The real truth about "High resolution audio"
by Maarten van Druten

High Resolution audio is new business
Format wars in the past have left a niche market wide open, and many manufactures are trying to
promote their own high resolution audio format.
The problem is that there is no High Resolution standard at this moment...
We as consumers have the last word, we together decide which format will win.
and of course "we" will choose the best possible format, that is the cheapest, and is also the most flexible.
In this article you can read which format will win and why.

In the good old days...

First of all... High resolution audio is nothing new.

In 1995 when I was a teenager, I bought myself a Sony DAT recorder (TCD-D3) with a Super Bit Mapping
A/D convertor.
I made music recodings in 16bit - 48 kHz with this equipment with a Audio Technica AT822 OnePointŪ microphone.

SACD wasn't invented at this time, and most people were still listening to analog compact cassete tapes.
I already experienced the quailty above the CD standard of 16bit 44.1 kHz.

The Super Bit Mapping encoder that I had did something unique, it rendered the input signal with 20 bit
precision and encoded this signal into a standard 16 bit signal (48 kHz)

On the Wiki website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bit_Mapping is written:

"The Super Bit Mapping process converts a 20-bit signal from master recording into a 16-bit signal nearly without sound quality loss, using noise shaping to improve signal to noise ratio over the frequency bands most acutely perceived by human hearing.

This processing takes place in dedicated hardware inside the recording device. A similar process is used in Sony's DSD to PCM conversion and is called SBM Direct."

So what I had in 1995 was a device that could record in "high resolution audio"
A audio file with 20bit precesion converted to 16bit 48 kHz file without sound quality loss.

unfortunately this device was really a "niche" product, and after one year it disapeared from the Sony catalogue...


SACD: Sony strikes back ...return of the Super Bit Mapping?

In 1999 Philips and Sony introduced a replacement for the Compact Disc called SACD.
SACD uses a technique called direct stream to encode the audio signals with a sample rate of 2,8224 MHz
This technique has some similarities with the in 1995 introduced Super Bit Mapping technology.
But something went wrong...
SACD was not good promoted to the public and there was also another system introduced to the public
that could play high resolution audio, namely: DVD-A (DVD Audio)

DVD-A uses Meridian Lossless Packing (or uncompressed LPCM) to encode the music.
This digital audio technology is based on Pulse Code Modulation (PCM)
One DVD-A disc can hold 24bit stereo music with a sample rate of 192 kHz

These two formats created a format war, and with a format war there are only losers...
Neither DVD-Audio nor SACD won a significant percentage of the recorded audio market.
SACD became a "niche" market, and like DVD-A none of these formats became popular...

The format war between SACD and DVD-A left a big "gap" wide open that has to be filled.
This "gap" was the "high resolution market".
instead of giving the costumers the high resolution audio standard that they wanted, the audio manufactures continued promoting their "lossy" inferior audio format MP3 to the masses...

So Sony came with a "new" plan, let's promote SACD again!
but now they called it "Hi-Res Audio" - "DSD Direct Stream Digital" !


On Wednesday, 3 September, Kazuo Hirai, President and CEO of Sony Corporation presents on the IFA2014
that the future of music is high resolution audio...
He's right, but unfortunately for Sony it will not be their proposed DSD format...

Introducing the DSD(=SACD) format again (for the thirth time!) is for them the cheapest way, they invested a lot in SACD, and they finally want to see some profit of this investion.

But Sony is not the only company that has noticed that there is huge open market for High Resolution audio...


Monday, 1st December 2014

Bob Stuart, founder of Meridian Audio, just introduced MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)
This format should be the future of high-resolution audio...

This format means smaller audio files that contain all of the information of very large sound files produced through the use of very high sampling rates.

of course this format is not open source, and to use it you have to pay
royalties to Bob Stuart :-)

The selling points of Meridan's MQA is: "convience" and "efficiency"
But unfortunately for Bob, Audiophiles doens't care about smaller audio files, that are very efficient.
Audiophiles care only for one thing and that is the best quality possible!
and in meanwhile the PCM audio format has grown and has also evolved to a very populair flexible audio format...
called: FLAC!

