A very interesting white paper, and thank you for posting the link to it, Nonoise. In my own, completely subjective evaluations, I tend to agree with most of it but also have reservations.
I recently auditioned a pair of Harbeth 40.1s with an Audio Research DSD source. While the combo sounded fine, I was not as impressed as I expected to be. The speakers were clearly putting out everything they were being given, but it just didn't sound natural to my ears. How much was poor set-up, room acoustics, whatever source was tapped for the DSD files or combination of factors is impossible to tell.
My home system has 16 and 24 bit from 32 to 192 kHz along with 24 and 32 bit from 32 to 96 kHz DAC capability via USB input and SACD up to 192 kHz via an internal DSD conversion (or so the manual says, anyway). In trying various high resolution downloads (an Agon HD Tracks sampler and the Linn 24 bits of Christmas) at various resolutions, I feel several of those sounded better than the auditioned combo. The Linn Bach Toccatta and Fugue in A minor in 24/192 in particular was substantially better. I use my MacBook Pro with the included MIDI interface for these kinds of things and Internet radio. When playing standard 16/44.1 WAV files, they don't sound as good as the discs on my dedicated player.
My universal disc player really does the trick with David Sanborn's Timeagain SACD and also works nicely with a Mobile Fidelity SACD of Billy Joel's Piano Man. Both of those sound very unlimited; that is they seem to have a much higher ceiling and deeper stage. Several of my Red Book CDs are also outstanding but not quite to the same "unlimited" level.
That said, no matter how much I've fooled around with all-digital sources, nothing I've tried so far holds a candle to my vinyl rig. I can do A-B tests all day long and the turntable roundly thrashes CDs, DVDs, SACDs and hi-res files. Even more unlimited, an almost endless stage and utterly natural sound.
So for what my opinion is worth, I didn't hear any improvement with DSD. I do hear some sporadic improvements going from Red Book to higher resolution PCM formats. Nothing tops pure analog yet, but I'm going to enjoy testing that conclusion over the coming years.
Hirez has more potential to sound better but the dudes who put together the CD format in ancient times did a pretty good job. It can be beat but most won't care or be able to tell.
I read through the whole article. Complete waste of time. (Not you, Nonoise. I'm faulting the article itself). You read all that and then you get to the last sentence which sums it up.
"Of course, there many audio enthusiasts and professionals dispute these contentions, but we know of no scientific evidence that supports their views."
Of course not. Its just another silly paper that's put together by people that for some reason or another, just don't like high end audio. There's dozens of papers just like this one that's made using no fresh research of their own. The references they site are old, not very relevant, and are chosen to steer the reader in the direction the author wants. If you read through the paper, there's a clear bias to come up with the conclusion that they did, and its no surprise that the results are what they are. Can someone point out if any issue the author of this article presented, took any part in doing any type of research or tests themselves? I can't. It reads like one of those term papers in high school, that you had a whole year to complete, and you were sitting there copying from the encyclopedia the night before it was due. And, yes, I admit that I've done it myself, so no one needs to call me out on it. I was a screw up in High School. To my credit, though, I cleaned up my act once I got into college. I paid to have an honor student to write my papers, just like the rest of you.
I don't know if that is the reason (not liking high end audio) as Goldmund is pretty much all high end and if there were money to be made with the format, they'd be on it like white on rice.
I say this not to be contentious but there is another article over at digital audio review (John Darko's site) where he uses a software to determine how different 3 different downloads of the same song are (MP3, CD and 96Hz) and the HiRez measures marginally better, if that. He questions whether it's worth the extra cost.
All the best,
CD quality can sound almost as good as hi-res, and nearly identical on some systems, provided that:
The DAC used has minimal or no digital filtering for 44.1.
With typical low-frequency brick-wall digital filters used on most DACs, the DSD or even 24/96, 24/192 will be better.
I believe the question should be Can it sound better? I believe it can, however it often doesnt. For me it is not worth the cost as I can purchase several CDs for the cost of a Hirez download.
I recently did a comparison with a few experienced and knowledgeable audiophiles. I have three versions of a couple titles on my hard drive; redbook CD, 24/192 and DSD. Using my Baetis Revolution II Music server we started listening over the USB connection to the EMM Labs DAC 2x. We started with the Redbook and worked our way up to the DSD with both titles. Interestingly, we all preferred the 24/192 to the Redbook or the DSD!
