Rdio upgrades the sound quality of 25-million tracks

rdio logo spelledOn-demand music service Rdio announced a new affiliation with Musicians for Audio Quality, headed by The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. Putting its product where its affiliation is, Rdio is dramatically upgrading its entire 25-million-track library to hi-fi … or at least higher-fi.

Rdio users have asked for this upgrade.

Specifically, Rdio will convert its streaming music from the MP3 format to AAC, using the 320kbps (kilobytes per second) bit rate — in plain English, higher quality copies of the original recordings, enabling users to hear sounds that are squeezed out of compressed MP3’s.

Hi-fi mobile music is a somewhat controversial concept, but is building momentum as a trend. The WIMP music service promotes uncompressed (also called “lossless”) recordings, and Neil Young’s Pono Music recently raised $6.2-million dollars for its music store and dedicated mobile player, on Kickstarter. Bob Weir’s advocacy represents another iconic musician’s hat in the ring, trumpeting the value of high-quality recordings.

On the downside, hi-fi music files are larger than compressed files, and streaming them requires more bandwidth. So, in a mobile scenario, a user’s data plan (if not unlimited) will get used up faster listening to Rdio’s converted tracks than it did before. Like many of its competitors, Rdio does offer a setting that prevents playing hi-bandwidth tracks through a data connection, but allows it over WiFi (which is typically unlimited).

A recent RAIN Poll asked readers how important high fidelity was in mobile listening, and 38% said it was “very important.”

Hi-Fi mobile music has non-musician advocates, too. Jim Cramer, the noisy CNBC pundit, listens to vinyl records at home, andc invested in Pono Music. “Hearing is believing,” Cramer said.

Brad Hill