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Author Topic: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?  (Read 12766 times)

perry59

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high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« on: March 20, 2019, 04:02:41 pm »

A while back I was having problems getting some .dsf files to play. With the help of some patient folks here, finally got them working. In the process though I was utilizing the "white bear" analyzer and looking at the results (screenshots attached) of that gave me the impression can't produce much better regular CD quality (44khz). If that is the case, seems a waste of money to pay double for high end flac files, it would be cheaper just to buy the CD and rip it.
Comments?
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Awesome Donkey

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2019, 03:12:33 am »

To be honest, a lot of the files on HDtracks are sourced from the same masters the CDs are pressed from. Meaning they're not actually 'hi-res' files and just up-sampled files, as evidenced by looking at the spectrals and seeing where the cutoff is. There are exceptions that are sold there from time-to-time (look up the Steve Hoffman forums, they have active discussions on new HDtracks releases where they check the spectrals to see if they are what they claim to be).

So yeah, it's cheaper to buy the CDs and rip those, in my opinion.
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RD James

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2019, 06:33:19 am »

Human hearing ranges from ~20Hz to 20kHz, and high frequencies are lost with age.
Digital sampling requires the sample rate to be double that of any frequency you want to sample. So 44.1kHz can sample frequencies up to 22.05kHz without aliasing.
Even "CD quality" is above the threshold for human hearing. The extra headroom is there to roll-off the high frequencies before aliasing.
 
DSD is a little different, as it's a 1-bit format rather than a multi-bit format. There, higher sample rates reduce noise/distortion even within the audible range.
DSD 1x's 2.8MHz sample rate might sound like a lot, but it only has good noise characteristics up to about 24-30kHz. Beyond that it's all junk noise that has to be filtered out.
The problem is that being a 1-bit format, the signal cannot be fully dithered and thus encoding to DSD is always going to add distortion. That's why we're seeing a push for higher DSD sample rates - to reduce distortion.
 
The real solution is to use a multi-bit audio format (say… 16-bit 44.1kHz) which allows the audio to be fully dithered and thus distortion-free.
If you want something which is technically superior to 1x DSD in all metrics you have to go to around 24-bit 88.2kHz, but that only matters on paper - not to our ears.
 
If you are using digital volume control, your playback devices should be 24-bit, but the music you're playing does not have to be anything higher than 16-bit.
Undithered audio has ~6.01dB of dynamic range per bit, so 16-bit audio has a dynamic range of ~96dB. Dithered, that's well in excess of 100dB dynamic range.
No music uses anything close to this - because it would cause hearing loss in no time at all.
 
There are uses for high bit-depths and sample rates in music production, but it is not required at all as a distribution/playback format.
In extremely rare cases, there may be some tracks which are higher quality up to 24-bit 48kHz, because 24-bit may sound better than 16-bit if they didn't dither the conversion, but it means someone screwed up in production if that happens - and even then it's extremely unlikely that it would be audible. But you could probably construct a test for it where people would be able to tell the differences by intentionally doing everything wrong, which is why I won't say it's impossible for there to be an improvement with 24-bit audio.
 
Most "high resolution" audio is either silent above ~30kHz, is just filled with noise, may contain spurious tones, or may actually be full of aliasing.
It's actually proof that people cannot hear these frequencies, because it would sound objectively worse if we could.
But what may happen is that sending high frequency signals to your speakers/headphones will cause them to distort in the audible range because you are making greater demands of the hardware, beyond what it may have been designed for.
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tunetyme

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2019, 07:16:27 am »

You raise a really good question. One that I have been wrestling with over 20 years, These are my observations:

1. The first false assumption is that you get better quality with digital over analog. They use similar tech to press records, CD's, DVD's, etc.  The quality of your source material depends on how many CD's have been pressed with each master. First pressing are close to error-less and with each pressing the quality deteriorates.
Early on Plextor CD drives had "Plextools" that could measure the quality of a CD when you ripped it. When I was buying 10 - 20 CD's monthly, I would end up demanding my money back on 10 to 15% of my purchases. Most remasters, you will find, have just increased the amplitude (volume) usually at the loss of range and quality. They learned that people listen to louder music more frequently. Ripping analog records require the best DACS available and software to clean up the snap crackle and pop noises. Good mastering software is very expensive.  Do you have that kind of time? It does help to have a golden ear for this task.

2. With APE or FLAC, you have a lossless product but it reflects exactly the quality of the source CD, SACD or record.

3. JRiver does the best job to manage your collection and provide the highest quality software. Excellent database and good tools. I have over 120,000 tracks of music (over 2TB) and I add about 5,000 per year. however that is slowing down as I have collected most of what I have been looking for and just filling in the blanks. I would still like to see a dual playing deck like DJ software to continue developing play lists and mix my own. That is a request that has been out there for at least 10 years. Unfortunately, video seems to be the driving development force these days.   