Next test was to switch playback to the BNC-RCA SPDIF on the Baetis connected with Jonny Wilson's superb Boomslang digital cable to the EMM Labs DAC 2X and use JRiver to convert the DSD file on the fly to PCM. Again, we began with Redbook versions and moved up to the DSD. Again, the 24/192 won, but the BIGGEST surprise was we all chose the SPDIF connection as being superior sounding to the USB connection! As I have written on other threads, DSD can sound fantastic, but old CDs merely converted don't always benefit from the transfer. All analog CDs converted to DSD and new recordings using DSD sound best. However, converting DSD to PCM sounds superb in most cases and the rush to buy a DSD DAC may not be needed. The proof of this is Berkeley Audio whose Reference doesn't offer DSD capability and it is considered by many to be among the most sonically pleasing of any DAC available. There is no standard on DSD files and this could be an issue. For those of you that have a good DSD DAC and a good cable, try this experiment too and see what you think.
I've been recording in high Rez for 11 years when I converted to 96/24. IMHO, and to these ears, it makes a difference. Now, whether that matters to you is another story but it matters to me.
The real problem concerning hi rez is really a matter of attitude, and probably poor marketing. In the article that was referenced, the tone was negative, and the author pulled info to back up the answer he was looking for. There's a missing, fundamental, element with people that write these pieces. They're not looking to get to the truth of the matter, they look to argue a case. If it were me, or someone else here, looking for answers, we would go after them. The real focus would be the truth, and we would do everything we could to come up with the right answer, and not the answer that we want because we just know better. So if you take a step back and look at the problem defined as getting the right answers, I think you'll see that it becomes very obvious that so much more needs to be done before any judgement is of any kind is passed.
For most consumers the difference is negligible. As Raymonda says whether or not that matters is up to the individual. There will never be a consensus on this issue because it will never be widely accepted as common knowledge to be superior such as 8 track vs CD's or VHS vs DVD.
Mark Waldrep ia the owner of AIX Records and a hi-resolution audio proponent and supplier. He is a professor at a California university where he teaches classes on audio recording and mixing. He also posts daily articles on his website that contain his thoughts on various audio subjects, typically concerning hi-resolution audio subjects.
A major theme that runs through Mark's articles is the critical importance he places on the 'provenance' of a recording in determining the ultimate playback fidelity of a hi-resolution recording. 'Provenance' basically means the history of the recording; at what fidelity was it recorded originally, what master was used in the transfer to a hi-resolution format and exactly what conversions were involved in the transfer.
The truth is that vinyl records, reel-to-reel tapes and redbook cds can all sound very good but none of these formats are hi-resolution formats.
If the same multi-track reel-to-reel master tape recording/mix of a performance is used as a source for a redbook cd as well as a PCM 24 bit/96 or 192khz hi-resolution recording then, theoretically, there should be no difference in fidelity even if played back through the highest quality audio system. Both the cd and hi-resolution formats are limited by the original multi-track reel-to-reel master tape's fidelity, which is not hi-resolution.
However, if the same performance was recorded conventionally on analog reel-to-reel and direct to digital at 24 bit/96 or 192 kHz simultaneously, I would suggest most Audiogon members would clearly notice that the hi-res format is superior, mainly in detail and dynamics.
Currently, the major content owners (record labels) are scrambling to transfer their music libraries to hi-res formats using the same analog multi-track reel-to-reel masters used for cds so they can market them as 're-mastered into 24/96, 24/192 and DSD hi-res formats'. Uninformed consumers, not aware of 'provenance', will be thinking they're buying improved versions of their favorite recordings. They'll be paying more for new recordings that they don't realize they already own.
There was a recent N.Y. Times article that claimed his self-recruited test subjects could not tell the difference between redbook cds and hi-res recordings of the same music. Little wonder since they were comparing identical things.
An obvious solution would be a requirement that all hi-res music providers fully disclose each recording's 'provennce'. Of course, all providers supplying content with inferior provenance (mainly but not exclusively record labels) will likely be resisting efforts at full disclosure. I'm thinking the best way to combat this dishonesty is by spreading the word on the importance of provenance until it becomes common knowledge.
To anyone unconvinced of the audible superiority of hi-res computer audio downloads, I would urge you to download an album by Jennifer Gomes called "A 1,000 Shades of Blue" from Liason Audio in the Netherlands for under $30. All songs were recorded directly using PCM 24/96 analog to digital equipment without mixing and in front of a live audience. The excellent detail, natural and unrestricted dynamics and beautiful tonal qualities all combine to present a superb 'in the room' sound stage illusion that is stunningly realistic and clearly demonstrates the extraordinary potential of hi-res audio that has a high quality provenance.
Personally, I'm grateful that this type of high quality download is available and have no problem paying $29 for it.
