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Thread: Hi Def Recordings? Are they worth it?

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    Default 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

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    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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    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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    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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    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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    "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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    Quote 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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    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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    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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    Quote 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 at 10:03 AM. Reason: added quote from the pdf file

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    Default Draining the pond ('marketing differentiation')

    Quote 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
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    Default 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

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    Default Business model gone wrong

    Quote 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
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    Quote 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.

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    Default Listen to pure DSD recording

    Quote 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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    Default BluRay v. std. DVD

    Quote Originally Posted by STHLS5 View Post
    I said I believe because I cannot be sure if I am really listening to true DSD recordings or not when doing a DBT. :)...... When we compare other HiRez formats, I am not sure if we are really listening to the actual bits because ....
    Surely from a marketing perspective, SACD must be tweaked to sound different/better. Who would buy BluRay if the image quality was indistinguishable between BluRay and DVD regardless of the technical arguments advanced by the PR boys.

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    Default Am I hearing what I am hearing?

    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.

    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.
    The reference SACD that I mentioned was Emi Fujita: Camomile Best Audio which was reviewed by hifinews UK as a pukka recording. And today I listened to DMP Does DSD which was releases in 1999, the same year the SACD format was released. What a contrast! Anyone who listen to these two SACD would readily identify the Emi Fujita as a DSD recording compared to the DMP.

    The DMP Does DSD sounded comfortable and relaxing while the Emi is a mixed presentation. The voice seemed to be made to sparkle while the instruments sounded perfect without feeling fatigue. They may have recorded the vocal and the instruments separately. The instruments sound genuine.

    Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is did I fell prey to the marketers. Looking at the quotes above that would be a resounding YES!

    But that didn't mean DSD cannot be superior. The best clarity and decay of instruments including the micro details that I have heard were from SACD recordings including Emi Fujita's.

    Quote Originally Posted by HUG-1 View Post
    Surely from a marketing perspective, SACD must be tweaked to sound different/better. ..
    Maybe the reissues but those genuine DSD recording sounded neutral. DMP does DSD is one of them.

    ST

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    Default "Pukka recording"

    Quote Originally Posted by STHLS5 View Post
    The reference SACD that I mentioned was Emi Fujita: Camomile Best Audio which was reviewed by hifinews UK as a pukka recording. ...
    A "pukka recording"? What sort of gangster talk is that?

    You are probably kidding yourself. Bet you frequency response is not the same. Checked it? What possible explanation can you suggest for the marvellous improvement in sound? Same microphones?

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    Quote Originally Posted by STHLS5 View Post
    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
    You're entitled to believe it if you want to. But why should people disbelieve it bear the onus of proof? Shouldn't the onus be on those (like you) who believe there's a big difference? Because if there is such a difference, it should be easy to demonstrate. Also, it's easier to prove the existence of a positive than a negative.

    Also, think of it this way. If I were you, I would prefer not to believe it. Why? Because that way I would have access to a much wider range of recorded music without having to be concerned that any of it is significantly compromised in quality because of the recording format. That way I have greater listening pleasure and more things to listen to. That's why I'm in this hobby. Why are you in it?

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    Default Flip-Flopping

    Quote Originally Posted by HUG-1 View Post
    A "pukka recording"? What sort of gangster talk is that?

    You are probably kidding yourself. Bet you frequency response is not the same. Checked it? What possible explanation can you suggest for the marvellous improvement in sound? Same microphones?
    I am just quoting the English editor of UK’s Hifinews magazine. See October 2009 issue, pg 36 or maybe page 39. Looks like they have now resorted to tough and aggressive language for marketing. :)

    Bet you frequency response is not the same. Checked it?
    That’s what I intend to do but I do not have a computer or an application that could extract the digital signal of the SACD to make a FR chart. Even if I could what good it will be when the sound card and the sampling are limited by the software and hardware. Nor would it prove anything since human cannot hear anything above 20kHz and there is nothing much musical above the 10kHz frequency. So I am left with just using my ears.

    What I have is a very fine DSD recording made in 1999 which was recorded live with no editing because at that time DSD recorder had no editing tool. The SACD and CD version are level matched and yet the difference is still audible. However, there could be some manipulation by the producer to present the SACD to sound superior. It could be simply be a marketing gimmick. I am leaving that option open but how about another SACD recording which was made to show the difference in the Microphones? They made the best possible recordings of a Steinway piano to show how the different mics and position changes the sound. I believe the CD and SACD versions to be neutral because the purpose of the recording is not about the different formats but about their microphones’ capability. This recording would be a good candidate for a DBT. Anyone here is welcome for a DBT at my place? If I am proven to be wrong I will pay for the drinks.

