The Quest for Hi Res Audio in Recording

what speakers or DACs were you using? and the sampling rate of the sound card?
You may want to verify that your sound card can indeed reproduce 96 khz and the setting is also turned on, or you may be hearing the sampling error ‘distortion’ that can give a saturated or “glued” feeling. I fell for that once.

Though I definitely agree that there is value in switching to 24/96 for re-processing and re-mastering purposes. Certain aspects like polyphonic pitch and tempo corrections perform better with higher sample rates. So for example, if you want to slow down a track, high sample rates will get better and cleaner results.

In my opinion, it is better to record “high” and then src low than record “low” and resample high. Sort of like photoshop work.

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That is exactly where I started!

I have some recordings at 192/32 and it just does it for me!

I can’t even tell you what that " it" is, but it’s totally in there!

I really surprised though that any recording with more than a handful of musicians are not fully invested in a higher resolution.

I have never claimed that I possess any special hearing qualities, matter of fact, being a live audio guy, i can guaranty I don’t. But that hasn’t pushed back my drive for a higher res listening environment for who want to partake.

As far as “audiophile” sell the house for a better system, i think in the future there will be high res for cheap… somewhere. Thanks.

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I bow to your superior knowledge and experience. However, recording at 88.1kHz simply because you can is not reason enough to actually do it. Not for me, anyway.

Just to clarify, neither reputation or bottom line is at stake in my case. My position that no-one can hear above 22kHz is based on fact, hence it is my default position. I am always ready to learn if the evidence is there. I was hoping for a professional refutation but alas it was not forthcoming.

I am no expert in this area; I’m just a knob twiddler. However, since I make a living from my knob twiddling I have to provide a service of quality and integrity. So when it comes to formats, bit depths and sample rates, the best I can do is stick to the fundamentals, stick to the facts, and not to get caught up in stuff that I don’t actually know about.

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If you can’t hear it, then it’s a pretty sorry-looking bottom line in my opinion. At the fundamental level, the point of recording something is so that you can hear it on playback.

Hey AJ,

When I wrote, “Even if you can’t hear it…”, I meant you as an individual engineer. Many folks, including myself, can hear a positive improvement with 2 and 4x sample rates, all other things being equal. Even that is relative as you as an individual engineer may not hear any differences because of limitations in your record and playback chains. Mind you, I ain’t dissing your gear.
Also, higher fidelity may not be what the client envisions. A case in point is the new Larkin Poe album; a 96/24 release with a purposeful overall low–fi vibe in keeping with their intent and genre.

I recently watched this YouTube video of Tyler Bryant. As an engineer, I would hope to capture the nuance, character and sonority of those beautiful instruments being played.

Im pretty positive Tyler and the Larkin Poe gang trade instruments to play and record with. Personally, I would want to capture that scene with a his res quality. Thanks.

Really? Is that with eliminating confirmation bias?
The only way you could prove this, both to yourself and anyone else is via a double blind test. As Monty at says, " Claims require proof. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."

“The vast weight and breadth of the experimental record…” shows that literally no-one can tell any difference between 44.1kHz/16 bit and higher resolutions.

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It’s interesting that you should point to an article that is at least 12 years old.

How about something that is a little more current in It’s publication.

But hey, if you want to record on cassette tape, more power to ya!
That’s a cool medium also right?
In keeping with the Larkin Poe reference, we as engineers can make anything musical and interesting no matter how we want to engage with the equipment at hand.

Did you watch the video?
All those cool guitars. Makes you want to capture them on different archive mediums. Thanks.

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Perhaps for anyone interested you could dispense with the gaslighting and answer my question: Have you confirmed your ability to discern “high resolution” audio from 44.1kHz/16 bit via a double blind test?

The reason I ask is because the vast weight of scientific evidence points to no-one being able to do this, so if your claim is true then it would make you somewhat unique.

Ethan Winer says:
“Many tests over the years have concluded that nobody can reliably identify CD-quality versus higher resolutions, yet some people still believe that HD audio sounds better…”

Really…First off, read the paper cited as proof, which uses a very questionable test procedure and an unspec’ed ABX box. I have access to a modern ABX box, the Audio by Van Alstine ABX Switch Comparator. Unfortunately, that “high fidelity” product is anything but. For that particular paper, what is especially telling is this paragraph in their wrap up…“Though our tests failed to substantiate the claimed advantages of high-resolution encoding for two-channel audio, one trend became obvious very quickly and held up throughout our testing: virtually all of the SACD and DVD-A recordings sounded better than most CDs— sometimes much better. Had we not “degraded” the sound to CD quality and blind-tested for audible differences, we would have been tempted to ascribe this sonic superiority to the recording processes used to make them.” [my emphasis] More modern and careful research by Sean Olive shows that wideband recordings on a wideband, highly resolving (linear) playback system are statistically preferred by test subjects.

What I find really amusing is that skeptics seem to require an A/B/X test, even if the test conditions are not examined in detail. Not all A/B/X test regimes are created equal. Both the B.O.S and Winer pieces are proof of that.

