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As we approach Space Year 2014, the world of technology is set to bring ever more exciting gadgets and improvements to our lives.
Okay, we may not be taking our flying car to the space elevator just yet, but in the last year we've seen everything from in-vitro burgers to Elon Musk's Hyperloop. What goodies is 2014 set to bring to us?
The year in tech, as seasoned gadget-watchers will know, kicks off at the International CES in January 2014.
As ever, Stuff will be at the show, reporting on the latest products and all the technology trends that we can expect for the forthcoming year. So sit back, relax, and let us guide you through the seven trends we expect to define 2014.
1. High Res Audio (HRA)
High resolution audio is coming to massage our ears with audiophile-quality recordings – and CES 2014 is aiming to kickstart a music revolution.
Gary Shapiro, the CEO and President of CEA (that's the Consumer Electronics Association to those who don't know), has already said that we can expect widespread coverage of high-res audio: "We expect major HRA (high-res audio) announcements over the next year and believe that the technology will have a strong presence at the 2014 International CES."
Sony is one of the big names supporting the format, teaming up with three of the major music publishers to sell the idea of hi-res audio to the public. And it's backing up its plans with hardware, with plans to release a range of Walkman devices that can play back 24-bit/192kHz hi-res audio. An early example of such a device was announced at IFA 2013, the F886.
Meanwhile, music legend Neil Young is throwing his hat into the ring with the Pono music player, set to launch in 2014 with 24-bit/192kHz recordings available through its own storefront.
High-res audio output has already made its way into some smartphones, too; the LG G2, our Gadget of the Year, supports the format, as does the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. So we can expect it to appear in ever more devices, particularly as storage becomes cheaper.
Not next year, no. There are plenty of reasons to be sceptical of high-res audio, not least that the file sizes are huge, which makes them more difficult to stream over flaky networks and to sell via online shops. Indeed, none of the major outlets, be they Spotify, iTunes Google Play or Amazon, appears to have any interest in moving away from their compressed 16-bit files.
Also, despite my own extremely positive experiences of 24-bit music, there are some experts who claim it's all smoke and mirrors - we've covered those arguments here, and however you cut it, music mastered for high-res is very promising indeed.
Rather than some musical revolution, 2014 will be a year of baby steps for high-res audio. But if we reach 2015 with more devices able to play the files, we'll be in a better-sounding place.
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