HI RES – IS THERE ANY BENEFIT?

Rob Sinden

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
I sell very high-end music systems and am interested in anything that can make them sound better. The use of Hi-Res formats has become accepted as a way of improving sound quality but I don’t hear the improvements that manufacturers claim.

If this is a subject you are interested in, I’d highly recommend subscribing to this guys mailers. He’s a recording engineer with over 40 years’ experience who teaches Digital Production Strategies Course and produces hi res recordings.

His passion is debunking the myths about audio including vinyl, fancy cables and Hi-Res.

Today he posted a list of 18 true high res tracks that you can down load and enjoy.

You can subscribe here

Contact Us | Real HD-Audio
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Rob, looking at his methodolgy for his HD Audio Challenge it is questionable and potentially flawed. Rather than comparing an 24/96 Track with a genuine 16/44.1 as a test. he has taken the same 24/96 and downsampled it to 16/44.1 so both have the same master quality and data to start with. Surely a more valid comparison would have been to take a 24/96 and a genuine 16/44.1 that was originally mastered at redbook? Then asked people to listen and compare. Its the same reason why terrestrial transmissions today look so much better, because the original footage was shot in 2k/4k and downsampled rather shot in the native 480 / 576. The output image is still low rez, but the base data that it comes from still retains a lot more detail.
 

Rob Sinden

Distinguished Member
AVForums Sponsor
Hi Mushi

Thanks for joining in.

I’m not expert at HiRes, partially because I’ve never heard any difference but mostly because the music I like isn’t available in HiRes formats.

Having read his book on the subject, I regard Mark Waldrep as a real authority on HiRes. From reading his newsletter one of the thing I’ve learned is that over 95% of HiRes recordings are taken from formats that were standard res, so it’s impossible that they can deliver any of the claimed benefits of HiRes.

The great thing is that now anyone who is interested in the subject can put it to the test with his HD Audio Challenge II. Go to his site and subscribe and you can download a number of tracks that were created and produced at the highest resolution possible and are available in HiRes, CD and MP3 formats.

The challenge and results aren’t finished yet, but from the last results, the success rate was 47.7% with 50% being the same a flipping a coin.

So, to date, the people who have tried, including many engineers, musicians and audio engineers can tell no difference.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Rob, thanks for sharing this definitely piqued my interest enough to subscribe :) It is something that I am interested in, especially as I have purchased quite a lot of HD Music. I am always happy to join a balanced science based debate.
 

larkone

Member
Hi Mushi

From reading his newsletter one of the thing I’ve learned is that over 95% of HiRes recordings are taken from formats that were standard res, so it’s impossible that they can deliver any of the claimed benefits of HiRes.
...and that is the major issue with so much of the supposedly hi-res music that is sold, so little of it really is and is one of the huge cons of the music business - their own version of hifi's snake-oil products
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Its interesting as many studios master in 24/96 natively now, why material shouldn't be hi-rez is more of the question. Also looking at the sites that 'expose' upsampled Redbook to Hi-Rez when you look at the numbers its only 1 in 20 - 1 in 30 that are upsampled from 80s redbook masters. Most of the very modern recordings are fine. I think that the problem is that there is a huge resurgence in 70s and 80s music which is when many studios were transitioning from 1" and 2" analogue tapes to digital, which was Redbook standard.

This is quite a good Youtube to watch where various versions of Dark Side of the Moon are compared - with links to the different files to download and listen to.
 

Jamie

Distinguished Member
It reminds me of a large public test a guy called Archmagoo or something like that did.

I've also don't my own independent test (I say test it was 4 mates, an ounce of weed and a day spent listening to DSOTM) which essentially shows the original source/mastering was more important than the end file resolution. Red book bit depth and bitrate is enough.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
I think that you hit the nail on the head @Jamie that the mastering is probably more important than the end file. Redbook final files mastered at 24/96 sound (to me) so much better than the files mastered at 16/44.1. Likewise Hi-Rez re-mastering from original 2" tape (ADD) has much better fidelity even at Redbook output compared the early (DDD) CDs
 

Jamie

Distinguished Member
That's the guy. I believe he ran a whole series of tests.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
@gibbsy has been notable quiet here. He is an avid SACD aficionado. SACD being the industries first and continuing attempt at a physical High Definition audio format.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
@gibbsy has been notable quiet here. He is an avid SACD aficionado. SACD being the industries first and continuing attempt at a physical High Definition audio format.
What is Hi-Res? Is it just a marketing ploy so that manufacturers can have that little gold and black logo on their boxes? The only real Hi-Res happens in the recording studio, isn't it just a matter of how that information is stored, butchered in many cases, and then sold to the public.