4. The next issue becomes your stereo system. How well can it reproduce the sound quality? If you are an audiophile investing $30,000 to $50,000 for equipment and have a listening room designed for excellent acoustics you will hear quality differences. With cheap speakers and stereo system MP3's are fine. On good speakers you will hear the difference immediately.

5. Finally, the listener. Do you have a golden ear? IMO, they tend to only pick out the flaws and miss the music, so I stopped trying to pursue that goal. For me, I need to hear the difference with my stereo, in my home without outside distractions to make evaluations. Equipment wise, spend the big bucks on your speakers to last a lifetime and upgrade your electronics over time. The biggest quality improvement that I have had to date is not the electronics but the cables between my amp and the speakers. I bought a $300 pair of cables over 20 years ago that created an incredible increase in the quality of the speaker output. I have since upgraded my electronics several times over the years and I cannot say that I have heard a significant improvement only increased connectivity. I am not ready to drop the big bucks on audiophile electronics power amps, preamps, nor take the next big step up in speakers.

The bottom line is I listen for pleasure and desire the best quality for my ears. Why pay more for equipment if there is no real audible benefit? Most of the affordable equipment available today is designed for home theater.  Dedicated music equipment requires a big step up in electronics or a step back into tubes. I am looking forward to the WIFI or Bluetooth connectivity between my amp and speakers or even my PC and speakers. That could be the next real quality improvement.       
 
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perry59

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2019, 10:18:36 am »

Ok, so it sounds like it would make more sense to just buy the CD and rip it to flac (44/16) with dbPoweramp.
if it's true that that hdtracks is simply upsampling CD's, then I far as I'm concerned they are liars and thieves!
I have seen them claim that their sources are the original analog master tapes.
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RD James

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2019, 11:34:15 am »

Ok, so it sounds like it would make more sense to just buy the CD and rip it to flac (44/16) with dbPoweramp.
if it's true that that hdtracks is simply upsampling CD's, then I far as I'm concerned they are liars and thieves!
I have seen them claim that their sources are the original analog master tapes.
I doubt that they themselves are upsampling CD tracks, but distributing what they have been supplied.
Whether it's upsampled or not doesn't matter though. It doesn't change human hearing.
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JimH

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2019, 11:43:33 am »

Ok, so it sounds like it would make more sense to just buy the CD and rip it to flac (44/16) with dbPoweramp.
Or with JRiver. 
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blgentry

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2019, 12:42:43 pm »

Your question seemed to be about your playback device as reported by the White Bear tool.  I can't really answer that question other than to say that the first screen shot shows a recommendation of 192kHz audio, which implies your device can play high sample rates.

I both agree and disagree with some of the discussion here.  "Human hearing" doesn't tell the whole picture here.  There are some very technical things that might make higher sample rate music sound better, even if humans can't hear the higher frequencies. 

It's all made more difficult by not knowing the exact provenance of each recording.  For example, I know a few people that are absolutely convinced that the HD Tracks version of one of the Led Zeppelin albums is obviously better than previous 16 bit versions.  I'm not so sure that the mastering is different making it sound different.  It may or may not have anything to do with it being a 24 bit digital file.

I say listen to some for yourself.  My high resolution collection is tiny and I like some of it just fine.  I also LOVE a lot of my regular 16/44.1 collection which came from CD.  There's a lot of resolution on CD and it can sound really good with a good DAC and good playback software.

Brian.
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perry59

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2019, 01:22:16 pm »

Thanks for the input all !
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tunetyme

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2019, 07:11:00 pm »

Your pursuit of quality is worthwhile.

It may be the next step to improving the sound quality is through a DSP that can emulate a 50 year old Marantz tube amp and preamp. Check out Izotope. They are not not cheap but you will have a very noticeable audible improvement. Personally, I found it to be a good investment. I don't get into mastering but I do like Rx7 (repair) they have a number of freebies to get an idea of what you can do like "Vinyl" that will introduce pops and clicks to make your digital music sound like you are playing an analog record.  I haven't done the last couple of upgrades but it may be time to.

https://www.izotope.com/
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TheShoe

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2019, 07:27:06 pm »

Ok, so it sounds like it would make more sense to just buy the CD and rip it to flac (44/16) with dbPoweramp.
if it's true that that hdtracks is simply upsampling CD's, then I far as I'm concerned they are liars and thieves!
I have seen them claim that their sources are the original analog master tapes.

hdtracks have gotten better at listing the source specs.   some will indicate now when it is upsampled.

there are just too many variables, including our own ears.   i have CD redbook audio that sounds beautiful, 192/24 flac that doesn’t sound special, sacd rips that are amazing while others are so-so, and everything in between

for me the greatest difference was:

a great multi channel dac (exasound e38)
great speakers

those two alone everyone in the family agreed made a significant difference.

everything else was just too subjective

i do often buy sacd from analogue productions or steven wilson mixes et al because there you have people taking the time and care with the source material.   even when they mix and master to 44.1/16 it can sound stunning.

so i would consider the source material and production methods used to be more relevant than the resulting bit depth an sample rate.   with hdtracks it is hard to discern that information, but it is getting better.


