High-resolution audio: everything you need to know

nexpose

Member
Jul 29, 2020
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So I'm using Amazon music HD service and have a Sony 1080 receiver. What I want to do is make sure I get 24bit / 192khz. Do I need to hook one of the music streamers up to my 1080 receiver in order to make this happen? Since I know through my S9+ phone I can't achieve ultimate sound. I'm new to HD streaming or hoping to stream in Ultra HD as Amazon music HD calls it. Thank you and appreciate any help
 

superhans

Well-known member
Oct 19, 2020
31
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45
So I'm using Amazon music HD service and have a Sony 1080 receiver. What I want to do is make sure I get 24bit / 192khz. Do I need to hook one of the music streamers up to my 1080 receiver in order to make this happen? Since I know through my S9+ phone I can't achieve ultimate sound. I'm new to HD streaming or hoping to stream in Ultra HD as Amazon music HD calls it. Thank you and appreciate any help
I have the same set-up. You could buy a bluesound 2i streamer to get the full 24bit / 192khz but I would suggest you first try out LDAC over bluetooth. Set the amp and your s9+ phone to prefer LDAC and you'll get 24bit / 96khz (990kbps)
Sounds fantastic and costs nothing! I doubt you'd hear any noticeable difference between the bluesound vs Sony LDAC
My Sony is hooked up to Dali Oberon 5 and I'm very happy with how it sounds using bluetooth/LDAC
Note: Most recent android phones support LDAC and can be configured via 'Developer Options'
Chromecast on the amp has not been updated by Sony and currently does not support HD streams from Amazon. If you don't want to use bluetooth, then you could (if you can find one) hook up an old 'Chromecast audio' This would also give you HD from Amazon
 

yorkslad

Member
Dec 1, 2020
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Presto Classical (prestomusic) is an excellent site and has a large library of classical and jazz flac downloads to purchase.
 

stephenk

Active member
Dec 22, 2020
4
2
25
For various reasons, including downsizing, I have just discovered high-res streaming and downloading. So I got what I thought was a pretty good set up but none of the elements featurin your review !
I'm using my old Arcam amplifier and I listen through my Lyn Keilidh speakers.
So.....
For audio I subscribe to Primephonic. (I found Tidal more difficult to navigate). I use a Firefly DAC to take sound from my laptop or my smartphone (Redmi Note9 PRO) to my ARCAM DELTA90 amplifier. I am not allowed to take downloads to my laptop but only to my phone or tablet., Which is very irritating because I travel, but I seem to have adequate storage on my phone at least for primephonic downloads.
For combined high quality video and sound (my preference) I have subscribed to Medici TV, and I take the sound from my new LG Smart TV out through an optical cable output through a CYP AUD3-192 DAC to my amp.
All this is very new to me. I'm disturbed that you haven't reviewed my streaming services or the firefly and I wonder if I made some big mistakes?
 

DrAIX

Active member
Feb 23, 2021
1
4
25
I was a member of the CEA High-End Audio Board for 8 years, operate a high-resolution download site (itrax.com), am a university professor teaching audio engineering, authored an 880-page book on high-end audio, and completed an AES presentation on high-resolution audio for last fall's convention. The amount of misinformation in this article is astounding! I'm not sure where to start. Amazon Music HD is not high-resolution audio according to the definition issued by the CEA in 2014. Amazon HD simply shifted CD - or standard resolution - to the HD category for marketing purposes. And it doesn't matter anyway because virtually every recording available in download or streaming format fail to meet the frequency response and dynamics of a standard compact disc. The statement "going 16bit to 24bit can deliver a noticeable leap in quality" is patently untrue. I survey over 500 audiophiles in my research and the results showed that people had as good a chance at picking a native HD file over a CD as a random coin toss. Hi-Res audio and MQA are simply attempts by those in the music and audio business to grab more money. It's a shame that the authors of this piece failed to do adequate research before writing a useless article.
 

