Grateful Dead

Spring 1990 (The Other One) Box

sku: GRA9900113

Digital Download

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What's Inside:
144-page paperback book with essays by Nicholas G. Meriwether and Blair Jackson
A portfolio with three art prints by Jessica Dessner
Replica ticket stubs and backstage passes for all eight shows
8 complete shows on 23 discs
      3/14/90 Capital Centre, Landover, MD
      3/18/90 Civic Center, Hartford, CT
      3/21/90 Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, Ontario
      3/25/90 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY
      3/28/90 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
      3/29/90 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY (featuring Branford Marsalis)
      4/1/90 The Omni, Atlanta, GA
      4/3/90 The Omni, Atlanta, GA
Recorded by long-time Grateful Dead audio engineer John Cutler
Mixed from the master 24-track analog tapes by Jeffrey Norman at Bob Weir's TRI Studios
Mastered to HDCD specs by David Glasser
Original Art by Jessica Dessner
Individually Numbered, Limited Edition of 9,000

Announcing Spring 1990 (The Other One)

"If every concert tells a tale, then every tour writes an epic. Spring 1990 felt that way: an epic with more than its share of genius and drama, brilliance and tension. And that is why the rest of the music of that tour deserves this release, why the rest of those stories need to be heard." - Nicholas G. Meriwether

Some consider Spring 1990 the last great Grateful Dead tour. That it may be. In spite of outside difficulties and downsides, nothing could deter the Grateful Dead from crafting lightness from darkness. They were overwhelmingly triumphant in doing what they came to do, what they did best — forging powerful explorations in music. Yes, it was the music that would propel their legacy further, young fans joining the ranks with veteran Dead Heads, Jerry wondering "where do they keep coming from?" — a sentiment that still rings true today, a sentiment that offers up another opportunity for an exceptional release from a tour that serves as transcendental chapter in the Grateful Dead masterpiece.

With Spring 1990 (The Other One), you'll have the chance to explore another eight complete shows from this chapter, the band elevating their game to deliver inspired performances of concert staples (“Tennessee Jed” and “Sugar Magnolia”), exceptional covers (Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and the band’s last performance of the Beatles’ “Revolution”) and rare gems (the first “Loose Lucy” in 16 years) as well as many songs from Built To Last, which had been released the previous fall and would become the Dead’s final studio album. Also among the eight is one of the most sought-after shows in the Dead canon: the March, 29, 1990 show at Nassau Coliseum, where Grammy®-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis sat in with the group. The entire second set is one continuous highlight, especially the breathtaking version of “Dark Star.”

For those of you who are keeping track, this release also marks a significant milestone as now, across the two Spring 1990 boxed sets, Dozin At The Knick, and Terrapin Limited, the entire spring tour of 1990 has been officially released, making it only the second Grateful Dead tour, after Europe 1972, to have that honor.

Now shipping, you'll want to order your copy soon as these beautiful boxes are going, going, gone...

Listening Party: 3/29/90, Nassau Coliseum With Branford Marsalis, Set 2

Enjoy the 2nd set of 3/29/90!

Listening Party, Part 2

Enjoy a track from each show!

Listening Party, Part 1

Enjoy a track from each show!

Seaside Chat: David Lemieux On The Branford Show

Unveiling Spring 1990 (TOO)

Talkin' Spring 1990 Too With Bob Weir, Jeffrey Norman And Branford Marsalis

David Lemieux on What’s Inside Spring 1990 (The Other One)

Product Details

Show #1
Capital Center, Landover, MD (3/14/90)

Disc 1
4. MAMA TRIED> [2:31]
5. BIG RIVER [5:21]
6. LOOSE LUCY [6:56]
8. ROW JIMMY [10:17]
9. LET IT GROW [11:54]

Disc 2
1. CRAZY FINGERS> [8:12]
3. UNCLE JOHN'S BAND> [8:05]
4. JAM> [7:12]
5. DRUMS> [7:38]
6. SPACE> [6:34]
7. DEAR MR. FANTASY> [5:53]
8. I NEED A MIRACLE> [4:07]
9. BLACK PETER> [7:53]

Show #2
Civic Center, Hartford, CT (3/18/90)

Disc 1
3. STAGGER LEE [5:29]
4. ME AND MY UNCLE> [3:08]
9. RAMBLE ON ROSE [8:02]

Disc 2
1. IKO IKO [8:08]
3. HE'S GONE> [8:56]
4. TRUCKIN'> [8:54]
5. SPOONFUL> [7:19]
6. DRUMS [6:52]

Disc 3
1. SPACE> [11:23]
2. THE WHEEL> [5:49]
4. MORNING DEW [11:32]
5. U.S. BLUES [5:31]

Show #3
Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (3/21/90)

Disc 1
3. FAR FROM ME [5:05]
5. LOOSE LUCY [7:27]

Disc 2
1. HEY POCKY WAY [7:10]
2. CRAZY FINGERS> [07:38]
5. HE'S GONE> [12:42]
6. DRUMS> [9:37]

Disc 3
1. SPACE> [7:39]
2. I NEED A MIRACLE> [4:16]
3. WHARF RAT> [8:41]

Show #4
Knickerbocker Arena, Albany NY (3/25/90)

Disc 1
2. TOUCH OF GREY [6:42]
5. JACK-A-ROE [4:36]
7. BIRD SONG [13:08]
8. LET IT GROW [11:36]

Disc 2
1. EYES OF THE WORLD> [13:26]
3. CRAZY FINGERS> [7:21]
4. TRUCKIN'> [7:43]
5. SPOONFUL> [5:37]
6. DRUMS [9:59]

