Sound quality

Prefatory note.

Since I first wrote this piece, I’ve tried to consolidate the accretions only for other accretions to start building up. With that in mind, I’ve tried to consolidate the entry again (First revision: 01.01.17; Second revision: 26.05.18).

MP3 is dead? Er, no.

No, the licence has expired (May 2017), but all the overly excitable hacks are claiming that the format is dead. No, idiot children, just the licence.

Back to business.

I think it’s sample rates. I acquired some DVDs from a colleague of mine who’s about to be a former col­league of mine. I was listening to the Eagles singing Hotel California and thinking that the sound quality was rather good. When I checked the ifi nano, the light was “yellow”, which means the sample rate was 192Khz. I also checked what VLC had to say about the sound output and confirmed what the DAC was telling me.

I’ve also read an article or two about 16 vs. 24-bit music which confirmed my perceptions. I also note that the sample tracks I was listening to, Guyot’s “Dignare, Domine, dies is” from Te Deum Laudamus, were 16/44.1 and 24/88.2, but the latter sounded no better than the former. A real test would be the DSD file against the 16/44.1 version. But the quality of the music from the Eagles CD was audibly better.

However, I also note that modern music and modern instruments often seem to have a quality that Baroque music played on period instruments just doesn’t have. The Eagles’ guitars sounded – how do I want to describe them? – exquisite, clear, refined, precise. Mind you, harpsichords can have that chime-like quality which would lend itself to the benefits of higher sample rates.

And perhaps there’s a point to DSD with its incredibly high sample rates. I’m listening to the Allegro move­ment of Mozart’s Violin Concerto in D major in DSD 128 format (from the Norwegian firm, 2L, which has a wide range of samples), which definitely sounds nicer than the CD-quality version of the same file, which sounds perfectly all right without any comparisons. The 24/192 version of the same file sounds about the same as the DSD version through the ifi nano and the RAR P3s.

My conclusion is that quality comes from the sample rate, but there appears to come a point at which there’s nothing to be gained. I’m hearing no audible difference between the DSD and 192Khz versions of the Mo­z­art, and at this late stage, even the CD-quality can hold its head up high.



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