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Rumor: Apple to offer hi-res 24-bit tracks on iTunes in coming months

post #1 of 155
Thread Starter 
Following a report that Apple is considering a major overhaul of iTunes, an overlooked rumor from March suggests the company may also be planning an entry into the high-definition music industry with 24-bit tracks.



Citing an unnamed source, blogger Robert Hutton claims Apple will launch hi-res audio sales "in two months" to coincide with the release of three Led Zeppelin remasters.

According to Hutton, Apple will be charging an addition dollar for high-resolution tracks, suggesting the new feature will be offered inline with the usual iTunes track and album purchase options.

Apple currently requires publishers provide 24-bit ALAC tracks with high sampling rates to increase sound quality when transcoded to the lossy AAC format currently available on iTunes. Like the MP3 codec, AAC cuts a good portion of data from the original mastered version, trading subtle nuances in dynamic range, fidelity, detail and other sound quality metrics for smaller file sizes.

Backing up the rumor is Apple's "Mastered for iTunes" initiative, which provides studios with specialized software -- specifically AU Lab -- to check how AAC conversion affects the uncompressed masters. Studios then pass the original 24-bit masters (at varying sampling rates) to iTunes, which creates lossless files and encodes them into 16-bit AAC tracks. This means Apple has a huge repository of lossless music.

Being light on details, however, the blog post, spotted by MacRumors, is somewhat suspicious and Hutton mainly uses known Apple operating procedures to back up his claims. Still, the idea is not out of the realm of possibility given rumblings of a "dramatic" iTunes music store overhaul.
post #2 of 155
I sure hope this rumor is true.

The iTunes Store would then be the place to buy classical music.
post #3 of 155
I'm looking forward to experiencing music from the Pono music player. It will be better quality than this alleged Mastered for iTunes product. Pono will use FLAC files and be capable of using other industry standard files of lesser quality.

I doubt any process will be as good as original vinyl recordings on a good system but Pono will certainly be the top of the line standard for a while to come. They will debut in the summer of 2014.
post #4 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

I'm looking forward to experiencing music from the Pono music player. It will be better quality than this alleged Mastered for iTunes product. Pono will use FLAC files and be capable of using other industry standard files of lesser quality.

I doubt any process will be as good as original vinyl recordings on a good system but Pono will certainly be the top of the line standard for a while to come. They will debut in the summer of 2014.

Spare us the drama will you. Pono is already being panned by critics as not worth the money. It’ll be used by a few wacked out audiophiles who live for specs but can’t tell the difference, and priced up there with those granite slab turntables.

post #5 of 155
How much will they charge me to "upgrade" the songs I've already purchased this time? Last time it was $.69 per song or $.33 per song I think...

Then there was the aggravating issue where songs I had purchased were no longer available on the iTunes Store for whatever reason.

I hope it's a free upgrade if your a current iTunes Match subscriber.
post #6 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

I'm looking forward to experiencing music from the Pono music player. It will be better quality than this alleged Mastered for iTunes product. Pono will use FLAC files and be capable of using other industry standard files of lesser quality.

I doubt any process will be as good as original vinyl recordings on a good system but Pono will certainly be the top of the line standard for a while to come. They will debut in the summer of 2014.

 

How much were you paid for that post? Or are you an unpaid shill?

post #7 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

I sure hope this rumor is true.

The iTunes Store would then be the place to buy classical music.

Their catalog would be the largest, for sure, but sites like HDTracks have been doing this for a while.

post #8 of 155
While this would be a step in the right direction, it is a small step and a few years too late. The file format that is today considered the best is downloading DSD files and DSD Multichannel files. If Apple did that, then they would be back out in front as an innovator again.
post #9 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post
 

Spare us the drama will you. Pono is already being panned by critics as not worth the money. It’ll be used by a few wacked out audiophiles who live for specs but can’t tell the difference, and priced up there with those granite slab turntables.


I understand the crap the digital techno guys spread. I trust the opinions of the musicians who have compared the Pono to other digital music players. I'll side with them. They get to hear the master tracks that they create. When they say that Pono is better quality than other formats they've heard I believe them.

