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44 vs. 96: from theory to practice
Old 18th December 2005
  #1
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ISedlacek's Avatar
44 vs. 96: from theory to practice

There have been plenty of theoretical discussions on this topic. I would like to offer something more practical.
Long time ago, while still having Mytek AD, I tried for the first time to record in 96 and found it immediately better. Later I checked it again and was not sure any more and returned to 44. Then I changed my AD DA to Lavry Blue and continued in 44 kHz.
Few days ago a friend mentioned that after recording a choir, he feels 96 kHz sounds reasonably better than 44. It again made me thinking.
I am not any "digital" expert, I am pursuing only one basic question: does it sound better ? (I want to hear it, not to be told why it should or should not sound better).

Here are few more or less identical instrumental samples recorded alternately in 44 and 96 kHz.
For the intial AB listening comparison I did a direct switch between two Samplitude sessions and Lavry clock frequencies. I could hear an immediate difference

To bring it back to a daily reality, I resampled 96k samples to 44k through Voxengo r8 Brain. Although it is supposed to be the best SRC software, for sure there is some loss in the crystal sound quality (I again compared directly the original and the resampled result, the original sounded better - more crystal clear).
I am not aware of any better SRC way ... Of course a very decent SRC would be to send a signal to some great analogue device and record it back into 44/16 to avoid all the mathematics ...

I can share three instrument samples:

1) monochord (huge resonating string instrument). In this case the absolutely fixed position between the instrument and mics is 100% guaranteed in all the samples

2) small drum

3) viola d´amore (just a kind of a scale up and down to get the full tonal range)

To corelate some possible unavoidable slight changes in the exact position and style of playing, I recorded each instrument twice in each frequency to increase the probability of perceiving the objective differences

All the samples are completely rough and unprocessed in any way.
Recorded on a pair of Schoeps MK2, Pendulum MDP-1 (viola d´amore through Millennia HV-3) and Lavry Blue AD.

The basic questions:
Can you hear a difference ? (even though the original 96k sound quality is a bit diluted through SRC)
Do you think it is worth to accept all the extra troubles of working in 96k and record there for the sake of a "better sound", more pristine sound quality of acoustic instruments or vocals ? (on the basis of what of you heard). Even if one has to sacrifice a part of quality to SRC ?
(No theories, please ... )
Is there any even better SRC method than using r8Brain, which could help to retain better the 96k sound quality after a return to 44/16 ?

I know that my "test" is quite small and "unscientific", but at least it shows something practical ...

monochord I. 96
monochord I. 44

monochord II. 96
monochord II. 44

drum I. 96
drum I. 44

drum II. 96
drum II. 44

viola I. 96
viola I. 44

viola II. 96
viola II. 44
Old 18th December 2005
  #2
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I've found that printing mixes to my Tascam DV-RA1000 at higher sample rates sounds better. So now I mix at 176.4 or 192 khz and convert the sample rate as required for mp3/cd formats, etc...

Oh, and the SRC does in fact go a lot faster if you're dealing with a simple multiple of the sample rate. So if I'm mixing for CD, I print at 176.4 khz. 44.1 CD sample rate is exactly 1/4, so the SRC happens quickly.

If mixing for mp3, which can be 48 khz, I'll print at 192 khz and then SRC. When I printed at 192 khz and then downsampled to 44.1 for CD, it took forever. That's why for CD I use 176.4. I know that the signal gets upsampled first, but the SRC takes ten times longer if it's not an even multiple.
Old 18th December 2005
  #3
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I could tell a heck of a lot of difference in the details present in the 96k samples.
Old 18th December 2005
  #4
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by craigmorris74
I could tell a heck of a lot of difference in the details present in the 96k samples.
Yes, I think so ... For me, the most apparent difference is somehow a reasonably larger stereo image and deeper space in 96k. I think it is obvious on the monochord samples. 96k samples have a bit more HF information, hopefully retaining LF and mids ... Or do they sound simply "sharper" ? I think they rather seem more "open"
It is an unfortunate finding, since working in 96 k brings lot of extra troubles ... But for the sake of sound I am always ready to make any sacrifice. But must be sure, it is worth it.

