would never have dreamed of a decade ago.
And I believe Lossless Audio will take the same route. It will become the norm. If you’re an audiophile, you’ll buy hi-end gear. They’ll trick-out their set-up to sound as if they’re a stagehand in the wings. The rest of us will buy either entry level or midrange gear. And we’ll be satisfied with it. Simply the next level of normal.
Fidelia can be found at the App Store for US $29.99. As I love my music, that’s a bargain. But even if you don’t purchase any of the aforementioned hardware and software, if your music makes you happy or engages you in some way, in the end that’s what matters most.
(Psssst! Buy Fidelia and listen to your favorite artist through a set of cans. Enjoy.)