 

I've seen the video technical explanations about how humans can't tell the difference because of certain parameters and how the rounding of the steps between each digital sample makes digital just as good as analog. It just isn't true. I don't care if people think of me as a "wacked out audiophile".

 

The hardware used in digital music reproduction does have a huge effect on the quality of the sound. If Apple just adopts a higher quality file it will sound better but it just won't be anywhere near as good as a high end Pono music player.

post #10 of 155
Pono was already out done by Astell & Kern, they do DSD now and they have better converters and they can play FLAC, so Pono is just Young's feeble attempt at 24 bit. Once Apple has 24 bit Mastered for ITunes, you probably won't be able to tell much between formats. It's not just the files, it's how good the DAC process is done. Pono will be dead in a couple of years, especially if Apple changes their iDevices and Computers with 24 bit DAC. But external DACs will be typically better than built in DACS due to more expensive components, better noise filtration, power supplies, etc. etc. there question is more about whether DSD is going to survive.
post #11 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post


I understand the crap the digital techno guys spread. I trust the opinions of the musicians who have compared the Pono to other digital music players. I'll side with them. They get to hear the master tracks that they create. When they say that Pono is better quality than other formats they've heard I believe them.

I've seen the video technical explanations about how humans can't tell the difference because of certain parameters and how the rounding of the steps between each digital sample makes digital just as good as analog. It just isn't true. I don't care if people think of me as a "wacked out audiophile".

The hardware used in digital music reproduction does have a huge effect on the quality of the sound. If Apple just adopts a higher quality file it will sound better but it just won't be anywhere near as good as a high end Pono music player.

It all depends on the system and what one is used to listening to and if they can hear the differences. Can experts tell the difference between digital and analog? Well, it depends on the system. I saw a video of someone trying to compare a $150K turntable setup to a $50K digital system and they said it was VERY difficult to tell the difference. Now, most people can't afford either. So if you bought a VERY nice DAC that was priced the same as a turntable/tone arm/cartridge/phono pre amp/cables to a similarly priced DAC/Player, I think it is possible to get something that sounds pretty damn close of the same amount of money if you 're listening to well mastered files (24 or 16 bit or even DSD). Bt you still have to spend a little money on each setup. I'm sure within a $5,000 price point it's pretty close. just getting a decent cartridge costs $500+, a decent turntable costs $1500 to $2500, a decent phono pre amp costs at least $500 for something of decent quality, so the numbers add up fast. one can get a kick ass USB DAC for less than $2000 that will play anything.
post #12 of 155
An interesting review (of sorts) and good comments on the Pono and audio quality generally.
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/05/pono-neil-young-24bit-192khz-review
post #13 of 155

24-bit or not, if this means that those tracks will get transferred without dynamic range compression and without the levels constantly hitting up to the distortion/"digital zero" point, I'm all for it. While those issues also afflict a lot of CDs, the lack of attention to detail with many of the tracks I've purchased on iTunes is all too audible.

 

Just looking at the volume adjustment levels when playing back tracks purchased on iTunes, most of them compensate at -4 db or more. By comparison, with most of my high res analog transfers from vinyl (or SACD analog playback) where I set the levels manually to just below clipping, the level compensation is right around 0 db or within 1 db +-.  If I set the input level 4 db higher on those transfers, the clipping would occur early and often. And that's what I see in the iTunes Store, and that's why I don't purchase Apple's tracks unless it's something out-of-print and/or exceedingly difficult to find on CD or vinyl.

 

With SACD, DVD-A, and Blu-ray audio, the transfers aren't generally done with maximum loudness in mind, despite the extra headroom that those formats allow. If the 24-bit iTunes files are done in the same manner, they'll be well worth the extra cost. It's too bad that consumers have to pay extra just to get better mastering practices. But, more often than not, that comes with the territory with music released in high res formats.


Edited by Woochifer - 4/10/14 at 6:14pm
post #14 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

I'm looking forward to experiencing music from the Pono music player. It will be better quality than this alleged Mastered for iTunes product. Pono will use FLAC files and be capable of using other industry standard files of lesser quality.