So I am happy that I can share it here (although I would love to post more samples, but the size would be too big). So I am very curious to know what differences the friends from Gearslutz hear ...
Old 18th December 2005
  #5
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It's funny. When I did my first 88.2 tracking session, it came out great. But to me, I wasn't sure if it had anything to do with the 88.2. I mean maybe it was the drummer, mabe it was the particular studio, maybe it was the particular mic pres, etc. How can I tell. But when other people came in, they immediately noticed clarity in the overheads that tey ahdn't heard in a long time. And while I wasn't sure if the 88.2 made a difference (or rather if it was responsible), it seemed obvious to everyone else who wasn't an engineer.

Today I am tracking drums at 96k, but ironically I hav to monitor through one of those Mackie 8bus consoles which only does 48k. So I have to go from 96k to analog, to 44.1k to analog. I guess I won't really know how much it helps until I get home from the studio.
Old 18th December 2005
  #6
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mac black's Avatar
big difference to my ears.
Old 18th December 2005
  #7
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very interesting! i can definitely hear a difference. 96 sounds much better and detailed. which version of r8 did you use, free or pro? is there a sonic difference between those two or is it just features?

istvan
Old 18th December 2005
  #8
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by futur2
very interesting! i can definitely hear a difference. 96 sounds much better and detailed. which version of r8 did you use, free or pro? is there a sonic difference between those two or is it just features?

istvan
Free ... I think the "pro" has just some extra features. But I will ask Aleksey ...
Old 18th December 2005
  #9
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Wonderful job Ivo, as always. Yes a remarkable difference -- the 44.1 samples sounded like a nice recording of you. The 96 version sounded like you were standing in front of me playing!

Now, the 2nd violin 44.1 sample appears to be mislabled, I believe it is actually the same as #1.

I think there is not always the biggest disagreement over 44.1K vs. other sample rates. The particular argument that I keep getting drawn into is whether there is that much dramatic improvement from 48 KHz vs the higher (96, 192...)

Any chance you will consider comparisons between 44.1, 48, and 96? I don't know if you could repeat the last performances to add that one?

Thanks a lot, good information.

Steve
Old 18th December 2005
  #10
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug
Now, the 2nd violin 44.1 sample appears to be mislabled, I believe it is actually the same as #1.

Steve
Corrected ! Thanks ...
Old 18th December 2005
  #11
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Thanks Ivo! I assume all the original takes were at 24 bit?

Steve
Old 18th December 2005
  #12
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug
Thanks Ivo! I assume all the original takes were at 24 bit?

Steve
32 bit float - dithered through Pow-R 3
Old 18th December 2005
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ISedlacek
Free ... I think the "pro" has just some extra features. But I will ask Aleksey ...
i took a closer look at it. here's what aleksey said in his own forum:

"With r8brain PRO you get a better high-frequency response (highest frequencies roll-off later than in the free version), zero conversion distortion, better than -144 dB SNR performance, multi-channel WAV file support, minimum-phase (a'la analog) conversion mode. Batch processing is also a little more convenient."

cheers
istvan
Old 18th December 2005
  #14
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug

Any chance you will consider comparisons between 44.1, 48, and 96? I don't know if you could repeat the last performances to add that one?

Thanks a lot, good information.

Steve
I will try 48kHz tomorrow. Although I cannot directly add it to the previous samples, because I cannot reinstall exactly the same mics and instruments position.
48 kHz would be a bit more practical ... For example PCM**** works digitally only up to 48 kHz. I feel it sounds a bit worse when connected through analog I/O (as I have to do in 96 kHz). But maybe it has something to do with rather low quality of Lynx AD DA conversion (I have to use that for a second DA, but an extra Lavry DA module is already on the way ...).
I actually remember I already tried 44/48 comparison some time ago, but found there is almost no perceptible sound difference. But of course life is always open for some revisions ...
Old 18th December 2005
  #15
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by futur2
i took a closer look at it. here's what aleksey said in his own forum:

"With r8brain PRO you get a better high-frequency response (highest frequencies roll-off later than in the free version), zero conversion distortion, better than -144 dB SNR performance, multi-channel WAV file support, minimum-phase (a'la analog) conversion mode. Batch processing is also a little more convenient."

cheers
istvan
Hmmm, seems it will be a must for serious 96 k adepts ...
I checked the website - there is r8pro and r8pro Light. If I understand well, both versions are exactly the same. The only difference is that in the Light version you cannot upsample higher than 48 kHz, if I understand well . The price difference is substantial: 50 vs 120 dollars. I must ask Aleksey. If it sounds still better than the free version, than it is the only way to go ... I don´t need to convert (upsample) anything to 88 or 96 kHz
So it is very likely that using r8brain PRO would make 96 k samples sound even better. I must try ... The demo works up to one minute ...
Old 18th December 2005
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ISedlacek
I will try 48kHz tomorrow. Although I cannot directly add it to the previous samples, because I cannot reinstall exactly the same mics and instruments position.

...I actually remember I already tried 44/48 comparison some time ago, but found there is almost no perceptible sound difference. But of course life is always open for some revisions ...
Yes, that's what I would expect too, when I do these comparisons. Hard to get everything back... and the mood is just different and affects the performances.

Please don't go to a lot of trouble, just my curiousity... will keep my up way too late at night!

I can believe you that 44.1 and 48 are not remarkably different. I have not done serious comparisons, I've just defaulted to 48 mostly. It would be interesting to hear on your fine setup, and with the natural resolution of those particular instruments you've used.

Yes, perceptions change. I used to like snow peas, but now.....

Steve
Old 18th December 2005
  #17
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug
Yes, that's what I would expect too, when I do these comparisons. Hard to get everything back... and the mood is just different and affects the performances.

Please don't go to a lot of trouble, just my curiousity... will keep my up way too late at night!

I can believe you that 44.1 and 48 are not remarkably different. I have not done serious comparisons, I've just defaulted to 48 mostly. It would be interesting to hear on your fine setup, and with the natural resolution of those particular instruments you've used.

Yes, perceptions change. I used to like snow peas, but now.....

Steve
I will try a bit tomorrow and will let you know. Another untreated area is 88 kHz. Must try too ... Some people say it is "easier" to convert to 44 than from 96. But I also heard few expert opinions assuring that it makes absolutely NO difference ...
Old 18th December 2005
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ISedlacek
Hmmm, seems it will be a must for serious 96 k adepts ...
I checked the website - there is r8pro and r8pro Light. If I understand well, both versions are exactly the same. The only difference is that in the Light version you cannot upsample higher than 48 kHz, if I understand well . The price difference is substantial: 50 vs 120 dollars. I must ask Aleksey. If it sounds still better than the free version, than it is the only way to go ... I don´t need to convert (upsample) anything to 88 or 96 kHz
So it is very likely that using r8brain PRO would make 96 k samples sound even better. I must try ... The demo works up to one minute ...
ivo, please report back when you talk to aleksey. as far as i understand the light version offers only the linear phase conversion mode whereas the full version offers lienar and minimum phase conversion modes. minimum phase was described by some people as better and "warmer" sounding...

istvan
Old 18th December 2005
  #19
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john caldwell's Avatar
Nothng new to add except to reiterate: We shouldn't confuse the performance differences of a given converter at 44 vs. 96 ( or any thing above 44) with believing that anything above 44 sampling is audible. I belive it isn't audible. What is very audible, though, is the difference in performance of different convereters at lower sampling frequencies. Easier to design a converter to perform audibly better at 96 (or thereabove) than at the nyquist limit of 44.1 (for 22KHz audibility).

Again, nothing new that you haven't read before. Enjoying 44.1 here.

John-
Old 18th December 2005
  #20
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Ivo, thanks for sharing this with us!

Just a tip, you get a better dithering result with the IDR algorithm in Waves L2 Type1 Ultra, I have compared them...

