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Universal Music Group’s bid to get us all buying discs again kicks off this month with the release of the first batch of High Fidelity Pure Audio albums – 27 in all. Well, that’s what UMG says, and its website shows all the upcoming titles will be out in Blighty on 21 October, four months after the format was announced – it …
The French download store Qobuz has had these on sale for a while. I've tried a couple - on promo for the same price as CD quality - and they sound very nice when fed into the main amp via an Audiolab M-DAC.
How much of that is down to the higher bit-rate and sampling frequency and how much is down to sympathetic remastering of the original recordings I wouldn't like to say.
What a totlally f*cked up industry, stuck in the dark ages of territorial segmentation. Tried that Qobuz s(h)ite: not available to purchase/download in your territory (UK). HDtracks.com encumbered by the same crap from the big labels - small ones don't care, they'll take the revenue wherever you live.
Now, I do appreciate that such practices will no doubt be premised/excused by the myriad paths to reimburse artists for unit product sales and publishing rights but I suspect it's more to do with some ego bollox & job protection being exercised at the top echelons of the big labels.
I don't know why you got negative votes, your comment was completely valuable. I am a Qobuz users since two years and this seems to me the way forward for the music industry : FLAC HD audio files, no DRM, competitive prices. And YES, the FLAC HD does make a difference in blind tests (not very interesting for pop, definitely impressive on classical music).
From my point of view the audio BR is a darwinian cul-de-sac.
While I think these probably will have better audio than CDs, I suspect that the difference will only really be noticeable if you compare the two via an oscilloscope or have far better hearing than most humans.
The problem these really high definition audio formats have is that 99% of the music buying public actually don't seem to care what quality their music is. If they did, the likes of Apple and any other random on-line music store would be selling more music compressed using a lossless compression system than they do. People don't (in my experience) generally think "Ohh, I have a 64 Gig portable music player. I can get 100 CD quality albums on it.". They tend to think "Ohh, I have a 64 Gig portable music player. I can get 25,000 songs and a couple of movies on it."
Stuart Castle wrote:
"99% of the music buying public actually don't seem to care what quality their music is"Thats exactly what I was thinking. There's an entire generation of kids, and some young adults, that think listening to MTV through their crappy TV speakers is acceptable; that use YouTube as a jukebox on their laptops; convert YouTube videos to MP3's and listen to them on their phones or, in the case of young adults, in cars (with fairly decent sounds systems!); that listen to their MP3 players/phones with the crappy earphones that came with the devices and when they break replace them with just as crappy earphones.
Most people, in my experience, just don't care about the quality of the music, they just want to listen to it.
People haven't lost a desire for sound quality. An mp3, if encoded at sufficient bit rate is as good as 16 bit CD. By "as good as", I mean that any differences are inaudible to any human and acceptably low according to measurement. In the same way, 16 bit CD is as good as 24 bit CD imo.
The audible/inaudible boundary is not exactly certain. Anybody can hear the shortcoming of music encoded at 128 kb/s. I am not sure if I can hear artifacts or not at 192 kb/s. My own research indicates 256 mb/s is well into the "inaudible" area, and my music collection, while archived in FLAC, is encoded at 256 kb/s VBR for mp3 use.
It remains to be seen if compressed formats will survive once storage ceases to be a question. Probably they will survive, for several years at least, if only because some much mp3 kit is out there.
Yep, 256mb/s MP3 is very high quality. Probably not get many hours of audio on your MP3 player though.
Au contrare, with one bit trickling though every 4 seconds, or about 4 bytes a minute … using an 8" floppy disk for storage yields hours of recording time.
I'm a bit dubious about how "good" it'd sound though.
Mate.. It is probably your sound system.
I compose/play/produce music for loud PAs and I can tell you without any shadow of a doubt that MP3 is rubbish, 24bit is better than 16bit and the higher the bitrate(48k vs 44.1k) the denser the sound reproduction.
