High resolution digital is dead. The best DAC's killed it.


Something that came as a surprise to me is how good DAC's have gotten over the past 5-10 years.

Before then, there was a consistent, marked improvement going from Redbook (44.1/16) to 96/24 or higher.

The modern DAC, the best of them, no longer do this. The Redbook playback is so good high resolution is almost not needed. Anyone else notice this?
erik_squires
Ever since the beginning of (consumer) digital audio, there has been an ongoing debate over DAC's, analog vs. digital, etc. The original design intent for CDs has, over the last several years, been almost realized - a quantum leap over the earlier versions of gear designed to retrieve those elusive bits. One thing that I find has been consistently overlooked is the actual data retrieval itself, BEFORE it gets translated via DAC (or even digital cable leading to the DAC).  I've encountered many products purporting to be the holy grail of CD restoration/ improvement/ enhancement, but one product has stood out: a CD treatment called Essence of Music.  It is a two step process that, in a nutshell, allows the laser to pull out more of the music. This leads to a more accurate reading of the data (improved source quality).  I am not an engineer or a scientist, but I do have more than 40 years' experience in audio, and I am stunned by the difference between treated and untreated discs...and so are other audiophiles when they hear it.  Over the past few years, I have gone to Rocky Mountain Audio Fests with a huge book of CDs...and I deliberately had two identical discs, purchased from Wal-Mart, Target, or even at the shows themselves.  I present an untreated version of the CD, and after 30 - 45 seconds, I ask the exhibitor to exchange the CD, playing the same selection at the same volume.  The looks on everyone's faces (including the exhibitors) tells the whole story.  Through the years, I have tried other products, and even done the 'green marker' thingie, in an attempt to wrest the last bit of music from those silver discs, but this product is the ONLY one that has consistently delivered the goods, year after year.  It is not cheap (what is, in audio these days?), but the difference in sound quality is comparable to upgrading your cables, or amp...you get the idea.  I have even purchased 5 or more copies of the same disc, and found that more treatments yielded even better results.  The change is apparent even on "low-" or "mid-" fi systems - even playing a CD on a BLU RAY disc player.  Try it out - BEFORE upgrading anything else.  You may be pleasantly surprised.
…But that was a digression from the original topic...but not really.  CDs that are read properly will not be as adulterated by the error correction algorithm that is present in all CD players, so red book CDs can sound truly awesome.  This was the original intention, and between sound retrieval improvements in the source and the processing, we can see how good red book CDs can sound.  Keep in mind, that the operating principle has remained unchanged for decades - but we have better ways of reading, and translating, what has always been there.
Sadly, Mark went from making absolutely killer $500 DACs to making even better $25000 DACs. I guess the market spoke, and being smart, he listened :-(
Its also amazing how much better i made the gold full nelson LinkDAC sound by building a custom (dual), custom regulated box. Many, many hours and about $125.00 in parts on ebay.
I cannot hear one whit of difference between 96 and 132k upsampling

G
Lots of interesting points made on a subject destined to run and run. Last year i was privileged to present the AES Heyser Lecture in Milano (May 2018) which included amongst other topics some discussion and personal reflections on sampling rate conversion. You can (hopefully) access the lecture and some related files via the link below including examples of DSD-to-LPCM conversion using a novel "spectral domain" approach to sampling rate conversion. Unfortunately sound quality on the video is a bit compromised due to a technical recording issue beyond my control. Anyway, I hope the content may prove of interest.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nqvvwnlh6n6b98z/AAC6kOb5NT8Gk8pceZSbpl2ha?dl=0
M
this ought to be great, thanks Malcolm!  Downloaded - would not play in browser. I plan to continue my blog @ sonogyresearch.com with some interesting anecdotes from when i liaised to MPEG while working on both contribution quality digital compressed NTSC and HDTV back around 1989-91.  The findings (which can be informally confirmed with any JPEG compression utility and your phone) are very interesting in a world where compression is a dirty word....spoiler alert - compressed HD > uncompressed SD. No surprise if one considers the degree of redundancy in any HD representation.

G