I thought the 96KHz versions were marginally more pristine in my ears, especially the first comparison. I think the major difference was in the contour of the instruments, I guess you can say the instrument definition was somewhat better, the focus was clearly a little better, reminds me a little of the difference between a jittery clock and a less jittery clock. I don't have the information on how stable clocks generally are on different sample rates, but I guess some clocks can handle a certain sample rate better than others, which means it might be hard to draw a general conclusion about this. But now we have got a practical example where we can hear that a recording can be much more prestine when originally recorded at 96KHz and then being downsampled to 44,1KHz.

One thing that is important to point out in this context is the way the SRC processes the material. What we hear in these clips can also just be a result of the algorithm that reduces the sample rate to 44,1KHz a little subjectively, so for instance in the first sample (where I thought there was a lot of extra HF energy) the algorithm might have cut a little LF, which caused some additional attack and countour, this is really hard to say, we need more SRCs in order to effectively draw conclusions. Typically the SRC would affect the material to some extent, so the actual difference might be half of what we actually hear.

It would be interesting to know the differences in the average noise frequency by going this route. I suspect the average noise frequency stays a little higher when downsampling from 96 KHz, which might make the noise less audible and therefore result in a better perceived signal-to-noise ratio, which causes the 96KHz version to be marginally more present. You can find out this by recording a short 5 sec idle noise clip and copy that to 10 - 20 tracks, then mixdown and analyze the average frequency by using a statistics tool (like for instance the audio statistics function in Nuendo) That can reveal if the average noise frequency is much higher after the downsample. You can also read the peak and RMS level to draw conclusions about the amount of noise left after the mixdown. If the average noise frequency is much higher and the amount of noise much lower that could be why 96KHz recordings can sound much better, expecially if the instrument masks the noise frequencies really well, which might be the case in the first comparison... Great job!!

You can find out much more about the difference than this.

Sound color: Try doing the following on the samples you mixed down: Make one version where you cut off everything between 6KHz and 16KHz and one version where you cut everything outside 6KHz and 16KHz. Then it's easier to hear where the actual difference is. If there is much inbalance in the different segments in terms of gain it might be a sign that the SRC was processing the material a little too subjectively and that the actual quality gain actually is on the atomic level.

Imaging: If you recorded the instrument in stereo, try applying for instance the Waves PAZ analyzer to see whether there is any difference in stereo width and phase. The 44,1KHz version could be more on phase which would explain why the 44,1KHz version was a little less present.

Overall it's pretty hard to draw conclusions, because in this case the different versions were not identical. You can make identical versions by using MIDI. Secondly the dithering algorithm is really a critical component here too, the same with the downsample algorithm. The amount of environment noise can also change, I bet the clock is not equally stable over time either, which can cause phase shifting on the material and marginal random differences between the comparison samples, all of this has a much bigger impact on the dithering and SRC, which in turn can make up for the marginal differences we now heard in practise. In order to effectively isolate the difference in this case a blind test should be done where there are several identical samples, some identical samples taken at different occasions, different downsampling and dithering algorithms etc...

But in this case, when only thinking about the result in practise, I think whatever caused the difference the final result was better in the 96KHz versions, in your case.

Something I believe gives a much better result than drawing conclusions about whether going with 44,1 or 96 is trying out different combinations of converters, downsampling and dithering algorithms used on different orignal sample rates as well as doing it in different order. When a combination of different constants are compared it's also much easier to actually notice what sounds good and what sounds bad. If I would own a professional studio I would borrow a bunch of different converters and test a lot of different combinations of all these things and blind test myself. I'm sure that would result in a much bigger step forward in terms of sound quality gains. The converter is the most important thing in this context. But it was fun when you posted this thread!

A short note. All digital algorithms have their weak points. When it comes to sound quality in the digital domain everything therfore works according to the chaos theory. For this reason it's overall very difficult to isolate differences, but what you can do is to group parameters involved and in that way find out where the union is. The union is actually the most significant parameter in the context and from that you can draw a conclusion, depending on the isolation level. In this case I think it's really key to include the converter as a parameter, since it's not 100% sure that every converter would yield the same final result and what we want to know is whether it's really overall better to record at 96KHz. On this isolation level (that demands several converters in the test) I'm sure the converter would yield the union, which means there are no actual conclusions to be drawn about the sample rate in general, in order to do that you need to focus on these parameters together with a certain converter (with several copies), which would yield a result that cannot be seen as a general fact, but rather a fact related to a certain converter. These kinds of tests should always be used on several people in order to be effective, but the persons need to be in the pro field.

