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post #1 of 61 Old 09-06-2013, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
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There is a paradox in the world of music. Audiophiles and casual listeners alike rate sound quality as the top concern when listening to music, yet the convenience of digital files enabled the lossy-but-compact MP3 format to succeed over higher quality, uncompressed disc-based formats like CD and SACD. However, thanks to ever-increasing storage capacity and processing power, the tide is turning back toward quality—especially since high-capacity storage is no longer scarce or expensive.

Thanks to an effort spearheaded by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), high-resolution audio is finally getting the attention it deserves. Higher bitrates and bit depths absolutely translate to superior clarity and dynamics during recording and playback, and thanks to the increased quality of hi-res music, listeners can experience studio-quality sound at home. The main barriers to wider adoption of higher quality music reproduction is convenience and awareness.


An alphabet soup of file formats is part of hi-res music's charm, but it can confuse the uninitiated
Photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger

The home stereo is still the favorite stomping ground of dedicated audiophiles, and for many enthusiasts the ideal device is a full-sized, component-quality digital music player. Even though CDs are uncompressed, the venerable format only barely exceeds the technical parameters needed for true high-fidelity audio reproduction.


I had a chance to listen to a demo of hi-res music played through a very nice system
Photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger

Numerous lossless formats exist that can hold far more information than CD, and these formats form the foundation of high resolution audio. While there is no standard for what defines hi-res audio, as a rule the file needs to feature lossless compression (or no compression) and a bit depth plus sampling rate that is higher than the CD format's 16-bit/44KHz. 24-bit/96Khz is popular because it matches what's found on Blu-ray uncompressed movie soundtracks, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA.

I was in New York recently at a Sony Electronics press event, were company president Phil Molyneux introduced a new line of digital music players, compact speakers, and headphones that help make storing, browsing, playing, and listening to high-resolution digital music a pleasure. One of the new units is from Sony's high-end ES line and comes across as the spiritual successor of Sony's highly regarded ES CD transports from the 1990s.


Phil Molyneux takes the stage to present Sony's new hi-res audio offerings
Photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger

To highlight the significance of hi-res music, Sony had Herbie Hancock take the stage to describe his own experience—in his own studio—comparing hi-res music to MP3, and more poignantly to a CD he produced in the same studio. It is only three minutes and well worth checking out:



The flagship HAP-Z1ES ($1999) comes in silver and is a handsome piece of gear that features precision heavy-duty construction. Sony touts high-end internal components and a 1-terabyte drive. The front face of the unit features a color touchscreen and remote, and the player supports remote control with Android or iOS devices.


The HAP-S1 player
Photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger

For more budget-minded audiophiles or for those looking for a fully integrated solution, the HAP-S1 ($999) comes in black or silver and provides similar playback functionality to the HAP-Z1ES. The unit sheds some of the ES player's tweaks that are more esoteric—like the ultra-rigid chassis—and cuts storage in half to 500GB. On the flip side, the HAP-S1 adds modest internal amplification (40Wx2, class AB). It is a more compact unit than the ES flagship, but it also features a touchscreen on the front panel and the same fundamental playback capabilities.


The HAP-S1 player and SS-HA1 speakers
Photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger

Sony also introduced a product for use with computers, the UDA-1. It provides asynchronous USB connection and full compatibility with most PC-based music players. The unit has coaxial, optical, and analog inputs, but no front-panel touchscreen and only 20 watts/channel of stereo amplification, but it still offers the same core high-resolution music playback capabilities as the other units—at the lowest price ($799)—and comes in black or silver.

All three units offer integrated headphone jacks and optical, coaxial, and analog inputs. The UDA-1 forgoes internal storage, but it also acts as an asynchronous USB DAC—currently considered one of the best ways to play back music files from a computer source. The HAP-Z1ES and HAP-S1 utilize the company's proprietary HAP music-transfer software to sync up with Mac or Windows computer-based music collections. Note that none of the units have HDMI connectors.

Sony concurrently introduced several new speaker and headphone models to accompany its new HRA players. The SS-HA1 ($599/pair) and SS-HA3 ($349/pair) speakers both come in black and feature aluminum bodies with beveled baffles that help reduce diffraction. The designers optimized both speaker models to work optimally with the two new integrated player/amps.

