AVS/AIX High-Resolution Audio Test: The Results So Far - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 09:44 AM - Thread Starter
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AVS/AIX High-Resolution Audio Test: The Results So Far



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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post #2 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 10:27 AM
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know that i know headphones are fine for this test i think i give it a shot with my beyerdynamic mmx 300.i still fear the wasapi bug from windows or my soundcard.
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post #3 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 10:35 AM
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Now the next quesion is: if there is a difference, is it actually better?
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post #4 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Matthias Hutter View Post
Now the next quesion is: if there is a difference, is it actually better?
Well, that's a subjective judgement, isn't it? Several of the respondents did say they preferred what they identified as the HRA versions, which is at least part of how they came to their determinations.
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post #5 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 01:41 PM
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While I appreciate the effort and spirit of the thread, surely with a site this size we could have a LOT more input if we had just a few members willing to let others listen in on their "qualified" rig rather than leaning on such a numbered few with systems offering the needed resolution?

Ditto in the scientific validity dept...setting up a couple valid ABX's really wouldn't be that big of a deal.

Thanks again...just an idea.


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post #6 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 01:52 PM
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Have some questions about your files. The downsampled versions are .2 db quieter. This is about where level differences are known to be audible. Further if you null them out you get better nulling if you put that .2 db back. I think this calls the results into question.

The next question is that there appears to be a sub-sample timing shift between the files. The downsampled files are a tiny tiny amount slower as well. Normally you would see such a thing if the downsampled files also went through another DA/AD loop. Did this happen? Each file also has a time offset of a few samples. If you took the original and digitally downsampled I don't see why this would occur. Again suggesting an extra trip through the analog realm for the downsampled files.

When I take your hires file and do a downsampling everything lines up to the nearest bit automatically and the files null out far better. There is no level difference and no timing drift. If you normalize such files that actually corrupts the results.

So my primary question involves the level difference and whether or not these downsampled files have been analog an additional time somewhere along the way.
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post #7 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 02:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by esldude View Post
Have some questions about your files. The downsampled versions are .2 db quieter. This is about where level differences are known to be audible. Further if you null them out you get better nulling if you put that .2 db back. I think this calls the results into question.

The next question is that there appears to be a sub-sample timing shift between the files. The downsampled files are a tiny tiny amount slower as well. Normally you would see such a thing if the downsampled files also went through another DA/AD loop. Did this happen? Each file also has a time offset of a few samples. If you took the original and digitally downsampled I don't see why this would occur. Again suggesting an extra trip through the analog realm for the downsampled files.

When I take your hires file and do a downsampling everything lines up to the nearest bit automatically and the files null out far better. There is no level difference and no timing drift. If you normalize such files that actually corrupts the results.

So my primary question involves the level difference and whether or not these downsampled files have been analog an additional time somewhere along the way.
The level difference you cite is exactly what some members identified in the first set of files I posted. I subsequently posed a second set of files with matched levels; those are the files everyone should be listening to, and they are available at the link in the original post above. They can be distinguished from the original set of files by file names that include "A2" and "B2" rather than "A" and "B." We matched levels by lowering the level of the native 24/96 files by 0.2 dB; we did not normalize the files.

The files did not go through a DA/AD loop. We considered doing that to bring the downsampled version back up to 24/96, but in the end, we decided to keep everything in the digital domain.

The purpose of this test is to have people listen to the files without analyzing them in software—just listen. We believe that any differences in level and speed between the two versions of each track are now well under the perceptible threshold. If you can hear a difference between the versions, which one is native high res, A2 or B2? That's all we're looking for here.

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post #8 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 02:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mastermaybe View Post
While I appreciate the effort and spirit of the thread, surely with a site this size we could have a LOT more input if we had just a few members willing to let others listen in on their "qualified" rig rather than leaning on such a numbered few with systems offering the needed resolution?

Ditto in the scientific validity dept...setting up a couple valid ABX's really wouldn't be that big of a deal.

Thanks again...just an idea.


James
I would LOVE to have many more members submit their determinations, but I can't force them to. I hope to get more responses over the next couple of weeks. I suspect that suitably high-res audio systems are relatively rare, but there has to be more than six AVS members who own such a system. Also, I think it's a great idea for those who don't to seek out those who do and see if they can try the test during a visit.

