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xiphmont

Why 24-bit/192kHz music downloads make no sense

(by Monty and the Xiph.Org community)

Articles last month revealed that musician Neil Young and Apple's Steve Jobs discussed offering digital music downloads of 'uncompromised studio quality'. Much of the press and user commentary was particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of uncompressed 24 bit 192kHz downloads. 24/192 featured prominently in my own conversations with Mr. Young's group several months ago.

Unfortunately, there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space.

If you just said 'Whaa?', you may want to read the whole article.

It's fairly long... but hearing, perception and fidelity are complicated topics. Shysters and charlatans exploit that nuance (and misunderstanding) to bilk unsuspecting consumers of their money, all the while convincing them they're paying for 'quality'.

Anyway, happy reading and comments welcome!


Re: If digital is better . . .

dr_memory

2012-03-07 04:48 am (UTC)

"My subjective experience totally trumps your double-blind tests! If you deliberately avoid blind testing, you'll have the same experience I do!"

Ooookay then.

And there's nothing about A/B or A/B/X testing that requires short-duration tests. You just need a test subject who's willing to put in the time, which it seems like you are. Obviously testing digital vs vinyl is a nonstarter -- as you say, the noise is gonna give it away every time -- but redbook vs 24/196 is just a matter of putting in the hours. If you think you've got the ears to do it, you could make some grad student's day, month, year and career.
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Re: If digital is better . . .

(Anonymous)

2012-03-07 06:53 am (UTC)

"If you think you've got the ears to do it, you could make some grad student's day, month, year and career."

My ears aren't what they used to be, but it would be a lot of fun to confirm my anti-CD bias. or not. And I've got a couple of friends that would be happy to participate as well. Hell, I'll even pop for a couple bottles of wine... My comment about A/B really applies to short A/B tests which is pretty much all I've seen people do. Blind testing is fine, but it takes some time for a valid judgement and for the general sense of Yuk to set in that accompanies 44/16. (BTW, I agree that 192 is a waste of space, there is some threshold that's Good Enough. Not sure what that is.)

Seriously, I'd be willing to run this test myself if I could get the source to do it. I'm perfectly willing to be proven wrong if that's the case.

What's interesting about this debate is that there are a good number of people that have the same complaint. Seems strange that we'd come to the same conclusion without any basis.

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Re: If digital is better . . .

xiphmont

2012-03-08 06:01 pm (UTC)

You're not the first person to assert that there should be extended tests. I'm pretty sure I know what the results would be from a BAS style 'insert an A/D/A into the loop' test would be, but there's no harm in doing it...
...just the time....

In any case, some folks are talking about setting up a week-long listening demonstration and test at SXSW next year. No idea how serious they are, but I'm seriously considering it.
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Re: If digital is better . . .

(Anonymous)

2012-04-28 03:58 am (UTC)

If people claim to notice a difference during normal listening, but fail to notice the difference during an A/B test - there are two possible conclusions. That the A/B test is correct, and that the people imagined they heard a difference that did not really exist, or that the A/B test is not valid. Unfortunately because the A/B test is conducted according to scientific principles, and hence carries the cache of being "science", it is assumed to be correct. If you like the idea of the A/B test, then I guess its easy to say that the test is right and the golden-eared people wrong, or like me you can examine the tests in an open and objective fashion and realise that they are not in fact perfect and are limited significantly by the heisenberg principle - that is that the process of testing itself can alter the thing being tested. They go in the right direction but dont go far enough to be truly reliable.
Gotta love these Captcha's - i keep thinking i should get a prize every time i get them right.
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Re: If digital is better . . .

xiphmont

2012-08-05 11:52 am (UTC)

The Heisenberg principle explains the duality of waves and particles. It's a subatomic phenomena, and it's very real (not simply a thought experiment).

The principle has been lifted by metaphysicists as an analogy to describe uncertainty in the macroscopic world. It's a powerful idea, but it's not the same thing when you're talking about people (and not quarks).

Just because it's conceivable on an atomic scale that all the Brownian motion in a pot of water will cancel out and the water will spontaneously freeze, it doesn't mean it's actually possible. Macroscopic systems are governed by by the same rules, but they manifest in completely different ways.

Heisenberg does not explain why silver-plated pants cannot keep my ass from looking fat, no matter how expensive they might have been.

(The pants, not my ass.)
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Re: If digital is better . . .

xiphmont

2012-08-05 11:56 am (UTC)

(I should say though--- your point that testing cannot be perfect is true! However, testing can be, and usually is, very good. Don't forget, we're not asking the crazy gear junkies to win most, or even some of the tests. We're waiting for them to win _any_ of the tests. If you crash your car into a tree every time you take a driving test, you don't get to blame it on the instructor stressing you out... or rather, I suppose you can, but you still don't get your license)
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