I think you really get a lot of this information out here on the web. For some time ago I studied what was the most popular converter in professional studios and at that point in time I found Apogee to be the leading manufacturer of converters. Actually you can draw a lot of conclusions about things like this. Since it's used in combination with professional gear everywhere, you can be pretty sure that the persons have tested what they thought they were testing (and listening to) before they bought the unit. You also know that a lot of highly trained ears have been involved in the process of finding the best sounding converter. The persons that have chosen it have probably chosen among many converters, which means its relative quality is at maximum. Finally each person also have much experiences with it, since they have worked daily with it. The fact that a lot of studios still use Apogee converters also prove they are sure about their view on the sound. So I'm pretty sure that if you want a good sounding converter, then go with an Apogee converter.
Old 19th December 2005
  #21
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by john caldwell
Nothng new to add except to reiterate: We shouldn't confuse the performance differences of a given converter at 44 vs. 96 ( or any thing above 44) with believing that anything above 44 sampling is audible. I belive it isn't audible. What is very audible, though, is the difference in performance of different convereters at lower sampling frequencies. Easier to design a converter to perform audibly better at 96 (or thereabove) than at the nyquist limit of 44.1 (for 22KHz audibility).

Again, nothing new that you haven't read before. Enjoying 44.1 here.

John-
John, what you say, may be a revealing truth ... So maybe now we are talking only about how Lavry Blue handles various sample rates and demonstrating it ?

Still, while having a particular converter, it is probably wise to choose the frequency where it sounds the best ...
Old 19th December 2005
  #22
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Tony,

thank you for your interesting thoughts. I must again try to compare IDR with POw-R.
Yes, SRC can play an essential role in the final result. I have just tried the r8Brain PRO demo. The differences between the free and pro version are very very subtle in the result, but yes, the is slightly more HF shine left in the pro version.
Yet, I still ask myself, aren´t the 96 k samples a bit too sharp and less warm ? Or do I call "warm" what is a bit muffled ? (like the 44k samples). I will have to try and listen again tomorrow.
When I listened now, I found the mics position for viola was quite horrible (sounds quite dull), but I did not concentrate on reasonable mics settings ...
Maybe the ideal SRC would be just to use Lavry DA AD out/in ?
Or to go to lower sample rate only after the mix is finished through sweetening through some analog box ? (like Millennia EQ/comp or Pendulum in my case).
I will try your further suggestions.
Anyway, I feel my recording and mixing life will become harder now ... From the comfortable 44k I have to go to the demanding 96k ...
But a "better sound" is a main deity here ...
Old 19th December 2005
  #23
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john caldwell's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ISedlacek
...Still, while having a particular converter, it is probably wise to choose the frequency where it sounds the best ...
Yes, to be sure. And true off all work we do, you'll agree - if it sounds better it is better.

I'm simply citing the (countless years) of work already done in this area, popularly published in our field by Nika and others, which demonstrates no need for sampling rates greater than 2 times the frequency of greatest interest, so long as anti-aliasing artifacts are in audible in the audio domain. It's the antialiasing artifacts that separate a given converters audible performance when one moves above 44.1, as I understand it. Point is that a converter which presents no audible antialiasing artifacts at 44 will sound no better at anything above 44.

Again, nothing new on my part. I'm just regurgitating the math, but it is consistent with my formal training in electrical engineering.

Best,

John-
Old 19th December 2005
  #24
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Funny is to watch ourselves when it is about switching a state.
Rember those jeans with the broad legs?
One day the fashion industry decided for a new shape and suddenly everybody found the old jeans completely ugly. ( To my taste the following totally narrow leg shape actually was the most ridiculous looking jeans form ever.)

Similar with the 96 k format. With the Lavry blue I heard clearly better results.
Published my impression on the DUC, but people had been told that higher resolution than 48k would just be nonesense. You should have seen how they jumped on me like all they understood was that someone had told to them they were doing something wrong.