As far as I can see, setting up an consistent ABX test with different computers and software isn't as easy as you suggest. For example, foobar for Windows and ABXTester for the Mac work in different ways and generate somewhat different results, and I couldn't figure out how to combine them into a consistent framework. Also, identifying which one is "X" isn't the same thing as identifying which one is high-res, which is the point of this particular experiment.

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post #9 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
The level difference you cite is exactly what some members identified in the first set of files I posted. I subsequently posed a second set of files with matched levels; those are the files everyone should be listening to, and they are available at the link in the original post above. They can be distinguished from the original set of files by file names that include "A2" and "B2" rather than "A" and "B." We matched levels by lowering the level of the native 24/96 files by 0.2 dB; we did not normalize the files.

The files did not go through a DA/AD loop. We considered doing that to bring the downsampled version back up to 24/96, but in the end, we decided to keep everything in the digital domain.

The purpose of this test is to have people listen to the files without analyzing them in software—just listen. We believe that any differences in level and speed between the two versions of each track are now well under the perceptible threshold. If you can hear a difference between the versions, which one is native high res, A2 or B2? That's all we're looking for here.
Well I missed the second version somehow. And I was referring to the first version. Will give it a go with the second set of files before analyzing them.
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post #10 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 02:39 PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong -- the task for each listener is to listen to three pairs of files, and pick the 'Hi rez' version in each pair?


if so, NB: a 3-trial test has a p = 0.125 for a perfect score (3 correct in 3 tries). That means we could 'expect' 12.5 perfect scores to occur in 100 tries -- simply by chance (e.g., by 'choosing' each answer via a coin flip)


Most scientific work has a p<0.5 threshold (i.e., the score is considered 'significant' if it is expected to occur by chance less than 5 times in 100 tries)
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post #11 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 02:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
I would LOVE to have many more members submit their determinations, but I can't force them to. I hope to get more responses over the next couple of weeks. I suspect that suitably high-res audio systems are relatively rare, but there has to be more than six AVS members who own such a system. Also, I think it's a great idea for those who don't to seek out those who do and see if they can try the test during a visit.

As far as I can see, setting up an consistent ABX test with different computers and software isn't as easy as you suggest. For example, foobar for Windows and ABXTester for the Mac work in different ways and generate somewhat different results, and I couldn't figure out how to combine them into a consistent framework. Also, identifying which one is "X" isn't the same thing as identifying which one is high-res, which is the point of this particular experiment.

Setting up a level-matched ABX between 6 music samples isn't a big deal. I've been involved in 3 of them-
worrying about Win and Mac aside, you should have had (or I would have thought you would have) more assistance getting the samples collated.

And I don't understand your (seekingly, anyway) contention against an ABX: in a two sample scenario, proposing you can identify ONE expressedly means you can decipher the other...or should anyway if the contention is an honest and correct one. In this case being able to identify the "hi rez" file (reliably) of course means you can id the lesser rez version. There's no way around it.

And no is forced to do anything.
Again, the point is that many more people would likely be willing to participate if they had a member with the proper gear offering up the chance rather than hoping "x" % owning such rare rigs will participate. It's a numbers game.

James

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post #12 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by krabapple View Post
Correct me if I'm wrong -- the task for each listener is to listen to three pairs of files, and pick the 'Hi rez' version in each pair?


if so, NB: a 3-trial test has a p = 0.125 for a perfect score (3 correct in 3 tries). That means we could 'expect' 12.5 perfect scores to occur in 100 tries -- simply by chance (e.g., by 'choosing' each answer via a coin flip)


Most scientific work has a p<0.5 threshold (i.e., the score is considered 'significant' if it is expected to occur by chance less than 5 times in 100 tries)
You are correct; the task is to listen to three pairs of files and pick the native high-res version in each pair.

From the beginning, I have fully acknowledged that this is not a scientific test; it's an informal and fun experiment meant to give AVS members an opportunity to explore for themselves how much benefit high-res audio offers, and to gather some data about how well people can discern any difference.

BTW, I think you probably mean that in scientific work, p<0.05, no?
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post #13 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 05:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
You are correct; the task is to listen to three pairs of files and pick the native high-res version in each pair.

From the beginning, I have fully acknowledged that this is not a scientific test; it's an informal and fun experiment meant to give AVS members an opportunity to explore for themselves how much benefit high-res audio offers, and to gather some data about how well people can discern any difference.

BTW, I think you probably mean that in scientific work, p<0.05, no?

