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High-resolution audio: clarity or confusion?

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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Andy Clough said:
I think you are not addressing the correct issues.

Firstly, you accept that hi-res (greater than CD) is superior to CD quality for reasons of it's extra 'resolution', there seems to be little evidence to support this view.

Secondly there seems to be a move in the music undustry to 'limit' CD quality, so that they can sell 'better' hi-res versions to more discerning listeners.

If you are going to 'champion' hi-res audio, I think you may need to convince a lot of enthusiasts of it's superiority.
 

Xanderzdad

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Jun 25, 2008
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Andy, I agree with your viewpoint and I think allowing MQ-C to be a 'high res' format is counterproductive and furthers the suspicion many people already have about the hi-res debate.

A well mastered CD (or CD quality WAV/FLAC/ALAC) still sounds better than a badly produced, over loud 'hi res' recording IMHO! So much so that I've downsampled all my hi-res rips so I can play them on my Sonos and they sound just as good (to me, on my equipment - before I get shot!).
 

Overdose

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Feb 8, 2008
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In all honesty, I believe high resolution files to be another cynical way to charge more money for something. It is the media equivalent of 'high-end', where the implication is for higher quality, but the reality somewhat different.

The focus for any recording should be on quality, the bit rate and resolution of files anything above the CD standard are simply not needed for complete and accurate playback of the recorded music.

What's more, a downmixed high res. file to CD standard, will not differ in sound quality. Likewise, a lossless compression of the same file will result in exactly the same sound on playback and this continues for some, for files compressed down to 128Kbps.

With high res files, I see only downsides:

Higher cost with no tangible improvement in sound quality

Larger file size requiring more expensive storage options

I reiterate that high res is seen as another cash cow, requiring no extra work, merely uploading studio masters (no downmixing to CD required) to online servers. Exactly the same files used to make CDs in fact.

The best way to improve sound quality is for production engineers to be a bit more careful with the products that they create, but this does take time and therefore money, without the extra revenue that a higher resolution file size could generate.
 

ID.

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Feb 22, 2010
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I think that, on this forum, you are going to have a lot of people not agreeing that hi resolution is superior in the first place.

I do agree that it is pretty dodgy that they seem to be including upsampled data. If they want to avoid it seem like a scam they really need to steer clear of anything like that.
 

Neptune_Twilight

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Apr 14, 2014
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I'm running mainly on CD's ripped to .flac some of which are remastered versions of music I've paid for the right to listen to many, many times, & some remastered CD’s are a step backwards - I would appreciate he ability to listen to the master tape quality on some form of high-res but no doubt it will be at a hugely inflated cost & I’m thinking this is where I get off?

I for one would like to hear some of Dylan's back catalogue on HR for example before I would even consider buying most of my music collection yet again & it would have to be a pretty huge improvement - Actually I’m pretty happy with .flac & as most of the planet are still happy with .mp3 quality HR will IMO remain an expensive hobby & I for one would probably prefer to buy music at CD quality for the rest of my life, but i’ve never heard any music I’m familiar with on master tape quality though. (perfect sound forever yet again!)
 

BigH

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Dec 29, 2012
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I agree with Dave. What we want is better mastered music in the first place not all this compressed music we have been served up in the last 10 years. Its just another way fro the music industry to recycle same old music and sell it again. I heard that to hear the benefit of 24bit you would have to play it very loud. I don't see the point of upsampling from cd?
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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Andy Clough said:
Andy, you seem to spend most of the article referring to fomats and connectivity which to be honest is a sideshow, when the real issue is whether HiRes is an audible improvement over redbook standard CD (which has been around for over 30 years).

HD video was a technical and subjective improvement over standard DVD quality pictures, and has therefore had reasonable success in the marketplace. HiRes audio has no technical merit, and in blind tests is the same as redbook CD.

Why would anyone want to buy HiRes?
 

Overdose

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Feb 8, 2008
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davedotco said:
Secondly there seems to be a move in the music undustry to 'limit' CD quality, so that they can sell 'better' hi-res versions to more discerning listeners.
This is a very cynical viewpoint, but probably not too far from the truth.

I think that high res files though, are unlikely to be anything other than niche and particular to the enthusiast market. The tech savvy 'Beats' generation by and large, will either be uninterested or not sucked in.
 

hifikrazy

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Aug 9, 2007
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Overdose said:
The focus for any recording should be on quality, the bit rate and resolution of files anything above the CD standard are simply not needed for complete and accurate playback of the recorded music.
On what basis did you come to the conclusion that CD standard resolution is the highest resolution that is needed or is audible?