Hopefully, suppliers using lower quality methods on their recordings will not gain traction and performers begin realizing the benefits of recording direct to digital for new recording sessions. Ah, to be old, naive and not concerned with the size of FLAC files.
My 2 cents,
When I listen to digital music from a number of types of files saved on my pc; whether MP3, ripped CDs or Hi Res, I do have a hard time discerning what level of resolution I am listening to at first. Given time, though, it does become apparent which music is Hi Res and which is not. It does not take me long to get tired of an MP3 file.
I think the reason people have a hard time telling the difference between low and hi resolution music files in A-B comparisons is that the brain becomes involved, and unlike a test instrument, the brain does all kinds of interpretive stuff to the sound your ears are hearing. When you listen to a few seconds of A and then a few seconds of B the brain does not have enough time or information to make a determination as to which one has better sound. But then, sound and music are two related but different things. Sound is simple and music is complex. The longer your brain listens to music the more it becomes attuned to the complexities of the music. With MP3 the complexities just are not there.
IMHO these type of A-B comparison are probably not the right kind of test. I think if you sat people down for a long period of time and did the comparisons you may find a different result.
You just made my point better than I ever could. Why test anything when we already know better? I won't waste my day typing, but I can at least put 1 hole in all your theories.
"The truth is that vinyl records, reel-to-reel tapes and redbook cds can all sound very good but none of these formats are hi-resolution formats."
With regards to vinyl and reel to reel analog tapes, you can't put a level of resolution on them in any meaningful way, like you may be able to do with digital. Why? Because analog resolution will vary depending on the equipment used in the recording and the playback process. Not only that, there is no reliable way to measure the resolution of an analog source and equate it to any to a similar resolution in digital. So in the end, you guys are just guessing. You talk science and objectivity, but don't use a shred of it yourselves. And that makes you completely subjective. The funny part is that you don't even realize it. I mean, if you were trying to be objective and back your ideas up with good factual information, would you really want to use this as a source to build an argument on?
"There was a recent N.Y. Times article that claimed his self-recruited test subjects could not tell the difference between redbook cds and hi-res recordings of the same music. Little wonder since they were comparing identical things."
A recent NY Times article? Do you really think they're qualified to conduct such a test? You can do whatever you want, but if I was trying to make your point, I would be embarrassed to reference a source like that. And then expect someone to take me seriously.
Chrsh - Most consumers don't spend enough money on their equipment to hear the difference. They spend more on their cell-phones. They all claim that they have tin-ears too...
IMO: Only a minute fraction of music listeners care about resolution greater than redbook CD.
Even CD resolution may be more than many want or care about.
You have a pretty nice vinyl rig how do CD, Hirez, PCM and DSD compare to it?
I don't have a vinyl rig (but wish I could afford a nice one):-). I don't stream either as I'm stuck in the CD/SACD camp but as my system matured I could hear a difference with very well recorded CDs and SACDs leading me to believe that it's mostly in the realm of the recording where the magic lies.
All the best,
Very interesting discussion. A few comments on other's posts.
"the critical importance... on the 'provenance' of a recording in determining the ultimate playback fidelity of a hi-resolution recording."
True; of course that applies to any recording.
"If the same multi-track reel-to-reel master tape recording/mix of a performance is used as a source for a redbook cd as well as a PCM 24 bit/96 or 192khz hi-resolution recording then, theoretically, there should be no difference..."
The basic point that the source dictates the end result is indisputable, but I would suggest that in a good system, some people will hear a difference which if nothing else, is related to the way that the ADC and DAC conversions are implemented.
"With regards to vinyl and reel to reel analog tapes, you can't put a level of resolution on them in any meaningful way, like you may be able to do with digital. Why? Because analog resolution will vary depending on the equipment used in the recording and the playback process. Not only that, there is no reliable way to measure the resolution of an analog source and equate it to any to a similar resolution in digital."
I'd take that a little further; the term resolution a complete non-sequitur with respect to digital recordings. It's sort of talking about a high current amps in terms of wattage. I think that the discussion in terms of what posters on this board are concerned about, is how does the subjective SQ of a hi-rez digital recording (or playback medium) compare to a high quality analog recording/payback medium. In the case of what the consumer can actually purchase and listen to, it's the transfer or playback medium (vinyl, disk or download) that actually matters AT THE MOMENT. With respect to future playback media that may eventually be available, the resolution of the recording technology seems to be more important.
ZD- I agree with what I perceive to be the overall bent of your comments, but criticism of quoting the NYT article is misplaced, IMO. If hi rez transfers and playback media is to become widespread, then people who get their news from NYT (or FOX!!!) will have to be convinced that it's not nonsense. Maybe that just means better marketing (or you could call it technology forcing); like pushing 4K video displays when there is essentially zero 4K media to be displayed on them.
