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Why Distributing Music As 24-bit/192kHz Downloads Is Pointless

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the but-all-those-bits-sound-so-good dept.

Media 841

An anonymous reader writes "A recent post at Xiph.org provides a long and incredibly detailed explanation of why 24-bit/192kHz music downloads — touted as being of 'uncompromised studio quality' — don't make any sense. The post walks us through some of the basics of ear anatomy, sampling rates, and listening tests, finally concluding that lossless formats and a decent pair of headphones will do a lot more for your audio enjoyment than 24/192 recordings. 'Why push back against 24/192? Because it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist, a business model based on willful ignorance and scamming people. The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness... even if this is a small and relatively insignificant example.'"

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841 comments

Can we stop using the word "truthiness," please? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256967)

I know, Stephen Colbert is Reddit's hero and they're starting to infiltrate this site as well, but seriously. Call them lies. That's what they are, that's what they -deserve- to be called. Are people really that passive-aggressive and afraid of expressing themselves that they won't call someone who lies a liar any more?

Re:Can we stop using the word "truthiness," please (-1, Offtopic)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257133)

Two words mate: Libel Laws.

If you live in the UK, be afraid of what you say in public. Be very afraid. One wrong word, and you are screwed.

Re:Can we stop using the word "truthiness," please (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257213)

You mean like, honkies, spics, niggers, dune coons, prairie niggers, kykes, faggots, chinks, canucks, wops, guineas, krauts, and polocks? I think that's everybody anyway, my apologies if I left out any group, I try to be an equal opportunity offender, challenging people to be adults and get over their group identitied. Criticism welcome. Cowardly disapproval spurned.

Re:Can we stop using the word "truthiness," please (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257313)

If you live in the UK, be afraid of what you say in public. Be very afraid. One wrong word, and you are screwed.

The whinging pommy bastards can suck my balls.

Re:Can we stop using the word "truthiness," please (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257343)

yarbles*

Re:Can we stop using the word "truthiness," please (5, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257219)

I know, Stephen Colbert is Reddit's hero and they're starting to infiltrate this site as well, but seriously. Call them lies. That's what they are, that's what they -deserve- to be called. Are people really that passive-aggressive and afraid of expressing themselves that they won't call someone who lies a liar any more?

Okay, everybody, listen up: Anonymous Coward is having a rough day so let's all be extra nice to him!

Re:Can we stop using the word "truthiness," please (5, Informative)

xiphmont (80732) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257261)

Truthiness refers to a specific kind of lie-- a lie that sounds true, and that a large segment of people really want to be true. The kind of thing that's close enough to true for AM radio talk show hosts.

And now... I'll get off your damned lawn. Don't forget to take your teeth out before falling asleep.

Re:Can we stop using the word "truthiness," please (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257295)

Duh! It's called political correctness. And if you even dare show a pair, others will kick them till you're blue in the face.

The article writer is a deaf idiot (-1, Flamebait)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256971)

If you can't hear the difference between cymbals, bells, brass, and other "edgy" instruments at 44KHz/16bit "lossless" and 192KHz/24-bit, you're either deaf or using earbuds.

Idiot.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (2)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256979)

Does it matter when the dynamic range is shot to hell?

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257165)

Not nearly as much, no, but then that applies to very little of the music I buy. (And when it is true of it, it's usually for effect -- e.g., Daft Punk). Mass market music may be mixed for shit, but then I don't think 24-bit/192kHz is being aimed at the group of people.
 
Really, though, the article is pretty convincing bunk. I love his argument that sampling over 48kHz makes the audio more distorted and worse; it's a stroke of genius to turn reality on its head, like something you would find in a political campaign.
 
(Disclaimer: I write digital audio software for a living and have kept limited the sampling rates to 44.1 kHz and below, because it's appropriate for the type of use it sees. It also uses 32-bit audio where appropriate.)

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (1, Interesting)

AgentSmitz (2587601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256983)

There is a huge problem with file sizes (so both hard drive space and download bandwidth) with lossless files, so no, it's not entirely without problems.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (4, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257025)

>There is a huge problem with file sizes

Not any more, pumpkin.

We hit the terabyte size in drives a couple of years ago. There's no reason to be buying this format vs "archive quality" cd-audio or other lossless.

Buy/rip lossless. Transcode to lossy as needed. Anything else and you're being ripped off.

I listen to real music with real instruments. The "swish" you get in high-frequency percussion with lossy algorithms is annoying as fuck.

--
BMO

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (2)

tapspace (2368622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257053)

> I listen to real music with real instruments. The "swish" you get in high-frequency percussion with lossy algorithms is annoying as fuck

Seconded. Many things sound fine (not great, but OK) in medium to low bitrate MP3 or OGG or AAC or whatever. Some things sound terrible, and when they do, it sucks to listen to.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (4, Funny)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257267)

Not if you don't know any better. ;-)

Seriously, its been so long since I've seen a live band I don't know what a drum is supposed to sound like.
At my age my ears are not so hot.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (5, Funny)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257319)

I used to think like you. Spent thousands on audio equipment.

