Hi Res Audio

I wanted to ask the opinions of users here on high resolution audio. To start, it is clear that there is a difference between compressed digital formats vs lossless digital formats. So skipping past that.

When we get to Flac (I am using Flac as all lossless audio formats), we have 16 and 24 bit options (anything larger is just non standard, so skipping those as well). Then we have the sample rate, 44.1k, 48k, 88.2k, 96k, 176k, 192k, etc. So what is this, really?

We know the human ear is generally said to be capable of 20-20k hearing. Most adults cap out at ~16k. So Nyquist tells us that 44.1k as seen on CDs is perfectly fine, as 44.1k / 2 ~= 22k, well beyond what a person can hear. I mention the above, not implying others do not know this, but to create a baseline. For casual listening, 16 bit at 44.1k should be just fine and high quality.

When we get into the even higher qualities now, what do others use these for?

In general, this is my experience:

  1. 16/44 - this is good for listening, but cannot accommodate further editing very well. If you do not intend to edit the audio further, should be perfect for most all uses.
  2. 24/44 - for casual listening, I have never experienced a difference compared to 16 bit. However, there often times is a difference that if you are listening you can hear. Especially in recordings with a high dynamic range.
  3. 48kHz - I like the bump from 44.1 to 48, whether 16 or 24 bit. On the listening side, I like that when the releaser converts the recordings, assumingly recorded at 96k, it is a nice conversion to 48 vs 44.1. Better filters and such, providing a better quality result. On the editing side, I like the headroom it offers with little change in disk size.
  4. Getting into anything above 92k sample rate I believe is just a waste of everything, disk space and money. It has its place for sure, but I am not archiving recordings in a studio.

So my opinion is that as an end user / listener and a light editor, 24/96 is the largest I want to see in my collection. That applies to only those releases / recordings that I really care about, or those of a large dynamic range. I would prefer my lossless audio to be 48k, 16 or 24 bit. When I am stuck with the CD rate of 44.1, it is what it is, still is quite good. Obviously when there is a release, I accept the what is offered. So if a release is offered with a 88.2k sample rate, I will take it although I would rather take 48k or 96k.


I’ll just leave a link to this article: 24/192 Music Downloads are Very Silly Indeed :wink:


I have read that at some point prior. Reading it over again, there are many good points made, and while I tend to agree with the statements there, I am interested in your perspective. Just as my statements, that article poses an opinion.

For example, when they state “None of that is relevant to playback; here 24 bit audio is as useless as 192kHz sampling. The good news is that at least 24 bit depth doesn’t harm fidelity. It just doesn’t help, and also wastes space.”, I have to disagree with that statement in totality. For a casual listener, agreed. Regarding 192 sample rates, agreed. But 24 bit audio… well… there are cases in which I believe the average person can tell a difference, but under the right conditions and circumstances.

Since that article gets technical, I will share in part my reasoning for my partial disagreement. First, as also mentioned in that article, the advantages of 16/44+ is generally for studios, or as they state “Professionals use 24 bit samples in recording and production for headroom, noise floor, and convenience reasons.” Please note that in my post I did address this, differentiating between uses of the casual listener and one who does editing. 24 bit audio offers a different headroom than that of sample rate. If I apply filters to a source at only 44.1k the result will have artifacts. The issue I see there is the high potential for those artifacts to enter the audible difference area. 16 vs 24 bit will not help me much here.

I think the answer is greatly dependent on the user and the intended use. The xiph people take a unique approach to audio, in fact, I just had a neat conversation on this. The OGG format was always decent, but the OPUS format is superb, no question, for its use. This is compressed audio though, and a bit off topic. Regardless, the OPUS format incorporates a lot of what I prefer. Unlike the MP3, it acts similar to the iTunes CoreAudio setup, it focuses on providing the full 20-20k vs having the 16k inherent filter. I also like the focus on the 48k sample rate.

I see issues a lot in the DJ type releases. People often take CDs (or even internet distributed MP3’s, ouch) and try to use them to make remixes. For some, thee difference might never be seen. For me, it is easy to see in some cases. There is a line that separates the “street DJ” and the “professional DJ”. I mean do disrespect to anyone in either position, nor do I paint myself as better. I have a large amount of crap that I have “produced” over the years that I listen to today and just laugh at.

They mention “192kHz considered harmful”. I have heard this many times, but never experienced it. I honestly never paid attention as I do not collect 192 audio. But it is interesting to see the potential that the audio files people pay extra for might actually be worse.

Taking a shift, they mentioned “Better headphones”. This is a part I did not address, but a good one to me. In short, I was asked a few times on my home stereo… why do you have 2000w (1000x2 RMS) when you never play music loud? LOL! Well, you see, dynamic range. When you have extreme peaks in your audio, even if rare and short, you are limited by your power source. A peak takes MANY times more power than your average volume. If your amplifier and/or speakers cannot handle it, you will get distortion. If you are listening in your car (yes I know there are some rare exceptions), anything HiFI is generally a waste. The amplification is crap, the speakers are crap, and the leakage in the DACs is outrageous.

I feel like I am rambling, so I stop there. I hope I can at least spark some comments from others

I wanted to add more on the “headphones” portion. The best audio source in the world is only as good as your speakers… as it was once told to me. There is more to it than that, but the concept is quite valid. While I was not asking for the opinions from others on the reproduction equipment, I guess it is important to say that if you do hi-fi comparisons, if you do not have hi-fi equipment, your results are less relevant.

As with all, we need to evaluate your products ourselves. Beats by Dre, pass. Hard pass. I have a good set of Behringer HPX2000 that will knock out most other general headsets, and a daily use Numark HF-125 which does good for its use. In a loud room, it is more than adequate. But headphones will never give you a proper hifi experience. The transducers are not capable of it and you do not have the air to provide the proper reproduction. At least in my opinion.

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