AVS/AIX High-Resolution Audio Test: Next Step - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 07:42 PM - Thread Starter
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A couple of weeks ago, I started a thread asking for comments about a methodology to create audio files that AVS members could use to investigate whether or not high-resolution audio can be audibly discerned from CD audio. The response has been great; thanks to all who contributed to that discussion!

 

After carefully considering those comments and continuing to think about the best way to proceed, AIX Records founder Mark Waldrep (aka Dr. AIX) and I have made a few decisions. First of all, it's pretty clear that most consumer audio systems are not capable of reproducing the ultrasonic frequencies and expanded dynamic range that 24/96 audio can capture. If you try to compare a high-resolution 24/96 track that contains additional fidelity to a 16/44.1 downsampled version of the same track on most consumer systems, which top out at 20 kHz, both tracks will deliver the same acoustic information.

 

Still, I'm willing to bet that some AVS members have systems that are capable of reproducing ultrasonic frequencies and wider dynamic range than a Redbook CD, so we've decided to limit our data collection to those with such systems. Of course, anyone can download the files we create and give them a listen, but unless your system meets or exceeds the required specs, we can't include your observations about which files are high-res and which are CD audio in our data.

 

What are the required specs? Let's start with system configuration. Basically, the fewer components in the signal chain, the better, so we think the best setup is a computer as the source device connected via USB to a high-quality DAC (digital-to-analog converter). The DAC would be connected directly to a power amp, which would, of course, drive the speakers.

 

The best system configuration for the AVS/AIX high-res audio test is a computer sending 24/96 data to a high-performance DAC that is connected directly to a power amp feeding the speakers. This uses the fewest possible components, minimizing the potential for mucking up the signal.

 

Obviously, the computer needs to be able to output native 24/96 via USB, and the DAC needs to be able to convert that to analog without downsampling (or oversampling, for that matter). The analog output of the DAC must be able to support ultrasonic frequencies up to near 48 kHz and a dynamic range greater than 93 dB (CD's effective maximum after dithering to deal with quantization noise), and the power amp must have similar frequency-response and dynamic-range specs from input to output. Finally, the speakers must be able to reproduce those ultrasonic frequencies and wide dynamic range with minimal distortion.

 

What about using headphones? A few headphones claim ultrasonic response—for example, the Oppo PM-1 is spec'd to 50 kHz in a free field, though the attenuation at that frequency is not specified. But I know of no independent measurements that verify these claims beyond 22 kHz. And even if a set of headphones can reproduce ultrasonic frequencies, it's possible that the acoustic coupling between the headphones and ears might affect these frequencies in some significant way—notice that the Oppo spec is in a free field.

 

It's also possible that human perception of ultrasonic frequencies is not auditory, but perhaps involves some other sensory mechanism; if so, headphones would not allow that mechanism to contribute to the overall perception. Other theories of ultrasonic perception suggest that the auditory system is involved, so ultrasonic-capable headphones might work, but we don't know for sure.

 

Several commenters suggested that we provide two files for each clip—one native 24/96 with verified ultrasonic content and wide dynamic range and the other a 16/44.1 downsampled version of the same clip that is then upsampled to 24/96—and have participants use an ABX program such as foobar2000 for Windows or ABXTester for the Mac. I was originally against this idea, thinking that I wanted listeners to be able to participate without having to use a computer, so I devised an alternate approach. But it looks like a computer is the best source device to use in this exercise, so using an ABX program to compare two files seems like a good way to go.

 

For me, the biggest problem is keeping the test honest—which, let's face it, is impossible if we're going to rely on participants to inform us about their systems and observations of which file is which without independent verification. Someone could easily mislead us about their system and/or take a peek at the spectrum of the test files to see which is which. As a result, this experiment cannot be considered a rigorous scientific test. Still, we think it's an interesting exercise, and I can only hope that those who end up participating will do so honestly.

 

To start the process, we will pre-quality the audio systems of those who wish to participate. If that includes you, please post a comment here with a list of your system components and specs (and room measurements if you have them); alternatively, you can PM me with this info with "AVS/AIX HRA Test" in the subject line. Once we have a number of qualified participants, we will make the test files available for download. As I said earlier, anyone is welcome to download those files and give a listen, but unless you have a system such as I've described here, there will likely be little or no acoustic difference to perceive.