The flexible PCM audio format called: FLAC

"Pulse-code modulation (PCM) is a method used to digitally represent sampled analog signals. It is the standard form of digital audio in computers, Compact Discs, digital telephony and other digital audio applications"
(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse-code_modulation)

What a lot of people maybe don't now is that PCM is "THE" standard form for digital audio.
99% of all the music studio's in the world record and mix in PCM.
Why? because it's THE norm, and the best way to record and mix audio files.

MP3 is a terrible "lossy" sounding audio format, and a lot of Audiophiles didn't wanted to archive their music collections to this crappy format.
They found another alternative format, named: FLAC
And FLAC is many advantages above MP3.
First of all it's open source, so it's free to use and even to improve it.

FLAC is also a PCM format and uses compression, so that the music files will take less space than the original, but the quality of the original file will stay the same. this is called "loss-less"
Flac is also supported by almost any operating system, Windows, Linux and on Mac OS with VLC mediaplayer.

FLAC also is a very modulair format, It can handle any PCM bit resolution from 4 to 32 bits per sample, any sampling rate from 1 Hz to 655,350 Hz in 1 Hz increments, and has multichannel support up to 8 channels.

Populair sample rates for FLAC are: (2 channel) 24bit 96 kHz and 24bit 192 kHz.
This format has become so poplair that more and more music artists and music online stores are using FLAC audio files as the preferred audio format.

Even SONY supports the FLAC high bitrate standard, on their newest high resolution portable audio players!
Of course they no that their own DSD format will never make it to the big public, so they have to play save :-)
They allready lost the format battle 2 times (DAT SBM vs DCC in 1995 and SACD vs DVD-A in 2009) a third time could be catastrophic for them...


24 bit vs 32 bit (Audio bit depth)

Bit depth determines how loud a recording will be. For every 1 bit increase, there is about 6 dB of added dynamic range. using higher bit depths during studio recording accommodates greater dynamic range.
16-bit integer resolution allows for a dynamic range of about 96.33 dB
20-bit integer resolution allows for a dynamic range of about 120.41 dB
24-bit integer resolution allows for a dynamic range of about 144.49 dB
32-bit integer resolution allows for a dynamic range of about 192.66 dB

The most audio files that are now available are 24bit, this is more than enough, even for the most critical Audiophile.
32 bit is also used in studio's for editting. but 32bit audio files are rare for playback.
Most modern DAC's can playback 32bit audio files, but these audiofiles are rare and properbly you will not hear the difference with the same file recorded in 24 bit.
24 bit is more than enough, so don't worry about this.

And what is the best audio file possible?
Simple, it's the same audio file that has been used for years in almost all professional recording studio's, and is the master format for SACD since 2004, it's called: DXD "Digital eXtreme Definition

The DXD format is designed to by the flexible studio master format for SACD and High Resolution PCM
recordings. and has a sampling rate of 352 kHz!
So "DXD" is the real thing, it's the actual studio master where all other version are made of!

Normaly consumers like us doesn't have access to the orginal studio master format but recently company's like "2L Nordic Sound", "Promates Music Store" and  "HDTracks" released DXD albums on their websites in the original studio master DXD WAV format!
(352 kHz)

"Promates Music Store", https://www.promates.com/music-store/
is the first website in the world that is devoted exclusively to ultra hi-resolution DXD downloads,
their website currently offers 26 native DXD recordings (352.8kHz sampling rate and 24-bit bit depth) from labels Dacapo and OUR Recordings.



