The Modern DAC killed High Resolution Music - has Stereophile proven it?


Hi Everyone,
One thing I've mentioned a lot is that over the past 10 years or so DAC's really closed the delta in how well they play CD (i.e. Redbook) vs. high resolution (96/24 or higher). I've stated for a long time that the delta closed so much that high resolution music no longer seemed to be as important.

Stereophile just released an interesting set of measurements regarding jitter performance of older players vs. today. It's not absolute proof of my thesis, but it certainly is correlated.


https://www.stereophile.com/content/2020-jitter-measurements

One thing, as I commented, you don't have to compare old DACs to the $15,000 Bartok. The Mytek Brooklyn and others in the $2,000 price range also demonstrate this, and in fact has a very similar jitter rejection profile to the Bartok. The point to me is, almost all decent DAC's have jumped leaps and bounds in jitter performance. That's for sure.  Perhaps this explains the disappearing gap in performance as well between Redbook and Hi Rez?

https://www.stereophile.com/content/mytek-hifi-brooklyn-da-processor%C2%96headphone-amplifier-measur... 

erik_squires
Delta is change. Close the delta means ceased to change.

Did you really mean to say DAC's have stopped changing? Or was it just something you thought it would be cool to type? Closed the delta. I must admit, it does sound pretty cool. 
Hey @millercarbon,

You still super angry I gave you free advice you didn't take? Because you are cozying up to me more than my cats.


Best,

Erik

As a self declared frugal, I would guess you simply don’t have a system resolving enough to hear the difference. No problem with that, but I have absolutely no problem hearing the difference when switching between 16/44 and 24/192. 
SACD?
HDCD?

and now hi Rez streaming whatever...it’s never ever been widely accepted and has never reached any level of commercial success.

who cares.
most people can’t tell the difference between MP3 and CD quality so why would manufactures sink their capital into a solution where most believe a problem does not exist?
Apple and Spotify are being left behind in the hi-res sweepstakes.  So something is going on in the industry.
Nah...larger companies like Apple do not give a crap about “audiophile quality”. They cede that 3-4% market to the specialty players you mention.

then, if they do get traction and make a market, they will be bought.
I don't  know  about  killing  hi res but I read a few years ago about jitter in modern dacs isn't  a problem anymore. I wish I could find the article sign of old age I guess.
Yeah, I'm sure glad I didn't buy into hi-rez.
Nothing to add but much to learn.
Hoping for more posts on this subject.
The belief that "people can' t tell the difference" is often incorrect.  You should add "Yet".
When selling audio in the mid-70's, we were regularly able to teach people what to listen for and they often began to listen more critically.   I bet a class or two could up the percentage of those who can detect  higher resolution.
And then they listen to streamed music on their cell phone speakers...Some (many?) people really don't seem to care. 
I own Chord Dave and Blu and... in spite of Blu outstanding scaler DSD files sound better then CD not mention Tidal Masters. So no matter who says such crap it is not true. I suppose that these people do not have proper equipment to hear the difference.
Thx,
Hi @millercarbon, although I usually appreciate your posts as very informative, in this particular one you are not correct. Delta means difference, so @erik_squires statement makes perfect sense. Let’s just enjoy or hobby :)
Yep.  To enjoy life in the modern times you need to enjoy both sides.  
outstanding scaler DSD files sound better then CD not mention Tidal Masters.


But why do we assume this has to do with the resolution of the files instead of the performance of the DAC?

For decades audiophiles were told that high resolution data sounded better just because. What if they just didn't play CD's very well to begin with, and now a lot of DACs play CDs much much better than they used to?

I was lucky enough to have DACs that bridged this temporal divide. The ARC DAC 8 and a Mytek Brooklyn. With 96k/24 music they both sounded very good, but with Redbook (44.1kHz/24) the Mytek was still outstanding.

This made me stop and consider that maybe the issue was not the resolution of the music, but rather that the DAC 8 just didn't perform very well at low resolutions.