 

What do you think of our approach? I'd love to read your comments about it here. If you want to discuss the general notion of whether or not high-res audio can be distinguished from CD, please do so in Amir's debate thread or my "Is High-Res Audio Irrelevant?" thread. Let's keep this thread focused on the experiment we're proposing.

 

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post #2 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 08:21 PM
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hmmm... this is interesting.

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post #3 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 09:31 PM
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Okay, so who here has speakers with usable response to 48 kHz? Everybody raise their hands!

I thought the advantages of high-res were supposed to accrue to anyone who is not deaf and whose system does not suck? No? Now one's system must be "qualified" to have usable output to one-half the sampling frequency?

The very existence of this "qualification" requirement seems to me to be an admission of the uselessness of high sample rates in the deliverable product. Higher bit depths may be a different situation, but I suspect not.
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post #4 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 09:44 PM
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Would an iPhone/iPad/iPod connected to the USB port on the front of an say a Yamaha RX-V373 work? There is also a lightning to hdmi connector for the 5S/iPad air that the THX Tune Up app uses

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post #5 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 09:44 PM
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My electronics can output 170watts at 44khz, and I have the test equipment to prove it.


A nice clean sinewave.

An Oppo 105 into a Lab Gruppen 10kQ clone amp.

Scott, I think you will find that few people have ALL the gear to do this test, and even fewer have the test equipment to prove that their system meets the specs (power quality analyzers and RTA mics etc)
[and then they have to somehow stumble upon this thread and post their results.]

We are talking less then 1% of the AVS members for sure...

Here is my current Harman Critical-Listener hearing score:
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post #6 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 09:55 PM
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Everybody's electronics can do that. That's not the issue. Scott's post is saying that one's speakers need to be able to do that. So show me some REW measurements of your speakers to 48 kHz (I am being facetious).
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post #7 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andyc56 View Post

Everybody's electronics can do that. That's not the issue. Scott's post is saying that one's speakers need to be able to do that. So show me some REW measurements of your speakers to 48 kHz.

People who own class D amplifiers powering their mains (like ICE) probably can't do it because of the aggressive ultrasonic low pass filter.
REW maxes out at 24khz.
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post #8 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 10:04 PM
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REW maxes out at one-half the sample rate used in the measurements. When I use REW to measure, and I choose a 96k sample rate for my sound device, I get data for measured frequency response to 48 kHz.

Edit: This is as it should be. The measurement software measures to the Nyquist frequency.
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post #9 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 10:16 PM
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Bossobass has a mic that is designed to go to 40khz @ -3db, but I don't know of anyone else who does(?)
I don't, mine is uncertified and is "rated" to only 20khz.
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I have the ACOPacific PS9200 Kit with the 7012 mic.
http://www.acopacific.com/PS9200kit.html

Not sure how high his tweeters go.
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post #10 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 10:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andyc56 View Post

REW maxes out at one-half the sample rate used in the measurements. When I use REW to measure, and I choose a 96k sample rate for my sound device, I get data for measured frequency response to 48 kHz.
Edit: This is as it should be. The measurement software measures to the Nyquist frequency.

My REW is broken then, with my Xonar, X-Fi and realTek which all go to 192khz, none of them have a 96 or 192 option activated in REW.

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post #11 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 10:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by andyc56 View Post

Okay, so who here has speakers with usable response to 48 kHz? Everybody raise their hands!

I thought the advantages of high-res were supposed to accrue to anyone who is not deaf and whose system does not suck? No? Now one's system must be "qualified" to have usable output to one-half the sampling frequency?

The very existence of this "qualification" requirement seems to me to be an admission of the uselessness of high sample rates in the deliverable product. Higher bit depths may be a different situation, but I suspect not.


Well, one's system must have usable output at one half the sampling frequency to participate in this test, since anything less won't reveal the truth about whether or not high-res audio offers a reliably discernible benefit, which is the point of this experiment. I freely acknowledge that any extra fidelity in high-res audio is useless for the vast majority of consumers, because their systems can't reproduce the extra fidelity when it's there.

 

A related question is, are high-res audio titles mastered better than CDs? If so, that could offer a tangible benefit even if the extra fidelity can't be reproduced. But I imagine it's not consistent; probably, some are and others aren't. In any event, that is not the question I'm asking in this experiment. It is an interesting question, and I wonder if there's any way to test it? I'll have to think about that. If such a test could be devised, it would not have to be limited to a small minority of AVS members with ultra-capable audio systems.