superhans

Well-known member
Oct 19, 2020
31
10
45
I was a member of the CEA High-End Audio Board for 8 years, operate a high-resolution download site (itrax.com), am a university professor teaching audio engineering, authored an 880-page book on high-end audio, and completed an AES presentation on high-resolution audio for last fall's convention. The amount of misinformation in this article is astounding! I'm not sure where to start. Amazon Music HD is not high-resolution audio according to the definition issued by the CEA in 2014. Amazon HD simply shifted CD - or standard resolution - to the HD category for marketing purposes. And it doesn't matter anyway because virtually every recording available in download or streaming format fail to meet the frequency response and dynamics of a standard compact disc. The statement "going 16bit to 24bit can deliver a noticeable leap in quality" is patently untrue. I survey over 500 audiophiles in my research and the results showed that people had as good a chance at picking a native HD file over a CD as a random coin toss. Hi-Res audio and MQA are simply attempts by those in the music and audio business to grab more money. It's a shame that the authors of this piece failed to do adequate research before writing a useless article.
Fantastic post and I agree. Over last 6 months, I've listened extensively to Qobuz, Amazon HD, Tidal MQA and I think 'Hi-Res' is a snake oil cash grab. Most of the music that has blown my skirt up - were good old CD 16/44.1 quality.
The mastering is more important than the sample rate is my conclusion. Once Spotify give us the new 'CD' quality tier that will meet my needs. Don't care about anything above that.
 
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Dan J

Active member
Mar 20, 2021
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I am learning a lot about HiFi streaming in articles such as these, but difficulty figuring out how best to use my current equipment.

1) I have an amp (Denon DRA-800h) that lets me log in to Tidal HiFi- that streams natively at CD quality only...(16-bit/44.1kHz is indicated on the screen of the TV that the amp is hooked to).

2) I have a Chromecast Ultra hooked into the same amp that just indcates "HiFi" on the TV when I cast to it using the Tidal app on my phone (the app on the phone is a much better experience than on the Amplifier)...I suspect this is also 16-bit/44.1khz)

3) I have a Chromecast Audio that I am not using, but could hook up to the Amp either with aux or TOSLINK.

4) I could purchase a more specialized streamer that streams at MQA, but would still be putting it into the same amp/speakers via HDMI or TOSLINK.

I (subjectively) think #1 sounds better than #2
#2 is a lot easier and simpler to use
I suspect the best is option #4, but I am not ready for the cost.
I realize that all of the above probably do better than my middle age ears can resolve, but they also definitely sound better than my Youtube Music subscription did...

My Question:
Can someone advise me on the difference in audio quality between the Chromecast Ultra and the Chromecast Audio? I can never find the bit rate of the CC Ultra to be able to compare it to the CC Audio...and then I wonder the HDMI of the CC Ultra isn't better than the TOSLINK of the CC Audio...

Thanks!
 

CHFels

Well-known member
Jun 21, 2011
2
0
18,520
I am learning a lot about HiFi streaming in articles such as these, but difficulty figuring out how best to use my current equipment.

1) I have an amp (Denon DRA-800h) that lets me log in to Tidal HiFi- that streams natively at CD quality only...(16-bit/44.1kHz is indicated on the screen of the TV that the amp is hooked to).

2) I have a Chromecast Ultra hooked into the same amp that just indcates "HiFi" on the TV when I cast to it using the Tidal app on my phone (the app on the phone is a much better experience than on the Amplifier)...I suspect this is also 16-bit/44.1khz)

3) I have a Chromecast Audio that I am not using, but could hook up to the Amp either with aux or TOSLINK.

4) I could purchase a more specialized streamer that streams at MQA, but would still be putting it into the same amp/speakers via HDMI or TOSLINK.

I (subjectively) think #1 sounds better than #2
#2 is a lot easier and simpler to use
I suspect the best is option #4, but I am not ready for the cost.
I realize that all of the above probably do better than my middle age ears can resolve, but they also definitely sound better than my Youtube Music subscription did...

My Question:
Can someone advise me on the difference in audio quality between the Chromecast Ultra and the Chromecast Audio? I can never find the bit rate of the CC Ultra to be able to compare it to the CC Audio...and then I wonder the HDMI of the CC Ultra isn't better than the TOSLINK of the CC Audio...

