Can we hear the difference?

Oxfordian

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Just watched a Darko Audio YT video whereby he plays Apples Hi Res Lossless music from his iPad, via a lightning/usb-a adapter to an Audioquest dragonfly DAC then through a 3.5mm to analog cable into his amp, this allows the full range of settings to be used, with the little DAC doing the auto switching between formats depending on whether it is coded as lossless or hi-res lossless.

Now this set-up is relatively inexpensive if you have either an iPhone or iPad, the whole kit costs around £140.

My question is can we hear the difference between lossless and high res lossless or are we heading down the hifi quality/cost/diminishing returns rabbit hole, where we start getting the ‘more space round the musician, improved musicality’ comments banded around to justify using HRLL?

Would we / can we, hear the differences or would our existing systems curtail us hearing the differences?
 

abacus

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It all comes down to how the music was mastered and your system, (You cannot use YouTube to compare as the sound output is compromised defeating the object) to be sure you can hear a difference with your own system do a level matched double blind test to see if you can consistently identify which is which, (Make sure you use a selection of tracks) then you can make a decision of what to go for. (For some users and systems the difference is marked, for others it’s minimal as no persons ears are the same)

Have fun choosing.

Bill
 

Tinman1952

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May 19, 2021
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Just watched a Darko Audio YT video whereby he plays Apples Hi Res Lossless music from his iPad, via a lightning/usb-a adapter to an Audioquest dragonfly DAC then through a 3.5mm to analog cable into his amp, this allows the full range of settings to be used, with the little DAC doing the auto switching between formats depending on whether it is coded as lossless or hi-res lossless.

Now this set-up is relatively inexpensive if you have either an iPhone or iPad, the whole kit costs around £140.

My question is can we hear the difference between lossless and high res lossless or are we heading down the hifi quality/cost/diminishing returns rabbit hole, where we start getting the ‘more space round the musician, improved musicality’ comments banded around to justify using HRLL?

Would we / can we, hear the differences or would our existing systems curtail us hearing the differences?
That’s a very good question. Even Darko admits 95% of the time he listens to CD quality and it’s fine. You are right it depends on the rest of your system if you actually hear much difference. I guess the counter argument is that if you are paying for a service which offers up to 24/192 then you should be able to experience it! 🙂
 
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Tinman1952

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It all comes down to how the music was mastered and your system, (You cannot use YouTube to compare as the sound output is compromised defeating the object) to be sure you can hear a difference with your own system do a level matched double blind test to see if you can consistently identify which is which, (Make sure you use a selection of tracks) then you can make a decision of what to go for. (For some users and systems the difference is marked, for others it’s minimal as no persons ears are the same)

Have fun choosing.

Bill
The YT video has no sound demos…it‘s instructional only. 🙄
 

Niallivm

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Oct 28, 2019
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I can, and my ears are in their 60th year. It’s not a seismic difference and I don’t know if it’s the mastering or file format, but Joni Mitchell’s Blue is a revelation in high res.
 

nopiano

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As Bill and others have said, it’s very hard to be sure that hi res and regular masters are the same. I’ve stopped bothering to compare them on Qobuz - my preferred platform - so I just listen to the one I like. I like Apple hardware but I don’t really trust them for music curating, perhaps unfairly. These fake add ons like Spatial whatever have no interest to me.

There are some unusual versions out there - I’m sure one version of Take Five is from an LP, because you hear the needle drop and the rumble!
 
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Oxfordian

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It all comes down to how the music was mastered and your system, (You cannot use YouTube to compare as the sound output is compromised defeating the object) to be sure you can hear a difference with your own system do a level matched double blind test to see if you can consistently identify which is which, (Make sure you use a selection of tracks) then you can make a decision of what to go for. (For some users and systems the difference is marked, for others it’s minimal as no persons ears are the same)

Have fun choosing.

Bill
I’m not planning at spending any money to run hi-res lossless on my system, the lossless output from my iPad Pro to my Hegel amp is just fine, it gives me CD quality sound, so pretty damn good.

I suppose my question was semi rhetorical, were I to spend the £140 or so to get the hi-res lossless would I really be able to hear any difference, how much better can sound get above that of music streamed at CD quality?

Apple has dangled a carrot in promoting hi-res lossless, but it is not easy to get at the moment, lots of faffing about with cables, adapters, outboard DAC’s etc., so whilst we salivate at the thought of hearing hi-res lossless music out of our systems I just wonder whether is it going to be the enlightening experience for our ears that we believe that it will.
 