Best,
E

How do you know the DACs you’ve heard just aren’t very good at high resolution? I owned the Brooklyn DAC+ for quite a while and I heard the difference. Also, I’ll reiterate, that your system just might not be resolving enough or your room is not allowing maximum acoustics. 
I can see the difference between 4K and HD but not everyone can. Does that mean that maybe HD is just as good and we just haven’t seen the best upscaler yet? No, because that’s ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as your point. 
Three things come to mind...  First, many DACs do upscaling/upsampling internally...  Second, often the provenance of a music file is unknown...  Is it just upsampled Redbook or a Studio Master that was really recorded at a higher resolution... Lastly, MQA and DSD are broken...  Therefore, it is often obscured as to what you are really listening to...  Apples are not equal to bananas...
How do you know the DACs you’ve heard just aren’t very good at high resolution?

That would be a lot of DACs. .



Might be a time to check down stream. Preamp, amp, speakers, or most probably, your ears. 
Agree with Mayor Adam here.  I currently own a Bryston DAC3 and formerly owned a Mytek Manhattan.  Yes, both DACs got more out of Redbook CD than I had ever thought possible, but Redbook still can’t compare with a really good high resolution downloads and with DSD.  
@erik_squires 
But why do we assume this has to do with the resolution of the files instead of the performance of the DAC?
I'm not sure I get your reasoning here. R U suggesting that a DAC is selective (so to speak) in what it will play well?
Generally, the higher resolution file "sounds" better than a lower resolution file because contains more info about the same thing—no?
And we appreciate the presence of more musical info in that our brain doesn't need to compensate for what is not there & correct for the rest...

+1, mahler123.
Mr. Frugal seems to be stuck inside a box....he has been trying for so long to convince us that high resolution music no longer seemed to be as important.
R U suggesting that a DAC is selective (so to speak) in what it will play well?


Not selective. I don't think that DAC's choose to perform better, but what if jitter was worse with Redbook?

What if the side-effect of better clocks and better DAC chips has been that Redbook is finally as good as the scientists and mathematicians have been telling us?

@mahler
Yes, both DACs got more out of Redbook CD than I had ever thought possible,


That's pretty much all I am saying. If that is true, then the bonus value of high resolution must have diminshed no?

It's marching onwards and upwards... : )

If that is true, then the bonus value of high resolution must have [diminished] no?

Erick

What if someone came up with a killer MP3 player that extracted every single iota of audio information from an mp3 stream.  Would the value of 16/44 then be diminished?
@mahler123

That’s a different situation. MP3 as we know is lossy, but put it another way, what if some one had a lossy compression algorithm which sounded 90% as good as a high rez download, for 1/10th the cost?

Would that not alter the market and depress the value of the high rez recording?

Going back to my original post though, let's say CD playback until the 2000's was half as good as it is today, but high resolution music stayed the same. Can High Resolution still command the premium it used to?
To defend my thesis a little more, even if we personally like High Rez music above all others, it always faced an uphill battle. Even lossless music has barely gone mainstream.

MQA 20 years ago would have seemed like a godsend, but now, with better DACs and cheaper Internet it seems like much less important.

The argument of "can I hear a difference with High Resolution Files?" is different than mine. I'm arguing that as DACs have improved, the reasons for the average audiophile to buy high resolution music has diminshed.

Tidal, Quboz and Amazon seem to have demonstrated that non-MP3 based services can survive, but it's getting harder to sell 96/24.
How about considering the cost of Hi Rez files?  One download can cost more than one month of Tidal (Hi-Fi/Masters sub for $20).  Recent purchase of a Mytek Brooklyn+ leaves me as satisfied via Tidal as my CD rips upsampled via JRiver to 24/192 or DSD.  The Brooklyn also does surprisingly well with Redbook.  I do only have several Hi-Rez files so my experience is limited, but to me the cost is prohibitive and I have discovered so much new music through Tidal.
Erik,

I think you are "spot on".

Someone in my audio club who knows more about the "nuts and bolts" of DAC design than I'll ever know once said that the reason why hi-res files sounded better several years ago was that the DACs of the day had "quantization errors" and by processing a hi-res file, those errors were typically way beyond the upper limit of our hearing, so filtering them on the back end didn't have much of a negative side effect.  He said that today's DACs have pretty much "solved" the "quantization error" problem.

