Audio Mythology

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The world of myth and legend

See if you agree with any of these:

1 – The best way to improve my playback system is with better speakers or headphones.

2 – The best way to improve my playback system is with a new DAC (digital to analog converter).

3 – My playback system can’t sound any better due to it’s own limitations.

4 – My playback system can’t sound any better due to environmental issues such as background noise or electrical hum.

5 – My ears can’t detect much difference between all of these formats.

6 – The type of music I like really doesn’t require better fidelity.

7 – It’s all snake-oil!

8 – 16/44 is all humans can hear anyway.

9 – Unless all music is remastered I won’t notice a difference at higher resolution. The “loudness wars” make all of this irrelevant.

10 – Playing hi-def will require expensive cables and other expenses.

[If you have a high-end system and/or play lossless files already, these might not apply to you ]


 

Eddie Ashworth operates makes adjustments to the mixing board during a recording session at MDAI studio.


1 – The best way to improve my playback system is with better speakers or headphones.

False. Garbage in = garbage out, so adding better speakers could improve your sound but it is not the surefire best way to improve your system. Playing the highest quality source material through a quality DAC and amplifier is always the best way to improve your playback.

2 – The best way to improve my playback system is with a new DAC (digital to analog converter).

False. Putting a high-quality DAC in your signal chain will improve your sound quality, but again, cannot do much to improve poorly encoded, transcoded or compressed files. A good DAC is an important part of the playback signal chain but can only render the files it is given.

3 – My playback system can’t sound any better due to it’s own limitations.

False. Unless you have an expensive hi-fi system playing high definition files already, even your pedestrian system will sound better with improved source material. Most modern systems have crossovers, subwoofers, and ported cabinets and will sound better playing better source. Even cheaper consumer brands can perform better than the quality mp3 can provide.


 

The Doors in the studio

The Doors in the studio

 


4 – My playback system can’t sound any better due to environmental issues such as background noise or electrical hum.

False. No amount of background noise alters the original playback, it is simply distraction added to the listening environment. If your music playback is at the highest quality it will engage you in a way that will increase, not decrease it’s ability to compete with distractions. Focus on the musical program will increase with quality.

5 – My ears can’t detect much difference between all of these formats.

False. Our ears are losing and gaining sense abilities all the time, much like our tongue and our eyes. We can learn new sounds, new hearing techniques, and otherwise counter physical degradation to our audible frequency range. No matter the state of your hearing, the quality of the playback source is a separate metric and it stands to reason that you have a better chance of hearing something that’s actually there. Also, some of our audible sense is not through the ears. If higher resolution music is more accurately pushing the speakers your body’s other vibration sensors will detect the difference.


 

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That does not appear to be a mer-man but you can’t always tell these days


6 – The type of music I like really doesn’t require better fidelity.

False. Even the scratchiest rock or the mellowest piano sounds better with higher resolution. Anything with a voice or an acoustic instrument will have more timbre, more depth, and more space in the mix. Even electronic music shines because placement of sounds in the room will be more apparent. Layering of parts will be revealed and you will hear things that mp3 destroyed with it’s perceptual compression. More emotional content will be transmitted to you which will improve your listening experience (however weird it is).


 

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Hi. I still play music better than your phone or tablet or computer.


7 – High resolution audio is snake-oil!

False. 16/44 was a corporate-engineer compromise based on 1970’s digital limitations, premature hearing science, and boardroom politics. The CD format had other advantages for consumer music, but as it’s been retired it’s quality standard of 16/44 soldiers on. The MP3 generation mistakenly holds it up as a gold standard even though it was actually a compromise 35 years ago. Amazingly, they continue to upgrade all other digital media to HD and beyond.

9 – 16/44 is all humans can hear anyway.

False. You should play your music at it’s highest native resolution for maximum quality, no matter how it was mixed or mastered. If it’s analog music it comes down to the transfer to digital. If it’s from the digital era it comes down to the resolution of the masters. The loudness wars are real, EDM is everywhere, and headroom in music is seemingly out of style right now. But I believe this is an effect from the poor formats, not the cause of them. The reason modern music works so hard to tweak the speakers, to drop ‘the drop’, to triple track the snare, to crank the wall of sound, is because of the limited bandwidth they have to ship with.

8 – Unless all music is remastered I won’t notice a difference at higher resolution. The “loudness wars” make all of this irrelevant.

False. If your favorite genre cranks louder than the rest, you are in the loudness wars. Radio started the loudness wars about 50 years ago with their nice multiband compressors pumping up their signal before hitting the transmitter. Now that everyone is producing digitally we have compressors and gain at every stage, with limitless processing available, and many people just pump pump pump for an inflated sense of loudness. Either way, if the music you like calls for dynamic range and nuance, you will appreciate higher resolution. We don’t all listen to dubstep and pop.


 

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Dubstep makes me angry!


10 – Playing hi-def will require expensive cables and other expenses.

False. An analog cable needs a few basic things to work well, and those parts can be assembled for a reasonable price (well under $50 for most lengths). Anyone paying more than that for analog cables on a personal playback system is wasting money, in my opinion. There might be small differences in expensive cabling but it is ridiculous the prices some people pay for interconnects.


SAVE THE AUDIO!!  http://wfnk.com/blog/save-the-audio


Bonus points:

Learn the 3-digit code on music releases for

Recording, Mixing, Distributing-

D D D – Digitally recorded, digitally mixed, digitally distributed

A D D – Analog recorded, digitally mixed, digitally distributed

A A D – Analog recorded, analog mixed, digitally distributed

D A D – Digitally recorded, analog mixed, digitally distributed

A A A – Analog recorded, analog mixed, analog distributed