Disc 3
1. SPACE> [8:58]
4. BLACK PETER> [9:09]

Show #5 Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY (3/28/90)

Disc 1
3. EASY TO LOVE YOU [5:48]
4. HIGH TIME [6:14]
6. LOOSE LUCY [6:11]
7. CASSIDY> [6:06]
8. DEAL [8:18]

Disc 2
1. FOOLISH HEART> [10:21]
2. LOOKS LIKE RAIN> [8:09]
4. THE WEIGHT [5:46]
5. HEY POCKY WAY> [x:xx]
6. DRUMS [11:17]

Disc 3
1. SPACE> [9:22]
2. THE OTHER ONE> [6:52]
3. WHARF RAT> [10:35]
4. GOOD LOVIN' [7:52]
5. REVOLUTION [4:55]

Show #6
Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY (3/29/90)

Disc 1
1. JACK STRAW> [6:15]
2. BERTHA [6:59]
3. WE CAN RUN [6:04]
4. RAMBLE ON ROSE [8:08]
6. BIRD SONG> [13:05]

Disc 2
1. EYES OF THE WORLD> [16:33]
3. DARK STAR> [18:19]
4. DRUMS [10:22]

Disc 3
1. SPACE> [7:53]
2. DARK STAR> [2:46]
3. THE WHEEL> [4:23]

Show #7
The Omni, Atlanta, GA (4/1/90)

Disc 1
1. TOUCH OF GREY [6:41]
2. WALKIN' BLUES [6:27]
4. CANDYMAN [7:20]
5. ME AND MY UNCLE> [3:05]
6. BIG RIVER [5:28]
7. ALTHEA [8:09]
9. TO LAY ME DOWN> [9:24]

Disc 2
2. I KNOW YOU RIDER [4:51]
3. SHIP OF FOOLS> [7:50]
5. DRUMS [7:30]

Disc 3
1. SPACE> [11:48]
2. DEAR MR. FANTASY> [5:42]
3. HEY JUDE> [2:37]
4. TRUCKIN'> [7:00]
5. STELLA BLUE> [10:21]

Show #8
The Omni, Atlanta, GA (4/3/90)

Disc 1
2. HELL IN A BUCKET> [6:17]
3. SUGAREE [11:24]
4. WE CAN RUN [6:55]
6. ROW JIMMY [10:11]
7. PICASSO MOON [7:14]
8. TENNESSEE JED> [7:39]

Disc 2
3. CRAZY FINGERS> [8:06]
5. DRUMS [8:17]

Disc 3
1. SPACE> [6:56]
5. NOT FADE AWAY [7:27]


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Joined: Jan 24 2011

Hi JMT2010 - I posted a few links that go into a lot of detail about the technical aspects of digital audio - you can find them below.

You're close, but not quite there in what you described.

for instance, at the very end, you refer "the human ear does not pick up ..... it just hears a continuum". The issue here is that it doesn't have to pick or not pick up the individual samples. The digital to analog converter (DAC) takes the stored digital information and converts it back to an analog wave. The Nyquist theorm, on which the very idea of digital audio is based, states that as long as the frequency of sampling is as least twice as high as the highest frequency of sound being reproduced, then the ORIGINAL analog sound wave, of any complexity, can be reproduced EXACTLY. That's why the "stair step" concept that hi res websites like to display is a deception. When you look at a graph of a waveform stored digitally, yes if you zoom way in you can see "stair step" looking (jagged) edges to the waveform. It's a deception, because the DAC recreates from this the original sound wave EXACTLY - as long as the frequencies are below half the sampling rate.

Another thing that was not quite right was your interpretation of bit-depth. It's even simpler than your first sentence. What is actually contained in each "sample" is one amplitude measurement, just a number between 0 and 65,536 for 16-bit and between 0 and 16,777,216 for 24-bit, representing the amplitude of the wave at that moment. Forget about the noise floor for a moment. The ONLY thing stored in each sample is a number representing an instantaneous measurement of the amplitude of the sound wave at that moment. Quantization error is the difference between the ACTUAL amplitude of the sound wave at that point, and the measured amplitude using a discrete number of only 65,536 or 16,777,216 possible values. Dithering is the process which mathematically converts those errors to white noise, and noise shaping actually moves that noise to largely inaudible ranges of the sound frequency spectrum.

Ultimately, it is the level of noise in a digital file that determines the "noise floor" of the file. This is the exact equivalent of the signal to noise ratio (SNR) of an analog recording (LP or analog tape). Keep in mind that the SNR of even a 16-bit recording is many times better than the SNR of LP OR analog tape. Most people don't understand that, either. So, taking your Pink Floyd "Time" example, a 16-bit recording can capture the quietest elements of the clocks ticking. Of course, THAT is a recording that was NOT originally recorded digitally - it was originally recorded to analog tape. So the SNR can NEVER be better than on the original analog tape - there is a minimum noise level already inherent in the recording to begin with. Modern recordings are recorded to 24/192 digital files, and then if converted to CD (or 16-bit downloads) they are converted to 16-bit using noise-shaped dithering. Done properly, the resulting 16-bit files have a slightly lower signal to noise ratio, however it is already below the level of human perception. The noise floor of your listening environment is ALWAYS (unless you're in outer space or something) higher than the noise floor of a properly dithered 16-bit recording. Noise you don't usually notice, the hum of the refrigerator, your breathing and heartbeat, the water heater, etc. - even the quietest of most rooms still has a noise floor that is above the noise floor of a 16-bit recording let alone a 24-bit one. This is nit-picking a bit, isn't it????

