Don’t you hate it when the comments for a particular thread are closed and you didn’t get the last word? I didn’t really want to get into a long discussion with a commentator over at the AP’s “bigstory” website about high-resolution audio but his comments are so full of misconceptions and outright falsehoods; I wanted to try to clarify things further. The AP article is titled, “Audio overkill? Some question benefits of ‘high-res’ music”…and I’m included as one of the skeptics. I analyzed a couple of downloads from the PonoMusic website and demonstrated to the author, Ryan Nakashima, that they lacked any sonic material that would cause a listener to “rediscover” the soul of the music (funny the article singles of Aretha Franklin…the queen of soul music). I talked about the article the other day…read it for yourself by clicking here. And be sure to read the comments. I spent way too much time responding to a couple of comments.
The gist of the thread has an industry authority writing at length “in terms they (readers) can understand” about how high-res files “offer the owners of big hi-fi systems the ability to turn up the volume higher than ever before at home, matching the level you would hear in the studio on the original master recording”. And there are a lot more assertions of dubious accuracy as the paragraphs spill down the page.
The first response to his comment starts with the word “Nonsense”. To which the original commentator continues with, “its not polite to call comments nonsense, particularly when you’re wrong”. The truth is he’s the one that’s got it wrong…very wrong. And I attempted to point out his misconceptions and get the facts straight, only get another round of his nonsense before the thread was closed. That’s why I’m taking today’s post to get the facts out.
His opening salvo includes the following, “…recording engineers are not audiophiles and don’t normally have audiophile quality systems at home”. Apparently, the reason that I don’t understand the points that he made is because I’m a recording engineer and there are differences between his “more marketing oriented point of view” and my own understanding of the formats and high-resolution.
He wants us to believe that high-resolution audio is all about its ability to increase the amplitude or “achieve higher levels with greater clarity” than CD spec version of the same recording. Nonsense.
“This level of performance is described as being ‘uncompressed’ while DVD’s, CDs, and vinyl LPs are known as ‘lossy’, they won’t play as loud as the Blu-ray.
I’m guessing that the author is referring to data compression because he mentions a type known as “lossy” (as opposed to “lossless”). There is also audio compression (and limiting) that audio engineers use to modify or “smooth” out dynamic variations on a specific track or entire program. Lossy and lossless are data compression types…like MP3, AAC, AC3, or MLP and DTS HD Master Audio. They don’t measure levels of performance. They are used to format audio to specific delivery requirements (like AC3 for DVD-Video discs and MLP for DVD-Audio discs).
A mastering engineer might use audio compression to reduce the amplitude of a selection of music headed for a vinyl LP release. This is done to achieve more volume and to decrease the track pitch (distance between the grooves). It has nothing to do with data compression. Vinyl LPs don’t use “lossy” compression. And neither to CDs…at least Redbook CD-Audio format discs. They use no compression at all…the audio is encoded using PCM at 44.1 and 16-bits. DVDs are a mixed bag. DVD-Video uses Dolby Digital or AC3, which is a “lossy” data reduction technique while the same disc could have high-resolution PCM (96/24) in stereo.
The same stereo 96 kHz/24-bit PCM track placed on a DVD or a Blu-ray disc will sound identical. If you turn up the volume of a Blu-ray sourced system, it’s not going to be louder than turning up a DVD. And the distortion and specs will be the same because they are exactly the same specs!
To be continued…