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Hi Def Recordings? Are they worth it?

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  • Hi Def Recordings? Are they worth it?

    From another forum, I unashamedly copy this link to a fascinating academic study on the merits of music released at higher definition than CD (16/44.1)

    The report needs no comment from me, except to observe that is well worth the read.

    http://drewdaniels.com/audible.pdf

  • #2
    I have read the report before as well as the roport that the Boston Audio Society made compairing analogue vs digital with the famous Scotish turntable runing through a digital loop and results were similar, ie the turntable boss couldn't pick which was digital and which was analogue.

    I know abx is a scientific process apart from using ears not instruments in measuring, so I am not to sure of its value.

    I am also not sure we need anything more than 16/44.1, At the birth of cd replay the BBC have stated that 14 bit was enough and the limit was in the loudspeaker.

    All this said I am still not yet a Harbeth owner but have aspirations to upgrade my Spendor 3/5s for a pair of P3ESRs.

    I would welcome views from Harbeth owners on music at higher than 16/44.1, has anyone tried it?, is it better or just overhyped?, why are studios recording at say 24/44.1, 24/88.2 or 24/96 over 16/44.1?

    Mike.

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    • #3
      Worth it? Imo, any music you buy is really only “worth it” if you like it and would want to listen to it again, regardless of res or reviews. Recording quality, imo, transcends resolution and if you put this together with your music tastes, it will give you more enjoyment.

      There are some “normal res” recordings which are of generally pretty good quality. Labels like Decca, Bluenote, Nonesuch, Vanguard, ABC, Dramatico, EMI Angel (and some EMI's), Denon, Universal France, Verve, Hyperion & Higher Octave have good artistes and generally predictable good quality. I know we all have some Linn’s, Bluecoasts etc. in our collection, but I know I only pull mine out to impress guests and to satisfy myself that ive made good electronic choices. Other than that, they're a waste of money.

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      • #4
        My personal experience is that they are 'worth it'. I have an Olive server connected to a Naim DAC which can process up to 24bit/192khz and I have bought several albums via Naim Label, HD Tracks and Bowers and Wilkins Society of Sound. Out of curiosity I purchased the CD version of 'Raising Sand' (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and the 24bit 96khz version from HD Tracks. Set up a playlist on the Olive of the same tracks back to back and to my ears at least there are/were clear differences in favour of the hi def version.

        Interestingly, the Naim has a 'Hi Res' light which only illuminates when the recording has a sample rate in excess of 48khz - which suggests to me that Naim at least consider the sample rate more relevant than the bit rate.

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        • #5
          You have to consider if the audio source is truly the same on std. V. Hidef. Easiest thing in the world to apply a little eq to `justify` the hi-def.

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          • #6
            "Hi def" digital may be better than 16/44.1, or it may not be (in terms of perception). What I know is that, until most or all the music I want to listen to is widely available in high resolution at a reasonable price, the question is not of great importance to me. I'd much rather listen to music I like at 16/44.1 than obscure or minor artists on audiophile labels recorded at 24/192 (or whatever).

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            • #7
              Originally posted by EricW View Post
              "Hi def" digital may be better than 16/44.1, or it may not be (in terms of perception). What I know is that, until most or all the music I want to listen to is widely available in high resolution at a reasonable price, the question is not of great importance to me. I'd much rather listen to music I like at 16/44.1 than obscure or minor artists on audiophile labels recorded at 24/192 (or whatever).
              With the kind of music that I like I have not met with much success when looking for suitable Hi def recordings, I have also found several of the earlier DVD-A releases to be actually inferior to the CD release! possibly down to how they were mastered, so I can agree with what EricW has posted

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              • #8
                Just listened to a 192 kHZ High Definition Album! It is waaaayyyy better than 44.1. Its like moving from normal cassette tapes to Dolby Chrome!

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                • #9
                  Bet you that the frequency response has been tweaked and you are not comparing like with like. There is no reason why it should sound better coming from the same microphones. What is the disc name and catalogue number.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by HUG-1 View Post
                    Bet you that the frequency response has been tweaked and you are not comparing like with like. There is no reason why it should sound better coming from the same microphones. What is the disc name and catalogue number.
                    I think it works just the opposite way: it's recorded at high resolution; and then tweaked and/or compressed for redbook standart. That's why I hope (not all but most of) high definiton pcm or DSD downloads should sound a bit better than 44.1.
                    The authors in the link explain that more clearly:
                    "...Partly because these recordings have not captured a large portion of the consumer market for music, engineers and producers are being given the freedom to produce recordings that sound as good as they can make them, without having to compress or equalize the signal to suit lesser systems and casual listening conditions.
                    These recordings seem to have been made with great care and manifest affection..."

