Hi-Resolution Audio and Sonos

  • 14 December 2018
  • 118 replies
  • 15560 views


Show first post

118 replies

Just one more example that shows why the Hi Res myth has such legs.
Once in while, one finds some sensible writing on the subject that proclaim what seem to me to be home truths:

https://www.kirkville.com/how-the-audio-industry-is-deceiving-consumers-with-high-resolution-audio/

Memorable quotes, copy/pasted from it:
  1. I’ve always been of the opinion that music is more important than sound; that what matters is what we listen to, rather than trying to only listen to music that sounds perfect (or nearly so).
  2. The audio industry has lost so many consumers at the low end – it used to be that most people had a stereo system in their homes; now they are satisfied with Bluetooth speakers – that it is trying to convince everyone, not just luxury hi-fi fans, that quality of the music they listen to sucks.
  3. And the only reason for this is to make more money; it’s not to help people enjoy music more.
  4. As purveyors of these hi res files saw they could make more money, they upped the ante; why not make several grades of high-resolution files, for the various levels of golden ears, and convince people that even the "basic" high-resolution files aren’t good enough.
  5. Both manufacturers and retailers use deceptive graphics to try to explain the difference between standard (CD quality) audio and high-resolution audio.
  6. Let’s not fall for the audio industry’s claim that the music we listen to doesn’t sound good. It’s a ploy to get us to spend more money on downloads and audio equipment.
I for one am grateful that Sonos hasn't succumbed to this chicanery and are focused on what matters. Of course, I have a gripe about their churn of the UI, but that is a different matter.

PS: From the comments section in the link, the best argument I have seen till now in favour of Hi Res music:

"My point is that we know good quality mastering is our goal. But that this isn’t commercially viable for most listeners as the article suggests. So maybe High Res audio (and equipment) has a place not because it in itself sounds better, but it creates a commercial opportunity for mastering to be properly done by engineers to be sold at the higher prices."

Coming back to the thread topic itself, all that is needed to leverage the aforesaid benefits on Sonos is by converting these well mastered files to CD formats, a one time effort that is easily done at home, and reaping all the benefits.
Except that real world audio signals are not perfect sine waves with perfect curves which can be approximated perfectly after digitization.
You really should do a bit of background reading.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourier_analysis

In signal processing, the Fourier transform often takes a time series or a function of continuous time, and maps it into a frequency spectrum. That is, it takes a function from the time domain into the frequency domain; it is a decomposition of a function into sinusoids of different frequencies


For example, determining what component frequencies are present in a musical note would involve computing the Fourier transform of a sampled musical note. One could then re-synthesize the same sound by including the frequency components as revealed in the Fourier analysis.
Why bother ratty? It's obvious that he already knows everything. 🤔

First year electronics engineering textbook, where they talk about sampling and what it is.


Then why does the person who founded the organization which produces the #1 high resolution audio codec, a man with Engineering degrees from MIT and Tokyo Tech, say differently? Certainly his education extends far beyond your first year engineering textbook?
Why bother ratty? It's obvious that he already knows everything. 🤔
"Science" gave it one last shot but, yes, "faith" could simply be too strong.
Certainly his education extends far beyond your first year engineering textbook?
Somehow I doubt the problem is with the textbook.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
The way I look at, the idea that there is an objective measure of sound quality in general is somewhat misleading. While there are absolutely are characteristics of sound that tend to be more pleasing to the ear than others, reproducing music that sounds closer to the original doesn't necessarily translate to more pleasurable listening experience. There's the obvious factors such as how reflective walls, furniture, etc are, environmental factors.

Of course, there is the your personal preference for choice in music. I'd also say there are other factors that have little to do with the audio itself. There is your own personal mood that's going to effect your enjoyment of the music. And then there is also a factor of who else is listening as well, and their mood. I can certainly say that I've had a better experience listening to music off a cheap bluetooth speaker with good friends than a high end system all by myself when I'm in a bad mood.

There is also the sense of familiarity of a sound that can bring comfort and improve the experience. I personally tend to prefer recording over live music because it's not quite the same repeatable experience. Then the opposite is trued in that an unfamiliar sound can be pleasurable as well. There are time when I enjoy audio coming from an echo dot over Sonos just because it's going to be slightly different than the sound my ears have grown accustomed to.

I would argue too that the price you pay for a sound system, or the effort you put into researching and putting it together, could psychological improve your enjoyment of the music. It brings a sense of achievement to the experience. Likewise, ease of use of getting to the experience ads value. it's why LPs faded out of popularity in favor of CDs, to digital music, to voice controlled music.

