Rhinegold Photo credit: Marcus Ginns

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Radio 3 to offer Proms as lossless audio stream

12:49, 14th July 2017

Radio 3 will be available for listeners as a lossless audio stream – the highest audio quality ever used the BBC – for the duration of the Proms.

Listeners will be able to tune in to a FLAC stream of Radio 3 (over 1000kbps) between 14 July and 9 September.

The lossless trial marks 90 years of the BBC broadcasting the Prom, and is the latest in a series of innovations which include the first public broadcast in 1927, stereo broadcasts in 1958, experiments with quadrophonic sound in the 1970s and more recently broadcasting in binaural 3D sound.

Explaining the decision to offer lossless sound in a blog post, Radio 3 controller Alan Davey wrote: ‘A lot of Radio 3’s output is specially recorded, and those recordings are carefully planned and executed by expert engineers. The people know their music, and produce world class recordings that sound beautiful – with carefully constructed bloom, balance and detail that serves the sound and reflects the room it was recorded in.’

He continued: ‘We keep this sound as pure as it can be until it leaves the studio – then we have to compress it.’ However, offering the sound to the audience in lossless will be ‘conveying it to the audience as the recording left us – in Radio 3 Concert Sound’.

‘Hearing an orchestra in recorded sound – no matter how good that sound is – is always not quite so good as hearing an orchestra live. Textures can often seem more limited, some instruments can’t be heard as well, you get no sense of the room in which it was recorded – in short something’s missing. Then if you further compress that you get even further away from what a real orchestra sounds like – at every stage something drops off. So if we can make the sound we put out as lossless as possible, as near to what we captured as we can, it might get us nearer to that live experience, with all its subtlety and texture. We would be getting nearer to giving the listener something that really is the best seat in the house. As we present specially recorded music every evening and weekday afternoons that matters to us and who we are.

‘If people like it we can consider if we might do more of it – though we’re making no promises at this stage. It matters to us on Radio 3 as we have already put the work in to record great performances in a great way – so if the audience can hear it that way, so much the better.’


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