OTOH, for hi-rez master recordings to become widespread, I think "all" it takes is for the incremental cost to be small and for artists and recording engineers to insist on it.
As to the OP, my answer so far is a resounding "sometimes". I've only heard a few and my digital playback is limited to 24/96, but based on that I'd say it most definitely can be better. But as the guy for AIX pointed out, if the original master recording is lousy or low rez, the hi-rez transfer will be, too. You can't add resolution that is not there.
If you're going from analog to digital, then theoretically, higher (deeper??) bit depth and higher sampling rate gets you a closer approximation of the original wave form (which let's not forget, is ultimately, an analog representation of the original performance). Rant over.
Chrsh - Most consumers don't spend enough money on their equipment to hear the difference. They spend more on their cell-phones. They all claim that they have tin-ears too...
I think the industry itself is to blame for that. Look at the difference in other segments of digital entertainment. Everyone seems to understand why you would buy a dvd over a vhs and a blu ray over a dvd, or a Playstation 3 to replace a 2. Same thing with computers, bigger processors, better graphics, and even cell phones and tablets. When CD was the standard, the industry chose to push MP-3's over something like SACD. It's the only segment that sold features and convenience over the actual quality of the product. And now the price is being paid for it. No one even buys iPods any more because they can just put the music on their cell phone. I know several people that buy CD's new, rip them to MP-3's and then throw the CD in the trash. The whole situation is a textbook example as to why you never devalue your own brands or products. So, as much as I would like high rez audio to succeed, I see no reason at all why the average consumer would stop downloading all their music for free.
In reading the responses to this topic, I feel we need to remember that the concept of a "white paper" has changed substantially with the decline of peer-reviewed industry publications. Once upon a time, they were written to support a conclusion regarding technical or scientific phenomena and subjected to rigorous cross-checking before publication. That model died a long time ago, even in medicine.
White papers are no longer subjected to any meaningful peer review, with the most glaring recent example being the now-debunked paper regarding vaccinations linked to autism. It is my sad professional duty to read countless white papers regarding process control instrumentation for their potential effect on the marketing of my company's products. If abstracted, every single one of them could be condensed to: "XYZ enhancement to our technology is documented to produce a beneficial result in process application at ABC company. Buy our product to achieve the same result in your company."
While I find it interesting that Goldmund produced a paper that would seem to limit their potential market expansion, hype being what it is, I still think that the paper highlights an interesting observation: Blind testing produced equivocal results. I did not back-check the studies used to support that conclusion, and am still not sufficiently motivated to do so. Audio is a hobby for me, and it is enough that I have learned what I like to hear and have found a personally satisfactory method to enhance that enjoyment over time. Specifications, white papers and the like are all essentially white noise (no pun intended). The essence is in perception.
When all is said and done, human ears remain analog transducers. They take a physical waveform (sound) and convert it into an electrical signal (nerve impulses) that the brain then decodes. The result of that process is either pleasant, unpleasant or somewhere in-between. In my case, my brain decodes some high resolution digital files as "sounding better" and others as "no noticeable difference." None of those decodings match what my brain interprets as "natural" when I reflect on the concerts I've attended. That is why I'm still married to vinyl as my reference source.
Everyone is different in how they interpret this process. We can all agree on this and that the recording process itself has marked effect no matter what technology is used as the playback source. Bad recordings are bad recordings. Good ones are good ones. We all recognize great music regardless of recording quality. Does the reproduction technology make a significant difference? That is where personal interpretation comes in. That is why we have lo fi, mid fi and hi fi gear and all of the manufacturers and hucksters that go along with it.
For me, it's all about having fun and happy listening!
If my choice is a bad recording in HiRez or great recording in lower rez I'll take lower rez.
It's not just a matter of resolution but of the entire chain while many only argue about the resolution of the final link.
If I had the option to purchase excellently recorded HiRez music that would be great but how many of these are actually available? How many will be available in the future? Are there enough people who care about this to make it economically feasible? There seems to one small faction who cares about HiRez while the overwhelming majority either don't care or are satisfied with the status quo or even less.
Steve you are absolutely right which brings up another question...how much money does one need to spend to actually hear a difference that is convincing? This is not like DVD vs vhs. You can stand and look at two TV's each running different formats and immediately see a dramatic improvement. Then again when DVD came out many held on the their beloved vcr's.
ouch, my head hurts.
