High resolution sound

  • 10 March 2018
  • 61 replies
  • 10178 views

I wonder why Sonos does not support 24 bit / 192 kHz, when for instance Bluesound has chosen to support that format

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61 replies

Hi guys, sorry for the delay, tons of work keeping me busy 😞.
To clarify, I am personally in favour of the ABX test but (for now) I have reservations on the way it is used and the attempt to reach scientifically valid results. Testing whether a group of people can hear differences between amplifiers requires a lot more than just the ABX test which has not been dealt with in the studies I have come across. This is where the overall methodology design and then testing administration and results interpretation come into play. Based on the studies I have read though, my understanding so far is that the methodology needs work and the results (i.e. showing no difference between amps) are not definitive or generalisable. I will keep reading to see what else is out there. Cheers.
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Testing whether a group of people can hear differences between amplifiers requires a lot more than just the ABX test which has not been dealt with in the studies I have come across.
Does it, though? I really don't think there's any evidence for that. Do point out the studies that concern you, and let us know what aspects of these studies were flawed.

The world of audiophila is littered with statements that a different resolution / bitrate / amplifier / power cable / speaker cable / interconnect / DAC made a 'night and day difference'. And this 'obvious' difference endures right up to the point where people have to prove it in a properly controlled test where there are no clues as to which system they are listening to. And then they can't.

(Note that I don't include components like speakers in this list. Or turntables. These are quite capable of introducing different forms of character (i.e., distortion) into music playback, which can be easily recognisable.)

I've seen no serious, scientifically reasoned objection to DB ABX testing.

Except - surprise, surprise - in the Alice in Wonderland world of audiophiles, where the conclusion is a decided one, and things that conflict with it are tossed aside for reasons that range from kindergarten quality to sophistry at the other end of the scale.
It isn't a surprise because these beliefs, some of which are sincerely held, are the vital underpinnings of a lifelong elitist hobby in many cases, and are pandered to by the industry/specialist media that needs these to survive. Trying to get to the bottom of this edifice of argument is wasted effort because it often gets into things similar to the blind faith v science argument for something very trivial, with arguments in favour of audiophilia also supported by human biases that are hard wired into all of us.
Sonos is in a place where it does not need to do such pandering for commercial success and its user base is saved of having to pay the costs of such pandering in Sonos product prices.

I've seen no serious, scientifically reasoned objection to DB ABX testing.

Except - surprise, surprise - in the Alice in Wonderland world of audiophiles, where the conclusion is a decided one, and things that conflict with it are tossed aside for reasons that range from kindergarten quality to sophistry at the other end of the scale.
It isn't a surprise because these beliefs, some of which are sincerely held, are the vital underpinnings of a lifelong elitist hobby in many cases, and are pandered to by the industry/specialist media that needs these to survive. Trying to get to the bottom of this edifice of argument is wasted effort because it often gets into things similar to the blind faith v science argument for something very trivial, with arguments in favour of audiophilia also supported by human biases that are hard wired into all of us.
Sonos is in a place where it does not need to do such pandering for commercial success and its user base is saved of having to pay the costs of such pandering in Sonos product prices.


Kumar, such a world (devoid of healthy scepticism and critical inquiry) sounds quite stifling to me. I prefer environments that encourage learning and discovery even if it means challenging established beliefs. Also means being ready to admit when I am wrong about something and then learn from it 🙂. Sorry for the philosophical detour
Testing whether a group of people can hear differences between amplifiers requires a lot more than just the ABX test which has not been dealt with in the studies I have come across.
Does it, though? I really don't think there's any evidence for that. Do point out the studies that concern you, and let us know what aspects of these studies were flawed.

The world of audiophila is littered with statements that a different resolution / bitrate / amplifier / power cable / speaker cable / interconnect / DAC made a 'night and day difference'. And this 'obvious' difference endures right up to the point where people have to prove it in a properly controlled test where there are no clues as to which system they are listening to. And then they can't.