I doubt any process will be as good as original vinyl recordings on a good system but Pono will certainly be the top of the line standard for a while to come. They will debut in the summer of 2014.

1) I can't decide which is more overpriced, Pono and a Tolberone at an international airport terminal gift shop.

2) Saying their music store will sell you FLAC files doesn't actually tell you anything about the source content. I can take an iTS song and turn it into Apple Lossless or FLAC but that doesn't mean the quality will be better because of that. Has there been any proof that the record company will be using masters that will Pono's use of a lossless codec to be fully recognized? To me that sounds like something that would be hard to negotiate.
Edited by SolipsismX - 4/10/14 at 5:55pm

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post #15 of 155

I'm insufficiently well-heeled to be purchasing Pono, but I'm appreciative to Neil Young for pursuing it.  There is no need for disrespectful comments I might add.  

 

Do I correctly understand the upgrade rate quoted as a dollar per song?  Seems a bit steep for my budget, although I'm glad for the opportunity to upgrade the tracks I've already purchased.

post #16 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

makes digital just as good as analog. It just isn't true.

You're right. Digital is better in every conceivable way. Except that some people who don't understand it convince themselves that it must be worse than vinyl and go on to perform poorly or not-at-all controlled comparisons which - surprise, surprise - reinforce their original viewpoint.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woochifer View Post

24-bit or not, if this means that those tracks will get transferred without dynamic range compression and without the levels constantly hitting up to the distortion/"digital zero" point, I'm all for it.

This.

This can quite often be the cause of vinyl sounding better - whilst it is worse in every way as a medium compared to CD (dynamic range, frequency response, wow & flutter, distortion) vinyl masters do not usually have their dynamic range compressed into oblivion.
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post #17 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

I sure hope this rumor is true.

The iTunes Store would then be the place to buy classical music.

And jazz
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post #18 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

You're right. Digital is better in every conceivable way. Except that some people who don't understand it convince themselves that it must be worse than vinyl and go on to perform poorly or not-at-all controlled comparisons which - surprise, surprise - reinforce their original viewpoint.
Music never really sounded great in the vinyl days unless it was played loudly (probably the same now). The thing is that audiophiles in those days (probably same now) spent a shocking amount of money on their gear. I had a teacher whose record player cartridge alone cost a couple of grand. No wonder it sounded better than some $200.- Bluetooth speakers.
post #19 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


1) I can't decide which is more overpriced, Pono and a Tolberone at an international airport terminal gift shop.

2) Saying their music store will sell you FLAC files doesn't actually tell you anything about the source content. I can take an iTS song and turn it into Apple Lossless or FLAC but that doesn't mean the quality will be better because of that. Has there been any proof that the record company will be using masters that will Pono's use of a lossless codec to be fully recognized? To me that sounds like something that would be hard to negotiate.

You're still being a turd SolipsismX. Go to the Ponomusic.com site and read about the music sources that will be used for the Pono approved files. The music player will have a special light that will appear on the screen when the highest resolution files are playing. 192 kHz/24 bit FLAC files are very different than Apples codex.

 

The Astell & Kern AK 240 probably sounds awesome but how many people can spend $2500 for a portable music player? The Pono will cost $399. The Fiio X5 gets good reviews too for the same money. I'm eagerly awaiting the comparisons.

post #20 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

You're still being a turd SolipsismX. Go to the Ponomusic.com site and read about the music sources that will be used for the Pono approved files. The music player will have a special light that will appear on the screen when the highest resolution files are playing. 192 kHz/24 bit FLAC files are very different than Apples codex.

The Astell & Kern AK 240 probably sounds awesome but how many people can spend $2500 for a portable music player? The Pono will cost $399. The Fiio X5 gets good reviews too for the same money. I'm eagerly awaiting the comparisons.

1) Am I "turd" because I asked a question about negotiated master access or because I made a joke about PonoPlayer looking like a Tolberone, a design I find to be quite horrid for sliding in or out of one's pocket. Call me crazy but I happen to think a portable music player should actually be portable.

