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Confused by all the bits

kitkat

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Jun 18, 2007
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My Marantz cd player (CD 7300) is 16 bits and has always sounded really good to me, not harsh / bright but am I missing much with this 16 bit player when you can now get players rated at 32 bits, Will these sound harsh or just more detail. Can anyone explain please ?
 

Benedict_Arnold

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Jan 16, 2013
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AFIK CDs are in 16-bit. Beyond that I'm as confused as the rest. The only logic (pardon the pun) I can come up with is that the World has moved on and 16-bit DACs are now about as rare as rocking horse manure, and the manufacturers are trying to make a virtue out of necessity by switching to 32-bit DACs.
 

stevebrock

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Nov 13, 2009
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16 bit player
all CDs are 16/44.1 so 16 bits 44.1 khz sample rate - a 24 bit player wont make any difference - you will still get the same detail off the CD

Stick with the CDP you have!
 

stevebrock

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When you start talking 24/ 192 khz or 24/96 khz music then thats when a DAC comes in! This is Hi-Res music - it sounds smoother, less compressed etc.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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The first thing to understand is the difference between processing and resolution. As has been pointed out, CD's are 16 bit so a 16 bit processor should be fine, but the industry has moved on to 24 bit processing (of16 bit data) to provide a 'margin of error' or to allow the use of a digital attenuator (volume). The resolution of a normal commercial CD player, ie the capability of te electronics to resolve bits is usually limited by circuit and power supply noise and is typically about 17-18 bits.

The best digital converters can sometimes manage around 21 bits ( they are quieter than players) but that is truly exceptional and requires a noise floor 126dB below full output, very difficult to achieve and largely pointless.

Ther is no evidence to suggest that 24/96 offers any advantage over 16/44.1 all things being equal, but all things are not equal, some high bit rate product may sound better than the CD equivalent but this is more likely to be due to the quality of the master and the care taken in production.
 

Benedict_Arnold

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How do you get 21 or 24 bits from 16? Does 1010 1010 1010 1010 come out as 0 0000 1010 1010 1010 1010 (21 bits for example) (spaces inserted to help me count) or does the DAC "invent" extra bits to tag onto / into the original 16 bit binary?

And when all the bits (however many of them) have been through the DAC how is the analogue signal affected?

I can understand how oversampling might be used for error correction, and I can understand how a greater bit count and baud rate might help in the original analogue to digital conversion (and if not downsampled to CD quality in the playback. but inserting "invented" bits I don't.
 

MakkaPakka

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May 25, 2013
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stevebrock said:
This is Hi-Res music - it sounds smoother, less compressed etc.
Well that's the theory.......

From wikipedia's SACD page:

Comparison with CD[edit]
In September 2007 the Audio Engineering Society published the results of a year-long trial, in which a range of subjects including professional recording engineers were asked to discern the difference between SACD and compact disc audio (44.1 kHz/16 bit) under double blind test conditions. Out of 554 trials, there were 276 correct answers, a 49.8 % success rate corresponding almost exactly to the 50 % that would have been expected by chance guessing alone.[40] The authors commented:

Now, it is very difficult to use negative results to prove the inaudibility of any given phenomenon or process. There is always the remote possibility that a different system or more finely attuned pair of ears would reveal a difference. But we have gathered enough data, using sufficiently varied and capable systems and listeners, to state that the burden of proof has now shifted. Further claims that careful 16/44.1 encoding audibly degrades high resolution signals must be supported by properly controlled double-blind tests.[1][41]

Following criticism that the original published results of the study were not sufficiently detailed, the AES published a list of the audio equipment and recordings used during the tests.[42]
Comparison with DVD-A[edit]
Double-blind listening tests in 2004 between DSD and 24-bit, 176.4 kHz PCM recordings reported that among test subjects no significant differences could be heard.[43] DSD advocates and equipment manufacturers continue to assert an improvement in sound quality above PCM 24-bit 176.4 kHz.[44] Despite both formats' extended frequency responses, it has been shown people cannot distinguish audio with information above 21 kHz from audio without such high-frequency content.[45]
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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Benedict_Arnold said:
How do you get 21 or 24 bits from 16? Does 1010 1010 1010 1010 come out as 0 0000 1010 1010 1010 1010 (21 bits for example) (spaces inserted to help me count) or does the DAC "invent" extra bits to tag onto / into the original 16 bit binary?