                    So, hi-def market caught me, I'll prefer hi-def recordings over 44.1...
                    Last edited by A.S.; 18-03-2012, 11:03 AM. Reason: added quote from the pdf file

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                    • #11
                      Draining the pond ('marketing differentiation')

                      Originally posted by A. E. View Post
                      ... The authors in the link explain that more clearly:

                      "...Partly because these recordings have not captured a large portion of the consumer market for music, engineers and producers are being given the freedom to produce recordings that sound as good as they can make them, without having to compress or equalize the signal to suit lesser systems and casual listening conditions.
                      These recordings seem to have been made with great care and manifest affection..."

                      So, hi-def market caught me, I'll prefer hi-def recordings over 44.1...
                      Oh come on please. You don't literally believe that do you? That's textbook undergraduate marketing talk. The truth is much more likely to be something like this ...

                      '...Having exhausted every opportunity to wring the last drop of cash from the mass market CD consumer, our brainstorming session has focused on draining the last dregs from the consumer sump. We've identified a tiny, cash-rich sub-sub-sector of the CD market who are susceptible to buzz words like 'high definition', '96k recording', '32 bit' and similar terminology words that they barely understand. Obviously we can't justify (and won't be making) investment of a cent in new technology or artist or recording costs. For virtually zero cost we can fiddle about with the already recorded material and/or find unknown artists/music that are hungry for exposure and package that up under the High Definition banner. What a brilliant wheeze! And the audiophiles will get all excited when in fact we're using the same tired old microphones with all their defects. To be sure there is an audible difference we'll master the CD to guarantee that it does sound different. We may even make the CD with a gold layer to really convince them. We'll increase the price! Then we'll give away gratis copies to everyone in the music review arena with a glossy Press Pack full of quasi techno-mumbo jumbo and job done ...'

                      How often do we have to mention that the human ear is just not the precision instrument that audiophiles think it is. It just cannot hear to the degree of precision that justifies 96k etc.. Why do people have this ludicrous self-belief in the super-human ability of their hearing when they can be fooled in seconds with a carefully constructed test? My ears can be as easily fooled as yours. I can absolutely guarantee that properly constructed audio tests will fool all of the listeners 50.00% of the time.

                      Is the irony not obvious that if 99.99% of listeners cannot tell the difference between an original WAV file and a highly compressed 128kb MP3 version of it, and 99.99% cannot reliably identify the same WAV file and a 'high definition' 96k version? Humans cannot have it both ways. We either have the acuity and extreme sensitivity to digital audio or we don't.

                      If you are offered a High Definition CD for zero extra cost compared with the standard be very suspicious. The sound quality of the original CD is likely to be more faithful to the source recording especially if the CD was made in the first era of the CD (say, before year 2000). After about that time, the CD market was saturating and new ways had to be found to keep selling them, hence 'remasters' and the horrendous loudness wars we've read about. Of course those remasters were made to sound different to the original. They had to sound different to sell! If you want a sound that is as close to what the artists originally laid down, then IMHO stick with the original CD issue.

                      Never, ever, ever forget that the music business is the most cynical, most cruel, least innovative and most profit driven that you will ever encounter. Nothing is as it seems in the music industry. We've looked at how business works here.

                      Conclusion: pay attention to the basics - by far the best investment you can make for your listening pleasure is room acoustics. The room has the dominant influence on what you hear. Improve the room and then attend to exotic micro-improvements.
                      Alan A. Shaw
                      Designer, owner
                      Harbeth Audio UK

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        HiRez is better.

                        HiFi is not about the 99.99% but the 0.01% of the listeners.

                        At this rate why would we even want to listen to live music of an orchestra symphony since we cannot distinguish 128 kHz MP3? let's just play multi tracks of each instruments in the Royal Albert Hall using a Omni directional speaker with a Mp3 recording and the 99.9% would still give a standing ovation.

                        I am not sure if they record them differently or not but most HiRez format sound better than CD, but there also some CD sound better than SACD. One that I can think of is Eric Bibbs or was it Pizarelli?, Cd sounded more accurate than the SACD. The SACD sounded like a female voice to me.