2) Again, a "special light" appearing on the PonoPlayer when 192kHz @ 24-bit files are playing has absolutely no barring on the source it was taken from. Or are you saying that PonoPlayer actually can tell if the source if the original source or sources were 192kHz @ 24-bits, not just the file on the PonoPlayer itself.
Edited by SolipsismX - 4/10/14 at 7:00pm

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post #21 of 155
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post
Apple currently requires publishers provide 24-bit ALAC tracks with high sampling rates to increase sound quality when transcoded to the lossy AAC format currently available on iTunes.

 

Here’s an idea: JUST SELL THE ALAC TRACKS.

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post #22 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Here’s an idea: JUST SELL THE ALAC TRACKS.

1) I doubt Apple is allowed to do that without their permission.

2) I don't see how ALAC would be any worse than FLAC for the same quality source file since they're both lossless but Smallwheels states that "FLAC files are very different than [ALAC]" so that should be looked into.
Edited by SolipsismX - 4/10/14 at 8:31pm

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post #23 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
 

You're still being a turd SolipsismX. Go to the Ponomusic.com site and read about the music sources that will be used for the Pono approved files. The music player will have a special light that will appear on the screen when the highest resolution files are playing. 192 kHz/24 bit FLAC files are very different than Apples codex.

 

The Astell & Kern AK 240 probably sounds awesome but how many people can spend $2500 for a portable music player? The Pono will cost $399. The Fiio X5 gets good reviews too for the same money. I'm eagerly awaiting the comparisons.

 

If the Pono is as good as they say then $400 for most apple customers is reasonable.   Lets face it-Apple has been very successful selling premium products.      I think that its great that iTunes may finally upgrade its file formats, but we will have to see if just upgrading the file formats on an iPod is as good as the Pono.

post #24 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

 

Here’s an idea: JUST SELL THE ALAC TRACKS.

 

I was thinking of the same thing. Renew those deals and sell the lossless tracks as default.

 

Then bring the Lower Quality 64Kbps AAC+ files as streaming option.

post #25 of 155

It is unlikely a major record company would simply let Apple sell the 24-bit ALACs at the drop of a hat because the end product would be superior to what the record company offers in the terms of physical media.

 

Remember that mass market downloadable music is inferior in quality to a CD, same with all the streaming stuff. It's all lossy.

 

The deals would likely need to be renegotiated with the studios and some artists might hold out anyhow. Presumably the record companies would want more money for better-than-CD content.

 

There's no real technological hurdle. iDevices and older iPods have handled 48kHz/24-bit ALAC files for years; Macs can handle the 96kHz files fine with optical audio out, maybe higher 192kHz via USB.

 

It's more of a licensing issue as far as I can tell.


Edited by mpantone - 4/10/14 at 8:20pm
post #26 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


1) I doubt Apple is allowed to do that without their permission.

2) I don't see how ALAC would be any worse than FLAC for the same quality source file since they're both lossless but Smallwheels states that "LAC files are very different than [ALAC]" so that should be looked into.

 

Not really.  Both uncompress to what is commonly known as AIFF, which is 2 channel PCM audio encoded in a file.  AIFF stands for Apple Interchange File Format and was pioneered by Apple in the late 80s and quickly made the standard in music mastering then...and now.  Microsoft and IBM came out with WAV a couple of years later, which was basically the same thing.

post #27 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by paxman View Post


Music never really sounded great in the vinyl days unless it was played loudly (probably the same now). The thing is that audiophiles in those days (probably same now) spent a shocking amount of money on their gear. I had a teacher whose record player cartridge alone cost a couple of grand. No wonder it sounded better than some $200.- Bluetooth speakers.

 

I've been an audiophile since the late 70's. By audiophile I mean someone who's really into music and listening to it on a high-end system. However, I'm not one of those idiots who claims they can hear the difference between a $50 speaker cable and a $2,000 speaker cable or that a $50,000 amplifier will sound better than a $2,000 amplifier. My entire system (which happens to be mostly Canadian made) is worth around $10,000, what I consider a point at which you can achieve fantastic sound quality and that I feel is not going to be really improved upon by spending more (much to the chagrin of "true" audiophiles who think $10,000 is a good starting point for a single piece of gear).