I really cant tell much difference with hi rez files. I suppose it is system and recording dependant. Another thing to take into account is if the slight difference is worth the pita of finding all your favorite music in hi rez
Noble100 - thanks for the music suggestion; I'm going to dl it tomorrow!
I generally have an attitude of 'listen to whatever format that brings you the most enjoyment when listening to your music' and have no interest in discouraging anyone from doing this. However, I find it curious that you would object to vinyl being accurately described as not hi-resolution.
You stated in your last post: "that there is no reliable way to measure the resolution of an analog source and equate it to any to a similar resolution in digital."
Are you saying that common audio measurements (such as frequency response, signal to noise ratios, dynamic range, etc.) mysteriously cannot be measured for vinyl but can be exactly measured on digital formats? This would be very troubling but convenient for anyone wishing to avoid objectively comparing the two formats. Fortunately,however, your statement is not factual.
You may be correct in stating my previous post lacked objective facts. So, here are some facts comparing various performance measurements between vinyl and 24 bit/96khz digital formats that are audible and directly affect audio quality:
Dynamic Range Vinyl 55-70db Digital 110-120db
Signal/Noise Ratio Vinyl 70db Digital 144db
Frequency Response Vinyl 20-20k hz +/-3db Digital 20-20k hz +/-.5db
You may like the warmer sound of vinyl or the rituals involved with playing vinyl but insisting it is a hi-res format defies the facts and is, ultimately, not relevant to your enjoyment of it.
Also, you stated: "A recent NY Times article? Do you really think they're qualified to conduct such a test? You can do whatever you want, but if I was trying to make your point, I would be embarrassed to reference a source like that. And then expect someone to take me seriously"
The reason I referred to this article was to demonstrate the reporter's total lack of understanding of the importance of a recording's provenance. No, I don't think he was qualified to conduct such a test, precisely because he didn't realize he was asking his subjects to choose which recording sounded best when both recordings were identical. Because of this, the results of his test are meaningless.
My main point is that the major labels are using standard resolution older masters of their recordings, transferring them into hi-res formats, increasing the prices and marketing these as hi-res without disclosing the provenance of these recordings. Doing this adds no improvements in sound quality but may garner large revenues from uninformed consumers. I'd prefer these potential buyers to be well informed. I'm fairly sure the major labels would prefer otherwise.
completely agree with your comment that good recordings make for good playback.
All things being equal (ie provenance being the mastertape), I'll take a well engineered hirez over a well engineered redbook recording. That being said, it all gets back to the recording and reproduction chain. Of course, things being unequal or with a 16/44.1 source, redbook can equal or even beat hirez.
Disclaimer ---have not heard products like PS Audio Directstream DAC which converts everything to dsd so don't know if or how that would change my opinion.
Just me in the context of my rig.
Even though live music recorded directly to a hi rez format sounds better, the fun still lies in getting the most out of the redbook standard. There's a lot more potential there than many have ever heard, because you have to spend some money on the player to get there, and then you have to have the right power supply, the right power cords, the right isolation, on and on--then, the music will finally emerge with enough resolution to satisfy anyone. But, because of the cost to get there, the allure of hooking up a computer/dac without moving parts is tempting, but very distracting from the real fun of focusing on the little things that really bring out what was hidden in the 16/44 format. What, you're going to park your turntables and CD players for a computer? I have that in my lap right now. The music is coming from somewhere else.
Here is an article from AudioXpress.com
Talks about why A-B test may not be the best test.
ouch, my head hurts.
I really cant tell much difference with hi rez files. I suppose it is system and recording dependant. Another thing to take into account is if the slight difference is worth the pita of finding all your favorite music in hi rez"
Its really no different than any other element in the chain that you would try to evaluate. When you go out and listen to something like a new CD player or TT, there's usually some planning involved. We make sure the dealer has everything set up properly, we bring music that we are familiar with, do some prior research, etc... People seem to avoid doing that type of stuff with high rez digital formats. I remember when SACD came out. Everyone went out and bought a cheap Sony player and a few SACD's to test it with (myself included). How well did it compare to my Wadia 861? Not very well. The Wadia was better in practically every way. Given my experience in audio, it didn't take me long to figure out that it was silly for me to expect good results the way I went about trying SACD. Unfortunately, not everyone made the connection. Most just walked away with the opinion that its not something they want to get involved with. I don't blame them. It was a smart choice for them not to buy anything if they didn't hear a difference.
The only thing that I think may save High rez audio, are downloads. I doubt very much that the industry will ever sell any type of new format on something like a disc that you buy in a store. Too much damage has already been done. With downloads, high rez music can be made available with little, to no, outlay of money from the record companies. They can offer the downloads and if people buy them, its found money. The cost is so low, there really is no downside.
