The first results of our high-resolution audio experiment are in, and they are very interesting.
A little over two weeks ago, I made available three pairs of level-matched 24/96 WAV files provided by Mark Waldrep (aka Dr. AIX) of AIX Records as part of an experiment. We want to see if true high-res audio (HRA), with ultrasonic frequencies and wide dynamic range, can be reliably distinguished from the same recording limited to Redbook CD specs. I invited AVS members to download the files, listen to both versions of each track, and PM me with their determinations of which version is true high-res in each case, along with the make and model of the components in the audio system and how they are connected. The files are available here
So far, I've received responses from 13 members with non-HRA systems and six members with HRA-capable systems, and the results are quite interesting. Of the 13 responses from members with non-HRA systems, three were unable to distinguish any difference between the files at all. One identified none of the HRA versions correctly, five got one right, two identified two versions correctly, and two got all three right, as shown in the graph above. The average score among the 10 who submitted determinations is 50% correct.
Among those who have HRA-capable systems, all six identified the high-res versions perfectly—there wasn't a single incorrect determination. Obviously, both results support my contention that high-res audio requires a high-res audio system to reliably discern the difference that HRA can make to the sound of a recording.
Other interesting results include the fact that two out of the six with HRA-capable systems used headphones rather than speakers, and I verified that their frequency response extend beyond 20 kHz (at least according to the manufacturer's specs). One of the headphone users also played the files on a system with HRA-capable speakers and came to the same determinations about which version was which. And one of the speaker users also tried a pair of HRA-capable headphones and came to the same conclusions, but when he tried a pair of non-HRA headphones, he reported not being able to hear a difference.
The track most commonly cited as being the easiest to hear the difference was "Mosaic"—which got the highest number of correct identifications among the non-HRA group—though one respondent said that Mosaic was the only one he couldn't hear a difference in. Two respondents said that "On The Street Where You Live" was easy to differentiate, but another one said it was the hardest.
Of course, these results are anecdotal and not statistically significant, and the entire experiment is not scientifically controlled—I can only hope that participants don't cheat and look at the spectra of the two versions before listening and deciding which is which. Plus, the only way I have to verify that an audio system is truly HRA-capable is to go by the manufacturer specs.
Nevertheless, I think this is an interesting and fun experiment that I'd like to continue for another two weeks or so, giving more AVS members the opportunity to download the files and see if they can hear the difference and identify which version is true high res. If you'd like to add your determinations to the results, please PM me with your selections and a description of your audio system, including the make and model of each piece of gear and how they are connected together, plus any comments you care to make about your experience. I am collecting all these data in a spreadsheet to see what we can learn from them.
Meanwhile, I'll be sending PMs to those who have already sent me their determinations with the results of how well they did. All I ask is that they not reveal which version is which in any thread on AVS or elsewhere so those who haven't yet participated can do so fairly.
Let the listening continue!
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