And when all the bits (however many of them) have been through the DAC how is the analogue signal affected?

I can understand how oversampling might be used for error correction, and I can understand how a greater bit count and baud rate might help in the original analogue to digital conversion (and if not downsampled to CD quality in the playback. but inserting "invented" bits I don't.
OK, once again the confusion is between processing capability and actual bits. A CD is 16 bit so a 16 bit processor should do fine. The industry likes 24 bit (and now 32 bit) processing for a variety of reasons, most of them marketing. However 24 bit processing does have advantages, most notable the ability to 'lose' bits without affecting the 16 bit signal as in a digital volume control.

In simple terms it works like this, the 24 bit processor adds noise (zeros) to the 16 bit signal to make it 24 bit, this is then processed as a 24 bit data stream. If you use a digital volume control you lose 1 bit for each 6dB of attenuation, the bit lost is always the 'least significant bit', ie one of the added zeros so that the 16 bits that contain the music remain intact. This should have no impact on the analogue output after conversion.

It is worth remembering that attempting to resolve a 24 bit signal requires a processor/dac to have a noise floor 144dB below full output, way below the capabilities of even the best modern equipment. The best I have ever seen was a very expensive dac run on a synthesised low noise power supply in a very electrically quiet environment, and on a really good day it could just about resolve 21 bits, 126dB below full output.

For any CD player in a normal environment 17-18 bits is really the best you can hope for.
 

igloo audio

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Jun 17, 2013
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If you enjoy the sound of your CD Player, then there's no reason to change.

However, the moment you need a DAC (Digital Analogue Converter) for computer audio playback, ideally with a preamp and headphone output (better value), while needing to support multiple digital and possible one or two analogue inputs for your system, then that's the time to buy the best converter you can afford, and at sensible money, not silly money :hand:

Don't ever buy a product just because it supports 192kHz/24bit.

Regards,

Peter
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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igloo audio said:
If you enjoy the sound of your CD Player, then there's no reason to change.

However, the moment you need a DAC (Digital Analogue Converter) for computer audio playback, ideally with a preamp and headphone output (better value), while needing to support multiple digital and possible one or two analogue inputs for your system, then that's the time to buy the best converter you can afford, and at sensible money, not silly money :hand:

Don't ever buy a product just because it supports 192kHz/24bit.

Regards,

Peter
Very sensible, but it does somewhat beggar the question as to what makes a good dac in that application.

It has been my experience that some dacs appear to react poorly to some computer outputs, sorry this is not precise, I have not, as yet, had a lot of experience of this.

My theory (and it is just a theory) is that some computer sources have high levels of jitter and substantial out of band noise, it seems to be very important that the dac of choice handles these issues well and I believe I have identified one or two that do not.

Once again I reiterate my view that the differences that we hear in h-fi components is not always the differences that we think we are hearing, an issue that I return to from time to time.
 

BigH

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Dec 29, 2012
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You can get DACs that support 192kHz/24bit for around £100 so you don't have to spend a fortune either.

Its debatable whether you can hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits anyway, more important is the recording and mastered. 32bits is a waste of time IMO. If buying cds now I always check out which are the best editions.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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BigH said:
You can get DACs that support 192kHz/24bit for around £100 so you don't have to spend a fortune either.

Its debatable whether you can hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits anyway, more important is the recording and mastered. 32bits is a waste of time IMO. If buying cds now I always check out which are the best editions.
Just out of interest, how do you check this?
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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Interestingly (or not) I use Spotify premium a lot. A lot of music is available on different 'discs', ie remasters, compilations and regional variations and sometimes the differences are very obvious indeed.

It has helped to convince me that mastering quality is far more important than anything else when it comes to the quality of the final product.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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davedotco said:
It has helped to convince me that mastering quality is far more important than anything else when it comes to the quality of the final product.
Linn Radio did that for me......amazing quality.
 

BigH

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Dec 29, 2012
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davedotco said:
Interestingly (or not) I use Spotify premium a lot. A lot of music is available on different 'discs', ie remasters, compilations and regional variations and sometimes the differences are very obvious indeed.

It has helped to convince me that mastering quality is far more important than anything else when it comes to the quality of the final product.
Yes I use Spotify/Rdio a lot also, most cds I buy on not on there though. Like Led Zepp/Pink Floyd/Eva Cassidy and other odd albums.
 

