Article: The best Hi-Res albums to try on your system

gamingdave

Active Member
" ...the extra information – if handled and decoded correctly – can be used to create a signal that we perceive to be more natural and less processed."

The thing is, I have never seen results of an ABX test where people can say this is true. I have done lots of testing on myself, and others, and have never been able to get a positive result. MP3 to CD/FLAC yes, but going above 44.1KHz has never been detectable.

"On a more basic level, the effort of creating these files means that more effort goes into their mastering which in turn generally improves performance too."

But this is definitely true. I do have a few HD audio albums, and whilst playing them back at their full rate or downsampling to redbook specs results in the same output from the speakers or headphones, comparing them to their CD counterparts is frequently revealing.

And most times it's down to one simple factor. They have more dynamic range and are mastered for people who want to properly listen to the music, as opposed to having it simply as background. So often they are better, but it's a shame if buying the CD, or streaming, we are treated to inferior versions, and forced to spend more for the clean version when the CD master could be exported from the high res file with a couple of clicks.
 

Hampy1972

Well-known Member
Great selection.
FLAC 24bit of the movie Soundtrack *Whiplash* would be a stonker....

You can feel very string, beat, drum, bang, click and smash..........
 

nicfaz

Active Member
Thanks for that Ed, really enjoyed that list and will give some of it a listen in HD. I find this sort of article really useful as there's always something I didn't know about.
 

Captain Ron

Well-known Member
Any of Steven Wilson's hidef stuff always sounds fantastic. Wether you enjoy his proggy melancholy is certainly a matter of personal taste but he certainly knows how to engineer a fine "sounding" hidef and/or surround release.
 

Smudger1

Active Member
I have one HiDef album, as a result of getting a voucher from Qobuz when I bought my HiDef walkman, and that's Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. Sounds superb to me.
 

golden phoenix

Distinguished Member
yes the reason i bought my oppo 205 was to utilise those superior dacs, so nice reading this article, although im at heart a vinyl man, but i like to cater for all worlds, and all senarios...nice article
 

sergiup

Distinguished Member
Thank you, Ed! On a vaguely related note, may I mention something - as someone who can't seem to find much time to keep looking for music to explore, I would be grateful even just for a Spotify playlist which you'd occasionally drop tracks into; tracks which make you think "yeah, this is worth actually sitting down and listening to", regardless of genre. I think you did have a couple of AVF tester playlists that may have started like that. :)
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
The most dramatic one that I used was a Bob Marley's Legend Album. I had it both on Blu-ray Audio and CD. The performance was indistinguishable.

I put together a Marantz PM5005, Panasonic DMP-BD500 and a pair of Tannoy V4 speaker and did a dark room test on the musical fidelity representative at the time. All I did was switch the CD to the Blu-ray Audio mastered copy and they couldn't believe there ears. To say the sound was improved was an understatement as the words "night and day". At that time, I hoped that this musical medium would say however it seems that it has almost died. Audio wise, having heard SACD and DVD Audio. This should have been the game changer, but like the others its a specialist bread who by them. I own about 15 of them and when I see some of the prices they're going for second hand I have to look again.

With hi-res music, I'd probably say that these are the best I've heard at home compared to a CD
Michael Jackson's Thriller (SACD)
Bob Marley's Legend (Blu-ray Audio)
Beck Sea Change (Blu-ray Audio)
Stevie Wonder's Innervisions (SACD)
Pink Floyd's Endless River. (PCM Blu-ray mix)

How much better are they, this one is selective, most of the hi-res music I own is quite good although some of the CD's aren't that far behind which I still find remarkable considering the file size differences and could really be the reason why hi-res music hasn't truly got hold yet
 

Supersonic

Member
I have a fair selection of DVD-Audio and SACD discs (from Beethoven Symphonies to Porcupine Tree to Queen and Simple Minds) and they sound - to me - closer to vinyl, without the clicks and pops. Much less thin or 'clinical' than CD.

Lots of my older CDs definitely have greater dynamic range compared to modern releases, which is a shame. And often the same thing happens with newer remastered releases of older albums, which is an even bigger shame.
 

ashenfie

Well-known Member
" ...the extra information – if handled and decoded correctly – can be used to create a signal that we perceive to be more natural and less processed."

The thing is, I have never seen results of an ABX test where people can say this is true. I have done lots of testing on myself, and others, and have never been able to get a positive result. MP3 to CD/FLAC yes, but going above 44.1KHz has never been detectable.