So to me, I don't really care if there is better sound quality beyond Sonos out there. Pursuing that will have such a marginal impact on the overall experience, compared to addressing other areas the effect the experience.
I would argue too that the price you pay for a sound system, or the effort you put into researching and putting it together, could psychological improve your enjoyment of the music.
I agree. Another example are the looks of things like speakers, which have no measurable impact, but can enhance the experience of the sound they deliver.
But these are subjective things, and I would not expect another to react the way I do to these, nor claim any superior hearing ability.
And of course, to say once again: my number one tweak to enhance sound quality is a glass or two of wine or whisky and the lights down low. I have yet to see that one improved upon.
First year electronics engineering textbook, where they talk about sampling and what it is.

I'm sorry, but I have to come back to this. As ratty has stated, audio sampling consists of some pretty advanced mathematical concepts, including Nyquist-Shannon and Fourier analysis. Fourier analysis utilizes Fourier transformation, which involves linear algebra. Since linear algebra is not taught to freshman, how exactly were you studying sampling theory in your "first year engineering textbook"?

In other words, something is odoriferous in Odense.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21

I would argue too that the price you pay for a sound system, or the effort you put into researching and putting it together, could psychological improve your enjoyment of the music.And of course, to say once again: my number one tweak to enhance sound quality is a glass or two of wine or whisky and the lights down low. I have yet to see that one improved upon.


In my house, if the music is doing it's job, something resembling dancing may occur. Unfortunately, the dog tends to interpret this as 'play time'. Therefore, a factor in improving the sound quality, from a subjective view, is that the dog is currently busy someplace else.

In my house, if the music is doing it's job, something resembling dancing may occur.


Sounds like my daily aerobic workout.

“Alexa, play some upbeat Latin Jazz!” The feet cannot keep still.
Here todayamerican, have a read:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyquist%E2%80%93Shannon_sampling_theorem

Particularly the bolded in this (parenthesis added by me):

Strictly speaking, the theorem only applies to a class of mathematical functions having a Fourier transform that is zero outside of a finite region of frequencies. Intuitively we expect that when one reduces a continuous function (i.e analog audio) to a discrete sequence (i.e. digital audio) and interpolates back to a continuous function (again, analog audio), the fidelity of the result depends on the density (or sample rate) of the original samples. The sampling theorem introduces the concept of a sample rate that is sufficient for perfect fidelity for the class of functions that are bandlimited to a given bandwidth, such that no actual information is lost in the sampling process. It expresses the sufficient sample rate in terms of the bandwidth for the class of functions. The theorem also leads to a formula for perfectly reconstructing the original continuous-time function from the samples.
For what it is worth, my Eureka moment:

The stair step/jaggies explanations had led me to believe that more the points sampled and known for a given sine wave, the more accurately it can be drawn, all the way to an infinite number of sampled points, but with an ever decreasing increase in accuracy - the marginal returns theory from economics that I am more familiar with than I am with signal processing. I had even convinced myself that the ever increasing accuracy was irrelevant only because it went beyond what a human could hear.

Conversations here - with a few stupid question on my part - resulted in the understanding that all it takes to perfectly reproduce a sine wave is the knowledge of just two points on it: its height and its width, to use non engineer terms. Any more information about the sine wave is superfluous to its perfect reproduction. With this understood, it was easy to grasp the theorem. For me, at any rate. Once that fundamental is clear, digital audio no longer remains a dark art of messing with the analog signal. Even without, as in my case even today, a full understanding of the Fourier thing.

It is however necessary to first empty the cup, which can be the difficult part. Because with a full one, there can be no progress.
Badge
As an addendum... it has been a good discussion. I tend to get the songs on iTunes - as I usually like maybe 1-2 songs of an artist or album. If I really like the album, I try to figure out how much I like it. Then it is a choice between high-res and CD. If high-res is available, I get the 24 bit version from a site. Usually though new releases are not available or even if they are - it is of CD quality only. So I just get the CD. I don’t get the high-res later if I have the CD - makes no sense to have so many copies of the same song.

So, I wanted to get the CD of American Teen by Khalid, and I was able to get the 24 bit FLAC online.

I played it on Sonos - CD Quality, definitely a lot better than the 320kbps from iTunes as expected.

What I did not expect though is that even though the Play 5 sounded amazing, when I play this on my car - wired through Focal, I can hear a lot more than I can hear on the Play 5.

These are the finer details - things which translate pretty nicely to what an algorithm trying to reproduce the analog would take out as “things nobody will notice”. It is the un-noticeable things and the imperfections which make the sound seem more real. Like when you hear the breath of the singer, or the artifacts from other sounds which happen as the instrument is played.

I had a friend who was a drummer. When you play the hi-hats in a drum set using your feet, it makes a slight sound because of the air being squeezed out from in between the cymbals.

I was able to hear that in the 24 bit version, and hearing these finer details - I would say definitely adds to the realism of the music, although honestly I don’t see the need to pay so much more for the layman or go to so much trouble to get this level of detail.

This kind of detail is needed if you work in the music industry and want to do stuff like mixing a track where the detail will let you mix better because when you can hear the details, you can mix way better than when you can’t.

