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Adoption of higher resolution audio by the masses

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Since I have been in the processes of selecting a DAC, part of me is worried about being future proof and I've been thinking about higher resolution audio and do I get a 24/96 (or better) DAC and hedge a bet that I'll be future proof or do I just get a NOS 16/44 DAC and hope that I'm good for a long while. And by being good, I mean not only will all my old digital music be playable, which it will, but I won't be forced to upgrade to a higher resolution playback system because the industry and the masses finally adopt something better. That's part of what I'm thinking about as I work thru the DAC selection. But it's second to ultimate fidelity.


What I was really wondering about is why hasn't the world moved on past 16/44 yet. Truly moved on. Where all new music releases are higher resolution. I look at HD TV. It's clearly better than regular def. It didn't take much for the masses to realize it, notice it, and buy in to it. Now almost everyone has HD TV. I would have thought a higher resolution audio would be just as easily adopted. A lot of people have a stereo at home. Part of an HT system with 'decent' electronics and speakers. And there are a lot of portable audio units on the market today, using headphones, which I would think have some fidelity that would allow people to hear the difference. And car audio, which isn't ideal but still pretty decent.


Everyone want's something better. Better video. Better audio. Video has moved on, but audio still hasn't. I don't understand why not. And it's really disappointing. Is higher resolution audio just not going to be audible enough for the masses and their playback systems? Won't it make a difference when listening to rap music on an iPod? Or country and western music in their F150 truck with 8 Bose speaker system?




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High def tv's are sold in places like Futureshop, Bestbuy etc. How often would folks wander into a high quality audio dealer. Tv's are also able to easily prove their advancements in quality quickly (sit down and watch for a minute or two, or even in passing). Music takes a keen ear to even notice some changes. Music needs a lot more attention. I'd say at least lol.


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The transition to HDTV is pretty much painless, except for a new (and cool flat screen) TV and a little inconvenience here and there. And the payoff is large even for the person that really was fine with standard resolution.


On the audio side, personally, I think that Redbook digital has been limited by poor recording/mastering more than the format itself. Some labels are doing fantastic things right now. I still struggle with high-res being THAT much better than a well-recorded Redbook recording. And I care about the little things. I guess I care about the little things that matter to me, which might not align all that well with the benefits of high-res.


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Being one of the *masses* as referred to above, I can tell you that it seems unlikely people who like 128Kbps MP3s are going to go for anything more sophisticated than the so-called Redbook recordings.


Personally, I remember hanging around Stereo Showcase in Vallejo, California, back in the 1970s when someone was putting on a seminar (?) on why flat speakers were better than anything else. His reasoning was that flat speakers would deliver their sound from all drivers at the same time to your ears. He had pretty graphs to prove it. I can't help but wonder what that guy or his speaker company would think about some of the fantastic designs in speaker cabinets today.


Then, as now, I can see no reason to upgrade what is questionably better equipment (as discussed here and on other audiophile websites), or pay more for media discs (that already cost $15-$20) when the equipment to reproduce that sound in a noticeably better manner to my ears, is equally expensive.


Of course, if I weren't mildly interested in improving some of my sound equipment, I wouldn't be perusing these websites.


hungry for knowledge

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Why would the masses pay for 24-bit audio when the dynamic range of 16-bit isn't even close to being utilised on most recordings? Even if we accept that there is a noticeable difference between hi-def and redbook (and that's still a big question, particularly on standard consumer grade equipment) to upgrade to hi-def when most recordings are heavily dynamically compressed, would simply be daft.


The masses have it right imo.


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Great question and one I've pondered.


I think it comes down to untrained ears.

Play a non audiophile person a 256kbps MP3 versus the same song via CD and they can't pick which is better. So why would the masses opt for high-end gear or hi-res sources....


Play a clip on a TV from VHS and then the same via DVD and it's very easy to see the difference.






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But over time music is likely to be commodotized (i.e. lowest price supplier wins). One of the ways to avoid this degradation is to offer better quality.


Music companies have begun to license their stuff to all and sundry. And the fixed cost of doing the initial setup and legal costs of drawing up agreements etc will continue to fall until such a point where I could, with a 100k or 200k, set up a fully fledged company selling music from the big 4.


Another factor is that as the market becomes saturated with competition identifying and meeting the needs of small niches (such as high res audio) become profitable.


Nyal Mellor, Acoustic Frontiers LLC.