(Note that I don't include components like speakers in this list. Or turntables. These are quite capable of introducing different forms of character (i.e., distortion) into music playback, which can be easily recognisable.)


hey pwt, I am really not looking at audiophilia, just trying to learn about the abx test methodology. My comment regarding methodology issues refers to the studies that were linked in this thread above. I have not found others so far but I have found some critical commentary on the limitations of the methodology itself. As I mentioned above some of the current limitations of the methodology include limited sample, lack of confounding variables control (e.g. age range of respondents, training, preparation, time of day, longitudinal factors etc.), lack of or limited peer review from scientific community, lack of repeated tests etc. There is a very long literature on each of these limitations which I think is out of scope for this thread but I am happy to discuss more via pm if anyone is interested. Cheers

PS: Lack of scientific objection to audio abx testing is indeed troubling but directly related to the lack of scientific work on the method in the specific area. In essence there is not enough scientific work in the area of audio abx testing (I am not counting forum discussion as scientific work). Lack of objection on audio abx does not mean that the methodology is without limitation nor does it guarantee it is valid. In this case it most likely shows there is not a lot of scientific work in the area to generate healthy debate. ABX variants are used in clinical research of course and the way it is implemented there is a clear indication of where the audio abx methodology needs to advance.

Kumar, such a world (devoid of healthy scepticism and critical inquiry) sounds quite stifling to me.

Au contraire, after spending a decade as an audiophile, I found THAT to be a stifling world, cult like in many ways, full of exotic terms that were really gibberish. I am now happier, and listen to more varied music in a year than I did in a decade of audiophilia, that was little more than playing with older boys toys, with music just a test signal, I came to realise.
Trust your ears, be aware of unavoidable biases so as not to be fooled by them, and thus have more music to enjoy without obsessing about file sizes and codecs is a better place to be, I find.
And home audio hardware is far too trivial a subject to devote too much time doing critical inquiry into it, in a life that is too short. Unless one designs, tests and sells it for a living.

Kumar, such a world (devoid of healthy scepticism and critical inquiry) sounds quite stifling to me.

Au contraire, after spending a decade as an audiophile, I found THAT to be a stifling world, cult like in many ways, full of exotic terms that were really gibberish. I am now happier, and listen to more varied music in a year than I did in a decade of audiophilia, that was little more than playing with older boys toys, with music just a test signal, I came to realise.
Trust your ears, be aware of unavoidable biases so as not to be fooled by them, and thus have more music to enjoy without obsessing about file sizes and codecs is a better place to be, I find.
And home audio hardware is far too trivial a subject to devote too much time doing critical inquiry into it, in a life that is too short. Unless one designs, tests and sells it for a living.


Kumar, I was also referring to the audiophile world you mentioned 🙂

I also agree about the last part. Experiments / research is part of what I do for living and hence why I am interested in learning more 🙂 I fully appreciate there are more important things to worry about in life
You still haven't answered the question posed, i.e. are you questioning DB ABX testing itself, or the methodology of implementation? You seem to infer the former, yet you only state the latter as the cause of concern. All the things you mention; limited sample size, lack of variable control, etc., do not point to a lack of efficacy for the concept of DB ABX testing, only the particular implementation(s) lacking the things you state. So again, which is it?
I’m fine with listening to 41.1/16 files. I can’t really tell the difference from 192/24 when listening to stereo files. My ears are no better than anyone else’s and they’re certainly not golden, but I do have experience with with studio work. I feel (please note, I didn’t just write “know”) that something happens to the sound when mixing 24+ mono tracks down to stereo, if sample rate is low. I have no idea if it is really the sample that matters, or if it could be the noise floor of the bit depth. Funny thing is, this feels the same whether mixing is done in the analog or digital domains.
I’m fine with listening to 41.1/16 files. I can’t really tell the difference from 192/24 when listening to stereo files. My ears are no better than anyone else’s and they’re certainly not golden, but I do have experience with with studio work. I feel (please note, I didn’t just write “know”) that something happens to the sound when mixing 24+ mono tracks down to stereo, if sample rate is low. I have no idea if it is really the sample that matters, or if it could be the noise floor of the bit depth. Funny thing is, this feels the same whether mixing is done in the analog or digital domains.

Same here. I have a few tracks that I have purchased in both CD and high-res quality and I cannot tell the difference even through a good pair of headphones (Sennheiser HD660s). I have not tried any long term testing of course but I am happy enough with CD quality to not feel the urge to pursue higher resolution sound. This is with headphones listening anyway. With speakers it is even less important and that is with a medium range system fed via a Sonos connect. I find that the problems with my living room acoustics (some bass boom I struggle to get rid of) would spoil any perceived difference however small. If anything, I would love sonos to provide a full range EQ option in the settings so I can better adjust the sound tonality 🙂.