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dabu

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2019, 01:01:08 am »

HDTracks is very hit and miss.

As to the question of high res: people who claim that, because we can't hear tones above 20khz, sample rates above 44.1khz are pointless don't know what they're talking about and are just regurgitating outdated arguments they've read on the internet. Numerous recent studies have shown that even though we can't hear tones above 20khz the ear still utilises information in much higher sampling rate sound (up to 500khz), particularly for localisation. But, there's a big but: it's still very much in the air whether this makes any difference for the type of music recording and reproduction which is standard today. If, in the future, music reproduction improves so that recordings include directional information which is then, when played back, reproduced in a way specific to the HRTF of the listener, it would matter. IMO the difference it makes for standard current day recording/playback is miniscule - far smaller than room effects and smaller than speaker incoherence issues.
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RD James

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2019, 02:44:20 am »

HDTracks is very hit and miss.

As to the question of high res: people who claim that, because we can't hear tones above 20khz, sample rates above 44.1khz are pointless don't know what they're talking about and are just regurgitating outdated arguments they've read on the internet. Numerous recent studies have shown that even though we can't hear tones above 20khz the ear still utilises information in much higher sampling rate sound (up to 500khz), particularly for localisation. But, there's a big but: it's still very much in the air whether this makes any difference for the type of music recording and reproduction which is standard today. If, in the future, music reproduction improves so that recordings include directional information which is then, when played back, reproduced in a way specific to the HRTF of the listener, it would matter. IMO the difference it makes for standard current day recording/playback is miniscule - far smaller than room effects and smaller than speaker incoherence issues.
So how do you explain that virtually no-one complains when an album has things like a continuous tone at ~15.7kHz, let alone the junk in the 30kHz range and up?
If you pitch it down so that it is audible, there's nothing musical there.
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BillT

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2019, 04:30:33 am »

Numerous recent studies have shown that even though we can't hear tones above 20khz the ear still utilises information in much higher sampling rate sound (up to 500khz), particularly for localisation.

Cite please.
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perry59

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2019, 02:15:28 pm »

On this page http://www.hdtracks.com/quality
HDtracks makes their claim to being hi-res and not just upsampled
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RD James

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2019, 03:36:19 am »

On this page http://www.hdtracks.com/quality
HDtracks makes their claim to being hi-res and not just upsampled
That's pretty funny - they couldn't even find tracks without spurious tones to use in their examples.


 
Here you have two continuous and piercing tones, much louder than everything else, at ~29kHz and ~75kHz.
If we could hear these high frequencies, or if we were affected by them in any way, all it would lead to is a headache.
 
Same thing - though to a lesser degree - with their 96kHz example too:


A piercing continuous tone at ~28kHz and ~43kHz.


Not all high resolution tracks are like this, but a lot of them are, and it just goes to show that it's snake oil.
Even if you can't hear those tones, it's possible for them to cause your distortion from your speakers in the audible range.
In both of these examples it would be better to have filtered out the higher frequencies and delivered a 44.1kHz or 48kHz track - though it should not be necessary to stick to divisors of the original sample rate if you have a good resampler (like SoX in Media Center).
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larryrup

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2019, 04:24:55 pm »

This is an interesting discussion!

I've listened to a variety of high res files of different resolutions to try to come to my own conclusion as to the merit or myth of high res audio.  My 2 channel audio system might be considered mid fi.  Listening with this equipment was quite inconclusive.

I own three pair of headphones each arguably highly regarded.  Each one could not be more different from the other, but give one a couple of hours and that is my current favorite!  My then headphone dac/amps could not handle anything greater than 16/44.1  I had an excuse to upgrade my DAC/amp!  I can now listen to 24/384.  It's a great headphone amp.  I was off to the races. 

I informally listening to lots of different files in cd quality and a HD tracks of the same song,  or sometimes using the JRiver test feature lowering the resolution of a file to test/compare.....or using what I had on hand, and came to the conclusion there was no very clear winner.  As an example, the last CD I listened to both ways was Jackson Brown's Running on Empty.  The HDtracks files (24/192) for the entire album sounds fabulous.  While this is not a favorite CD, I have owned one version or another since it was released.  Since that dates back to the mid 70's I had listened to it often enough to quite familiar.  The HDTracks files were new to me and produced stuff I had clearly never heard before.  I do not know what if any remastering may have been done. I know this album was originally made available at 24/96 but what I listened to was clearly labeled 24/192.  Way better than the 16/44.1 flac files. 

