Do you hear an improvement with Hi-Res?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Plan9, Mar 5, 2012.

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  1. GregM

    GregM The expanding man

    Daddyland, CA
    It's amazing we're still having this discussion.

    Whenever the subject of hi res or SACD comes up do we also still need to say the source material is important? Or the recording? Everyone knows that.
  2. JohnT

    JohnT Senior Member

    I've been on a Hi-Res journey as of late and converted 160 DVD-A & Sacd to 24/96+ (flac) for my music server. Motivation was strictly for playback convenience. All new LP needle drops are now 24/96 as well as a handful of downloads.

    If the Hi-Res disc is (sonically) mediocre then the conversion will obviously be limited too as Hi-Res doesn't change that. For outstanding Hi-Res music such as CCR Willie and the Poor Boys (Sacd) or America Homecoming (DVD-A) - the flac sounds amazing. For Sacd I sometimes play DFF's the Sacd's converted to (from the PS3).

    My hardware chain interprets the flac via Foobar then outputs through a 192k capable onboard card to a 192k enabled DAC. From there I go to speakers or headphones but I prefer speakers.

    Hi-Res can offer a clearer sound - sometimes the extra information provides definition to voices or instruments that were always there but not legible. That can be fun to discover intricate parts you've never heard and say holy moly!

    Voted: 'Yes, I hear a significant improvement'. I'm sold and just want more and more.
  3. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

    United States
    I voted that I hear a significant improvement, but each hi-rez is different. They aren't all equally great, just like with CDs or vinyl records.
  4. testikoff

    testikoff Seasoned n00b

    IMO it would be pretty hard to hear differences between 24/96 & 16/44 versions of Tusk minding it was originally recorded in PCM (and not a Hi-Rez one too) ;)...
  5. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

    United States
    The reverb matters because if it's correct, you know that the whole recording will sound correct.
  6. paulisdead

    paulisdead fast and bulbous

    Here's a question:

    FLAC's are commonly the boffins chioce for downloadable Hi-Res content (wether its 24/44.1 or 24/48 whatever). My question I put to the group is: If you had the chioce, would you go for a 24 bit/96k or 192k copy of the stereo .wav/aiff master file over a FLAC even though the .wav/.aiff file would be MUCH BIGGER in file size to download?

    If so, could you see yourself doing this for every release?
  7. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    Not sure I understand the question - but if I'm reading this correctly, the vendor is offering two choices -- either a 24/96 FLAC or a 24/96 uncompressed WAV. Other than the format / container, all other things are equal (same master).

    If that was the case, I'd take the FLAC only for the slightly faster download speed. It's like taking a ZIP package of a large binary file versus the actual uncompressed binary file - the end package is still the same.
  8. mwheelerk

    mwheelerk Don't Let The Old Man In

    Gilbert Arizona
    In general I would vote yes but I think it is very specific to the particular release.
  9. JohnT

    JohnT Senior Member

    .wav won't allow metadata manipulation so that's a deal breaker for me.
  10. SBurke

    SBurke Nostalgia Junkie

    Philadelphia, PA
    What is "the boffins choice"?

    Shouldn't be any reason to go for 24/96 or 192 WAV/AIFF when FLAC is available.
  11. JA Fant

    JA Fant Well-Known Member

    For me, it all begins w/ subtle improvements!
  12. Leigh


    The OP made a big deal of stating all the huge differences he hears with downsampled versions of the same source material, but the poll itself just asks whether an improvement is heard without that qualifier. It's not "the source material is important" but "the source material is the same."

    I can't for the life of me figure out why people report hearing these huge differences in this situation because the differences between 24/96 and properly downsampled and dithered redbook are demonstrably extreeeemely small whereas the reported differences being heard imply, to me, actual at-the-ear-differences in the ~ 1-5 dB range. It would be illustrative to sample the analog end of things to get a handle on the actual differences in those cases.

    I've always thought it would be an interesting test to put one of those binaural heads where the listener usually goes and put a pair of good mics in there and record the signal plus room response, get a baseline, and then do your comparisons. The results of that kind of test might be more compelling for some but I doubt anyone's bothered to do it.
  13. Zanth

    Zanth Forum Resident

    Ottawa, Canada

    I have a dozen or so high res downloads. A hundred SACDs, plenty of LPs and 45 rpm remasters and then a few thousand RBCDs. Of all those albums, I have perhaps 10 that are crossing over into multiple formats with only one release hitting every permutation available. That release is the Raising Sand with Krauss and Plant. The second issue of the LP sounds better than the first pressing and both sound better than the high res download from HDTracks. But, given the different front-ends the only way to make it work out a bit better is to needle drop it all and play through the same dac. In that instance 2nd issue needle > High Res HDTracks > 1st issue needle drop > CD.

    My ears and all that applies. Even if I can't actually hear the difference, according to some studies, I might be feeling the differences through my skin :) If it doesn't cost me a ton more, I'll always buy higher res just in case.
  14. Ramos Pinto

    Ramos Pinto New Member

    Southeast US
    The USB Apple does not sound better than the Beatles cds to me, I honestly cannot tell a difference.

    At 96khz/24bit I hear a huge improvement. On well-mastered SACD I hear a huge improvement.

    UNFORTUNATELY The shoddy mastering often offsets any improvement. Bad eq or compression sounds awful in high-res.

    I can always tell it's 44.1khz or a cd that I'm listening to, even when that 44.1khz is cut to a vinyl record. When they cut 88.2khz or 96khz digital to a record, I can't hear the "digititis" at all (usually the treble, and spacial-depth in the recording is the problem).