Even when I gave them samples they refused to hear anything although it could be clearly heard ( at least through the DAC1, dunno about the 001 convertors ). I laughed to myself, it was curious in a way. There was even indignation, because of the people´s believe according to which it was to be absolutely impossible any mp3 to convey the difference anyhow.

Similarly a while later on GS when some guys and me reported about what we heard at 96k. ( Told you too, Ivo. I think you had used 96k, then someone told you that 44.1 was better and you used that, right? - BTW, send you two emails.)

96k makes a difference on the Lavry blue indeed.

Anybody tried its 88.2?
Should be same I guess ( havn´t tried it yet ), maybe it would be better for downsampling?

BTW, as you use a Lynx combo too, Ivo, ... One could possibly SR with the Lynx, but I havn´t tried so far.

The SRC option in the sound cards window does not apply to SRC ITB. ( I gathered so, and imagine other users might have too.) Used to speculate it would need to be on in order to allow SRC inside thee software without irritating the HW clock or something .

But it is there to SRC signal either on out or on inputs ( selectable ).
So I guess if Lynx WDM driver being installed one could open one Samplitude session in 96k and a second session to record at 44.1. Next taking one digital output plug and connecting it to a digital input. Setting mixer to SRC and send the 2track through the outs while the recording session routed to the downsampling inputs.

Think to recall that in the past Apogees SRC in the cornvertors was deemed superior to software, maybe the Lynx SRC is good too.

If you or anyone tries it out let us know.

Ruphus

PS: Hey Lynx guys! For that money you should be able to deliver decent XLRs, don´t ya think? The males don´t snap.

They are good to check pilots for dopiness, though.
I have been about reinstalling drivers, firmware and whatnot last week for the AES card seemed to be dead, until I realized the damn plug had just dropped off the external convertors.

PS: I´m not completely sure, but think it to be recommendable to always check that SRC option to be off when recording through extrenal convertors / clock! stike
Old 19th December 2005
  #25
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SoZo's Avatar
I hear a huge difference with the headphones on. Bass and highs are amazing, and much more resolution and detail everywhere. I do believe as you accumulate tracks this will make a big difference. The 44.1 sounded distanced, cloudy and midrange harmonic artifacts to me comparatively(amazing recording still at 44.1).


Here is the question.... what about recording at 88.2? Much easier to go to 44.1 then from 96 and probably same exact results compared to 96K?
Old 19th December 2005
  #26
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Generally I thought the sound quality of the 96KHz versions was really good. I will try this combination myself to see whether I notice any difference with my converter. If I do I will post here, no wait. tutt If I don't I will post anyway..!
Old 19th December 2005
  #27
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Hard for me to understand how a simple listening comparison, that reveals obvious differences (and to me, strong improvements at 96k) immediately dissolves into intricate arguments of the theory and manipulations of the SRC or dither, just to defend a particular choice that "mathematically should be good enough".

And the implications that maybe the particular SRC made it sound better?

As if any of that made any difference to the final result here -- the higher resolution clips sound better. If you can't hear it... then don't worry, save your disk space.



Steve
Old 19th December 2005
  #28
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Excellent Test

Ivo: Great job on trying to be objective. I took your files and listened to them mono through iPod ear buds and my wife gave me a blind test. 98% of the time I picked 96 as my favorite. I then tested my wife and she picked 96 100%. My 13 year old was 50/50!!!! Anyway, I'm convinced that there is a difference.
Old 19th December 2005
  #29
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john caldwell's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegybug
... then don't worry, save your disk space.
Yes, and it's also about processing power at high SR.
Old 19th December 2005
  #30
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ISedlacek's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by john caldwell
Yes, and it's also about processing power at high SR.
It is a natural thing that you always pay some price for an extra achievement ...
Getting a new great gear is also usually not free of charge ...

Anyway - if in theory NOTHING above 44kHz is perceptible in the audible spectrum
and yet all the shown 96k samples sound a way better (depth, stereo image, details, intimacy etc.), where all these differences come from ?
Can it be really in much better 96k design in Lavry Blue AD comparing to its 44k circuit ?
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