Hi-Res Audio, DSD and placebo effect??

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by goyete, Nov 29, 2016.
  1. goyete
    I write this lines because many people in forums like this spend money and money in equipments, headphones, etc. and always they say all the differences between them. First of all, I want to say than I don't doubt at all that it's real (if not, why there is the Hi-Res world, DSD, etc. which moves a lot of money trough business around the world).
    I also have spent some money in equipment and after a few years I can't find all the differences that all the people here says between equipments. They say the improvement between balanced mode and standard mode; differences between one cable OFC and other with 0,00000001% more of oxigen, and internal Kimber Cable in player like (NW-WM1Z vs NW-WM1A).
    Probably I can't find this differences when I hear music, probably my ears are "broken" or I only hear frecuencies between 40...15000 Hz, I don't know but I would like someone to tell me some song I could hear to check differences for example between hearing it in a 700 USD DAC/AMP like a PHA-3 I have or via BT trough an iPhone 7.
    Please, I really want some examples of songs where I could make some tries to check. Maybe the problem is that I can't make A/B hearings from the same source recorded in different bitrate formats.
    Yes, it's true that a better earphones is an improvement. Last years I had MDR-1A, then MDR-Z7 in balanced mode, then XBA-A3 and actually I have 2 pair of XBA-Z5 that sounds incredible for me. When I buy XBA-A3 and compare them to MDR-Z7 the improvement for me was incredible, suddenly I hear micro details in all songs (Mike Oldfield for example) that I didn't hear with MDR-Z7. I also hear "background noise" that is recorded in the songs that I could'nt hear with the Z7.
    I have bought some collections in DSD from Blue Coast Records, yes, they sounds incredible trough PHA-3 and Z5 in balanced mode but, also they sound incredible if I convert them to 44,1/24 trough and iPhone 7 conected trough a Z5/MUC-M2BT1 via bluetooth. If I try to find or hear every microsound in the hearing, I can hearing in both systems.
    Yesterday I heard the sub-bass of the Hans Zimmer OST Dark Night Why So Serious?, fantastic song that, for me sounds equal trough the iPhone 7/Z5/MUC-M2BT1 and PHA-3/Z5 (and the source is the same file at 44.1/16 from a FLAC). Is it normal??
    I bought the MUC-M2BT1 to use Z5 when I go to street and becouse I want to try if the LDAC codec is a really improvement respect normal BT pairing. I bought the NW-ZX2 and I did several tries hearing a song pairing to MUC-M2BT1/Z5 in LDAC and SBC mode and for me, I could't find any difference (hearing Gabriels Oboe from a DSD file of the original SACD). I sold the ZX2 a months ago...
    I could buy right now the NW-WM1A, I like Sony products, I like to check and try new equipments. I assume that, when an equipment is very good, make an improvement cost much more that making an improvement from an bad equipment. This is like in photography, the cost of gain 1 light step isn't the same from f/5.6 to f/4 than f/1.4 to f/1.2. The question is that actually I can't find this light improvement...
    HAWX likes this.
  2. icebear
    In photography you can pixel peep and look at 100 or 200% magnification on a high resolution monitor. And only then you will be able to detect differences that are not at all relevant in a 8x10" print. You'll have to print like 3x4' to make the differences obvious.
    To evaluate music you have your ears and need to listen in real time. All the discussions pro and con high rez going on for years and no side presenting any definitive evidence, should be proof enough that the differences are indeed minute at best, if you compare apples to apples on the consumer/listener end (not necessarily on the recording/production level).
    Choose whatever format sounds best to you and what your wallet can afford.
    If I can get a CD for $10 and a high rez version for $30, I know what I am gonna choose.[​IMG]
  3. zareliman
    In regards to the formats themselves, strictly speaking there are dynamic range audible differences from 16 bit to 20bit. In practice this differences are trivial because you can't have the conditions to produce such a dynamic range in an audio system. You would need a completely silent room (no room noise), a dac/amp chain that's capable of producing more than 115db of dynamic range (note that I say produce and not just decode) and a music record with such dynamic range which probably doesn't exist. Sampling rates above 44.1Hz produce inaudible frequencies and are ultimately pointless for the end listener (it makes sense if you want to manipulate waves in the studio, like making them slower). And again, your audio equipment might not even be able to generate this higher frequencies, in fact some will filter the higher frequencies (I read they can damage speakers).
    In regards to DSD, the sampling rate is not used to increase the frequency range, it allows higher dynamic range. It's dynamic range is higher than CD, strictly speaking audible but practically impossible to benefit from.

