I have a few albums in 192/24 purchased from HDTracks. They sound superb on my work system which comprises of a PC, pro level firewire M-Audio interface, (once) top of the range Yamaha amp and some Monitor Audio BX2 speakers. I've also tested them with a pair of Sennheiser HD595s and Amperiors. |
All the albums sound better than my CD versions, but it was only when I did some proper ABX tests that I realised it was because they were simply better masters in the first place. I made lots of versions of the same tracks (from the HD masters) at decreasing sample and bit rates and was very surprised with the results. It wasn't till I got below 44.1/16 FLAC files and into MP3 territory that I could ever reliably pass the tests with a positive result. Some tracks had to get lower than 256KBs MP3 before I could.
The link earlier makes for interesting reading. I had read that a while back and it makes sense from a scientific perspective.
The harmonics and interactions of frequencies above human hearing (~20KHz+) in super high bitrate audio are often muted as benefits, but frequently by people who also praise vinyl as superior to digital which has the same upper limit of 20KHz. There also going to have zero effect when using headphones.
I'm not saying some won't hear benefits of 48KHz (or higher) over 41KHz. But you should really do some tests yourselves to find out. There is a great plugin for foobar that lets you do ABX tests on yourself with multiple versions of the same track.
As for Pono, I doubt it will have much success. Those seeking that fidelity can already buy 192/24 recordings and plenty of PAPs on the market support it, including the very reasonably priced and well reviewed FiiO X3 at £160. The sad truth is that even though formats like FLAC exist to give CD quality sound in a portable format most people are simply happy with MP3 or streaming. Original MP3 encoders gave poor results, but a modern day MP3 to most people will sound the same as a CD, especially if using a phone as the player and a cheap pair of headphones.
Of course it could lead to some better mastering with proper dynamic range and less emphasis on making everything sound loud. That would be a welcome side effect.
The vinyl/digital debate is old now. There are differences but it's normally down to the mastering. After all, unless recorded entirely in an analogue environment, mixed and then mastered using a true analogue vinyl cutter (and most aren't) then the vinyl you buy has already been a digital master at some point. From a sound perspective you are better off with a copy of that digital master than an analogue version of it. It's far cheaper to buy a high quality DAC and use a PC as a player than buy a high end record player, stylus/cartridge and phono stage.
Even if the vinyl is 100% analogue, a good quality vinyl rip will sound imperceptible (at least in my experience). I've been making my own vinyl rips recently (all my DnB 12"s that aren't available digitally). I really can't tell the difference in the CD quality FLACs I master and the originals. I sample at 192/24 but that's only so I can have more information for doing a cleanup. That cleanup process is still not refined yet though so I also store those for when I do get a good process down.
Of course whilst digital audio is great from a convenience perspective, vinyl has a tactility which enhances the listening experience just the same way environment and mood can.
End of the day I love music. I love having it all available to me at one time on an HD. I also love having crates of vinyl I can look at and play. I thought I would love HD audio, but my ears can't fool my heart and unfortunately its a case of the Emperors new clothes.