I must say that, when I'm streaming music (from Qobuz), I usually select the hi-res file, not because it's hi-res, but I do suspect that they are newer masters and sometimes do sound more "musical" compared to the 44.1/16 files, but not always.

Your point is well taken, that the newer generation of DACs are so much better than one's from several years ago, that "regular" CD quality does successfully rival the sound quality of those hi-res files.
Mr. Frugal

Put that on my tombstone.


seems to be stuck inside a box....he has been trying for so long to convince us that high resolution music no longer seemed to be as important.

@lalitk 

The last two words are key to my point. Not "as important." that doesn't mean you don't like them or won't buy them. I mean that it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference and this is having an influence in the market.

Best,
E
once said that the reason why hi-res files sounded better several years ago was that the DACs of the day had "quantization errors" and by processing a hi-res file, those errors were typically way beyond the upper limit of our hearing,

@ejr1953 
This seems perfectly plausible hypothesis to me. Remember how much money Wadia commanded for their upsampling DACs?

Be wrong in the moment OR be wrong all along. Your choice, Erik.

I mean that it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference and this is having an influence in the market.



“Remember how much money Wadia commanded for their upsampling DACs?.”

Wadia is long gone and so is the need for oversampling DAC’s. Today’s high resolution files (above 16bit/44.1kHz) are so darn good that you no longer feel the need of oversampling. IMHO, oversampling adds distortion that’s not only unpleasant but sounds pretty unnatural.  Oversampling is nothing but a cheap gimmick!
Wadia is long gone and so is the need for oversampling DAC’s.

@lalitk

Right, but the specific point I was trying to make here was that Wadia was the first company I knew of that did advanced upsampling, and quantization errors would go along with why Wadia sounded good at all.

Wadia didn’t oversample, they upsampled. They famously advertised they used a French curve fitting algorithm to extrapolate intra-sample data.This required a lot more compute power than either oversampling (zero compute power) or linear interpolation (draw a line between two points).

But in the end, the results are how you describe them. Wadia is gone and so is the need for their tech. 

Generally I can certainly attest to the fact that I haven’t given high-res music files much of a thought these latest years, other than 2L recordings, but whether that’s attributable to the technological advancements made in jitter reduction with DAC’s as of late, as drawn out by the OP, I can’t say. Mostly I believe high-res files have sounded drab and downright uninspiring (again, except 2L files). The DAC I have used until recently saw the light of day around 2013/14 - does that even count as a more recent level af DAC-development? I guess not.

Nevertheless, my new DAC acquisition isn’t a new item by any stretch of the imagination (though it is upgradable, with some now awaiting), but rather a Danish all out development with incept date around 2012 - bought used, even though the model is still attainable as new. Former Orpheus top model DAC (back in the day priced in Denmark around $45,000) was the measure of performance to aim at during development.

Anyway, we’ve compared this Danish DAC/preamp of mine (priced new around $10k), not upgraded for years, to a very recent DAC/streamer development, the Auralic Altair G1, to see how a mid-priced still "wet painted" (i.e.: 2nd half of 2019) DAC might compare to an older high-end design. Is it representative at all, this shoot-out? Well, it’s one very newly developed, reputable brand DAC vs. an older design (known to few) - it HAS to be representative to some degree.

Long story short: old high-end design wins hands down. I guess that’s what an excellent analogue output stage, power supply, clock(?), and possible even a well thought out digital volume control implementation does - some years on its back be damned. What is jitter reduction and overall DAC chip development in the face of these factors? Not to say they aren’t worthwhile.

