- Mar 24, 2016
I have recorded, mainly classical, music for well over 50 years now.I partially disagree with the first statement. It really all depends on the type of music/content (e.g., opposite of Pop music), how well it was recorded and mastered (e.g., if they record & master with 16/44.1 in mind the whole way through it's likely the hires variations will be hampered), and then listening environment and playback equipment. I argue a great DAC and amp (we know these exist thanks to @amirm), good noise isolating headphones or sensitive IEMs and/or a quiet room in the evening, and the right content is sufficient to hear an advantage over 16bit content. Heck, the noise floor advantage alone with 24bit content played through sensitive IEMs might be enough even if it's just to minimize the hiss. But to your point, the majority won't need more than 16/44.1. But then again, if you're going to start adding in noise and distortion (through your choice of DAC + amp + speakers/headphones + environment) wouldn't you want to start with the best copy available so you get the *most* out of your (whole) system (even if it's just at or near 16bit reproduction quality)?
Analogy attempt: A photocopier can only do so much, but making a copy (playback) of a copy (16bit source) can't be better than the original (playback from 24bit source). Sometimes you can't really tell (printed text), other times you can when compared directly to the original, and others it's obvious from the get go (a photo/image perhaps).
Second part, partially related to the first, but considering how home theater equipment lags significantly far behind good *music*-oriented products this is even more likely.
I have never heard of any music with wide enough dynamic range to tax 16-bit. Back in the old reel-to-reel tape days it required quite a bit of skill to get the levels set so that the quiet bits were not in the noise and the loud bits were not overloaded too much on classical music. The first 16-bit recorder I bought setting the levels was easy so there was no clipping and the background noise is, in any case, so low you can't hear it at all at normal listening level. It was also the first time where I couldn't hear a difference between recorder and microphone feed.
The reality is that you almost certainly haven't ever had a recording with 16-bits of dynamic range, so I believe your premise is invalid.
I do have a 24-bit recorder now. 24-bit makes it totally idiot proof to set levels, but there isn't any music that needs it, it may help at the recording stage if something unexpected happens, that is all. All the music on a recording fits into a 16-bit window, usually very easily, so all the other bits are a pointless waste.
There would be no point in releasing recordings which had so much dynamic range that either the quiet bit was inaudible and the loud bits cause hearing damage! Even if a recording of a full 16-bit dynamic range existed if you set it so you could hear the quiet bits the loud bits would be painful.