I grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit. I can appreciate the cold temperatures and piles of snow that are displayed nightly on the national news. Poor Boston…storm after storm has been dumping the fluffy white stuff on the city as crews try to keep streets open by hauling it away or even melting it by the ton. And now I live along the coast in Southern California. The temperature today is in the mid 80s, the sun is out and hordes of people from the valleys are crowding the beaches just down the hill from my home. It gets hard to relate to my friends in the Midwest…why continue to suffer through terrible winters when you can move to a city with year round great weather?
The recent challenge by Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast Records and Paul McGowan of PS Audio is obviously going nowhere. While I believe that Mario Aguilar and David Pogue wrote really bad articles based on outdated facts and very poor research about high-resolution audio and specifically Pono, their conclusions weren’t that far off the mark. The “myth of high-resolution audio” persists because there is so much misinformation being spread around as fact.
One of the tabs on my browser is till open to an informational page on the SHARP electronics website (Click Here to visit “The Benefits of 1-bit”). I happened upon the page after participating in the roll out of the Sharp high-resolution wireless system a few months ago. You got to love the paragraph that is presented on the page:
“A CD’s PCM multi-bit technology records and reproduces sound frequencies up to 20 kHz, the audible limit for humans. But we can actually perceive sounds above 20kHz, and some sounds even reach frequencies of up to 100kHz. To record and reproduce the full range of natural sounds, then, a 1-bit amplifier samples the original analogue signal an incredible 2,822,400 times per second (2.8224MHz) — 64 times faster than PCM (44.1kHz). 1-bit thus achieves far superior sound reproduction and transient characteristics. And, with our latest generation 5.6448MHz 1-bit amplifiers, the bar has been raised higher still.”
Figure 1 – Sharp illustration showing the “benefits” of 1-bit high-resolution encoding.
You have to love the marketing pitch by Sharp. While I agree that hearing may extend past 20 kHz, it has certainly not been proven. And even the McGill research “Sampling rate discrimination: 44.1 kHz vs. 88.2 kHz” states that “While we observed audible differences between sample rates of 88.2 and 44.1 kHz, they remain very subtle and difficult to detect. This statement about 100 kHz is technically true but just how high and at what amplitude do you think is appropriate for music recording and reproduction? Do you really want a 75 kHz tone at -120 dB as a “low level detail” in your playback?
The advocates of DSD like to boast about the 100 kHz frequency range…but they don’t tell you that to achieve the extended range you have only 6 dB of dynamic range. When you push the noise out to the “audio band” (we’re back to 20-20 kHz) to get decent dynamics, the high frequency extension goes away. Let’s talk facts for a while.
According to the paragraph, the analog to digital conversion is done using a “1-bit amplifier” sampling the incoming analog waveform at an “incredible 2.8224 MHz, which just happens to be 64 times the sample rate of the Redbook CD spec). They want us to believe that 1-bit therefore “achieves far superior sound reproduction and transient characteristics.” It doesn’t. If any of this were true, don’t you think that the record industry would be swapping out their lousy PCM systems for the latest DSD workstation? They aren’t and they won’t be. It’s simply impossible to buy into DSD when you can’t work with it in its native form and it doesn’t deliver anything better than what we already have. Sorry Sharp…time to talk to the engineers and producers that make the records you’re reproducing.
“1-bit’s reputation is based on its ability to reproduce sound with unprecedented accuracy. 1-bit heralds nothing less than a whole new era in audio.”
Cookie told me that there is a firmware update to your Pono player that allows DSD playback. Now I suppose Neil will re-encode his 2.1 million tracks to DSD to extract additional dollars from DSD lovers.