While some audiophiles might take it to the extreme , there is no question you can tell the difference between compressed and High res. High res music allows you to feel the emotion, whether it’s from better detail, enhanced sound stage or imaging, there is just no comparison. I am not saying it’s important enough to some people to pay for it, but to pretend that you can’t tell the difference is just nonsense. You don’t need a trained ear to hear the significant difference between Pandora and Tidal, just listen, and not on those $10.00 headphones.
I used to work for a Linn HiFi dealer. We had tunes playing all the time. One day I had to go to the Bose store and get something for a customer. When I walked into the Bose store, it felt like someone was beating my ears with a hammer. On another occasion Linn was doing a demonstration at the store for a customer who was interested in buying one of their $20,000 CD players. Linn made a $1200 CD player, a $6500 CD player and the $20,000 CD player. Now grant you, the sound was being pushed through their best preamp, 4 $20,000 amplifiers , and 2 $30,000 speakers. 3 identical CD’s were played. and the difference in sound quality was pretty amazing. As the price went up, so did the quality of the sound. As I get older, the Fletcher Munson curve becomes more apparent every year, but just because I, and my clients, can’t hear the top and bottom ends as well as before, a better quality, non compressed music source is much more enjoyable than compressed music. Going beyond CD quality music gets to a point of diminishing returns quite quickly, as the ears of a 64 year old can’t quite pick up on the nuances of that much better music.
My perspective on the Audiophile Debate was realigned a few years ago when I had the pleasure of having Industry Legend and former Tenor, Joseph Grado demonstrate Audio Dynamic Range by singing part of an Opera in my Charlotte, NC Audio/Video store while standing in front of a system valued at over $100k. It was incredible and it became immediately clear that no amount of money could reproduce that sound electronically but I digress.
For those past, present, and future customers who express a desire for something extraordinary in exchange for what they’re willing to invest, my job is to not resist and provide any means practical and possible for those individuals to achieve what they’re looking for and to provide them the best possible service and support afterwards. Perhaps the only limitation is my own decision to apply perception of objectivity when I believe the customer’s subjective has gone awry. I may never know how many sales I’ve lost by stepping in too soon.
Those who spend a career in this industry scoffing at those who are passionate about their quest for better sound should take the time to consider whether or not they’re doing all of us a dis-service simply because they’re reached the limits of their own ability to enjoy what it is we do.
It isn’t hard to understand why those of us who sell “expensive” equipment (hopefully at a profit) aren’t inclined to argue with customers who honestly believe they can hear a difference in CD quality (44.1 KHz) audio and DVD Audio (192 Khz) or SACD formats. How would that benefit us?
Even though a double blind study published by the prestigious Audio Engineering Society (yes, the AES of AES/EBU) proved we humans (of any age) can not detect any difference in those “delivery formats”.
That’s right, the study concluded a CD 44.1 KHz delivery format will reproduce sound as well as a 192 KHz or SACD delivery format in their double blind study.
But if you read the details of the study methodology you may also conclude you need a DVD-A or SACD player since you can’t buy the same quality audio recording on a CD.
If you could it would be equivalent. Isn’t that a shame.
The methodology used in the double blind study took the highest quality DVD-A and SCAD recordings and down converted the delivery format to 44.1 KHz to eliminate any difference in the audio sources being compared. Their tests proved no differences could be detected in the audio reproduced from the 44.1 KHz or 192 Khz delivery formats.
But they also concluded the lack of understanding in the audio recording industry caused the original DVD-A and SACD recordings to be produced with much more care and held to a much higher quality standard “because” they “assumed” that delivery format would expose flaws that would go undetected by any CD listener. They were wrong.
The study proved that if the industry took similar care producing and mixing the audio intended for CD delivery it would be equal in quality to the sound produced from DVD-A and SACD delivery formats.
But the fact remains the industry DID NOT (and still does not in most cases) so if you want that extreme high quality audio you can’t buy it on a CD delivery format. If you could I’d have to agree it would be equivalent but the fact remains you can’t.
This study does, however, underline the absolute “technical” stupidity of the HDMI audio format of 8 channels of uncompressed 24 bit 192 KHz audio when 16 bit 44.1 KHz would have been equal but as a marketing ploy not so stupid. It turns out if a customer has a preconceived idea (even if incorrect) of what he wants the path of least resistance is to give him what he wants as long as it doen’t compromise anything other than his wallet. It costs a LOT more to change his mind and attempting it may even stop a sale dead in its tracks!
You can see that throughout practically every product we sell in this industry. 4K and ESPECIALLY 8K video is even more of a waste than 192KHz audio! You don’t need a double blind study to prove that no human can detect a difference in those formats and 1080 resolution at 8 feet on a 60” screen (it can be easily proved mathematically by taking the arctangent of the eye’s angular maximum resolution proving 2 lines of 4K and 4 lines of 8K will fall within the same spot on our retinas as one line of 1080).
But they certainly look better at 2 feet! And that is what the customer sees when he is buying them. How would it benefit a reseller to get his customer to back off to a reasonable viewing distance like 7 or 8 feet and show him his old 1080 TV is just as good?
But 8K is REALLY absurd as it requires 64 Gbs transmission and that demand imposes serious compromises elsewhere in the system (not just cost) so I do hope customers will finally come to their senses and stop allowing the marketing people to continue overriding good engineering judgement.
8K will look even better than 4K (at 2 feet!) and if consumers accept it hook line and sinker (even though zero benefit for them at normal viewing distances) they won’t even realize the compromises 64 Gbs imposes.