The other thing you referenced is HOW does a stream of amplitude measurements capture actual music. Take out a piece of paper. Let's say you're sampling at 10 times per second instead of 44,100 times per second. So, 1/10th of a second you capture an amplitude measurement (the height of a sound wave). On the piece of paper draw a dot at that height. It might be easier if you draw a rectangle with that height (just of like the rectangles under a curve in pictures of integration from a calculus textbook). When you connect the dots, you can see the sound wave shape. The more dots, the more exact the representation of the wave. This is where the Nyquist theorem comes in. Higher frequency sounds are going up and down across the x-axis in narrower bands than lower frequency sounds which take more time (stretch out farther along the x-axis) before coming back across the x-axis). The theorem states that as long as the sampling is rate is at least twice the highest frequency, the DAC can mathematically recreate the EXACT analog sound wave. So, 44,100 samples per second is enough to EXACTLY recreate any frequencies below 22,050Hz. This is above the range of hearing for human adults.

So, some people who don't understand the technical aspects will pay more for a 24/192 file than a 24/96 file. Keep in mind what the actual difference is. A 24/192 file is taking 192,000 samples per second, and a 24/96 file is taking 96,000 samples per second. The Nyquist theorem states that the 192k/s file can PERFECTLY reproduce any frequencies below 96kHz. The Nyquist theorem states that the 96k/s file can reproduce any frequencies below 48kHz. Um, most adults can't even hear much beyond 16-18khz let alone 20khz. The ONLY difference between the fidelity of the 24/96 and 24/192 is that the 24/192 can encode frequencies from 48kHz to 96kHz and the 24/96 can't. Those frequencies are all and entirely WAY WAY WAY beyond the human hearing apparatus. But, go through some of these threads and watch some people saying things like, "are we paying for 24/96 or are we actually getting the full 24/192?" The question is nonsensical. NO ONE can hear ANYTHING in the 48-96khz range AT ALL. Not only that - none of the microphones used to record the music capture anything in those frequencies at all AND on the off-chance they did, they're filtered out for technical reasons. Just WHAT do people think they're missing in the 96 vs the 192 file? It shows that they just don't understand what they're spending their $$$ on. They are assuming that 192 has to be better than 96, and/or that if its more expensive (and larger) it must be better. Anyone who understands sound at all knows that a audio with or without frequencies between 48khz and 96khz is going to be identical unless you're a hummingbird or something. It's like thinking that a picture that has light going up to the x-ray range encoded in it is going to look better than a picture that only includes light in the spectrum our eyes actually have the hardware to respond to. And then, they will actually post about how much more depth there is to the music, how much more full and somehow realistic the experience is. It's clearly entirely in the realm of psychological expectations.

Actually, properly dithered, a 16/44.1 digital file made from the EXACT SAME SOURCE as the 24/192 digital file is INDISTINGUISHABLE from each other by the human ear. ALL scientific studies done in controlled environments confirm this. You will NEVER convince some people of this, however. The idea that more bits and more samples must be better seems to make to much sense to most people, and marketing has done it's job.

Lastly, as you can see in one of my last posts, I compared the 16-bit CD files to the hi res files that are being offered for Wake Up To Find Out. I compared them using Audio Inspector. That comparison confirmed that these two digital files are NOT from the same source. This has nothing to do with the inherent ability of a 16/44.1 file to be as perfect to human ears as a 24/192 file. What is being done is common in the practice of making CD's. They compressed the dynamic range (the range of softest to loudest sounds) so that they could then increase the amplitude across the entire range, making the CD louder at any given volume setting than it would have been. This was either not done to the 24/192 file, or not to the same extent, because the 24/192 file is not as loud, the amplitude of the sound waves at any given point is lower than on the 16/44.1 file. This was done INTENTIONALLY (I'd rather they didn't). It is probably done because people "expect" their CD's be play at a certain volume - they think something is wrong if they put another CD on, and it's way louder without turning the volume up - they ask, "why is this one so damn low!". So, they're dealing with consumer expectations. It has nothing to do with 16/44.1 versus 24/96 or 24/192.

Joined: Jan 23 2011
Confused about the meaning of bit depth and sampling

From what I have read, the higher the bit depth, say 16 bit vs. 24 bit, the more decibels of signal is possible above a noise threshold. I get that. It is a metric of quietest sounds to loudest possible to be reproduced in fidelity perhaps. An analogy for that might be Pink Floyd's song 'Time' where you hear the clocks ticking very quietly in the beginning and then have the loudness of the alarms going off the next moment after. The loudness change is dramatic. OK, I am having a difficult time drawing analogies to the music we listen to on CD versus say cassettes or vinyl. The waveform for analog music is continuous if displayed on a graph. Music in the forms of ones and zeroes getting converted to analog is what escapes me. How doe the reproduction of the sound of a guitar and drums get unscrambled from the digital ones and zeroes? I get that the sampling rate captures 44,100 pieces of information per a second (44.1kHz rate) of a music passage, but what is the information stored in that 1/44,100th of second? Playback is at 44.1 kHz per a second I assume ( on a CD's WAV file format). The human ear doe not pick up the 1/44,100ths of a second "quantized" sound pulses. It just hears a continuum.

Joined: Jun 5 2007
Word of advice....

If anyone is a big collector like me and bought a few box sets/poster combinations.. do yourself a favor. Open the poster container and make sure what you ordered is in there.

