Why 24 bit audio and anything over 48k is not only worthless, but bad for music.
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Analog tapes themselves aren't that quiet - which is something that many people seem to forget.
Back in those days, a good master tape machine had a better S/N than vinyl (hopefully), which was plenty good enough. 
(I'm equally dubious about whether any of those early A/D converters had 24 bits of resolution anyway - you need a S/N of 96 dB to get 16 bits of real resolution.)
 
However, it is still technically possible for someone to produce a re-mix that is much quieter than the original master mix, or even than the original tracks themselves, with sufficiently aggressive processing and "restoration" - so I can't say it's impossible that somewhere there is a re-master of an original tape master that would "justify" 24 bits - but I'm not holding my breath. (Generally, when you do that much processing, I find the results to have so many serious artifacts that they don't sound good at all.)
 
That also brings up another interesting thing that people seem to forget:
Just as with any other re-mix or re-master, it's quite possible for a "high-res remaster" to sound worse than the original release.

 
 
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He was asking about bit depth and you seem to be addressing sample rate. I task you to find a 24-bit master made from analog tape that doesn't null to noise when truncated down to 16 bits.
 
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Even today I don't think we have a true 24-bit ADC or DAC. As far as the mastering, if the process made the track quieter, one only need to gain the track up to 0 dBFS for the max peak before converting to 16-bit. I can take a 24-bit track and gain it down to only take up the lowest 16 bits; if I were to then truncate the file to 16-bit, I would essentially end up with an 8-bit file, which of course is insufficient for most music. But I would also call that bad mastering :)
 
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I do have an interesting question for you there.....
Why do you insist on streaming music all the time?
 
It seems to me that today most people seem to believe that there's some sort of "hard line" between streaming and simply playing music.
 
Personally, I have a large collection of albums that I own, and which I play quite often.
I also sometimes listen to streaming music - or even ... gasp... radio.
And, when I listen to my own albums, I simply play them directly - which uses no bandwidth whatsoever.
 
My point is that, especially if you're in a situation where you pay for your bandwidth, then it only makes sense to stream music when you specifically want to listen to music that you don't already own. (In other words, just like with radio in the old days, I see streaming music as a supplement to playing my own music - rather than a replacement for it.)
 
(I would even go as far as to say that I am perfectly happy streaming music for casual listening - even using high quality lossy compression - then obtaining and actually owning a normal-res or high-res copy of only the music that I especially like. I simply don't see why it should be an either/or proposition, nor do I see why I should sacrifice the best quality in order to accommodate the limitations of a data service...  when I can play albums I already own, at whatever resolution I like, as often as I like, and for as long as I like, for free. And, as an added benefit, I can listen to the music I own any time and any place I want to - even where I don't have an Internet connection or reliable cell phone service. And, in fact, since I don't use that huge amount of data, I can also live quite happily with a cheaper data plan.)
 
 
Quote:
  Well said, sm. The paradigm of the engineers using high specs and the end-user using well-made lossy files is actually quite remarkable. They get more leeway for getting the recording done right, and we get smaller files that sound just as good and that we can stream easily and download as needed.
 
People like to say "oh file sizes don't matter." But consider this scenario: I want to play music constantly at work (where I can't just stream all day or guarantee hard-drive space), 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, ~4 weeks a month. If we suppose that streaming FLAC/ALAC gets you ½ file sizes, then uncompressed 24/192 content would require about 2.6TB of bandwidth for the month. Streaming 256 AAC, on the other hand, would require 147GB. Which one do you think is more viable via mobile streaming + DAP storage? So yes, if there is no audible difference between the 2 why the heck are we so concerned to have the former, especially if we're talking streaming?
 
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Don't forget the "at work" part. We have bare-bones PCs, purely intended to log into a virtual desktop. Not much hard drive space to use, so I can't simply put my entire collection on there in any format. They are pretty lax on music streaming, though, but that's only because I'm not streaming 2TB a month. At home, of course, I can just load up my ripped FLACs, but there's really little reason to even rip anything anymore, since it will already be available via streaming in a format that is audibly transparent to my ears. My MO is still to buy albums that I like, but the truth is that any cataclysmic event that would manage to destroy the internet would probably also destroy my power…
 
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Even today I don't think we have a true 24-bit ADC or DAC.
 
-Nope. The thermal noise power at room temperature over a bandwidth of 20kHz is on the order of -130dBm or so, so assuming a 600 ohm load and everything else is perfect, the noise floor will be in the 22nd bit.
 