Has anyone every heard a 24/192 file of Chet Bakers Baker's Holiday through a good pair of headphones?  It is like VR for audio yet it is straight up stereo.  What made this sound so fabulous?  Wish I actually knew....because that's what everything should sound like.  However on the other hand, the HDTracks hi res files of the Joni Mitchell's Blue album were horrible.  Clearly an inferior listening experience to the files I have from ripping a commercial CD.

After listening to allot of additional material these are my un-scientific conclusions:

The recording/production/mastering is the number one certain ingredient in a wonderful sounding recording.  No degree of resolution can help a poor recording

Listening for bit depth/resolution requires some training/practice.  I now can generally tell any file at 256KB or lower, but at 16/44.1 (and I include lossless flac here) and 320KB it is not as easy...I think I can tell may 50% of the time through my home speakers and maybe 70% of the time through headphones but a wonderfully engineered recording blurs the difference.  Listening in a car with just about any (including pricey optional) stereos I don't believe you would ever tell the difference between a CD and 320KB file.  Further, higher resolution files in a car makes no sense to me.  It's just too noisy

Hi res files at 24/96 do not seems to distinguish themselves very much from 16/44.1.  24/192 do distinguish themselves more often, but NOT consistently, nor most of the time. My guess is they are noticeably better ~40% of the time....again for what I sampled which was certainly not chosen with any criteria as to what might have mattered (like age of recording, newly remastered...etc.....  what I listened to/tested was what I came across and had interest in).  When hi res was noticeably better to my ears, was it because of remastering?  Source material?  Resolution?  I would think if it was the resolution, I'd hear a noticeable improvement more often than I did. 

Some  24/96 and 24/192 files are worse than the 16/44.1 CD files, but not very often.

I once read (it was a while ago) that bit depth and not the resolution represents the biggest improvement in hi res audio.  I didn't hear that or at least, can't draw that conclusion.

I'm not sure if this was a total waste of my time or not!  Unlike cables, and USB filters, where I was able to get to my own opinion with relative ease, primarily because of consistency in what I did or did not hear...bit depth and resolution I continue to struggled with.  It could be I do not know other variables at play.

One question for the learned people on this topic about the higher file size of hi res files:  Does ALL of that additional file size fall below and above the human hearing range?  If not it's quite easy to conclude it adds to the depth of the recording.  If so, I'm inclined to believe what improvements I hear are NOT attributable to the bit depth or resolution.

Amazing with all the things we can do today, we are not able to come to consensus on this one!

LarryRup
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dtblair

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2019, 07:14:41 pm »

I started with LPs, moved to cassettes, then onto to CDs.  Once CDs got their act together regarding the high-end filter (the first CDs were pretty harsh), I've never looked back.  I've now moved into SACDs and audio blu-rays. The best sound out there is audio blu-ray.  You get DTS, Atmos,  DSD352.8, and almost always, a downloadable 24/96 and above (and multichannel).  I really like SACDs but they are more difficult to find.  I rip them using a Sony BDP-S590.  I only purchase SACDs that have a referenced original resolution.  And here is back to your original question.  Analog tape maxes out at 28kHz (from what I have found, tell me otherwise).  Telarc at one time played with 50kHz tape for recording.  If you are creating a HD file (24/96 or above) from the analog tape, there is no additional info.  HDtracks is the worst.  Here is proof they are upsampling:

Here is an original CD from Norah Jones analyzed by "SPEK"
 
 

Here is the "remastered" HD track at 192Khz from HD Tracks:

 

As you can see there is nothing above the original CD at 22Khz.  That dosen't stop them from charging $25 for a CD.  They do sound different, but I'm sure that is due to a change in mastering and volume.

Here is an example of a real recording at 96KHz:
 

I find that higher resolution sounds better, but it's comparing apples to oranges - for classical a different orchestra / conductor, for older files a better remastering.  Most popoular CDs were mastered for radio playback so have a good deal of compression.  Compare the original Beatles to the remastered - they are different but the same resolution.  Are they better?

If you are looking into HD files, find out how they were originally recorded.  That  will have a huge impact on the final product.  (eClassical. com is a great source with always above board recording info)
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dtblair

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #18 on: March 26, 2019, 07:19:46 pm »

Here are the pics
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swiv3d

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #19 on: March 26, 2019, 07:43:34 pm »

If you enjoy them - yes. But the cd quality variant can be just as good.
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DJLegba

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #20 on: March 26, 2019, 08:00:25 pm »

HDtracks is the worst.  Here is proof they are upsampling

Good info. HDTracks knows there's a demand for all that old material, but since they're "HD", they don't sell 44/16. An alternate source is 7digital, where you can get 44/16 and sometimes higher resolutions if you prefer.