Then there were the new cans: The MDR-10R and MDR-10RBT over-the-ear headphones, plus the XBA-H3 earbuds. These three new models join the already-released MDR-R1 over-the-ear model to form a lineup that Sony touts as a great solution for personal playback of high-resolution formats.

If this effort to promote high-resolution audio was all about Sony going it alone, I would perhaps be a bit skeptical that the plan could really work. However, hi-res audio is a very open initiative. The formats are already out there, and to some extent the music is as well. There are many companies—Molyneux stated there are over 50—that offer some sort of high-resolution audio product.


Support for hi-res audio comes from numerous companies

The new players come with pre-installed hi-res tracks from two competing music studios—Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group—in addition to Sony Music Entertainment. That's a good sign that the major companies are onboard with this plan to promote better-sounding music formats.

Sony's new players will tap directly into an existing and expanding online ecosystem for hi-res content delivery. The result—easy access to music that delivers the experience an artist truly intended—could be a real game-changer. Just like Herbie Hancock said.

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post #2 of 61 Old 09-06-2013, 08:27 PM
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Thanks for the review Mark....
Hope they sell a ton of these, I refuse to buy any of these Sony player until Sony get's that these aren't practical to those that have invested piles of cash on shinny disc such as SACD, and DVD-A.

When it becomes easy to rip a SACD to our PC/Mac then I'll be really smiling..


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post #3 of 61 Old 09-06-2013, 10:16 PM
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Are hi-rez downloads DRM free? My problem with hi-rez is there is not much of a variety of music. Most of my SACDs are from Telarc, where I find the difference to between that and the CD to be negligible. I don't want to pretend to be into artists just because they are available in a hi-rez format. Is it about the music at that point, or the format / equipment? I have read that the main reason SACD may sound better is a higher quality master was required to produce the SACD, but this may not be the same master used for the original CD release.
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post #4 of 61 Old 09-06-2013, 11:09 PM
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Seems like Sony just don't wanna admit defeat from it's worst enemy: itself. The way they abandoned SACD is all that one needs to know, and why this is just one more attempt to resell the same catalog. No thanks!

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post #5 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 01:52 AM
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"Hi Rez" music can be purchased on line as a download with no DRM. - They are stereo releases - 92/24 and 192/24 are typical.

Try HDtracks though their selection is a bit limited. There is another site from France but I have not tried out their offerings yet. HDtracks has some pretty interesting choices ranging from classical to pop (Michael Jackson's Thriller) to some film scores.
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post #6 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 03:17 AM
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Yes having high res is nice but since we can't hear above 20Khz or so (for most it's like 15 or 16Khz) what is the point? There's a reason much of the gear we buy has a frequency range between 20Hz and 20Khz, because everything below 20Hz and everything above 20Khz is inaudible (except by your dog) I know I'm opening up a can of worms here and my SACD and DVD-A's sound great but I've come to the realization that the difference we sometimes hear is due to many of them being multi channel and the mastering. I also hear zero difference between HD tracks high res and a well done red book CD, being played through some pretty good gear. Flame suit on biggrin.gif
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post #7 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 04:27 AM
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So... what's your point? In my opinion, digitally recorded music needs some kind of improvement. I get listeners fatigue from it. Frequency response isn't the only factor. Maybe it really needs more bits per sample. Analogue is way ahead in that respect. There is no limit to the fine gradations of sound dynamic range in analogue. It is actually listenable to my ears.
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post #8 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 05:44 AM
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Originally Posted by comfynumb View Post

Yes having high res is nice but since we can't hear above 20Khz or so (for most it's like 15 or 16Khz) what is the point? There's a reason much of the gear we buy has a frequency range between 20Hz and 20Khz, because everything below 20Hz and everything above 20Khz is inaudible (except by your dog) I know I'm opening up a can of worms here and my SACD and DVD-A's sound great but I've come to the realization that the difference we sometimes hear is due to many of them being multi channel and the mastering. I also hear zero difference between HD tracks high res and a well done red book CD, being played through some pretty good gear. Flame suit on biggrin.gif