In real-world applications, obviously we'll have other noise sources which will bring the noise floor further up - so, let's say you maybe get 20 bits of 'real' resolution on a very good day.
 
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For me, it is not a matter of insisting on streaming music all of the time, it is just always available to stream.  The bandwidth is inexpensive and I am nearly always able to use WiFi of direct connections to the internet.  If I was unable to stream music when I wanted to listen to songs, I'd try to find a different solution.  
 
I use Google's streaming service that I pay $7.99/month (promo rate locked in for early subscriber) to use.  I play my music on anything that has the ability to use the Chrome browser, the iOS app, or the Android app.  At home I have a couple of Chromebooks that I use almost exclusively as "jukeboxes" that can play the entire Google catalog of over 30 millions songs seamlessly with a thousand or so of my own music that is not otherwise made available to stream.  I can play full albums, single songs, genre-specific radios, and radio created by artist, album, or single songs.  I am able to maintain a library of my music that is displayed by genre, artist, album, or song with album covers and wiki entries of the artist and album in many cases.  When I shuffle my library or play any radio, not only are the subscription songs played, but my own music can also be included if the songs are related to the type of radio I selected.
 
At this point, between the vast library of music available to stream and the music that I added that was not available, I have absolutely every album and song that I am currently aware of that I would ever want to hear.  I explore quite a bit when it comes to music, and I try to listen to a little bit of everything.  When I find something that sounds good, I often add the full album to my library so that any of the songs on it could pop up when I shuffle my library.  For me, it is like a dream come true, only I could never have dreamed this up 20-30 years ago.  So, it is even better than a dream come true. 

 
Now, if I wanted to listen to music and I could not get to it by streaming, I'd be frustrated and look for a different option.  To this point, I have not had any troubles, so I see no reason to move on to anything else.  I don't listen to any of my CDs directly anymore.  I rip a CD to MP3 and upload it into Google. 
 
I don't choose to stream everything all the time, it just works for me all the time, so I do it.  It is awesome.
 
   
 
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The fastest speed I ever got from a dial-up modem was around 48K (capped by the parity error checking). U.S. Robotics one with answering machine facility.
 
Surprisingly this company still exists in that capacity.
 
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Back when phone lines were "discrete lines" rather than IP-based, the theoretical limit for a single line was 64k; "56k modems" were adaptive, so you got slightly different speeds depending on line conditions, but their theoretical maximum was somewhere around 52k (because of a sort of technicality, which "used up" some of the theoretically possible data bandwidth, they couldn't actually do 56k - and I never saw one do full 52k except in a lab setting). As I recall, US Robotics was considered by most people to be the top premium brand for such devices back in those days.
 
Quote:
  The fastest speed I ever got from a dial-up modem was around 48K (capped by the parity error checking). U.S. Robotics one with answering machine facility.
 
Surprisingly this company still exists in that capacity.
 
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I'd have to say that, for me, it's more a matter of "the principle of the thing" or "my comfort zone" rather than totally practical considerations.
 
For one thing, I like to own the music I really care about, and to actually be in possession of it - whether it's in the form of plastic, or of a computer file, which I can back up. Not that it's especially likely, but there have been cases where Kindle books "disappeared" from the collections of people who had "purchased" them when they were found to be illegal to sell due to copyright or other issues. There was also a video service a very long time ago called DivX (not to be confused with the video format of the same name). With this service, you received a disc for free, then paid for a license for either a single viewing, or "lifetime ownership". However, one day the company went out of business, and everyone who thought they owned videos found that they now owned unplayable discs - and their "video collection" had magically disappeared. I am simply not sufficiently confident that a given service will remain in business, or that a given album won't be "pulled" due to some sort of legal or contractual dispute, to trust someone else to "keep track of" my music. (It would ruin my entire week if my favorite song were to disappear one day, or my streaming service were to go under, and I couldn't find another one which had all of my favorite music. Companies - and services - tend to come and go... and I simply don't like to take that risk with my music collection.)
 
Also, to be honest, I haven't found any form of lossy compression so far that I consider to be "absolutely inaudible at all times". Therefore, I insist on at least CD quality content for serious listening (I'm perfectly willing to use MP3 or Ogg Vorbis for casual listening and "background music"). It just seems more reliable to RIP my own CDs - where I can confirm that the RIPs really are perfect and haven't been modified or compromised along the way - than to trust someone else to do it and get it right. (Streaming over the Internet is also virtually always subject to occasional dropped samples and such.) I also don't especially favor listening to music from a phone, or using earbuds, so that level of portability isn't a consideration for me.
 