MP3 is by its nature a horrible bastard child. But it is small. If i write a 5 min track. It will be about a 10 mb (320kbps) file. If I do not compress teh format and leave it as a 32bit/48khz WAV/Aiff (which is dvd quality sound) then the file is over 100mb and runs at about 3300 kbps. What this means is that when you download that 320kbps mp3 and think you have impressive quality what you actually have is 1/10th of the original quality.
That is clearly NOT good. Just think for every 1 bit of information 9 bits were tossed in the bin. This would mean less if it wasn't in Digitial. When you convert from analogue to digital there is a loss in quality just by the action. This is because you are moving from a continuous recording to a discrete recording. This creates natural errors. This is why 22khz is worse than 44.1khz which is worse than 88.2khz (double 44.1khz) and so on.
Anyhow, back to my original statement. Your speakers are shit. Just like uncompressed format vs MP3; Good speakers will have a certain DEPTH that cheap speakers will not.
lastly, My dad loves the old tunes while I am into the newer stuff. He would tell me... But it doesn't have to be high quality for my older tunes because the recording quality back in those days was worse. I have since proven him wrong by playing back samples of his music, in higher quality WAV with better speakers and he has since converted.
Look, I get it. Mp3 is a lot smaller format. Uncompressed takes for ages. sure. Try a format like flac where you lose only 4/10ths rather than 9/10ths. But know that your ease of download is distorting the music you love and making it a less enjoyable experience.
Where's the widespread availability of high quality lossless audio files, like FLAC or ALAC? I bet there's a larger market for those than there are for ultra-refined audiophile products.
A big chunk of my music these days is from second hand CDs. I'd like to buy all that stuff in FLAC but, y'know, no-one sells it.
It might if it can beat the dynamic range (so that a pin dropping is not the same volume as all the instruments being bashed with bricks simultaneously). Not that my ears are capable of hearing the full dynamic range (or total frequency range) any more after years of listening to music being played far too loud without the use of earplugs!
Shouty, shouty - as you'll have to shout for me to be able to hear you these days!
I've seen elsewhere an examination of (bit) resolution, which appears to show that 16-bit is more than sufficient for encompassing the dynamic range in any recording.
What is important is increasing the frequency. There is an absolute upper limit of half the recording frequency in terms of the the highest frequency that can be represented, and as you approach that limit, you lose subtlety in terms of representing the waveform.
So higher frequency recording can be useful in representing higher frequency sounds more accurately. but resolution doesn't matter so much. What's more important is the audio being mastered correctly in the first place to retain the dynamic range of the recording.
"So higher frequency recording can be useful in representing higher frequency sounds more accurately. but resolution doesn't matter so much. What's more important is the audio being mastered correctly in the first place to retain the dynamic range of the recording."
This, this, a thousand times this.
You don't need audiophile hifi to tell the difference between a well mastered record and one that has been dynamically compressed for 'loudness' and 'pop'.
It's not dynamic range, it's low level detail. Ambience sounds noticeably grainy at 16 bits because it's down to 8-bits or so of useful resolution. Good 24-bit audio is smoother and clearer.
More bandwidth certainly helps, but mostly because it's really, really hard to design smooth artefact-free digital filtering for 44.1k, it's slightly easier at 48k, and it's easier still at 88.2k and 96k. 192k is mostly just hype. (Unless you're putting the sound into a sampler and using a full-range mic, in which case you'll get a bit more of a useful transposition range.)
High resolution audio only makes sense if it's transcoded and mastered by someone who really knows what they're doing. But considering the industry used to do things like make a CD master by recording vinyl off a turntable instead of using the master tapes, it's impossible to say how good these recordings are.
I've been working on these releases. Its not a case of the old needle-drops when CD was new. They are coming from various sources, many have been recently remastered at 24/96 or above, in which case we are using that. If high-res does not exist we are going back to original tapes.
As I have both DVD-A and SACD, yes they are better than CD, and yes they both bombed.
I feel for the manufacturers as the move to better sound did not follow like the move to better picture. Leaving som equite respectable companies wondering what went wrong, the market went wrong.