As professionals, we audio craftspeople and engineers (there is a difference) use our hearing mechanism all day long, relying on our subjective responses to do our job. Yet, that foundational “tool” is somehow not valid? I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the many teams that helped bring higher rez content to audiences via SACD and DVD-A. Myself and others daily perfrom countless evals of high and down–rezed content. After all, that’s what higher end mastering folks do every day; prepare a low rez child from a higher rez parent. As I have stated many times; even though you may not be able to hear something, other folks may be able to. Chalk it up to the many factors involved, maybe even that expectation bias some of us take comfort in.

Last item: here’s a simple test for you, your playback environment and this “Is HRA audio better?” debate…Grab some truly wideband HRA recordings and compare them. <> used to have their “test bench” of HRA content, recorded by Morten Lindberg as DXD, and SRC’d using quality methods. Unfortunately, they have pulled that content down from the current site, it served its purpose. However, you can still find it at the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine site. So, cue that up and listen. Someday, I’ll ask Morten to allow me to republish some of that…

Another test (not strictly valid as MQA alters the time domain but then again, so do all ADCs and DACs) is to find or purchase a carefully recorded MQA file, 2L has those. BTW, not all HRA content is, in fact, High Resolution…Anyway, play it back through a full two–step MQA decode chain, and turn the decoding on and off: No change in repro chain hardware, no A/B/X box, no need to rely on auditory memory. Again, if you can’t hear it, don’t panic. Our auditory system is highly plastic and can be trained. Also, cast a critical eye on your own repro chain.

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In what way was the test procedure questionable?

Where did you get this information from please?

Have you used it to confirm your ability to differentiate between 44.1kHz/16 bit recordings and those of higher resolution?

Not sure what your point is. They are saying that SACD and DVD-A recordings are (subjectively) better quality than CDs in general. But they are confirming that when these recordings are downgraded to CD spec no-one can tell the difference between the two - a fact which clearly underlines the findings of the study.

Perhaps you could direct me me to some relevant work by Sean Olive? As far as I’m aware most of his work focuses on headphones.

I did find this quote from him:
“I’ve heard some wonderful CDs, but I’ve also heard some wonderful 24/96 files. I really think the difference is how well they’re recorded and mastered.”

Bit of a strawman, fella. I don’t remember saying anything of the sort. In fact I acknowledged your superior skills as a professional in my first reply. I am simply asking if you have tested your ability, since the greater weight of studies suggests that it is not possible.

I don’t deny that - it almost goes without saying, especially for people of my (and your) age. Nevertheless, it does not follow that some people can tell the difference between CD and hi resolution. And simply repeating it doesn’t make it so - all the evidence points to the opposite.

Compare them to what?

And no elimination of confirmation bias. Actually I will try this test though, in the interest of widening my horizons.

Referring back to the Boston paper, it says: “Further claims that careful 16/44.1 encoding audibly degrades high resolution signals must be supported by properly controlled double-blind tests.”

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I have extremely sensitive ears and heightened hearing, or so I have been told. I have learned to trust them over the years. I can discern differences in bit depth reliably (9/10 times) and quite easily…but I can never seem to discern differences between different sample rates reliably. For those who can actually hear differences between different oversampled audio what are you listening for? Gear is not an issue.

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Hey FluteCafe,

Outside of hardware involved, I find improvements to transient response and spatial cues.

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spatial cues I totally get. I can instantly tell the differences in spatial cues, the space and the verb when the bit depth changes, but how do you detect an improvement in transient response with changes to sample rate by ear? Or are you using a software for it?
In theory the transients will have more natural energy when recorded with a higher sample rate so the transients should sound a bit “brighter” right (theoretically speaking)? Is that what I am listening for?

Which bit depths can you tell the difference between? Have you tested your ability on double blind tests?

Which theory are you referring to?

I genuinely want to believe that you only have good intentions in these types of discussions @AJ113. I really do, but I really need to step in after looking back on this discussion and there are a couple things that I can see being “read between the lines” in the way you’ve presented your argument. It may just be as simple as the way British folks talk vs Americans. I’m really not sure.

1 - It comes across like you’re maybe a button-pusher. Again, this my perception. My oldest son does this. He will argue for the sake of arguing and isn’t actually interested in hearing the other side or even care who’s right or wrong. He just wants that emotional rise out of the other person. He wants a reaction so he can use it later for something else.

2 - It comes across like it’s down to picking apart the english language, word-by-word.

This is a great example. “In theory” in american english does not even necessarily mean “based on theory X”.

Anyway, maybe I’m misrepresenting the way you are talking also. Again, I want to believe you mean well. I’m just saying, maybe we can just have a civilized debate and accept that each side may or may not agree.

Just my 2 cents

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By ear for sure.

Yes, exactly. Less dull and smeared sounding which, on a well engineered and mastered MQA recording is also what I perceive when fully decoded.

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yes I have tested blind in a professional environment (on wind and orchestral instruments I am extremely familiar with). Higher bit depth is discernable by ear, though I am not sure about being able to discern higher sample rates by ear.

digital to analog conversion. With high sample rates, there is less “guess work” for higher end speakers in modeling the samples to their respective curves, which means that the transients (from the moment of impact to decay) will have more “natural energy” coming in vs “modeled energy”, that is not necessarily a good or bad thing, I just have not been able to hear the difference by ear.

I’m not sure which theory you mean, and I can’t seem to find anything on the web. Could you link me to something that explains a bit more please?

Amazing! What bit depths were used for comparison?

OK I’m gone.