Originally Posted by Krutsch
I will probably regret posting anything on Sound Science, not being a "Sound Scientist", but I feel compelled to mention why I have been buying 24-bit tracks on HDTracks (I don't work for anyone in the industry).
There's nothing to regret! If you are curious about the topic, interested in learning, and honest and open minded, you will fit in just fine here! Welcome :)
Comparing lossy AAC with lossless versions may be viewed as an unfair comparison of apples and oranges, but many on this forum don't believe that one can reliably hear the difference - so maybe the comparison isn't unfair, I don't know.
The fair comparison is to take the hi-res lossless version and compress that to the AAC bitrate of your choosing. Then you compare the high-res to the lossy version which came from the same master.
In the case of iTunes vs HDtracks, you are likely comparing different masters, so you learn nothing about the differences in bitrates and compression.
I recently did this comparison with Lorde's Pure Heroine - I purchased the iTunes version and downloaded the HDTracks version (24-bit, 48 kHz). There's a section at the start of the second track (400 Lux) that sounds like an electronic sweep, if you will, and the differences between the AAC version and the HDTracks version was really apparent. The lossless version sounds like it's sweeping across from left to right and even with headphones has sort of a 3-D imaging effect. The AAC version, in my amateur-sighted-evaluation-opionion, was very flat and didn't convey that sense of sound staging or movement of the sound source. Is that from mastering differences, is that from compression? I have no idea.
See my previous paragraph about different masters.
So, for me, my ears and my wallet, whether or not I can hear the difference between 16 and 24-bit isn't totally the point (I probably can't, based on what I've read and my ad-hoc experience of taking 24-bit tracks and then re-sampling and dithering using iZotope 64 in my Mac).
I think this is the relevant evidence. You can make your decision based on tests like this, ideally using an ABX comparator like the free one that works with Foobar2000.
But it's also probably not hurting anything, either, and for the mastering and the convenience, why not?
The point of the discussion here is not whether or not folks should be allowed to purchase hires audio for their own personal listening pleasure. Rather, this discussion is focused on whether or not there are actual tangible audible benefits to using 24 bit audio for listening.
There exist a large group of supports of hires formats that insist that unless one has a 24bit playback chain (or other esoteric "hires" format) with hires sources that people are missing out on music. There is a lot of noise out there that uses false logic and nonscience to convince oblivious, budding audiophiles that they must repurchase their audio catalog in high res formats and shell out thousands of dollars for new equipment to play those high res formats in bit-perfectness, or otherwise they will miss out on enjoying musical nuances. This confuses a lot of innocent folks into paying a lot of money which nets zero real-life improvement.
Here, we are trying to get the facts straight so that people can make informed decisions regarding where and how to spend their money (or not spend it!). It is to inform the consumer, so they can make their own choices. If you want to buy hires audio, you should feel free to do so; however, you should understand that perceived quality it not a valid reason to do so.
I have and I may continue to purchase highres tracks from sources like HDtracks if I feel that in doing so I am a) supporting artists that I like and b) using my money spent as a vote to influence more artists, producers, and record companies to focus on quality recording, engineering, and production practices rather than loudness.
If buying the latest Zepplin remaster supports Page, Plant, and Jonesy, then I am inclined to do so (however, if the remaster is a butchered, processed turd, I'll opt to stick with my boxed set until a better version comes along).