I have been highly critical of the study by Dave Meyer and E. Brad Moran on the “Audibility of a CD-Standard A/D/A Loop Inserted into High-Resolution Audio Playback”. Their AES paper has been quoted as “proof” that high-resolution audio is “not audible” because no one in their study group could identify a “high-resolution audio” vs. a CD specification version. My point has been that none of the content that they used during their project qualified a true high-resolution audio. As readers know, my definition means that it was natively recorded using high-resolution equipment at the time of the original sessions. If your definition includes older analog tape masters transferred to DSD 64, then you’ll agree with the study.
The purpose of the research was to determine whether the new SACD and DVD-Audio formats were worth the effort and cost. After all, if no one can tell the difference then why bother?
Apparently, the debate about the validity of the research continues. On a different high-end audio group, I asked a supporter of the Meyer and Moran study to identify a single track on any of the albums that contained any qualities that would qualify as high-resolution. I asked this because I know that every recording that they used during the test didn’t qualify as high-resolution. If the “high-resolution” sources didn’t have greater dynamic range or higher frequencies than 44.1 kHz/16-bit CDs, then the test was meaningless.
A response from one of the two researchers was posted on that site this morning. I have quoted it below:
“This whole discussion has been hijacked, Fox-News-style, by people who were forced to abandon their original claims and have been driven into a small corner of the territory they formerly occupied.
The original take on both “hi-res” formats was that for the first time they got digital right. The difference was said to be obvious not in the very highest frequencies but in the midrange, where we were supposed to experience for the first time true timbres; accurate and consistent placement of sources within the stereo image; reverb with accurate bloom and depth, and so on. The harshness supposedly inherent in then-current PCM hardware, laid at the feet of digital filters, jittery playback or whatever, was now banished; the ‘digital glare’ was gone at last.
Not only was all this about midrange material that even people my age could hear; it was not in any way dependent on extended dynamic range. It was all supposed to be audible with musical material in the upper 40 dB of the signal space, when played at normal levels. THAT’s what our tests were very well designed to find, and the big and important surprise was that once we equalized the levels and made the test blind, all those obvious differences vanished in the clear morning air.
So here’s an answer for those scornful people: You are arguing from the notion that there will only be a difference if there is musical material on the hi-res disc that exceeds the CD’s frequency and dynamic ranges. These are things that, as we pointed out and that you now admit, are very rare in recordings of any kind. In other words, there are very few discs on which one would expect any audible difference at all; none where the difference is easy to hear; and none where it is audible at normal playback levels. You have accepted the science behind all this! Welcome to reality. It appears our paper has had more influence than we could have dared to hope.
All that is left, now, is the question of sounds above 20 kHz. Everyone who argues that these are important has taken the research and its conclusions about human perception that were well established forty years ago, and thrown them out the window.
Meanwhile, there is one disc whose dynamic range exceeds the CD’s limit: The Hartke recording on Hilliard. When I discovered the properties of this disc, I turned the system way up and conducted a test using only the initial fade-in of the room sound. The difference was easily (and of course provably) audible. This is all in the paper, so, as has so often happened, those arguing that we didn’t use such a recording have not read what we wrote.
E. Brad Meyer”
I’ll parse the statement in tomorrow’s post but I find it interesting that the opening line is so self-referential (“people who were forced to abandon their original claims”). I haven’t changed my perspective. They’ve changed what they were testing (midrange?). I thought the test was to test the “audibility of high-resolution recordings” vs. CD spec audio. WE’RE learning now that this was not the focus at all.
And yes, I did read the paper…more than once.
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