SACD bombed because they used it to bump up "nice price" back catalogue prices by 50%. If they had continued to sell one album at £9.99 or £10.99 instead of two with one at £15.99 then more customers would have bothered to change their player when buying a new one.
There have been some sites selling legit 24 bit 96 - 192kHz Flags for a while. In addition, LG's New flagship phone can play them natively- and LG have released APIs in the hope that 3rd party audio app developers make use of them. With luck, Google will incorporate it into Android properly.
With storage, bandwidth and silicon ever cheaper, why not?
"With storage, bandwidth and silicon ever cheaper, why not?"
As noted by earlier contributors, beacause nobody cares.
Storage, bandwidth and silicon have got ever cheaper over the years, and still you will struggle to find any decent lossless catalogue available for download. And that will continue until you can offer the masses hi-fidelity music without in anyway impinging on (for example) the speed of the download/stream, without compromising the amount they can store, and without them paying any more. The sad record of digital failure that passes for the music industry would seem likely to torpedo any prospect of hifi downloads even if the technology were able to offer it without any compromises.
And then there's the demand side: Those who claim to care about sound quality are split by more schisms than the church, with true believers still at war over analogue versus digitial, semiconductor versus valve amplification, every form of equipment and interconnect, the true range of frequency response needed for fidelity, sampling rates, codecs, error correction, etc etc etc. Arguably the people who don't care about the quality, but just want to listen to the music are in a stronger position both for enjoyment and their pilosophical integrity than the hi-fidelity mob.
We sell 320kbps MP3, 16-bit FLAC and 24-bit FLAC downloads. The music is generally classical (there's a little jazz and blues too) and the recordings are all over 50 years old. FLAC has for a long time been the favoured format for our download customers, with very few opting for MP3 when they have the choice. (If I had a pound for every Mac user struggling to play FLACs in iTunes and e-mailing me about it... but that's another story.)
24-bit downloads have definitely seen strong growth - people are either getting high quality DACs on their computers or burning them to DVD-R for their Oppo "plays-everything-you-can-throw-at-it" decks. But they don't need another new disc-based format, and CD sales continue to fall.
IMO the major record companies need to wake up and smell the coffee: lossless downloads at higher resolutions (even if just about none of their customers can hear a difference) could be the 80s CD boom all over again and make them a fortune. But sticking the likes of the first Velvets album - one of the worst-recorded classic albums of the 1960s - on yet another new high-resolution format just shows how disconnected from the real world the suits at Universal are.
Massive fail, heading to a closed-down record store near you...
24 bits gives you a theoretical dynamic range of 144dB, ampifiers capable of providing such a range tend to come in very large trucks with three phase power supplies. For headphones the proximity to the ear means that you need significantly less power, but even using 1cm from the ear, the power required to represent that dynamic range is tens of watts.
Since Feb 2013 there are EU limits on how much volume portable music players can supply to headphones of 85dB, well within the 16bit range. Once you start going beyond that, damage to the ears can occur and eventually lead to a permanent shift in the ear's frequency response.
Recording at 24bits gives you a significant safety net to avoid digital clipping, especially when dealing with erratic musicians (used to work in a studio), but for playback makes much less sense, especially for portable devices.
The loudness wars of recent years have also severely limited the active dynamic range of recorded music, thankfully classical music has escaped, but it is a well known frustration of many a recording engineer to have recorded "as the artists wanted it" only to have it utterly mangled at the mastering stage.
As for higher sampling rates, whilst some time ago it might have made DAC design cheaper, average human hearing frequency range, especially as we age, renders this pointless. Microphones and instruments have a limited response and sampling at higher rates doesn't improve that.
If Hawkwind ever decide to re-record some of their earlier work for an audience of giant sized bats, then the new formats might be of interest, but as the utter defeat of SACD to MP3 showed, most people just aren't interested.
That'll be the psychoacoutsically-shaped dither noise that lowers the effective noise floor (to human ears) of 16-bit recordings to something closer to 19-20 bits then? It's put there for a reason, and you almost certainly can't hear it, any more than you can tell a well-prepared 16-bit recording from the 24-bit master it originated from in just about any studio listening test you care to try.