Yes, I meant 0.05 , aka 5 in 100.
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post #14 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 05:51 PM
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Ditto in the scientific validity dept...setting up a couple valid ABX's really wouldn't be that big of a deal.
Indeed it is not. Download the files and run ABX on them yourself. I did exactly that and managed to find differences in all three samples down to probability of guessing of 0%: Debate Thread: Scott's Hi-res Audio Test

Unfortunately no one else has volunteered to do the same. Having others do it will add more data and deal with the concern Krab has.

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post #15 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 05:58 PM
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Indeed it is not. Download the files and run ABX on them yourself. I did exactly that and managed to find differences in all three samples down to probability of guessing of 0%: Debate Thread: Scott's Hi-res Audio Test

Unfortunately no one else has volunteered to do the same. Having others do it will add more data and deal with the concern Krab has.
Indeed what "is not"? Setting up a perfectly salient ABX? You realIze I'm not speaking of this particular execution, correct? It seems to me that- at a glance- the one here in question has a bunch of questions, lol.

I'm not going to waste any more time "defending" the relative straightforwardness of a properly designed and execution of an abx.

If there's any interest in having one in a large metro area where we can surely have a capable system or two and dozens of willing participants we can cross that bridge when/if we get there.

James
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post #16 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 06:18 PM
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Indeed what "is not"?
"Big of a deal" as you said .

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Setting up a perfectly salient ABX? You realIze I'm not speaking of this particular execution, correct? It seems to me that- at a glance- the one here in question has a bunch of questions, lol.
What??? You asked for DBT ABX and I explained that I had done that very thing and posted the results. Who has what questions?

Quote:
I'm not going to waste any more time "defending" the relative straightforwardness of a properly designed and execution of an abx.
You don't need to. As I said, just set it up and run it. There are some considerations in doing it right if you are using Windows which I have explained in the above thread. Otherwise it is very easy.

Quote:
If there's any interest in having one in a large metro area where we can surely have a capable system or two and dozens of willing participants we can cross that bridge when/if we get there.

James
Don't need anything fancy. I managed to tell the difference reliably just with my stock (but well designed) HP Zbook14 laptop with its built-in audio and mid-priced IEMs.

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post #17 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 06:20 PM
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"Big of a deal" as you said .


What??? You asked for DBT ABX and I explained that I had done that very thing and posted the results. Who has what questions?


You don't need to. As I said, just set it up and run it. There are some considerations in doing it right if you are using Windows which I have explained in the above thread. Otherwise it is very easy.


Don't need anything fancy. I managed to tell the difference reliably just with my stock (but well designed) HP Zbook14 laptop with its built-in audio and mid-priced IEMs.

Oh my. Thanks for making my case.

Have a good one.

James
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post #18 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 06:28 PM
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Oh my. Thanks for making my case.

Have a good one.

James
You do the same James. May you some day be able to tell when someone is agreeing with you and is in your camp.

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post #19 of 457 Old 07-28-2014, 06:30 PM
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I must have misread something some where in my haste- Ill blame the iphone.

Take care
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post #20 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 06:56 AM
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A lot of Headphones are indeed fine for this experiment, just that we have to pay attention to the associated components. Some built in onboard sound card has a sharp rolloff at 20kHz mark which doesn't help to discern the files. Let's hope that we have more participants. Scott has gone to a great extent of arranging this. For this, I would like to thank you very much.
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post #21 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 09:20 AM
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From the beginning, I have fully acknowledged that this is not a scientific test; it's an informal and fun experiment meant to give AVS members an opportunity to explore for themselves how much benefit high-res audio offers, and to gather some data about how well people can discern any difference.

Even "informal and fun experiment" may be giving it to much credit, however. The basic problem is that you know how many people could distinguish the files correctly and reported their results, but you don't know how many couldn't do it and failed to report their results (or didn't even bother to try, because they knew they'd only be guessing). So the data you have gathered is totally meaningless.
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post #22 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 11:13 AM
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From the beginning, I have fully acknowledged that this is not a scientific test; it's an informal and fun experiment meant to give AVS members an opportunity to explore for themselves how much benefit high-res audio offers, and to gather some data about how well people can discern any difference.

Even "informal and fun experiment" may be giving it to much credit, however. The basic problem is that you know how many people could distinguish the files correctly and reported their results, but you don't know how many couldn't do it and failed to report their results (or didn't even bother to try, because they knew they'd only be guessing). So the data you have gathered is totally meaningless.
ˆˆˆˆˆWhat he said.

