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post #1 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 11:01 AM - Thread Starter
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Get Ready for Ask Me Anything: Defining High-Res Audio

High-resolution audio (HRA) is a hot topic these days. It promises better audio quality than MP3s and even uncompressed CDs and equivalent digital files, but there's a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about it within the ranks of audio consumers.

To help address this problem, AVS Forum and Sony are offering AVS members an opportunity to ask an expert anything they want to know about high-res audio in a series of real-time interactive sessions. The first session will be focused on defining high-res audio—exactly what it is, how it's created, where to get it, and what you need to fully enjoy it.



On Thursday, September 1, 2016, from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM Pacific time (2:00 PM to 3:30 PM Eastern time), we will have a thread in the Audio Setup, Theory, and Chat forum called "Ask Me Anything: Defining High-Res Audio" in which you can post questions for the expert, who will answer them right then and there. Since it will be a normal AVS thread, you'll need to reload the page often to see his responses as well as any new questions that are posted.

Who's the expert? Bob O'Donnell, the founder, president, and chief analyst at Technalysis Research, has enjoyed a long, multi-faceted career in the technology business. The firm's research and Bob's opinions are regularly used by major media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg TV, Investor's Business Daily and more. Bob writes a weekly column/blog for Techpinions.com and a biweekly column for the Tech section of USA Today. He also occasionally writes guest columns for Fast Company, engadget, Smarter Analyst, Indian Engineers, and other digital publications. In addition, he participates in a weekly podcast for Techpinions. For some of Bob's thoughts on high-res audio, check out a recent blog he wrote.

Prior to founding Technalysis Research, Bob served as a vice president at industry-research firm IDC. He was also the editor of Electronic Musician and Music Technology magazines, where he gained a deep knowledge of digital audio. In addition, Bob is the author of the book Personal Computer Secrets, and for over 10 years, he hosted O'Donnell on Technology, a radio show that was selected as the Best Computer Audio program in the country by the Computer Press Awards. You can follow him on Twitter @BobOD tech, on Facebook at Bob O'Donnell, and on LinkedIn at Bob O'Donnell.

In addition to getting answers about high-res audio, those who submit a question will be automatically entered to win one of two prize packages, each including a Sony NWZ-A17 portable high-res audio player and a pair of Sony MDR-1A headphones that can easily resolve high-res audio. The two winners will be selected by random drawing from among those who submit at least one question; submitting more than one question will not increase your chance of winning.

To help the event get off to a good start, we invite you to submit a question about the definition of high-res audio in this thread, which will be transferred over to the new thread on September 1 and answered first—and of course, you will be entered to win one of the prize packages.

So what would you like to know about the definition of high-res audio? Post your question(s) here and be sure to follow the event thread on September 1 for the answers.

For the official rules and regulations of the giveaway, click here.
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post #2 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 11:38 AM
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Hello- what qualifies as Hi-Res? Could an analog recording, for example, never actually qualify as Hi-Res even if it was remastered due to how it was originally recorded?

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post #3 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 11:52 AM
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Please introduce us to someone, anyone, that can hear the difference between high-res and standard 44/16 with music made from the same master in an ABX test?

Feel free to exclude me from the competition itself as I'm in the wrong corner of the world, I just want to see the answer.

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post #4 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 01:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chmorgan View Post
Hello- what qualifies as Hi-Res? Could an analog recording, for example, never actually qualify as Hi-Res even if it was remastered due to how it was originally recorded?
You might want to clarify what you mean by "analog recording". Some analog mediums are better than others in terms of their capability to capture hi-res audio information. Some are more limited in their precision/range capabilities than Redbook, while others surpass CD "quality" in one or more aspects (speaking strictly in terms of fidelity). Without this clarification, your question could be interpreted in at least two different ways...

1) Reader assumes that when you say "analog recording", you mean one that was originally recorded to an analog medium with less dynamic range and/or a more limited frequency response range than what you could achieve with 16-bit, 44.1khz digital audio. In this case, the "yes or no" answer you get would be based soley on whether or not the person answering the question believes that provenance is important in determining if the final version is "hi-res". If they do then they'll say "No, it's not hi-res." If they don't then they say "Yes, it is hi-res."

2) Reader does not assume that we are limiting discussion to only those analog mediums that offer lower fidelity than you can get from 16-bit, 44.1khz digital audio. In this case, the answer may focus more on the capabilities of certain current and theoretical analog mediums and never get around to addressing the issue of provenance.
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post #5 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 02:37 PM
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For my question, I would ask...

Is it still hi-res audio if the content has been "lossy" compressed, even if the format is capable of storing information above 22khz and/or with a dynamic range greater than ~100 dB?

For example, many DVD versions of movies contain soundtracks with a bit depth of greater than 16 bits and a sampling rate of greater than 44.1khz. Yet, these soundtracks are almost universally considered to be inferior to the lossless versions (e.g. Dolby True HD/DTS-HD Master Audio) found on Blu-Ray discs. Differences in the master/mix aside, this is largely due to the lossy nature of legacy Dolby Digital/DTS 5.1 encoding. Basically, they surpass Redbook audio in terms of dynamic range and frequency response capabilities, but they potentially offer less fidelity in the audible range because they may throw away information that can result in audible compression artifacts.