 

I paid $1,000 for my first (and only) high-end turntable in and cartridge and it sounded fantastic (1982). You didn't have to play it loud for it to sound good. I also remember the first CD players that came out. While they had fantastic specs on paper, they didn't always sound good. This had a lot to do with how the DAC's were made in the early days (I found many to sound rather shrill). DAC quality has greatly improved over the years and today you can get a $5 chip that sounds as good as a $2,000 dedicated DAC from the early days, yet I still hear "audiophiles" claim they can hear artifacts in digital recordings as if they were still listening to gear from the early 80's.

 

It's also funny that Sony/Philips claimed that 44.1KHz was a high enough sample rate to capture all the sound. Yet Sony made digital studio recorders that could also record in 48, 88.2 and 96KHz. What would be the point of recording at higher sampling rates if 44.1KHz was "good enough"?

 

I hope Apple does offer high quality tracks for download. While I have a lot of music from iTunes, I still buy CD's of music I consider worthwhile (where the artist spent time actually creating something that sounds good). While audiophiles can argue about the differences between two obscenely overpriced components, anyone can hear the difference between a compressed MP3 and the original on a reasonably good system. Most people just never bother to actually do a side-by-side, but if they did they'd soon realize that MP3's really aren't as good.

 

If Apple does this then I'll finally stop buying physical media for my music.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


2) I don't see how ALAC would be any worse than FLAC for the same quality source file since they're both lossless but Smallwheels states that "FLAC files are very different than [ALAC]" so that should be looked into.

 

There is no difference, which means Smallwheels either doesn't know the technology or is lying.

 

You can take a digital audio file and run it through ALAC to get the coded version, then convert it back from ALAC into digital audio and compare the original file to the file that was encoded/decoded with ALAC. You'll find they are bit-for-bit accurate. It's like turning a Word document into a ZIP file and then unzipping back to the Word document. Did your document change? Were there spelling mistakes or formatting issues? No, because a ZIP file is also considered lossless - when you unzip you get the exact same thing that went in, bit-for-bit.

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post #28 of 155
Can an audio engineer or someone else who is qualified please comment on a few things:

It seems like the audio quality debate perpetually rages on the internet, with one group who thinks 256kbps AAC is just as good as lossless tracks, while the other end of the spectrum you have people collecting 24-bit, 96/192hz Super audio CD/DVD-Audio files.

1) will 20/24-bit sampling actually make a perceptible difference to anyone using headphones or speakers that weren't > $5,000?

2) Wouldn't 16-bit, 44.1khz (ie CD quality) tracks in Apple Lossless format (or FLAC) be more reasonable for the average user? Would there be any discernible difference between these CD quality tracks and a theoretical 24-bit, high sampling rate master track??
post #29 of 155
Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

There is no difference, which means Smallwheels either doesn't know the technology or is lying.

 

ALAC carries metadata embedded while FLAC can’t.

 

At least, that was my understanding. Nothing as to any limitations on sound quality, that is.

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post #30 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

1) I doubt Apple is allowed to do that without their permission.

2) I don't see how ALAC would be any worse than FLAC for the same quality source file since they're both lossless but Smallwheels states that "FLAC files are very different than [ALAC]" so that should be looked into.

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post #31 of 155

Instead of writing Apple's codex it should have been Apple's AAC codex. Sorry for that.

post #32 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

Instead of writing Apple's codex it should have been Apple's AAC codex. Sorry for that.

"Codec"

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post #33 of 155

The super-deluxe editions of the first 3 Zep albums coming out in June also have a code to download a digital copy of the album and the extra tracks on the second disc. It would be great if, like the rumour, the code allowed us to download a hi-res digital version from iTunes!

 

Or somebody has been reading the comments on this forum and decide to spin it into a rumour.

post #34 of 155
A 2 tier music quality pricing system again? No thank you, just make it better sound and no price increase. Should be allowed to download the quality I want, just like when ripping a CD.
post #35 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarembo View Post
 

I'm insufficiently well-heeled to be purchasing Pono, but I'm appreciative to Neil Young for pursuing it.  There is no need for disrespectful comments I might add. 