However, as long as it works for you, that's obviously what counts (and streaming music seems to work for lots of people).
 
  Quote:
   
For me, it is not a matter of insisting on streaming music all of the time, it is just always available to stream.  The bandwidth is inexpensive and I am nearly always able to use WiFi of direct connections to the internet.  If I was unable to stream music when I wanted to listen to songs, I'd try to find a different solution.  
 
I use Google's streaming service that I pay $7.99/month (promo rate locked in for early subscriber) to use.  I play my music on anything that has the ability to use the Chrome browser, the iOS app, or the Android app.  At home I have a couple of Chromebooks that I use almost exclusively as "jukeboxes" that can play the entire Google catalog of over 30 millions songs seamlessly with a thousand or so of my own music that is not otherwise made available to stream.  I can play full albums, single songs, genre-specific radios, and radio created by artist, album, or single songs.  I am able to maintain a library of my music that is displayed by genre, artist, album, or song with album covers and wiki entries of the artist and album in many cases.  When I shuffle my library or play any radio, not only are the subscription songs played, but my own music can also be included if the songs are related to the type of radio I selected.
 
At this point, between the vast library of music available to stream and the music that I added that was not available, I have absolutely every album and song that I am currently aware of that I would ever want to hear.  I explore quite a bit when it comes to music, and I try to listen to a little bit of everything.  When I find something that sounds good, I often add the full album to my library so that any of the songs on it could pop up when I shuffle my library.  For me, it is like a dream come true, only I could never have dreamed this up 20-30 years ago.  So, it is even better than a dream come true. 

 
Now, if I wanted to listen to music and I could not get to it by streaming, I'd be frustrated and look for a different option.  To this point, I have not had any troubles, so I see no reason to move on to anything else.  I don't listen to any of my CDs directly anymore.  I rip a CD to MP3 and upload it into Google. 
 
I don't choose to stream everything all the time, it just works for me all the time, so I do it.  It is awesome.
 
   
 
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Back when phone lines were "discrete lines" rather than IP-based, the theoretical limit for a single line was 64k; "56k modems" were adaptive, so you got slightly different speeds depending on line conditions, but their theoretical maximum was somewhere around 52k (because of a sort of technicality, which "used up" some of the theoretically possible data bandwidth, they couldn't actually do 56k - and I never saw one do full 52k except in a lab setting). As I recall, US Robotics was considered by most people to be the top premium brand for such devices back in those days.
 
-Once again, Claude Shannon is our man; the Shannon-Hartley channel capacity theorem states (basically, any signal processing buff, please bear with me) that in the presence of noise, there is a finite limit to the number of bits per second which can be transmitted without error in a band-limited channel.
 
(The idea is that as there's noise (and bandwidth constraints), you cannot have an infinite number of signal levels - you'll need some margin to reliably determine which symbol you received - and, hence, you also have a finite capacity. Bummer.)
 
The capacity (in bits/second) is the available bandwidth times the binary logarithm of (1+ SNR), or C=B*log2(1+S/N) for the algebraically inclined.
 
So, doing the numbers in my head, to get 56k over a 3kHz phone circuit,  you'll need an SNR on the order of 50dB or so, slightly more, I'd say.
 
Edit: And 50dB sounds like way more than you'd expect from your average phone circuit, hence the problems with obtaining the theoretical bandwidth; IIRC the last modem I used at my parents' prior to the arrival of broadband got me on the order of 36-38k on a good day - uploading it got pretty close to the maximum 33.6kbps.
 
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For one thing, I like to own the music I really care about, and to actually be in possession of it - whether it's in the form of plastic, or of a computer file, which I can back up. Not that it's especially likely, but there have been cases where Kindle books "disappeared" from the collections of people who had "purchased" them when they were found to be illegal to sell due to copyright or other issues. There was also a video service a very long time ago called DivX (not to be confused with the video format of the same name). With this service, you received a disc for free, then paid for a license for either a single viewing, or "lifetime ownership". However, one day the company went out of business, and everyone who thought they owned videos found that they now owned unplayable discs - and their "video collection" had magically disappeared. I am simply not sufficiently confident that a given service will remain in business, or that a given album won't be "pulled" due to some sort of legal or contractual dispute, to trust someone else to "keep track of" my music. (It would ruin my entire week if my favorite song were to disappear one day, or my streaming service were to go under, and I couldn't find another one which had all of my favorite music. Companies - and services - tend to come and go... and I simply don't like to take that risk with my music collection.)
 
