Question

Help Me Understand Bit and KHz

  • 20 October 2019
  • 15 replies
  • 203 views

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Playing music from my cell phone it says (Amazon Music HD)

Track Quality: 16-Bit / 96 KHz

Currently Playing at 16-Bit /44.1 KHz

 

Is it just not possible to play at the 96 KHz (im assuming that’s better than 44.1KHz)


15 replies

Unless you’re a dog, it’s impossible to hear anything above 20Khz, so no, it won’t make an iota of difference. 

brttlt,

 

Digital audio is a collection of samples of what a sound wave looks like at a specific moment in time. Instead of a steady wave of sound, it's actually a series of snapshots.

 

With enough of these snapshots, or 'samples', a playback device (an iPhone, say) can convert them back into a smooth sound wave. Whilst CD is by no means the best audio storage medium, it is the most familiar. The audio on a CD has 44,100 samples every second, and each sample has a value of somewhere between 0 and 65,535 (also called "16-bit").

 

So in other words, there are 44,100 snapshots per second, and each snapshot has one of 65,536 potential values.

This is an oversimplification, but that should hopefully go some way in answering your question.

 

Just a little more (useless) info...

That 16-bit/44.1kHz rate of CD equates to about 10MB per minute for stereo. While that isn't a lot of data these days, it's still a lot more than you may want to stream over the Web, or store on a portable device. Hence the ubiquity of compressed audio, like MP3, which takes out what you theoretically can't hear using a method called "psychoacoustic modeling”. Compressed MP3's file sizes therefore are much smaller, about 1 MB per minute.

 

Compressed audio, though, often doesn't sound as good as uncompressed audio. Sometimes you 'may’ be able to hear the difference even through the cheapest headphones.

 

The new Amazon HD service usually mentions their “upto” bit/sample rate limits etc. and obviously source files and their ‘playback device’ capabilities may vary. All being well however, Amazon HD should be delivering the best available source file for the capabilities of your device, automatically.

 

Hope that assists. (You may find others here, more knowledgeable than myself, who may wish to elaborate a little more on the summary information provided above).

Here’s an article from the makers of the FLAC codec explaining why anything over 16 bit 48 KHz is a waste:

 

https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

 

 

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So I guess what I’m asking is how do I get the 16/96 out of my cell phone or am I stuck with the 16/44?

So I guess what I’m asking is how do I get the 16/96 out of my cell phone or am I stuck with the 16/44?

 

You aren’t “stuck” with anything.  16/44 will perfectly capture all frequencies a human being could possible hear.  96 KHz is useless, it only allows for sampling frequencies above the level of human hearing.  It’s a gimmick, nothing but snake oil.

I completely agree with what jgatie has said above.
 

Anyhow I found this link too, which may assist in finding out what audio formats your iOS device may support…

 

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.whathifi.com/amp/advice/how-to-play-hi-res-music-your-iphone-0

brttlt,

 

I ought to perhaps highlight (again) too, that I think the Amazon Music HD service will only send a track in the highest format that the ‘playback device’ supports, so even if you were to go onto use an external DAC with your mobile device, as the linked-article above suggests, I don’t think it will improve your streaming file quality.

The article is from last March, of course, so it’s quite possible that iOS updates, and/or more recent Apple hardware, might have changed the things mentioned.

Is it just not possible to play at the 96 KHz

That is correct, unless you or the player converts the track to 16/44.1, the track will not play on a SONOS system.

brttlt,

 

so even if you were to go onto use an external DAC with your mobile device, as the linked-article above suggests, I don’t think it will improve your streaming file quality.

 

And even if you somehow managed to improve the file quality, the difference will not be heard, so there is nothing actually being lost where the listening experience is concerned, once you are past the worry that something is being lost.

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Here’s an article from the makers of the FLAC codec explaining why anything over 16 bit 48 KHz is a waste:

 

https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

 

If anything over 16/48 is a waste why did they design it to support far high resolutions?

Not picking a fight it just seems a bit strange if you can’t hear it.