My point is obvious, we are wasting money purchasing high res because you can't hear it. It's got nothing to do with dynamics. People can argue all day but the truth is there is nothing audible to the human ear over 22Khz. If people say they can hear the difference then go for it smile.gif
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post #9 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 06:57 AM
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There is no market for this. It fills no need or niche. I can buy a 5-years-old Pioneer SACD/DVD-A player for $80 and an 8-years-old Panasonic Class D AVR for $120 and have a better complete digital music system for $200 than this $2000 headphone amp. In all seriousness, Sony have lost their mind.
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post #10 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 07:05 AM - Thread Starter
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My point is obvious, we are wasting money purchasing high res because you can't hear it. It's got nothing to do with dynamics. People can argue all day but the truth is there is nothing audible to the human ear over 22Khz.

Higher sample rates are likely the least impacting aspect of higher-resolution formats. 20Khz is roughly the hearing limit for humans, and as test subjects grow older, that number drops. But there's no downside to using 48 or 96 KHz, if only to make things easier. 24-bit resolution matters more, since it increases dynamic range.

Now, when it comes to bass I hate to say it but you are wrong. You have to consider how silly it is to even choose round numbers i.e. 20-20KHz that doesn't describe anyone's actual hearing range. It's like saying that a person's IQ is 100—in reality it will be a rare person who actually has that exact IQ, or a hearing range of 20-20K. Musically, the lowest note in classical music is sub-contra C—which is 16Hz, and pipe organs that can hit the note have been built for centuries. There must be something to that.

The real issue is what it even means to "hear." The ears sense the pressure changes of a 12Hz tone. The body feels it. It becomes a part of the effect, when used in a movie. I'd say it's something you can hear, simply because you can sense it—unlike a 30KHz tone.

So, at the low end there is no cutoff at 20Hz, per se. It just costs a lot to reproduce sounds that low in the register. At the high end, 24KHz is enough of a margin to cover human hearing range, while the 22KHz of the CD standard cuts it a bit closer. The sooner the industry moves to a sampling rate standard of 48/96/192, the better. Personally I think lossless 24/96 is perfect for everything. When it comes to frequency response, what I want to see in a device is flat playback from about 3Hz to 30KHz. That's the range that's meaningful to me.
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post #11 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post

Higher sample rates are likely the least impacting aspect of higher-resolution formats. 20Khz is roughly the hearing limit for humans, and as test subjects grow older, that number drops. But there's no downside to using 48 or 96 KHz, if only to make things easier. 24-bit resolution matters more, since it increases dynamic range.

Now, when it comes to bass I hate to say it but you are wrong. You have to consider how silly it is to even choose round numbers i.e. 20-20KHz. That's like saying Pi is 3. Musically, the lowest note in classical music is sub-contra C—which is 16Hz, and pipe organs that can hit the note have been built for centuries.

The real issue is what it even means to "hear." The ears sense the pressure changes of a 12Hz tone. The body feels it. It becomes a part of the effect, when used in a movie. I'd say it's something you can hear, simply because you can sense it—unlike a 30KHz tone.

So, at the low end there is no cutoff at 20Hz, per se. If just costs a lot to reproduce sounds that low. At the high end, 24KHz is enough of a margin to cover human hearing range, while the 22KHz of the CD standard cuts it a bit closer. The sooner the industry moves to a universal standard to 48/96/192, the better. Personally I think 24/96 is perfect for everything.



I actually contacted Marantz and Audyssey with my concerns about my pre not passing high res with Audyssey engaged. Simply put they said they chose to put the DSP power of the pre into other areas that you can actually hear, and if they passed high res everything above our hearing would be "silent" coming from our speakers. This said I would have never known my pre didn't pass high res with Audyssey engaged if not pointed out to myself and others. That tells me high res is sort of like silver cables and I'll bet no one could pick it out during a blind test. I've had this discussion a few times lately, and in the end everyone hears and believes differently so I'll leave it at that smile.gif
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post #12 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by comfynumb View Post

I actually contacted Marantz and Audyssey with my concerns about my pre not passing high res with Audyssey engaged. Simply put they said they chose to put the DSP power of the pre into other areas that you can actually hear, and if they passed high res everything above our hearing would be "silent" coming from our speakers. This said I would have never known my pre didn't pass high res with Audyssey engaged if not pointed out to myself and others. That tells me high res is kinda of like silver cables and I'll bet no one could pick it out during a blind test.