Is this the same as saying we don't need bluray when we have DVD, or we don't need 4K when bluray is "good enough"?
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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hifikrazy said:
Overdose said:
The focus for any recording should be on quality, the bit rate and resolution of files anything above the CD standard are simply not needed for complete and accurate playback of the recorded music.
On what basis did you come to the conclusion that CD standard resolution is the highest resolution that is needed or is audible?

Is this the same as saying we don't need bluray when we have DVD, or we don't need 4K when bluray is "good enough"?
Hifi, what do you think the frequency response of your ears is? or the dynamic range that you are able to perceive in your home environment?

The guys at Philips and Sony back in the 80's weren't idiots, they set a standard that exceeded the perception threshold of humans.

20KHz and 96dB.

- or are you not human?
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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Andy Clough said:
Andy,

At the risk of taking you to task again, on what basis was this comment made - blind testing of the same master sampled at two different resolutions?

"As my colleague, magazine edtor Simon Lucas says in the August edition of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision: "What's not to like about digital music files so much bigger, packed with so much more information than CD equivalents? One listen to well-mastered high-res audio, in my experience, can make an evangelist out of a pragmatist."

I agree, Simon, I agree."

If you could reliably tell the difference between a 24/96 track and the same track downsampled to 16/44.1 in a blind test, then I may take this whole HiRes thing seriously. Until then, it is just marketing.
 

CJSF

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May 25, 2011
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Andy Clough said:
One is totally confused . . . being of an age that looks at computers and digital technology and simply switches off, I remember the era of the first video recorders complicated or what, the way I see modern digital offerings, that was childs play in comparison. I see little sympathy from those that do understand these modern offerings and formats, they seem to take great pleasure in blinding me with the technicalities?

I am a vinyl person, your average digital person gets very confused with the set up of turntables especially tone arm and cartridges . . . the analogue world is so simple 'I tell them' . . . with the boot on the other foot ;)

I see much digital as 'technology for the sake of it'? Advantages, space and availability, sound quality, sometimes good but generally variable to poor.

I also question the description, high resolution, to me, a better described, often bright or forward, lacking in finesse and not relaxing. I regularly have to switch off after 30 minuets, occasionally I find a digital offering that has been well recorded according to natures analogue hearing mechanism called ears . . .

I live with digital because I have to, I use the simplest, least complicated streaming system . . . I make the best of cumbersome analogue because I enjoy the end result, I have control and find it most relaxing.

A final thought, my hifi hay-day was in the 70's and 80's, looking around today, every one wants 'plug and play', a rare commodity back then, even Rega turntables were not though of as P&P in the way they are today. P&P gives little control over SQ, hence, these forums are filled with how does item 'A' match with product 'B', swapping around like headless chickens to get an acceptable sound, often cost an arm and a leg too. In the good old days, there was product matching but sound quality tuning and matching could be done with a screwdriver?

Personally, I dont mind digital, but do not like the 'wysiwyg' presentation of so much music these days. My choice of digital listening is selective and I enjoy it, but I am still of the 'old school'.

Thats what I think.

CJSF
 

ID.

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Feb 22, 2010
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hifikrazy said:
Overdose said:
The focus for any recording should be on quality, the bit rate and resolution of files anything above the CD standard are simply not needed for complete and accurate playback of the recorded music.
On what basis did you come to the conclusion that CD standard resolution is the highest resolution that is needed or is audible?

Is this the same as saying we don't need bluray when we have DVD, or we don't need 4K when bluray is "good enough"?
Has nobody started banging on about Nyquist theorem? Or is mentioning of Nyquist theorem now the equivalent of Godwin's law, but for hifi.

The comparison to hi resolution video is, apparently, completely inaccurate.
 

eengineer

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Mar 1, 2013
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If high-resolution music is really going to break through into the mainstream, then we:

1 have to ask ourselves if HR is actually different to our ears?

2 have to explain how it is exactly different.

3 have to ask ourselves if HR will be better to the mainstream audiences ears?

4 have to write a lot of articles on HR to hype things up a bit.

5 have to keep on listening to spotify, this whole proces ;-)

There's no shortage of 4 but where is 2? How is it different? Is it subtle?
Is it a really big deal? A subjective but honest approach would be welcome. Like the reviews (the
speaker ones, not the cable ones ;-)).
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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CJSF said:
...occasionally I find a digital offering that has been well recorded according to natures analogue hearing mechanism called ears . . .
Arguably, much of the way that human hearing works, the stimulation of hairs in the cochlea at different frequencies and the subsequent firing of nerve cells has more in common with spectrum analysis and digital systems than it has in common with analogue recording.
 

cheeseboy

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Jul 17, 2012
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andyjm said:
Andy,

At the risk of taking you to task again, on what basis was this comment made - blind testing of the same master sampled at two different resolutions?

