HD Tracks does not sell to customers located in Germany so I have a different source. The library is a lot smaller but all albums are guaranteed to be studio masters. My first question would be, are all 24 bit sources studio masters? The sampling rate ranges from 44,1 kHz to 352,8 kHz and very few releases are even available as Surround or DSD (which are not of my interest). Most downloads are *only* available in 24-44,1 or 24-96.
Now I have purchased a number of Jazz and Classical recordings in 24 Bit and 96 kHz. They sound amazing, no doubt!
However, If I convert them to MP3 - to my ears - they sound just as amazing.
I have picked some tracks from my HD collection and downsampled them.
Source File: 24 Bit, 96 kHz, FLAC
Conversion 1: 16 Bit, 44,1 kHz, FLAC
Conversion 2: 16 Bit, 44,1 kHz, MP3 CBR 320 Stereo
Conversion 3: 16 Bit, 44,1 kHz, MP3 VBR -V2 Stereo
I have put the conversions of each track into a folder and enabled the shuffle function to perform a blind test.
To be honest, I have failed miserably in telling the difference from MP3 and 24Bit. Of course my mind tricked me in thinking I could hear some better texturing or some more space from time to time, so I took notes and always wrote down wether I thought the file sounded better or worse from the one before. In the end, the MP3 had just as many positives as the 24 Bit file. I was exhausted after 2x 30mins.
I have used the FiiO X3 with a three-way CIEM demo w/ silver cable and a DT880 w/ 600 ohms. (*I honestly don't think the silver cable improved clarity, but what the hell, why not use it?)
I would like to know where the problem is.
- Of course the first thing that comes to mind is that my equipment is not high-end enough. I'm pretty sure at least the IEM was absolute TOTL just a few years ago...
- What exactly should I be searching for? Does 16 Bit mask some instruments or does a lower bitrate automatically result in clipping or artifacts?
- I'm below 30, I haven't visited any concerts without ear plugs in the past 10 years, yet I did have some wild times. I am guessing my hearing capabilities are average. Are my ears too old to hear the clarity that HD provides?
- Maybe the tracks I used just happen to be of very high quality and do not contain any information in the critical areas that would cause errors when downsampling?
I would appreciate some (free online) literature on the matter of bit depth, bit rate and sampling rate to dig into this further. If anybody can guide me to an easy-to-understand source for laymen, that would be A1. Wikipedia is a bit too objective for my taste and I am hoping for some more examples of application.
Ultimately, I want to know if I should keep purchasing HD files in case I eventually upgrade my equipment or if I should go back to iTunes where the same album just costs the half and is already perfectly tagged, etc.
Thank you very much for your help!