Yep.  No matter what anyone thinks of Pono, Neil Young has consistently been a proponent of higher sound quality and gone out of his way to make high res versions of his music available to fans. He assembled a standout post production team for his recent archiving project.  As one of the products of that project, his Greatest Hits CD/DVD combo pack is a reference quality remaster. Not only does that set include a standout CD, but it also includes 96 kHz/24-bit tracks on an open DVD -- no DVD-Audio player required, and no forced downsampling. Since the CD and high res DVD tracks were done concurrently, it can be used for A-B testing. Nothing but respect from me for what Neil Young has done over the years for fans who appreciate good sound quality.


 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr. H

This can quite often be the cause of vinyl sounding better - whilst it is worse in every way as a medium compared to CD (dynamic range, frequency response, wow & flutter, distortion) vinyl masters do not usually have their dynamic range compressed into oblivion.

 

One of the ironies here is that dynamic range compression was common practice with vinyl mastering because high dynamics could lead to mistracking on cheap record changers or improperly setup turntables. It was a lowest common denominator step to account for the low quality of an average record player. Vinyl has entered into a sort of renaissance stage because it now bypasses the mass market and goes straight to the higher end consumer. Compromises common to CD mastering aren't prevalent with newer LP pressings.

 

When first introduced, CDs were supposed to let audiences finally hear the full dynamics of the original recording. But, then came the loudness wars and everything seems even more compressed nowadays than they ever were during vinyl's heyday.  I think part of this is because the mastering now optimizes for mobile playback and small speakers (like in cars, computers, or earbuds), whereas before, the playback was optimized for larger speakers and component-based home audio systems. 30 years ago, 15" JBL studio monitors were the norm, and now it's 8" (or smaller) nearfield monitors.

Quote:

Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee

I paid $1,000 for my first (and only) high-end turntable in and cartridge and it sounded fantastic (1982). You didn't have to play it loud for it to sound good. I also remember the first CD players that came out. While they had fantastic specs on paper, they didn't always sound good. This had a lot to do with how the DAC's were made in the early days (I found many to sound rather shrill). DAC quality has greatly improved over the years and today you can get a $5 chip that sounds as good as a $2,000 dedicated DAC from the early days, yet I still hear "audiophiles" claim they can hear artifacts in digital recordings as if they were still listening to gear from the early 80's.

 

It's also funny that Sony/Philips claimed that 44.1KHz was a high enough sample rate to capture all the sound. Yet Sony made digital studio recorders that could also record in 48, 88.2 and 96KHz. What would be the point of recording at higher sampling rates if 44.1KHz was "good enough"?

 

The thing about analog front end equipment (which is what really sparked the audio hobby in the first place) is the extreme variation between low and high end components. Anyone can really hear a difference between the cheap record changers of yore and a decent properly setup turntable with a high quality cartridge.  The differences are obvious and measurable.

 

With digital, the differences are far narrower, however the obsessions and claims of night and day differences among audiophiles continued to persist. 

 

When CDs first came out, a lot of the releases sounded horrible because the mastering practices from vinyl carried over. Mastering engineers were used to tweaking the EQ and other settings to compensate for the vinyl medium.  But, what might have sounded great on vinyl could indeed sound grating on CD.

 

WRT the sampling rates, I recall that Sony's PCM recorders at that time did indeed use a 44.1 kHz sampling rate. The highest sampling rate at that time I recall was Soundstream's 50 kHz system. With any digital format, you're always going to be limited by whatever processor technology and storage limits exist. The CD format was locked in by the late-70s, and the early debates centered on whether the CD would be an optical analog format (like the Laserdisc) or a digital format, which at that time was only beginning to make its way into recording studios. Sony/Philips' decision to go with PCM digital was actually a very bold move, because it required some big advances in optical storage, data retrieval, and signal processing that had to also not cost an arm and a leg.