There's a huge amount of bollocks talked around sample rates and bit depths and it's increasingly a meaningless numbers game. You can read some of that in this thread, alas.
I agree, there is a lot of bollocks said, but that doesn't mean it is all bollocks.
Working at a mastering house we go to great lengths to get things like dither right. We have about a dozen different dithers which all sound different. Not adding it does make a difference, you are not adding noise. And if you want to talk about bollocks, this "18-20 bit range" of dither is a good example. If the file is 16 bit, its range can not exceed that.
96kHz? Is that it?
Gigabytes of space going begging on a BD disk and we get a doubling of sample rate from the 30 year old CD standard.
Needs to have ultra high resolution, 2.0 and multichannel versions of the music, plus lyrics, high resolution album art, promotional videos, photos, making of... and anything else they can think of putting on there. Try harder. Or don't have my money.
There are few A/D converters which sound good at sample rates above 96k. The analogue electronics in a converter are as important as any other stage, if not more than some, so having a converter with the best analogue side is going to give you a better digital signal.
The converters which top out at 96k sound a lot better than ones which go higher. As a result a lot of masters are done at 96k and not higher. I've not met anyone (and we are talking about some of the best ears in the industry here) who argues that 192k is worth it. The benefits you get from going to 44 to 96 are huge, you are moving the filters well away from human hearing range. Going further to 192 is a case of diminishing returns, and 384 is just pointless (Sorry Neil Young)
If you really want to capture something genuinely better than 96k, try DSD, but given Sony stopped developing that 6 years ago, its not easy.
HDtracks.com, highresaudio.com and Linn Records have been selling higher bit/sample rate lossless downloads for some time, I guess Universal think there's a niche in the market selling the same on disks.
If you want the media, fine. I'd much rather they put the effort into publishing old skool LP quality sleeve and liner content in PDF/eBook format.
Wrong. The soundtracks from HD Tracks are rarely more than an upscaled version of the CD. In some cases, the record label allows the 24/96K LPCM master to be used but it too is compressed 2 to 1 with MLP, Meridian Lossless Packing.
The only way to hear the full dynamic range of the original is via a protected and encrypted bitstream, only by HDMI on Blu-ray.
Everybody here should do their homework before opinionating.
Bought a Steve Winwood CD that contained extra DVD with so-called "enhanced stereo" version of album. Played back via Sony DVD, Quad 405 Power/Pre amps and Bowers & Wilkins speakers could hear no difference.
Sadly, though some remastered CDs are definitely better for it (Doors albums which were nicely recorded in the first place) in other examples experts have merely noted that they sound louder.
I like the CD medium much better than MP3 -- better value and you get something tangible -- but trying to push yet another format onto a shrinking market is financially stupid.
"Better" when considering the listener is a subjective term. While at a technical level the format has "better" sample rates and frequency ranges that does not necessarily relate to a better listening experience.
I've conducted a number of blind trials with friends in Richer Sounds. Everyone could here a difference between MP3 and CD through the same amp and speakers. There was however a debate about which was better.
But as always. fools and their money are soon parted...
Well yes, except that DSOTS was originally recorded on humble 4 track and it's a tribute to the engineer's skill that anything decent could be salvaged from t he masters. Not every sound engineer has that sort of dedication, and in these days of the Loudness Wars not every studio is going to allow him to exercise it
What's in it for the average consumer?
From analogue tape to CD, the advantage for the average consumer was obviously better quality and easier to select the track you wanted. (Although the format was a bit more fragile compared to tape)
From CD to MP3 the advantage was portability. You could cram hundreds of tracks into a small package. (with the introduction of slightly poorer quality and DRM)
But from CD/MP3 to all these high-def formats: What's in it for the consumer? Bugger all. How many people sit down and listen to music from a HiFi system, compared to those listening on the move? You're just not going to hear the difference with all the background noise while on the daily commute/treadmill/etc.
"You're just not going to hear the difference with all the background noise while on the daily commute/treadmill/etc."