Oxfordian

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That’s a very good question. Even Darko admits 95% of the time he listens to CD quality and it’s fine. You are right it depends on the rest of your system if you actually hear much difference. I guess the counter argument is that if you are paying for a service which offers up to 24/192 then you should be able to experience it! 🙂
True, if you’re paying the money why not have the upgraded feed.
 

Oxfordian

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I can, and my ears are in their 60th year. It’s not a seismic difference and I don’t know if it’s the mastering or file format, but Joni Mitchell’s Blue is a revelation in high res.
Delighted that you can hear the difference, but does that mean that old versions weren’t recorded that well?
 

Oxfordian

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There are some unusual versions out there - I’m sure one version of Take Five is from an LP, because you hear the needle drop and the rumble!
Haha, brilliant, and that’s the point, what we assume is a good recording in reality isn’t when you hear another version where the track is recorded properly.

I was listening to a YT video about the UHQR version of Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’ recently, the host has a multitude of different editions collected over the years, in their opinion one of the worst recordings was a rather expensive 50th anniversary box set, muffled and lacking any dynamics.

Now if you bought this set on the basis that it was a remastering, original tapes blah, blah, blah, cost a fortune etc., you get it home and play it, without having a reference you would rate it highly. However, you would be a bit miffed to find that a copy you purchased down the local record store, for 1/10th of the price, bought to play so that your ‘anniversary copy didn’t get damaged’, sounded better.

For now I’m going to let the AM hi-res issue rumble on and see where it goes.
 
Delighted that you can hear the difference, but does that mean that old versions weren’t recorded that well?
the old versions and probably every version came from the initial analogue tape recording, it is only later tweaking to fit differing media and / or other people's idea as to how it should sound that cocks things up. :)
remastering is an art, sometimes you get it right
 

Oxfordian

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the old versions and probably every version came from the initial analogue tape recording, it is only later tweaking to fit differing media and / or other people's idea as to how it should sound that cocks things up. :)
remastering is an art, sometimes you get it right
Yep, agree with this but what about more recent music, the recordings that are digital?

Am I right to assume that a good proportion of modern recordings are fully digital, no analog master tapes?
 

Vincent Kars

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Mar 6, 2021
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a good proportion of modern recordings are fully digital
Yes, analog masters are rare, very rare.
Already in the 60's they hit problems when mixing multitrack.
Each mix added noise, that is inherent to analog.

Just some from the Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_recording
  • 12 November 1984: American singer Madonna's second studio album Like a Virgin is released. It became the first digitally-recorded album that topped Billboard 200 chart.
  • 13 May 1985: English rock band Dire Straits' fifth studio album Brothers in Arms is released. It became the best-selling digitally-recorded album of the 80s, and the first album whose CDs' sales outsold LPs'. The album arguably propelled digital recording to a more widespread use.
I assume almost all todays recordings are digital.
 
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Oxfordian

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Yes, analog masters are rare, very rare.
Already in the 60's they hit problems when mixing multitrack.
Each mix added noise, that is inherent to analog.

Just some from the Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_recording
  • 12 November 1984: American singer Madonna's second studio album Like a Virgin is released. It became the first digitally-recorded album that topped Billboard 200 chart.
  • 13 May 1985: English rock band Dire Straits' fifth studio album Brothers in Arms is released. It became the best-selling digitally-recorded album of the 80s, and the first album whose CDs' sales outsold LPs'. The album arguably propelled digital recording to a more widespread use.
I assume almost all todays recordings are digital.
Wow, I didn’t realise that the first all digital recording was back in 1984, that has surprised me, I assumed mid to late 90’s but that is a real eye-opener.

Remember Dire Straits being the hifi shops choice to demo the new CD format, it was the second CD I bought.

So assuming that just about every album or single recorded over the last 25-30 years has been a digital version, and music streaming is now going to be lossless, which to me means nothing lost from the recording, what is hi-res lossless, because if you haven’t lost anything from the recording in normal lossless what does hi-res bring to your speakers?
 

Vincent Kars

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I believe almost each and everybody records in 24 bit and at a higher sample rate than 44.1 today

If you down sample this to Redbook:
You lose some dynamic range (24 goes down to – 144 dBFS, 16 to -96 dBFS
You have to brickwall as inherent to Shannon-Nyquist is no frequencies in the recording above ½ fs.
So yes you loose information but the question remains is it a loss as well.