Now that I'm deaf in one ear I listen to MP3s through $24 headphones.

Being deaf saves a lot of money.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256997)

Lossless formats (eg. Flac) by definition have no loss. You must be confused.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (4, Interesting)

smi.james.th (1706780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257205)

No loss from the original sampling, i.e. they didn't loose any information in the compression. Most music is sampled at (correct me if I'm wrong someone?) 44kHz, I forget how many bits, I think 16. The thing being touted is sampling it at 192kHz with 24bit resolution, which is much higher on both counts, and therefore, in theory, should produce better quality reproduction of the sound based on oversampling and reduction of the signal to quantization noise rate. The point the TFA makes is that human ears can't hear the difference, although I think that some audiophiles may beg to differ.

FWIW, I have quite bad ears, a recording needs to be quite bad before I notice it. I'm an electronic engineer though, so I know all the theory...

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (2)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257273)

The point is that the 44KHz 16bit track has already been compressed from the original recording. However you rip that track, lossless or lossy, it doesn't matter; you're still not getting the original track.

Knowing this, it doesn't mean that the tracks some sites are selling as 192KHz 24bit are from the original sources, or will even sound better, either. The original track could have been recorded with bad equipment or settings. In other cases, when doing comparisons on CD tracks vs high resolution tracks from sites like HDTracks, you can sometimes find that the HDTracks track is just the CD track with increased reported resolution/file size - possibly due to the inability to acquire the original material, though it could also be as simple as pure greed and laziness. Not that all of the albums on those sites are fakes, but a few of them have been found to be ripoffs.

There's also the fact that it's extremely unlikely anyone can tell the difference between an encode at 96KHz vs 192KHz. If they are both properly encoded from the same source, it's unlikely there will be any audible difference between them.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256999)

Different people have different cognitive abilities - this extends to our senses. The average person lacks perfect pitch, cannot tell the difference between SD and HD unless they're side by side, thinks their 128kbps MP3s sound alright, doesn't notice 60Hz jitter on their LCD, and so on.

It's the people on the fringes with superior senses who notice this stuff. But for the rest, this is all outside of their senses, so they're going to rubbish the quality paranoias of so-called audiophiles and videophiles.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257013)

Yep, not to mention the audio effects like reverb improve dramatically at higher sample rates (if they are written to take advantage of them)

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (5, Funny)

Aboroth (1841308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257017)

I find your well-reasoned and respectfully written response to be full of helpful counterpoints and useful references. I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0, Flamebait)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257195)

A triangle or bell should ring, not crackle.

A snare brush rustles at 192/24 instead of sounding like rustling paper.

Go listen to some LIVE music to hear what REAL instruments sound like instead of judging based on your years of bias listening to compressed and crappy CDs.

Of course if your music consists of synth beats, vocoder samplings, and other such drek, you've never HEARD a real instrument before in your life to know what one SHOULD sound like.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257029)

Yeah. Anyone who can't hear a tone at 90kHz is deaf.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (4, Insightful)

DeathFromSomewhere (940915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257045)

Double blind test results or I will continue to believe that you are suffering from Illusory superiority. [wikipedia.org]

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0, Troll)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257079)

Go listen to Stuart Copeland tap on his hi-hats with FLAC, shn, cd-audio, or apple lossless, and then at 192.

Then get back to me.

--
BMO - One world is enough, for all of us --The Police

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257151)

If you're sure you can hear a difference, why don't you ABX and prove it (or give strong evidence for it)? It's easy to hear a difference if you think you're supposed to, or if you paid a lot of money for speakers, etc. But its a lot harder to hear differences if you're doing a double blind test.

It's certainly OK to allow your emotions to take over if it makes you feel better to know you're listening to 24/192, but that's different than there actually being a perceived difference. You feeling better listening to 24/192 is an opinion, but whether you can actually perceive a difference is fact; lots of people confuse the two, so don't feel too bad.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (4, Insightful)

DeathFromSomewhere (940915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257171)

Did you listen to it double blinded? No? Then I don't care what your confirmation bias tells you that you heard. The difference is beyond your ability to hear, but not beyond your ability to deceive yourself into believing what you want to believe.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0)

nolife (233813) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257181)

People that have crappy sound systems do not realize the difference, or they just don't care. I don't mean that in a negative way, they like volume, not quality. Nothing wrong with that. I wish I was that way. Regular non remastered PF from the 70's is very noticeable to me when it is compressed and I can even tell when I'm driving 55 down the highway with a moderately priced car stereo. While at home on my couch listening to my home stereo, I'd rather listen to AM radio talk shows then music I am familiar with in a compressed format. It's just not the same and not enjoyable. Some people get into music more than others. Nothing wrong with that.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (5, Informative)

Sparohok (318277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257197)

A group of sixty audio professionals and audiophiles did a series of controlled double blind trials published in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society. They found no perceptible degradation caused by a 16-bit/44.1kHz A/D/A.

http://www.aes.org/e-lib/browse.cfm?elib=14195

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (1)

bigg_nate (769185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257233)

There are many examples [lmgtfy.com]. I doubt many people care about the difference (I certainly don't), but that doesn't mean it can't be detected.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (-1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257287)

Have you ever heard live, unamplified acoustic instruments?