Larry - The three albums you mentioned were recorded in 1965, 1971, and 1977. The 1965 recording would have been the "cleanest", as it wouldn't have been multi-tracked and mixed in the studio with equipment that would look pretty simple today. I'm sure you listened to other albums, but in most genres other than jazz and classical even new recordings are usually heavily compressed and in many cases computers have replaced musicians. You're right though - production makes the biggest difference.
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RD James

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #21 on: March 27, 2019, 03:34:09 am »

The recording/production/mastering is the number one certain ingredient in a wonderful sounding recording.
Absolutely.

No degree of resolution can help a poor recording
Yes… but it's also important for people to understand that sample rate is not resolution.

Listening for bit depth/resolution requires some training/practice.  I now can generally tell any file at 256KB or lower, but at 16/44.1 (and I include lossless flac here) and 320KB it is not as easy...I think I can tell may 50% of the time through my home speakers and maybe 70% of the time through headphones but a wonderfully engineered recording blurs the difference.  Listening in a car with just about any (including pricey optional) stereos I don't believe you would ever tell the difference between a CD and 320KB file.  Further, higher resolution files in a car makes no sense to me.  It's just too noisy
You are talking about bit-rate in lossy compression here, not bit-depth.
Bit-rate reduction via lossy compression - especially with a codec like MP3 - can be audible. Even high bit-rate MP3 has artifacts which are inherent to the codec - which is why it should not be used any more. AAC produced using a good encoder (I use Apple's via QAAC) is far superior.
I can pass a 320k MP3 vs FLAC blind test with 100% certainty. I haven't done an ABX test for these yet, but I use unrestricted VBR AAC encoding for portable devices, which tends to produce files about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the equivalent FLAC, and I've yet to find a track where I've noticed the compression. I still keep the FLAC originals on my media server though, where storage is not a concern.

Hi res files at 24/96 do not seems to distinguish themselves very much from 16/44.1.  24/192 do distinguish themselves more often, but NOT consistently, nor most of the time. My guess is they are noticeably better ~40% of the time....again for what I sampled which was certainly not chosen with any criteria as to what might have mattered (like age of recording, newly remastered...etc.....  what I listened to/tested was what I came across and had interest in).  When hi res was noticeably better to my ears, was it because of remastering?  Source material?  Resolution?  I would think if it was the resolution, I'd hear a noticeable improvement more often than I did.
If it sounds different (better) it's almost certainly sourced from a different master. You need to compare 16-bit 44.1kHz tracks produced from the same "high-res" source.

I once read (it was a while ago) that bit depth and not the resolution represents the biggest improvement in hi res audio.  I didn't hear that or at least, can't draw that conclusion.
Well bit-depth is probably the closest thing to "resolution" in a PCM file. But if the track is dithered, literally the only difference bit-depth makes is how quiet the noise floor will be.
With 16-bit audio, the noise floor should be inaudible in most setups to begin with. If it does become audible, it's likely that your system is loud enough to cause hearing damage within minutes.

Note: this is different from the playback device's bit-depth.
If you are using digital volume control, particularly if your device is paired with an amplifier that has too much gain, it's possible that there will be a clear difference in noise between a 16-bit and 24-bit DAC.
But that is a completely separate issue from the bit-depth of the file being played.

One question for the learned people on this topic about the higher file size of hi res files:  Does ALL of that additional file size fall below and above the human hearing range?  If not it's quite easy to conclude it adds to the depth of the recording.  If so, I'm inclined to believe what improvements I hear are NOT attributable to the bit depth or resolution.
Yes.

One of the things a lot of people incorrectly assume is that sample rate can affect the "timing" of a signal, but that is not how digital audio works.
I recommend watching the whole video to get a basic understanding of how digital audio works, but here is a short demo showing how sample rate does not place restrictions on timing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIQ9IXSUzuM#t=1254
 
 
High bit-depths and sample rates do matter for music production.
If you are recording audio at 44.1kHz, which can capture audio frequencies up to 22.05kHz, and something in the room emits a higher frequency noise at say 30kHz like some of the examples posted above, that will cause aliasing if it is picked up by the microphone rather than being filtered out.
The aliasing from that 30kHz noise would then be folded back into the signal and cause distortion in the audible range (if I'm not mistaken, it would be at ~14.1kHz).

Recording at 96kHz can capture all frequencies up to 48kHz without aliasing.
That 30kHz noise would be present in the recording, but would not cause aliasing and distortion inside the audible range since it is a valid signal for a 96kHz recording.
You can then produce a 44.1kHz track from that 96kHz recording which has everything above ~21kHz filtered out digitally so that there is no aliasing.
 