BigH

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Dec 29, 2012
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davedotco said:
BigH said:
You can get DACs that support 192kHz/24bit for around £100 so you don't have to spend a fortune either.

Its debatable whether you can hear the difference between 16 and 24 bits anyway, more important is the recording and mastered. 32bits is a waste of time IMO. If buying cds now I always check out which are the best editions.
Just out of interest, how do you check this?
DR database is one place but that only measured DR which is only a limited part of the sound quality, some of the high DR canbe rather bright and thin. I go to Amazon reviews although that is a bit of a chore as they don't split the reviews into different editions all lumped together but it can help, also there are other forums like Steve Hoffman. For me its not worth spending loads on Japan editions/sacds etc, I tend to buy the bog standard RB cds mainly used ones, then if no good not loss. It seems generally the older cds are better than the more recent ones but not always the case as in Bob Dylan where the 2004 remastered ones are the best.
 

AlmaataKZ

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Jan 7, 2009
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davedotco said:
Interestingly (or not) I use Spotify premium a lot. A lot of music is available on different 'discs', ie remasters, compilations and regional variations and sometimes the differences are very obvious indeed.

It has helped to convince me that mastering quality is far more important than anything else when it comes to the quality of the final product.
this is a very important point.
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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MakkaPakka said:
From wikipedia's SACD page:

Comparison with CD[edit]
In September 2007 the Audio Engineering Society published the results of a year-long trial, in which a range of subjects including professional recording engineers were asked to discern the difference between SACD and compact disc audio (44.1 kHz/16 bit) under double blind test conditions. Out of 554 trials, there were 276 correct answers, a 49.8 % success rate corresponding almost exactly to the 50 % that would have been expected by chance guessing alone.[40] The authors commented:

Now, it is very difficult to use negative results to prove the inaudibility of any given phenomenon or process. There is always the remote possibility that a different system or more finely attuned pair of ears would reveal a difference. But we have gathered enough data, using sufficiently varied and capable systems and listeners, to state that the burden of proof has now shifted. Further claims that careful 16/44.1 encoding audibly degrades high resolution signals must be supported by properly controlled double-blind tests.[1][41]

Following criticism that the original published results of the study were not sufficiently detailed, the AES published a list of the audio equipment and recordings used during the tests.[42]
Comparison with DVD-A[edit]
Double-blind listening tests in 2004 between DSD and 24-bit, 176.4 kHz PCM recordings reported that among test subjects no significant differences could be heard.[43] DSD advocates and equipment manufacturers continue to assert an improvement in sound quality above PCM 24-bit 176.4 kHz.[44] Despite both formats' extended frequency responses, it has been shown people cannot distinguish audio with information above 21 kHz from audio without such high-frequency content.[45]
Interesting post.

It won't stop people claiming they can hear a difference with high bit rate music though. :wall:
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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AlmaataKZ said:
davedotco said:
Interestingly (or not) I use Spotify premium a lot. A lot of music is available on different 'discs', ie remasters, compilations and regional variations and sometimes the differences are very obvious indeed.

It has helped to convince me that mastering quality is far more important than anything else when it comes to the quality of the final product.
this is a very important point.
+1
 

matt49

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Apr 7, 2013
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steve_1979 said:
MakkaPakka said:
In September 2007 the Audio Engineering Society published the results of a year-long trial, in which a range of subjects including professional recording engineers were asked to discern the difference between SACD and compact disc audio (44.1 kHz/16 bit) under double blind test conditions. Out of 554 trials, there were 276 correct answers, a 49.8 % success rate corresponding almost exactly to the 50 % that would have been expected by chance guessing alone.
Interesting post.

It won't stop people claiming they can hear a difference with high bit rate music though. :wall:
I'd agree, though with one reservation.

Listening tests of this kind should properly involve two kinds of expertise: audio engineering expertise and expertise in psychology/psychoacoustics. However, there's no evidence of any understanding of psychology/psychoacoustics in these tests. In particular, the set-up of the tests seems very amateurish. The selection of subjects was done informally. No proper clinical tests of the subjects' hearing ability were done. The tests were carried out in a number of different venues, with very different acoustic properties. We're not told whether the results were consistent across all these venues or whether they varied from one venue to another. If this research had been submitted to a psychology journal, it would have been filed under B for bin.

