giovedì 20 giugno 2013

Need for Speed: the High Resolution Affair


M2Tech has, since her birth, offered products featuring very high resolution: 192/24 on her USB-to-S/PDIF converters, 384/32 on almost all her DAC's and on the ADC. Somebody has claimed it was only marketing hype, that there's no real need for such high resolution and, moreover, most systems work best with lower resolution.

I've personally address the topic on a white paper ('High Resolution Audio: Is It Really Necessary') which you can easily find on the internet as it's been mirrored by many distributors and retailers. For me, one can live happily without high resolution, nevertheless the inherent advantages of it are obvious at first listening.

The point, maybe, is another: how high the resolution must be to fully encompass all the nuances and details in a music program? Some people, for  instance, claim that 384kHz and 32 bits are a large excess with regards to the real perception capabilities of most listeners: with a theoretical bandwidth of 192kHz and a resolution of 194dB, we're ridiculously over the well-know limits of the human ear, 20kHz and 120dB.

That's true. What many critics miss, IMHO, is that when choosing such excessive figures, we're not addressing the listener needs, rather than the equipment limits. I'll use an example with cars to better explain. Suppose you need a car to drive for 100km on a road with 90km/h limit. A car allowing a maximum speed of 100km/h with gas sufficient for 105km would suffice... Wrong! You'll use the car to its maximum performance during all the travel and will likely run out of gas before reaching your destination or damage the engine. Not only: a car made to reach a peak speed of 100km/h will probably be difficult to drive at that speed and rahter uncomfortable, as its tires and shock absorbers are tailored to a smoother usage.

What I mean is that lower resolution systems will behave more poorly than higher resolution systems even with musical material which has inherent resolution way lower than the maximum allowed by the systems themselves.

A system designed to handle 384/32 will play 176.4/24 files better than another system made to cope with 192/24 at best. Think about recent CD player designs: almost all of them use DAC's made for 192/24, even if a CD is made for 44.1/16 music programs. Designers are not forced to use such DAC's: every IC manufacturer still offers at least one 48/16 or 48/20 DAC. The fact is that 192/24 DAC's sound better than 48/20 ones.

On the other hand, one is free to enjoy any kind of sound: even today some people prefer to listen to 78rpm records instead of LP's, and there is a general agreement that LP's sound better than 78rpm's. But personal tastes of a few people are not enough, according to me, to define a general rule.

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