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High Resolution Audio: Does It Matter?

Frank Dernie

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The number of hifi enthusiasts who are completely influenced by fashion is almost all of them.
The financially successful engineers know that and pander to it if they want to make lots of money.
Producing well engineered good value for money products for the very, very, few who are immune to the fashion is not a recipe for business success. Producing beautifully styled kit packed with the latest buzz-word fashionable features/components makes a fortune for those who pander to the much larger portion of the market who have swallowed the bollox hook line and sinker. That goes for both equipment and recording engineers IME.
Harbeth recommend simple speaker cables and say all adequate amps sound the same but all their importers insist on fancy connectors, cables and electronics at shows just to be taken "seriously" by the fans.
 

Fitzcaraldo215

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I'm quite convinced that anyone who spend the time and effort to do a level matched controlled test, and passed it when so many have failed, would have mentioned it when talking about it, for a sound engineer it's a 'my ears are better than yours' boast if nothing else, and they are never shy about promoting themselves, for good reason.
What you say may be quite true about the aforementioned Barry Diament, judging by his many, many old comments at CA Forum. Not a fan of his, by the way. It seems also true about Mark Waldrep, again not a particular favorite of mine.

I don’t pay much attention to rock/pop engineers or labels, myself. I do listen to classical engineers, a few of whom I know personally, and honestly I do not see them claiming to hear better than we do or engaging in flagrant self promotion. They actually keep many aspects of their art hidden and let the recordings speak for themselves. So, I don’t follow your logic vs. the anecdotal evidence I see. Maybe we live on different planets.
 

svart-hvitt

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We don't need to speculate, everyone is influenced by expectation bias, only doing the tests blind can remove it.

My guess is the more someone thinks they are above expectation bias, the more they are influenced by it.
I know so well that I am under very heavy bias influence, to the extent that I am unbiased.

;)
 

NorthSky

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Quite, that is why hi-res doesn't matter, only the music does.
There is a thrift store somewhere near, in that store there is a walkman, and many cassette music tapes.
 

Dismayed

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I really do hope that people dive into 'high resolution' files. Then I'll be able to buy up used CD's for a song.
 

JJB70

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I'm a huge fan of Mark Waldrep's website and find him to be an intelligent, articulate and balanced individual. Unusually perhaps for a person who seems to inhabit the high end audiophile world he has a sense of perspective and clearly has no time for the sort of audiophoolery snake oil and scam artistry that is a feature of that end of the hobby. Also his attitude to high res download sites and things like MQA are a breath of fresh air. And his response to his recent high res listening test does him immense credit. I respected him for having the nerve to subject his belief in high res to such a survey but even more respect when he accepted the results and his own failure to discern the high res tracks with such good grace did him immense credit. He clearly has a lot of expertise on his subject but communicates with a lay audience very well and doesn't patronise his readers.
 
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Do you know which engineers? Would be interested to read the rationale for their views on this.
FWIW, at the Luxembourg Philharmonie we record in whatever format the client asks for. Usually the radio station wants 24/48 (or a coded stream), for video projects it's 24/48, for standard projects and archives it's 24/96 and for the SACD productions from Pentatone (recorded by Polyhymnia International) we use DXD (24/352.8). The only difference is a setting in the Pyramix DAW and the required disk space. The extra cost is benign compared to the total recording budget. Track count can become a problem if the current 64 inputs limit for DXD isn't enough. For classical music that's hardly ever the case.
I think the main reason for recording in DXD is that it's the best format we can deliver right now. In the case of re-releases or re-mastering in the future, we don't have to apologize for not having used the state of the art format at a certain time.
 

Blumlein 88

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FWIW, at the Luxembourg Philharmonie we record in whatever format the client asks for. Usually the radio station wants 24/48 (or a coded stream), for video projects it's 24/48, for standard projects and archives it's 24/96 and for the SACD productions from Pentatone (recorded by Polyhymnia International) we use DXD (24/352.8). The only difference is a setting in the Pyramix DAW and the required disk space. The extra cost is benign compared to the total recording budget. Track count can become a problem if the current 64 inputs limit for DXD isn't enough. For classical music that's hardly ever the case.
I think the main reason for recording in DXD is that it's the best format we can deliver right now. In the case of re-releases or re-mastering in the future, we don't have to apologize for not having used the state of the art format at a certain time.
@Kees de Visser
I certainly understand making the customer happy by offering what they request.