Obviously different strokes, but I would say a few things in reply to this:
 
The likelihood that Google goes out of business is pretty darn small, as you correctly point out, the more likely scenario are individual albums being pulled for copyright reasons. But I ask you: So what? Just buy that album, and upload it to your Play Music library (or keep it directly on your device). How could it possibly ruin your week? You'd just go pick it up elsewhere and move on with your life. I am also an All Access subscriber at $7.99/month, that's less than $100 per year to have access to every album that Google gets access to. I used to spend $100 in a sitting buying music, now I get more, for FAR less money. 
 
The DivX comparison really isn't a fair one, either. I haven't bought physical media, and if Play Music shutters, I will just switch to a different service, there are plenty to choose from, all the while saving a lot of money.
 
And the curated stations are just a wonderful way to discover music. Obviously, you don't have to use the service, it's not for everyone, but your reasoning seems to veer towards Luddism. 
 
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I'd have to say that, for me, it's more a matter of "the principle of the thing" or "my comfort zone" rather than totally practical considerations.
 
For one thing, I like to own the music I really care about, and to actually be in possession of it - whether it's in the form of plastic, or of a computer file, which I can back up. Not that it's especially likely, but there have been cases where Kindle books "disappeared" from the collections of people who had "purchased" them when they were found to be illegal to sell due to copyright or other issues. There was also a video service a very long time ago called DivX (not to be confused with the video format of the same name). With this service, you received a disc for free, then paid for a license for either a single viewing, or "lifetime ownership". However, one day the company went out of business, and everyone who thought they owned videos found that they now owned unplayable discs - and their "video collection" had magically disappeared. I am simply not sufficiently confident that a given service will remain in business, or that a given album won't be "pulled" due to some sort of legal or contractual dispute, to trust someone else to "keep track of" my music. (It would ruin my entire week if my favorite song were to disappear one day, or my streaming service were to go under, and I couldn't find another one which had all of my favorite music. Companies - and services - tend to come and go... and I simply don't like to take that risk with my music collection.)
 
Also, to be honest, I haven't found any form of lossy compression so far that I consider to be "absolutely inaudible at all times". Therefore, I insist on at least CD quality content for serious listening (I'm perfectly willing to use MP3 or Ogg Vorbis for casual listening and "background music"). It just seems more reliable to RIP my own CDs - where I can confirm that the RIPs really are perfect and haven't been modified or compromised along the way - than to trust someone else to do it and get it right. (Streaming over the Internet is also virtually always subject to occasional dropped samples and such.) I also don't especially favor listening to music from a phone, or using earbuds, so that level of portability isn't a consideration for me.
 
However, as long as it works for you, that's obviously what counts (and streaming music seems to work for lots of people).
 
I certainly own my own music as well.  I have a collection of my favorites that go back to when CDs were first put on the market.  I even have a collection of records stored away.  But for about a quarter per day, I have the privilege of being able to enjoy over 30 million songs if I have the time and the ability to do so; which, as it turns out, is quite frequently.  Again, I am not looking specifically for a solution to stream music all the time, it is simply always available and the most convenient method for me right now.
 
I've been a subscriber to some form of music subscription service for over 12 years now.  I started with Rhapsody (thought it was Rap City when someone first told me about it), then joined MOG and Spotify and kept both for a few years before settling for Google Music All Access when it came out.  I believe that I have tried all of the available services for at least a trial.  I even have an account with Tidal that I have activated for a few months at a time.  With Google, I have thoroughly tested the audio quality against many of my own CDs and even a few HD tracks and I have come to the conclusion that I am unable to hear any differences.  It is always available to me, and any music that is not available through the subscription service can easily be uploaded to be included as part of the Google Music interface as if it were simply just another album or artist.
 
If it goes away tomorrow it would be a shame.  I have a Python script that I run every once in a while that grabs the Artist - Album in my Google favorites section and lists these in a spreadsheet.  I will always have this list, and if I need to purchase some of this music later of rebuild this library on a new/better service, I will at least have the list to assist with this effort.  I've been through this before when changing subscription services in the past, and every time there have been 3rd-party tools available to help make this process rather simple.
 
What is serious listening to you?  For me, it is relaxing to music while using my computer to research information about the artist, song, lyrics, or practically anything that interests me while listening.  I might look at anything from photos or album art to an online map's street view showing an old house that Robert Plant use to stay in for a summer.  Sometimes I enjoy the music with a strong cup of coffee, and other times I listen while enjoying a cold beer.  Occasionally I'll just sit there and stare into the vast nothingness as the music transcends me to a dreamlike state of euphoria and bliss.  Okay, maybe that is taking it a bit too far, but I have had those moments where I got lost in the music for a minute or longer.  Other than the many listening tests that I have done, this is about as serious as I get when listening to music.  
 
