HD sound for the Electric Proms

Executive Product Manager


You may have heard that we offered an extra high quality (320kbs AAC) online audio stream for the last week of the BBC Proms this year (read about the experiment on the BBC Internet blog). The feedback we received was almost universally good. Listeners really appreciated the richer sound quality which made a fairly obvious difference even to the casual listener. Well, I can now confirm that for the first time for non-classical output, we'll offer the same higher quality audio stream for this year's BBC Radio 2 Electric Proms concerts.

So if you listen to the concerts live via the Electric Proms web site you'll hear our highest ever audio stream quality. We'll also offer the full concerts on-demand in HD Sound, again exclusively via the Electric Proms site. If your connection cannot handle this new higher quality, you can choose to listen at the standard quality.

We chose to pilot HD Sound with the Electric Proms because these live concerts represent something unique, something you can't get elsewhere. Radio 2's Head of Music, Jeff Smith, has written a post for the About the BBC blog in which he explains the unique nature of this annual event. Of course, once we've assessed feedback from listeners and looked at the technical and cost aspects, we'll look to extend this improvement to other services.

Why is this important? Well with the growth of music streaming services such as We7, Spotify, Last.fm and of course YouTube, an increasing number of people are hooking up their home computers to high quality sound systems and speakers, meaning that what was previously acceptable in terms of sound quality for small computer speakers or cheap headphones is rapidly becoming less so.

As more and more people start to listen to music via internet streams, as opposed to listening from CDs or from downloaded audio files, we expect that it will sound at least as good. Similarly, as more people start to listen to radio online, both live and on-demand, we are way past the point where people will readily accept poor audio quality simply because it's being delivered over the internet.

So, if you're a fan of Elton John, Robert Plant or Neil Diamond, listen live or catch-up via the Electric Proms site. As Robert Plant once said, the song remains the same; it'll just sound better now.

Chris Kimber is Managing Editor at BBC Audio & Music Interactive


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