There's 1 poster left available to buy onlne... you can't add more than 1 to the cart.
I decided to open mine tonight.
Suffice to say, the 4" and 3" containers I have, which should have multiple posters, only had 1 each.
Nervous, scared and terrified doesn't begin to describe the butterflies in the stomach or stomach acid reflux in my throat...
since they've been sitting in my closet unopened and uninspected since July.

Word to the wise... check to make sure you got what you ordered.

Called customer service. Suffice to say, this has to go higher for any hope of resolution. Not how I wanted to start Christmas... check what you ordered... at least I checked now and not 5 years from now. But still...
my faith is w/ Dr. Rhino or someone, to help.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Audio inspector

Audio inspector is the name of the software I was using. It makes some quick general assessments of the file and then starts to deeply analyze from the beginning. It takes a couple of minutes just to get through 15 seconds of a track, which is all I let it do as I didn't have much time. So keep in mind that I think those numbers are for the first 15 seconds. However, I coukd see and zoom into the entire file.

It was immediately clear that the HD file was significantly narrower from top to bottom, indicating no gain (I don't know the technical terms for most of this, so I'm assuming yours is correct) or else much less gain had been applied to that file. Since everything I read indicates that the primary purpose for applying dynamic compression is to make room for gain, I believe that little or no dynamic range compression was used on the HD file (at least compared to the 16-bit file). The CD file on the other hand appears to use almost all the available amplitude range from top to bottom. Keep in mind that the -10db and -15dn peak numbers (and the other numbers as well) I referred to may be for just the first 15 seconds.

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011

Right, "make-up gain" is a post-compression volume increase that presumably brings the peak up to 0 dB (or wherever the engineer chooses). It's really odd that they chose -15 dB and -10 dB for the HD and CD files, respectively. That headroom (relatively huge) serves no purpose.

So, how did you know the CD files were more dynamically compressed than the HD files?

rrot's picture
Joined: Oct 3 2009
I expect they have to cater to consumer expectations.

That's where my bet is too. Sadly.

"Why do I have to turn *this* CD up louder than my other discs?" is a question that often (not always) can be answered "because it was better engineered."

Joined: Jan 24 2011
One Man - Peaks

Not really, no. When dynamic range compression is applied, not only do they reduce the difference between the loudest and softest amplitudes, they also then have room to increase the amplitude over the entire range, so that at a given volume setting on your volume knob the volume of the music is louder than it would have been - the loudest sound is louder, the softest sound is louder, and the average sound is louder, than it would have been compared to the same signals prior to dynamic compression and raising the amplitude. This is why dynamic range compression is important in the "loudness wars" in commercial releases for radio. They compress the range, and then have room to make the whole range louder without going over peak and clipping. When you look at the visual representation of the sound from the HD file compared to the 16-bit file, the HD file is "smaller" from top to bottom - it is not as loud, but if you were to analyze it, you would find that the DIFFERENCE between the highest peaks and smallest peaks are, relative to each other, greater. So, while the -10db peak of the CD is louder than the -15db peak of the HD file, it is the CD that has had dynamic range compression applied so that they can then raise the amplitude of the entire signal by some percentage, making the peak volume of the CD louder than the peak volume of the HD file (and the average, and the softest sound as well). When the dynamic range compression is applied the DIFFERENCES between the amplitudes of loud and soft are made smaller - the percentage change is not the same across the spectrum of amplitudes, as the "average" amplitude will not have a change applied (that's a simplification, not exact, and also I'm not sure if it would be the mean or the median or some other midway point that remains unchanged). When they subsequently make the entire signal louder, the amplitude increase is percentage-wise the same across the board. THAT transformation DOES raise the average amplitude. Does that make sense?

Obviously, none of this is inherent to either 16-bit or HD 24-bit. It could be applied to either. For some reason they apply it to the 16-bit file, probably because a lot of people don't like it when a CD seems like the volume is too low compared to other CD's they have. In other words, I expect they have to cater to consumer expectations.

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011

Isn't a peak of -15 dB lower than -10 dB? Doesn't that suggest the HD file is more compressed than the CD? Actually, they probably both have some amount of light compression on them because that's just how it's typically done in the world. It's bizarre that one would be that different from the other. You can hear as little as 1 dB, maybe even less. The first S90 box had lots of audible compression, at least on the individual tracks. It sounds way too smooth to be au naturel, even if the mix of the various signal levels is not always great.

Joined: Nov 7 2013
pono is a player

Is it possible that a pono player has better components than another portable playback device ? It was designed with this in mind.Same files, different players, different playback results.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
FourWinds - my apologies

I did a comparison of the CD version of Wake Up To Find Out (actually the one from the full box) and the 24/192 download.

I used the first 15 seconds of Estimated Prophet (the software I'm using only lets you start at the beginning, and I didn't take the time to lop off an equal amount from the beginning of both files in order to get to the middle of the file). I chose Estimated Prophet because it begins right away having been transitioned into from the Eyes.

The results:

The average levels (left/right) on the CD are -17.42db/-16.19db
the average levels on the HD file are -17.96db/-16.72

the peak level on the CD is -10db
the peak level on the HD file is -15db

The Stereo Balance on the CD is -2.14db (diff between L and R)
The Stereo Balance on the HD file is -2.43db

And the peak frequency on the CD is 14,685Hz
the peak frequency on the HD file is 14,109Hz (that's a surprise)

So, it appears that they HAVE INDEED applied some dynamic range compression to the CD version, although not a lot.

I have NO IDEA why they wouldn't just convert the 24/192 file to 16/44.1 using noise-shaped dithering. The resulting files would be VIRTUALLY INDISTINGUISHABLE from each other.