 
It's a similar situation with bit-depth.
If you record at 16-bit, and something plays too loud, it may blow out the sound and cause it to clip. Clipping is a very audible and ugly distortion - a loud crackling noise.
If you record at 24-bit you have an additional 8-bits of headroom, or about 48dB. Now that very loud noise will not cause clipping distortion in the recording.
 
The actual dynamic range of a mastered music track is nothing close to the ~96dB of 16-bit audio, so there's no need to use 24-bit for a delivery/playback format, but it matters for recording because it helps prevent clipping distortion.
 
 
But people saw that studios were using higher bit-depths and sample rates than were being delivered to us as a playback format and basically thought they were holding back something from us.
And someone else came along and saw the potential for selling this as "high resolution" music they could charge more for.
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BillT

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #22 on: March 27, 2019, 08:23:45 am »

High bit-depths and sample rates do matter for music production.
If you are recording audio at 44.1kHz, which can capture audio frequencies up to 22.05kHz, and something in the room emits a higher frequency noise at say 30kHz like some of the examples posted above, that will cause aliasing if it is picked up by the microphone rather than being filtered out.
The aliasing from that 30kHz noise would then be folded back into the signal and cause distortion in the audible range (if I'm not mistaken, it would be at ~14.1kHz).

While it's arguable that the greater dynamic range is useful in recording / post processing, you should not be getting aliasing due to out of band components in any competently designed digital system, whatever the sampling rate. The band limiting input filter and reconstruction filter are essential parts of the system and the input filter will remove any out of band audio signals - that's one of its main functions.

Of course, this isn't true of badly designed systems which deliberately omit the filter, but such systems have no place in a good recording setup.
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RD James

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #23 on: March 27, 2019, 12:27:35 pm »

While it's arguable that the greater dynamic range is useful in recording / post processing, you should not be getting aliasing due to out of band components in any competently designed digital system, whatever the sampling rate. The band limiting input filter and reconstruction filter are essential parts of the system and the input filter will remove any out of band audio signals - that's one of its main functions.

Of course, this isn't true of badly designed systems which deliberately omit the filter, but such systems have no place in a good recording setup.
Yes, it would be unnecessary with an ideal system, but it's really the main example where you might want to use a higher sample rate.
The same thing applies with certain plug-ins that are used to process the audio - some perform better at higher sample rates.
 
The point is that there is (sometimes) a good reason to use higher sample rates and bit-depths in production, but despite that, there's no need for the end product to be delivered at those same bit-depths and sample rates.
You aren't losing anything by receiving music at a lower bit-depth or sample rate than the "master track" - the track was only at those bit depths and sample rates to avoid potential issues which are specific only to its production, not playback.
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larryrup

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #24 on: March 27, 2019, 02:45:01 pm »

Thanks much for all the info.  Learning a lot.  Thanks especially for the MP3 info and straight talk on why production may need head room where the consumer would not.  It's a strange world where there is still a lot of strange talk about this.  Some follow up questions if I may.

I somehow assumed there can only be one master. In my  house I cite my wife as an example. There can be several?  Clearly many hi res files sound different from lossless files of the same material, and if I understand this, it is due to a remastering from another master?  I'm not sure I understand why there is more than one master and how they got here.  It makes sense in an  analog world to record to multiple tape machines (although I never thought about that), but in the digital world doesn't seem needed?  You need backup but I would think that's it.

Do the marketers of these re-releases offer the  CD (or lossless download) remastered or is only available in the hi res product?  Starts to get complicated.

Took a pause and did a bit a internet searching on one of the albums I referenced by Jackson Brown.  The HDTracks site offers only the 24/96 release from 2005.  This is the only relevant description:  "This hi-resolution release adds a new warmth and depth to the recording, bringing out the nuances of Browne’s intimate, honest performances."   I guess they want me to assume this means remastered?  jeasss.  They sell  this without liner notes for $19 and change.  Further research on the Wiki page for the album states it was re-released many times.  In 2005 it was remastered, in both 5.1 audio with bonus tracks and the original 41 minute release in 24/96. I guess the later is what HD Tracks is selling.  Neither makes reference of the master used which most certainly would have been tape.

On to Amazon where they oddly sell the CD labeled "import" from 2008 for $9.48. Amazon makes no mention of mastering.  One of the user comments reads "This is a 1st generation transfer and it sounds muddy and flat. I had ordered this at the same time I ordered The Pretender and Late for the Sky, both of which have been remastered"

It didn't take a rocket man to figure out why the record business went south quick and deep.  Does not look like lessons were learned.

Appreciate all the info.