 

In the studio, high bit rates and wide words have advantages during production as the music is passed from box to box, undergoing processing. Once the music is ready for distribution to the public, 16/44.1 is all that is required to deliver top quality music to the human. This is very convenient for the consumer because 16/44.1 requires less storage space and is easier to send over networks.

As is often the case with insufficient background knowledge, the public goes for the number — “24 must be better than 16, right?” It is similar to the logic that the more expensive item is always better, right?

Commercial music is often sent through what I call a “sound good box”. In many cases, such as listening to the music out on the street through ear buds and other dreadful environments, this processing is helpful.  In quiet rooms, using good equipment, this processing is not welcome. If the hi-res copy is delivered without the “sound good box” processing, it will sound better in the good environment, but this is a separate issue from 16/44.1. There have been a few reports claiming some “hi-res” tracks are actually 16/44.1 tracks that were up sampled and released as “hi-res” at a higher price. At best there will be no audible benefit for these tracks. This is pure ripoff.

 

Commercial music is often sent through what I call a “sound good box”. In many cases, such as listening to the music out on the street through ear buds and other dreadful environments, this processing is helpful.  In quiet rooms, using good equipment, this processing is not welcome. If the hi-res copy is delivered without the “sound good box” processing, it will sound better in the good environment,

I find that which commercial music gets this treatment depends on the music genre. I have not found jazz music treated like this. I suspect that neither is classical music. And probably music that is called “Acoustic” across all genres. My first careful listening comparisons of Hi Res v CD quality were of classic jazz recordings like the Miles Davis Kind of Blue and some of the Rudy Van Gelder remastered Jazz CDs. There was nothing more to be heard from the HD versions, listening to the music on “audiophile” kit, late at night alone in a quiet room. These tests done in 2011 were instrumental in my switching to Sonos kit fed by lossless CD rips on a NAS. Now of course, I don't even find any difference between CD quality and well mastered music streamed at 256 Kbps via Apple Music - perhaps because of another eight years of hearing ability degradation?!

The reason for this differing treatment of genres probably is that listeners of these two genres aren't usually found listening to it on the commute via ear buds, or in other environments that are hostile to listening to music because of other sound intrusions.

Ironically, much of the HD music rip offs seem to be of music that does not need it, from the jazz/classical/acoustic kind. That is my impression, and quite possibly a wrong one.

Here’s an article from the makers of the FLAC codec explaining why anything over 16 bit 48 KHz is a waste:

 

https://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

 

If anything over 16/48 is a waste why did they design it to support far high resolutions?

Not picking a fight it just seems a bit strange if you can’t hear it.

 

 

Why would Dr Daffy sell you his magic elixir if it doesn’t really cure your Rheumatism?  Why would the green marker company sell you their product if it doesn’t really keep the laser inside the CD?  Why would Monster Cable charge hundreds of dollars for speaker wire that costs under $10 to manufacture and sounds no different than lamp cord? 

Same concept.

If anything over 16/48 is a waste why did they design it to support far high resolutions?

Not picking a fight it just seems a bit strange if you can’t hear it.

 

As I mentioned above, higher resolutions are handy while processing a track for release. I have some friends who record local groups. If my friends want to exchange hi-res session files over the Internet, FLAC is a convenient format because FLAC will minimize the amount of data transmitted without impacting a work in progress. Ultimately, the release will be 16/44.1.

As an imperfect analogy to help you understand why higher resolution is handy during processing, consider interest calculations on a savings account. Ultimately, the bank can only pay in whole cents. Imagine the case where interest is calculated and credited to the account monthly. Each month the calculation must be rounded to the nearest whole cent on the statement. It is possible that, if all of the roundings go in the same direction, that the bank or the customer will be short or surplus by almost 0.06 by the end of the year. If the bank calculates to many decimal places on an annual basis, monthly crediting the (rounded) difference between the current (hi-res) annual calculation and interest credited so far, there will effectively be only one rounding per year.

There is a lot of math associated with digital music processing in the studio. Starting with a hi-res recording minimizes the consequences of rounding errors at each step along the way. 

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@buzz   Your analogy also a central plot point of Office Space.   Not that that’s relevant in any way.

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