You last sentence is interesting however. Is DXD better than 24/96? If so how is it better? If you are recording classical music with relatively low mic count what are the benefits of DXD?
 
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Fitzcaraldo215

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Not Kees, and I am most interested in his viewpoint, but I think there is no compelling published science for or against 352.8k. As he points out, though, it is no sweat to use it on a Pyramix. It also does lend itself to “easy” conversion to DSD64 for SACD release, and it is almost universally used by engineers as an interim editing format for brief snippets of native DSD recordings. It is by wide engineering consensus felt to “do less harm” in micro DSD editing than lower PCM resolutions. And, it is also widely felt to give the best transfers from PCM recordings to DSD. PentaTone remains heavily committed to SACD, and their recordings are among the very best in hirez.

It may not make sense to all, especially the skeptics and nay sayers here, but the concept of also not limiting yourself in recording for archiving purposes makes a great deal of sense to me. The “RBCD or 96k is good enough” argument is not without considerable controversy and it also lacks concrete proof beyond question, both now and into the future. That the benefits of 352.8k are totally insignificant to nonexistent vs. say, 96k, might be viewed differently years from now, at least in customer belief or perception from a marketing perspective.

So, since it is so easy at such low cost to greatly exceed today’s more limiting sample rate ideas, why not just switch on the 352.8k in the Pyramix? No harm done, except a little extra storage space. That seems a more prudent path than trying to come up with a definitive answer for the ages of the question of how high a sampling rate is enough and trying to convince the world of why that is true beyond question.

I know, I know, why then stop at 352.8? Find the commonly available equipment to record it as simply as the widely used Pyramix, and likely some engineers will go there too, provably better sound or not.
 

hvbias

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He also claims that wav sounds better than flac:
The funny thing is someone on the SH forum pointed out the software he uses to listen to music (a DAW) automatically converts all FLAC files to WAV when they are opened in the software. This was confirmed with the creators of the app and it's logical since FLAC isn't really an easily editable format what with the types of editing a DAW is capable of.

The even crazier thing is he still insisted on hearing a difference after that.
 
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Is DXD better than 24/96? If so how is it better? If you are recording classical music with relatively low mic count what are the benefits of DXD?
As Fitzcaraldo215 pointed out, DXD is a format that can easily be converted into DSD (for SACD) and lower resolution PCM. While I personally believe there are no audible advantages, many of my colleagues claim otherwise, but AFAIK mostly based on anecdotal evidence.
 
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Allow me to add another argument from the music production pov.
After weeks, months or years of preparation the artist(s) spend several days in the studio or concert hall to preserve their performance for (almost) eternity. We try to provide the best acoustics, instruments, hotel, catering etc. within the (usually 5 or 6 number) budget. Few artists have a good understanding of the technical aspects. It's easy to convince them of the benefits of surround (or auro). We might be able to convince them that 24/96 is enough ('even for you, the famous artist') but we would have to admit that DXD is simply the 'best' format at the moment. We don't know if these overkill formats will survive, but re-recording in the future because our judgement turns out to be flawed will be artistically and financially hard to defend.
So we buy a 4TB drive and record in DXD.
My € 0.02
 

Wombat

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Allow me to add another argument from the music production pov.
After weeks, months or years of preparation the artist(s) spend several days in the studio or concert hall to preserve their performance for (almost) eternity. We try to provide the best acoustics, instruments, hotel, catering etc. within the (usually 5 or 6 number) budget. Few artists have a good understanding of the technical aspects. It's easy to convince them of the benefits of surround (or auro). We might be able to convince them that 24/96 is enough ('even for you, the famous artist') but we would have to admit that DXD is simply the 'best' format at the moment. We don't know if these overkill formats will survive, but re-recording in the future because our judgement turns out to be flawed will be artistically and financially hard to defend.
So we buy a 4TB drive and record in DXD.
My € 0.02

Best resolution is not necessary for consumers if it exceeds audible discrimination. That is not to say ignorance or ego will not demand it.

Think Timex vs the favourite luxury watches for time accuracy discrimination.

