Take Our Audio Poll: Do We Need Higher Definition Sound?

We’re in the 21st century and we have the worst sound that we’ve ever had. It’s worse than a 78 [rpm record]. What happened?

Reblogged from Trust Me I’m a Scientist: Take Our Audio Poll: Do We Need Higher Definition Sound?



  1. We need better songs and creative ideas….

    They should always be the first point of focus….

    • susiwong says:

      agreed, but that’s totally off topic, sorry.

      Imho most of these “audiophile” statements are flawed on pretty basic levels (unscientific AB listening conditions, level matching, different mastering in case of vinyl vs CD, stuff like that).
      And then, many are false information driven by commercial interest.
      With pop music (anywhere between America and Annihilator) I personally would not claim to be able to reliably tell wav from 320CBR.
      Chances increase with more acoustic content, and decrease with amount of “radio” compression applied.
      I once had a track with only double bass and flute, that one showed off encoding flaws without mercy.
      Lost it, unfortunately. 😦
      Btw, slightly OT too, getting rid of crackles and polluted transients alone more than justifies the move from vinyl to digital for me, ymmv.
      Silencing that little voice inside my head, telling me “if you listen to this record now, it’s guaranteed to sound worse the next time you put it on” – ’nuff said.
      Re commercial interest, I’m a firm believer in the theory that size does matter with multimedia files and sample sets – not really from a listener’s perspective, but to make illegal internet distribution more difficult.
      Imho that’s the main reason behind SACD, DVD Audio and other high end formats, those who buy into that snake oil placebo to enjoy on their $800 home theater system in an untreated room pay the cost, I’m not one of them.
      However, I’m more than willing to buy stuff again in the rare case of a really successful remaster …
      Which brings back the ball in our part of the field, recording, mixing, mastering does matter big time, even on 128VBR, let the audiophile geeks obsess about formats beyond CD Audio.
      only my 5ct, ymmv,

      • Whoah! This quote is taken out of context. It’s actually a Neil Young quote that is proven to be false by the linked article here. I should know. I wrote it the article!

        Follow up is below, with the results from the poll. They actually prove that this quote is *untrue*, beyond a reasonable doubt:


        -Justin Colletti

        • susiwong says:

          hello Justin,
          sorry for any confusion, I’m not a native speaker …
          My post started out as a reply to “ajw” (“agreed, but that’s totally off topic”), the rest is my own personal view about those “pseudo-audiophile” claims, including Neil’s, only loosely based on your interesting article, which I had read before writing.
          The way I still read my words, and having read your detailed follow-up article, it appears to me like we agree almost 100% – again, sorry if my language deficiencies made it sound otherwise.
          And big “thumbs up” for writing these articles, those “pseudo-audiophile” claims beg for some real-world counter-arguments indeed.


          Btw, the key experience that put my feet back on the ground after years of “audiophile disease” was a live AB comparison between 5 of the most acclaimed HiFi speakers (each pair beyond $10.000) of the day (late ’80s), sounding as different from each other as maybe guitar rigs do. What does that tell us about “high fidelity” as the audiophile crowd understands it ?
          Good sound does matter, but in a different way – your articles include some of the better arguments of this debate.
          Much appreciated !

  2. I’d love FLAC as standard or at least 320kB mp3s as the always minimal standard for any audio in the net or anywhere. some audio in the net is just killing your ears and the kids are getting used to it.

    • susiwong says:

      No definitive proof yet afaik, but I absolutely hate VBR/ABR, give me CBR anyday when it comes to lossy. I believe I hear this difference with good material.
      What do you guys think ?
      Of course Flac is ideal for file transfer, Cubase finally has native Flac support, hopefully that’ll help with acceptance in semi pro audio …
      For collaboration files or stuff that’ll get mastered I use native 32bit float anyway, sent by snail mail.

      • I’d like to see you back up your assertion, with VBR (say V1 or V2) vs. 256 or 320 CBR in an ABX test, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but 99% of the time when people say something like this, it’s placebo…

        • susiwong says:

          Fwiw, I said “I believe …” and “No definitive proof yet afaik” – and I asked about your experience …

          Until someone proves ME the opposite I’ll stay on the safe side, Lame 320CBR ripped with PlexTools as “portable” format for my music collection, wav for everything studio related.
          Hey, harddisk space is cheap, and I don’t do any up- or downloads, except for the occasional rough mix sent to a client, in 320CBR or Flac on request

        • Alex K, I totally agree with you. I’m the original author of the article linked here, and if you actually click through to read it, you’ll find that the sound samples and poll results back up your claim that even trained listeners can’t tell the difference.

          The quote above is actually a Neil Young statement that the poll results end up disproving! Funny that it appeared here without context. I guess the Variety of Sound guys were just in a rush! Happens to all of us.

          The results are here:

  3. audiophoria says:

    Music is such a compelling and powerful force for humans beings that it’s capable of moving us deeply even when it sounds horrible (e.g. an old scratchy Robert Johnson recording can make my hair stand on end) but there’s no doubt, that better sounding music can move us even more.

    One of the things that concerns me is that at least an entire generation’s music listening experience has consisted almost entirely of hearing music with degraded audio quality due to:

    -Lossy file compression encoding with all too often, poor encoding
    -Listening with headphones with poor audio quality
    -Music playback systems with poor audio quality (most have rarely, if *ever* heard music played on high quality audio equipment)
    -Production techniques that have sacrificed audio quality for loudness
    -Music that is produced by people with limited audio engineering skills

    In short, most young people have know idea what they are missing, because they’ve never been exposed to it. We all now that the commercial music and music technology companies are prioritizing profits over all else, so they have no intention or motivation to prioritize audio quality when they can make more money with low quality content and hardware. Kind of depressing but I think we can help, even if it’s only a little, by doing our best to educate others and expose them to better sounding music experiences.