I think that the audio and music industry themselves are to blame that audio rips of analog and digital music records at higher bitrates became more and more populair. because they killed the high resolution market themselves.
by not giving us a decent high resolution audio standard, but a format war instead! (SACD vs DVD-A)
and when you don't make what the people want, people are going to make it themselves!
And so it happend...more and more people started to digitize their analog and digital music collection
in a loss-less, higher bit rate audio format...that they choose themselves!

Personally I think that the customer is not waiting for another audio format war!
Sony's DSD and Merdian's MQA are both decent audio formats, but there is already a thirth and better one.
PCM High Resolution.

PCM High Resolution is a very flexible audio format, it can be loss-less compressed (FLAC) or uncompressed (WAV)
This format has been choosen by the people themselves, instead of being pushed by big audio companies.
The best of all

PCM FLAC and DXD are definitely the winners, and it's THE high resolution audio format for the future.

Technics recently revealed that they are offering a music service that is offering 24 bits 192 kHz FLAC encoded music tracks!


99% of all music downloads on the internet are PCM based, the public has already choosen, and also the experts have made clear to support PCM and DXD instead of DSD.

so Sony, Meridan, and all others to follow, don't waste your money by starting another format audio war,
you have allready lost the battle, you only are to stuborn to commit it...


The winners are:



Note: these formats can be presented in FLAC or WAV format, sonically there are the same.

What the real experts say:


"The advantages of DXD for SACD"



Grimm Audio

Is a company that also makes SACD recording equipment:

From the "Grimm Audio AD1 DSD AD converter" user manual pdf:
Page 10 "About DSD"

"While DSD is the format of choice for high quality recording and SACD mastering,
digital editing is performed with PCM audio. This because every change thatʼs made
to the DSD audio stream will lead to a wider word lenght then 1 bit. Since a multibit signal at 2.8224 MHz has a data rate thatʼs too high for practical use, DSD is converted to a lower rate PCM format before editing.
When Philips engineers were building DSD editing tools the design criterion was thus to find a PCM format that would not detract from the sonic capabilities of DSD. It was found that it was
possible to convert a DSD signal to 352.8kHz/32 bit and back without incurring any
audible quality loss, as long as good care was taken with the filtering and remodulation stages.
Later on this format was called ʻDXDʼ. Conversion of DSD to DXD is
performed ʻon the flyʼ in certain DAWʼs

One could ask if it makes sense to record DSD format audio, when it will be edited in PCM anyway.
The answer depends on how your recording and editing sessions are structured.
Certainly for recordings made on stand-alone recorders, the use
of DSD as a storage format is warranted. Practice so far shows that DSD is at least
as sonically transparent as 192kHz/24 bit and better than 96kHz/24bit. However,
one channel of DSD takes up only 2.8Mbit/s, whereas one channel of 192kHz/24bit
takes up 4.6Mbit/s. Given that the AD1 puts out DSD data anyway, itʼs most economical to store the audio in this format. Converting to PCM during recording
would only increase the data rate without any added benefit. The conversion to PCM
is best left to the Grimm Audio DD1 or the DAW when the recording is loaded

What the above text learn us, is that editting of digital recording find place in PCM and not in DSD.
and that the Philips engineers were looking to design an PCM master format, so that editting was made possible, and after editting that this DXD format made it possible to convert to DSD.
without any audible quality loss.

So why make all the trouble to record nativily in DSD when you have to convert it back to DXD to edit it?
and after this you will have to convert it back to DSD again?
All this converting doesn't make the quailty of the signal any better!
The only reason I could think of is that that DSD takes less space on the harddisk compaired to DXD?

Harddisk space costs nowadays very little, and for a big important recording events we have to save costs on harddisk space? that's redicilous!
Buying very expensive recording and audio equipment and than playing back a inferior format just to save costs?
That makes no sense...

No! DXD is the preferred format for professional audio studio's and audiophiles.
99% of all worldwide recording studio's work in PCM!
The recording studio's and audiophiles will only be staticfied with the best format possible, and that is DXD!


Audio Dandy




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