Hi-Resolution Audio and Sonos



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“this one sounds better”

White or impulse noise? The best bit would be when they turned it off. 

 

“this one sounds better”

White or impulse noise? The best bit would be when they turned it off. 

 

 

I was speaking about the Reiss meta-analysis mentioned in the first paragraph (and hotly debated here), not the study in the article.  But yes, it is all specious at best.  Here’s an interesting quote from the comments:

 

Joshua Reiss of LANDR - a for profit hi res service, gave a particular paper the highest "trained" weighting in his "Meta".
"Further Investigations of the Audibility of Digital Audio Filters in a High-Fidelity Playback System" Jackson, Stuart et al 2016
THERE IS NO SUCH PAPER in the AES library, because it FAILED review.
Ever seen Reiss et al mention that since?
Me neither ;-)

 

I checked, and he’s correct about him founding LANDR.  Whether hi-res audio is a factor in LANDR’s business plan is not evident at first glance of their website.  Though this certainly could explain Dr. Reiss’ hesitance to correct the gross misrepresentations of his results presented in his PR spiel.

The Truth About High-Resolution Audio: Facts, Fiction and Findings
 

Mark Waldrep

 

My enthusiasm for high-resolution has diminished in recent years. After reading numerous studies and articles on the topic, I'm inclined to agree with those that believe Redbook CDs are sufficient to capture all of the fidelity we need when listening to recorded music.


https://audiophilereview.com/audiophile-news/the-truth-about-high-resolution-audio-facts-fiction-and-findings.html

 

 

 

 

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The Truth About High-Resolution Audio: Facts, Fiction and Findings
 

Mark Waldrep

 

My enthusiasm for high-resolution has diminished in recent years. After reading numerous studies and articles on the topic, I'm inclined to agree with those that believe Redbook CDs are sufficient to capture all of the fidelity we need when listening to recorded music.


https://audiophilereview.com/audiophile-news/the-truth-about-high-resolution-audio-facts-fiction-and-findings.html

 

 

 

Excellent article, and some comments as well are worth reading!

2 years back, i was on the market to buy a multi-room system.

3 contenders:

  • Sonos
  • Denons Heos line
  • Blue Sound

Like many people, I was excited by the His Res audio capabilities of the two last systems. But I was less enthusiasmed by their price tag..

After much reading, I came to the conclusion that, my ears, combined to the conditions of listening, the source of my music (despite having a bunch of 96/24 FLAC) and the money I was willing to invest, it was not worth the money.

I even ordered an Play 1 and a Denon Heos 1 to make side by side comparison (and I played some random FLAC 24/48, 24/96 to compare with the 16/44) and I ended up returning the Heos and ketp the Play 1 and never looked back.

I am perfectly happy with my current Sonos system, eventhough is it only 16/44 ! Maybe some extravagantly costly system would sound better than Sonos, but I just listen to music, I am not conducting surveys for a living…

If Sonos brings Hi-Res audio in Sonos Controler 2, the better, as I have not converted my 24/48 library into 16/44 yet, an di am lazy….

 

An update from Mark Waldrep on his HD-Audio Challenge II:

http://www.realhd-audio.com/?p=6928

After the first HD-Audio Challenge seem to indicate that people even trained listeners with above average systems — couldn’t pick out an HD file from a Redbook CD, I began to have serious doubts about my previously held position. The hundreds of people that have participated in the second round of the HD-Audio Survey, have confirmed the results of the previous project. It is no longer possible to claim that “hi-res audio” is an important next step in the evolution of audio. HD-Audio is completely unnecessary for the reproduction of hi-fidelity. It is a very good thing to record using 96/24 PCM audio but for the distribution of music, it’s nothing more than a sales slogan.

 

 

An update from Mark Waldrep on his HD-Audio Challenge II:

http://www.realhd-audio.com/?p=6928

 

 

 

Nice timing, now that Sonos is getting on the Hi Res bandwagon! But the biggest benefit will be for those that are willing to abandon or hive off legacy products to be able to finally play Hi Res streams or files. For the psychological satisfaction, but then all reality is individual perception at the end of the day.

And of course, it will allow the media to whole heartedly endorse Sonos now that the Hi Res Kool Aid is available via the Sonos pipe.

I can see the sense in the Sonos decision, even while refusing to go with it in opting to stay in legacy mode.

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I have both SONOS based systems in my entire house and also a dedicated, stereo home theatre system from Anthem (MRX720 with MCA525) which feed a PSB-based floor standing system (it is 5.1 for movies) .

 

I love the app-based control and low energy consumption profile of the SONOS system. I should also say that I love getting a nice ambience with my multi-room SONOS (I have it in nearly every room). I don’t have much to say or expect from my Play:1s re: sound quality.

 

I LOVE the sound quality of my home theatre system. It is, however, a massive energy hog (~350-500W of consumption everytime I switch the beast on). Pushing voluminous quantities of air costs energy which in turn costs money. Physics.