"As my colleague, magazine edtor Simon Lucas says in the August edition of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision: "What's not to like about digital music files so much bigger, packed with so much more information than CD equivalents? One listen to well-mastered high-res audio, in my experience, can make an evangelist out of a pragmatist."

I agree, Simon, I agree."

If you could reliably tell the difference between a 24/96 track and the same track downsampled to 16/44.1 in a blind test, then I may take this whole HiRes thing seriously. Until then, it is just marketing.
aye, the audio engineering society conducted a year long test on high def/cd playback and if people could hear the differences. https://secure.aes.org/forum/pubs/journal/?ID=2 Needless to say the outcome doesn't ring true with what is said above...
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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Overdose said:
davedotco said:
Secondly there seems to be a move in the music undustry to 'limit' CD quality, so that they can sell 'better' hi-res versions to more discerning listeners.
This is a very cynical viewpoint, but probably not too far from the truth.

I think that high res files though, are unlikely to be anything other than niche and particular to the enthusiast market. The tech savvy 'Beats' generation by and large, will either be uninterested or not sucked in.
Digital 'watermarking' is commonplace on some labels and is said to be audible.

Furthermore, the heavily compressed 'mass market' product that dominates pop/rock recordings is deliberately produced, the record companies know exactly what they are doing and master their product accordingly.
 

Glacialpath

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Apr 7, 2010
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Overdose said:
In all honesty, I believe high resolution files to be another cynical way to charge more money for something. It is the media equivalent of 'high-end', where the implication is for higher quality, but the reality somewhat different.

The focus for any recording should be on quality, the bit rate and resolution of files anything above the CD standard are simply not needed for complete and accurate playback of the recorded music.

What's more, a downmixed high res. file to CD standard, will not differ in sound quality. Likewise, a lossless compression of the same file will result in exactly the same sound on playback and this continues for some, for files compressed down to 128Kbps.

With high res files, I see only downsides:

Higher cost with no tangible improvement in sound quality

Larger file size requiring more expensive storage options

I reiterate that high res is seen as another cash cow, requiring no extra work, merely uploading studio masters (no downmixing to CD required) to online servers. Exactly the same files used to make CDs in fact.

The best way to improve sound quality is for production engineers to be a bit more careful with the products that they create, but this does take time and therefore money, without the extra revenue that a higher resolution file size could generate.
If sound engineers are using top quality micraphones and know what they are doing then the mix of the audio should be easy. The mastering process that applies Limiting to the audio thus squashing the full dynamics of the audio is redicing the quality of the audio.

If the music/audio has been recorded a 44.1kHz which is the CD standard if I'm not wrong then any upscaling is just fake. However if the master that would be used to create a CD is uploaded but doesn't have any limiting applied to it then this will have a better soundstage than the CD version as it will have it's original full dynamic range making it the same a Vinyl but without the stylus noise.

If the music/audio has been recorded at 96kHz which is Blu-ray and above then to put that on CD you would have re sample it at 44.1kHz thus reducing the quality. So if it has been recorded in a higher res yet they have still applied so limiting to fit it ona certain format it will be a better quality than CD and even better if they haven't applied any limiting.

I'm guessing the way the industry is marketing Hi-Res audio is all wrong. If it's uncompressed like the PCM, DTS-HD Master and Dolby TrueHD formats then they should call it Uncompressed. I'm guessing it's not. If it's just CD resolution audio that hasn't been limited then they can't really call it Hi-Res unless the sample rate is bigger than 128kbps in which case it will be better than CD.

If people can't really hear the difference then there is no point in the industry doing it. After all you can't rerecord these old albums as they would sound nothing like the original and basically be a new album. If they make a hi-res copy of the audio (a little like scanning film in 2k or 4k but not exactly) then with out aplying any limiting it might sound better as long the the information is there to be extracted from the original source that older digitising techniques couldn't manage then you will have a better version of the audio than ever before.

Having siad that most people still won't hear the difference but physically there will be more information being output.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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Glacialpath said:
Overdose said:
In all honesty, I believe high resolution files to be another cynical way to charge more money for something. It is the media equivalent of 'high-end', where the implication is for higher quality, but the reality somewhat different.

The focus for any recording should be on quality, the bit rate and resolution of files anything above the CD standard are simply not needed for complete and accurate playback of the recorded music.