    What I prefer about SACD and DSD records in general is that they get better masters (less compression) than their CD counterparts. Even when the same source master is used DSD achieves higher dynamic range than redbook. Since DSD to PCM conversion is lossy, ultimately I prefer to have store better mastered DSD records untouched, even if I preferred to store them at 44.1/24bit for efficiency.

    Further into this I've read all kinds of stuff about the ADC process and it seems that PCM converters still work as DSD in the first stages and then convert and decimate to PCM. A native DSD record is supposed to have less lossy conversions in the process. Note that at this level lossy conversions are unlikely to be identifiable by naked ear humans in A/B tests.
  4. watchnerd
    I want to make sure I understand the question:
    Are you looking for a song that will let you:
    a) hear differences between different lossless formats (i.e. Redbook vs 'high res' vs DSD), but otherwise the same master?
    b) hear differences between lossy formats and lossless?
    If a), then you are unlikely to find that perfect song given the number of studies that find listeners can't distinguish between Redbook and high resolution formats:
    Study on direct high res vs CD: http://archimago.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/24-bit-vs-16-bit-audio-test-part-ii.html
    AES published paper on ADA loop audibility: http://drewdaniels.com/audible.pdf
  5. spruce music
    Free downloads in many formats.  Might not be your type of music.  These do have the same masters.  So a good chance to compare.
    Myself, despite all the hoopla, these hires recordings when using the same masters and matched levels don't seem to offer anything you can hear that isn't on the standard rez formats.
  6. goyete
    Hi! Very interesting articles, I haven't read them before... The result is that there aren't evidence in favor of the Hi-Res audio. Anyone knows and article with similar procedures that demostrates that files in HR are audible for the real people??
    I read this article a few months ago, It's also very interesting!
    Good! I will try some files trough PHA-3/Z5 to compare.
  7. watchnerd
    There are also studies that find most listeners can't differentiate 320 kbps MP3 / 256 kbps AAC from "regular" lossless.  
    If most can't differentiate high quality lossy from lossless (where there are easier artifacts to listen for), the difficulty of identifying SD lossless from Hi-Rez lossless is even harder.
    If it was easy to prove the audible superiority of Hi Rez, Sony et al would have already published those results.  The fact that they haven't done so is telling.
  8. pinnahertz
    A quick look at the spectrum above 20kHz for a few of those 96kHz and 192kHz files shows there is no audio information there.  None.  Nothing but noise. The DXD masters show more noise above 20kHz than the 24/96 PCM track, often a stable rising spectrum up to Nyquist.  The only information above 20kHz in the files I analyzed is noise, and is there at the same level in the presence of audio below 20kHz or silence.  Below 20kHz the spectrum looks identical to the 16/44 files. 
    No idea what there is to compare.  Really, no point.  
  9. CraftyClown
    Ok, so first of all your ears are not broken mate. In fact you are hearing things a lot better than many people who frequent these forums, because guess what? You were right. There are quite often very small if any differences between some of this gear! Shocker, I know [​IMG]
    The problem I find with many of these forums is that people get themselves into a bit of a frenzy and the smallest differences become amplified into huge ones. There is also a lot of parroting of information (and misinformation) and quite a bit of people trying to justify their purchases to themselves.
    I'm like you. I've owned, borrowed or listened to a number of devices and I've even done volume matched abxing between them and I just can't hear a difference and even if there was one, if it's that hard to hear then why worry?
    As you correctly pointed out, headphones is where you will legitimately hear a difference and that makes perfect sense, but DAPS? Not so much. All that said, you should avoid devices that have a high output impedance over say 1 ohms, as that can potentially effect the sound, however that isn't usually an issue with most modern devices.
    Now the format thing is pretty simple and I think someone mentioned it above. The reason SACDs were so great wasn't to do with DSD, it was the mastering. I had a number of SACD rips in my music collection and I have converted them all to 16bit flac and once again guess what? I can't hear a difference [​IMG]
    I'm not even going to mention cables because I think you know what I'm going to say.
    I used to be exactly the same as you and I listened all the excited conversations on these forums and I bought all the expensive gear but I still couldn't hear what everyone else seemed to be hearing, but then I stumbled upon the sound science forums and someone offered me a red pill...
    watchnerd likes this.
  10. icebear
    q.e.d. [​IMG]
    To compare doesn't necessarily require differences.
    When you compare something and there are no differences ... then you know, whatever you have compared is: pretty similar! [​IMG]
  11. pinnahertz
    Right.  It makes sense to compare when the differences are unknown, and there may be some or none.  But if we already know there are no differences, then what are doing?  And if I know what I'm comparing, I have a sighted A/B test, which is also pretty meaningless.  
    There are so many things in audio that can and do modify the result both measurably and audibly.  To go after the "difference" that isn't a difference seems a pretty solid waste of effort.  Then to toss in expectation bias on top of the comparison?  It then becomes an exercise in futility masquerading as enlightenment. I'll sign up for none of that please. 
  12. spruce music