LarryRup
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perry59

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #25 on: March 27, 2019, 03:10:41 pm »

I guess HDtracks is still dubious at best and probably not worth the money. I'd like to find sacd and dvd audio but the content is very limited.
I guess I am yearning for my old audiophile days of the '80's when I had good equipment. McIntosh amp & preamp, bang & olufsen linear tracking turntable and klipsch speakers.
I often bought limited "master" press discs at a shop in Fayetteville, yes, I started on vinyl and thought it sounded best. I remember putting emmylou harris on and that was the most beautiful sound I ever heard. I could hear her breathing and walking around the microphone.
I don't know if I will ever get that gorgeous sound again!
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perry59

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #26 on: March 27, 2019, 05:15:23 pm »

Also just did a little research on ripping SACD's. Sounds like a non starter. You need special hardware that is either difficult to get and/or expensive. And the process sounds like a hassle. sigh
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kr4

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #27 on: March 27, 2019, 07:21:29 pm »

Also just did a little research on ripping SACD's. Sounds like a non starter. You need special hardware that is either difficult to get and/or expensive. And the process sounds like a hassle. sigh
1.  It will run on many players including inexpensive Sony players but the Oppos are easier to run.  Also on certain PS3s (and I have a few that I need to get rid of).
2.  The process reads like a hassle but, in practice, is a simple repetitive task.  I do it casually every week or two.
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Scobie

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #28 on: March 28, 2019, 12:26:18 am »

Quote
If it sounds different (better) it's almost certainly sourced from a different master.


Indeed. Often times it is worth seeking out 24/192 or 24/96 etc. material because it is a sign that the recording has been revisted, as in taken from original master recordings or has been remastered using different (modern) equipment or by a different Mastering engineer who might give it a new flavour.

I can listen to different versions of the same album, not listening for which "sounds better" but just enjoying the nuances of the results. Of course this often results in a preferred version but for me it's taking an interest in the process as much as anything, so long as my ears still like what they hear. For a SACD or 24/192 lossless recording that lives up to the hype try Cafe Blue by Patricia Barber - an absolute feast.

The higher bit depth can result in easier / superior filtering in the mastering process, but it is doubtful there is any real improvement in the playback of a 24/192 over a 16/44 that are taken from the same master recording, if the 16/44 has been dithered appropriately. As mentioned here the greater bit depth just increases what is already an ample dynamic range - especially for today's Loudness Wars recordings - and a dithered signal taken with a 44Mhz sample rate is  plenty for human ears.

But it's all great fun to look at noise spectra and the like, certainly beats working.
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Manfred

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #29 on: March 28, 2019, 12:53:15 pm »

For example I have Wagner's Solti Ring in different versions 1984 CD's; 1997 CD's all 16 bit 44,1kHz FLAC's and on Audio BD 24 bit 48 kHz as FLAC and converted to DSD.

They all sound different! Best sound's the Audio BD converted to DSD. The 1997 remastered version sound's sometime's to bright to me.

My Devialet DAC converts all pcm formats to 24 bit 192kHz and DSD by using MAT® DSD Core technology is converted to the DSD format into Expert internal native PCM 40 bits / 384 kHz format.

Some of my HighRes Album's like Jazz at the Pawnshop (2xHD) DSD or the Tony Bennet/Diana Krall Album in 24/192 or van Zweden's Parsifal (available on NativeDSD) on DSD sound simple fantastic.

My conclusion is, it depends on the recording/remastering process and the DAC. If it is well done HighRes can sound fantastic.
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dabu

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #30 on: April 01, 2019, 09:41:22 pm »

Remasters are usually worse than the original release, especially if the original was released pre-2000ish. Rarely have I encountered one that didn't have a much lower DR, and most are also mastered too hot, both for the same reason - it sounds "better" to people with unrefined taste in audio. When I'm hunting down the best quality release of an album I can find, it's unpredictable which format it will be on. DSD has had the highest hit rate for me but they are few and far between. A good quality vinyl rip is often the best release in spite of the fact that probably 80% of them have one or another issue with the sound quality. Sometimes it's SACD. Hell, sometimes the best release is a CD in spite of there being a high res release. Sometimes the Japan release will be mastered differently and sound worse than the US release. The best release of Thriller I could find was the 1999 SACD, after having heard and analysed almost a dozen different releases of it including numerous vinyls, CDs, DSD, and the WLS master tape copy. You just can't tell where a quality release will come from.
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Scobie

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #31 on: April 01, 2019, 11:38:41 pm »

Quote
Rarely have I encountered one that didn't have a much lower DR

This is certainly what to look out for. A remaster that over compresses the DR will not sound nearly as good.