Have you ever listened to music that wasn't from a CD or an MP3 player, such as a truly high-end, properly tuned analogue playback system?

Well, I have. I played in orchestral, jazz, and blues bands in my primary school years. I still hear the ring of real cymbals when I see live bands playing locally. There are buskers downtown playing real instruments.

The difference between 44/16 and 192/24 is immediately and blatantly obvious to anyone who grew up or still listens to real, honest to God instruments and voices instead of synth drums and vocoders.

Unfortunately, it has been proven time and again for decades that if you're not exposed to sounds early in your life, you may never be able to hear them because your neurons never develop the pathways to recognize those sounds. It's why English speakers have such a hell of a time learning Chinese -- there are sounds in Chinese that don't exist at all in English, so we literally can't hear the difference in what they're saying.

I pity those of you who've spent a lifetime training your ears with compressed digital media. You'll never hear the delicate ring of a triangle floating over an orchestra. You'll never hear the raspy metal on metal rustling of a snare brush. You can't. You trained the ability out of yourself.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (5, Insightful)

Sparohok (318277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257109)

When you can tell the difference between 44.1/16 and 192/24 in a double blind trial, come back and we'll talk.

Subjective opinions about audio quality, particularly those accompanied by words like "deaf" or "idiot", are worse than useless. Subjective listening is deeply suggestible and unreliable. Claimed differences among any acceptably well designed audio electronics virtually always disappears under rigorous and controlled testing.

To give just one example, listeners reliably prefer the louder source in subjective testing, even if the difference is not consciously perceptible. If a 192/24 D/A is just 0.1db louder than a 44.1/16 source, listeners will tend to describe it in all sorts of subjective terms... "edgier," "richer," "more forward," "cleaner impact," "deeper soundstage" etc when in fact it is simply a little louder.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0)

nolife (233813) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257311)

On tracks that you have listened to for many years, you know what to expect because you remember it. You've heard it 100's of times on many different systems over the years. When the music is compressed, you can hear the difference almost immediately, specially on the higher frequencies. I've personally never used 192/24 but I have used various forms of vbr/cbr at different rates and different encoders over the years. I've settled on a rate that balances space and quality. I still notice the difference though. Same going the other way, I've listened and "learned" tracks that were compressed and finally got an uncompressed version. I notice the difference that way as well. Was I happy with the original compressed version? Yes, it was all I had and it sounded as good as I had ever heard to that point.

Using your own argument, why not just use 128/16 or 96/24? There is obviously a difference right? What some people notice or not does not mean others do not.

Your claim about loudness being perceived as better is well known and no secret. Why do you think masters are mixed with such high average levels these days? Just because 95% percent of the population thinks louder is better does not mean everyone does. I am not some crazed audiophile with strange beliefs, rituals, and exotic equipment and it doesnt take that to hear differences.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (-1, Troll)

pz (113803) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257135)

Indeed. One of the overlooked but highly important issues with sampling rates is that although you can represent up to Nyquist in a periodically sampled signal, that is the limit for infinite length recordings. For finite-length recordings, it isn't all or nothing, represented perfectly or not at all -- instead the uncertainty (read: representation error) increases as you approach Nyquist. The engineering rule-of-thumb is to not attempt representing anything over 1/5 the sampling rate. For 20 KHz upper limit, that would be about 100 Ksamp/sec. 192 Ksamp/sec is a convenient number sufficiently above that to ensure excellent reconstruction of the signal. Using 24 bits is also a good idea because with only 16 bits, you have to compress the audio or clip the peaks.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (4, Insightful)

xiphmont (80732) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257297)

Indeed. One of the overlooked but highly important issues with sampling rates is that although you can represent up to Nyquist in a periodically sampled signal, that is the limit for infinite length recordings. For finite-length recordings, it isn't all or nothing, represented perfectly or not at all -- instead the uncertainty (read: representation error) increases as you approach Nyquist.

Too bad Shannon and Nyquist are dead. It seems they've completely misunderstood the math. How embarrassing they passed on before you could correct their mistake. Now they'll never know.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257239)

If you can't hear the difference between cymbals, bells, brass, and other "edgy" instruments at 44KHz/16bit "lossless" and 192KHz/24-bit, you're either deaf or using earbuds.