    Well some claim these other formats sound different in ways not related to ultrasonic content.  I don't find the argument compelling.  Nevertheless, for a free download and give it a try it isn't like a big deal or anything so listen for yourself.  As for looking for ultrasonic content in recordings, why would that matter?  You can't hear it. If ultrasonic content does make it sound different it can only be because it somehow causes artefacts down in the audible range of frequencies. 
    My conclusion was regular old rez is good enough to equal sound of these other formats.  So, I don't worry about it.
  13. pinnahertz
    If there's no ultrasonic content then there's no way it can cause audible artifact either.

    And I share your conclusions. The only possible exception is where a better master makes its way to the high res version, thus creating an audible difference, though not because it's high res.
  14. CraftyClown
    Bingo [​IMG]
  15. alex_aiwa_USA
    Not to gravebump, but this is something I have been thinking about a bit in the past, and never got a satisfactory resolution to it.

    High sample rates are often derided because nobody can hear ultrasonics so why bother?

    However, that is only considering the problem in the frequency domain. At least one experiment (sorry, don't have the link right now) seems to have indicated, however, that the human ability to distinguish two clicks might be finer than 0.02 miliseconds, i.e. one sample at 44.1Khz. Or in other words, perceptible phase/timing information from (some magical, ideal) recordings might be lost at normal sampling rates.

    Now, when you consider that even if a studio does all their recording, mixing and mastering at 192Khz, some piece of gear or processing step is likely to obscure that phase information anyway... And, many mastering engineers will as a matter of course lowpass their recordings at 20Khz or so, just as a safety measure, unless they're specifically working on a high-res master... leaving no music above 20khz at all... and most microphones are not designed to capture any content above 20khz in the first place... and most studio gear regardless of function is not rated above 20khz... well, it seems hopeless, I guess. There are usually a lot of obstacles in preserving ultrasonics from the recording session all the way to your living room. Gear that's flat "from DC to daylight" certainly exists, but I'd wager it's a rare master that doesn't touch any gear less capable than that.

    But still - I am not convinced that there is literally nothing to be gained at least in theory, from high sampling rates. Anyone else looked into this?
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017

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