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Something else to consider is that high definition television is dramatically cheaper today than it was even only a year ago.

I can buy an HDTV with a small screen and built in DVD player for less than $200. If I do, it would only be for the smaller foot print versus what my CRT has now. As far as television, it is, IMHO, not worth watching.


There are few high end audio components for sale at that price point, and certainly none that will do all what some of us in the masses would like them to do; (although there is that Furutech GT40 with 24/96 ADC/DAC and phono input for $450 I've heard about, but I haven't been able to track down more info; even an e-mail to the company was not answered).


For some of us, trying to piecemeal the components to do all of what I'd like them to do would take far too much money and too much time; for what? To listen to Earth Crisis, Violent Work of Art, and (hed) PE?


hungry for knowledge

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I agree with a number of reasons given above as to lack of mass adoption of hi-res formats. Another element is, I think, that adoption of new technologies is often driven by new functionality rather than better performance. I’d argue that it was the greater convenience of DVD (e.g., chapters, sub-titles, smaller media) that saw the demise of VHS. And that people adopted the early digital cameras despite poorer picture quality due to their convenience and new functions (e.g., instaneous review of photographs, digital manipulation). You raised the example of HDTV which is interesting in that most folks I know have purchased new TV for the “large, flat-screen” rather than “high-definition” reasons and few, if any, have taken to hi-definition DVD. Now new hi-resolution music formats don’t offer any new functionality to most listeners and in fact they are less convenient due to their size / lack of portability so I’m skeptical as to their mass adoption.





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Interesting replies with some factors I didn't even think about. It sure doesn't sound like we will see 24 bit or better music files thru Itunes music store or on discs at Best Buy in the near future. But I hope we do. Someone pointed out that the itunes store recently shifted from mp3 to apple lossless downloads. That's progress at the mass market level. Maybe in a year or two we will see a change to higher resolution downloads.





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Toasties nailed it. The music for the masses is now engineered to sounds it's best as a compressed music file played over the packaged iPod earbuds.


Take any album from Rolling Stone's Best of 2009 list and compare the dynamics between it and a top album from 20-25 years ago. HUGE difference.




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There is little HD audio even for me, never mind the masses. Why?


Simple: DRM


Every delivery channel (except the enlightened download sites like Linn etc) is restricted as far as playback is concerned by DRM. SACD, DVD-Audio, Blue-Ray all have DRM on anything above 16/44.1. And by the way the studios are locking down video in the same way, Blu-ray DRM, HD TV DRM, on and on it goes.


And there are two points to make here


1. Statistics show that the file sharing web sites have more content on them for which the original is DRMed. So busting the labels arguement that DRM is needed to protect HD Audio...


2. DRM always means you have to invest in new and specific, licensed, equipment to play back the material. You can't lend it, you can't re-sell it, you can't back-it up or put it on your music centre... it means colossal user restrictions.


If we could somehow get the labels to see the light, remove DRM and open up a new HD Audio delivery channel then I am sure the artists would jump at the chance to create better music - less compression, etc and the masses would consume it.


What we need is HD Audio (FLAC/ALAC) in iTunes. This would make a good delivery channel for me.


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CDs don't have DRM, ITunes doesn't have DRM anymore. The labels could be creating a new hi-res premium brand much like

DVD-A and SACD except without the DRM. Apple has the most to gain by this. They could sell higher priced music on Itunes, they could even limit hires to full Albums. Due to the hardware requirements, they could sell a lot of MACs. As a comparison, some consumers bought DVDA and or SACD players to support these formats. For hi-res (above redbook), consumers would often buy Mac Minis instead.


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Someone pointed out that the itunes store recently shifted from mp3 to apple lossless downloads.



That would make iTunes useful but its not true - they moved from 128mp3 to 256AAC, which is still a lossy format but better than mp3. Its not CD quality


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Theoretically, 16-bit digital audio has a dynamic range of 96 dB, i.e. each quantization bit adds 6 dB of the dynamic range.




Unfortunately, that number is only about the digital domain. The "resolution" of any audio player is restricted by the S/N performance of its analog domain.


A friend of mine explained to me that sound engineers have achieved a way of crafting the best possible analog section in digital audio for some recent years, but it can be translated to 12-13 bits out of the 16-bit (96-dB) dynamic range.


The following thread has started since Feb, 2004. You may give it a look.


> George....what's the resolution of analog?


In addition, the storage requirement of hi-rez material is still not for every one.


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