Originally posted by Trendannoyer
audiophiles ... i really dont understand them... you want a REALLY good 'as the artist intended" experiance... get a pair of studio moitors otherwise your just a consumer like everyone else.
I haven't been back in many years, but I used to read and post in the newsgroup rec.audio.opinion. You should have seen the amazing flame wars there, every bit if not more contentious than AppleOutsider/PoliticalOutsider threads here.
I'm pretty much always going to be on the "objectivist" side of any of these audio debates. I'm can be open to some interesting claims of what makes one thing sound better or worse than another, and I certainly believe some people do have better hearing and discriminatory power than I do -- but soooo much of what goes on in the audio work is complete BS, snake oil, the Emperor's New Clothes.
Without documented listening tests to the contrary, I sincerely doubt that many people can hear any difference at all between 16/44.1 audio and any of the higher rates. Oh, maybe are rare few actually can, but I doubt they're as common as the claims are, and I'd think it would probably require not only very good equipment, but an usually quiet listening environment to really hear, not merely imagine that you hear, a difference between 16 bits and 20 bits or more.
16 bits doesn't cover the entire dynamic range of human hearing. 20 bits (120 dB) will take you from the very threshold of hearing past the threshold of pain. I suppose under the right circumstances you might even be able to hear an entire 22-bit or more dynamic range, if by "hear" you mean experience with full appreciation everything from the quietest imaginable sound up through several distinct levels of pain. This said, is 16 bits "enough" under most circumstances?
Imagine that your volume is turned up loud enough that the loudest passages on a 16-bit CD are as loud as a chain saw held at arm's length -- about 100 dB (ref. 0 dB = 10^-12W). The quietest possible passage just above complete silence (4 dB) would be quieter than rustling leaves or a typical whisper, even quieter than normal human breathing.
Typical room noise in a "quiet" room is rated at 40 dB -- I don't know what the standard is for a quiet room, but I imagine that the standard accounts for things like refrigerators and ventilation and muffled street noises from a quiet neighborhood. So, if you're sitting in this kind of "quiet" room, and you've got your volume up to chain-saw level, the quietest passages of a CD will have quite of bit of competition from room noise. There's only 60 dB of dynamic range between sounds you can reliably hear over room noise, and that's at playback levels many people would find annoyingly loud. Turn down the volume some, and even more of that 16-bit range is lost to background room noise. 70 dB, still short of the full 96 db of a standard CD, covers the range from quiet room noise to the threshold of pain.
Another way to think about the issue is this: Imagine you're operating a chain saw. Someone standing next to you, but out of sight, whispers, or brushes a hand lightly over their clothing. Do you think you'll hear that? If you aren't actually aware of the particular sound, do you think the chain saw is going to sound subtly different to you because of the contribution of the other sound?
It's hard enough to hear the full dynamic range of a CD in when the loudest parts are put in stark contrast with the quietest possible details. When you think about a person listening to a song or a passage of music, playing along at more or less a constant typical listening level, and this person claiming that with all of this loud sound going on he can tune into and not only hear levels of details measured in the least significant of 16 bits, but describe in florid prose all of the wonderful qualities of music which are missing, which would take far finer levels of detail to satisfy -- well, how can you not be a bit skeptical about that sort of claim?
Of course, for many, skepticism doesn't matter. Technical explanations don't matter. They try X. They try Y. They think X sounds better than Y, and that's settles that because they know
they heard the difference -- to suggest that the difference is imagined is absurd at best, and worse, possibly an insult.