Anyway, if you like to experiment a little
Take a 24/88 or 96 recording
Inspect it with an excellent tool like Musicscope https://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/SW/AudioTools/Spectrum.htm
Make sure the hires recording indeed contains substantial life below -96 dBFS and above 22 kHz otherwise a comparison is sense less.
Downsample to Redbook
Do a unsighted test e.g. Foobar ABX comparator between the original and the Redbook version.

This will tell you if you are able to discriminate between the two.
 
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Oxfordian

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I believe almost each and everybody records in 24 bit and at a higher sample rate than 44.1 today

If you down sample this to Redbook:
You lose some dynamic range (24 goes down to – 144 dBFS, 16 to -96 dBFS
You have to brickwall as inherent to Shannon-Nyquist is no frequencies in the recording above ½ fs.
So yes you loose information but the question remains is it a loss as well.

Anyway, if you like to experiment a little
Take a 24/88 or 96 recording
Inspect it with an excellent tool like Musicscope https://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/SW/AudioTools/Spectrum.htm
Make sure the hires recording indeed contains substantial life below -96 dBFS and above 22 kHz otherwise a comparison is sense less.
Downsample to Redbook
Do a unsighted test e.g. Foobar ABX comparator between the original and the Redbook version.

This will tell you if you are able to discriminate between the two.
Thanks for this, not sure it’s a route I want to go down but I asked and got an excellent reply.

I suppose that all I’m asking is what is hi-res lossless if lossless hasn’t lost any data. This is what I’m struggling to understand and maybe getting myself confused.
 

Gray

Well-known member
I suppose that all I’m asking is what is hi-res lossless if lossless hasn’t lost any data.
That's a good question - and one that perhaps more people should ask.
Think of hi-res as a higher resolution 'picture' of the subject.
The argument is that 16/44.1 is high enough resolution to do justice to many of the subjects.
(Remember when CDs first came out, they came with a warning that listeners were likely to hear 'the limitations of the recording process' - such as previously unnoticed tape hiss).
 

DougK

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Dec 8, 2013
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Yep, agree with this but what about more recent music, the recordings that are digital?

Am I right to assume that a good proportion of modern recordings are fully digital, no analog master tapes?
Think I read somewhere that the vast majority of analogue tapes from the pre-digital era have been digitised by now to save the original master tapes, which are probably extremely fragile by now. Also think many of the original master tapes were lost in the Universal warehouse fire in 2008, but UMG's statement was that most of the analogue library had already been digitised.

As for current music, it's all digital and has been since the mid-80's, (as stated by Vincent (y) )
 
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Tinman1952

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May 19, 2021
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I believe almost each and everybody records in 24 bit and at a higher sample rate than 44.1 today

If you down sample this to Redbook:
You lose some dynamic range (24 goes down to – 144 dBFS, 16 to -96 dBFS
You have to brickwall as inherent to Shannon-Nyquist is no frequencies in the recording above ½ fs.
So yes you loose information but the question remains is it a loss as well.

Anyway, if you like to experiment a little
Take a 24/88 or 96 recording
Inspect it with an excellent tool like Musicscope https://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/SW/AudioTools/Spectrum.htm
Make sure the hires recording indeed contains substantial life below -96 dBFS and above 22 kHz otherwise a comparison is sense less.
Downsample to Redbook
Do a unsighted test e.g. Foobar ABX comparator between the original and the Redbook version.

This will tell you if you are able to discriminate between the two.
Absolutely right…and some labels (Channel Classics for example) record everything in DSD!
I would just point out that dynamic range of ‘only’ 96dB is the difference in loudness between grass growing and standing next to a revving motorcycle!
Over 70dB can give hearing loss….. 🙂
 
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Tinman1952

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May 19, 2021
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That's a good question - and one that perhaps more people should ask.
Think of hi-res as a higher resolution 'picture' of the subject.
The argument is that 16/44.1 is high enough resolution to do justice to many of the subjects.
(Remember when CDs first came out, they came with a warning that listeners were likely to hear 'the limitations of the recording process' - such as previously unnoticed tape hiss).
Just to build on this excellent analogy… if you think of it as a video of an animal running…..then bitrate is the number of pixels, and sampling rate is the frames per second! A higher frame rate will capture motion more clearly. 🙂
 

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