There was a great article in the NYT recently discussing one of the reasons "classic rock" albums still sell is a bigger DR. They cited The Eagles Greatest Hits as a prime example of a great sounding (regardless of whether you actually like the music) album that continues to sell, and has a much larger DR than today's recordings that need to hit you out of the gate, lest you skip onto the next one.
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RD James

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #32 on: April 02, 2019, 03:11:41 am »

Remasters are usually worse than the original release, especially if the original was released pre-2000ish. Rarely have I encountered one that didn't have a much lower DR, and most are also mastered too hot, both for the same reason - it sounds "better" to people with unrefined taste in audio.
It's not about "refined taste" - louder audio naturally sounds "better" to people, and compressing the dynamic range is a way to make your album sound louder than someone else's album.
Ideally the dynamic range would not be compressed, all albums would be played back at the same loudness, and how loud your music plays is determined by your amplifier/volume setting - which is exactly what happens if you play back albums in Media Center using Volume Leveling once your library has been analyzed.
When played back at the same loudness, most people will pick the track with the higher dynamic range whether their tastes are "refined" or not. It's just that "louder" tends to win out over dynamic range.

When I'm hunting down the best quality release of an album I can find, it's unpredictable which format it will be on. DSD has had the highest hit rate for me but they are few and far between. A good quality vinyl rip is often the best release in spite of the fact that probably 80% of them have one or another issue with the sound quality. Sometimes it's SACD. Hell, sometimes the best release is a CD in spite of there being a high res release. Sometimes the Japan release will be mastered differently and sound worse than the US release. The best release of Thriller I could find was the 1999 SACD, after having heard and analysed almost a dozen different releases of it including numerous vinyls, CDs, DSD, and the WLS master tape copy. You just can't tell where a quality release will come from.
This is true, but it's important for people to understand that it is not the audio format which contributes to the audio quality, so long as it is delivered without lossy compression.
If the best quality release was a 32-bit 768kHz PCM track, or an 8x DSD track, it's not the best quality release because of its "high resolution" - it just happens that the best release was made available in that format. It would still sound better than all the other releases if properly converted to a 16-bit 44.1kHz track (and Media Center will do this if you use SoX resampling with TPDF dither enabled).

The dynamic range database is a good resource for people seeking out albums with the highest dynamic range - though that is not the only indicator of quality.
It's also very important to note that using the tools to measure dynamic range on vinyl rips will produce invalid results, for a variety of reasons.
These artificially inflated numbers may appear to make vinyl look like it is the best release, but that's rarely true when you actually do a listening comparison. Vinyl is not a high quality format, and is inferior to CDs.
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dabu

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #33 on: April 02, 2019, 05:49:39 am »

There was a great article in the NYT recently discussing one of the reasons "classic rock" albums still sell is a bigger DR. They cited The Eagles Greatest Hits as a prime example of a great sounding (regardless of whether you actually like the music) album that continues to sell, and has a much larger DR than today's recordings that need to hit you out of the gate, lest you skip onto the next one.

That's interesting. I wonder if all these DR crippled releases even help record labels' bottom line at all? There's a cottage industry out there of people putting a huge effort into ripping vinyls as though they were NASA extracting information from an alien data crystal found on Mars, and thousands of listeners going the extra effort to find and download these bootleg copies, but somehow the record labels seem to believe it's better to throw away those connoisseurs' money because the average Joe is too lazy to turn up the volume knob on his stereo/device? It's no wonder the labels darn near went bust 10 years ago.
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fathermurphy

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Re: high quality music (hdtracks) is it worth it?
« Reply #34 on: August 24, 2021, 10:03:59 pm »

Why?
Why is there always one person at least tries to convince the rest of us audiophiles that 16 bit 44,100 kHz is the highest resolution we should seek and listen to in digital music?

Why?

We hear the difference, we embrace it

You need to forget the science or where it is you’re getting your information from and stop wasting your breath.   

An audio file converted to digital from the master tapes, and presented to us at anywhere from 96/24 to 192/24 is radically different if you know what you’re listening for within the music. It’s not just about the high end & the lower end…

Sampling a master audio track digitally at night 96 kilohertz, 24-bit sounds incredible…
It’s not just about how high the frequencies go and that they are above the range of human hearing, it’s about the fact that the analog master is being presented to us as being sampled at 96,000 times the second at 24.

That allows for an extraordinary amount of information in the song to come out that has never been allowed to reveal itself before. 

It’s not just about what the high frequencies can do in the low frequencies can do but it’s about the need of this song the meat of the file. 


And it’s flat out wrong to say that there’s no difference and that we can’t hear. 

You don’t know what you’re listening to somebody needs to sit down with you, with a good pair of earphones  and let you listen to the 96 kHz sample rate 24bit per second rendition Pink Floyd‘s the dark side of the moon.

You will be floored. 

If you’re not you’re being stubborn. 

So I say this… Believe me there’s a difference close your science book and put on a pair of headphones and listen.
Listen to some of the beautiful music that’s been coming out in high resolution
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