This still says nothing about the inherent equivalency to the human ears of 16/44.1 versus 24/192, but THAT'S IF THEY'RE FROM THE SAME SOURCE.

My humble apologies FourWinds as you are indeed correct that they created a master for the 16-bit file that has had some amount of dynamic range compression applied to it. WHY???? Who knows. There is NO (good) reason to do this!!! The 24/192 is not better because it 24/192. It's better because they didn't apply dynamic range compression to master used for it.

However, FourWinds, in your original post you wished they would just release the HD 24/192 file already!! WHY NOT wish that they convert the 24/192 to 16/44.1 and LEAVE IT ALONE to create the CD and 16/44.1 files?? That would serve the SAME purpose. And here are the file sizes for that one file:
CD: 153,035kb
HD: 998,784kb
And, they have the same POTENTIAL for audio fidelity. Why not just wish for 16/44.1 files/CD's made directly from the 24/192's? Wouldn't that make far more sense.

In any case, you were right - they're not the same. I have no idea why they chose to do this.

One Man - Yes, for driving in my car (where I do a LOT of listening) files with more dynamic range compression make it much easier to hear all the music. You don't have to keep turning the volume up and down - up because you can hardly hear it and then BAM you get hit with the LOUD so you have to turn it down again. It is true that the range compression can pretty much fix that problem. Since we would never get two versions of everything with one purchase, my preference would be to get CD's/files that have NO dynamic range compression applied, and then I could apply my to create a set of files for travel (car/plane/walking, etc.)

dantian's picture
Joined: Aug 6 2013
Got to hand it to you, wjonjd

You have a lot of patience ;)

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011
E72 Box

I'm not sure what is fatiguing anyone's ears, but I hear some kind of pervasive audio distortion in about the first half of the E72 box mixes. It clears up on one of the Paris shows. I have no idea what caused it, but it is obvious to me and I'm sure the mix engineer noticed it eventually but no one bothered to go back and fix those first mixes. It could be inherent in just those first tapes (very doubtful), some kind of A-D transfer issue (can't imagine what), something to do with the Plangent Process (again, no idea), or something else. It still bugs me that these mixes were so rushed. Thank the gods they did not do the same with the '72 Veneta show or the new Spring 90 box.

Also, let's not confuse file (data) compression with dynamic range compression. Dynamic range can be severely squashed on ANY recording format if the engineer chooses to do that. The GD archival releases are generally lightly compressed compared to many commercial releases, and I'm sure that is intentional. I actually wish they had a touch more dynamic compression on them sometimes, just to make them sound less jumpy.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
down mix process

There is no dynamic compression required when converting from 24-bit to 16-bit, and there is no reason to believe they just CHOSE to use any dynamic compression on the 16-bit file, but not on the 24-bit file. Your comment makes it clear (unless I'm mistaken, which I could be) that you believed that 16-bit is INHERENTLY more compressed than 24-bit, which is simply not the case in any way. Unless you have some reason to believe they just chose to compress the range of softest to loudest sounds on the 16-bit file and not on the 24-bit, I'd be interested to hear it. I think that's more than very very highly unlikely.

Again, if you are experiencing ear fatigue from the 16-bit files, you have zero chance of improving that by buying the more expensive 24-bit ones except by placebo effect, unless they chose to reduce the dynamic range on the 16-bit files and not the 24-bit files for some reason.

What possible reason do you have to suspect they would even consider going through the trouble of instituting dynamic range compression on the 16-bit files (CD's). They were NEVER going to be destined for mainstream radio play, and even if they were I don't believe Jeffrey Norman and his team do that even for releases that ARE destined for radio play.

Of course, there is an easy way to answer this. Simply send DL an email to ask Jeffrey Norman (if you can't email Jeffrey Norman directly) if they compressed the dynamic range for the 16-bit release and CD's and not for the 24/192 (or 24/96) on any of their other archival releases where they have made hi-def available. I wouldn't promise my first-born, but I'd bet a lot that the answer will be no. In which case, as the links I posted point out pretty well, you will hear no difference between the two versions, nor experience a different level of ear fatigue or emotional connection - at least not due to the sound coming out of your loudspeakers.

EDIT - I decided to purchase the Wake Up To Find Out hi def (24/192) download. I will rip from my CD version direct to 16-bit wav and compare them using a software audio package and should be able to easily tell if dynamic compression was used on one and not the other. I will let you know. I see no reason why they would treat the E72 release differently than the Wake Up To Find Out release as far as whether they chose to modify the dynamic range for the CD's. They both came from multi-track tape masters. Even if they didn't spend the time on the E72 releases that they did on the Wake Up To Find out release, I would still bet they treated the CD's the same in terms of how they transferred the original 24-bit files they mixed/mastered with to the 16-bit files they used to create the CD's. I will report back with the results.

fourwindsblow's picture
Joined: Oct 13 2008

If dynamic compression was used in the down mix process no further compression is needed.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Grammy Nomination

Yes, Congratulations to all involved. I also believe this box deserves the grammy nod - I believe it surpasses the music in the first box, and the package itself is simply exquisite (as was the first box).

Joined: Jun 4 2007
Grammy Nomination

It's only fitting that a Brent era release got a Grammy nod. Congrats Bob, Phil, Mickey, Bill, Dave, Mark, Mary, Norman, Blair and everybody involved! This is the good stuff here.

Joined: Jan 24 2011

Hi four winds,

Sorry, what compression???

There is no compression of any kind in a 16/44.1 file. I'm not sure what you are referring to. But that is literal. There is NO compression of ANY kind in a 16/44.1 file.

These are not mp3's.