"Are you saying that common audio measurements (such as frequency response, signal to noise ratios, dynamic range, etc.) mysteriously cannot be measured for vinyl but can be exactly measured on digital formats? This would be very troubling but convenient for anyone wishing to avoid objectively comparing the two formats. Fortunately,however, your statement is not factual."
No. I said resolution. With digital, you can label something 16/44 or 24/96 or whatever. You can't do that with analog. And even if you could, it would probably be too impractical to use in the real world. Analog resolution varies with equipment choice.
"The reason I referred to this article was to demonstrate the reporter's total lack of understanding of the importance of a recording's provenance. No, I don't think he was qualified to conduct such a test, precisely because he didn't realize he was asking his subjects to choose which recording sounded best when both recordings were identical. Because of this, the results of his test are meaningless."
If that's what you meant, then I obviously misread your comments and take back what I said.
"My main point is that the major labels are using standard resolution older masters of their recordings, transferring them into hi-res formats, increasing the prices and marketing these as hi-res without disclosing the provenance of these recordings. Doing this adds no improvements in sound quality but may garner large revenues from uninformed consumers. I'd prefer these potential buyers to be well informed. I'm fairly sure the major labels would prefer otherwise."
Maybe you could explain this because I'm not sure how you are coming up with it? When you say that they take standard resolution recordings and transfer them to high rez formats, what are we the resolutions in question? I'm not sure that I know what standard resolution is, in the context of your comment.
I see this as one of the challenges of wide spread acceptance of high rez although as john darko states is an extreme example this does further illustrate nobles point.
"No. I said resolution. With digital, you can label something 16/44 or 24/96 or whatever. You can't do that with analog. And even if you could, it would probably be too impractical to use in the real world. Analog resolution varies with equipment choice."
I definitely agree that vinyl analog resolution varies with equipment choices; I've even read a comment from another vinyl enthusiast who claimed his very expensive vinyl setup possessed infinite resolution. I think that's a bit optimistic, given the very real limits of the technology. The only limiting factor with digital audio resolution occurs if an analog multi-track reel-to-reel tape recording is used as the master, rather than recording the performance directly to digital via PCM. This distinction, between transferred from an analog master and recorded direct to digital, is at the center of the provenance issue.
This is related to your other question:
"Maybe you could explain this because I'm not sure how you are coming up with it? When you say that they take standard resolution recordings and transfer them to high rez formats, what are we the resolutions in question? I'm not sure that I know what standard resolution is, in the context of your comment."
'Standard resolution' to me is any format that had a multi-track analog tape as its source; this would include most cds and LPs. I would also classify any hi-rez files, if they were transferred from an analog tape master, as 'standard resolution'.
I wonder if anyone has recorded direct to digital via 16 bit/44.1khz PCM for a cd, bypassing the analog master tape? If so, I would think this has the potential to sound very good, too.
Thank you for posting that John Darko article, it was very interesting and relevant to this thread. I hadn't read it until now and can't disagree with his summarizing paragraph at the end:
"Whilst the hi-res file retailers(hopefully) resolve the issue of quality control and provenance reporting, let's stop foisting talk of twenty-four-blah-one-ninety-bleurgh onto Joe Public and his mates because, as we've recently seen with all the Pono bashing emanating from the mainstream press (with its implicit non-audiophile perspective), it will do more harm than good."
"The only limiting factor with digital audio resolution occurs if an analog multi-track reel-to-reel tape recording is used as the master, rather than recording the performance directly to digital via PCM. This distinction, between transferred from an analog master and recorded direct to digital, is at the center of the provenance issue."
That's not necessarily true. You're assuming that the digital recorder is of a higher resolution than the analog recorder. While its possible that may be the case, it could just as easily not be.
"I wonder if anyone has recorded direct to digital via 16 bit/44.1khz PCM for a cd, bypassing the analog master tape? If so, I would think this has the potential to sound very good, too."
I'm sure its been done by someone, but in most cases, music is recorded in a higher resolution digital format, and then downsampled to CD quality.
I don't know if you'll agree with me on any of this, but maybe just this 1 thing. It would be nice if the industry would get together and set some standards as to what it considered standard, high and low resolutions.
As a recording engineer I would strongly disagree that r to r tape is less resolving than hi rez digital. They both, when done right, can sound fantastic and in many cases r to r can sound even better.
Did you know that Walter Becker ' s Circus Money was recorded on r to r using dolby sr noise deduction. Yes it is a bit overly compressed but as for pop it wipes the floor of most all pop recorded today....hi rez digital or not.