Idiot.

Im going to have to agree there. Since the industry moved away from vinyl and analog recording equipment the quality of audio has gone down. However since recently receiving several old analog recorded albums remastered to super audio cd which varies in their methods of transfer, however all are 24bit and above 86khz. Do represent to my ears a serious improvement in quality. I could go on and on about resonance and timbre, but suffice it to say these qualitys are difficult for digital equipment to deliver, something only a truly a discerning ear can notice. And it has nothing to do with your capability to hear high frequency sounds (my ears top out just under 18khz). Just ask Stevie Wonder.

Re:The article writer is a deaf idiot (2)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257243)

> If you can't hear the difference ...

I certainly can. I'm glad to hear others say that, too. I thought it was just me.

We have an analogous problem in broadcasting -- everyone wants to use compressed formats to save space and upload/download time. Files are thrown all over the Web now. (I haven't seen a reel tape in years, though I think we still have an old reel-to-reel somewhere just in case. Political season coming up, after all.)

The problem is REALLY bad when you repeatedly encode. For example, our digital automation systems wants to compress files. Our studio to transmitter links (STLs) want to compress to save bandwidth. HD Radio compresses the SNOT out of the audio. Honestly ... some of the crap that I hear on the radio now is so bad I don't know how anyone can listen to it. It swishes, it glitches, it swarms, it sounds brittle, it's awful.

I made a rule in our facilities a few years ago that if it wasn't at least 256 Kilobits, we wouldn't air it. This annoyed some people -- one guy had to dump and entire music library that he'd spent a week putting into the system -- but it was awful.

Maybe there's no point in 192/24 for kids listening to pirated music on $20 MP3 players, but I refuse to believe that most people can't hear the difference. Heck, I'm getting old and I'm half deaf nowadays, and I can immediately hear the difference. There's just no comparison.

yeah, just use monster cables. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256995)

lossless formats and a decent pair of headphones and a set of really expensive MONSTER CABLES will do a lot more for your audio enjoyment than 24/192 recordings.
  There, ftfy.

Pro recording (2, Insightful)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257003)

I record my performances at 96 kHz sample rate, I have to say that the music sounds much better at 96 kHz than 48 kHz I think (feel?) because the higher sample rate gives audio effects like reverb a lush, deeper sound.
The more sample units per second give the effects more to work with, in addition, even though you can't hear above and below certain frequencies recording those inaudible frequencies has an effect on the final product.

You may be able to find some scientific proof of this but for me it's an ear thing, higher sample rates sound better.

Re:Pro recording (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257075)

I recently remixed a classic recording for sony records. The files where rolled off of tape at 24bit/96k. 48k I can understand but 96k is pointless. WAAAAAAY beyond the range of human hearing. In the old days, things like cymbals and brass could really stick out because the encoders and decoders where just not where they are today.

Anyone that tells you they can hear the difference between 48k and 96k is dreaming. Its the quality of the recording that counts more than anything these days.

Re:Pro recording (4, Informative)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257265)

That doesn't make sense. 48k and 96K are sampling rates, so the problem wouldn't be in encoding and decoding. If there was a quality problem, it would be analog to digital converters those transferring to digital formats are using and the digital to analog converers a sound system has. You seem to be conflating sampling rate and bitrate. There have been dramatic improvements for the same bitrates in the last 20 years.

Re:Pro recording (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257351)

I recently remixed a classic recording for sony records. The files where rolled off of tape at 24bit/96k. 48k I can understand but 96k is pointless. WAAAAAAY beyond the range of human hearing. In the old days, things like cymbals and brass could really stick out because the encoders and decoders where just not where they are today.

Anyone that tells you they can hear the difference between 48k and 96k is dreaming. Its the quality of the recording that counts more than anything these days.

I have heard clean recordings on disk from DGG Archive from 1960 that put all the digital remix crap that Sony does nowadays to shame. I remember specifically Bach's B minor with Deitrich Fischer-Dieskau and members of what became Musica Antiqua Köln. Mind you it was with a Thorens and old school Warfdales pushed by really good amps...but I have never heard the sigh of the violins or the rosin on the bow as clearly come across with any digitised release. You heard the players breathing and all the finger noise and slight imperfections that are so important. But more importantly you heard the nuance that the musicians intended not some crap artificial stuff added by a so called studio engineer!

If Sony, the company that bought up all the great recordings from the 1960 had any integrity at all they would release clean 24/48 or 24/96 without any alteration to the originals. As far as I am concerned they do not deserve the success they have achieved and should be tarred and feathered and put out of business for what they have done to the field of Classical Music.

