With 50 participants, it's time to update the results of this informal but interesting—and, I hope, fun—experiment.
It's been over three weeks since I posted the first results from the ongoing high-resolution audio (HRA) experiment being conducted by AVS Forum and AIX Records. We now have a total of 50 participants—22 with HRA-capable audio systems and 28 with systems that cannot reproduce the extended information in bona fide high-res audio—so I thought it might be a good time to share the latest results.
Before I do, let me reiterate for the umpteenth time that this is not a scientific test; it's merely an interesting and fun exercise that allows AVS members to investigate the efficacy of high-res audio for themselves. I'm gathering data out of curiosity to see what we might learn and how the results might help inform more rigorous experiments in the future.
As you can see in the chart on the left above, the participants with HRA-capable systems were able to identify the native HRA tracks quite well. None were completely wrong, and none reported hearing no difference (ND) between the native HRA tracks and sample rate-converted tracks; the average correct score in this group is 78.9% so far. Participants without HRA-capable systems are more evenly distributed in a roughly bell-shaped curve; the average correct score in this group is 52.8% so far (calculated without counting those who reported hearing no difference between any pair of versions).
I'm also interested in the identification rate for each track. The chart on the right indicates that "Mosaic" has been the easiest to identify correctly for both groups, while "Just My Imagination" has been the most difficult for both groups. As expected, those with HRA-capable systems were able to identify the correct version of all three tracks much more often than those without such systems.
These results seem to suggest that a high-res audio system is required to derive the full benefit that HRA has to offer—and that HRA does, in fact, have something to offer beyond CD audio. As one respondent with an HRA system commented, "On 'Mosaic' and 'On The Street Where You Live,' I don't even need to listen to the full tracks; the giveaway is pretty much in the instruments that carry the high-frequency information. At the lower sampling rate, the sound is muted or compressed (especially in the decay) in the high frequencies, robbing the music of a sense of space and liveliness." BTW, he correctly identified all three HRA versions.
However, for many participants, the difference was subtle. As another respondent with an HRA system commented, "I have to say that the differences in these files were very, very small, and I would have no trouble listening to the 16/44 versions rather than the 24/96." He correctly identified two out of three HRA versions, and he is not alone in his assessment that the difference between the two versions of each track is small.
If you haven't yet listened to the files and sent me your determinations by PM, I encourage you to do so, whether or not you have an HRA-capable system. You can read about the experiment and download the files here.
Let the listening continue!
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