A few (maybe more than a few) posts down, posted several links that explains the scientific basis behind digital audio files (not compressed digital audio files). I can't make you do this, but did you bother reading them at all?

Several of these links make Reference to the scientific reasons there is no audible difference (LITERALLY) between 16/44.1 and 24/96 or 24/192. Except that in some not too common cases the higher "resolution" files actually can be inferior because the ultrasonic inaudible frequencies they can contain can in some cases cause audible and distortion in the audible range, although in all scientific studies to date no one can hear any difference at all. The 44.1 files don't have this problem, as they don't contain frequencies above 22khz - frequencies above human hearing level.

Forgive me, I really do not mean to be insulting or condescending, but the nature of your statement referring to any kind of compression difference between standard def and hi def audio files leads me to believe you haven't bothered to look into how digital audio works and are buying into the most common fallacies. The statement literally makes no sense as there is no difference in compression level of any kind between so called standard definition and so called high resolution audio files. Standard def files are smaller because they use 16-bits to encode each volume level sample and take use 44,100 samples per second as opposed to using 24-bits and say 192,000 samples per second. The science and mathematics both state as fact, not opinion, that 44,100 samples per second is sufficient to encode and reproduce any frequencies up to half that number, 22,050hz which is well above your hearing level, and 16-bits is sufficient to encode the dynamic range of any recording you currently and are likely to own unless you envision at some point buying a recording with enough dynamic range to make your ears bleed if you had equipment that could reproduce it.

Did you know that each of the "samples" taken either once every 44,100 times or 96,000 or 192,000 times a second, and stored in either a 16-bit or 24-bit binary number, contains a volume measurement AND NOTHING ELSE?? How can nothing but a stream of volume measurements of music represent the actual music??? Read and find out.

If your ears are being fatigued by 16/44.1 files they will have the EXACT DUPLICATE experience with 24/192 files. Again, these are not MP3 or other lossy format. The ONLY difference between the 16/44.1 and the 24/96 files is the dynamic range and frequency range they contain, and the links I posted explain why 16 bits and 44.1khz files already hold all the dynamic range the music being recorded has, and already contains all the frequencies you can hear.

You already understand how LP's work. Don't you think it would be a good idea to learn how digital audio works before you start paying more for files that all the science (not to mention the society of audio engineers) have no difference (literally) to what comes out of your speakers? We're not talking about MP3 or any other compression technology here. We're talking about the COMPLETETELU UNCOMPRESSED 16/44.1 and 24/192 files that will both produce identical sound waves out of your speakers even if you were to compare them visually with sound wave analysis software.

Since I take it that you DO experience ear fatigue from E72 releases, I am sorry to tell you that this must be from how the masters sound that they are using to create the CD's and downloads. Getting 24/96 or 24/192 will do NOTHING to mitigate this, and will not help you connect on a deeper emotional level with it unless it is via placebo effect.

The sound waves being represented by BOTH 16/44.1 and 24/192, being identical in all audible frequencies, both reproduce sound waves so far closer to being identical to what was input to create them compared to an analog medium that it's staggering if you haven't looked into it. These are not compressed files where if you were to look at them visually they hardly even resemble the originals. The sound waves produced by either 16/44.1 or 24/192 are BOTH virtually perfect representations of the sound that went in. The science of looking at in what ways they may be different from what went in is dealing with differences so much smaller than with previous music reproduction methods that it's like comparing molehills and mountains.

Hi Res files are NOT being offered because they are in any way superior to your ears. They are being offered because there is a demand for them. And, there is a demand for them because people believe all sorts of things like 16/44.1 is somehow more compressed than 24/192 (it's not), or that greater bit-depth means greater music depth (it does not - it ONLY and ENIRELY determines the difference between the loudest and softest sounds that be contained, and 16-bits can go from a light bulb to a jackhammer), that higher sampling rate yields a smoother sound wave (it doesn't - that's not how digital audio works - when it's converted back to an analog wave it is as smooth as the wave the went in - and 44.1 samples per second can reproduce any frequencies of 22.05khz and below with literally 100% accuracy because of the mathematics behind how it works). The demand is there because many (most?) people do not know much about digital audio files, and there is a lot of money to be made by many people who are exploiting then (and in many cases don't know any more about how digital audio works and believe it themselves.) Truly scientifically done listening tests (not to mention visual analysis of the sound waves) will tell you what you need to know about so called "hi resolution" audio files.

But, go ahead and buy the "hi resolution" files if they become available. It's not my money. But, it really is worth scrolling down and checking out those links (and the discussion up to this point) before you spend that money.

fourwindsblow's picture
Joined: Oct 13 2008
In the end

What you really want in the end is a recording that is non ear fatiguing so that you can listen for hours and connect on a deeper emotional level. Compressed files do not give you this option. E72 I can't listen at a nice volume level without ear fatigue. We really need those 24/96 files released.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
If you're serious

Hi Unkle Sam,
If you're serious you can easily hear the difference in fidelity between LP and CD at a modest cost by purchasing a modern excellent classical orchestral recording where you can get both the CD and LP. I would suggest using Raphael Kubelick's recording of Dvorak's New World symphony because the LP should still be relatively available and the CD digital transfer is highly acclaimed by audiophiles. It isn't an accident that the first genre of music to start using digital technology for recording was classical orchestral recording; they generally require the higher dynamic range than other genres, and the classical musicians and their engineers were more keenly aware than others of the technical inability of LP technology to record this music without large dynamic range compression. Once CD tech had matured (it really didn't take very long), it was quickly clear that digital had overcome the limitations that had plagued the classical recording industry since its inception. Even though I love the "warm" sound of LP, and on much music the technical requirements are smaller than for classical, so LP technical deficiencies are outweighed by the "warmth" distortion, for classical which was losing so much more through LP's limitations, digital was a huge difference. Unlike the hi def vs standard def digital debate, you will IMMEDIATELY hear the difference when you compare that orchestral recording on CD with no dynamic range compression to the LP.