 

Higher sampling rates just accompanied advances in digital technology, yet the CD format remained stuck in its 70s vintage 44.1 kHz/16-bit format. I believe that a big reason (if not the biggest) for using higher sampling rates with studio recorders is for maintaining audio quality during the mixing process and when applying any other signal processing. To me, the point of going high res is allowing the audience to hear a bit for bit transcription of the master source.


Edited by Woochifer - 4/10/14 at 11:41pm
post #36 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

ALAC carries metadata embedded while FLAC can’t.

At least, that was my understanding. Nothing as to any limitations on sound quality, that is.

FLAC also supports metadata. Artwork, Artist & Song name and such. Perhaps it doesn't have as many fields or equally large headers as say .mp3, that may be.
post #37 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
 
I've seen the video technical explanations about how humans can't tell the difference because of certain parameters and how the rounding of the steps between each digital sample makes digital just as good as analog. It just isn't true. I don't care if people think of me as a "wacked out audiophile".

 

AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUGHHHH! Not again! I thought we resolved all this crap in the 90s?

 

I am so SICK of people who have never even READ Nyquist's sampling theorem, who have ZERO understanding of the math, regurgitating utter nonsense like "rounding off the steps" as if there were some validity to their meaningless remarks!

 

Here's the bottom line: Increasing the sample rate above 44.1 KHz increases the highest frequency the system can store. That's it. It does not improve the resolution of lower frequencies, reduce the size of the steps or any other meaningless gobbledygook. This increase in high frequencies does NOT affect audible frequencies through additional frequency interactions because those, if they existed, and if they were audible, were CAPTURED BY THE MICROPHONE AT THE TIME OF RECORDING. If you think there's something going on above 22 KHz (this world contains almost nothing over 10 KHz much less 20) and you think you can hear it (and still thing so after listening to a tone generator sweep up to that point), by all means, buy high sample rate recordings. Otherwise, refuse to be sucked in by marketing bullshit.

 

More bottom line: Increasing the word length from 16 bits to 24 bits lowers the volume at which the signal turns to noisy hash. Period, The End, nothing else. For a classical piece with 100 dB dynamic range this can be beneficial because the really, really, really, really, really quiet parts will sound less grainy (and if you can hear them, you better have a seven thousand watt amplifier for when the loud part comes in -- do the math: twice the power for every 3 db). For a Pop piece with the dynamics compressed so hard that the waveform looks like a cylinder, the net benefit of more bits is zero zilch nada FA poodly. Nothing. Increasing dynamic range doesn't magically improve other characteristics.

 

If you want something that sounds better, start with reducing the or removing the data compression. Apple's move from 128K to 256K some years ago was a really good one. Another step like that would be good.

 

But If someone tells you a recording sounds better because it has more bits and higher sampling rate, tell them to save that bullshit for distant recordings of bats. You don't have to have golden ear training to see though the marketing hype, you just need a working calculator. Don't let them sucker you.


Edited by Lorin Schultz - 4/11/14 at 5:12am

Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

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V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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post #38 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by winterspan View Post

1) will 20/24-bit sampling actually make a perceptible difference to anyone using headphones or speakers that weren't > $5,000?

 

It depends on what you're listening to.

 

The benefit of longer digital words (20 or 24 bit) is a lower noise floor. If your recording already swamps the noise floor there is no benefit. The difference between 20 decibels below audible and 60 decibels below audible is zilch -- once it's below audible, any further reduction is (drum roll please) INAUDIBLE.

 

So, if it's a classical recording with really, really quiet parts, those quiet parts will sound less "grainy" and exhibit less "hiss" than a 16 bit recording. This should be audible on all but the crappiest speakers and headphones, though an iPod may not have enough power to turn it up to the point where those really, really quiet parts are clearly audible,

 

If it's a typical pop recording that's pinning the meters from start to finish, no you won't hear a difference with ANY headphones or speakers at any price.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by winterspan View Post

2) Wouldn't 16-bit, 44.1khz (ie CD quality) tracks in Apple Lossless format (or FLAC) be more reasonable for the average user? Would there be any discernible difference between these CD quality tracks and a theoretical 24-bit, high sampling rate master track??