To me it looks like a classic case of self-selection bias http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-selection_bias
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post #23 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 12:26 PM
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Wow, so people couldn't tell the difference between High-res and CD.

Meanwhile some people claim they can hear a difference just from adding POWER CONDITIONING, or a luxury loudspeaker or amplifier I think we can lay that to rest once and for all.

I'm sure someone employed by or having connections to the industry (many people here) will argue against this, however. I love how Scott covers himself with that "non-scientific" disclaimer, since he wants to keep his position and keep the advertisers happy. Listening is listening, and this was a listening test.

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post #24 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 01:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Wow, so people couldn't tell the difference between High-res and CD.

Meanwhile some people claim they can hear a difference just from adding POWER CONDITIONING, or a luxury loudspeaker or amplifier I think we can lay that to rest once and for all.

I'm sure someone employed by or having connections to the industry (many people here) will argue against this, however. I love how Scott covers himself with that "non-scientific" disclaimer, since he wants to keep his position and keep the advertisers happy. Listening is listening, and this was a listening test.
My "non-scientific" disclaimer has nothing to do with keeping my position or keeping the advertisers happy; it has everything to do with keeping this experiment as open and transparent as possible (except for which file is which, of course!). However, you are exactly correct that this is a listening test, and all I want people to do is listen.
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post #25 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 01:39 PM - Thread Starter
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A lot of Headphones are indeed fine for this experiment, just that we have to pay attention to the associated components. Some built in onboard sound card has a sharp rolloff at 20kHz mark which doesn't help to discern the files. Let's hope that we have more participants. Scott has gone to a great extent of arranging this. For this, I would like to thank you very much.
Thanks! And thanks for submitting your determinations.

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post #26 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 01:42 PM
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The problem isn't with the test, which is merely meaningless. It is with the misuse of the "results" by slimebucket audio salesmen and their enablers, which is already occurring elsewhere on AVS.
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post #27 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 01:44 PM
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Hi Scott

I just want to be sure that I understand your definition of an HRA system. If I download the music files to a thumb-drive and play them through the USB port in my Oppo 105D, will that constitute an HRA system? If the answer is yes, then I'm going to participate in this test and see if I can differentiate between HRA and non-HRA files! Thanks.

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post #28 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 01:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post
From the beginning, I have fully acknowledged that this is not a scientific test; it's an informal and fun experiment meant to give AVS members an opportunity to explore for themselves how much benefit high-res audio offers, and to gather some data about how well people can discern any difference.

Even "informal and fun experiment" may be giving it to much credit, however. The basic problem is that you know how many people could distinguish the files correctly and reported their results, but you don't know how many couldn't do it and failed to report their results (or didn't even bother to try, because they knew they'd only be guessing). So the data you have gathered is totally meaningless.
I must respectfully disagree; I have already received a goodly number of responses with incorrect identifications. Of course, I can't know how many people got it wrong (or right, for that matter) if they don't report their findings, and of course, if someone doesn't even try, they're not going to submit their findings. I maintain that the data I've gathered are not meaningless; they aren't proof of anything, of course, but they are interesting and possibly suggestive of further, more rigorous testing. Plus, many participants have said how much fun the exercise was, which was part of the point.
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post #29 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 01:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Cal68 View Post
Hi Scott

I just want to be sure that I understand your definition of an HRA system. If I download the music files to a thumb-drive and play them through the USB port in my Oppo 105D, will that constitute an HRA system? If the answer is yes, then I'm going to participate in this test and see if I can differentiate between HRA and non-HRA files! Thanks.
The system you specify certainly qualifies as HRA, but only as a front end. You also need to consider the preamp, power amp, and speakers or headphones; they all need to be able to pass frequencies well above 20 kHz and a dynamic range beyond 93 dB. If any component in the system can't do that, it's a bottleneck that renders the system as a whole non-HRA.

For example, the Oppo's analog audio outputs are spec'd out to 96 kHz at -1.5 dB, while the headphone output is spec'd to 20 kHz, ±0.3 dB into 300 ohms. I suspect the headphone output might be able to go much higher, but I don't know, so plugging a pair of HRA-capable headphones into the Oppo's headphone output might or might not reproduce the ultrasonics in the native high-res files. I'll contact Oppo and see what they have to say about this.

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post #30 of 457 Old 07-29-2014, 02:10 PM
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disregard, the above post answered my question


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