What’s the weak­est link for HD mu­sic?

Mac Format - - APPLETALK -

With 2014 be­ing the year of ‘HD’ tracks and 24-bit mu­sic be­com­ing more preva­lent, it oc­curred to me: what is in charge of my mu­sic qual­ity? I have an iMac, a net­work streamer and a NAS drive for stor­age. I’ve been play­ing my mu­sic through iTunes us­ing Air­Play; I know my streamer ac­tu­ally re­ceives the mu­sic through a cable for more re­li­able trans­port, but is my com­puter’s sound card in­flu­enc­ing the audio prior to my stereo’s DAC and there­fore dumb­ing it down?

Is the dock/con­nected stereo/ Zep­pelin in con­trol of the DAC side of things or is the cheap sound card in my tablet or com­puter tak­ing the first bite of the cherry? Steve Bush The lim­it­ing fac­tor is ac­tu­ally your ears. There is a lot of non­sense re­gur­gi­tated on the web about the sup­posed fidelity ben­e­fits of 24-bit mu­sic with 96kHz sam­pling rates. The truth is that th­ese ben­e­fits are en­tirely il­lu­sory. Hu­man ears have a max­i­mum fre­quency re­sponse of 20Hz to 20kHz, and most adults have hear­ing ranges well be­low that. 44.1kHz sam­pling is al­ready ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing this with per­fect fidelity. Sim­i­larly, mod­ern 16-bit en­cod­ing has a max­i­mum dy­namic range of 120dB. This vol­ume range runs from sounds as quiet as a mos­quito to a pneu­matic drill right next to your face. Dou­ble-blind tri­als pub­lished in rep­utable, peer-re­viewed jour­nals con­sis­tently show that no one can dis­tin­guish 16-bit/44.1kHz audio from 24-bit/96kHz.

The rea­son that the higher sam­pling fre­quen­cies and bit-depth are used in the record­ing stu­dio is be­cause they are mix­ing lots of dif­fer­ent tracks with dif­fer­ent gain and fre­quency ranges. Us­ing 24/96 gives the en­gi­neer some head­room, so that dis­tor­tions aren’t in­tro­duced along the way. But whether the fi­nal mix is out­put as 24/96 or 16/44.1 should make no dif­fer­ence to you. With 24/96 audio, your ears sim­ply can­not de­tect any dif­fer­ence, bet­ter or worse. It’d be like pay­ing ex­tra for a mon­i­tor that out­puts light in the in­frared or X-ray por­tion of the elec­tro­mag­netic spec­trum.

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