quote from The 24-Bit Delusion When digital data is transferred and manipulated, it’s moved in bytes rather than as individual bits. There are 8 bits to a byte, and a byte is known as a digital word. Both 16 bits and 24 bits became a standard because each represented the next digital word. Bit depth translates to the number of steps in the amplitude of a digital recording. A 16-bit recording has 65,536 steps, a 20-bit recording has 1,048,576 steps, and a 24-bit recording has 16,777,216 steps. Sampling rate is the frequency at which the amplitude of the analog sound wave is sampled. At a 44.1KHz sampling frequency sample the amplitude of the music 44,100 times each second. At a 96KHz sampling frequency the amplitude is sampled 96,000 times each second. At a 192KHz sampling frequency the amplitude is sampled 192,000 times each second. The more bits and/or the higher the sampling rate used in quantization, the higher the theoretical resolution. So a 16-bit 44.1KHz Red Book CD has 28,901,376 potential sampling points each second (44,100 x 65,536). And a 20-bit 96KHz recording has 1,006,632,900 potential sampling points each second (96,000 x 1,048,576). This means 20-bit 96KHz recordings have roughly 33 times the resolution of a 16-bit 44.1KHz recording and a 24-bit 192KHz recording has roughly 256 time the resolution of a 16-bit 44.1KHz recording. No small difference. According to the experts that manufacture the finest DAC chips, resistors, and power regulators, there is theoretically no way to make electronics that are capable of discerning greater than a 20-bit resolution (120dB dynamic range). Any company that claims greater than 20-bit resolution from their DAC is simply full of ****. Oh they can decode 24-bits, because 24-bits does exist in software, but the output from their DAC has less than 20-bits of resolution and dynamic range. In order to reproduce anywhere near the dynamic range these high-res formats offer, you would need amplification with several times the wattage and a fraction of the noise floor of what is currently available to the high-end audiophile. Of course that doesn’t even account for the significant amount of distortion added by signal cables, amplification, and speakers, and the background noise in a listening room, all of which would not allow hearing the full resolution and dynamic range of even an 16-bit recording. In order to hear the difference in dynamic range between a 16-bit and a 20-bit recording in a normal quiet listening room, you would have to play the music so loud it would cause permanent hearing loss. When people claim to hear differences between 16-bit, 20-bit, and 24-bit recordings, it is not the difference between the bit depths that they are hearing, but rather the difference in the quality of the digital mastering. The fact is that even most so-called 24-bit recordings are mastered with less than the 96dB dynamic range of a 16-bit recording (and wisely so). So what do they do with commercially marketed so-called 24-bit recordings? They simply fill some of the Most Significant Bits (MSB) with 1s and some of the Least Significant Bits (LSB) with 0s to pad the overall volume up to the target level. They could have released a recording of identical performance in 16-bits, but naive consumers insist on 24-bits, so the record companies trick them by centering 16-bits of dynamic range in a 24-bit frame. How silly. Part of why some HD recordings sound sterile has to do with lower dynamic compression that doesn’t allow the subtle low-level detail to rise above the noise floor. When music is sanely dynamically compressed, it allows you to listen at a reasonable volume and still hear all the subtle harmonic cues that reveal the tone, timbre, and room acoustics in the recording. Another consideration of higher sampling rates and greater bit depth is system resources. Both require more storage space, more RAM, and faster processors. Though the optimal sampling frequency and bit-depth that are required to reproduce accurate music are a matter of heated debate, there is no doubt that excessive resolution unnecessarily uses up system resources and unnecessarily increases the size and cost of components. Of course most recordings are engineered to sound best on a car stereo or portable device as opposed to on a high-end audiophile system. It’s a well-known fact that artists and producers will often listen to tracks on an MP3 player or car stereo before approving the final mix. The quality of the recording plays a far more significant role than the format or resolution it is distributed in. But to increase profits, many modern recording studio executives insist that errors be edited out in post-production, significantly compromising the quality of the original master tapes. So no matter what format these recordings are released in, the music will always sound mediocre, since you can never have higher performance than what is on the original masters. In contrast, some of my favorite digital recordings were digitally mastered from 1950s analog recordings. Many of these recordings were done as a group of musicians playing in a room with one take per track and a minimum of post-production editing. Though these recordings have a much higher background noise being limited by old-school pre-Dolby 60dB dynamic range master tapes, they retain an organic character that can't be duplicated any other way. When you hear the organic character and coherent in-the-room harmonics, it is clear why so many audiophiles prize these recordings.