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The truth about high-resolution audio compared with std. CD 44k?

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  • #46
    Audio progress at a dead end?

    When one talks of high resolution, the impact is very marked in video, with the difference between hidef and standard very clearly visible to anyone that sees it, trained eyes or not, be it Bluray DVD or HDTV via satellite. And video seems to be making further leaps, with 3D. Although even the current solutions are clunky ( glasses required ), I guess progress will continue, to being able to see realistic 3D as easily as one sees 2D today.

    That certainly does not seem to be the case with audio for music listening with no video involved, which seems to be at the end of the road. What, I wonder would be an equivalent leap? There has been much progress from a convenience standpoint with digital audio, music servers, internet music services, multi room playback and the like, but my question is towards the quality side of things, where there doesn't seem to have been any real progress for many years now.

    Comment


    • #47
      Thoughts upon the sound quality of HiDef audio

      "{Moderator's comment: noted about the hires tracks and Alan's demonstration recently of 'spaciousness'. What did you make of that demo?}"

      Hi, since you asked, I went ahead and listened to the Rach. tracks. There were some notable differences that I picked up on: the SD track sounded more distant, or another way of saying this, would be that it was more "laid back". At times, it sounded flat, but when the full range of the piano was invoked, I had to question that. The wind instrument (flute?) that comes in during the final seconds seemed further from the piano than in the HD.

      In the HD track, I thought the piano sounded closer; a more "forward" perspective. The most significant difference was longer reverb. trails ("note decay") in the HD recording. The wind instrument appeared closer to the piano. If you take that along with the observation that the flute sounded farther away in the SD, and the forward perspective noted on the HD compared to the laid back SD track; it would certainly seem that I'm saying that the SD version conveyed more spaciousness.

      Well, that's not exactly what I mean to say. I heard more "air" in the HD recording although it was closer in perspective. I also heard more depth, or 3 dimensionality, in the HD although the SD seemed placed further back. Whatever the case, I was able to readily distinguish between the two during blind trials.

      Am I correct that what we are listening to two 192kbs tracks; one taken from a 24/88 Hi Res. and the other a standard Redbook? Honestly, I would have expected the lossy conversion to mask most of the details that were preserved in the 192kbs tracks.

      When I do these comparisions at home, I'm able to directly compare Hi Res. material with Redbook by routing both through the same software, USB>SPDIF converter, coax cable, and DAC. Most of the time, I hear less disparity than what was revealed by the 2 examples here. With one notable exception, I have yet to hear a true "Night and Day" difference.

      I recently purchased YES's "Fragile" from HD Tracks. If I compare one of the songs on that album with the same song from another album, Classic YES has some of the same songs. There is a huge difference. I never thought that Classic YES was very well recorded to begin with, but they are a hard band to capture. Comparing Long Distance Runaround, there simply is no comparison. Its impossible to focus on one specific area where the 24/96 is better; it should be obvious to anyone; even audiophobes and music haters. I'm not sure that these are the same recording, and therefore that the only difference is the resolution. Long Distance Runaround is the same duration on both albums, but the recording volume is lower on Classic YES. This could be due to the 8 extra bits.

      Generally speaking, what I normally hear in terms of differences is most notable on classical recordings. Most CD's portray massed strings as a single big instrument rather than a group of individual instruments playing together. For some analog buffs, any digital reproduction of stringed instruments is anathema. While still not to the level of good analog, Hi Res does a better job than Redbook for sure. SACD is even better than the PCM formats at this particular task. In general treble has less offensive glare or hardness, bass is better defined in terms of pitch, and the midrange somewhat more compelling.

      There are many experts who feel that DSD (the SACD coding) masters produce better Redbook sound. I also think that record labels who produce Hi Res. digital care more about sound reproduction. Much less, if any, dynamic compression takes place.

      Significant thought is given to microphone placement and less mixing, and for the most part no overdubbing takes place. A big advantage of higher bit word lengths is a greater dynamic range and more precision within this range. Higher sampling rates capture more sonic information and allow for more low pass gradual filters.