Re:Pro recording (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257081)

Yes, higher resolutions than the senses can utilize are still needed if you intend to process the signal heavily. And, if you can get material at studio quality, why the heck not? Storage is as cheap as sand, and who knows, when you get to the old folks home maybe you'll take up dub and appreciate having a deep library of samples.

Re:Pro recording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257091)

What is unique about reverb that a higher sampling rate makes it sound better and a lower rate can not capture it? But yet all other parts of the music sound the same? That does not even make sense. It's just another frequency being produced at some level just like everything else. I understand higher sampling rates can have an impact on higher frequencies but nothing more than that.

I'm not coming from an ipod and ear buds either, I have my share of decent equipment and source material as well and I can immediately tell the difference between just about anything compressed vs non compressed except for maybe some terrible source material of recent years.

Re:Pro recording (3, Insightful)

smi.james.th (1706780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257245)

44.1kHz will be able to capture the basic information of the signal, as the human ear can hear to 20kHz in some cases, and Nyquist's theorem says that to recover the information you need to sample at least double the highest frequency. Oversampling (i.e. 192kHz) allows much more room to develop a good anti-aliasing filter. It may be that the reverb is phase-shifted somewhat with standard AA-filters, but ones designed for the higher sampling rate can have more linear phase. Also, higher sampling rates allow for better reconstruction of the actual wave form, if you're interested in music rather than just information. So yes, sampling a telephone call at 192kHz would be stupid, but if you're an audiophile, doing it for music is quite reasonable.

Re:Pro recording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257121)

Signal processing math is quite clear: 96kHz discrete sampling will allow the system to recover more of the original signal, it is not just the higher frequencies (which you are NOT going to hear), it will also reduce phase error, which musicians with highly sensitive hearing *will* notice.

Now, doing it at >24bit is even better. Real music has a lot of dynamic range. You're actually much better off at 48kHz 24bit than at 96kHz 16bit for any non-trivial music (such as properly played classical music).

This is stuff that requires non-shitty audio-hardware to be perceived, though. Although 16-bit is so bad, you actually notice the difference (if you have not damaged your hearing with lots of loud crap over the years) as soon as you ditch on-board noise-r-us audio and get something that actually gives you ~100dB SNR.

Re:Pro recording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257323)

There is some crap in the parent post, find it before you tag it anything above score 0 ;-)

Audiophiles (0)

Elgonn (921934) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257009)

"I can't hear your rational argument over the impeccably better-than-perfect sound from my 83 trillion dollar sound system. Thank you, Monster!"

For the rest of us on /. haven't we had all of our music in FLAC for a decade now? I don't even listen to music much and mine is.

I'm not sure why this particular technology is so bizarrely specious in claims. I'm sure in fifty years we'll argue over the best neural interface with its platinum, massaged, better than reality addition is.

Re:Audiophiles (2)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257111)

If you buy your music over the 'net, flac isn't an option, and CD stores are dying. One of the many reasons piracy is still so popular among audiophiles.

Re:Audiophiles (4, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257247)

For the rest of us on /. haven't we had all of our music in FLAC for a decade now? I don't even listen to music much and mine is.

My music is mostly stored in whatever the default is for YouTube videos that I've saved locally. I'm apparently even less of a music fan than you are.

Fun fact: I'm also an audio technician. Yes, I can hear the occasional damaged sound, but I'm not enough of an asshole to care.

I can tell the difference (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257011)

I use a pair of shure SE535 which i find to be some of the best earbuds on the market (fit nicely under motorcycle helmet) and I can identify tracks below 192kbps very quickly. 128kbps aac or mp3 sound very poor.

The article may have a lot of study, but reality is that there are those of use that could be considered audiophiles and truly can hear the difference.

Re:I can tell the difference (1)

zuki (845560) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257087)

Except that the article refers to 24-bit linear PCM audio files that are encoded at a sampling rate of 192 kHz (equivalent to 9216 kB/sec compared to the MP3's 192 kB/sec)

Hertz versus kB/sec... totally different units.

For what it's worth, most audiophile sites like HDTracks sell high-resolution files that are 24-bit / 96 kHz. (4608 kB/sec)

Very few people (if any) besides fanatical audio buffs would deal with anything above that. DSD (SACD) is different enough that it's hard to compare to this.

Who is to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257019)

Is is not possible that one day 'upgraded' sensory implants could be the norm for humans? Cybernetic generations to come may lament all of the lost audio information in recordings of our era.

Accurate representation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257039)

Yawn. The point of higher sampling and bit rates is to have the most accurate representation of the original source material. Using a greater number of bits improves the dynamic range and reduces quantization noise. Some real instruments have spectral information above 22kHz, and most stuff created digitally in studios uses a sampling rate much higher than 44.1kHz.

If you want to do more with the music you purchase than just listen (and no doubt some people have the ears the appreciate the higher fidelity anyway) and do things like remix and reprocess, you want the better versions.

