The gaming industry is obsessed with graphics: 4k monitors, immersive VR, not to mention the surging price of high-end graphics cards. Visual performance has progressed insanely in just the past few years. But audio hasn’t experienced that kind of turnover - as gamers we see new ways to experience sound through software manipulation or a physical headset style that may impact comfort and visuals, but never really much progress in sound. Sound is sound, right? Wrong! We couldn’t disagree more.
It's 2018, Elon Musk sent a Tesla to Mars, and 4k 144hz monitors have become standard for the discerning gamer. Why hasn't audio quality improved to keep up with such major graphical advances?
Well, that's not entirely true. Sound design has seen huge improvements in recent years - it's easier than ever to find high quality audio, but none of that matters if the hardware the home user is using isn't up to par. It's a bit like watching a BluRay on a CRT. The quality is wasted on hardware that is incapable of presenting it as intended. The expertly-crafted sound design of your games and music can easily get lost in the noise of cheap hardware. It's why you can't jam out to Rush through your laptop speakers.
All about that bass, no treble
Gaming headsets (and movie trailers) have decided to go hard on the BWAAAAAAA in recent years. But just making speakers bigger and boomier isn't the answer.
High-end audio brands understand that the key to amazing audio is not just finely-tuned hardware, but the way the audio is balanced electronically by digital audio converters, high quality soundcards, speaker drivers, etc. This is what allows you listen with crystal clarity and hear details you might never have otherwise noticed.
So what is hi-fi audio?
Standard audio to hi-fi audio is what standard definition video is to HD video. Standard audio isn't bad per se, but high-fidelity audio adds a level of clarity that was previously unheard.
While hi-fi doesn’t have an exact definition, to create it you need a high level of performance. This means a wide frequency range, low noise, and super low distortion.
Basically, high fidelity audio has a greater breadth of possibility to hear exactly what musicians and sound designers intended. It means greater potential for incredible (not just good) sound. It’s audio that just seems to be in perfect harmony - you can hear every detail with such clarity that it just makes you smile.
It's hard to know what you're missing until you've heard something better. If you've never experienced anything but plain toast, how do you know the taste of pizza? Those audiophiles are definitely on to something.