From my experience, when you swallow your own saliva or take a breath, that action probably has a greater impact on what you are hearing compared to any differences between a well-encoded lossy file and that same song played directly from a CD.  No lossy format will probably ever be absolutely inaudible at all times, in the same sense that no clock or watch will ever be absolutely perfect with its ability to keep time.  At some point, though, the clock or the lossy file becomes incredibly useful and nearly perfect for its intended application.
 
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  What is serious listening to you?  For me, it is relaxing to music while using my computer to research information about the artist, song, lyrics, or practically anything that interests me while listening.  I might look at anything from photos or album art to an online map's street view showing an old house that Robert Plant use to say in for a summer.  Sometimes I enjoy the music with a strong cup of coffee, and other times I listen while enjoying a cold beer.  Occasionally I'll just sit there and stare into the vast nothingness as the music transcends me to a dreamlike state of euphoria and bliss.  Okay, maybe that is taking it a bit too far, but I have had those moments where I got lost in the music for a minute or longer.  Other than the many listening tests that I have done, this is about as serious as I get when listening to music.  
 
From my experience, when you swallow your own saliva or take a breath, that action probably has a greater impact on what you are hearing compared to any differences between a well-encoded lossy file and that same song played directly from a CD.  No lossy format will probably ever be absolutely inaudible at all times, in the same sense that no clock or watch will ever be absolutely perfect with its ability to keep time.  At some point, though, the clock or the lossy file becomes incredibly useful and nearly perfect for its intended application.
 
I do get tired of the sentiment from the "other side" that none of us sciencey types are "serious" music listeners (not that Keith meant this). I'll sit down and listen to some of the best-recorded classical music out there, score in hand, comparing oboe parts between recordings. But you know, since I don't instantly think hi-res will fix the problems with Zeppelin IV I must be some kind of idiot.
 
You should re-brand your saliva comment as a motto or something, it's too good. "AAC: Less annoying than phlegm." (or more transparent than phelgm…)
 
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I do get tired of the sentiment from the "other side" that none of us sciencey types are "serious" music listeners (not that Keith meant this). I'll sit down and listen to some of the best-recorded classical music out there, score in hand, comparing oboe parts between recordings. But you know, since I don't instantly think hi-res will fix the problems with Zeppelin IV I must be some kind of idiot.
 
You should re-brand your saliva comment as a motto or something, it's too good. "AAC: Less annoying than phlegm."
 
I enjoy Keith's participation in many of the discussions I have read.  I was genuinely interested in some feedback on what others consider to be serious listening sessions when compared to having music on in the background while working or just listening to fill the silence.
 
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I'm biased with beds and love everything that can be done in one, my biggest music moments are when I'm lying down with my eyes closed in an otherwise almost perfectly silent dark room. those are the most serious, music moments I get. I feel like I can notice anything.
 
next in line would be like RRod said, when trying to decide what interpretation of a classical piece I prefer(don't you ever wish you could Frankenstein the songs and use the recording engineer of A, with the chorus of B, and the tempo of C?).
 
else I don't really pay attention to music, and if I do it's usually to go sing along, or air guitar like a mad man for one particular song that grabbed my attention. I don't think that can count as serious listening even though I'm mighty concentrated ^_^.
 
 
 
 
about breathing and swallowing, I feel exactly the same and do no worry about minute quality changes in sound for the same kind of reasons. most of my music experience is done with IEMs when I'm on the go, so it doesn't start well for a perfect music experience. I can't stand to walk with silicone tip on my IEMs, because of the loud "thump" that goes with each step. how could I be concerned about stuff down -60db on mp3 at that moment?
when there is some wind and the IEM is vented, you feel like you get a storm going on in your ears. and that's not even accounting for all the situations with trains, planes, subway, cars on the street... I couldn't care less about having a better sound, what I need is a better isolation.
when I'm home listening with some better gear and get noises from the street...
there is always something louder than the limits of my format. probably why I value so much my music at night when all is calm and quiet. but even then, I don't feel I'm improving sound when going to flac, not like I feel improvement by changing my source and getting rid of some background hiss, or when I have found a proper EQ for my headphone, or found a knob position on my amp that doesn't have much of a channel imbalance. those are my hifi moments.
 
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