At any decent bit rate people will struggle to tell the difference when run through a top notch hi fi.
I play 256kbps MP3s from my phone into a Quad system fronted by electrostatic speakers. Listening to anything from classical choral through 70's rock to an assortment of today's music, the limiting factor is invariably the original recording, production and editing.
That's it exactly.
The move to CD (and the move to DVD) let them sell the same stuff to everyone again. But that gravy train has reached the end of the line, but it's a business and has to grow every quarter or it's a fail. They can't say that was nice and now we need to move to a sustainable level of sales, they have to blame something for the failure to double sales every year.
So now they want to sell the same stuff again, but there is no clear advantage for consumers.
Other then a concert video who want's music on BR? The same few that wanted it on DVD audio or SAC.
The main reason our current music sounds crap isn't because of the frequency, or the resolution... it's because the mastering is using shit Dynamic Range Compression in the name of the Loudness Wars. So unless this BD audio format is using some kind of mastering that doesn't crank up the compression, it just won't sell.
Though most audiophiles are adamant on using only LPs these days and are actually going backwards in tech. They're building bulb amplifiers! Those guys are probably going to distrust any digital format these days.
....yet another format and another modern mastering that just takes us further from the original recording.
What I always find amusing is people clamouring to buy this stuff forget to check the frequency range of their speakers that were probably designed with a 22-24KHz cut off point for CD.
"I can really hear the extra highs!" Erm no.
I have a certain déjà vu feeling about this. Were there not audio only DVD discs and there were certainly "Super" CD recordings some years back, followed up with HDCD, none of which were well received by the public, as they thought the existing CD quality was good enough (never mind that the sound had already been butchered by audio compression, etc!) and even the audio geeks' response was luke-warm and they never sold very well. I can't see yet another so-called "high quality" format taking off, when the majority of the great unwashed public don't seem to give a hoot about what recorded music actually sounds like and probably have never experienced anything "live" to make a comparison.
With all this wonderful "high definition" stuff, one needs to find out EXACTLY what the ear can hear. I strongly doubt that an ear can go beyond 20kHz and 96dB SNR. A normal CD has a nyquist limit of 22.05 kHz upper limit and 16 bits (96+ dB), and that ought to be enough.
Of course simple tests would be out of the question for true Audiophiles, as they always know better.
p.s. Constant exposure to loud music and time have a detrimental effect on hearing ability, so keep the volume down, and stay young!
your problem is that you are comparing analog hearing with digital reproduction of analogue waveforms.
While it is true that most people cannot hear about 20khz and after 120dB of loudness you will receive permanent irreversable hearing loss.
In order to have 44.1k/2 or 22.05khz we need to insert a low-pass filter over every frequency above 20khz.
if you are using 44.1khz(22.05khz maximum) this means that you are creating a very shard drop ie. 2khz/96db or 48db drop per 1khz. this creates errors in the lower frequencies because of the rough treatmant this kind of sharp filtering causes.
if you use 88.2khz/24bit instead you get to drop 144db in gain from 20khz to 44.2khz which means you get a 144db/22khz drop or 6.55dB per 1khz. this means the gradient of filtering is lower and you get to keep what is known in the pro audio industry as "air". It is better. It is not "just" a gimick.
this is a much different sound a much higher production quality.
The problem with music, is most people have most of the information and are also mostly wrong.
As others have said, 44.1KHz at 16 bits per channel is plenty of bandwidth. It doesn't have enough spare bandwidth to accommodate editing, but it's plenty for the final format.
This is more about trying to get rid of those pesky, unencrypted Compact Discs. It has been tried many times before and this will be yet another failure. People who buy music want to play it anywhere and anytime. Save the DRM efforts for cheap rentals.
If somebody wanted to convince me to buy a new disc, it would be to gain unencrypted access to the master tracks. There are many great albums that have been butchered by low quality or poorly stylized production. Release an open-source app to share sound board commands with other owners of the discs and now sales are on fire.
First, I would want the cost to be equal to what current CD's are, or at least very close.
