Consumer Reports casts shade on hi-res audio

God bless Floyd E. Toole and his coverage of psychoaccoustics in all various forms: Way ahead of the curve.
Read the KEF blog dispelling all the bunk on cables. Golden ears my foot. Add Archimago’s Musings to the pile. Canadians see through the miasma of bull fumes.

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Wow, being able to speak for not merely a nation but a whole World of music listeners must be an awesome responsibility. I’m sure we’re all impressed.

I believe those who say they can’t hear a difference. They can’t hear a difference.

I’d not trust CR for skis either. CR are OK for basic wares. But audio, or sports gear, serves a very wide range of skill and expertise levels. Averages mean very little with such very skewed distributions.

CR most certainly does not understand high end bicycles.

Archimago did an interesting listening test, with something like 151 remote subjects, comparing MP3/320 w/ Redbook audio. One of the surprising conclusions was that there really are a small set of people with Golden Ears (i.e. people who could reliably discern lossless from lossy in a blind test).

Go to his site and read the test results and conclusions. I will let you do your own Googling.

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Agreed - recording/mastering can make a far superior 44.1/16 when stacked against a poorly engineered 24/96.
Nothing changes - a good recording is a good recording.

And as the great Duke Ellington said:
" There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind"

Or to put it another way I would rather to less than perfect recording of Louie Armstrong than a state of the art recording of many smooth jazz artists. And of course a good sounding recording of good music is simply musical nirvana.

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You mistyped all :wink:

I also didn’t name names. I’m not trying to start a flame war so I was threading somewhat lightly. But yeah in this case “all” works just as well as “many”.

Correct me if I’m wrong – I mean that – but doesn’t it matter what the recording is of and how attuned the listeners are to the virtues of that music? In particular in classical music with a great dynamic range the compression or lack thereof should be much more obvious than in Oscar Peterson-style piano jazz? An MP3 of ambient techno might work just fine, but an MP3 of Mahler might not – in particular if you know what it can sound like with an enormous dynamic range.

You’re absolutely right @Aaron_Garrett that it’s much harder to hear the difference between MP3 and uncompressed with certain types of music, such as dance music.

I think, however, when you discuss dynamic range and MP3 you’re falling into a trap that lots of people do. The MP3 compression process doesn’t reduce dynamic range per se. Certainly not to an amount that is audible. You’re talking about dynamic range compression rather than data compression. Dynamic range compression is used in mastering of, amongst other things, popular music and is a different issue entirely and is present in non data-compressed recording such as, for example, a CD recording of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

The problem with MP3 is due to the masking of certain ‘quieter’ frequencies when more dominant, similar frequencies are present in the recording. The MP3 process discards those frequencies it is thought that the human ear cannot hear because other louder sounds with similar frequencies are present. This is why it’s easier to hear the effect of the MP3 compression in more complex recordings than ‘simpler’ recordings such as dance… which has less subtle differences in level between instruments and sounds.

If we go back to the original title of this thread, we are discussing hi-res audio. So… we’re usually talking about the difference between uncompressed recordings done at a higher bit depth and possibly higher sample rate than standard ‘CD-resolution’ 16bit 44.1kHz recordings… and CD-resolution recordings. That’s the comparison.

None of these recordings are data compressed. However, in terms of dynamic range, CD-resolution, or standard resolution has a potential 96dB dynamic range, due to there being a bit-depth of 16 Bits, and high resolution has a potential dynamic range of 144dB due to a bit depth of 24 Bits.

Now… I may stand corrected here, but I don’t think there is a commercial recording anywhere, classical or otherwise, that has a dynamic range of even 96dB, let alone 144dB. So… the benefits in terms of dynamics of a ‘hi-res’ recording over a standard res recording are… in my mind… moot!

See for a little description of MP3 and dynamic range.


And this statement, while entirely correct, is somewhat misleading. 16 bits allows for a dynamic range of up to 96dB and 24 bits allows for a dynamic range of up to 144dB but the recording itself aka the audio never has a dynamic range anywhere near that high. In fact something with that much dynamic range (over 130dB) would destroy a human’s hearing.

Plus ALL, as in every singe one, 24bit and whatever kHz you like 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, etc., audio files have exactly the dynamic range has their 16bit version. Exactly the same because increasing the bit depth does not increase the dynamic range of the recording. So in other words, a 24bit/44.1kHz recording sold as high resolution has exactly the same dynamic range as the CD aka 16bit/44.1kHz version. Save your money!!

Think of the bit depth as a box, meaning a 24 bit is a larger box than a16 bit box. And think of the music being recorded as an object going into the box. Making the box bigger does not make the object going into the box any bigger. Let’s bring some sanity back into this hobby and start thinking clearly. @Dan_Brown I don’t mean to offend you since you clearly are thinking quite clearly. :grinning:


Great analogy. As so often said, its the quality of the recording/mastering which is the deciding factor.

@mikeb No offence taken Mike because… if you read my post again you will see I was talking about the container, or the ‘potential’ maximum dynamic range of a 24 bit recording as opposed to the ‘potential’ maximum dynamic range of a 16-bit recording. That’s exactly what I was talking about. Maybe I should have made that clearer.
I also said that I don’t know of a recording that has even used a 96dB dynamic range let alone 144dB so the usefulness of that extra range is moot.

I do know that most commercial recordings are actually between about 6-20 dB of dynamic range, with some as low as 2dB!!!

I also know that re-releasing any commercial recording of hi-res, while putting it in a deeper ‘container’ doesn’t increase its actual dynamic range.

I didn’t intend to mislead… it’s just interpretation of words.

I’ll go back and edit my post to add ‘potential’… that should clear it up. :slightly_smiling_face::slightly_smiling_face:



same here :slight_smile: (well, not the age, but the rest :smiley: )