 

My SONOS system and home theatre are connected via a Connect that streams TIDAL to my Home theatre set up. I would very much love to stream MQA from connect onto my home theatre system: I would like SONOS to add that capability.

 

But--It is comical when I hear the people here clamoring for hires music on sonos *speakers*. That would be not a good fit. I like both my SONOS and my home theatre system. But they are for two very different purposes.

 

It is plain physics, guys. There is no way in hell any SONOS speaker system can sound as nice as a floor standing system. You want natural-sounding big sound? Then buy a floor standing system and understand the difference. For everyone who can’t tell the difference or want background music, SONOS is just fine (and nothing wrong in wanting that). Now, I still want SONOS to support hires audio--for example, they can introduce their amazing app-based control on a streaming box that will put hi-quality digital out into my Anthem system. But I am busy listening to real music on my nice floor standing ones using the stream from Connect (CD quality) and I have no time for chasing numbers. 

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In the real world how many of our multi speaker Sonos systems would have a hope in hell of keeping up the bitrate over wireless of HiRes. In my urban wireless environment my Sonos system is incapable of reliably streaming Flacs around the house anymore, even my next door neighbour's microwave will bring things to a halt let alone my microwave. I have just given up and converted everything to 320kbs MP3 and I now have a reliable system back!  There is no opportunity to retro wire my system with Cat5. I have always wondered if Sonos was not capable of buffering a greater amount of information to help with streaming in Flacs. 

 

 

ninjabob,

Adding one or more BOOST’s to your system might help. BOOST’s can be wired or wireless. Changing the SONOS wireless channel might help, but it may not be a permanent solution if neighbors change their channel.

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Thanks Buzz, surprisingly I do have a relatively clear channel for Sonosnet on my system. Most Auto channel routers avoid my Sonos Channel supposedly because of the continuos activity on my channel. Still won't always keep up with Flac bitrates. I have a Boost, Connect (2nd Gen) two Play5s, seven Play1s. Pity we cannot use 5ghz because that might cure everything. Just cannot see HiRes ever being ok unless maybe just running one stereo pair.

I don’t recommend using Auto channel. Use only channel 1, 6, or 11. And use only 20MHz wide channels.

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I couldn’t see a need for multiple Boost devices since you can hook your Ethernet to any primary (not sub/surround/move) SonosNet v2 (not early ZP units) Sonos device and get essentially the same thing.

I wired every Sonos that was easy to reach with a cable and I can happily stream FLAC to Groups. I do pick a wired Sonos as the first device (group coordinator) in the group though.

In the real world how many of our multi speaker Sonos systems would have a hope in hell of keeping up the bitrate over wireless of HiRes.

I have always wondered if Sonos was not capable of buffering a greater amount of information to help with streaming in Flacs. 

 

 

Now that I extensively use Firestick + Netflix HD, I believe that the second para quoted is the solution to the first. If HD video streams can be viewed in HD quality across the home as long as the broadband pipe is big enough, I can’t see why Sonos HD audio should be affected IF the buffer is large enough. I suspect Firestick uses a large buffer and because both audio/video are still in perfect sync, the size of the buffer isn't an issue for that sync.

I needed a ethernet wire to get Sonos to play in sync with TV because that sync means that Sonos can’t use a buffer. But where it can, I see no reason why HD audio streaming should be an issue when HD video clearly isn't.

@ninjabob : what happens if you use the option Sonos now gives you to set the buffer at the extreme end - 2 seconds?

Pushing voluminous quantities of air costs energy which in turn costs money. Physics.

 

 

While I am off the Sonos bandwagon where future buying is concerned, I am still a fan of the 1 pair + Sub combination for audio where listening distances are such that do not need a larger speaker than the 1. 

I agree with the physics comment - and physics will always prevail except for headphone listening - but the Sonos Sub meets this requirement smartly because the air movement requirement is only for low frequencies, and the Sub does that as well as any comparable floor standing speaker. And by separating this from the midrange sources - the 1 units - the result is better than many floor standing speakers that suffer from bass bloat affected midrange quality.

All other things like budgets and room acoustics being the same, I would always go for a satellite speaker+ Sub set up for home audio over a pair of all in one floor standers. Also because the high prices are often dictated in the latter case by the needs of very expensive cabinetry and engineering needed to keep the midrange sound quality not affected by the need to deliver accurate bass - a floor stander that sounds as accurate/natural as a sat+Sub set up will have to be at much higher price points.

This, without the additional benefits that are available by DSP that tunes the heard sound for room responses, that needs active cross over tech of the kind that is usually missing in passive floor standing speakers.

While therefore I still believe that Hi Res audio is a red herring, I do not think that this is the case just because Sonos at its best does not have the ability to bring out the better resultant sound quality that is claimed for it. 

And if floor standers that meet the test of accurate midrange while delivering bass energy are a preferred solution, Sonos, via the amp/port still have a place in the system based on merits if preferred as a solution. Which still won't show any audible benefit via Hi Res audio.

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@ninjabob : what happens if you use the option Sonos now gives you to set the buffer at the extreme end - 2 seconds?