    I don't buy the "difference between 96khz and properly downsampled and dithered redbook" sounding the same argument at all, sorry everyone!
  15. ls35a

    ls35a Forum Resident

    Eagle, Idaho
    The problem is....hi-rez sounds so remarkably similar to redbook it really wasn't worth waiting all these years for. You mean that's it? That tiny improvement? This is the big deal?

    After listening to hi-rez for awhile I bought a good turntable and have built up an amazing record collection in the past six months.

    Hi-rez is a 'perfect sound forever' all over again. Well, I won't get fooled again.
  16. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    I'm hard pressed to hear a difference, as well. Trust me, I want to hear a difference. And again it's not CD vs. SACD -- it's 24/96 source dithered down to 16/44 redbook.

    But, as I wrote earlier, I have to make sure that my test equipment is really outputting 24/96 (a lot of sound cards do not) - if it's not, then my tests are all moot. I just enabled WaveFX on Foobar2000, which should get me 24/96, so it's back to some more rounds of testing! :)
  17. progrocker71

    progrocker71 Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    I can definitely hear the difference. Once you do some recording in 24bit and dither it down it's obvious.
  18. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    I really hear a difference on my HD600 Sennheisers.
  19. Anonamemouse

    Anonamemouse my other pink shirt is black too

    I do not think it is possible to compare different resolutions if they are not played on the same device. What I mean here is that one can not complare a CD played on CD player XXX, and then listen to a high resolution recording from mediaplayer ZZZ.

    You are not comparing the resolution formats that way. You will need something like the Bryston BDP-1 for an accurate test. I have played with several different resolutions and can not detect the differences between formats once the resolution goes over 88.1 / 96 - 24. There is a difference between redbook and 88.1 / 96 - 24.

    In the end it all boils down to mixing and mastering. I have redbook CD's that sound a lot better than the High res (SACD) versions, just because someone who actually knew what they were doing did the mastering.

    My answer: subtle. Not because of the immense differences, because they definitely can be heard, but simply because it is hardly possible to truly compare the different formats. There are too many variables.

    It's like getting from A to B with either a Koenigsegg or a skateboard. You'll get at B in the end, but the ways of getting there are slightly different.
  20. Jackson

    Jackson Senior Member

    MA, USA
    Huge difference if it's Blu-Ray, minimal if any otherwise.
  21. If mastered properly (Analogue Productions SACDs, Linda Ronstadt's What's New DVD-A, Pink Floyd SACDs) I hear a significant improvement.
  22. vonwegen

    vonwegen Forum Resident

    Huge difference because there are almost no hi-res titles in Blu-Ray!
  23. Leigh


    I always wonder in cases like this if maybe your DAC is doing something different with 24/96 vs. redbook to warrant these differences being reported, because the actual sonic information in the files shouldn't be that different (I am assuming you are using the same device to listen to both which is the only fair way to judge). I have an oversampling DAC, which may be a factor.

    Also if you used a bad sample rate converter - and by looking at I am convinced there are many of them which are not good - then I would believe these differences could definitely be audible. This is the kind of thing that is crying out for carefully controlled testing.

    Personally I am thrilled to death that 24/96 is becoming more mainstream simply because if you stay at that rate and bit depth and do things right you just avoid all the potential pitfalls. IMO 24/96 should be good enough for human listening from now until the end of time, unless humans evolve better hearing!
  24. Thurenity

    Thurenity Listening to some tunes

    Agree with your first line. It has to be a like / like comparison for the transport, and also the mastering, or else it's not a real comparison. This isn't ABX testing (which I know is drawing the line with the rules here) , it's basic troubleshooting.

    I've mentioned many times that I hear a clear difference between my vinyl and CD's, and have done ABX tests to prove it to myself. But that could just be the mastering and not the sample / rate. The same could be said for an HDTracks purchase vs a CD. Or a SACD vs a CD.

    Even the ABX test might have to be extended, as the warmth or openness of 24-bit might not be apparent in a 5 second test. But with all that in mind, I'm still hesitant about 24/96 purchases. If they were the same money as a 16/44 CD? I'd definitely be on board. But at $18 a pop on HDTracks, I'm not convinced (yet).

    Vinyl, on the other hand, I hear clear differences from a comparable CD so I still buy those, even at the extra cost. And if 24/44 or higher starts showing up iTunes (crosses fingers) at a low cost then it's a moot point for me. Please keep the prices down! Lastly, I always have in the back of my head that I might be only one hardware upgrade away from changing my opinion. :)
  25. soundQman

    soundQman Senior Member

    Arlington, VA, USA
    In the letters section of the latest issue of Absolute Sound (April), replying to a letter-writer under the heading "The Flack over FLAC", who wasn't sure he could tell a difference between uncompressed FLAC and WAV files played back using JPlay in hibernate mode in J. River Media Center, reviewers Dr. Charles Zeilig and Jay Clawson said this:

    "We have just completed our second test comparison of WAV vs. uncompressed vs. 8-compression-level FLAC files created in the latest version of dBPowerAmp using the computer in System 1 as described in Part 1 of our article [earlier issue of Absolute Sound]. We evaluated our Acousense Espana test file using J. River Media Center and JPlay plug-in for J. River. We employed Mark I and Mark II versions of PS Audio's PWD DAC. Our results were similar on both DACs and showed that there are audible differences with the uncompressed version falling about 10 points below the parent WAV file. Zero- and 8- compression FLAC settings were significantly poorer. Under our test conditions, we would still recommend that the dowload industry avoid supplying music in this and likely other compression formats if possible."
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