      Comment


      • #48
        Where should audio go from here?

        Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
        That certainly does not seem to be the case with audio for music listening with no video involved, which seems to be at the end of the road. What, I wonder would be an equivalent leap?
        Ambisonics starts to bridge the gap between recorded sound being a mere photograph, and reality.

        Loudspeaker manufacturers would love it too :-)

        Sadly, the required positioning of the loudspeakers is prohibitive for all but the most devoted.

        Comment


        • #49
          'CD is dead'?

          Originally posted by jplaurel View Post
          It's hardly worthwhile to argue about the merits of the CD format any more since it won't be with us for much longer...
          Thatís quite a big call.

          Looking at Billboardís market watch stats (24th Sept edition), 212 million albums were sold in the last 12 months, of which 140 million (66%) were in CD and 32% (68 million) in digital. Digital album sales climbed 20% y-o-y. At this rate, digital album sales would be greater than CD album sales sometime between 2014 and 2017. At the current trajectory of 4% CD album sales decline y-o-y, CD sales could still top a hundred million per year in 2020 (and thatís almost 40 years after its introduction).

          Imo, what makes most people think the ďCD is deadĒ is due to digital track sales. 889 million tracks (or 301 million equivalent albums) were sold last year. If we add digital tracks to digital album sales, digital sells 2.5 times more than the physical. The demand for albums (and CD) should however not just drop off, especially if 47% of album sales are for catalog and approximately 53% for current music. What the figures donít report is the proportion of catalog and deep catolog by format. I suspect most catalog sales is in CD format.

          As long as there are still people who enjoy music and are pupils to it, enjoy artwork, the smell of print and the tactility of touching an album, CDís (or any physicals) could still be around for a while.

          Your Myanmar taxi driver could be in this group and if he is, Iím very sure he kept his CD copy safely at home.

          Comment


          • #50
            SD/HD (?) test tracks

            Originally posted by Diminish View Post
            "{Moderator's comment: noted about the hires tracks and Alan's demonstration recently of 'spaciousness'. What did you make of that demo?}"

            Hi, since you asked, I went ahead and listened to the Rach. tracks. There were some notable differences that I picked up on: the SD track sounded more distant, or another way of saying this, would be that it was more "laid back". At times, it sounded flat...
            Last chance to comment on these test tracks before we look at them technically ..................

            Just as with all matters concerning audio there are no "right" answers and no "wrong" answers. Everything is in the grey area between and a matter of personal perception.

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            • #51
              Analysing the 'SD' v 'HD' examples

              Originally posted by HUG-1 View Post
              Last chance to comment
              Listening only on naff computer speakers -

              HD has more stereo width, possibly mainly at the lower signal levels. Technically speaking, only the louder elements of the 'S' component ('S' = width for these purposes) are making it through the codec. As the hall acoustic exists mainly within the 'S' component, the narrower (SD) example exhibits less of the hall acoustic.

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              • #52
                SD/HD test - the truth about 'remastering'

                Originally posted by Pluto View Post
                Listening only on naff computer speakers -

                HD has more stereo width, possibly mainly at the lower signal levels. Technically speaking, only the louder elements of the 'S' component ('S' = width for these purposes) are making it through the codec. As the hall acoustic exists mainly within the 'S' component, the narrower (SD) example exhibits less of the hall acoustic.
                ... the professional (sound engineer) listener comments!

                One point I should have made long ago is that I only generate and test these audio clips on my own $30 plastic pc speakers. I do not play them through quality speakers or hi-fi system because I am not intent on revealing some extremely subtle nuance but a general point. And I do that by allowing a side-by-side comparison to be made by the listener And for that, your plastic PC speakers should be perfectly adequate. For about $30, Logitec (a brand that makes a wide range of well engineered pc accessories) offer several speakers: these here used to make the clips are their LS11.*

                Turning to these two clips first presented in post #32 ...