I would love to know how to increase the buffer?

@ninjabob sorry my mistake, from being an extensive user of line in jacks, for which Sonos now allows one to set the delay/buffer from as small as 75 milliseconds all the way to 2 seconds. Where line in is being used for audio only streams, the 2 second setting is recommended for stable wireless play. The use of the 75 millisecond setting is recommended where TV lip sync is needed, but this usually also needs ethernet wired Sonos for the audio play to be stable.

It may well be that when Sonos brings HD audio capability to its platform, it will tweak the buffer size, or allow for the Line In option to be made available for all kinds of use.

And even if you insert blank plugs into your jacks, you will see the selection I refer to and I wonder if it then applies to streams originating from the unit for non line in sources. Probably not, but easy to test.

Buffering of files for playback varies with the available memory and the online service in question. It’s typically more than 2 seconds, sometimes tens of seconds. You can test it by cutting the connection to the source (NAS, internet) and seeing how long playback lasts.

@ratty : now that makes it more mystifying - if there is this buffer, why does Sonos have issues with wireless streaming of FLAC files? When Amazon devices easily do HD Video+Audio?

@ratty : now that makes it more mystifying - if there is this buffer, why does Sonos have issues with wireless streaming of FLAC files? When Amazon devices easily do HD Video+Audio?

Personally I don’t have an issue with FLAC and wireless. SonosNet is not over-endowed with bandwidth however, and too many 192/24 streams could (unnecessarily) gum it up. It would be sustained throughput, not buffering, which would be the issue.

Kumar,

Imagine two independent tasks running inside of a player. One task attempts to keep the buffer full and the second task meters data out of the buffer at a constant audio rate. If the buffer is full the unit has several seconds to work through a communication issue. If the unit has been having communication issues for a while, the buffer may be virtually empty and any additional communication issues will result in an audible issue, usually a mute.

One can request data from the NAS at any time. Fetching a few seconds of audio content in order to fill the buffer can be done in a fraction of a second. If there is a large communication issue, the buffer can be fully rebuilt in a fraction. Live Internet radio is different because this is real time data. Lets say that SONOS delays start of station play for two seconds while a buffer is built. Later, if there is a momentary communication issue, since the buffer cannot fetch future data, the buffer will shrink while maintaining audio. Eventually, the buffer will be exhausted and every small communication  interruption will result in a mute. Restarting the station will refill the buffer and play will be uninterrupted until the buffer is exhausted again.

It’s a tug of war about how large the buffer should be. Large buffers, especially in the older units with limited memory, will limit the feature set. With respect to Internet radio, building a large buffer will delay start of a station. For example if an Internet Radio station builds a ten second buffer, station play cannot start for ten seconds and the user interface will seem sluggish.

I suppose that a player could build a history for Internet Radio stations and provide larger buffers for troublesome stations, but this requires player resources that may not be available in older units.

@buzz : my thinking is based merely on how uncompressed line in works wirelessly in a stable way more often with a 2 second delay instead of one of just 75 milliseconds. Is there something in this that will allow HD audio streams to also work much better with the 2 second delay? Or are these two unrelated and therefore different aspects?

And here I am only referring to the distribution within the home - never mind if the source is NAS or a stable broadband feed.

Compressed or uncompressed relates to the amount of data that needs to be sent over the network. Obviously, less data will result in fewer music interruptions if there is a communication struggle. Lossless compression would be mandatory for HD streams, but this does not result in minimal network traffic.

Severe local issues can limit effective communication with the NAS and communication between the coordinator and members of a Group, stereo pair, or surrounds and SUB.

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@ratty : now that makes it more mystifying - if there is this buffer, why does Sonos have issues with wireless streaming of FLAC files? When Amazon devices easily do HD Video+Audio?

Personally I don’t have an issue with FLAC and wireless. SonosNet is not over-endowed with bandwidth however, and too many 192/24 streams could (unnecessarily) gum it up. It would be sustained throughput, not buffering, which would be the issue.

When I had lossless streaming issues, I recall it was because I was initiating playback from a room that was wireless. The data had to come from LAN via SonosNet to the room that I initiated the playback on and then back again over SonosNet. If I initiated playback from a wired device, it would half the amount of data and I didn’t get dropouts. This was a couple of years ago, things may have changed now.

When I had lossless streaming issues, I recall it was because I was initiating playback from a room that was wireless. The data had to come from LAN via SonosNet to the room that I initiated the playback on and then back again over SonosNet. If I initiated playback from a wired device, it would half the amount of data and I didn’t get dropouts. This was a couple of years ago, things may have changed now.

The architecture remains the same: the first room contains the ‘Group Coordinator’, which fetches the stream and distributes it to the other group members. Whether a group will struggle with a wireless GC obviously depends on the local wireless conditions. 

 Is there something in this that will allow HD audio streams to also work much better with the 2 second delay? Or are these two unrelated and therefore different aspects?

 

The “delay” is actually a buffer -- similar to Internet radio. Line-In is real time data. Delay does not imply compression.

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