But I digress. In the review there appears the following statement: 'There are some people that doubt whether high-resolution recordings sound any better than CD quality"
So a couple of somewhat contradictory comments on this issue. My first reaction is to say, really? There are really people with really good amps/speakers who can't hear the (obvious to me) differences? I am not implying that I can hear the difference between, say, 96khz and 192khz, but as far as the difference between a CD (at 44khz/16 bit) and almost any higher-rate format, an A/B test very quickly exposes the difference.
In fact, the difference between 44/16 and 96/24 can account for almost all of the complaints that turntable fans have about "digital" - it's not "digital" that's the problem, it's the sampling format. If you love phonographs, what you should do is take your records to a high-end studio to be digitised at a very high sampling rate. You can then - given a great DAC of course, haha! - listen to your phonograph records, digitally, any time you want with an indestructible medium, and it will sound EXACTLY like your records. I recall reading an article from the US about this - they digitised the guy's records and he thought he was listening to them - they changed the cartridge halfway through the digitisation and the audiophile caught it, and said hey, you just changed the cartridge.
But yeah, I've looked through the forum and see that, indeed, there are doubters and there have been big debates. So rather than rehash all that, I will share a listening experience that has given me a nuanced view about all of this.
I basically always argue that the reason people don't like digital is that they don't like CDs. And indeed, a lot of CDs sound really, really bad on a good system, for a variety of reasons (and of course some CDs sound amazing). I even think that some standard DVDs sound much better than CD, even though the data is often lightly compressed (maybe because of the 24 bit sample size, which gives more dynamic range).
Back in 1994 friend of mine, whose father is a pro filmmaker, made a soundboard recording of a local band, in what turned out to be one of their best shows. He used a portable DAT (digital audio tape) machine - not a consumer model but his dad's pro machine, with no copy-management system (the thing that destroyed DAT as a format), great input stages, and top (for the day) A/D converters. Plugging the machine itself into my modest, at that time, home system the next day, the quality was striking - there was a dryness and a separation to each drum in the kit that was unlike anything I had ever heard on my system. Simply put, it sounded exactly like the concert we had just attended the night before, minus the room reverb.
I got a CD copy of the concert from him (and made on his dad's pro kit) but it wasn't the same. It sounded okay, but a lot like a late-80s CD, before lessons were learned. The DAT machine recorded at a 48khz rate, so in the process of going down to 44.1khz, there is some manipulation.
So recently I saw my friend. He still has his dad's DAT machine - bit of a relic now - and I have a Benchmark DAC1. We tried the tape of the concert and it played perfectly - first we used the RCA outputs on the DAT. The concert still sounded great, just like I remembered. We were listening to it on one of the old Nakamichi Receiver 2 (part of a great range, best Japanese amps ever, alas, killed off in the home cinema stampede) and a brand-new pair of KEF Q300s.
Then we used the coax digital out on the DAT into the Benchmark. I have to say - sorry to make such a long post to get to this - it was a near-religious experience. I've never heard anything sound this good. We moved it to my main system (Pathos Logos - ProAc D18) and I am telling you, sound was coming from everywhere in the room. There was a crystal-clear perfection in each instrument, vocals way in front, separation on the drums like I have never heard, save for standing in a room while someone fiddles with a drum kit. Vocals were more natural than any turntable I have ever heard, at any price. There were people in the room with me, playing instruments and singing.
One more point on this. I recently bought the SACD of Dire Straits Brothers in Arms, which also contains a remastered standard-CD version. They went back and made this from the analogue masters, which were in great shape, and I think that the SACD is light-years better than the original CD (which I also own).
The funny thing is, the standard CD version also sounds very very good. In fact, the standard CD version played through my Benchmark, versus the SACD played through the Oppo-95EU via the XLR outputs, is basically a draw. Enough has been learned about how to sample the original masters that the high-res SACD version is pretty obviously better even than the phono on most systems. That's not really surprising, especially if you agree with my original premise, which is that CDs aren't as good as the same info at a higher sample rate.
What is surprising is that the remastered CD version is so good, arguably blowing my contention out of the water. What it shows is more surprising: that enough has been learned about how to downsample, and do the manipulation, that regular CDs really ought to be better than they are, and sometimes, when it's done right, they can be very good indeed, perhaps even close to good enough to obviate the need for a better format (something that's proven elusive and highly-copy-protected anyway).
I really think that we are in an era like digital photography was a few years back, where the masses are using digital but where the real pros (or in our case, the audiophiles) either use high-end analogue or use digital, but only the very high-end equipment (like the early digital SLR cameras or ultra-high end DACs like the dCS Debussy).
And the fact that the high end DACs sound so incredible shows how much more nuance is left to be unlocked in the realm of digital. I once thought digital meant the end of high-end sources, that all CD players would be about the same. Obviously that isn't true, and the diversity of how these DACs do their job (PLLs are good or bad? Buffer and reclock? Tube output stage?) shows that we still have even better sound to look forward to as it trickles down. Hifi competition remains healthy.
But for me the concert tape experience - at 'only' 48khz - proves that the most important factor in getting more out of the Compact Disc is out of our hands - it what happens in the studio. Very high-res recordings sound better than CDs if they come straight from the (these days, normally digital) source. But more and more I am concluding that the 'straight from the source' part is what matters, not the sample rate.
Anyway - just Saturday musings. Sorry to ramble.