"On a more basic level, the effort of creating these files means that more effort goes into their mastering which in turn generally improves performance too."

But this is definitely true. I do have a few HD audio albums, and whilst playing them back at their full rate or downsampling to redbook specs results in the same output from the speakers or headphones, comparing them to their CD counterparts is frequently revealing.

And most times it's down to one simple factor. They have more dynamic range and are mastered for people who want to properly listen to the music, as opposed to having it simply as background. So often they are better, but it's a shame if buying the CD, or streaming, we are treated to inferior versions, and forced to spend more for the clean version when the CD master could be exported from the high res file with a couple of clicks.
I agree 100% for me 48khz/16bit is just perfect for download as not so keen on files being 44.1khz, but i am sure i could tell the difference.

I use Qobuz because I feel they make a great effort not to just supply a re-encoded file, but they their best to remaster music make the most of HiDef. I have around 30 hi def downloads and all of them are just great.

It a sad fact that apple & Co have managed to make music easy to access, but cr* in quality.
 

gamingdave

Active Member
... All I did was switch the CD to the Blu-ray Audio mastered copy and they couldn't believe there ears. To say the sound was improved was an understatement as the words "night and day". ...
Which says there was an audible difference between the two releases, but not the formats as they most likely came from different sources.

The real test would have been to rip the Blu-ray Audio disc, then compare the raw file with the same one downsampled to 44.1/16, playing them both back through a high end DAC.
 

Grumpyrocker

Active Member
" ...the extra information – if handled and decoded correctly – can be used to create a signal that we perceive to be more natural and less processed."

The thing is, I have never seen results of an ABX test where people can say this is true. I have done lots of testing on myself, and others, and have never been able to get a positive result. MP3 to CD/FLAC yes, but going above 44.1KHz has never been detectable.

"On a more basic level, the effort of creating these files means that more effort goes into their mastering which in turn generally improves performance too."

But this is definitely true. I do have a few HD audio albums, and whilst playing them back at their full rate or downsampling to redbook specs results in the same output from the speakers or headphones, comparing them to their CD counterparts is frequently revealing.

And most times it's down to one simple factor. They have more dynamic range and are mastered for people who want to properly listen to the music, as opposed to having it simply as background. So often they are better, but it's a shame if buying the CD, or streaming, we are treated to inferior versions, and forced to spend more for the clean version when the CD master could be exported from the high res file with a couple of clicks.
The science 24/192 Music Downloads are Very Silly Indeed

It's a shame we aren't just offered decent quality non-brickwalled 16/44 albums instead of all this snake-oil high-res nonsense.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Now that I've gone back to a dedicated stereo amp, a Rega Elicit-R from my AVR I'm really enjoying long music sessions again. However some of the more recent CDs I've bought are so compressed that they simply sound awful. When I dig through my collection there are some crackers in there and are a delight to listen to.

I listen to CDs for the vast majority of my digital diet and it's a real shame that good albums can be virtually destroyed by an almost non existent dynamic range.
 

Chester

Well-known Member
"On a more basic level, the effort of creating these files means that more effort goes into their mastering which in turn generally improves performance too."

But this is definitely true. I do have a few HD audio albums, and whilst playing them back at their full rate or downsampling to redbook specs results in the same output from the speakers or headphones, comparing them to their CD counterparts is frequently revealing.

And most times it's down to one simple factor. They have more dynamic range and are mastered for people who want to properly listen to the music, as opposed to having it simply as background. So often they are better, but it's a shame if buying the CD, or streaming, we are treated to inferior versions, and forced to spend more for the clean version when the CD master could be exported from the high res file with a couple of clicks.
I thought this was going to lead to a stop compressing the whatsname out of the bloomin' music movement. Sadly the reverse seems to be true, so great artists that I'd love to listen to, even at CD quality, prove quite fatiguing.

Might give the Talk Talk album a go. I need to get my ears checked out first. I'd have to play at such loud levels I'm sure the finesse and depth of an HD track would be totally lost on me at the moment.

Thanks Ed, and please keep the recommendations coming.
 