Wow, whereas it tells me that Audyssey is still playing games and trying to justify its product's shortcomings—namely that it has to run on a cheap little chip that limits the resolution of the processing. I guarantee the moment processing power will allow them to pass hi-res music the company will change its tune and add that feature to the "It's what we wanted to do all along" marketing spiel.

I mean think about it. That means Audyssey can't properly play back the 24/96 tracks found of Blu-ray, and the company says "who cares, our product makes everything sound better." That's worse than silver cables, which at least do no damage to the original signal.

The main use for Audyssey is definitely for home theater, where speaker placement is determined by the screen, above all else. I can understand trying to compensate for that. But a properly configured music based system is another story.

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post #13 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post

Wow, whereas it tells me that Audyssey is still playing games and trying to justify its product's shortcomings—namely that it has to run on a cheap little chip that limits the resolution of the processing. I guarantee the moment processing power will allow them to pass hi-res music the company will change its tune and add that feature to the "It's what we wanted to do all along" marketing spiel.

I mean think about it. That means Audyssey can't properly play back the 24/96 tracks found of Blu-ray, and the company says "who cares, our product makes everything sound better." That's worse than silver cables, which at least do no damage to the original signal.

The main use for Audyssey is definitely for home theater, where speaker placement is determined by the screen, above all else. I can understand trying to compensate for that. But a properly configured music based system is another story.



Nope, Audyssey is capable of passing high res up to 192 I believe, it's Marantz that chose not to put it's DSP power into high res with Audyssey engaged. Disengage Audyssey and my 8801 will pass high res, but right from Marantz's mouth they told me they chose to put their DSP power into "audible" areas. You can't argue with the way the 8801 sounds. I agree Audyssey is better with movies than music but I do like Audyssey flat for most of my music, but not all. I will put money on Marantz and others allowing Audyssey to pass high res by implementing even more powerful DSP's in the future, just because it looks good marketing it. The higher end Anthems are doing it now with ARC engaged.
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post #14 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 09:05 AM
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It is clear to me after listening to many great recording on high quality gear and comparing various formats that the high resolution formats do offer benefits over the Redbook CD format when the source is well done. I believe the primary benefits are from greater resolution of the quieter sounds from more bits and the reduction of aliasing artifacts caused by poor filter techniques with 44kHz Redbook CD. I can say some high resolution recordings are not very good, but I suspect it is mostly the source or how the signal was processed. This says nothing about some of the fine multi-channel mixes that are also available on high resolution recordings as well.
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I do admit many red book CD's do not sound that good, but I have remastered ones from 40 year old sources that rival my SACD's. I also have a couple SACD and DVD-A discs that don't sound so good.That indicates to me that it's less about res and more about the recording and mastering process. Again I'm not saying high res sounds bad, it's all how one hears it.
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Quote:
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I do admit many red book CD's do not sound that good, but I have remastered ones from 40 year old sources that rival my SACD's. I also have a couple SACD and DVD-A discs that don't sound so good.That indicates to me that it's less about res and more about the recording and mastering process. Again I'm not saying high res sounds bad, it's all how one hears it.


I agree 100%, The two Steve come to mind Mr. Hoffman, and Mr. Wilson that do amazing work.

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post #17 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 09:37 AM
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Good recording and mastering is like a lost art form in this day and age of ear bud consumer mentality, where yeah it's recorded loud but turn it up past halfway on our revealing setups and it all but falls apart. How else can we explain 40+ year old sources that sound amazingly good, even when compared to today's high res.
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Originally Posted by comfynumb View Post

Good recording and mastering is like a lost art form in this day and age of ear bud consumer mentality, where yeah it's recorded loud but turn it up past halfway on our revealing setups and it all but falls apart. How else can we explain 40+ year old sources that sound amazingly good, even when compared to today's high res.
I don't find that the case with most of the music I listen to, but then again I don't listen to many popular acts that are trying to be radio friendly.