I am glad to see the push towards releasing HD audio, Its about time. MP3's have been a step backwards. I have nice studio monitors and can take advantage of the better audio quality. Practically, 24 bit does make a big improvement over 16 bit when recording, it is kind of like how 10 bit video provides smoother gradients.
There is a level of diminishing returns to how much increasing the sample rate improves perceived quality, 96kHz is great for listening, and a higher sample rate like 192kHz can help with signal processing. Going higher than 192kHz to 384kHz currently costs a substantial sum of money, see Antelope Audio Eclipse 384 Mastering AD/DA Converter, and I do not know of one less expensive either.
One other hidden factor is the clock of the converter, lesser quality clocks will have more clock jitter degrading the audio quality. Very accurate clocks are not cheap see, Antelope Audio Isochrone 10M Ultra Stable Oscillator.
The music industry is correct in that there is a limited market for high definition audio. Last year I bought a reasonably decent home theater setup with Polk Audio speakers. Thereafter I noticed just how bad my MP3s sounded when compared to the high-def audio in many blu-ray movies. So I re-ripped my entire collection to lossless Flac. That helped a lot. Now my music collection sounds as good as it can but I really would like to have some of my albums in higher quality than what my CD source can provide. However I also think the author is correct in that these probably won't sell very well.
Comparatively few people go through the process of ripping their movies and storing them all on a shared NAS device. However that's not the case with music. Music customers expect, and demand, the ability to format shift their collection. I doubt that's going to be possible with these high definition blu-ray audio discs. The copy prevention system in the blu-ray spec is a lot more robust than what DVDs used and infinitely more effective than what CDs had. What are the chances that I'll be able to easily rip these high def music discs to lossless flac? I'm not going to buy them if I have to put the disc in every time I want to listen. If I can't rip them to the lossless file format of my choice then it's just not worth the added cost to me over what I pay for a standard CD.
The maximum frequency I can hear is about 13KHz - roughly average for a 50 year old - and a lot less than a 25 year old. With age your high end hearing capacity gradually diminishes. And its not a hard cut-off - your hearing sensitivity to frequency is not a square step. So, no matter how finely you sample the 13-22KHz range, I aint going to hear it.
And the point? Increasing the sample rate to reproduce music 'just the way artist intended' is fine in itself but it doesn't mean I will hear it the way the artist, or you, do. And increasing the sampling in that upper dead zone, is just pointless for me. More sampling is always good, but there are more significant human factors to how reproducible an audio experience will be.
"So yes, they are better quality encodings than CD’s 16-bit, 44.1kHz spec"
This is nonsense, equivalent to looking at the formulation of a washing powder and concluding that it will wash "whiter than white".
It's been proven that CD quality is as good as it gets: see Meyer and Moran's famous experiment. Six years have passed and not a single counter demonstration by Sony or anyone else.
Blu-ray is the first commercial storage media large enough to hold a one-to-one, bit-for-bit identical copy of the original master recording, with 50 gigabytes capacity. A CD can only store 700 mB of data, the music must be compressed 4-1 to fit, leaving the dynamic peaks out. Blu-ray concerts by the world's greatest artists have been out for some time now, providing the full dynamic range of the live show for playback at home, nothing has ever sounded so good.
These new Blu-ray discs will only play on a Blu-ray player, the output is HDMI only now on all but the most expensive players, analog sunset began this year.. With audio only, there is even more space for the music, 3 different versions of the soundtrack are included.
Those of you with analog preamps will need a DAC with HDMI input, RCA stereo out to hear them. I am just bringing one to market, http://www.essenceelectrostatic.com/product/high-def-audio-control-center/
with USB, Optical, Coaxial, and Line inputs, RCA ,XLR , and headphone out. 24/96k-192K with remote.
I recommend hearing it before condemning it, if you have a good enough system and the privacy to turn it up, you are in for a shock. The sound is breathtaking, the best software ever. There are over 1000 concerts too, like Led Zep at the O2 Arena in 2007, in HD video and audio. The sensory experience of these shows, like Adele at Royal Albert Hall, will make choke you up. SADE too.
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