Otherwise, not worth the trouble. It does add magic - but the question really is how much trouble are you going to go through to get there. On the way you will get many scams, and up converted mixes, etc. It is like a jungle.

I think in a few years time, someone will figure this out and it will become a reality. Until then CD quality is more than enough for 95% of the general public. It completely makes sense to me why the SACD failed, because you would not be able to hear the level of detail on most normal speakers anyway. From that perspective, CD resolution is “good enough”. But, if you have a $700 Universal Audio Arrow as your DAC connected to $1,000 speakers and a sub - sure you maybe able to hear the detail.

FYI... the musicians already use the flat, wired speakers and the hard to configure setups. You won’t find them using this kind of equipment to begin with.
In the recording studio and during post processing it is convenient to use more bits and higher sample rates. For example, 24 bits reduces the possibility of clipping during the recording session. During post processing 24 bits (or even 32 bits) and high bit rates reduce math issues inherent in digital processing. The only down sides of more bits is the impact on storage space, processor power, processing, time and DAC/ADC converter cost, but these costs are plummeting. To date, no one has been able to present a properly peer reviewed study proving that a well prepared 16/44.1 CD sounds inferior to a "HiRes" presentation. I say "well prepared" because there are some "sound good" algorithms used by too many studios that might result in higher sales to the portable music crowd, but CD's prepared with this mindset are not welcome when played on good equipment in a quiet room. Use of these algorithms is almost a reflex action by too many recording engineers. I can recall a recent adventure where I was in the studio during a recording session and the mix could have been great, but something happened as the mix was processed for the proposed CD release. The result was lifeless and poorly equalized. We leaned on the engineer to back off on this processing.

I wish that producers would flag a release as "optimized for portable use". Hopefully this could encourage the "HiRes" cult to fade away. In addition to the "optimized for portable use" version we could have a [insert trademark here] version that skips the processing nonsense. If I want to be a pessimist, it is possible the "HiRes" producers will figure out that processing could increase their sales too and we will repeat the cycle of purchasing our music yet again.

By the way, I'm not against equalization and compression. When used intelligently.this can improve the listening experience under poor environmental conditions, however, this should be a feature included in the playback equipment, not baked into the recording. At his point in time adding this feature would be a near zero cost option for the manufacturer. In terms of the playback UI, this could get complicated if all of the processing parameters are exposed or it could be a simple binary option -- "Portable" or "Studio". On very low cost, portable gear, simply process for portable use and skip the UI.
Badge
For all the people who have quoted Nyquist–Shannon, here is my complete and full statement on why Nyquist–Shannon actually proves that high-res audio works, and Nyquist–Shannon can also be used to prove that CD resolution does not fully and accurately reproduce the original audio analog signal:

https://link.medium.com/7uvbTpCcqX

I have read all the articles I could find, and seen all the videos I could see, and none of them tell the real truth and the full truth without hiding one critical aspect or the other. This article, covers the whole subject in simple terms and I will add more detail as and when I find it.

Mathematics cannot be refuted. Opinions can.
Mathematics is precise in the meaning of what something actually means.
No comment, if this argument floats your boat.
For all the people who have quoted Nyquist–Shannon, here is my complete and full statement on why Nyquist–Shannon actually proves that high-res audio works, and Nyquist–Shannon can also be used to prove that CD resolution does not fully and accurately reproduce the original audio analog signal:

https://link.medium.com/7uvbTpCcqX


Lol. This guy is an incompetent nitwit. Looks like just about any know-nothing can post on Medium.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
That is so bad my brain is trying to escape out my left ear.
Before the internet, I learnt this saying: Paper does not refuse ink - to convey that just because something is in print, does not mean it is true.
Good grief. At the outset I warned "before you get in any deeper...". I fear the OP may have sunk.
How embarrassing. Like a full on car wreck put out in words.
Userlevel 7
Badge +20
Gentlemen, differing opinions aside, let's reel it in, shall we? Clearly this is a topic that you all feel passionate about but try to keep personal attacks out of it. Thanks.
My school must have been retarded because we did not dive into Nyquist–Shannon in year one.

It is very unfortunate that digital audio is typically discussed in an incomplete manor. We present the stair step analogy for the analog to digital conversion part, but we forget to include the integration block on the reconstruction side. I guess that this is somewhat understandable because it requires some thought to grasp. One must thoroughly understand Nyquist–Shannon before realizing the implication of that integration. Further, most of the conspiracy theorists have already left the lecture screaming "jaggies" before the reconstruction part is covered.

Misinformation is available at all levels. At a convention of audio engineers a presenter was making his case for narrow bandwidth (stopping at 20KHz on the high end) and a wide band challenger claimed that his spectrum analyzer was capturing information from his Phono cartridge at 200KHz, therefore the audio chain must be able to pass this. Behind me was a disc cutter designer who remarked that "we can't put 200Khz on the master, he must be seeing the consequence of some sort of resonance".

Reply