  4. Yes of course we need higher definition.
    excellent comments from everyone above though.
    Whats the resolution of the average human ear by comparison? Anyone know?

  5. wtf “Some die-hard audio nerds like myself and a few others can still tell low-res 128kbps MP3s from high-res 320kbps MP3s just by hearing them”… ? ( I can tell the difference by smelling them.)
    If this is the basis of the question ‘do we need higher res’ then no. Everyone has suffered hearing loss to such a degree and whats the point? “Neil Young has actually been living in 1973 for these past 39 years,” and I stopped reading. sorry. Neils suffered more hearing loss than all of us put together

    • That’s probably exactly where you should have kept reading Steve! 🙂

      I can understand the confusion — the authors of VOS inadvertently made it seem like this article supported Neil Young’s statements. The truth is, when we did the research, the above quote didn’t hold up at all. *That’s* what the story is actually about!

      The point of the piece is that, although trained listeners *can* hear the difference between 128kbps and higher resolutions without looking at the file types (hence “just by listening”), they are unable to do so with 256 or 320kbps files.

      Sounds to me like if you read the article through, you might like it after all! If you had gotten even two sentences further, I suspect you may have come away with a very different impression.

      Sorry for the confusion! I’d like to reach out to the VOS authors so they can clarify their post, but I can’t seem to find an email address on the site…

      Oh well!

      Anyway, thanks for reading,

      Justin Colletti

      • Hi Justin,

        its very much appreciated that you chime in here to make some clarifications about the context of that quote. And its also cool to have the final results of your poll available now – great contribution to the discussion in general.

        Herbert / VOS

  6. I’m not sure I understand the question. We obviously don’t *need* higher definition sound because it is plain to see the thriving consumer driven industry around the available quality definition. We don’t *need* it to produce good music, but who wouldn’t want the highest fidelity possible? So my answer is no…and also yes.

  7. John Lardinois says:

    I think we don’t need higher definition, we need higher standards. Monitoring and metering at acceptable, low volumes, standardizing monitoring practices, standardizing recording levels, mixing levels, and mastering levels, and creating some sort of standard for playback systems is key.

    Yes, I’m hinting at something here – check out the Katz scale. There is no need to record as hot as you can. Set the input as hot as it goes before distortion, then back it off 6-8dB. You’ll be much happier.

  8. ALoserMakesFakes says:

    Reply from a so-called audiophile:
    Almost of all commercial DAC ICs are compromised, then higher sample frequency formats are need for distribution if you want to compensate for some of the issue. If you don’t feel the necessity, 24bits / 44.1 – 48kHz is just perfect for our ears because we can’t hear sounds above 20kHz and our audible dynamic range is 120dB, vast yet limited.

    On the other hand, it is said calculation errors on DSPs dissipate over all sample frequency range, then the highest sample frequency format is appropriate at music production to reduce calculation distortion in the audible range. Quantization error occurs inevitably on each and every digital calculation, then the longest bit length is required to maintain dynamic range. Production and distribution are a different thing, you know.

    Sorry for my bad English as it is not my first language.

    • Although the nyquist theory ensures that frequencies will be encoded if the sampling rate is at least 2X the source frequency, this sampling rate will not ensure proper encoding of the phase information near the top frequencies. There is plenty of phase distortion that happens in the upper frequencies. This is one of the reasons that 96Khz (and 192Khz) sampling rates are used. It is a matter of taste how consequential these phase distortions actually are…

  9. ALoserMakesFakes says:

    Thank you for precious information. However, I would like to mention some matters from a couple of view points. First, all information below nyquist frequency is completely determined including the phase. No phase nor amplitude is determined at nyquist frequency at the same time. This had once been a theory but now would be the THEOREM since around 1950.
    Of course problems occur when DA conversion is performed. Amplitude of output analog signal decreases at the rate of sinc function. Reconstruction filter introduces serious phase distortion.
    Then comes the second view point. Major part of commercial DAC ICs now employ multi-bit delta-sigma modulator design that makes use of upsampling technique. It makes the above drawbacks negligible to our ears. That’s why current DAC ICs demand system clock of MHz order.

  10. I do think that we need ‘better’ digital sound, and that up to this point, digital hasn’t done any favors to ‘sound’ over analog. I would rather listen to a nice record on a nice system than a cd or mp3. It probably has more to do with the character of the sound than anything, but it’s no secret that analog qualities have yet to be modeled to a convincing degree in the digital realm. Analog recordings sound better than digital recordings, and I’m sure that this isn’t news to most people. Show me the shining gems of digital recording. For the analog side, there are too many to mention. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that this is what Neil Young is probably onto as well. Going on what I have seen of his comments on audio, he doesn’t strike me as the tech nerd type. I don’t doubt that he has a good amount of knowledge about guitars, amps, and various pieces of analog gear, but he doesn’t come off as someone who even cares about what the Nyquist theorem is. I think that he is likely genuine in his desire to preserve good sounding audio, but maybe he doesn’t quite understand the technical details of it all. Fwiw, the guy has been preaching this message for years. This isn’t a come lately thing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR7227_ndqQ

  11. .`Having grown up paying fortunes to use poor 4+8 track analog studio where it was virtually impossible to hear much of what was going on in the final results,I have to say people forget all too quickly and dont fully appreciate the fantastic facilities available to most people now.Noise is now not such a problem and while I,m all for recreating the positive aspects of analogue as well as the use of vintage equipment,I also remember the realities of recording when few facilities had extensive transformer isolation,sufficient high quality outboard etc.Now we have choice and thanks to the work of Herbert and a few others the weaknesses of digital are fast being mitigated.We’ve never had it so good FACT!!!

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