More than bit depth, to me, the type of digital file and how its delivered to our DAC’s make the biggest difference. I compared a FLAC file via Qobuz vs a ripped WAV file of a Lee Ritenour 16/44.1 CD last night and there was no contest. Qobuz is great, but just not nearly as good sounding as music ripped from a standard CD and off of my hard drive. No contest.
There sure is a lot of controversy over bits and depth. One group feels that dividing 96dB of dynamic range into 65, 535 slices (16 bits) is enough, while others are more comfortable dividing 120dB into 16,777,215 slices (24 bit).
Bit depth: the difference between the softest and loudest captured sound. How important is it?
We know that CDs have a dynamic range that blows the doors off analog recordings of any kind. And we know that we’re not limited to just Red Book standards, that it’s trivially easy to get better.
Does it matter?
Of course, the arguments fly as fast as manure at a political rally. The truth lies somewhere in the middle (doesn’t it always?).
It’s all in the hands of the recording and mastering engineer, not the technology. If the engineer decides to use 24 bits but then shoves all the audio in the upper 16 bit space, ignoring the lower 8 bits, then nothing’s been gained other than a marketing advantage when they print “24” on the label. So, it’s rarely the technology at play and more in the hands of the engineer.
Which is a shame because most engineers aren’t interested in the highest fidelity.
We have the means, just not the will to use it.
There is one picture with this post that shows people listening with their eyes closed. I wonder if any of them are asleep. With much of the music at shows being simple things that sound good on almost any stereo, it wouldn’t surprise me if there are one or two!
Vinyl exceeds CDs
Yesterday we learned that sales of vinyl LP’s have outstripped CDs for the first time in decades. An article posted in Rolling Stone Magazine made the rounds at RMAF, yesterday. I haven’t yet figured out if this means sales of CDs are continuing their downward spiral or vinyl’s picking up steam, but whatever the implications, it’s certainly a twist of events.
And speaking of vinyl, one of the great treats of a consumer trade show like RMAF is the chance for our Hi-Fi Family to gather together and enjoy what we all are interested in, music and 2-channel audio.
Reviewer Micahel Fremer of Stereophile and Analog Planet fame was generous enough to bring his collection of prized vinyl to our room and play it to a packed house for an hour. Just check out the crowd. I could barely squeeze into this standing room only group outside the few prized seats in our listening area to get this picture in the first place.
What a treat! Mikey pulled from his arsenal a prized copy of Joni Mitchel’s Court and Spark to start the afternoon off, and I don’t believe anyone in the room had heard such glorious music. All were transfixed with the vinyl he played. I had chills running down my spine listening to his last track, Zepplin’s Stairway to Heaven. Holy Moly! I am so used to the flat and lifeless digital version that I had no idea of what the recording really sounded like.
Fremer and Stellar Phono designer, Darren Myers, worked well together to make this a seminal event. In the second picture down, we were also honored by the presence of Sharyl Wilson of Wilson Audio fame in the front row.
Here are a few more pictures from the event to enjoy.