Higher Sample Rates really better?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by jjboogie, Feb 27, 2009.

  1. DANOCASTER

    DANOCASTER Silver Supporting Member

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    Mostly 48 or 44.1 here..

    96K ?? Most records are being played back on MP3s on an ipod .

    record GOOD music - mix well - and it wont matter much and will sound just fine

    Jagged Little Pill was recorded and mixed on black face adats and sold millions . If I was recording solo harp - or choral stuff- for an audiophile crowd , I'd use 96.

    Otherwise - probably 44.1 or 48 with great converters
     
  2. arthur rotfeld

    arthur rotfeld Member

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  3. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    Not really...

    This is pretty solid stuff, here. I've not seen another ABX test which proves otherwise...

    http://mixguides.com/education/articles/audio_emperors_new_sampling/

    From the Article:

    The experiment was wonderfully simple: The authors set up a double-blind comparison system in which one position played high-end SACDs and DVD-As through state-of-the-art preamps, power amps and speakers. At the other position, the output from the SACD player was first passed through the AD/DA converters of an HHB CD recorder and then through the same signal chain. The levels of the two sides were matched to within 0.1 dB, with the amplifier doing the matching in series with the CD recorder so no one could claim that it degraded the SACD signal. The test subjects used an “A/B/X” comparator to switch the signals, meaning that in some of the tests, when the subjects hit the Change button they didn't know if the signal actually changed.

    There were 60 subjects, almost all of whom were people who know how to listen to recorded music: recording professionals, nonprofessional audiophiles and college students in a well-regarded recording program. In all, there were 554 trials during a period of a year. The experiment was done on four different systems, all employing high-end components and all in very quiet rooms designed for listening in both private homes and pro facilities. All subjects were given brief hearing tests to determine their response to signals above 15 kHz. That data, as well as the subject's gender and professional experience, was tabulated with the results.

    The number of times out of 554 that the listeners correctly identified which system was which was 276, or 49.82 percent — exactly the same thing that would have happened if they had based their responses on flipping a coin. Audiophiles and working engineers did slightly better, or 52.7-percent correct, while those who could hear above 15 kHz actually did worse, or 45.3 percent. Women, who were involved in less than 10 percent of the trials, did relatively poorly, getting just 37.5-percent right.
     
  4. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Yes, it was, and there's no reason to make it more complicated. There's CERTAINLY no way to argue about it's validity. It's a solid test.

    For several reason, it's actually detrimental to record above 96KHz. Believe it or not, the designers of high end converters share this opinion. Even 96 won't offer an advantage in MOST situations.

    If your intended delivery medium is SACD, DVD-A or 24/96 data, you'll have an audience that MIGHT be able to hear the fact that you recorded at high rates - for the rest of the world (99.999%) you're wasting bits.

    I'm not implying that it's unwise to capture the best image of the source sound as possible, but the return on your investment diminishes to nothing by the time it hits CD or MP3.

    True, I'm a hypocrite by not making my exit after the 1st paragraph.
     
  5. KennyM

    KennyM Supporting Member

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    From what I can gather from the mentioned tests it seems like the panel of listeners were listening to cd's played back through the same converters clock, etc. chain at different sample and bit rates. Seems pretty conclusive then that you or I wont be able to acurately tell the difference between cd's regardless of the cd's sample rate or bit rate.

    This in my opinion however, has no bearing towards the OP's question which was inquiring as to the benefit of recording at higher sample rates.

    Here's The Test That Convinced Me Otherwise -

    Gathered in a great LA studio, about twenty various studio owners, engineers, producers, composers, musicians all of notable credits and reputations set up a listening test to hear for ourselves if the then just released Pro Tools HD really was any better than the old PT Mix system. We set up three recording systems -

    A PT Mix system with Apogee Converters running at 48K
    A PT HD System with 192 Interfaces running at 48K
    A PT HD System with 192 Interface running at 96K

    To keep it fair between the two systems running at 48K, we clocked both from the Apogee. Mic pre's were handled from a Neve Sidecar with 1073's and mic's were all a mic owners wet dream - vintage Telefunkens, Neumanns, AKG, just a killer mic collection. All three systems outputs were brought up on the faders of a heavily customized Oram console and calibrated with test tones to exact matching levels. We grouped the faders so that we could A/B/C the outputs. We then proceeded with three recording scenarios all recorded simultaneously to the three setups.

    accoustic guitar/grand piano/female vocal
    full drum kit
    sequenced drum machine/synth/synth bass.

    There was not much difference between the two systems at 48K especially since both systems were using the Apogees clock. Some people liked the Appogees and Some prefered the Digi 192. I could see how you could be swayed to a preference either way.