 

Yes, a 44/16 release with no data compression will sound BETTER than a data compressed 96/24 track, and JUST AS GOOD AS UNCOMPRESSED 96/24 (with a few exceptions). Why?

 

Because first, almost every recording released nowadays is already so far past the point of making the noise floor inaudible that lowering it anymore is irrelevant and inaudible. That means there's no point in adding more dynamic range. "Can you hear it now?" "No." (Turns it down) "How about now?" What's the point?

 

And because second, if you look at a graph of the energy in a typical performance, there's almost nothing over 10 KHz much less 20 KHz. Nor can you HEAR anything higher than 20 KHz. That means recording stuff over 20 KHz is the equivalent of recording silence. Why would you bother?

 

Some people argue that capturing the "extra" is beneficial for creating more accurate downconversions, but neither the math nor listening tests bear that out.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Woochifer View Post
 

One of the ironies here is that dynamic range compression was common practice with vinyl mastering because high dynamics could lead to mistracking on cheap record changers or improperly setup turntables.

 

Not to mention having to roll off the bottom so the stylus wouldn't jump out of the groove.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Woochifer View Post
 

(Lots more absolutely right stuff snipped but acknowledged)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Woochifer View Post
 

Higher sampling rates just accompanied advances in digital technology

 

Depends how you define that.

 

Early anti-aliasing filters were not very good. It's hard to make a good, cheap, steep filter, and easier to make a good, cheap, SHALLOW filter. Raising the sampling frequency allowed the use of cheaper anti-aliasing filters that also sounded better. So systems with higher sample rates sounded better, but NOT because of the higher sampling rate. It was because the filters were better.

 

None of that is relevant anymore. Today the only benefit of higher sampling rate is an increase in the highest frequency that can be recorded. Thus the only argument is whether or not there is any benefit to recording frequencies higher than 22 KHz.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Woochifer View Post
 

To me, the point of going high res is allowing the audience to hear a bit for bit transcription of the master source.

 

Reasonable statement, but I would ask you what you expect to hear at 96/24 that you wouldn't at 44/16? Further, what deleterious effects do you believe occur when down converting from 96/24 to 44/16?

 

I don't know what kind of magic people think is going on in recording studios that will be masked by a 44/16 release and only revealed by way of 96/24 media. The laws of physics exist in the studio the same way they do at home. There's nothing going on behind that glass that mysteriously results in sounds so quiet or high in frequency that they can only be heard at 96/24.

 

 

-------------------------

 

 

This is a really tough subject because it gets religious. Many audio practitioners (most?) have never seen the inside of a classroom. Others have had some practical training but no theoretical education at all. Thus we have people with supposed "credibility" spouting the same crap some self-described audiophiles use to defend their erroneous positions: incorrect understanding of how sampling actually works, flawed conclusions based on misunderstanding (like the filters example, above) and accepting the anecdotal without testing it against reasonable controls. People believe misinformation about digital as fervently as they believe in an invisible friend who lives on a cloud and knows what they think and watches them masturbate, even though there's about as much evidence to support one as there is the other.

 

Fortunately there's a solution. Just study the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem and do your own tests. You don't have to take anyone else's word for it. You'll see that it's much less ambiguous than analog apologists claim!


Edited by Lorin Schultz - 4/11/14 at 5:15am

Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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post #39 of 155

24-bit AAC would still be lossy - a better step would be staying with 16-bit but using lossless audio.

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Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others.
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post #40 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post

Apple's AAC codex.

AAC is not Apple's "codex" (the word is "codec" by the way).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

ALAC carries metadata embedded while FLAC can’t.

Both ALAC and FLAC can have metadata embedded. It is WAV that does not support metadata and that's one of the reasons why AIFF is a superior file format to WAV despite both using the same method/encoding to represent the audio data.

ALAC and FLAC are both lossless so achieve exactly the same audio quality. ALAC has also been open-sourced by Apple. Determining which is better than the other requires close attention to technical details such as compression efficiency, computational requirements etc.
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