I think this is an important issue that is often overlooked as most hi-res discussions revolve around bit depth and sampling rates. Many people don't even realize that an MP3 can contain "hi-res" information, and yet be inferior to Redbook audio because of the way it throws away bits that have an audible impact when overly compressed.
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post #6 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 02:55 PM
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[QUOTE=HockeyoAJB;46098409]For my question, I would ask...

Is it still hi-res audio if the content has been "lossy" compressed, even if the format is capable of storing information above 22khz and/or with a dynamic range greater than ~100 dB?




This is what I want to know. My knowledge is extremely limited in this area and I did not realize I was asking such a generic question or using analog recordings as a poor example.

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post #7 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 03:46 PM
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What should one look for in speakers in order to reproduce all the frequencies in HRA?
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post #8 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 04:56 PM
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I've always wondered why some compressed files are supposed to be superior to cd quality content. I totally get the fact that a compressed file can sound just as good as a cd track because the formats strip useless data.. But even if nothing useful is removed, how can something be better without anything being added? There is surely something I ignore, and I'll take the chance here to get to know what it is!!!

PS : I'm not cynical nor skeptical, I just want to understand better

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post #9 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 05:14 PM
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At what resolution are musicians in the industry working in when they create new music? Since few acts record their albums by analog anymore, is there less of a need for High-Rez Audio now that most music production has shifted to ProTools?
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post #10 of 299 Old 08-16-2016, 06:10 PM
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Given that quantization noise is already undetectable to our ears with 16bit PCM, how is 24bit PCM an improvement?
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post #11 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 12:11 AM
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I love my DVD-Audio and SACD and my tracks bought from HDtracks but I would love for somebody to justify the extreme pricing seen in HRA some of it is just ridiculous compared to a standard CD
if just can't cost that much more to distribute in 24bit 96khz
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post #12 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 02:34 AM
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I have spent the last several months building a nice audio system with speakers, a sub, cables, a DAC, and sound software. I have upgraded many of the songs in my library from low res Apple 256 to high res 24/96, and with my system I can easily hear an improvement.

My question: What can be done, when so many people are listening to music via cheap Bluetooth speakers and headphones, to effectively spread the word about the benefits of high resolution music and the equipment capable of reproducing it so that significantly more people will upgrade their music and gear? I want more people to feel the thrill that comes from the experience of listening to great music and capable audio systems. If people only knew what they are missing!
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post #13 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 02:58 AM
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I read Bob's blog over on "Recode" and in his own words -
Recording resolutions could go even higher, but for any applications involving people, there’s no point.

So, this begs me to question what really sets Hi-Rez audio apart from a quality recording - any quality recording? Trying not to be a skeptic but this has kind of a 30 minute infomercial spiel to it, a Sony spiel. With that being said, I would be interested in the "new" format (if that's what it is) only if I could test drive it with the equipment I already own. Is that possible?

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post #14 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 03:01 AM
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Can older music be high resolution?

Is music recorded in the 1960s, and now sold as 24/96 downloads, high resolution?
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post #15 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 07:04 AM
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I'm a complete newbie when it comes to high-res audio, but I've seen mention of using a DAC. Can someone explain when it's necessary or desirable to use a DAC? I believe this would be placed between the audio player and a pair of headphones or speakers. Do certain players eliminate the need for a DAC?
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post #16 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 08:21 AM
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MQA

please tell us what you think of MQA: will it become mainstream ever?
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please take the high road in every post:do not respond to or quote a problematic post: report it
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post #17 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 08:35 AM
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Imo an upgrade from 2 channel to lossless multichannel is having a far greater impact in spatial resolution than the switch from 16 bit to a higher bitrate.


Will multichannel mixes for music be accepted as part of the HRA family of formats ?


Ps
Marketing turntables as hires doesn't instill much confidence in the HRA effort being genuine.

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post #18 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 08:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Derks View Post
Marketing turntables as hires doesn't instill much confidence in the HRA effort being genuine.
I haven't followed vinyl playback for several decades now. This is actually being done?! Or are just speaking hypothetically?
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post #19 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 08:47 AM
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I have another question, according to the MQA marketing material MQA encoded material can sound better than the original masters. How is that physically/technically possible?