    So what about the higher sample rate? It literally blew everyone out of the room. This wasn't better it was mind blowingly better. It was so much bigger and so much depth that we thought the faders and levels had been bumped. So much so that we recalibrated everything once again with test tones and realized everything was still perfectly matched.

    So what do we conclude from this? First, we might conclude that the converters and clocks in the Digidesign stock 192 is far superior to the Apogee converters and clocks. Well, before we accept that conclusion I can tell you that you could Google for weeks reading the number of reviews and opinions stating exactly the opposite. While I find the 192 converters to be of very high quality and personally don't understand why they get so flamed on most audio recording sites, I would expect them to lose to the Apogees in a blind taste test.

    The only other difference was the higher sampling rate. The only example that didn't seem to benefit from the higher sampling rate was the sequenced synth stuff. The drum kit and gtr/pno/voc recordings were vastly superior and I don't remember anyone being on the fence about it. I bought an HD rig the next day and sold my Mix system and Apogee AD8000's. In the years I've owned my HD rig I've since tested this many times with the same results.

    Also, to address the other brought up point of why bother since it's only going to be heard via CD or MP3. How far do we want to take this mentality? Should I wire my studio or guitar rig with ****** wire because nobody can hear the difference on an mp3? How about just leaving dead strings and heads on our instruments? Can people really hear a difference off their ipod? Let's just record everything with ****** mics, what does it really matter?

    Folks, I'm going to be rather hard line on this. This may not apply to the hobbyist music recordists here, but even the most meager home computer recording setups nowadays have 96K capability, so yes this may apply to them too. Why would you decide to do something in a questionably inferior manner when you have the option of possibly doing it better? There are enough highly respected golden ear people that will tell you that recording at higher sample rates has improved the quality of their work. I always wonder why the same group of naysayers here are the same folks that if they heard on one of the other threads that Clapton or Jeff Beck rubbed cat urine on their strings because it sounded better to them would be at the pound the next day adopting a cat. You'd do this wthout batting an eye, but you gotta draw the line at flicking the little onscreen toggle to 96 and using up precious hard drive space that costs 10 cents a gig. I may be old school on this, but this is my craft. I don't believe the creators of great music of past recording eras ever thought once that they shouldn't bother eeking out every possible percentage of audio quality even though most people were listening to the final product on cassette or 8 track tapes in there car. As I said before, while some may not hear the benefits of recording at higher sample rates I've never heard anyone say 96K sounds worse. That is except a few theorists. Last I checked I haven't bought any cd's based on theories.

    So maybe we can't tell the difference in sample rates while listening to cd's of finished material, but it sure sounds very different to me when recording and mixing it. Again I say try it for yourself and decide for yourself. Maybe I don'[t know what the hell I'm talking about. That's never stopped me before. :D
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2009
  6. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    I'm not doubting you, but I wonder what your results would have been in an ABX test? Preconceptions can really color your reality - I know I've fallen into that when I had a piece of outboard bypassed... <g>

    There's jillions of anecdotal cases out there, w/varying results, but I've never seen a true ABX, w/as much control built into it.

    I'm going to have a buddy who plays nylon string and sings come in soon, to demo some stuff - might be a good time to check it out.
     
  7. KennyM

    KennyM Supporting Member

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    I can't speak for the others at our little listening party, but I would bet that many of them were of the same frame of mind that I was. I didn't want to like the higher sample rates because I didn't want to have to go out and drop 13K on a new Pro Tools rig. We actually set this up because we needed to be convinced of the benefits before drinking the coolade. I don't think anyone left unconvinced.
     
  8. Zero Point

    Zero Point Member

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    Kenny, did you listen to the mix via the 192's clock at 48 khz? Because without that comparison, you cannot eliminate the clock as a quality factor, making your test moot and useless :) You have to have a control to sample and compare...

    -Z
     
  9. Timmylikesthing

    Timmylikesthing Member

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    I used to use an adat pre with my 002... I realized I was doing overkill for my preproduction work and sold it.

    I'm using the 4 "usable" pres on the digi and 3 nicer outboard pres and doing 96k.

    Even with supposedly "lesser" pres I notice the difference.

    Everything I send out to mastering I do at the highest resolution possible. Why wouldn't you want to send the mastering engineer the highest quality stuff you could?

    I mean iPods, MP3's, Ringtones, etc. are all super low res, but I'l let the ME use a single bounce for everything. It tends to yield a better result, and he normally has a better set of converters than I do anyway.

