It’s completely out of control! All you have to do is look around the web and everyone is bragging about the ever higher sampling rates and the incredible improvement in fidelity that the produce. I’ve had numerous conversations with design engineers that are so proud of the fact that they’ve created the ultimate DAC, which includes sample rates up to 384 and even 768 kHz. And they claim that they hear more “low level detail” and “polished bass notes”.
A press release this week alerted me to the new line of SACD/CDs that Mobile Fidelity is launching at the upcoming CES show. The “CES 2015 MEDIA ALERT” announces the debut of their proprietary digital mastering technology called “GAIN HD with 4X DSD”, which is described as:
“The GAIN HD mastering process utilizes 4X DSD direct-to-1X DSD conversion for the high-resolution SACD layer and 4X DSD direct-to-CD conversion for the CD layer. This newly implemented mastering chain achieves a higher level of musical accuracy, resolution and fidelity from MFSL’s ULTRADISC UHR Hybrid SACD series.
The GAIN HD 4X DSD process delivers a subtle but significant improvement in low-level detail, ambient information and “air”, and perhaps most importantly, a relaxed ease in the musical presentation that simply sounds less “reproduced” and more natural and involving.”
I just love the “subtle but significant” wording. The translation is “you won’t hear any difference but you won’t admit it to your friends”.
Their signal path includes playing back the master analog tape into a Digital Audio Workstation capable of capturing Quad DSD (aka DSD 256). And then they “re-master” their new capture of the standard resolution transfer using DXD (a high-sampling rate version of PCM) before converting that back to DSD 64 for pressing on a SA-CD. For future reference, anytime you read that some process of another provides “improvements in low-level detail, ambient information and air”…avoid that product, accessory, tweak, release, and company. I’m actually somewhat surprised that MoFi has chosen to confuse things with pointless jargon, new names for the same old stuff, and hyperbole.
MoFi does a great job of re-releasing the analog masters of yesteryear but there’s only so much fidelity to be found in third generation analog tapes regardless of how many ULTRAs you use to describe the process.
MoFi is clearly not the only one spinning things out of reality. The trend towards higher and higher sampling rates has got to stop…but it won’t because audio enthusiasts falsely believe that a sampling rate higher than 96 kHz will actually improve the quality of a recording. I might get to 192 kHz if pressed but my whole studio operates at 96 kHz, so my motivation is obviously diminished.
A knowledgeable reader sent me a very informative email that I will rewrite and share soon (the English is a little challenging but the message is clear). It contained a link to Dan Lavry’s article on sample rates and how much is enough. I have read this before but thought I would share it today. You can read it by clicking here.
The chase for ever-higher sampling rates is pointless. We could get a lot more out of the formats that we already have if the engineers and producers would make recordings that have some fidelity left in them. There is absolutely no reason to record at Quad DSD or 384 kHz PCM.
See you tomorrow.
I’m still looking to raise the $3700 needed to fund a booth at the 2015 International CES. I’ve received some very generous contributions but still need to raise additional funds (I’ve received about $2300 so far). Please consider contributing any amount. I write these posts everyday in the hopes that readers will benefit from my network, knowledge and experience. I hope you consider them worth a few dollars. You can get additional information at my post of December 2, 2014. Thanks.