File Format - FLAC 24/192 vs DSD64 vs MQA
Dec 20, 2019 at 2:13 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 8

OscSop

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Apologies if this has been asked before. I have been reading so much about this and have basically come full circle and still have no idea as to an answer. There may not be an answer and may be down to personal preference, but even so, I'm going to ask!

I have been listening to some FLAC 16/44.1 files on a Samsung S8 with either Bose SoundSport or Bose QC23 II.
I have recently picked up my first 'proper' rig; AK SR15 with the AK Diana IEMs. So far I have listened to some HiFi & Masters streaming/ Downloads from Tidal. I actually do enjoy the sound from the S8 and Bose headphones, however the sound from the AK setup blew me away. A massive leap in sound quality (to my ears). I then tried some of the FLAC files from the S8, on the AK setup and the sound was awful, both in comparison to the S8/ Bose setup and the AK Tidal setup. Which then got me thinking and researching:

The SR15 can handle up to 24/192. Anything higher, will be downsampled to 24/192. Or it can handle DSD64, with DSD 128 being downsampled accordingly.

My question(s) are:
1. Which is better; FLAC 24/192 or DSD64?
2. Would FLAC 24/192 be a better sound (technically) than a 32bit downsampled to 24bit? Similarly, would a DSD64 be a better option than a downsampled DSD128? Do you lose quality in the downsampling process?
3. How does MQA files fit into this equation? Are they better/ worse/ different that FLAC or DSD?

I appreciate I may have to do a pepsi challenge and if I cannot tell the difference then go for lower end of the spectrum (which could be MP3 320!). That said, there is a thought process, that I should buy the best quality for the player I own, but I guess I am conscious of being swept along by the marketing of the higher quality formats.

Any help/ advice in this will be most appreciated.
Many thanks
Jon
 
Dec 21, 2019 at 4:05 AM Post #2 of 8
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I'm a bit confused here. What were the FLAC files on your Samsung S8? If they sounded bad on the AK, then I would think that it was the music/files that were the issue.

Anyhow, you pretty much don't need to worry about high-res these days, as the gear has caught up sufficiently. Years ago, the quality of digital filters (and digital designs) was such that high-res music made a small, but sometimes significant improvement over CD Quality music. Likewise, many DAC designs sounded a bit harsh, so people ended up preferring the softer sound of DSD (caused by the way it is played back inside the DAC, not by the DSD itself). DSD takes up insane amounts of space, and, for the reasons already mentioned, is unnecessary.

To give you an idea how much things have improved, I spent half-a-day on planes listening with noise cancelling headphones which, as well as having to re-process the music to deal with the airplane noise and lossy Bluetooth transmission, were good enough that even instruments that can very easily sound nasty with multiple digital processes sounded very pleasant indeed.

As for MQA, it is fake high-res. It's too much of a long story for here, but the MQA group was caught with its pants down when people started to do technical analysis of the format. Aside from that, very often the MQA "Master" on TIDAL is a different version, to make you think that the MQA has improved the sound.

32-bit is marketing. There aren't any 32-bit files in effect -- this usually refers to the capability of the digital equipment. No digital equipment can, in effect, reproduce better than 21-bit, and most below that, so you can safely ignore it.

So in the end, my recommendation is just enjoy TIDAL HiFi and don't worry about other formats.
 
Dec 21, 2019 at 4:54 AM Post #3 of 8

OscSop

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Many thanks for taking the time to respond, your advice helps immensely. As you said, I think there is an issue with the FLAC files. I am going to try a fresh download of new FLAC files (the original files I have were some received from a mate; they must be inferior in some way) and try that out, but for majority of my music I am going to stick with, and as per your suggestion, TIDAL HiFi. The Tidal HiFi is sounding amazing, so will keep with what sounds good :)
Thank you again.
 
Dec 23, 2019 at 7:37 PM Post #4 of 8

tomb

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One answer to your question about FLAC files with 24-bit, 192kHz: The most readily available chips for Asynchronous USB may be limited to 24-bit, 192kHz. That is, you may find reports of DACs with 32-bit, 384kHz connection ability, but even if you found files of that bit-depth and sampling rate, chances are they're not going to sound as good as with an Asynchronous USB connection. The Asynchronous USB has better timing and less jitter potential than listening to a higher bit depth and sampling rate, assuming the connection is straight isochronous USB.
 
Dec 25, 2019 at 5:46 AM Post #5 of 8

gimmeheadroom

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Apologies if this has been asked before. I have been reading so much about this and have basically come full circle and still have no idea as to an answer. There may not be an answer and may be down to personal preference, but even so, I'm going to ask!