44KHz (1)

hellop2 (1271166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257047)

Can someone explain to me what KHz "sampling rate" has to do with the frequency range you can sample?

Re:44KHz (0, Troll)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257147)

Your ear samples at about 20 kHz. Going to twice that has some theoretical benefit. Going above twice has no theoretical benefit. Sample as high as you want, but anything above 44 kHz will be useless waste of space (assuming you are human or are playing it on real devices).

Re:44KHz (2)

smi.james.th (1706780) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257259)

There may be no theoretical benefit, but since there's no such thing as an ideal sampler or filter or quantiser, it has many practical benefits.

Re:44KHz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257149)

Try googling Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem. The trusty wikipedia page explains it all. If you still do not understand, get some more basic mathematical training.

Re:44KHz (3, Informative)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257203)

The Nyquist-Shannon Sampling Theorem [wikipedia.org] basically shows that if an analogue signal contains no frequency higher than B Hz then sampling at any rate greater than 2B Hz is adequate to reproduce the signal without aliasing. In the case of audio recording intended for the human ear, the highest audible frequency is about 20kHz and the minimum sampling rate to cover that should be 40kHz. This is (partly) where the 44100 HZ sampling rate of CD audio comes from. In practice sampling is usually performed faster than required by the theorem (though not four times faster). The theorem is not sufficient in itself to guarantee perfect reproduction and is limited by the ability of real systems to match the mathematical ideals during sampling and reproduction. Reproduction is, however, typically very close.

The 192kHz sampling that is the subject of this thread is capable of capturing frequencies well beyond the capability of a human ear to hear, or any typical speaker system to reproduce.

Re:44KHz (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257305)

For the wide overview, see Nyquist limit [wikipedia.org]. Briefly, if you try to sample a signal greater than half the sample rate, it's indistinguishable from a mirrored 'alias' frequency. You can imagine what a hash that would make of a recording.

Pfft. (5, Funny)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257051)

I have a PhD in Digital Music Conservation from the University of Florida. I have to stress that the phenomenon known as "digital dust" is the real problem regarding conservation of music, and any other type of digital file. Digital files are stored in digital filing cabinets called "directories" which are prone to "digital dust" - slight bit alterations that happen now or then. Now, admittedly, in its ideal, pristine condition, a piece of musical work encoded in FLAC format contains more information than the same piece encoded in MP3, however, as the FLAC file is bigger, it accumulates, in fact, MORE digital dust than the MP3 file. Now you might say that the density of dust is the same. That would be a naive view. Since MP3 files are smaller, they can be much more easily stacked together and held in "drawers" called archive files (Zip, Rar, Lha, etc.) ; in such a configuration, their surface-to-volume ratio is minimized. Thus, they accumulate LESS digital dust and thus decay at a much slower rate than FLACs. All this is well-known in academia, alas the ignorant hordes just think that because it's bigger, it must be better.

So over the past months there's been some discussion about the merits of lossy compression and the rotational velocidensity issue. I'm an audiophile myself and posses a vast collection of uncompressed audio files, but I do want to assure the casual low-bitrate users that their music library is quite safe.

Being an audio engineer for over 21 years, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. While rotational velocidensity is indeed responsible for some deterioration of an unanchored file, there's a simple way of preventing this. Better still, there have been some reported cases of damaged files repairing themselves, although marginally so (about 1.7 percent for the .ogg format).

The procedure is, although effective, rather unorthodox. Rotational velocidensity, as known only affects compressed files, i.e. files who's anchoring has been damaged during compression procedures. Simply mounting your hard disk upside down enables centripetal forces to cancel out the rotational ruptures in the disk. As I said, unorthodox, and mainstream manufactures will not approve as it hurts sales (less rotational velocidensity damage means a slighter chance of disk failure.)

I'd still go with uncompressed .wav myself, but there's nothing wrong with compressed formats like flac or mp3 when you treat your hardware right

--
BMO

Re:Pfft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257077)

Digital means backup can be exact. So you know when there is deterioration.

With analog, no backup can be exact.

Only reason I can think of for 192khz is music for dogs and other animals with better hearing.

Re:Pfft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257103)

Dear sir,

You need ZFS.

Re:Pfft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257129)

No one never told you about backups and hashes? Any valuable information should have it...

Re:Pfft. (3, Insightful)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257159)

Doood ... just, dood. You originally posted this, word for word, elsewhere (http://www.investorvillage.com/smbd.asp?mb=1911&mid=10609989&pt=msg). Either you are a bug-eyed alien, a prankster, or a combination of the two.

For those who aren't in on the secret, you can look up "rotational velocidensity" -- on the Urban Dictionary. It is the supposed loss of bits in a file over a time, which is absolutely ludicrous. Digital is digital. It's ones and zeroes. Files stored digitally don't degrade, unless you're talking about media degradation (ex., CDs and DVDs can possibly suffer from loss of data over time).