    Which reminds me, I need that BLA mod for my 002... Different topic...

    ymmv,
    tim
     
  10. KennyM

    KennyM Supporting Member

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    The only way it would make the test moot and useless is if you are assuming that the 192's clock would be superior to the Apogees (something that most people would say is not the case). Our main 48K testing point was that we wanted to hear the newer HD system compared to the highest quality Mix system with improved clock and converters at the same sample rate (48K). Using the best clock available for those two systems allowed us to take the clock out of the equation and hear only the differences between converters and system software. It also gave us the highest quality 48K reference from the two systems to compare the 96K HD rig to.

    Why would you think the test would be moot and useless? If anything, listening to the 48K recordings via the 192's converter and clock would have provided at best the same quality sound as using the Apogee clock. The 96K recordings would still have sounded better either way which is kind of the point. Doubtful that the 192's clock is what made the 96K recordings more improved.
     
  11. Tubes and Strings

    Tubes and Strings Member

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    Reading this quote made me realize I don't really understand the difference between the two very wel... Is there a thread somewhere that explains the basics here? If not, it would probably a lot of folks new to this space if someone added a quick explanation here.

    Heading to Wikipedia in the meantime for some personal education...

     
  12. Zero Point

    Zero Point Member

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    You'd be surprised how much of an improvement a good clock can make in a studio. This is why there are 1000/00 external clocks on the market.

    But anyway, I was going by scientific method. I wasn't there in the room so I could not say which sounded better.

    One has to remember that a lot of this is psychological. If you know which sample is which, if you have a preconception of how you think the test should go... it skews things a bit :)

    In my personal experience, the differences between 48 khz and 96khz was not that big. However, I have never tracked or mixed an orchestra, piano, or any truly high spectrum mics at 96 khz.

    Tape is still better! Arrrr! hehe Ampex anyone? :p I sure want one.

    -Z
     
  13. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    If you are mixing or mastering in analog from hi-res with a top-notch D/A converter, there might be an audible difference. How much of a difference would depend on your source material and your gear. But for most people who do it all "in the box," no advantage at all. When the computer downsamples to 44.1 or 48, it just drops the additional samples.
     
  14. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    I'm much more likely to blame poor filter implementation in converters @ 44.1 than credit higher sampling rates--especially when there's such a "dramatic" difference.

    As far as clocks...wow. Clocks can change the sound fer sure, but despite all the clocks on the market, thought leaders will insist the most "accurate" is the internal. If it's a good converter, of course.

    I don't think any of us who do this for a living are shooting for the lowest common denominator. I'm just a little annoyed these days at marketing machines that push people down the wrong path, and I traveled it myself for years. :jo I can hear obvious differences in converters in my space (using the nice ones, too), so I'm less likely to attribute differences to sampling rates, but rather designs.

    Did all these vintage mics have extended top end frequency response?
     
  15. KennyM

    KennyM Supporting Member

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    Hmm..... I'm perplexed by the number of people that are still at this point bucking the advantages of higher sampling rates. In the circles I travel this subject seemed to get resolved 4 or 5 years ago or whenever it was that Digi released HD and we actually started working with these rates and comparing our work. That's okay with me if you guys want to keep working at 44.1 or 48. I only question your decisions because most of the reasons being bantered about here seem to be the same old "urban myth" type statements that I've been hearing forever and tests that are never about throwing a microphone on something, recording it and listening. Yes maybe I'm overstating the improvements, but when you're talking about high end audio the differences are small in my experience. Even the differences in high end mic pre's can only be measured in single digit percentages in my opinion. And all the references to converters and clock sources are even more miniscule yet people generally accept that this one converter blows away another or that having a Big Ben on your Pro Tools system is such a huge improvement. I have one and it's better, but subtle at best. It's only when these small percentages of difference are multiplied within the context of a project that one can really hear huge improvements.

    As for the validity of the tests I have taken part in I can only tell you that the room was filled with award winning and hit making professionals who don't tend to fall victim to drinking the coolaid. It wasn't a room full of guys with Digi 002's and a laptop that record everything with the same $200 mic. All the mics and gear and room used were of the highest caliber you could ever find in any studio in the world. We all had great running studios turning out high end product already. The only point of interest was whether the newly unveiled state of the art from Digi was worth dumping the money into. For most attending it was, questions answered, decisions made, end of story.

    Again I suggest recording some great acoustic instruments with some great mics and have a listen to it for yourselves. If it doesn't move you more at 96K then use 48K. None of this is of more importance than the music being recorded. A great performance recorded on a cassete deck is always going to be better than a piece of crap recorded at 2000K if it were possible. Just trying to pass on my experiences as someone with great mics and great pre's that records things everyday. Given the choice of higher sample rates I choose higher because it does let the music move me more. For others this may not be the case, but it is a big enough improvement to enough high level professionals I personally know and others I do not that I would think anyone with even a passing interest in perfecting their recording craft should look into this instead of accepting the the bantered myths. I want to scream every time I hear someone say "well since everyone's listening to mp3's anyway you can't hear a difference". How come I haven't seen someone say "you know, I've been recording, mixing and mastering everything at 96K for a year and I just don't think it sounds any better"?
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2009
  16. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    "Urban myth" statements in "my" circles are about discarding the obvious variables, avoiding the science, and ignoring the studies that have been done.