Having said that, and in the absence of any more robust test results, these tests may reflect reality. But the fact is, we just don't know. My position on all this is firmly agnostic. As you say ...

steve_1979 said:
It won't stop people claiming they can hear a difference with high bit rate music
... and it won't prove that they're wrong to do so.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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matt49 said:
steve_1979 said:
MakkaPakka said:
In September 2007 the Audio Engineering Society published the results of a year-long trial, in which a range of subjects including professional recording engineers were asked to discern the difference between SACD and compact disc audio (44.1 kHz/16 bit) under double blind test conditions. Out of 554 trials, there were 276 correct answers, a 49.8 % success rate corresponding almost exactly to the 50 % that would have been expected by chance guessing alone.
Interesting post.

It won't stop people claiming they can hear a difference with high bit rate music though. :wall:
I'd agree, though with one reservation.

Listening tests of this kind should properly involve two kinds of expertise: audio engineering expertise and expertise in psychology/psychoacoustics. However, there's no evidence of any understanding of psychology/psychoacoustics in these tests. In particular, the set-up of the tests seems very amateurish. The selection of subjects was done informally. No proper clinical tests of the subjects' hearing ability were done. The tests were carried out in a number of different venues, with very different acoustic properties. We're not told whether the results were consistent across all these venues or whether they varied from one venue to another. If this research had been submitted to a psychology journal, it would have been filed under B for bin.

Having said that, and in the absence of any more robust test results, these tests may reflect reality. But the fact is, we just don't know. My position on all this is firmly agnostic. As you say ...

steve_1979 said:
It won't stop people claiming they can hear a difference with high bit rate music
... and it won't prove that they're wrong to do so.
I do not think these kind of tests are meant to prove anything, they are, as you point out not robust enough for that.

What I think they do show rather well is that evaluating hi-fi components is not straightforward, that differences that are considered 'night and day' in sighted tests all but disappear in even rudimentary blind tests and this to me is the important lesson.

Even when the differences are real it is all to easy to mistake the real cause of the differences, for example some hi-res downloads might well sound better than their CD counterparts but it has nothing to do with the sample rate or bit depth. Other factors are far more important.
 

matt49

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Apr 7, 2013
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davedotco said:
I do not think these kind of tests are meant to prove anything, they are, as you point out not robust enough for that.

What I think they do show rather well is that evaluating hi-fi components is not straightforward, that differences that are considered 'night and day' in sighted tests all but disappear in even rudimentary blind tests and this to me is the important lesson.

Even when the differences are real it is all to easy to mistake the real cause of the differences, for example some hi-res downloads might well sound better than their CD counterparts but it has nothing to do with the sample rate or bit depth. Other factors are far more important.
Absolutely. Hence my plea for agnosticism. These things aren't at all straightforward. And certainly the blind testing does suggest that supposed 'night and day' differences are probably much more ambiguous.

Another problem is that the 'hard' science in audio engineering may simply be measuring the wrong things. A classic case is distortion measurements, which are usually measurements of distortion of sinusoidal curves. Great, if music actually consisted of sinusoidal curves. But of course music is acoustically massively complex. Trying to measure levels of distortion in real-life music is far beyond any scientific techniques we currently have.
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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davedotco said:
I do not think these kind of tests are meant to prove anything, they are, as you point out not robust enough for that.

What I think they do show rather well is that evaluating hi-fi components is not straightforward, that differences that are considered 'night and day' in sighted tests all but disappear in even rudimentary blind tests and this to me is the important lesson.
I've been caught out by sighted tests before. I used to swear that I could hear a difference between 320kbps MP3 and lossless FLAC files. As soon as I tried doing a proper ABX comparison using Foobar the differences disappeared.

davedotco said:
Even when the differences are real it is all to easy to mistake the real cause of the differences, for example some hi-res downloads might well sound better than their CD counterparts but it has nothing to do with the sample rate or bit depth. Other factors are far more important.
This is true. When I compared some of Linn's 24bit FLAC and MP3 music files using Audacity it was obvious that they'd been mastered to sound different to one another.

They sounded different but it had nothing to do with the file type, sample rate or bit depth. They only sounded different because they were mastered to sound different.
 

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