Listening to 16/44.1 v. Higher Definitions

As a follow-up to The Emperor's Old Clothes: In Theory Is Where I Do My Best Practice, I thought it worthwhile to point you to Soundkeeper Recordings who offer various versions of the same music for download in different bit/sample rates. For free. Here's why...
One thing that comes up repeatedly in discussions with other music lovers and audiophiles regarding CD vs. high resolution digital formats, is the fact that most folks have no means of making a valid comparison. Often, the high resolution version of a record is mastered at a different session, sometimes by a different engineer. At many so-called "format shootouts", one hears level differences, EQ differences, etc., making a true comparison of the formats impossible. Astute listeners realize these are comparisons of different masterings and not of the formats themselves.
Wait there's more...
In an effort to provide some help, Soundkeeper Recordings is providing these samples from the same album, same mastering session, etc. A number of folks we know, who use upsampling devices to play back their CDs, have found these useful in illuminating the pluses as well as minuses of their upconversion, as they can now compare the results with a true high res version.

When comparing the files, be sure your system is not performing any sort of resampling and/or dithering to either one. Some will by default, either upsample the 16/44 or downsample and dither the high resolution version.

You can download the files here. Note that Soundkeeper Recordings offers 16/44, 24/96 and 24/192 versions of each track. Of course you'll need a DAC capable of handling 24/192 and if you're wondering how many of those are out there, here's a list that can handle 24/192 via USB.

Of course even if you find you have a distinct preference for one of these versions it does not necessarily mean anything more than that. You may just have a DAC that sounds better with a particular bit/sample rate or you may have a system and ear that enjoys one kind of presentation more than another. Regardless of any other considerations measurable and repeatable or not. And that's not only to be expected it's the most important aspect of this hi-fi hobby where enjoyment of music is the ultimate goal.

From my perspective, if a 24/192 music file sounds better than (and by "better" I'm referring to the relevant use of that word in this context which simply means the one I enjoy listening to more) the lower resolution versions—for whatever reason—I'd want the ability to play back 24/192 music. Even if some people think this doesn't make much sense.

Pablo's picture

But it seems the links went down..

Michael Lavorgna's picture

It was working when I posted this. Perhaps this is related to the extra attention/traffic as I've seen this mentioned on a few forums.

Here's another from 2L where you can compare 24/96 to 24/192 (also free and includes DXD/DSD and 5.1 surround):

bdiament's picture

Hi Michael and all,

Thank you for the story on our Format Comparison page.

Talk about timing, it seems between the new review of "Confluence" over at TNT-Audio, published just the other day and this story, our ISP's servers experienced a bit of an overload and they disabled the Soundkeeper site last night.

Happily, the site is back up and we're working on relocating the large samples to a third-party service where folks can download them.  As soon as this has been accomplished (hopefully within 24 hours), I'll post here again with a new link.

Best regards,

Michael Lavorgna's picture

I'll update the link in the post as soon as it's ready.


bdiament's picture

The Soundkeeper Recordings "Format Comparison" page is back on the air.

We had to move the large sample files to a different server, where the zipped .wav files can be downloaded for listening and comparison.

The link to the Soundkeeper Recordings home page is unchanged from what is in the article above.  The  page can be accessed directly here.

Best regards,


milosz's picture

Did you do a reasonable number of blind A/B/X comparisons to show that you can identify the hi-rez file over the Red Book version in a statistically significant number of trials?  Deciding which you prefer when you KNOW which is the hi-rez file allows for bias.  I'd like to see some independently verified* data to show you can actuallt tell the difference. 


* independently verified = some uninterested outside person conducts the test and reports the result. 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Did you do a reasonable number of blind A/B/X comparisons...

I performed exactly zero A/B/X comparisons, which strikes me as a reasonable number in this context. You can do as many as you’d like (that’s just one of the things I like about listening to music for enjoyment*).

In my opinion, and that's what we talk about when we talk about listening to music for enjoyment, preference and bias are not dirty words. In fact I use them to make all kinds of important decisions every day.

* Everyone I know is interested in enjoying music ;-)

bdiament's picture

We've added new samples to the Format Comparison page.

These are from our upcoming release Americas, coming May 1, featuring the jazz quartet Paul Beaudry & Pathways, playing music they learned on their Jazz At Lincoln Center & U.S. Department of State sponsored Rhythm Road tour of Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The song, "Maria", is from Suriname.
There are samples at 16/44, 24/96 and 24/192.


Best regards,

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Thanks for the heads on this Barry!

tnargs's picture

This is silly. Just download any 2496 or better song and create a 1648 copy from it. Then compare those 2 files USING AN ABX COMPARATOR OR EQUIVALENT. Any day, any time, any song.

Good luck, you are going to need it.