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Listening to high-bitrate (SACD-quality) FLAC files

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I saw a link on the music forum about Linn Records FLAC downloads, and I'm really intrigued. They offer "Studio Master" files, which vary somewhat, but one I was looking at (Messiah) is in 24-bit, 88.2khz format, which they describe as SACD-quality.
Download quality and file type

I don't have an SACD player (and I'm not likely to get one), so this may be the best way to listen to these (presumably) higher-quality files. My desktop computer is my main home listening setup. I run FLAC files (ripped from CD) through foobar and an AV-710, setup according to the instructions helpfully provided by infinitesymphony here, out through the wolfson DAC output to a Little Dot Micro-Tube to Grado HF-1s.

I'm sure there are better setups for this purpose, but I wonder if someone can fill me in on what to expect and what I may need to do differently to take advantage of these files. Assume I know nothing and you won't be far off!

Thanks!
post #2 of 15
you need an external dac.. internal sound card sucks big time.. i have a modded xfi with blackgates, opamps changed etc but the emu 0404 usb is far better
post #3 of 15
From what I understood, SACD SQ is only obtainable through a network of many speakers, meaning more than 2.

The IEM or headphone is not capable of reproducing the SACD specific phenomenal SQ.
post #4 of 15
Sacd is more than just multi channel, it has a sq resolution improvement (equal to 24bit/96hz > 16/44.1hz), said improvement can be realised on headphones.

Anyway, this is not sacd, but Flac with higher frequency and bits, sort of like DVD-A. The way the sound is encoded is different from Sacd, but there wouldn't be any difference imo in sound quality if you compared the two.
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Dr. S. Yes, I think it's the higher resolution and improvements in sound quality that the higher bitrate promises. I think I will give it a try...
post #6 of 15
Correct me if I am wrong, infinitesymphony.......but your instructions for the AV-710 are specific to routing lower bit rate files (44.1/48 kHz) to the Wolfson DAC, are they not? And the only bitrate compatible with the "hi-rez" option in the AV-710 driver to use the Wolfson DAC for 2 ch stereo is, as far as I know, 96 kHz--I don't think it can play an 88.2 kHz bitrate file.

My AV-710 failed some time back, so I can't try it myself. I do know that the hi-rez Linn files I have play without any problems via Foobar>ASIO>0404 USB--the 0404 USB automatically syncs to whatever bitrate is being fed to it.
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hmmm, thanks, sejarzo. That may be a problem for me.

You are correct that the infinitesymphony guide to the AV-710 suggests using the low-bitrate option for best quality at CD-rate sampling, and he points out in a recent post on that thread that you can switch to 2-Ch Hi-Sample Rate mode for 96-kHz or 192-kHz files. But I hadn't realized the AV-710 is limited to those sampling rates. I will post that question in the AV-710 thread now.
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
FYI, infinitesymphony suggests resampling to 96 kHz using software (foobar should do it).

Any thoughts on how to maintain the highest SQ in foobar? I have tried to avoid resampling until now, so I want to do it the best way possible...
post #9 of 15
To me, resampling from 88.2 to 96 kHz would probably undo most of the benefit of having a hi-rez source file as the starting point.

The "beauty" of 88.2 kHz sample rate is that all that must be done is take every other sample, and the result is a 44.1 kHz sample rate source file that can be dithered down to 16 bits and is ready for distribution via audio CD. I've often wondered why recordings that are intended for CD release only (no DVD-A or conversion to DSD for SACD) are made at 96 kHz in the first place, because there is probably very little benefit by increasing the rate from 88.2 kHz to 96 kHz--but a lot could be lost in the downconversion process back to 44.1 kHz.

But I think you can see that going in the other direction, between rates that are not an easy integer multiple of each other, isn't a trivial task, and it's subject to what someone thinks is a good algorithm. I'm unsure of how the Foobar resamplers handle that situation.
post #10 of 15
If you must resample, then use the SRC resampler (Secret Rabbit Code) and set at 'Best Sinc Interpolator'. It is generally agreed upon that the Secret Rabbit Code SRC is mathematically the most accurate with a S/N of 96dB (depending on the volume you listen at and the dynamic range afforded by your bit depth, S/N 96dB is not actually that good). It is however not as efficient as other available resamplers like SSRC, PPHS, etc, nor is it audibly superior IMO.

BTW, the Linn Messiah recording is superb. I'm currently downsampling to 48kHz because my stupid sound card locks the digital out to that.

I don't think you should buy into the hype of the high resolution stuff. I subscribe to the fact that high resolution media helps a lot, but it is far more important that the recording itself and mastering process is top notch. I've listened to SACDs that IMO sound horrible because of poor recording quality (eg Harnoncourt-Mozart Requiem). Harmonia Mundi and First Impression Music are prime examples of record labels that doesn't rely on fancy media to deliver amazing sound.
post #11 of 15
If the AV-710 couldn't natively handle 88.2 kHz, then my guess was that it would upsample the output to 96 kHz, since that's the lowest selectable high-res sample rate. So, I figured that resampling should be done by something better than the drivers: either a real-time plug-in, or a decent audio editor.

I think it's funny that the FLACs are advertised as SACD quality, since there's absolutely no way to play back SACD content on a computer, and it's really more like the DVD-Audio format, as Dr. Strangelove mentioned. Non-integer resampling will effect sound quality, but you may still hear an improvement given the higher rate and bit-depth.

The difference between a well-mastered CD and a high-resolution copy of the same thing is subtle, and might even be undetectable without trained ears and solid equipment. But it's there!
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by infinitesymphony View Post
The difference between a well-mastered CD and a high-resolution copy of the same thing is subtle, and might even be undetectable without trained ears and solid equipment. But it's there!
and I would take the well mastered CD over higher res every single time!
post #13 of 15
Err, I meant a CD that was sourced from well-mastered high-res, so both would be well-mastered, but they would have different resolutions. Not a well-mastered CD versus an okay-mastered high-res version.
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
OK, now I'm wondering whether I'm better off getting the CD-quality FLAC (16-bit 44.1 kHz) instead. If there's not a huge difference, and my equipment is potentially going to degrade what's there (by resampling), maybe I should stick with what I know. Either way, the recording should be well-mastered, as far as I can tell. Any more thoughts?
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by milkpowder View Post
If you must resample, then use the SRC resampler (Secret Rabbit Code) and set at 'Best Sinc Interpolator'. It is generally agreed upon that the Secret Rabbit Code SRC is mathematically the most accurate with a S/N of 96dB (depending on the volume you listen at and the dynamic range afforded by your bit depth, S/N 96dB is not actually that good). It is however not as efficient as other available resamplers like SSRC, PPHS, etc, nor is it audibly superior IMO.

BTW, the Linn Messiah recording is superb. I'm currently downsampling to 48kHz because my stupid sound card locks the digital out to that.

I don't think you should buy into the hype of the high resolution stuff. I subscribe to the fact that high resolution media helps a lot, but it is far more important that the recording itself and mastering process is top notch. I've listened to SACDs that IMO sound horrible because of poor recording quality (eg Harnoncourt-Mozart Requiem). Harmonia Mundi and First Impression Music are prime examples of record labels that doesn't rely on fancy media to deliver amazing sound.
Very helpful -- thank you , milkpowder!

So, you have the Linn Messiah in high-bitrate (or SACD format? I'm guessing the CD-quality is also superb, and half the price! Since I would need to resample, I'm thinking maybe I will go with that instead.
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