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BetaWar
188
Feb 20, 2018
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NPR has a pretty cool blind test with samples from 6 songs (3 different qualities). On that, I can say that I can tell the difference between 125kbps and 320kbps, but I can't pick out lossless. I was 5/6 on the 320kbps (with 1/6 being 125kbps).
I typically listen to 320kbps as that is the best quality my streaming service provides, but since I also can't tell the difference of quality for anything over 320kbps (at least on my current gear, with my ears) I am not sure looking for lossless would make much difference.
Feb 20, 2018
Ovation
67
May 15, 2018
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I did that test yesterday and it was a humbling experience. I will try it again in a few different configurations (I did it with my Sennheiser HD630VBs plugged directly into my MacBook Pro 2017), just to satisfy my own curiosity, but I only "scored" 2/6 in picking out "hi-res". I am now in my early 50s and I have noticed a degradation in my hearing over the past few years (same with my eyesight); so not overly surprising. A bit disappointing though. I did get it "right" with the classical selection, which I consider logical as it is with all acoustic instrumentation (not electronic, electric or otherwise amplified). But still, the margin was slight.
When my HD6XX arrive, I will try again--this time through my Schiit Stack (Modi2/Magni2--both Uber). I will also re-try my HD630VBs with that stack, to see if the amplification and/or DAC make a difference in my ability to discern the files.
One upside, if I still can't tell with a better average, is the savings for my wallet. I have been an Apple Music subscriber for convenience for about 18 months--and my disc buying has plummeted. I do still buy Blu-ray Audio, SACD and, more rarely (as they are hard to find), DVD-A. But I have always bought them for their MCH mixes first, and "hi-res" considerations a fairly distant second (CD has been "good enough" for sound, for me--making no judgements for others). I believe the "better" sound in two channel "hi-res" comes from the mastering with wider dynamic range than is usually done with mainstream CD releases, rather than the formats themselves (again, to my ears).
If I do find a difference with the new headphones and using the other gear, then I will likely step up my disc buying a bit (not a big buyer of downloads, though that might change), but not too much. I have nearly 2000 CDs, 300 SACDs and nearly 100 DVD-As already. I'm at the point where finding time to listen to what I have is hard enough. ;)
Edit to add: When I import CDs into iTunes (I'm lazy--iTunes is free and there--I know there are better media software players and, one day, when I'm not so swamped with working, parenting and doing a full-time PhD, I'll explore some of them), I do so in lossless ALAC. Probably couldn't tell the difference between that and lossy for most things, but I have the space and it's better to have a lossless base (I convert to 256 AAC for my iPhone/iPad to save space).
I remember the early days of mp3--digital artifacts on low-bitrate files. It seems those days are gone (well, mostly--my wife's previous car sounded a lot like those old crappy mp3 files with satellite radio, while her new one, and my current one, do not sound like that--I think that's owing to the head unit the car company chooses). For archiving my CDs, lossless seems like the best bet (much like many films are restored/archived at much higher resolution than they are presented).
In the end, the key to good sound is careful recording and mastering first, format second. The lossy stream of much of my Apple Music classical library sounds much better than some of my SACDs of music I like but suffers from "loudness wars" mastering compression.
May 15, 2018
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