                Loading the player ...
                SD example

                Loading the player ...
                HD example

                The listener's feedback was as I expected and is neatly summarised by Pluto above. 'The HD recording has more stereo width'. Assuming that we agree on that (listen again to the repeated clips above) we can pursue why this is. Without any further background information, you and I casually listening could draw the conclusion that the HD recording brought some additional realism, a greater 'being there' experience. And probably we would cheerfully cough-up an extra few (or many?) dollars for that masterpiece recording even if we already owned the 'SD' recording. That is how the movie and recording industry works; they are very creative in selling you (again) what you already have. Be it VHS>DVD or DVD>BluRay, or LP>CD then CD>Remastered CD. It's a game.

                In my post #32 introducing these clips and running with the flow of the discussion I said -

                ... neither you nor I, as ordinary members of the public, have (any) awareness of the mysterious process of 'mastering' these recordings. We would be barred from the CD mastering facility. Their tricks and techniques are closely guarded commercial secrets. Their secret business is of increasing the appeal of recorded music. The more they sell the better so 'mastering' is an absolutely crucial step in the commercial process of bringing music from the recording studio to our homes. 'Whatever it takes' is their motto.
                Now the sad fact is that every commercial recording once 'in the can' is frozen in time at the day it was captured, with those performers, those microphones and with the limitations of recording skill and technical equipment on the day. Sounds not 'on' the recording are not on the recording - period. The recording is as complete and sealed as an oil painting. Mono cannot be regenerated as surround sound in post-production. But for marketing purposes, ways have to be found to 'leverage' the significant cost invested in the recording to find new consumers for it. And since music is a highly personal subjective matter, the most likely new market for a re-release is those that have 'already expressed a preference for' (marketing speak) the artist. And so, the crucial importance of remastering what was sealed at a point in time into something new, fresh and sellable.

                The truth is that both of my recordings clips started out as exactly the same. I simply took the original high quality recording and duplicated it. The original I labelled 'SD' and the copy I manipulated - I remastered - and labelled it 'HD'. With a little appreciation of listener preference behaviour (i.e. the sort of things that most people would find audibly attractive most of the time) it took just a few minutes to remaster the clip. I'm sure you have the tools to make the same transformation on your PC: you can remaster your entire audio collection for free! More spaciousness, more open, greater dynamics - more revealing, a greater sense of scale etc. etc. etc. .... all there at the click of a few keys.

                What did I do? Can you do it yourself? What can we learn from this?



                *The sound quality of active plastic pc speakers can be fairly good. The usual problem though is hum, both mechanical and electrical.
                Alan A. Shaw
                Designer, owner
                Harbeth Audio UK

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                • #53
                  Photoshop for audio - nothing is as it seems

                  Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                  The truth is that both of my recordings clips started out as exactly the same. I simply took the original high quality recording and duplicated it. The original I labelled 'SD' and the copy I manipulated - I remastered - and labelled it 'HD'. With a little appreciation of listener preference behaviour (i.e. the sort of things that most people would find audibly attractive most of the time) it took just a few minutes to remaster the clip. I'm sure you have the tools to make the same transformation on your PC: you can remaster your entire audio collection for free!
                  Why am I not surprised?!:-)) I was expecting something on these lines, and I now look forward to reactions....all of this is like photoshop for audio.

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Oh no! I should have trusted my own ears!

                    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                    What can we learn from this?
                    We can learn to be more forthright! I has assumed that we were comparing the Radio 3 "hi-def" AAC feed with the lower quality WMA feed.

                    When I played these (quite late at night), I had a feeling that the "wider" one felt a bit too wide - width added by increasing the proportion of the 'S' component, i.e. artificial!

                    Had I spoken my mind (instead of thinking "time for bed") I would have had our evil moderator bang to rights :-)

                    That said, on the whole topic of remastering, I have a few "remastered" CDs that are vastly better than the original releases, the quality of the converters having come on in leaps and bounds between then and now.

                    I have also heard several remasters that suffer badly, in the latter releases, from excess limiting. "Loudness war" stuff.

