The Meyer and Moran AES paper was published in 2007. The high-resolution era was well under way having been launched in 2000 with the arrival of SACD and DVD-Audio. I have a pdf of their paper, “Audibility of a CD-Standard A/D/A Loop Inserted into High-Resolution Audio Playback” on the screen in front of me and I have read it carefully more than once.
The abstract states the purpose of their study:
“Claims both published and anecdotal are regularly made for audibly superior sound quality for two-channel audio encoded with longer word lengths and/or at higher sampling rates than the 16-bit/44.1-kHz CD standard. The authors report on a series of double-blind tests comparing the analog output of high-resolution players playing high-resolution recordings with the same signal passed through a 16-bit/44.1-kHz “bottleneck.” The tests were conducted for over a year using different systems and a variety of subjects. The systems included expensive professional monitors and one high-end system with electrostatic loudspeakers and expensive components and cables. The subjects included professional recording engineers, students in a university recording program, and dedicated audiophiles. The test results show that the CD-quality A/D/A loop was undetectable at normal-to-loud listening levels, by any of the subjects, on any of the playback systems. The noise of the CD-quality loop was audible only at very elevated levels.”
The bold text in the abstract is at the center of my criticism. It clearly states that the authors believed they played “high-resolution recordings”. They didn’t. They played what the members of their audiophile organization brought to the listening sessions. And what they brought were SACDs and DVD-Audio (only one of the discs was a DVD-Audio title) discs of older analog recordings or commercial DSD 64 recordings. It’s no wonder the participants didn’t detect any differences between the high-resolution and CD spec versions. They were the same fidelity. There weren’t any sonic differences.
And now one of the authors wants us to believe that they were actually researching something else. In his statement from another forum (posted yesterday) he describes high-resolution audio “with longer word lengths and/or at higher sampling rates than the 16-bit/44.1-kHz CD standard”. He argues that the central thesis of hi-res advocates was that “hi-res formats that for the first time…got digital right”. That wasn’t my read on the reasoning behind high-resolution.
E. Brad Moran wrote, “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.” I beg to differ.
Contrary to Mr. Moran’s comment, I’m still holding on to my original claims. I wrote about the lack of high-resolution sources being used in the study to his collaborator right after the study was published back 2007. David Meyer and I had several back and forth emails about the content. Nothing has changed for me. Why do you think they subsequently released the names of the albums that they used in the study…because I asked about them. I believe it’s critically important that they used real high-resolution recordings.
Mr. Moran then mentions that the real reason for high-resolution formats was not for better dynamic range and accuracy at the highest frequency range but rather, “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.”
I don’t know where he got the true timbres, accurate placement in stereo, and blooming reverb ideas. It sounds like he’s been reading the latest issues of the audiophile mags. As one of the first…if not the first…strong advocate of “real high-resolution” audio, I know I was interested in reaching the capabilities of human hearing with a recording and distribution format. That meant avoiding compressors and limiters and getting extended high frequency response. It meant using high-resolution from the moment of the original source recording.
To be continued.
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