Dood also talks about files "repairing themselves," which is somewhere south of ridiculous.

But enough of this. I fell for it and actually answered it.

("Digital dust." Heh.)

Re:Pfft. (0)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257289)

bug-eyed alien, a prankster, or a combination of the two.

I am an owl with big eyes, and a prankster. :-D

--
BMO

Re:Pfft. (1)

elfprince13 (1521333) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257221)

Information Entropy - I don't think you understand how it works. But I'll give you a hint - high information density means a lack of redundancy, and a lack of redundancy means fewer random changes are needed to destroy your information.

go back to... (1)

xiphmont (80732) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257339)

That copypasta hasn't been funny for at least five years if ever.

If you wanna troll, let's go... I'll take your side, you take mine and no one under the age of thirty will have any freaking clue what just happened.
>>> /g/

The bit depth does matter (4, Insightful)

gnu-sucks (561404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257057)

As a former audio engineer with some ranking success, I can tell you that it's true -- delivering high-sample rate audio as an end format is really pointless. It hardly makes sense in a studio, and definitely is illogical for the distribution of a final mix.

However, there is an increase in quality using 24 bit. Most people just assume increasing the bit depth is the same as increasing the sample rate, but this is incorrect and short-sided. With higher bit depths, you can get your analog components operating a little further away from the noise floor. This also makes dithering much less noticeable (the noise you hear when you crank the volume up as a song fades out). Why? There are more "levels" for each sample to be recorded into. It's like going from 16 to 24 bit color. You would notice this.

For the 192 KHz fans out there, there is direct and proven mathematical reasoning for why 44 KHz audio is plenty. That, and your equipment probably can't produce it. Your converters probably suck at this frequency, and your ears definitely can't vibrate that quickly. More samples doesn't "smooth out" the waveform.

Re:The bit depth does matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257349)


For the 192 KHz fans out there, there is direct and proven mathematical reasoning for why 44 KHz audio is plenty. That, and your equipment probably can't produce it. Your converters probably suck at this frequency, and your ears definitely can't vibrate that quickly. More samples doesn't "smooth out" the waveform.

The 192kHz sampling rate actually does makes sense. And there is a very good reason why it's 192 and not any higher. At 192kHz, the effects of smearing completely disappear, the smearing that is blatant at 44.1kHz. Most people can hear 5ms difference in signals arriving at the ears. Trained listeners can hear as low as 3ms. And at the magical 192kHz, signals arrive at the ears around 3ms. Head-related transfer functions operate flawless for even trained listeners.

And What About Time-Stretching? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257059)

Given how common time-stretched audio is these days — for DJing, looping, etc, high sample rate music files are ideal.

What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257085)

my cat is doing the listening? Would 24-bit/192kHz music be better? Seriously. Not kidding.

Re:What if... (4, Funny)

enoz (1181117) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257137)

Your cat is not "listening", it is simply tolerating that annoying racket that you call "music" in exchange for food, body heat, clean kitty litter, etc.

I'm not an audiophile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257095)

So I don't subscribe to the $1500 per power cord group that some people do (usually the same folks who claim a $2400 USB cable increases the separation of instruments within a digitally encoded file).

However, I do own some good equipment- not the best, but pretty decent as far as studio setups go. ATM I'm rocking an Apogee Symphony I/O over Apogee's proprietary PCI-e interlink card (a Symphony 64). Yes, Apogee's driver support and customer support is shit, but when their equipment works it works pretty damned well. On the other end of that is a 5.1 setup consisting of four ADAM S2X speakers and a SUB12. The speakers were around $2500/pop and they're self powered (that is, they have the amplifiers built-in) and run over balanced XLR.

I didn't buy this equipment because it sounded "good" or "colourful" or "warm" or any of that bullshit. I bought it, because, when I want to listen to stuff that's in either 24-bit/96kHz or 24-bit/192kHz (which is a bit excessive, I'll admit)- I know that what I'm being audibly blasted with is as accurate as it will ever be. I don't care if the precision is sharp on the ears or unpleasant to some people. If I want to listen to music (when I'm not busy making it), I want to hear it exactly as it was recorded.

And in that regard, there is a huge difference between 44.1kHz/48kHz/96kHz, but lesser of a difference between 96kHz and 192kHz.

The thing about 192kHz is that it's such a high sample rate (a lot of people tend to work at 96kHz professionally), you need the equipment to handle it. Lots of interfaces will happily handle a couple of channels at 192kHz, but forget about streaming 16 channels at that same sample rate over anything that hasn't cost you a few thousand bucks and hooks up to your DAW/recorder over a proprietary high-speed interface.