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post #12 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 10:41 PM
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I did not see the other thread on this but I wanted to make a suggestion.

Maybe you should have a questionnaire for those wanting to participate...the reason for this is to try and weed out and place people in groups based on maybe some bias that they may have in regard to high end audio vs. science of audio and such....

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post #13 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 11:13 PM
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Very few speakers reproduce anything significantly above 20kHz.

The (alleged) advantage of higher sampling frequency is that it pushes folding (aliasing) artifacts well out of the audible range (for humans, not dogs), not that it is capable of reproducing sound no human can hear.

As for 24 vs. 16 bit, the audible difference (again, assuming that there is any) likely manifests itself in the headroom for digital signal attenuation. If your DAC feeds directly into an amp, with no volume or gain control in the analogue domain, those participants who wish to avoid destroying their speakers will likely employ attenuation in the digital domain, where the difference in headroom could potentially matter.

As for a non-oversampling DAC, good luck finding one.
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post #14 of 232 Old 05-28-2014, 11:46 PM
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Here is HOLM with no eq and no mic / soundcard corrections applied.

Oppo 105 to Lab Gruppen 10kQ clone to B&W N803

27.5khz @ -3db
30khz @ -10db

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post #15 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 01:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wgscott View Post

Very few speakers reproduce anything significantly above 20kHz.

The (alleged) advantage of higher sampling frequency is that it pushes folding (aliasing) artifacts well out of the audible range (for humans, not dogs), not that it is capable of reproducing sound no human can hear.

As for 24 vs. 16 bit, the audible difference (again, assuming that there is any) likely manifests itself in the headroom for digital signal attenuation. If your DAC feeds directly into an amp, with no volume or gain control in the analogue domain, those participants who wish to avoid destroying their speakers will likely employ attenuation in the digital domain, where the difference in headroom could potentially matter.

As for a non-oversampling DAC, good luck finding one.


Sony just introduced its Core Series of speakers, which are spec'd to 50 kHz using a supertweeter. Even more amazing, the SS-CS3 floorstander lists for $240 each, while the SS-CS5 bookshelf is $110 each. See the news item about these speakers here. Now, for that kind of money, one must expect some compromises...perhaps relatively high levels of distortion? I don't know.

 

All digitized audio first passes through a lowpass filter to remove frequencies above half the sampling rate in order to prevent aliasing in the first place, so I disagree with your statement about that. One related advantage of higher sampling rates is that the lowpass filter can have a gentler slope, which is easier to implement without creating artifacts of its own.

 

Your point about bit depth providing headroom for digital attenuation is well taken. I'll have to think about that one; perhaps an analog preamp is important after all, though I hate to add another device in the signal chain that could potentially affect the results of the experiment. I know that some power amps provide attenuation controls, so that would be one solution.

 

I honestly don't know if the oversampling in DACs can typically be disabled, or if it's always on.


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post #16 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 06:49 AM
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Hello!

I use my PC with JRiver MC19 into either my LHLabs GeekOut (up to 24bit/384khz and double DSD) connected analog RCA into my Onkyo TX-SR705 OR go through HDMI into one of the HDMI inputs.

Onkyo Specs --> Specifically -3db @ 100khz in Direct/Pure mode.




From the Onkyo, I go into my Ascend Acoustics Sierra-2 speakers which have a -3db point at 38Khz





Would be good enough? I know 48khz is the goal to get the full spectrum of the 96khz FR, but its what I have for now. Also, my Sennheiser HD600s (in the mail) are spec'd at up to 39khz but no mention if it is at -3db or not...

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post #17 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by eliwankenobi View Post

Hello!

I use my PC with JRiver MC19 into either my LHLabs GeekOut (up to 24bit/384khz and double DSD) connected analog RCA into my Onkyo TX-SR705 OR go through HDMI into one of the HDMI inputs.

Onkyo Specs --> Specifically -3db @ 100khz in Direct/Pure mode.




From the Onkyo, I go into my Ascend Acoustics Sierra-2 speakers which have a -3db point at 38Khz





Would be good enough? I know 48khz is the goal to get the full spectrum of the 96khz FR, but its what I have for now. Also, my Sennheiser HD600s (in the mail) are spec'd at up to 39khz but no mention if it is at -3db or not...