Chester

Well-known Member
I listen to CDs for the vast majority of my digital diet and it's a real shame that good albums can be virtually destroyed by an almost non existent dynamic range.
This is exactly what I'm talking about!
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
The real test would have been to rip the Blu-ray Audio disc, then compare the raw file with the same one downsampled to 44.1/16, playing them both back through a high end DAC
Sorry, not sure if It was meant to sound like this, but that quote is like comparing a pushbike to a motorbike. If you add peddles to the motorbike and don't use the engine which was provided to make it go, it will be slower as the human peddling it will struggle to peddle the extra weight.

The same will be said when using some cheap program to re-sample a hi-res music file back to 44.1/16 and then comparing it to original CD. You could also flip that wording with MP3 files and up sample them to match that of a CD, Do they sound the same?

Not meant to sound offensive, so please don't take it that way :)
 
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gamingdave

Active Member
Not the analogy I was trying to make Shane :)

What I was suggesting was comparing the hi-res file, with a down sampled version of itself, to see if you could perceive a difference. And resampling really doesn't require complicated software at all.

From all the testing I have done (and this was frequently done with Fleetwood Mac - Rumours) I would repeatedly get the same outcome (ABX testing myself, and friends and family).
  • The high-res file sounded better than the CD
  • The high-res resampled (to 44.1/16) file sounded better than the CD
  • No one could tell the difference between the high-res file and the resampled hi-res file
Conclusion. The master of the high-res version of Rumours was superior to the CD (that I have). 192/24 is not perceivably different to 44.1/16.
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
Not the analogy I was trying to make Shane :)

What I was suggesting was comparing the hi-res file, with a down sampled version of itself, to see if you could perceive a difference. And resampling really doesn't require complicated software at all.

From all the testing I have done (and this was frequently done with Fleetwood Mac - Rumours) I would repeatedly get the same outcome (ABX testing myself, and friends and family).
  • The high-res file sounded better than the CD
  • The high-res resampled (to 44.1/16) file sounded better than the CD
  • No one could tell the difference between the high-res file and the resampled hi-res file
Conclusion. The master of the high-res version of Rumours was superior to the CD (that I have). 192/24 is not perceivably different to 44.1/16.
Got it. Thought it sounded a bit odd ;)

I guess music is so selective and suggestive that there is no real test that can be carried out.

We are only meant to be able to hear what we can hear, yet the emotional side of what we hear as yet cannot be quantified and no hearing test will ever be able to calculate that one.

Each and everyone of us is so different, yet we are so similar too.
 

bertha

Active Member
Thanks for this - currently enjoying Nils Frahm at work at the moment (only in one ear and lo res) but enjoying it nonetheless will be even better in hi res and on good headphones/speakers later :)

cheers!
b
 

gamingdave

Active Member
Got it. Thought it sounded a bit odd ;)

I guess music is so selective and suggestive that there is no real test that can be carried out.

We are only meant to be able to hear what we can hear, yet the emotional side of what we hear as yet cannot be quantified and no hearing test will ever be able to calculate that one.

Each and everyone of us is so different, yet we are so similar too.
Well we can test how different sources sound by listening to them, but only in a blind environment. If we know the source it will influence our opinion.

As you say, the emotional side is hard to quantify (but not undetectable).

I listen to a range of sources, the radio, CDs, streaming, HD files and vinyl. In the car, out and about on headphones, in the house with "better" headphones and through a couple of stereo setups.

I enjoy vinyl the most, as the tactility of flipping through my records, deliberately picking one, putting it on the turntable, then sitting back and listening to a whole side so much more involving and as a result engaging.

So you could say emotionally I prefer vinyl (though, just as with the HD versions, partly because they are better mastered than the CDs or other digital alternatives).

At the end of the day music is there to be enjoyed. Whilst I balk at the "science" of HD audio, if people get more enjoyment out of listening to it, then that's fine with me
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
A question for Tidal users - where a hi-res audio file is available for MQA, is it the same audio file for both non-MQA and MQA?

I only ask because in my experience MQA processed files on non-MQA capable equipment can be significantly worse than a CD.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
After looking at the dynamic range database I had a bit of a blow out and ordered mainly oldish CDs. Wilson Phillips self titled debut album, Neil Young Harvest, Joni Mitchell Hejira, Laura Marling Once I Was An Eagle. I've played Wilson Phillips and that was pretty good, great soundstage, instrument seperation and detail. The others are in the post.

It was Laura Marling's Semper Femina that I took when I auditioned the Rega and that disc shone with the store's demo unit and helped sell me the Rega over a Naim.
 

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