Wednesday, February 18, 2015

High Resolution is not Fake Snake Oil

High resolution PCM recording is measurably better.  There is not a myth, you can look at the actual measurements of real equipment using the best test equipment in many Stereophile reviews by John Atkinson, who has published detailed measurements of more equipment than anyone, over three decades of reviewing and editing the most popular high end audio magazine.

The question is, can you hear the difference.  Some say yes, including many industry professionals who are engineering graduates, or the top recording and mastering engineers who have won grammy awards, many reviewers, many high end audio equipment buyers.

But none of those people have the certified published and replicated DBT results that show that there is an audible difference.  At least this is the belief of mainstream academic audio engineering, also the likes of Hydrogen Audio and the Boston Audio Society, and it is verified in a critical scan of published articles in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society.

Now, in many cases the Actual Mastering done on a high resolution recording is different, including the possible use of less limiting and compression, lower average level, and so on.  It would seem to me it would be worth the bother of high resolution PCM to get that.  Maybe others think it is a scam which they'll boycott.

But anyway, this is not tiny rocks, or crystalline wire compounds, or cryogenically treated AC outlets--such things as have no measurement even remotely relevant to audio measurements.

The same would largely be true of special cables, at least the ones that don't actually distort the sound in some way.  Measurements are essentially invisible to the kind of standard tests John Atkinson performs.   Sometimes cable differences are there if you perform the right measurements, say at gigahertz frequencies and so on that wouldn't be measured by John Atkinson.  That would be true of the principled cable solutions from Cardas…based on litz wire same as used in very high frequency instrumentation.  There ARE measurable differences, but not on standard tests, on frequencies way outside normal ranges.  So cable differences of THIS type are in sort of a middle ground.  Most cable differences are pure hype based on construction or imagination rather than measurable differences.*  Dialectric absorption of different dielectrics can be measured, but then with a low frequency exception to their being measured in conventional tests.  But most cable differences are hype, or at least people could get nearly all the benefit from a professional grade cable with polyethylene rather than vinyl dielectric.

(*Same is true of many other audio tweaks, the crystals, quantum field generators, cryogenic treatment, and so on.  Though separated wires is possibly measurably better if not actually audibly better.)

So Just Thought I'd Point This Out, to the serious people decrying high resolution recorded audio.  It is measurably better.  All evidence suggests that if it is ever proven to be audibly different, it would be audibly different and better.  At the same time, it has no support form serious evidence (at least that hasn't subsequently proven unreplicable) that it is audibly better.

That's now and in general.  If suddenly my hearing gets much better, I could hear it easily.

But most important may be the argument I've made elsewhere, which is that even if differences can't be reliably discerned, there may be a wider space of possible experience which would become evident over a large number of listenings.  The wider space of possible experiences is made possible by there being more information.  Supposedly inaudible frequencies nevertheless apply variance in this way to the experience space.

So it's not in the same category as many audiophool things.  It's provably better, just hasn't been proven for being audibly better.  (Many people insist it is.)

I think it's a good idea at 24/96.  But I might draw the line at some point.  Maybe.

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