What's more, a downmixed high res. file to CD standard, will not differ in sound quality. Likewise, a lossless compression of the same file will result in exactly the same sound on playback and this continues for some, for files compressed down to 128Kbps.

With high res files, I see only downsides:

Higher cost with no tangible improvement in sound quality

Larger file size requiring more expensive storage options

I reiterate that high res is seen as another cash cow, requiring no extra work, merely uploading studio masters (no downmixing to CD required) to online servers. Exactly the same files used to make CDs in fact.

The best way to improve sound quality is for production engineers to be a bit more careful with the products that they create, but this does take time and therefore money, without the extra revenue that a higher resolution file size could generate.
If sound engineers are using top quality micraphones and know what they are doing then the mix of the audio should be easy. The mastering process that applies Limiting to the audio thus squashing the full dynamics of the audio is redicing the quality of the audio.

If the music/audio has been recorded a 44.1kHz which is the CD standard if I'm not wrong then any upscaling is just fake. However if the master that would be used to create a CD is uploaded but doesn't have any limiting applied to it then this will have a better soundstage than the CD version as it will have it's original full dynamic range making it the same a Vinyl but without the stylus noise.

If the music/audio has been recorded at 96kHz which is Blu-ray and above then to put that on CD you would have re sample it at 44.1kHz thus reducing the quality. So if it has been recorded in a higher res yet they have still applied so limiting to fit it ona certain format it will be a better quality than CD and even better if they haven't applied any limiting.

I'm guessing the way the industry is marketing Hi-Res audio is all wrong. If it's uncompressed like the PCM, DTS-HD Master and Dolby TrueHD formats then they should call it Uncompressed. I'm guessing it's not. If it's just CD resolution audio that hasn't been limited then they can't really call it Hi-Res unless the sample rate is bigger than 128kbps in which case it will be better than CD.

If people can't really hear the difference then there is no point in the industry doing it. After all you can't rerecord these old albums as they would sound nothing like the original and basically be a new album. If they make a hi-res copy of the audio (a little like scanning film in 2k or 4k but not exactly) then with out aplying any limiting it might sound better as long the the information is there to be extracted from the original source that older digitising techniques couldn't manage then you will have a better version of the audio than ever before.

Having siad that most people still won't hear the difference but physically there will be more information being output.
The information is not audible and therefore irrelevant. In the broadest terms.

There is a very simple experiment that virtually anyone can do.

Find a good quality hi-res download that you like.

Down sample to Cd standard, 16 bit, 44.1 Khz.

After carefully level matching the two files, listen and compare, but do so blind.

Report what you hear.
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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Glacialpath said:
If it's just CD resolution audio that hasn't been limited then they can't really call it Hi-Res unless the sample rate is bigger than 128kbps in which case it will be better than CD.
CD bitrate is 16 x 2 x 44,100 = 1.4 Mb/s (bitrate off the disk is actually slightly higher because of framing and control data interleaved with the audio)

Glacialpath said:
If people can't really hear the difference then there is no point in the industry doing it. After all you can't rerecord these old albums as they would sound nothing like the original and basically be a new album. If they make a hi-res copy of the audio (a little like scanning film in 2k or 4k but not exactly) then with out aplying any limiting it might sound better as long the the information is there to be extracted from the original source that older digitising techniques couldn't manage then you will have a better version of the audio than ever before.

Having siad that most people still won't hear the difference but physically there will be more information being output.
Within the audio band (up to 20KHz) increasing the sample rate above 44.1KHz results in NO more information being output.

Increasing the bit depth above 16bits will increase the dynamic range, but as far as I am aware, no recording uses the full 96dB of dynamic range availabale now. In fact many mixes go out of their way to significantly reduce dynamic range.
 

TrevC

Well-known member
Jun 12, 2013
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hifikrazy said:
Overdose said:
The focus for any recording should be on quality, the bit rate and resolution of files anything above the CD standard are simply not needed for complete and accurate playback of the recorded music.
On what basis did you come to the conclusion that CD standard resolution is the highest resolution that is needed or is audible?

Is this the same as saying we don't need bluray when we have DVD, or we don't need 4K when bluray is "good enough"?
No, not the same at all. The difference in your video resolution examples can be clearly seen close to a large screen. I doubt that anyone can hear the difference between CD and higher resolution audio formats. They can imagine or pretend they do, of course, like they can imagine vinyl is better than CD and they can hear audible differences in pieces of mains wire.
 