You really need to listen to well recorded analog to appreciate what that medium can do.
Also, what about direct to disk? If that ain't hi rez....well......
" don't know if you'll agree with me on any of this, but maybe just this 1 thing. It would be nice if the industry would get together and set some standards as to what it considered standard, high and low resolutions."
Yes, I agree this would be a very good step in clarifying the current somewhat chaotic situation. I also think a standardized description of provenance would be useful.
"You really need to listen to well recorded analog to appreciate what that medium can do."
My friend's older brother had an Akai r to r in the 1970's. I remember listening to some Marshall Tucker Band songs on it. I don't recall if it was a prerecorded tape or if he recorded it himself from an album, but I do remember it sounded very good.. Truth be told, however, that was 40 years ago and I was 18. His brother might have also shared some of his marijuana with us. I might have attributed the extra fine music to being stoned for the first time. I just know it sounded especially good and I was especially hungry after.
I would love to hear some present day music on a more modern r to r in a more sober state.
Do they still make r to r machines for home use?
If they do, I would think no companies still provide prerecorded r to r tapes, right?
Or are owners expected to record their own from LPs, CDs and other sources?
Or are you, as a recording engineer, referring to a master tape on a professional r to r?
The Dude always tries to keep an open mind, looking for good technology and music and, no matter what, The Dude always, I mean always....... keeps abiding. ....If, you know what I mean.
Cassettes to my ear have more resolution than CDs. Notes are more rounded, the harmonics are richer, there is more air and you can hear all the squeaks and whirring noises of instruments like violins that are missing in action on CDs. Tape is a natural medium. It breathes.
To summarise, here's the question.
In descending order of resolution, please list the following recording techniques :-
1. Reel-to-reel analog master tape
2. PCM at hi-res, either DXD or DSD
3. Direct to disc(vinyl)
The thing is no-one knows the definitive answer. So, this debate can rage on till the cows come home. Homo sapiens are good at this sort of thing.
Chrs - based on my experience about $20K is the starting point for a lifelike system resolving enough to tell the difference. Receivers are not in the system. A few integrated amps will work. Bass will not be as tight or loud as in more expensive systems. Treble will not be as extended or clear either.
Raymonda - R-R can indeed be very good, but ultimately lacks the dynamic range possible with digital. There is also the artifacts caused by the Dolby noise reduction, which are audible. These filters are anything but perfect.
Direct to disk is also compelling. The problem is that so many recording studios are using sub-standard DSP codes for mixing. This software makes all the difference.
The best recordings I have heard to date were recorded on analog tape, mixed in an analog console and then A/D to hi-res digital. These came from Bluecoastrecords.com. They do a minimum amount of EQ because they tune the room acoustically. Also very little or no compression. This is a model for good recordings.
Ironically, perhaps, tape frequently sounds like it has more dynamic range than CDs. Yes, I realize that theoretically CD should deliver many orders of magnitude greater dynamic range than tape, especially the humble cassette, but I'm not hearing it. And the dynamics of tape sound more natural and unrestrained. Of course there are exceptions but I'm speaking generally. In addition, from what I hear comparing digital to tape, tape is much sweeter and has more, uh, resolution.
If 20,000 is the number then for the average consumer high rez is dead in the water and will remain a cottage industry.
First off I'm not advocating one medium over the other. I record strictly in the digital domain at 96/24 or 48/24, which I modestly say with good results. However, if I could, I would love a top of the line Dolby SR multitrack system. It is high Rez and does many, many things well. It has a dynamic range of 95 dbs and is tomb quiet
I think 99.99 percent would not be able to tell whether they were listening to this or the best that digital has to offer and in some cases folks may prefer it over pure digital.
"Cassettes to my ear have more resolution than CDs. Notes are more rounded, the harmonics are richer, there is more air and you can hear all the squeaks and whirring noises of instruments like violins that are missing in action on CDs. Tape is a natural medium. It breathes."
Have you ever compared the same album, or at least the same tracks, side by side on CD and cassette on a good system? If you have and the result is the same, I would suggest it has more to do with the quality of the original recording and the master used rather than the medium. Technically, CDs are a superior medium to cassettes across the board; better signal/noise ratio, better frequency response and a larger dynamic range. Cassettes also have audible issues that CDs do not, such as wow & flutter, stretched tape and bleed through.
Tape is not a natural medium; the tape itself is a synthetic material with the only natural component being metal particles that are placed onto it as part of a man-made chemical process. Of course, magnetic tape is inert and never been observed 'breathing'; but I'm going to assume you meant that as some sort of analogy that I don't quite understand.
