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HD greedsters - it ain't rock'n'roll old chum

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morris_minor View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote morris_minor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Feb 2015 at 3:18pm
Originally posted by Justin122 Justin122 wrote:

ALl I know is that it sounds much better...
Hi Justin, and welcome to the forum.

Would you care to pop over to the new members' corner to introduce yourself . . . 
Bob

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote discrete badger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Feb 2020 at 1:41pm
I have some of my own, slightly puzzling, recent observations to add to this old chestnut!

I'm very new to all this hi-res digi stuff. For years and years I was happy with 44.1/16, mostly via ripped flacs, played back via some very good upsampling DACs. I understand enough of the maths behind digital audio to be convinced that nothing more than the above is theoretically necessary, that anything below 22.05 can be reconstructed perfectly (modulo the deleterious effects of the brick-wall digital filter, etc etc). My adventures with SACD - I have a small collection - never led anywhere, due mostly to the huge limitations imposed on the signal path by the copy-protection scheme. So I was pretty sceptical of hi-res digi.

But - as you can guess - there's a big but coming: I was recently introduced to Tidal and Qobuz, and now have subscriptions. My findings are as follows:

For a given recording, I can discern no difference between the CD, the ripped flac, and the CD-quality streaming option of Tidal and Qobuz. Spotify at any quality setting is far, far below, SQ-wise, and so I choose not to listen to it any more.

I am unable to try the hi-res option in Tidal, due to the requirement for MQA, which is, to say the very least, controversial both in its lossy implementation and revenue-generating model.

With Qobuz I am able to try all of the lossless PCM hi-res options up to 96/24. Helpfully, one of my all-time favourite albums, The Division Bell, is available both in 44.1/16 and 96/24, and as I have known it intimately for 27 years it makes for a very interesting object of study. 

Those who are familiar with it will possibly agree that the 44.1/16 masters are very fine-sounding, even state-of-the-art for a recording of the era. What's surprising, therefore, is just how much better the 96/24 sounds. It is not a mood-dependent, subtle thing, but a completely obvious and reproducible effect. In this context, I should mention that, currently, in chez badger, treble is arriving via a pair of excellent beryllium tweeters, which leave no detail unearthed. But the same effect is clearly evident on the HD250II + Solo UL or Voyager.

It's most noticeable on Nick Mason's cymbals and hi-hat, which have much greater clarity and body, and seemed to be freed from a layer of high-frequency "hash", but every single other aspect also sounds better. There is a much greater sense of space, realism, depth, smoothness, and flowing musicality. It is just so much better, and I fear I will never be able to enjoy the 44.1/16 again.

The improvement is not just limited to 96/24. Plenty of "hi-res" albums are at 48/24, and the improvement in these over 44.1/16 is comparable. Perhaps even more surprising - there are a lot of "hi-res" albums at just 44.1/24, which carry quite a chunk of the audible improvement of 96/24.

My observations do not concur with what's predicted by the theory. If anything, it's the sample rate that should have the greatest effect - moving the artifacts of brick-wall filtering high beyond audibility. The sample bit depth should have no effect other than further lowering the already inaudible noise floor. But this is not what appears to happen - it seems that the bit depth increase to 24, alone, is hugely beneficial. 

Could it be just the removal of the downsampling step (24-16) in the 44.1/16 mastering process? But that doesn't make sense either. Dither can, in theory, restore the random noise floor at any bit depth provided there is enough dynamic range remaining for the programme material.

I am at a loss to explain why this is happening, but it is happening.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Graham Slee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Feb 2020 at 9:54am
The sound will depend on the conversion provision. Software is only doing what hardware might conceivably achieve. Everything is adusted somewhere. Comparisons are comparisons.

In other words, each method has its own "slant", no matter how subtle, and often unintended because it is there to make something else work. There can never be a truly flat playing field. There are too many factors involved.
Not simple enough for Google-Bot to understand...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Aussie Mick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Feb 2020 at 10:01am
I’ve become totally unconcerned by why some versions sound better than others. I find my favorite and I listen. Music is the best. 
Mick.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote kgilroy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Feb 2020 at 1:27pm
This hi-res discussion can become a bit like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. I have DSD files, 96/24, 88/24, 192/24, 44/16 and have come to the conclusion that it all comes down to the mastering engineer and what they think sounds good.
Goes without saying that the recording has to be good to start with.
Keith

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote patientot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Feb 2020 at 7:29pm
Originally posted by kgilroy kgilroy wrote:

This hi-res discussion can become a bit like going down the proverbial rabbit hole. I have DSD files, 96/24, 88/24, 192/24, 44/16 and have come to the conclusion that it all comes down to the mastering engineer and what they think sounds good.
Goes without saying that the recording has to be good to start with.

Pretty much my conclusion as well. I may have mentioned this before but awhile back I experimented with some pure/native DSD files (e.g. music actually recorded in DSD and not converted to anything else afterwards). Generally these are only available as classical solo instruments as it's not that easy to edit or mix music in DSD without converting to PCM first. 

Conclusion: although the files sounded very nice and I do not regret purchasing the albums, there is nothing at all special about the DSD format, at least where 2 channel audio is concerned. I could easily convert the files to PCM and would probably not be able to tell the difference in blind test, nor do I think anyone else could with repeatable, controlled blind testing. 

The only reason I would buy DSD files in the future would be due to special mastering not available on another format. 

Oh, and one thing that really rubbed me the wrong way about DSD was a download store's advertising offer of "upsampled" 512 DSD rate files (at an additional charge of course). Never mind the fact that the source material was often recorded at a lower rate like 256 or 128 DSD, and that these rates already capture audio information well beyond the threshold of human hearing!LOL
Reflex M + PSU-1 used with AT VM95ML, Stanton 680mkII + Ogura, and Shure M35X cartridges.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote discrete badger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Feb 2020 at 7:13am
Originally posted by Graham Slee Graham Slee wrote:

The sound will depend on the conversion provision. Software is only doing what hardware might conceivably achieve. Everything is adusted somewhere. Comparisons are comparisons.

In other words, each method has its own "slant", no matter how subtle, and often unintended because it is there to make something else work. There can never be a truly flat playing field. There are too many factors involved.

This point of view makes a lot of rational sense, and it certainly matches my experience for the same album CD vs LP; where some are much better on LP, and some are much better on CD.

However, the following is my observation so far: Having gone through between 20 and 30 familiar recordings and compared the hi-res with the plain 44.1/16, the hi-res is always the better of the two, in terms of perceived SQ. If the above PoV were the only factor at work, then one might expect only some to sound better. As another intruiging data point, for TDB, playing back the 96/24 stream at 44.1/16, such that it is forced to be downsampled in the streamer, reproduces the 44.1/16 sound exactly!


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