Peacock Syndrome
 
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Frank Dernie

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Allow me to add another argument from the music production pov.
After weeks, months or years of preparation the artist(s) spend several days in the studio or concert hall to preserve their performance for (almost) eternity. We try to provide the best acoustics, instruments, hotel, catering etc. within the (usually 5 or 6 number) budget. Few artists have a good understanding of the technical aspects. It's easy to convince them of the benefits of surround (or auro). We might be able to convince them that 24/96 is enough ('even for you, the famous artist') but we would have to admit that DXD is simply the 'best' format at the moment. We don't know if these overkill formats will survive, but re-recording in the future because our judgement turns out to be flawed will be artistically and financially hard to defend.
So we buy a 4TB drive and record in DXD.
My € 0.02
This makes perfect sense, I as a feeble amateur have always recorded at the best quality I have at the time, whether a Revox or digital.
I don't personally see the point in storing big files of purchased music though for my own use, so do not.
 

sergeauckland

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Allow me to add another argument from the music production pov.
After weeks, months or years of preparation the artist(s) spend several days in the studio or concert hall to preserve their performance for (almost) eternity. We try to provide the best acoustics, instruments, hotel, catering etc. within the (usually 5 or 6 number) budget. Few artists have a good understanding of the technical aspects. It's easy to convince them of the benefits of surround (or auro). We might be able to convince them that 24/96 is enough ('even for you, the famous artist') but we would have to admit that DXD is simply the 'best' format at the moment. We don't know if these overkill formats will survive, but re-recording in the future because our judgement turns out to be flawed will be artistically and financially hard to defend.
So we buy a 4TB drive and record in DXD.
My € 0.02
This makes perfect sense, I as a feeble amateur have always recorded at the best quality I have at the time, whether a Revox or digital.
I don't personally see the point in storing big files of purchased music though for my own use, so do not.
Exactly. For recording and subsequent production, by all means record in the highest quality currently available. However, for music distribution, whatever is good enough for the target market is Good Enough. For ephemeral Pop, that could be a 128k MP3 or AAC download, for 'serious' classical music, 44.1/16. That doesn't stop later reissues going back to the original masters and reissuing at higher quality if it's found that the music concerned, even if originally thought of as ephemeral Pop, has lasting or historic value.

Sadly what's happened with reissues (or 'remastering'), mostly of Pop music, is that the original quality has been downgraded by equalisation, heavy compression and limiting, whereas the originals had a much more natural sound. This of course may just be fashion, as to make an old recording sound 'modern' it gets the same mastering treatment as current recordings.

I have a number of CDs bought in the early to mid 1980s that had a very full dynamic range and left some digital headroom (the original Dire Straits CDs are amongst the best that way) which when remastered lost a lot of that.

S.
 

Sal1950

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So we buy a 4TB drive and record in DXD.
Perfectly correct from the business point of view.. It costs little to give them what they want while getting the best possible resolution to boot, even if it's not an audible improvement. Luckily you're not in a position where the customer is asking for something that might be an audible problem after he may have been convinced by market/peer opinions it is a good thing.
The customer is always right, except when he's wrong and putting your reputation on the line. ;)
 

NorthSky

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Got both already thanks, though my iPod is lighter and takes less space.
Cool, I always wanted to buy an iPod with Bluetooth.
I always end up in the wrong music stores. I'll check my local Walmart when I got time next. Hope they have my color...carbon fiber stealth.
 

krabapple

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One I was thinking of from several years ago is Barry Diament, who used to hang around CA Forum. He was clear that he heard slightly better sound at 192k over 96k. Another is the late Doug Sax, formerly the Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP guy, who preferred 192k when he went digital. But, I am sure there are others. Morten Lindberg of 2L likes 352k. Keith Johnson of Reference likes 176k, etc. Quite a few classical guys also insist DSD64 is way better, and they even might record at DSD256, in spite of the editing and processing difficulties with DSD in general.

I don’t think any of these engineers are idiots who embrace hirez unthinkingly. They are all label owner/engineers who had to pay out of their own pockets for the hirez gear to make it happen. None of them are deft marketing hypesters, either.

And none are particularly good at designing experiments. So I don't think -- I'm quite sure really, in Diament's case, he being a veritable fount of utter nonsense about digital -- any of them have their own DBT results to back up their claims. Bias control being an *elementary* step in any such investigation.
 

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