I've never listened to a recording that is marked as Hi-Res because I don't stream. Is it still Hi-Res if you play that file back on a phone and a pair of £25 earphones. Is an SACD still Hi-Res if you play it through a Denon receiver. In cases like that then Hi-Res gets lost in translation.

There have been so many attempts and contenders have risen and fallen. DVD-A is a collectors item, blu ray audio seems dead in the water even though both these media can be easily played on any video player. SACD is still clinging on but that still requires a specialist player. Perhaps SACD will see a resurgence once people get fed up of vinyl.

As for streaming then that is what a lot of people will be brought up on and not hear any difference so the Hi-Res streaming and the £25 earphones may be here to stay.

Hi-Res! Marketing BS.
 

phil t

Well-known Member
Hi-Res! Marketing BS.
Yes and no.

It reminds me of "Turbo" and "Digital", as in often chucked in to a sentence where is really doesn't need to be.

I buy Hi res FLAC (and they are genuinely so), so I have the best possible source file currently available, not because I believe it sounds any better than a standard FLAC. You can always take away, but you can't add what isn't there.

:)
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Interesting - the recording industry class SACD as Hi-Resolution Audio as its data rate and data density equivalent to 24/192. Are you then saying SACD is also marketing BS ?
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Super Audio CD (SACD) is a high-resolution, read-only optical disc for audio storage. The SACD medium supersedes the storage capacity, fidelity, dynamic range, and channel imaging capabilities of the Compact Disc.

SACD releases are available in either stereophonic sound or surround sound. Although SACD audio streams are encoded in a pulse-density modulation (PDM) scheme called Direct Stream Digital (DSD), a manufacturer may also write a Pulse-code modulation (PCM) "layer" compatible with conventional Compact Disc players. SACD is a disc of identical physical dimensions to a standard compact disc, yet the density of the disc is the same as a DVD. The SACD sampling rate is 2.8224 MHz and the resolution is one bit. A stereo SACD recording can stream data at an uncompressed rate of 5.6 Mbps, four times the rate for Compact Disc stereo audio

Within the audiophile community, the sound from the SACD format is thought to be significantly better compared to older format Red Book Compact Disc recordings. However, In September 2007, the Audio Engineering Society published the results of a year-long trial in which a range of subjects including professional recording engineers were asked to discern the difference between SACD and compact disc audio (44.1 kHz/16 bit) under double blind test conditions. Yet, 49.8% successfully answered correctly, corresponding almost exactly to the 50% that would have been expected by chance guessing alone. This conclusion is contentious among a large segment of audio engineers who work with high resolution material and many within the audiophile community whom can hear significant differences between these formats. What is clear is the quality of the original recording and the mastering process have a lot to do with these audible differences. Listeners may find a Compact Disc that literally sounds identical to a high-resolution version, such as SACD or DVD-Audio; yet in most cases the difference will be significant to the audiophile, and in some cases the high-resolution version may actually sound inferior to the Compact Disc due to poor mastering.

Source - About SACD
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Interesting - the recording industry class SACD as Hi-Resolution Audio as its data rate and data density equivalent to 24/192. Are you then saying SACD is also marketing BS ?
No, not really. It's just that some manufacturers seem to have suddenly found a good marketing ploy. They can sell the downloads as Hi-Res yet you can listen on a cheap phone and earphones. Is it then still in high resolution. Would you still consider SACD as high resolution if I played it in stereo through my Denon receiver. I wouldn't.

A high resolution recording is just that but does that include the players or does it all fall apart after that.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Personally I am in the Hi-Rez camp with caveats that much maybe down to the original recording and mastering used. Whether that be Analogue 2" tape or 24/96 or 24/192 digital mastering. You can always take data away but adding data (successfully) is a lot more difficult
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Personally I am in the Hi-Rez camp with caveats that much maybe down to the original recording and mastering used. Whether that be Analogue 2" tape or 24/96 or 24/192 digital mastering. You can always take data away but adding data (successfully) is a lot more difficult
Tha'st an absolute given. All you have to do is listen to the Steven Wilson remixes of the Jethro Tull catalogue. The information was there but the original mixes were poor, clever remixing with an educated ear have made a profound difference to the listening experience. Same goes for some of the albums that Alan Parsons has been involved in.

MoFi always tout the fact they have gone back to the master tapes and completely remastered them for SACD and heavy vinyl releases, yet on some they have made a right pig's ear of it. Dylan's John Wesley Harding is nowhere near as good as some previous redbook issues. An argument that could also be levelled at some SACD issues of Brothers in Arms.