I had higher expectations of a new design, much lower priced even (to a new-price item of named alternative), and I truly had my eyes set on this route, also with the advantage of the latest streamer advancements (and in this regard, boy have they come far). And yet, back to old PC-based playback, which in many regards is a pain in the a**, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay with the sonic outcome "old Joe" delivers - at a cheaper used price even.
I refer to one recording that I own as both a Redbook CD and a High Rez download.  It is Andris Nelsons  conducting the Boston Symphony in Shostakovich Symphony #10.  The CD is very fine, up there in SQ with any other CD that I own.  The download is another matter.  I have attended Concerts in this Hall and the download is as close an approximation to being there as it is possible to obtain, at least in my system.  The CD is a very good CD but not for one minute do I have the illusion that At his is the real thing.
  Not only can I tell the difference, but when I demonstrated a passage for comparison to my wife, who could care less about SQ, admitted there was an obvious difference, as have many reviewers.   I can only hope that such high quality recordings continue to be issued.  If you choose not to buy them, that’s your choice, and imo, your loss 
For those who have posted:

“Remember how much money Wadia commanded for their upsampling DACs?.”

I have a PS Audio DirectStream DAC, which upsamples as well.  Maybe that's one of the pieces of the puzzle, why so many 44.1/16 sources sound just as good as hi-res.  I'm guessing that after the stream is "upsampled", when the DAC filters at the back end, any "unintended consequences" are well beyond the hearing range.

Interesting postings, thank you everyone for your input!
I refer to one recording that I own as both a Redbook CD and a High Rez download. It is Andris Nelsons conducting the Boston Symphony in Shostakovich Symphony #10.



Love specific, personal experiences, @mahler123, thank you.

Not only can I tell the difference, but when I demonstrated a passage for comparison to my wife, who could care less about SQ, admitted there was an obvious difference, as have many reviewers.

It is always hard to tell if this is due to technology or the re-mastering process, but do you think that with a 15 year old DAC you’d feel the difference in sound quality between the CD and Hi Rez recording would have been the same??

I believe the mathematicians got CD right but there was a lag in playback quality.  I quickly decided the inflated prices of hi-rez downloads wasn't worth it.  But I'm now going 100% streaming, so hi-res Qobuz was the obvious choice at their current discounted rates because they live or die by sound quality.  Not saying I can tell the difference, or know how much is marketing, but overkill is fine with me in the streaming world.
Not a scientific response to your post but perhaps relevant - I own both the Redbook and SACD versions of Keith Jarrett's Sunbear concerts and the difference between them through the same DAC, system etc is easily apparent. Also, downsampling 24/96 downloaded flacs to Redbook and burning them to cd gives again a readily apparent difference when compared to the commercially bought Redbook version, again on the same system etc. 

Perhaps if I had a newer/better/more expensive DAC in my signal chain the differences may not be as striking?
Also, downsampling 24/96 downloaded flacs to Redbook and burning them to cd gives again a readily apparent difference when compared to the commercially bought Redbook version, again on the same system etc.


And this to me tells me that the 24/96 is mastered differently. That’s’ been happening since CD’s, and it is a maddening confound!! :)

First gen CD’s were often more compressed and with less channel separation than LPs, then SACDs came out, and they had clearly different spectrum profiles, showing that the mastering engineers had made significant changes.

The only way to really tell today whether or not your DAC is performing better or differently with High Rez is to do exactly what you did. Take a high rez source, down sample it and compare the two.

“It is always hard to tell if this is due to technology or the remastering process....”

I don’t really understand this statement .  The recording that I was referring to, the Shostakovich Tenth Symphony with Nelsons  and the Boston SO, is a recent recording, issued as a CD and then a few weeks later as a download in 3 resolutions.  I would presume that it was only “mastered” once, and never “remastered”, and that the obvious superiority of the High Rez version is due to the technology itself.     .”...do you think that with a 15 year old DAC you’d feel the the same difference in sound quality...”