                        Perhaps, Myth busters of Discovery Channel would be interested to decode the mystery. Audiogate, LInn records and Blue Coast records are there for us to us to compare all the three formats. I still believe in SACD (HiRez) though on many occasion I couldn't tell the difference under DBT.

                        ST

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Business model gone wrong

                          Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                          HiFi is not about the 99.99% but the 0.01% of the listeners.
                          That may be true but what sort of business model can generate adequate profits to make worthwhile investments in 'hi-def' based on such an insignificant market? The answer is, it can't. And that's where marketing folk step in.

                          This is the blight of the audio industry... a tiny demand prohibits investment and genuine technical progress. Real engineering R&D costs real money; why would shareholders risk that (in a shrinking market) when the returns from repackaging the ordinary as the fantastic are immediate and tangible? The skill in the consumer business is not to invest a bean but to present the old as if it is new.

                          I have to conclude that 'audiophiles' as a group are not 'in business' because they seem worryingly incapable of detecting that they are easy meat for a legion of marketing people who are doing very nicely from their malleability. It really upsets me to watch consumers voluntarily putting their fingers in the fire again and again.

                          Still, this really isn't my problem so I'm not going to comment on it again.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                            I still believe in SACD (HiRez) though on many occasion I couldn't tell the difference under DBT
                            Could you please explain what you mean by the statement that you "believe" in SACD.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Listen to pure DSD recording

                              Originally posted by Pluto View Post
                              Could you please explain what you mean by the statement that you "believe" in SACD.

                              I said I believe because I cannot be sure if I am really listening to true DSD recordings or not when doing a DBT.

                              I have the same SACD that is often used by Sony Engineers to evaluate their SACD players and they sound fabulous with my SACD player. I have several SACDs that were said to be DSD recording all the way and they all sound very good.

                              Not many SACD recording were made utilizing the DSD all the way. Often due to the limitation with DSD that prevents editing, recording engineers would convert the DSD files to PCM to work with and then converts them to DSD for SACD. It is like recording in WAV and then convert them to MP3 to do the editing and then convert them back to WAV. In this case we are not comparing like with like and it is not surprising that some SACD sounded so bad. Quicy Jones and the Police SACD did not sound any better than the ordinary CDs.

                              When we compare other HiRez formats, I am not sure if we are really listening to the actual bits because it is my understanding that most CD players(and sound cards) utilize 1 bit converter even if the input was in 24bit. Read here.

                              Sony technical paper:- "On the playback side, most CD-players utilize one-bit D/A-converter to convert digital signals back to analogue."

                              Ing Öhman:-Though some fine multi bit CD-players exists, unfortunately most CD-players today utilize one-bit converters. It is probably a price question. A so-called 24 bit one-bit converter (working with one bit technology inside but accept 24 bit input) costs about 2-4 dollars including 2 channels and digital filter.

                              A real 24 bit converter with 96 kHz sampling frequency and 8 times over sampling costs about 10-15 dollars per channel – without the digital filter. For two channels and digital filter it ends up to approximately 40 dollars.

                              So multi bit technology is ten times more expensive as one-bit technology. Most manufacturers find it easy to choose ..."
                              Another example is the Oppo players which can play SACD. In reality, it wasn’t playing the DSD but it is playing PCM conversion after converting the DSD to PCM. I quote
                              "Oppo has already confirmed via email that
                              the new Oppos will also be "universals", have SACD, and continue to use the Mediatek chip to do only 24/88.2k DSD-to-PCM conversion."
                              So can we blame if people could not tell the difference between SACD and CD sound?


                              Let's look at another recording label. The BIS. As far as I could tell from the posting that can be found IN SACD Lives blog, they do all the recording in PCM 24bit 96khz. So you are not hearing the pure DSD recording in their SACD version. Can we blame ourselves if we couldn’t tell the difference between the SACD and CD version in this case?

                              The position may have changed recently because they are using EMM Labs convertors which are capable of true DSD A2D converter. We may finally get some true DSD recordings thanks to interests shown by companies like KORG.

                              Until someone can show concrete evidence that the SACD which was recorded and mastered in DSD played in true DSD player (Unlike the Universal Oppo, or some Yamaha or Arcam using DSD to PCM conversion technology) and a standard 16 bit 44.1khz played with a true 16bit 44.1khz CD players that is not utilizing 1 bit converter technology, will sound identical under a DBT and until then I would like to believe that SACD or some other HiRez format sound better than the conventional Cd format. At least that was the case with my Marantz player.

                              ST

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