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post #20 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 08:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
I haven't followed vinyl playback for several decades now. This is actually being done? Or are just speaking hypothetically?
It's done.


http://www.trustedreviews.com/sony-p...rntable-review
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post #21 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Frank Derks View Post

Wow. Thanks for the info. If you hadn't published a link I never would have believed you. Without seeing this image I would have been certain you were simply mistaken: http://static.trustedreviews.com/94/...urntable-5.jpg

Being curious if the "Hi-Res Audio" status implied a certain sound quality level for important phonograph/cartridge specifications such as wow, flutter, speed error, rumble, channel separation, phono preamp hiss, and +/- dB frequency response tolerance from, say, 20-20kHz, I did some further investigation as to what Sony claims for this unit's detailed specifiations. Here they are, in full:

"Product Specifications
PS-HX500
$599.99

Turntable Speed 33 1/3 r/min, 45 r/min
USB Out B type

Power

Power Requirements 120V 60Hz"

Source: http://www.sony.com/electronics/audi...specifications
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post #22 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 11:42 AM
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Going from DD 5.1 to Dolby True HD was a noticeable difference to sound quality. I'm assuming HRA to MP3 will be the same step up but will we see an improvement over flac recordings or other uncompressed file formats?
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post #23 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 11:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mashie Saldana View Post
I have another question, according to the MQA marketing material MQA encoded material can sound better than the original masters. How is that physically/technically possible?
They claim that the filters used in the original analog to digital conversion can cause coloration/distortion in the sound. The assumption is that the recording engineer was listening to the tracks using a fully analog chain and that it was approved in that form, before the audio was converted to a digital signal/format. For older recordings, this is a fairly safe assumption. Therefore, the coloration/distortion is unwanted and any of the "conventional" changes made post-ADC, to compensate for it, are considered to be a compromise of the "artist's intent".

Meridian claims to have measured the distortion causing characteristics of many of the most popular ADC's used in recording studios over the past few decades and catalogued them. Furthermore, they claim to have developed specific algorithms for each of these ADC's that can be used to remove the coloration/distortion, thereby restoring the quality of the audio to a level of fidelity that predates the use of the flawed ADC. For instance, if an old ADC is known to cause a 3 dB dip in the frequency range from 10-16khz, the algorithm will reverse that by boosting this frequency range by 3 dB.

You might ask...if the original ADC is such an issue, why not go back to an analog master that predates the use of the flawed ADC and then use a newer, superior ADC? In some cases, the quality of the analog master has deteriorated or it no longer exists. So, they have no choice but to use the "flawed" digital version as the starting point for the MQA remastering.
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post #24 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 02:21 PM
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What do you think about Mark Waldrep's definition of High resolution audio? In particular, the notion that digitizing an analogue tape, originally used to create a vinyl album, should not be classified as high resolution audio due to the limitation of analogue tape's dynamic range of only 70db.
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post #25 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 03:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post
They claim that the filters used in the original analog to digital conversion can cause coloration/distortion in the sound.
It's quite easy for them to claim their device "improves" the sound of something when they know for fact nobody will ever have access to the original to compare and then challenge the claim. ...This is brilliant marketing and I'm surprised Meridian is the first to come up with this baloney.
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post #26 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 04:09 PM
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Is MQA-encoded material considered to be hi-res or not?

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post #27 of 299 Old 08-17-2016, 06:06 PM
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Are we on a new threshold of higher audio resolution?

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post #28 of 299 Old 08-18-2016, 12:09 AM
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I am unsurprised that there is discussion of this subject, but very depressed to have received an email from this forum offering me the possibility to learn more about HRA......
There has been plenty of money made over the years by marketing ploys to the gullible, but I had hoped that the Home Theatre Shack, and those people interested in their excellent work, would be more "grounded" in their understanding of digital audio, and audio in general......
"""https://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html""" says it all. (sorry, unable to post as a link).
If you don't believe what you read there then please feel free to carry on your discussion, but count me out...
David.
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post #29 of 299 Old 08-18-2016, 01:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Derks View Post
Marketing turntables as hires doesn't instill much confidence in the HRA effort being genuine.

Oh it doesn't stop there. If you care about the music's sound quality that you store in digital memory circuits you had better be sure they are Hi-Res Audio capable as well, because you want to be sure those 0's and 1's that make up the digital file are "for Premium Sound" just like it was meant to be originally, and in the most pristine state as is possible:



See, unlike garden variety 64GB microSDXC Class 10 cards (for any old pedestrian use) which currently sell for almost a tenth of the price of this $150 Sony (sold separately and specifically for their Hi-Res Audio Walkman), this special card is said to offer "less noise". [Much like their Hi-Res Audio turntable, no actual performance specs are provided.]

Source: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/sony-is-s...498731519.html
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post #30 of 299 Old 08-18-2016, 01:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whale-av View Post
I am unsurprised that there is discussion of this subject, but very depressed to have received an email from this forum offering me the possibility to learn more about HRA......
There has been plenty of money made over the years by marketing ploys to the gullible, but I had hoped that the Home Theatre Shack, and those people interested in their excellent work, would be more "grounded" in their understanding of digital audio, and audio in general......
https://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html says it all. (sorry, unable to post as a link).
If you don't believe what you read there then please feel free to carry on your discussion, but count me out...
David.
Thanks for the link, something everyone should read if they haven't already.

From a corporation point of view Hi-Res is an extremely good idea, not only do all the audio enthusiasts have to upgrade their playback hardware, they also have to buy all their music once again.

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