So there's a lot of junk floating around out there that claims to be 192kHz, but with the right tools (I can't personally tell the difference with my ears) you can quite clearly see that only part of it (or none of it) was recorded at 192kHz. The studio gear used simply didn't support that sample rate, or they didn't opt to use it, or some outboard gear didn't jive well with it, or whatever.

My point here is that a lot of people will try to screw you out of money for 24-bit/192kHz music when in fact you're not getting anything anywhere near that. And a lot of people don't even know what the hell that means- so you get the kind of people trying to listen to that crap through a bog standard HTIB system in a box where the quality is such shit coming out of the speakers that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a CD and that stuff anyways.

So yeah, for the majority of people out there- 192kHz/24-bit is pointless unless: A) the entire audio pipeline that produced that tune was running at 192kHz/24-bit, and B) you have actual hardware capable of playing that back properly, and not some HTIB thing you bought from Futureshop that sounds good "because it's really loud".

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that enough people out there want 192kHz/24-bit for legitimate reasons (owning proper hardware for reasonable playback) that there's actually a market for this stuff. So it makes me think that this stuff is being targeted at people with iPods and shitty desktop speakers on their iMac computer. In which case, yeah, it really doesn't matter. You're not going to hear any difference between a lossless FLAC file at CD quality or a 192kHz/24-bit file freshly bounced from the studio masters.

-AC

My hearing is better than average (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257101)

I see no rational basis for limiting myself to audio intended for those with hearing worse than average. (Nor do I limit what I read because of the poor reading skills of others; limit my choice of where to walk because too many have lost the skill in their desire to drive everywhere; limit who I know because politicians like to divide humanity into them and us; etc)

Limit yourself by personal ethics or by personal physiology, not by pseudoscientific efforts to brand "standard deviations" as deviants.

the poster at xiph never heard of Monster Cable (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257125)

"Because it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist, a business model based on willful ignorance and scamming people."

which happens to be a business model that works, unfortunately

Not true (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257131)

Ask any GeekSquad or Best Buy salesmen and they will tell you that you need full gold plated $2,000 HDMI cables for professional audio quality and $110 Monster ones for basic audio and video. They are not highly compensated so well for nothing you know

Whiny BS crybabies who cant do 24/192 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257253)

Is it just me or is this article just a bunch neo whiny cry babies with crappy 16/48 audio cards trying to talk down about well built 24/192 cards

It sure ain't the SCIENCE cause 24/192 is both more samples and more bits than 16/44, so the article is anti-scientific to claim it's a better signal at 16/44 or 16/48.

Finally we get to the meat, distributing music, okay correct for a download distro 24/192 is a stupid format to download, personally I'd rather have 320k mp3, at some point it is easier to just mail a DVD's with those tracks to someone who must be working with 24 bit tracks. It's more of a production format than a buying a CD (in this case DVD) to listen to your favorite band. Most people don't sell this format, just like they don't sell WMA, or .mod files instead of mp3's, or wav ~cdda so the argument's a moot point, and the few people that do sell this format, who gives a shit, is it really bothering you so much you have to tear it down, why don't you take a deep breath and check that your mortgage paperwork isn't signed by linda green?

Creative Audigy 2 ZS platinum pro is now eight years old and on XP taking up one PCI slot, still kicks most of your ass to this very date. Two out of the two I bought, still work and they both have been through several motherboards which fried.

fi8st post! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257283)

clearly. There users. Surprise niigers everywhere

And yet some vinyl records sound better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257307)

than their CD transfers. In the cases where I recall being most disappointed (I've thrown out almost all my vinyl records), it was the dynamic contrast that was missing in the CD versions, for example a pianist striking chords from dropping his hands a foot above the keyboard.

Maybe these were just bad transfers... I don't know.

Nyquist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257309)

The Nyquist limit is the highest frequency that can be represented, yes.

But at Nyquist, only one shape of waveform can be represented. Depending on the design of the DAC, it could be a square wave, triangle wave, or sine wave. But only one of those.

With this in mind, I don't understand why Monty says that beneath Nyquist, everything is captured perfectly and completely. That seems plainly untrue to me.

The value of higher sampling frequencies isn't to reproduce frequencies above 20kHz. The value is to preserve the characteristics of waveforms within the range of human hearing, pushing aliasing artifacts into the ultrasonic, where they can be gently filtered out between 20kHz and 30kHz.

That said, to me that means there is some value in 96 kHz distribution.. 192 kHz does seem like vast overkill.

You will need those extra bits ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257327)

for future DMCA kruft

Why Distributing Muzak As 24-bit/192kHz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257331)

Xiph.org must be talking about elevator Muzak because:

1. High-Frequency Sound Above the Audible Range Affects Brain Electric Activity and Sound Perception
2. High-Frequency Sound Above the Audible Range Affects Sounds Within the Audible Range
http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~boyk/spectra/spectra.htm

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