    As far as BigBen clocking and such, you might think it's a subtle improvement, but again--in "my" circles it's understood that the Big Ben alters the "true" sound by increasing jitter. Some people like that, but it's not the best representation of the "true" signal, and therefore distorted.

    I'm not against higher sampling rates at all--I run them up to 192k depending on what comes in. But if someone asks my opinion, then I don't mind saying "if you want to record what's in the audible spectrum for CD audio with proper converters and adequate filter design, then 44.1 is just fine".

    As far as cool-aid drinkers, repeatedly citing other 'influential' engineers experience isn't very supportive of your position, even if you were in the room. You dismiss the obvious questions about clocking and microphone response. There are plenty of reasons why a room full of engineers might have responded that way--the question is whether the outcome would have been the same if the environment and circumstances were different. Would you have wanted to be the "odd man out" who can't hear it--in a room full of your competitors?

    Audiophile stores have long done things when "demonstrating differences" in things like speakers and receivers--bumping the volume a couple of dBs on the more expensive models. In a non-scientific environment, these are the challenges, and things like room response, positioning in monitoring, time difference between comparisons, etc. etc. all play a major role, and therefore aren't definitive.
     
  17. KennyM

    KennyM Supporting Member

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    All right, I will give you this - this was not a scientific study. I think it was a very fair comparison however and it gave me the information I as well as others needed.

    Personally, I've never conducted any aspect of my craft based on scientific studies. I don't play guitar or keyboards using any scientific factors, nor do I compose, arrange or record a single note of music with a scientific theory or study advising my decisions. It's all gut, knowledge and intuition instructed by more than 30 years of progression from 4 track machines on upward soaking every tidbit of info I could, gleamed from every resource imaginable.

    I don't dispute your statement that 44.1 is good enough for you. If you like it then you like it, end of story. It's not any different then you telling me you like this guitar sound than another one that I prefer. But to favor scientific study over the word of respected people seems to be a somewhat one sided view to me.

    I'm not a name dropper, so I will only tell you that some of the people in this room would have most people shaking in their boots. I feel very fortunate to have been included with this small group for no other reason than to get opinions and information from individuals so well respected. Believe me, had the emperor shown up unclothed these folks would have tarred and feathered him. This was also a test we set up and conducted by ourselves. Digidesigns only involvement was in supplying the new at the time HD systems.

    And what of the conclusions reached? Could I have been influenced by the high profile people in the room? Well, I guess I could see why you might think that especially with some of the high profile attendees. But was I? I don't think so because the 96K sound quality improvement was painfully obvious to everyone. It was indisputable with our recorded examples. So much so that as I mentioned we all suspected something wrong with our calibration and carefully rechecked all our levels. No, this was not something anyone debated at all. We all heard it. Someone's child could here it. If we pulled random strangers off the street they would have heard it.

    You are correct that there could be plenty of reasons that all attendees came to the same conclusions and preffered the higher sample rates. I just question why your scepticism precludes the idea that perhaps one of the reasons could have been that it might have actually sounded better.
     
  18. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Few, if any, are doubting the benefit of higher definition recordings. Nyquist's rule that you should use double the highest audible frequency and nothing higher continues to be debated.What's being debated HERE is the perceptible real-world benefit of higher definition recordings once that audio is down-sampled and dithered to 44.1/16, or even MP3. You're confusing this Kenny. Everyone knows that a Ferrari is a better race car than your Mom's Dodge Stratus, but with the 55 MPH speed limit why should we bother with the drastically higher cost and upkeep of the sports car?

    And there's STILL the fact that 192 is a detrimental rate as compared to 96 or 48/44, for the reasons mentioned by the high end converter designers themselves. They build it into their boxes because there's a demand for it, but they recommend against it. It's like a Ferrari that actually drives worse at 55 MPH than the Stratus does.
     
  19. elambo

    elambo Member

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    You bring up a good point. It's not enough to change your session's sample rate to 96. You must have gear that rises to the occasion. Something as simple as poor cabling could negate any and all possible benefits of higher sample rates. Then there's the playback system. If your monitoring chain has a weakness, you might be missing the benefits.
     
  20. elambo

    elambo Member

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    One other random thing - this test with different ProTools systems, different converters, different master clocks, un-blinded testing... It's way too far in the muddy outfield to be considered a viable test. For both logistic and psychological reasons.

    The study posted in Mix is rock solid.
     

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