When a cook makes a beautiful cake you complement them not the oven it was baked in. If the cook isn't up to the job the oven isn't going to save them.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Would you still consider SACD as high resolution if I played it in stereo through my Denon receiver. I wouldn't.
@gibbsy how and what we listen on is probably a different argument entirely. What you may think is good hifi that is capable of resolving the nuances of any Hi-Resolution audio medium maybe different to mine. The discussion is whether there is any merit in any Hi-resolution format compared to Red-Book. As was shown in 2007 even the people who record and make this music couldn't resolve the difference with any statistical significance between SACD and Red Book. The name of the medium is moot, the question is whether using a medium that has a higher bit rate and density than Red-Book has any value. - Personally I do.
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
The problem to my mind isn't about CD vs Hi res, but rather that I think very few productions are of sufficient quality for hi-res to matter.

I have said this many times - a great quality production (well written/arranged, recorded, mixed and mastered) 320k mp3 will sound better (more enjoyable/engaging to listen to) than an average quality production at 192/24.

Most of what get shovelled at us as high res really isn't deserving of the extra data storage required and if anything, there is an argument to say that as soon as you start messing with anything other than a single standard sample rate and bit depth and force conversions more often than not, then quality will suffer, even if not always audible on the first generation.

Also from my years of recording and mixing, I found myself getting highly attuned to very subtle cues (because they were often indicators of an issue I need to check/correct).

The point is I think if you spend too much effort in worrying about whether it is 44.1 or hi-res, then over time you may well get attuned to some very subtle differences as you learn the audible cues if they are even present. This is far more obvious with mp3 vs CD where over time I started to learn to audible cues to listen for, even if I might not have specifically noticed them otherwise unless I was critically listening for problems - which as an audio engineer is your job.

These days I just enjoy the music. Worrying about the format just gets in the way of that IMHO - I don't think you engage what with you are hearing if you cant relax. Physiologically this make sense - little muscles in your ears will damp the sound a tiny bit and reduce the quality of your perception.

I mostly listen to hi-res because I have the services and gear to do so. A lot is also MQA, some is 320 mp3 still (some stations I subscribe to that seem to make the effort to make mp3 sound very good), some lossless hi-res and majority is still CD quality. It is rare that I can tell what format something is. Sometimes I may hear something that doesn't sound right - the kind of thing that in my past would have had me checking all the processing I was applying in mixing/mastering to make sure I hadn't screwed up, but that most likely someone who isn't so attuned to such would probably never notice.

Would still I choose hi-res over CD? Yes - why not? Sometimes you do find a good recording that justifies those extra bits, but sadly too rarely.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
higher bit rate
I do agree with you but SACD is just 1 bit. ;)

I do prefer SACD, it's wider soundstage, even on poor recordings, is still usually superior to redbook and that's what I like about it. I do lament the fact that copyright problems have stopped more modern recordings on that format certainly in the popular genres.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
I think that what some of what @gibbsy says is true though. Is there any point in high resolution audio if you are listening on airpods / beats audio / smart speaker? Its like watching a 4k BluRay on an 80s CRT TV.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I think that what some of what @gibbsy says is true though. Is there any point in high resolution audio if you are listening on airpods / beats audio / smart speaker? Its like watching a 4k BluRay on an 80s CRT TV.
That's a lot of the point I'm trying to make. People will always think they are listening to the best if they pay for the streaming service. My neighbour, just prior to the lock down, bought a pair of £25 wireless earphones that he listens to streaming on his laptop, no idea what sound car he has and neither does he. He swears that those 'phones and downloads are superior to SACD played on my Denon and through the Oppo planars. We were listening to his Hi-Res download of DSOTM and my SACD of the same title. Can't hear a difference he said.

There again he has a 65'' 4K LED and still buys bog standard DVDs to watch on it.
 

RBZ5416

Distinguished Member
Rob, looking at his methodology for his HD Audio Challenge it is questionable and potentially flawed. Rather than comparing an 24/96 Track with a genuine 16/44.1 as a test. he has taken the same 24/96 and downsampled it to 16/44.1 so both have the same master quality and data to start with.
Not flawed as by doing it this way, the only difference is the bit rate/depth. By comparing different versions then the mastering comes into play. So without looking at the site & just going by what you've posted, he is indeed comparing apples with apples. Just that one of the apples comes in a much bigger box.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
I disagree. it all depends what your Null Hypothesis is. The Hypothesis did not state that using the same mastering is the final recording medium of Hi-Rez music better than Red-Book it asks if Hi-Rez is better than Red-Book. This being the case surely the recording and mastering should be the same to truly compare the value of one to the other. The reason being is that between recording / mastering / medium there is always degradation in signal. If the original master is of a lower quality, then consequently the final material is going to be of lower quality. Therefore Hi-Rez mastering is going to have a significant effect on the final medium. So if you are going to master in Hi-Rez and its relatively easy to publish in Hi-Rez, then why wouldn't you?
 

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