The first thing is that HDTracks's quote is actually a selling pitch, not an excerpt from the conclusion of a scientific experiment.
Secondly, let 's get to the basics of digital audio. What does 44.1/16 means?
There are 2 parameters here, sampling frequency and bit depth.
The Shannon-Nyquist theorem (mathematically proven) states that
If a function x
) contains no frequencies higher than B hertz
, it is completely determined by giving its ordinates at a series of points spaced 1/(2B
) seconds apart.
translated, it means that if you signal contains no frequency above 20 kHz (which is the hearing limit of a very good ear anyway), the entirety of the signal can be reconstructed by using a sample rate of 40 kHz, which the CD format permits by using a sampling rate of 44.1kHz.
Of course, that's the theory, in real life, reconstruction filters are not perfect, that's with in the first place CDs were made at 44.1 kHz and not 40 kHz and why some CD players/DAC implement an upsampling function. This leads to the creation of 96 kHz sampling, in those conditions the signal, up to 48 kHz (which you can't hear anyway), can be reconstructed, and any imperfections in the reconstruction filter (that usually affect higher frequencies in the reconstructed signal) will be in the inaudible range.
Do I sound like as of I meant that for playback, even 96 kHz is useless? Probably, upsampling to 96 kHz should give the same result. But, maybe your ear is exceptional and you could hear it, possible, but quite unlikely, the only means to be sure is to make the experiment yourself, take a 96/24 track and downsample (there's a plugin called Sox for foobar) it to 44.1/24. Use the foobar ABX plugin, see for yourself your you get statistically meaningful results.
The second parameter is bit depth, 16 bit means that you've got 96 dB dynamic range, ie the smallest signal variation is 1/65000th or 96 dB lower than the peak signal, would you ear be able to pick up the tienest variations? Maybe, but cerlainly not unless you play your peak signals above 96 dB, and tha's in a totally quiet environement (a quite room has already ~ 30/40 dB noise floor). Only one way to know if you can do it, logics says you can't, maybe you can, test it using ABX (with a file of which you reduced the bit depth yourself).
So playing at 96/24? Why not, for peace of mind and certainty that the reconstruction filters don't harm the music... but it's already supposed to be inaudible, but 192/24, totally excessive IMHO.
Do I hear a difference between those two? Yes, when I know I am playing the 96/24 file, there's more air, a sense of microdynamics, the treble is better etc. but once I do the test blind I can't tell which is which anymore, placebo effect is that strong.
PS: I insist on taking the same original 96/24 track and downsampling yourself because quite often the places where you buy your tracks don't offer the same master for the 96/24 and the 44.1/16, resulting in an audible difference that has nothing to do with samplign rates or bit depth.
Woo... long long post, hope things are clearer.