Thanks!
Chromecast Ultra is limited to 48khz for audio, and I have seen it suggested that it might upsample all audio to that frequency. Not sure if it will pass on 24 bits, or only 16. Either way, it should be able to sound as good as the built-in Tidal app. If it doesn't, to your ears, that may be evidence that (badly done) re-sampling is done by the CCU, or that your Denon amp does not handle HDMI audio as well as it should. But another possibility to keep in mind is that you are not level-matching and you simply prefer #1 over #2 because it's a bit louder. (No offence meant, everybody is subject to this effect and it is hard to guard against).

The Chromecast Audio can pass on 24/96 audio to the Denon via Toslink, so in theory that should be your preferred option. Whether it will sound better, same, or worse than the CCU depends on how your Denon handles Toslink input data, compared to HDMI input data. (And once again, watch out for volume differences if you try to compare the two!)
 

Dan J

Active member
Mar 20, 2021
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25
Thanks!
I'll give the Toslink on CCA a try.
You're right, by the way, I've caught myself enjoying the louder of two choices a few times so I turn up the Chromecast all the way when comparing...
 
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drw

Member
Jun 12, 2021
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"Apple iTunes, for instance, doesn't support it, even if your MacBook does, so you'll need to buy and download separate music playing software."

Categorically not true. iTunes can store and play ALAC & WAV files just fine - upto 24bit/192khz. The xACT application will convert any other 24bit source files to ALAC (including FLAC and WAV).

The primary issue many don't realise is how Mac's are configured to play anything other than the standard 44.1khz/16bit output. To make this work, you must configure the output stream using the "Audio MIDI Setup" application found in the Utilities folder (from the Window menu, select "Show Audio Devices", pick the output and set the Format to your choice of output). The maximum frequency is entirely based on the hardware capabilities. My 12 year old Mac Mini is quite capable of outputing from iTunes at 96khz at 24bit through the headphone out (which doubles as a digital toslink output) to my Pioneer receiver that can process the toslink input at 96khz/24bit. Has worked just fine for this purpose for years (and yes I've verified that the Pioneer is indeed processing 96khz/24bit data). Newer Macs can natively handle 192khz, though the toslink out via headphone jack was depreciated in more recent years, likely because few knew it existed.

The same configuration can be used for 5.1 DTS music output too (though the output frequency must match the source, i.e. typically 44.1khz). And this isn't a one off, as I have a backup Mac Mini configured in exactly the same way, and both can be a host server to a home sharing network - where 24bit music will play on newer Mac's running Apple Music across a LAN (again the output must be configured to a hi-res output based on capabilities, or the audio will be downsampled locally. Works great through a Scarlett 2i2 at 192khz/24bit).
 
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mikemuch

Member
Aug 27, 2021
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I think there's an error: whereas a 24-bit/192kHz file has a data rate of 9216kbps. Music CDs are 1411kbps. -- CDs are 16 bits at 44.1, so 24 bits at 192kHz should be more data, esp since that's Hi-Res, higher than CD.

I do find that 24-bit Hi-Res sounds more open and detailed compared with lower res formats. It's a very subtle difference, but the lower res sounds a bit like its coming form inside a tunnel or horn, while the Hi-Res sounds more present.
 

ribena_hood

Active member
Sep 14, 2021
1
1
25
I came here to rag on WhatHiFI for their misleading article, but thankfully DrAIX got here first, although not before the article had been published for almost a year.

To reiterate...

"...so going 16bit to 24bit can..." - NOT - "...deliver a noticeable leap in quality..."

A greater bit depth delivers the potential for a larger dynamic range.... louder loud parts and quiter quiet parts... Potentially!... if the track you're listening to hasn't already had the bejesus compressed out of it in the studio which, of course, it probably has.

The sample rate similarly will not improve the 'quality' of the recorded sound. A sample rate above ~40kHz creates a physically perfect copy -literally perfect- of any noise within the range of any human's hearing... any human. A sample rate of 48kHz and up, doesn't create a more perfect recording... it just increases the amount of data you have to store.

What higher sample rates might capture are the ultrasonic (/inaudible) frequencies created by the instrument and recording space's harmonic resonances...