Check out The Orb, especially if you like and respect Pink Floyd. But I agree that mastering for MP3 and broadcast is common practice, to the detriment of quality. Thats why NIN put out two mixes of their latest album.

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post #19 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 10:01 AM
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I don't find that the case with music I listen to, but then again I don't listen to many popular acts that are trying to be radio friendly.

Check out The Orb, especially if you like and respect Pink Floyd. But I agree that mastering for MP3 and broadcast is common practice. Thats why NIN put out two mixes of their latest album.



They are an interesting band and have the same perfectionist approach like PF did. I will have to give them a better listen smile.gif
My hats off to NIN for doing two mixes, they are another band that gets their sound just right.
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I'll give Sony some credit for these devices with respect to the addition of touchscreen and internal drives.

The two items above seem to be really missing from modern AVR units that are expected to do so much more.

For my tastes, I would be very happy if AVR units came with LCD fronts either touch or otherwise and internal drives. There are HTPC type devices that have touch screens on the front that replace buttons and some of the knobs. It works very well. I rarely use the front of my AVR, but it would be nice if the "read out" of what is going on was adjustable for more than dimming such as size of font or perhaps ability to adjust and arrange graphic presentations/layout.

Maybe other makers will catch on to this idea. For some folks, this might not be to their liking but I do think it can work quite well for many.
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They are an interesting band and have the same perfectionist approach like PF did. I will have to give them a better listen smile.gif
My hats off to NIN for doing two mixes, they are another band that gets their sound just right.

Maybe we should compare notes on what makes for a good listen. wink.gif
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post #22 of 61 Old 09-07-2013, 08:22 PM
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I don't find that the case with most of the music I listen to, but then again I don't listen to many popular acts that are trying to be radio friendly.

Check out The Orb, especially if you like and respect Pink Floyd. But I agree that mastering for MP3 and broadcast is common practice, to the detriment of quality. Thats why NIN put out two mixes of their latest album.

NIN has been releasing Hi Res versions of their albums for years on their website and others, but not a lot of other bands do. For Instance, I'd like to have Hi Res versions of TOOL, or in my Beatles box set from 2009. Heck, most important would be my Zeppelin collection!

The Rolling Stones have embraced Hi Res, and yes Pink Floyd (sounds absolutely divine), but I want to go Hi Res using my AirPlay receiver, but not sure if I need a dedicated player. I'm basically solid in the Apple ecosystem so Apple Lossless at 24/96 is enough for me.
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post #23 of 61 Old 09-08-2013, 05:10 AM
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It is clear to me after listening to many great recording on high quality gear and comparing various formats that the high resolution formats do offer benefits over the Redbook CD format when the source is well done.

+1

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post #24 of 61 Old 09-08-2013, 05:19 AM
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Nope, Audyssey is capable of passing high res up to 192 I believe, it's Marantz that chose not to put it's DSP power into high res with Audyssey engaged.

while literally true, IMHO imagic's point is still right on target.

even though it is up to the mfg's, Audyssey is being disingenuous since there is NO company that has seen fit to do it the strictly correct way. until a company DOES build a product that does what Audyssey says is possible to do, they are making an excuse for the fact that no such product exists.

in my mind, if's similar to an auto mfg that says it can build a performance engine capable of 50 mpg but it's not their fault that none exist to buy. not quite the same but similar wink.gif

I'll give you 2 companies who are being "honest": Anthem & Trinnov. why?

1. while their receivers downsample, Anthem does build processors that don't with their ARC fully engaged.
2. while the Trinnov implementation in the Sherwood 972 does downsample, there are processors from ADA and Trinnov themselves that don't with Trinnov engaged.

in both cases, they will cost ya, but they are there to buy if you have the coin wink.gif

with Audyssey, it doesn't matter how far I open my wallet, there's no product to buy that will not downsample, anywhere in the world, from any company...I rest my case smile.gif

Steve
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post #25 of 61 Old 09-08-2013, 07:48 AM
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I don't find that the case with most of the music I listen to, but then again I don't listen to many popular acts that are trying to be radio friendly.

Check out The Orb, especia:eek:lly if you like and respect Pink Floyd. But I agree that mastering for MP3 and broadcast is common practice, to the detriment of quality. Thats why NIN put out two mixes of their latest album.