I have been listening to some FLAC 16/44.1 files on a Samsung S8 with either Bose SoundSport or Bose QC23 II.
I have recently picked up my first 'proper' rig; AK SR15 with the AK Diana IEMs. So far I have listened to some HiFi & Masters streaming/ Downloads from Tidal. I actually do enjoy the sound from the S8 and Bose headphones, however the sound from the AK setup blew me away. A massive leap in sound quality (to my ears). I then tried some of the FLAC files from the S8, on the AK setup and the sound was awful, both in comparison to the S8/ Bose setup and the AK Tidal setup. Which then got me thinking and researching:

The SR15 can handle up to 24/192. Anything higher, will be downsampled to 24/192. Or it can handle DSD64, with DSD 128 being downsampled accordingly.

My question(s) are:
1. Which is better; FLAC 24/192 or DSD64?

To my ears, DSD64 sounds like what I always wanted from CDs but never got until SACDs came out. But FLAC 24/192 is perfectly fine. In the end it depends more on how the recording was made than it does between these two formats. Just that anything can be upsampled or converted while SACDs are usually only made from good masters. As far as I am concerned there is absolutely no excuse for up or downsamping anything. Get your music from reliable sources and play it as it was intended.

2. Would FLAC 24/192 be a better sound (technically) than a 32bit downsampled to 24bit? Similarly, would a DSD64 be a better option than a downsampled DSD128? Do you lose quality in the downsampling process?

Absolutely, you lose quality in downsampling. Does it matter? Sometimes.

3. How does MQA files fit into this equation? Are they better/ worse/ different that FLAC or DSD?

I'm pretty happy with Tidal Masters on my equipment. But without listening to the exact same recording on various formats nobody can say which is better or worse. There are a lot of MQA haters, I am not one of them. But, I do think compression is kindof a 1980s thing and the compression part of MQA seems dumb to me. The proof is in the listening. Tidal Masters sounds great. But you need a DAC with full support in hardware or firmware to get the most of MQA. Using the desktop or Android app and letting it do part of the unfolding is not enough,
 
Dec 25, 2019 at 1:22 PM Post #6 of 8

OscSop

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One answer to your question about FLAC files with 24-bit, 192kHz: The most readily available chips for Asynchronous USB may be limited to 24-bit, 192kHz. That is, you may find reports of DACs with 32-bit, 384kHz connection ability, but even if you found files of that bit-depth and sampling rate, chances are they're not going to sound as good as with an Asynchronous USB connection. The Asynchronous USB has better timing and less jitter potential than listening to a higher bit depth and sampling rate, assuming the connection is straight isochronous USB.
Many thanks for the response, much appreciated.
 
Dec 25, 2019 at 1:30 PM Post #7 of 8

OscSop

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To my ears, DSD64 sounds like what I always wanted from CDs but never got until SACDs came out. But FLAC 24/192 is perfectly fine. In the end it depends more on how the recording was made than it does between these two formats. Just that anything can be upsampled or converted while SACDs are usually only made from good masters. As far as I am concerned there is absolutely no excuse for up or downsamping anything. Get your music from reliable sources and play it as it was intended.



Absolutely, you lose quality in downsampling. Does it matter? Sometimes.



I'm pretty happy with Tidal Masters on my equipment. But without listening to the exact same recording on various formats nobody can say which is better or worse. There are a lot of MQA haters, I am not one of them. But, I do think compression is kindof a 1980s thing and the compression part of MQA seems dumb to me. The proof is in the listening. Tidal Masters sounds great. But you need a DAC with full support in hardware or firmware to get the most of MQA. Using the desktop or Android app and letting it do part of the unfolding is not enough,
Thank you for the reply, much appreciated.
I will have to try a DSD64 to see whether I can notice a discernible difference. And thank you for confirming the thought that downsampling is potentially worse.
I am listening tidal masters and hifi and so far so good. I have, based on these forums and the feedback in this thread to only buy 24 bit music, but as said, will try a dsd64 to see how that goes.
Thanks again and Merry Christmas.
Jon
 
Dec 25, 2019 at 1:41 PM Post #8 of 8

gimmeheadroom

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Sure, welcome aboard :D

There is just not that much 24 bit music to buy. If you have a good CD player you will be amazed how good it can sound. If you want to go from there you can look into SACD players. The new discs can be expensive but there are a lot of used discs for a good price. As always, collector items are going to be priced ridiculously no matter what the format. SACDs are DSD64 just FYI. In the end, how the album was made from beginning to end has more impact on the sound quality than the difference between Redbook (16/44.1) and hires. There are new recordings being made natively in hires but not that many.

You can check the 2l.no site for free downloads of various formats. Some really good sound there!

Don't drink too much during the hols... (leave some for me!) :p
 

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