Be sure to boresight those speakers on your ears. At 38 KHz things get really directional.
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post #18 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Be sure to boresight those speakers on your ears. At 38 KHz things get really directional.

Yes! You are right! I have them in an equilateral triangle setup..... Although, sometimes I put everything (speakers, seat) closer together for a more near field environment. That way I also remove as much of the room interaction to my ears as possible

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post #19 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 07:47 AM
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Don't throw PCIe sound cards like ESI and Lynx under the buss (pun intended). They cut out the entire USB conversion chain.
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post #20 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 08:05 AM
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Certainly willing to give this a go. Here's the list of stuff:

Speakers: Wilson Audio Alexia
Amp: Spectral DMA-260 stereo
Pre-amp: Spectral DMC-30SS series 2
DAC - Berkeley Alpha series 2
USB - Berkeley Alpha USB
Computer: MacBook Pro (2 years old) being fed by direct Ethernet connection from Western Digital My Book Live
Full array of Synergistic Research active cabling

This should prove interesting. Point me to the files and I'll do some serious listening.

Oh. Room is about 30x14x8. Only room treatment are a couple of tube traps in rear of room and Synergistic Research HFT (level 3) and FEQ.

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post #21 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 09:25 AM
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you should change this already scott...


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post #22 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 09:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BassThatHz View Post

People who own class D amplifiers powering their mains (like ICE) probably can't do it because of the aggressive ultrasonic low pass filter.
REW maxes out at 24khz.

Bel Canto Frequency Response: +/-3 dB 1.5Hz-70KHz, all loads

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post #23 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 09:42 AM
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For those with the other parts in play, I guess the source to->dac->amp is not an issue, but couldn't you burn the source to BD at the correct sample rate and use just about any bd player into even a receiver for that part of it? For those who don't know, you CAN burn a BD onto a 4.7dvd, but I'm not sure if it will play in all players.
I don't intend to participate anyway, since I know my hearing rolls off the highs, but I normally send audio from my computer over hdmi to my receiver which has the dac. That might also be an option for some people who otherwise couldn't participate, but want to.

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post #24 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 10:03 AM
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you should change this already scott...


The picture is incredibly misleading. For example the 16 bit picture shows 15 steps when reality is more lke 65,000 steps. In fact there aren't pixels on a printed page that could show the actual fine detail. Unfortunately analog bigots and digiphobes circulate this sort of trash wityh a straignt face.
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post #25 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 10:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

The picture is incredibly misleading. For example the 16 bit picture shows 15 steps when reality is more lke 65,000 steps. In fact there aren't pixels on a printed page that could show the actual fine detail. Unfortunately analog bigots and digiphobes circulate this sort of trash wityh a straignt face.

that is why I posted it... the size of a bit DOES NOT change. all you get by having higher bit depths is more amplitude.

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post #26 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by eliwankenobi View Post

Also, my Sennheiser HD600s (in the mail) are spec'd at up to 39khz but no mention if it is at -3db or not...

I also have Sennheiser HD600 headphones. Frequency response of 12hz-39khz is -10dB. -3dB points are 16hz to 30khz.
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post #27 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 11:12 AM - Thread Starter
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you should change this already scott...


You're right, I should, and I will as soon as I possibly can.


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post #28 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 11:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Okay, here's the corrected graphic, which I have now put in the "Is High-Res Audio Irrelevant?" post where the incorrect graphic was...

 


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post #29 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by MSchu18 View Post

you should change this already scott...


The picture is incredibly misleading. For example the 16 bit picture shows 15 steps when reality is more lke 65,000 steps. In fact there aren't pixels on a printed page that could show the actual fine detail. Unfortunately analog bigots and digiphobes circulate this sort of trash wityh a straignt face.


Of course, you are correct that there should be 65,536 steps in the 16-bit graph and 16,777,216 steps in the 24-bit graphs, but that is obviously impractical in a graphic. This merely illustrates the concept.


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post #30 of 232 Old 05-29-2014, 11:48 AM
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Okay, here's the corrected graphic, which I have now put in the "Is High-Res Audio Irrelevant?" post where the incorrect graphic was...


Both views are right Scott. In the original you reduced the bit size and kept the voltage output the same. Here, you are keeping the bit size the same and voltages different representing the dynamic range.

In the context of this discussion, the previous graph was more correct as clearly our 24 bit files and 16 won't have a level difference. If they did, they would invalidate the test!

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