Interesting to bring that album up.

Please read this article of Mark Waldrep of Real HD-Audio and then reconsider your attitude towards NIN.

http://www.realhd-audio.com/?p=1535

Reference Recordings are still the top of the line in terms of sound quality for Red Book recordings. Listen to their stuff that came out in the early>/mid 80's and you won't believe your ears. I have around 500 so called HiDef albums in various formats and though some are obviously just upconverted from 44.1/16, others bring tears to your eyes with their clarity and truthfulness in sound. My motto is "Once you go HiRez, you never go back to 44.1/16 or even MP3.

Cheers
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post #26 of 61 Old 09-08-2013, 03:18 PM
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read Sony's web info on the 3 products. the $1K & $2K "players" could be an interesting for a hi-end setup. I'd like to find one locally to demo once they get into dealers.

Steve
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post #27 of 61 Old 09-08-2013, 03:42 PM
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while literally true, IMHO imagic's point is still right on target.

even though it is up to the mfg's, Audyssey is being disingenuous since there is NO company that has seen fit to do it the strictly correct way. until a company DOES build a product that does what Audyssey says is possible to do, they are making an excuse for the fact that no such product exists.

in my mind, if's similar to an auto mfg that says it can build a performance engine capable of 50 mpg but it's not their fault that none exist to buy. not quite the same but similar wink.gif

I'll give you 2 companies who are being "honest": Anthem & Trinnov. why?

1. while their receivers downsample, Anthem does build processors that don't with their ARC fully engaged.
2. while the Trinnov implementation in the Sherwood 972 does downsample, there are processors from ADA and Trinnov themselves that don't with Trinnov engaged.

in both cases, they will cost ya, but they are there to buy if you have the coin wink.gif

with Audyssey, it doesn't matter how far I open my wallet, there's no product to buy that will not downsample, anywhere in the world, from any company...I rest my case smile.gif


The comeback to this is simple, it's price: Anthem D2v, $7,500
Anthem D2v w/3D upgrade $9,500
Marantz AV8801, $3,600
Your not going to get everything for less than half the price. This said I will stand by my previous statement, which can also be translated to, Marantz isn't wasting money on inaudible areas and Anthem and Sherwood are. I contacted Marantz and Audyssey over this about a month ago and posted their replies on the Marantz 8801 thread. Basically Audyssey said it can work with any sample rate, and that Marantz chose to put their DSP horsepower into "audible" areas. Marantz confirmed this. I do expect in the future as DSP power increases and the price to implement them comes down they will pass high res with Audyssey engaged as it would look good to market it this way. Surely someone has tested to see if Audyssey is telling it like it is and can pass high res, and if it didn't it would be all over the Internet wink.gif
Here's one more subjective tid bit and please Anthem owners don't flame me on this. D2v owners that have switched to the 8801 have reported that the Marantz has a better overall sound in their opinion. At least 3 or 4 on the 8801 thread have posted their "opinions" over the last 8 months or so. How could this be if the D2v is passing twice the resolution with ARC engaged? biggrin.gif
I'm sure the Anyhem's and Sherwood's sound great, and this wasn't posted to say one is better than the other.
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...Marantz isn't wasting money on inaudible areas...
That's why Audyssey sucks today. No matter how you try to play it, engage the Audyssey and you will have a mushy high spectrum. You can hear it even on CD's with lots of cymbals (rock especially).
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post #29 of 61 Old 09-08-2013, 04:39 PM
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That's why Audyssey sucks today. No matter how you try to play it, engage the Audyssey and you will have a mushy high spectrum. You can hear it even on CD's with lots of cymbals (rock especially).



Rock is the only thing I listen to, from classic to alternative to some harder. IMO my setup is pretty impressive with Audyssey engaged, (flat for music and reference for movies) cymbals sound like they are in my room. This after one quick Audyssey run, after I add a new sub or two I'm going to take more time with it, I've learned a lot following the Audyssey thread. I understand some don't like it or maybe they didn't run it correctly but a blanket statement of it sucks is not true.
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post #30 of 61 Old 09-08-2013, 06:24 PM
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OK, here you go: music sounds BETTER without it.
It's all the same, I learned to use headphones...
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