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Orastream was founded with a mission to restore high quality audio to digital
music. Its novel adaptive audio-video streaming platform powers a new-
generation music services based on streaming 16/24-bit lossless resolution
audio and video files which self-adjusts to adapt to the user’s device
capabilities, quality of network conditions and ...

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Emily Morrone

Harbingers of the High-Res Era: OraStream Lets Everyone Enjoy the Highest Possible Audio Quality


Harbingers of the High-Res Era: OraStream Lets Everyone Enjoy the Highest Possible Audio Quality


High-res audio, often called “lossless,” has been the purview of the elite for too long, argue the streaming media experts at OraStream. The company is opening the gates to all, providing the technology for legendary artists, music startups, online stores, video livestreamers, and performing arts organizations to bring hi-res versions of their sound and vision to the world.  


OraStream has powered projects by icon and audio aficionado Neil Young, created music lockers for personal high-res file collections, and served a range of B2B customers looking to up their audio performance. These include some of the premier players in classical and jazz, such as Naxos’ ClassicsOnline HD, Primephonic (now part of Apple Music), Presto, and hi-res download store HDtracks.


“Our musical experience is driven by our feelings. When we listen, when we watch, it triggers something in our emotions,” explains OraStream co-founder and CEO Frankie Tan. “Music helps us feel elation. It helps us reflect. Hi-res music really amplifies that. It really enhances music’s emotive value.” 


This emotive value was limited to the lucky few with the right hardware and specialty subscriptions, until services like Qobuz and Tidal, and then Amazon and Apple Music created higher-quality streaming audio tiers. Most streaming media, however, still runs on 1990s-era MP3 quality. Challenging assumptions of consumer apathy, OraStream foresees hi-res audio becoming the new standard, the level of quality demanded by consumers, as they discover how much better audio can get. 


Thanks to OraStream, listeners experience flawless streaming audio at the highest bitrate their system and connection can deliver. Behind the scenes, OraStream uses SLS (Scalable Lossless Coding) to ensure this experience unfolds without a glitch. To do this, OraStream’s technology adapts to listeners’ technical setup and listening habits. Depending on the device, internet connection, listening volume, session length, and other key factors, OraStream can adjust precisely how much data it sends, optimizing the experience for its context.

“Some may claim people can’t really hear the difference. That’s simply not true,” notes Kelvin Lee, CTO of OraStream. “When people listen to music attentively, they experience the difference in the dynamic range in lossless. There are bits and pieces missing from lossy formats that you can hear in isolation, like in a quiet room. This will impact your listening experience, especially if you get used to it over time. It’s a lot like pixels and visual resolution: once you get a 4k TV, you never want to go back.”


While increased detail and dynamics are transformational for stand-alone audio streaming, they prove equally impactful for video. OraStream is working on raising the bar on video and livestream audio quality, so that it finally lives up to the last decade’s leaps and bounds in streaming video resolution. 


As more bandwidth, affordable audio equipment, and new media like VR and immersive gaming take hold, OraStream is helping high-quality audio become part of everyday life. “Audio won’t get better in general if we don’t deliver studio-quality sound to video audiences. In video production, audio determines the entire vibe. If you take away the soundtrack of a scary movie, for example, it’s not scary anymore. The audio creates the emotive atmosphere, and the closer to the recording is to studio quality, the stronger the emotive experience,” says Lee. “As it is now, you see nice visuals but the audio is flat and lifeless. You have a Ferrari chassis with a lawnmower engine.”

With mainstream services embracing hi-res streams and with a plethora of new formats and media where audio is crucial to experience, OraStream feels high-quality music and sound have finally regained some of the value they shed in the age of the MP3 and cheap earbuds. “For so many years, music has been devalued. We’re bringing back the value of music and to do that effectively, we need to raise the emotive value of music,” reflects Tan. “At the moment, we’re seeing a generation of consumers who’ve never heard anything but lossy quality. That’s all they’ve known, that was the only value they felt. They need to hear what they have missed growing up. If they listen to lossless for a month, we’re convinced they will.