    Meanwhile, ever wondered why more and more recording engineers choose higher resolution to record and master since it is economically and scientifically proven that 16 bit 44.1kHz should be enough. Surely, the marketing people are aware that 99.99% couldn’t tell the difference between 128 MP2 and CD. So why the extra cost by the money conscious commercial world of recording?

    Interestingly, my own experience contradict some of the DBT tests that I took. I have taken the audibility test and clearly couldn’t tell the difference of less than 3dB. For one reason or another, I could sense a slight shift in the center image at different volume. It is only recently I knew that this is due to channel imbalance due to volume control design that sometimes just cannot output exact loudness in both channels at different loudness level. However, the design spec of the cheapest Alps volume control ( the brand that is used in my preamplifier but mine is the higher model so the difference must be less than 2dB) is less than 2dB between channels and yet I could hear the shift when listening to music. So under controlled test I failed to detect 2 dB but while listening music I could detect them easily. How do you explain that?




    Quote Originally Posted by EricW View Post
    You're entitled to believe it if you want to. But why should people disbelieve it bear the onus of proof? Shouldn't the onus be on those (like you) who believe there's a big difference? Because if there is such a difference, it should be easy to demonstrate. Also, it's easier to prove the existence of a positive than a negative.

    Also, think of it this way. If I were you, I would prefer not to believe it. Why? Because that way I would have access to a much wider range of recorded music without having to be concerned that any of it is significantly compromised in quality because of the recording format. That way I have greater listening pleasure and more things to listen to. That's why I'm in this hobby. Why are you in it?


    Yes, I am aware that he who asserts shall prove. But what am I to do that when disbelievers do not even want to participate to give feedback when sample clips posted here in this forum. What we have here is a chasm between believers and non believers of HiRez and both camps could not positively prove or disprove the other. At best I would call it Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam asserted by both camps.

    Lately, you have been saying that you can’t hear any difference between CD players or amplifiers or Hi Def but you have also stated that quite the opposite 6 years ago when you said:-

    Quote Originally Posted by EricW View Post
    ....... However, I will say that the mhdt Havana DAC (bought, now that I think of it, on the basis of reading Jeff's review of another mhdt product, the Paradisea +) is really an exceptionally musical piece of gear, for a digital product. To give you an idea, I ran my Mac straight into the USB input on my "second system" amp, the Aura Note (which is a very nice and musical little piece of equipment) and then into the mhdt DAC and the Aux input of the Aura Note, and it was absolutely no contest. The Aura Note, which had sounded fine on its own, was clearly more harsh, edgy and unmusical compared to the mhdt.

    In a bout of what might be audiophile craziness, I then added a Bel Canto USB-Link. It did make a further improvement in definition and clarity, but the basic smooth and easy and musical - yet highly revealing - character of the Havana was unchanged. Maybe it's the non-OS architecture, maybe it's the buffer tube, maybe it's good design overall: but it's head and shoulders above most CD players I've heard. It probably sounds closer to your Rega than you might imagine possible.

    Eric
    And here, after 6 years you have rediscovered the truth:-

    Quote Originally Posted by EricW View Post
    ...I haven't heard either the Music Hall or the Audiolab though as has been repeated here ad nauseam Harbeths will work well with any competently designed amp, and the audible differences between amplifiers, while possibly noticeable, will not be hugely significant..
    From “heads and shoulders” to “not hugely significant”. Something must have happened within these 6 years. Which could be:-

    1) Technology has progressed so advance that there is no longer any difference between different equipments; or
    2) Age has caught and the hearing has deteriorated; or
    3) The speaker is broken that you just couldn’t hear any difference.

    Maybe, one day I too will be enlightened too but until then prove me wrong like how I was proven wrong for believing cables made a difference. It may interest you to notice that the research which was intended to disprove the existence of audible difference between SACD and DVD-A in the Listening Comparison Test between DSD and High Resolution PCM (24-bit / 176.4 kHz) convention paper did actually find 4 out 145 people could tell the difference. That’s 2.7% of the samples population could hear the difference!

    Now I hope you can see better why I used the word “believe” instead of just arguing it made a difference. It easier to always say “don’t know” and “no difference” to find an easy way out. Instead of being cynical and telling me to believe what I want to believe I hope you could positively prove that no one could hear the difference. But you are going to tell that he who asserts must prove, right?

    ST

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