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Ho hum

                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post

                      *The sound quality of active plastic pc speakers can be fairly good. The usual problem though is hum, both mechanical and electrical.
                      I do understand now, why some ladies are happy with kitchen radio

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        Tell me how you did it (Photoshop for audio)

                        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                        What did I do? Can you do it yourself? What can we learn from this?
                        Dear Alan,

                        This shows me I can enjoy all my digital archive after a little touch, regardless of the other components like speaker stands, cables, pre and power amplifiers...

                        I could photoshop my raw photographs in the very first day, but it took me about a year to learn to get what I want exactly.

                        I don't understand how you did what you did, at the moment; but I want to know how to do it by myself...

                        Comment


                        • #57
                          Fidelity to what?

                          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                          What did I do? Can you do it yourself? What can we learn from this?
                          Hi fi = high fidelity. Doesn't all of this now beg the question, fidelity to what? How is one to know just what is the reference any more?

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            Over-use of Photoshop = inexperienced audio selection

                            Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
                            Hi fi = high fidelity. Doesn't all of this now beg the question, fidelity to what? How is one to know just what is the reference any more?
                            who will choose the "reference" while everybody hears and perceives differently... I'm not sure even my L and R ears hear the very same... There should be more than one reference fidelity, tailor made for everyone...

                            On the other hand, time changes everything... When I was new at Photoshoping, all of my images were sharpened extremely and the colors were oversaturated, but just the opposite now. So even my own reference changes for getting further by time...

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              Hearing, expectation and psychology (mobile ringtones)

                              No surprise here. As I said in my earlier response:

                              "I still believe that it would be possible to achieve the "larger room" sound of the HD file during the mastering process with a lower bitrate. For all we know, Alan's two recordings may be identical except for some DSP effects."

                              What have we learned? That much of the music from HDTracks sounds better than the original CD versions because of the remastering rather than the increased bit depth or higher sampling rates. Maybe it's possible for some very young people to hear differences in bit depth and sampling rates beyond Redbook, but at 50 years old, I can't.

                              Quick aside about the acute hearing of young people: Years ago, when my son was still in high (secondary) school, we were talking about kids having mobile phones in class as his school had recently implemented a policy requiring that they be turned off. He laughed off the policy, stating that phones are ringing in class "all the time" and the teachers have no clue. The kids' solution to the mobile policy was novel. He hit a few keys on his phone and said "can you hear that"? I couldn't. It turns out that the kids didn't turn their ringers off at all. They merely switched to high frequency ringtones above the threshold of the teachers' hearing. A very simple and clever solution.

                              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                              The truth is that both of my recordings clips started out as exactly the same. I simply took the original high quality recording and duplicated it. The original I labelled 'SD' and the copy I manipulated - I remastered - and labelled it 'HD'. With a little appreciation of listener preference behaviour (i.e. the sort of things that most people would find audibly attractive most of the time) it took just a few minutes to remaster the clip. I'm sure you have the tools to make the same transformation on your PC: you can remaster your entire audio collection for free! More spaciousness, more open, greater dynamics - more revealing, a greater sense of scale etc. etc. etc. .... all there at the click of a few keys.

                              What did I do? Can you do it yourself? What can we learn from this?

                              *The sound quality of active plastic pc speakers can be fairly good. The usual problem though is hum, both mechanical and electrical.

                              Comment


                              • #60
                                Plastic desktop speakers

                                Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                                *The sound quality of active plastic pc speakers can be fairly good. The usual problem though is hum, both mechanical and electrical.
                                @Alan: I hear what you're saying about plastic desktop speakers. I once had a pair of the Harmon Kardon Soundsticks with their integrated DAC and miniature 4-driver line array and they sounded astonishingly good. And back when my work environment dictated that I not play music too loudly in consideration of my neighbor in the next office, I had a pair of Bose Computer MusicMonitors. These were active speakers with these teeny-tiny drivers and some sort of passive radiator on the back. They were actually pretty good. Imaging in particular was surprising.

                                {Moderator's comment: did they like most PC speakers emit a constant hummmmmmmm?}

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