Overdose

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Feb 8, 2008
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Glacialpath said:
If sound engineers are using top quality micraphones and know what they are doing then the mix of the audio should be easy. The mastering process that applies Limiting to the audio thus squashing the full dynamics of the audio is redicing the quality of the audio.
Limiting dynamic range is not bad per se and allows music to be allowed in environments not totally quiet. It is overuse that is the problem.

Glacialpath said:
If the music/audio has been recorded a 44.1kHz which is the CD standard if I'm not wrong then any upscaling is just fake. However if the master that would be used to create a CD is uploaded but doesn't have any limiting applied to it then this will have a better soundstage than the CD version as it will have it's original full dynamic range making it the same a Vinyl but without the stylus noise.
Recordings are typically made at what would be considered high resolutions, eg 24/96. These are then downmixed to CD quality with no loss of audible data whatsoever. The dynamic range of CD is 96dB, vinyl is approx 30dB and with an equivalent approximate bit depth of up to 12 bit.

Glacialpath said:
If the music/audio has been recorded at 96kHz which is Blu-ray and above then to put that on CD you would have re sample it at 44.1kHz thus reducing the quality. So if it has been recorded in a higher res yet they have still applied so limiting to fit it ona certain format it will be a better quality than CD and even better if they haven't applied any limiting.
CD quality has the capability for all the dynamic range for us humans to hear.

Glacialpath said:
I'm guessing the way the industry is marketing Hi-Res audio is all wrong. If it's uncompressed like the PCM, DTS-HD Master and Dolby TrueHD formats then they should call it Uncompressed. I'm guessing it's not. If it's just CD resolution audio that hasn't been limited then they can't really call it Hi-Res unless the sample rate is bigger than 128kbps in which case it will be better than CD.
Yes, that is the problem.

Glacialpath said:
If people can't really hear the difference then there is no point in the industry doing it. After all you can't rerecord these old albums as they would sound nothing like the original and basically be a new album. If they make a hi-res copy of the audio (a little like scanning film in 2k or 4k but not exactly) then with out aplying any limiting it might sound better as long the the information is there to be extracted from the original source that older digitising techniques couldn't manage then you will have a better version of the audio than ever before.

Having siad that most people still won't hear the difference but physically there will be more information being output.
That hasn't stopped people making, selling, imagining and buying all kinds of nonsense related to hifi, otherwise known as 'snake oil' or 'foo'.

Old recordings can be cleaned up and a certain amount of clarity retrieved, but again, the remastered piece need not exceed CD resolution.
 

Leeps

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Dec 10, 2012
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Until Hi-Res Audio does go mainstream, I'm certainly not going to spend £1000's on new equipment. (I might continue to enjoy Bluray Audios which I can use with my current gear).

What about all the people who've invested in Hi-Res streamers over the past few years? If DSD is gaining popularity as a format in the US and does catch on, will all the manufacturers of these streamers update them to become DSD-compatible?

There have been rumours for some time about Naim for example offering Airplay or Spotify Connect, but so far "nil point". It's only when something DOES go mainstream that you can be more confident that the manufacturers will back the format.

And then there's the mastering. I'm sure in the early days of CD we purchased dodgy recordings on CD hoping for better (and the same could be true of many modern recordings too).

Personally I think downloading has a limited life anyway with more and more people going over to online streaming services. CD-quality of Hi-Res streaming would certainly interest me more than downloading (with all the associated NAS drives, backups and technical stuff that I really don't want to faff with just to play music).

So for all the huff and puff of Sony, Onkyo, Naim, Linn, Astell & Kern and Neil Young, my money will stay firmly planted in my wallet next to the moths.
 

jacobmorrison

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2009
48
3
18,545
[/quote]

The information is not audible and therefore irrelevant. In the broadest terms.

There is a very simple experiment that virtually anyone can do.

Find a good quality hi-res download that you like.

Down sample to Cd standard, 16 bit, 44.1 Khz.

After carefully level matching the two files, listen and compare, but do so blind.

Report what you hear.

[/quote]

Done. Heard no difference at all. Heard a big difference between my original CD and the remastered hires file. The only possible conclusion to draw is that the remaster makes the difference, not the size of the file. But still this debate...

I'm still concerned as to why Andy and his magazine have not tackled this issue head on. WhatHiFi should be championing quality re-masters and defending the consumers against being ripped off. Instead every article/blog post just recycles the equipment manufacturer's line, that hi-res must be better than CD because it just is and here are the numbers to prove it. This mindless towing of the party line is demeaning for the magazine and disappointing for its readers. After all, we're told every month not to take reviews in isolation, to use our own ears to decide if something is worth our money. It's a shame that on this issue WhatHiFi don't seem willing to follow their own advice.
 

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