I don't know how much further down the thread you read, but do not mistake my explaining how digital CD format is technically superior to analog, with the idea that I support so called "high resolution" digital because I dont. I posted several links that explains how digital audio works and why there is no real benefit to the listener using more than the stanard 16-bits and 44.1khz sampling rate. However, The superiority of CD is very often compromised, especially in rock, pop and hip-hop and other very popular radio music because for quite a few years they have been purposely compressing the dynamic range on the CD's so they will sound louder at a given volume setting on the radio, and so everything from the softest to the loudest sounds can be more easily heard in a noisy environment like a car. This willful lowering of the quality of the recorded music has no relation to the capabilities of the CD format; it is an intentional lowering of the quality to bring the dynamic range down, sometimes way down. This isn't universally the case though, obviously. I think it is unlikely, for instance, that the GD team uses this practice.

Joined: Jun 10 2013

on your Grammy nomination. Well deserved, as is the award itself. Still lovin My # 5000.

unkle sam's picture
Joined: Oct 3 2008

wow, that's a lot of technical stuff to write down, thanks for the explanation of how it's all suppose to work. Now, if I could just get my ears to hear it.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Definitely not great from the get go

I agree, the early problems were a combination of both the early digital technology and its application by engineers steeped in the completely mature and largely perfected analog technology. These early efforts at digital audio helped sour many on the technology permanently (which is silly). Furtwangler, a conductor, and Huberman, a violinist, two of the most unique and revered musicians of their time both made so very few recordings compared to their peers because the early attempts to record them in the teens and twenties convinced them tha record disks were so bad they avoided the recording studio from then on, even though by the fifties the analog revording techniques had improved so much they were really quite excellent. History repeats itself.

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011
Hate to Argue (Not Really), But...

I wouldn't say "not from any inherent problems in the technology itself." (!) From the very same article you quoted, there is this: "It is true that the very first generation of digital recorders, like the Sony F1 and early DAT machines, didn’t sound as good as the state-of-the-art analog machines. However, the low cost and ease-of-use of the new digital machines guaranteed their success. Luckily, pro audio and audiophile users pushed manufacturers to create better sounding converters and better tools to process the sound (now known as plugins)." And if I am not mistaken, you said yourself that some early AD-DA converters were an issue. So let's not paint digital audio as great from the get-go. It was deservedly reviled by many at first, partially due to technological issues.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Early digital recording

Hi Marye,

Yes, early digital recording was not very good, but not from any inherent problems in the technology itself. Here's a blurb from the following link:

"It is my belief that much of the pain of switching over to digital recording was due to the tools that engineers had mastered for analog recording. For instance, applying EQ and compression (or no compression) to tape to make up for the color that the tape added didn’t sound so great when recording to digital. Bright FET microphones and harsh transistor preamp tones became rounded off in a pleasing way on tape, and by the 100th mix pass, the high-end was rolled off and the transients smeared so much that the final mix sounded phat, warm and fuzzy. It took experienced engineers a minute (or years) to gather their thoughts, re-examine their tools and learn how to take advantage of the clarity, quiet, and unforgiving purity of digital recording."

My problem with what Neil is doing is that the marketing accompanying the Pono to which he has lent his name is propagating some of the most common misunderstandings and misconceptions about what is being termed hi res audio. Regardless of how the debate ultimately turns out (I think it's already pretty much decided), there is no getting around the simple flat out falsehoods being stated. They take advantage of people not understanding digital audio in its most fundamental basics. For instance, if you ask most folks to describe what a single "sample" consists of in digital audio, what one sample of 16-bit or 24-bit audio contains, how many would answer that the only thing it contains is an amplitude (volume) level and nothing more. That each sample is just one single volume level. How many would then go on to try to find out how a whole series of such "volume" measurements can fully encode music? The Pono folks take advantage of this lack of technical knowledge to propagate ridiculous and false concepts like "smoother" sound with more samples.

In fact, based on the difference between reality and what is in those marketing materials, and given my respect for Neil in general, I find it unlikely he has actually looked into the scientific mechanisms underlying how digital audio works, maybe because the idea that if 16-bit at 41,100 times per second is good then 24-bit at 192,000 times per second must be better seems so much like just common sense that he never saw the need to look into it farther beyond questioning why files at this resolution are not being made available (and making it his mission to do so), especially because I am sure he is aware that it is these higher resolution files that comprise the original recordings that the professionals use to mix/master his music. Why look further, when the common sense is so compelling?

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007

Back in the day, he came to a tech conference I'm involved with to show off Lionel trains, for which he'd hired a friend of mine to go around the country recording different trains so the various Lionel models would have the right noises. Having seen Neil in rock star mode many times, I loved seeing him just geek out and have fun with a technically sophisticated bunch.

As a result of this, we did an interview. In which he veered off at some length to deride the then-current state of digital recording (this circa 1994). This stuff's been on his mind for quite a while!

boblopes's picture
Joined: Jan 13 2009
Congrats on the Grammy Nomination for the sweet packaging

Congrats on the Grammy Nomination for the sweet packaging. I know you guys and gals worked hard on it, nice to be recognized for material from 24 years ago!!!

