My thoughts on recording resolutions

In my system the DirectStream has given me cause to think carefully about HiRes (including DSD) purchases from now on. I say this because what I’ve come to hear is that a recording will typically sound its best when played back in its native resolution. I’ve done this a number of times now with the DS, since I own a number of recordings in multiple formats (who doesn’t?). This isn’t really a DS topic - or maybe it is since I really couldn’t hear this before even with the PWD Mk.II - but in comparing lots of these multi copy recordings I’ve been surprised to discover that I like the versions best that match the captured res. 96/24 copies (if captured that way) sound better than 192/24 or DSD; DSD (if captured that way - and there aren’t really many) sound better than 192/24. RBCD (if captured that way) generally sounds better than upres’d versions of the same. There are exceptions of course - and if something was originally captured on analog tape then it becomes much less clear. And with CD there’s the problem of multiple RBCD releases / remasterings etc. I’ve generally done my research on those to try and buy what is considered the best sounding variant. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably get the best sounding version of any new purchases if I stick with how it was originally captured. Analog tape is another variable, but I think if it goes from tape to DSD I’ll stick with DSD; if it goes from tape to PCM for post-processing or production I’ll stick with that. I’m not sure why this wasn’t obvious to me before.

I find this generally to be the case as well.

An interesting corollary is whether a 44/16 recording sounds better initially recorded as 44/16 or at higher resolution and competently resampled to the lower resolution.


I could previously easily pick hi-res files easily over redbook CD rips. Not so easy now with the DS. I’ve completely lost the urge to download hi-res files since the DS arrived. I’m also seriously contemplating selling my preamp since firmware 1.2.1.

Interesting that I’m not the only one. I was too wordy last night; probably the result of working an 11 hour day. I guess more succinctly, I’m finding the music that goes through the fewest “transformations” generally can be picked out as (to me) the best sounding through the DS.

Elk said

An interesting corollary is whether a 44/16 recording sounds better initially recorded as 44/16 or at higher resolution and competently resampled to the lower resolution.

So far IME it seem that isn't the case. If it was captured in high res it seems to sound best in that mode rather than in its RB variant. And vice versa, although there can be exceptions in either case.
tony22 said If it was captured in high res it seems to sound best in that mode rather than in its RB variant.
I think we would all expect this. But this is not the issue I am describing.

Assume the final version will be 44/16 and this is all the end-user will ever hear. The question is whether this CD will sound best if it is:

1) recorded in 96/24 or other high resolution and properly downsampled to 44/16; or 2) recorded in 44/16.

In the recording engineering community, there are strong proponents of both approaches.

Ah, got it now.

It is a fun, interesting debate.

There is no question in my mind that it is best to record in at least 20-bit resolution. The increased dynamic range makes setting levels much less critical. For example, you will not lose any information if peaks are at -12dBFS even with only 20-bit resolution as there still remains 108dB to play with.

I can rationalize whether recordings sound better starting at 44kHz, or higher and subsequently down-sampled. I have tried both many times and cannot definitively hear a difference.

Thus, I record at higher resolution, perform all editing, and down sample and truncate as the final step before mastering the CD itself. I think having the extra data is helpful when manipulating the recording. Plus, if at any time someone wants the higher resolution raw recording I have it available.

As to your observation that files sound better played back at their native resolution, I agree. I also find that the differences between lower and higher resolution become smaller the better the DAC and the rest of the system. I am bemused that others are now making the same observation now that they have the DS to play with. :)

So part of the problem is in finding out just what the native resolution is. For example, one of the things I’m looking to buy is Illinois Jacquet’s “Swing’s The Thing” (I’m a huge IJ fan). It obviously originates from an analog source but is available in RB, High Res PCM, and DSD (and Hybrid SACD if that’s actually any different). If you read the info on the Acoustic Sounds site it’s very confusing. The analog was captured directly to PCM, and the PCM was used as the source for the DSD. So by my thinking that makes the DSD a “why bother?”. But the language suggests the PCM was done with a George Massenburg GML 20 bit A/D (although this is not really clear to me). So if the PCM was done with this 20 bit A/D why is it worth getting a 24 bit High Res PCM version of this digital offering? Wouldn’t I just be better off with the RB version?

Maybe I’d just be better off with the 45 RPM.

Higher bit-resolution at the same sampling rate can sound better. That is, recording and playing back 44/24 can sound better than recording and playing back at 44/16.

Thus, the 24-bit version may sound better than the Redbook version if the higher resolution version is indeed playing back the native original 20-bit recording.

I also find frustrating the lack of transparency of sites offering “high resolution” recordings.