Again, I don’t understand the point here.  The original focus of the thread was on modern DACs , the thesis being that current DACs enhance Redbook so much that High Rez is irrelevant.  I think that you are looking at this from the wrong end.  Modern DACs bring out the best in everything, all resolutions.  IMO they do a better job of showing the distance between High Rez and Redbook.    
Hi,

Cheapo guy here...but even with a couple of stages of de-jitter, using an Allo Digione going to a Schiit Modi Uber, you can hear the difference between redbook and high res. But the red book sounds so good anyway, that your ears adjust to the difference, maybe? It’s almost as if there’s more of a kind of sound signature distinction occurring than necessarily one being so much better than the other, as it relates to one’s ears? Of course, (in my case) there’s the Allo upsampling when you ask it to (which also sounds a bit nicer) plus all the variables that go into any given studio recording. Some recordings are so dynamic in nature, that they only get marginally more compelling through a quality dac and set up when high res vs red book. Then there’s that weird slight improvement in soundstage and depth I get when playing a red book cd through a DVD player hooked up to the same chain? Extra de-jitter?!?

But overall super impressed with the clarity/quality/depth/dynamic/detail from even this cheapo rig.
I don’t really understand this statement .  The recording that I was referring to, the Shostakovich Tenth Symphony with Nelsons  and the Boston SO, is a recent recording, issued as a CD and then a few weeks later as a download in 3 resolutions.  I would presume that it was only “mastered” once, and never “remastered”,

Hi mahler123
Unfortunately, I know this is an unreliable inference. It has been shown over time that releases on different formats are mastered differently. Even different releases of the same recording on the same medium may have a different profile, including changes in:
  • Compression
  • Spectral balance (i.e. EQ)
  • Channel separation.
It is possible to take a high resolution recording and down sample it, and put that on a CD, but without actually talking to the engineers responsible, I have no idea what happened.


Again, I don’t understand the point here.  The original focus of the thread was on modern DACs , the thesis being that current DACs enhance Redbook so much that High Rez is irrelevant.
 
I think "irrelevant" is too strong a term, and if I said that I should correct it. My apologies. I meant, "a lot less desirable" .  Saying modern DACs killed High rez was hyperbolic, which is kind of my brand. :)

Modern DACs bring out the best in everything, all resolutions.  IMO they do a better job of showing the distance between High Rez and Redbook.    


Ok, but what if this isn't that High rez is better, but Redbook playback is bad?  I mean, we have this bias that poor CD playback prooves high resolution is better data. What if it just poor CD performance?

Here is the experience I had comparing redbook and high resolution music and what got me thinking of this. I had an ARC DAC 8 and Mytek at the same time, so I got to hear how they played each.

  • ARC DAC 8 Redbook: 80%
  • ARC DAC 8 High Resolution: 95%
  • Mytek Redbook: 95%
  • Mytek High Resolution: 97%

What was also interesting is that while the ARC benefited from a Wyred4Sound resampler, the Mytek did not. It played the same.

Of course, buy the music you like, but if what I heard was true and a trend, this reduces the value gap.

Best,
E
I have a Brooklyn+ with an S-Booster external power supply.  It certainly improves Redbook playback.  Thing is that I have a closet full of Redbook CD’s that I like and their is no way I would consider replacing these with high res files.  The difference in musical enjoyment does not justify the cost.
There is argument between DSD and PCM through a resistor ladder DAC. WHich is better? I have been using an MSB Platinum with an upgrade buffer circuit to get rid of jitter. MSB thinks this is better than DSD. But PS Audio makes a DAC which converts PCM to DSD before converting it to analog. We need some discussion of which is better or what are the pros and cons of each.
We need some discussion of which is better or what are the pros and cons of each.

@drbarney1

I am not the administrator of Audiogon, my friend. If you want to have that discussion you can start your own thread on the topic and I’m sure many will participate.

I have only dabbled with DSD. Getting the Mytek supported by my operating system took quite a while. Now that I'm using Roon which is very DSD friendly I may return.


Best,
Erik

A coupla years ago I bought a used Simaudio 780D to use with Tidal (high res when available). I’ve got a McIntosh MA2275 integrated tube amp with mid-90s Sonus Faber Guarneri speakers and a bunch of high end Transparent cables and power isolator. 
I am not a technical person but isn’t the 780D + Tidal as good as I can expect music playback to get on my simple 2-channel system? Happy to learn otherwise if you think I’m wrong. 
Gracias!