Although inaudible, ultrasonic frequencies are an objective, physical reality... they can be felt even if they cannot be heard (and have infact been weaponised for that exact reason) and can have feedback effects, modifying audible frequencies, changing what you hear and even, perhaps, changing your perception of what you hear.

So why is this irrelevant? Because studio recording equipment and your home playback equipment cannot record or playback those ultrasonic/inaudible harmonic frequencies....

... take WhatHiFi's own #1 rated 'Best floorstanding speakers 2021'... the Wharfedale Diamond 12.3... they have a claimed frequency response of 40Hz-20kHz while the Shure SM7B microphone, has a 50Hz - 20kHz frequency response.

So sure, you can claim to hear a difference with a higher sample rate, but you cannot... it's literally impossible.

That said... you do get harmonic resonance from your home speakers (but not from your Beats by Dre headphones folks...) and the room they're in , so the 'loss' of "Recorded Live" harmonics isn't actually a loss. You still get the 'right' sound for your equipment and its location, regardless.
 
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silverXnoise

Member
Sep 17, 2021
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I was a member of the CEA High-End Audio Board for 8 years, operate a high-resolution download site (itrax.com), am a university professor teaching audio engineering, authored an 880-page book on high-end audio, and completed an AES presentation on high-resolution audio for last fall's convention. The amount of misinformation in this article is astounding! I'm not sure where to start. Amazon Music HD is not high-resolution audio according to the definition issued by the CEA in 2014. Amazon HD simply shifted CD - or standard resolution - to the HD category for marketing purposes. And it doesn't matter anyway because virtually every recording available in download or streaming format fail to meet the frequency response and dynamics of a standard compact disc. The statement "going 16bit to 24bit can deliver a noticeable leap in quality" is patently untrue. I survey over 500 audiophiles in my research and the results showed that people had as good a chance at picking a native HD file over a CD as a random coin toss. Hi-Res audio and MQA are simply attempts by those in the music and audio business to grab more money. It's a shame that the authors of this piece failed to do adequate research before writing a useless article.
This is spot-on. I am an electronics engineer and recording musician, and this trend of "HD" or "high-res" audio for the purposes of listening is just the latest means for the hifi industry to further tarnish its own reputation, along with cryogenically-treated valves, magic capacitors, a whole array of needlessly expensive cables, etc.. It preys on consumers' inability to parse highly technical and esoteric specs and nuanced engineering concepts to inflate their profit margins far beyond the point of reason. I am a proponent of lossless digital audio codecs, and would never assert they aren't an objectively better choice for listening to digital audio files. That said, sampling rates above 96KHz or sampling depths above 16-bit are wholly unnecessary for playback. The reason these higher specifications are employed in studios during recording sessions is partly because of the particular limitations of working with digital audio that requires leaving significantly more headroom in track levels to avoid clipping, which reduces the usable portions of the sampling depth and necessitates additional amplitude processing later on. It is also necessary during the recording process to accommodate heavy applications of DSP effects like reverb, compression/limiting, spatial enhancements, and modulation that can make productive use out of the additional resolution.

Once the recording is completed, it is up to the mastering engineer to make the appropriate decisions for converting the digital masters to their final format. If the mastering engineer does their job right, a 44.1KHz/16-bit uncompressed [lossless] audio file is indistinguishable from 192KHz/24-bit.

This brings me to the subject of high-end DACs (digital-to-analog converters). I looked at datasheets, and to match the performance of many of the DACs listed for several thousand dollars, the actual chip doing the conversion costs roughly $15. Cirrus Logic's CS43130 has 32-bit/384KHz resolution, THD+N of -108dB at 0dB, 130dB of dynamic range, 0.5 nanosecond jitter (to accurately hit every sample of a 384kHz file anything lower than 1300 nanoseconds would suffice), 110 dB of interchannel isolation, and a wealth of dedicated stereo audio features and filtering options. So unless the Nagra HD DAC contains a £23450 preamp, then its £23600 asking price is frankly absurd. Optimistically speaking, a well-designed outboard DAC will have been designed with very specific filtering and preamp choices that can make even lower quality digital files sound as good as possible. But if you're buying lossless audio files that have been mastered properly, then the integrated DACs in your devices are almost certainly sufficient for providing an analog audio signal that's as good as it can be.
 
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