" Ironically, perhaps, tape frequently sounds like it has more dynamic range than CDs. Yes, I realize that theoretically CD should deliver many orders of magnitude greater dynamic range than tape, especially the humble cassette, but I'm not hearing it. And the dynamics of tape sound more natural and unrestrained. Of course there are exceptions but I'm speaking generally. In addition, from what I hear comparing digital to tape, tape is much sweeter and has more, uh, resolution."
You're correct, tape has a much lower dynamic range capacity than CDs. My first thought after reading your post above was that your perception may be the reality and the cause may be a result of the 'loudness wars'. If you google 'loudness wars' you'll find plenty of discussions on this so I won't go into too much detail. Basically, there are pressures on mixing engineers to have their CDs mixed so they play at a generally loud level, which results in a drastic reduction in the dynamic range. When I initially played my first hi-rez download (Jennifer Gomes' "A 1,000 Shades of Blue" which was recorded direct to digital at 24 bit/96khz in front of a live audience with minimal mixing utilized), the most obvious improvement over my CDs, besides the absolutely dead quiet background that the music emerges from and the resultant ultra high detail level, was the increased dynamics; for the first time, I could clearly hear tonal and volume changes on any particular instrument I chose to concentrate on.
So, my opinion(theory?) is that the loudness wars has so compromised the CD mixing process that an individual, you, has actually perceived the dynamic range of cassette tapes to be greater than CDs. Personally, I stopped using a cassette tape deck in my system a long time ago, when CDs first began to be offered for home use and soon after began replacing cassette players in cars with CD players. Your post is the 1st time I've discovered an impression that cassette tapes outperform CDs in the areas of dynamic range and resolution.
I have no reason to doubt your honest assessment and view it as an indictment of the extent to which the loudness wars have corrupted the CD mixing process and compromised a format with such high potential.
However, I think we're straying off the original thread starter's question about whether CD quality is attainable via a computer audio system. I believe your observation is worthy of its own thread but think it's proper form to try to avoid hijacking a thread by straying to related topics.
I hope you agree,
Tim, here's an example. There are many examples of what I'm referring to. Take the RCA Living Stereo CD of Heifetz playing the Brahms and Tchaicovsky violin concertos. Listen to the Brahms piece enough to get an idea what the sound is like. Then listen to the cassette version of the same Brahms violin concerto, same recording, same piece. What you should notice is that the cassette version is much sweeter and much more musical in terms of believing it's a real violin. On CD the sound is very synthetic, washed out, bland, boring. On cassette you can't help thinking this guy is freaking great. Which of course he Heifetz was. Just not on CD. I was listening to the cassette of Heifetz on a bog standard SONY Sports cassette player.
Woops, I'm following a few threads and incorrectly listed the subject of this thread as 'Is CD quality attainable via computer audio?'.
My mistake, I should have stated this thread's subject as:
'Does HiRez really sound better?'
Quote: "I paid to have an honor student to write my papers, just like the rest of you."
I never paid anyone to write my papers in college.
And, as far as the differences, I've noticed some between DSD and CD.
not sure if this was mentioned above, but a stanford professor named berger did an 8-year study in which he found that his incoming students overwhelmingly preferred mp3 to cd and other much higher rez sources, ostensibly because the metallic "sizzle" of digitized music was pleasing to young ears. he also said that many people prefer vinyl to cd find the needle noise to create warmth and comfort. all of which points out that more resolution doesn't mean better, at least in the sense of more "musical." persoanlly, i've had the same experience as geoffkait--i've often found a casette version to be more engaging than a cd or flac version of the same tunes.
Actually, as I understand it cassette tape has higher resolution than Redbook CD. That would probably help explain my preference, but also the sheer musicality, you know, things like sweetness, warmth and air.
Quote: "I paid to have an honor student to write my papers, just like the rest of you."
I never paid anyone to write my papers in college.
And, as far as the differences, I've noticed some between DSD and CD.
Escritorjuan (Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)"
Read the post again and try to put the quote you reference in context to what I was talking about.
Geoffkait, That's interesting because even back in the 70s cassette was known as a lofi medium, only 8 tracks were considered worse. You had to use dolby processing to decrease tape hiss, which also removed a lot of the high frequencies, or one could listen with the tape hiss on self recorded cassettes. Prerecorded cassettes definitely were not considered audiophile grade recordings.
I think some people just like a higher noise floor on their recordings, and I have no problem with that at all.
To answer the original question, Hi rez can sound better than cd but does not always. I think we will see significant improvements in both cd and hi rez sound for years to come.