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Unkle Sam

Unkle Sam - Obviously, people know what they like, and I prefer the sound of LP's myself. But science, the same science that allows radio waves to be transmitted and received (and analyzed) and developed the LP in the first place, confirms that you are making the logical mistake of going from "this sounds better to me" to "this has all the music and is closer to the original compared to the other", when simple sound alaysis equipment verifies that the exact opposite is true. Many theories exist for why many people prefer LP with the most common being that the "warmth" comes from the inevitable distortion caused by physical contact and the always imperfect nature of never flat physical media, never perfect needle, never zero pressure on the tone arm, never perfectly consistent rotation speed, etc., all adding up to significant distortion from the original recorded sound. In addition, you actually SEE on analysis equipment the drastically reduced dynamic range on the LP. This compressed dynamic range isn't even an accident - it's applied purposely prior to the cutting of the master LP's because the physical medium is incapable of storing more than 60db of dynamic range (compared to over 96db on CD and over 120db in a HD file) so the volume range of the recording has been altered to "smush" together the softest and loudest sounds so the entire range can fit properly in the grooves of an LP. In other words, the LP is far less like the original recorded sound being placed on it than the results of even standard 16/44.1 digital. No one disuptes that LP sounds better to many (myself included). But, how does one respond to a belief that your preference means that the LP contains a more accurate representation of the original (as opposed to one you simply like better), when this is demonstrably the opposite of the truth? How about your belief that a lot of low and high frequencies are in the LP that are lost to digital?? Again, not only is that demonstrably false, but when the LP is made they remove all ultrasonics (frequencies above 20khz) to avoid overheating the cutting equipment. Analysis equipment shows that frequencies exist on the final LP well over 22khz, but since they weren't in the music actually transferred it is clear that they are "errors" or "noise", although inaudible because it's above your hearing range. You can also clearly see that the CD contains the full range of audible frequencies in the original sound recorded, and when you pass, say, an analog tape recording through analysis software and then a CD made from it through the same software you can SEE that all the low and high frequencies on the original tape are right where they're supposed to be on the CD. The "warmth" you hear in the LP is coming from the opposite of what you are stating - it's not because it has "all" the music (it doesn't) or because it is closer to the original recording being transferred (it isn't). Clearly, whatever the "defects" are in the LP medium are perceived pleasurably by many (including me).

When you refer to "a light reading 0's and 1's" it reminds me of original arguments engineers in germany faced when they were developing magnetic tape. Magnetic tape is also used as an analog medium, but can achieve similar or better signal to noise ratios and without the dynamic range compression required on LP's. But, original detractors would write things like "there's no way little magnetized particles can possibly sound as good as the lacquer recordings we currently have", and this was in the 40's when records were '78 and nowhere near current fidelity. The complete lack of understanding of how those "magnetized particles" work (although if they were interested they could have learned about how they really work) and how they are used to reproduce sound leads to a disbelief that this newfangled technology can be as good as the technology they DO understand. Those little 1's and 0's are capable of reproducing any sound, ANY SOUND, even ones way below and way higher than we can hear, as well as encode sound quieter and louder than we can hear (although we don't always have playback equipment capable of playing back these recordings), so any deficiency would be in the method of creating the correct sequence of 1's and 0's. But, your statement implies a lack of belief in the actual ABILITY of light reading 1's and 0's to reproduce sound as well, let alone the reality that they have the ability to (and currently do) reproduce the original sound waves with far GREATER accuracy than any analog medium. That in no way invalidates your preference (or mine) for LP. But that preference does not necessitate or justify the propagation of demonstrably false beliefs about either analog or digital sound recording.

unkle sam's picture
Joined: Oct 3 2008
analog vs digital

I'm old school but I can most definitely hear the difference in my old analog lp's over any digital recording. There is no way, in my opinion and thru my ears, that a light reading 0's and 1's can possibly reproduce the same rich, warm feeling and sound coming from a vinyl recording. Nothing beats the needle in the groove. I have tried this experiment in the past, even comparing a first press lp to a MFSL gold cd, there is no comparison, the vinyl sounds better, there are a lot of very low frequencies and high frequencies that are lost in the transfer. The cost of vinyl is more, but it is worth it if you like to listen to "all" the music. When I'm just using music as background, the digital is ok, but when I want to really listen to the music, it's analog all the way.

Joined: Apr 23 2008
@DJMac520 & Neil

You make an excellent point about Neil and how many people have reacted to him over the years due to personality and I would add his willingness to go his own way no matter what people think. I would add the point that geniuses are rarely nice people. 2 others I can think of in the music field are Dylan and Zappa. All 3 go their own ways and it takes time for many to catch up. But those that do are I think amply rewarded. For my money Zappa is highest on the scale that would be musically and following my reasoning being the biggest a$£#%^e at times. I don't need to be buddies with my musical heroes I just want to love the music. As to the specific item under discussion. .. Neil ' s Pono in this case I think he is unrealistic but hey even genius isn't right all the time. Hell if I play Zappa for someone I have to be careful especially with the live stuff. He can be beyond crude especially about women at times. That said to those who won't listen to him because of that, they are missing out on some of the best music of the 20th century

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Two Sides

Hi OneMan,
I do realize you're NOT ignoring anything, and I DO appreciate the lengths to which you are going to investigate this. Please let me know if/when you get additional feedback from other sources. Thanks OneMan.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Different perspective

Your last suggestion - I would be VERY interested in the outcome of such a test. I would no longer be able to be a participant in such a test (at this point in my life, anything in my subconscious is STAYING THERE.). But, that would be a very interesting test ;). I used to, and maybe still do, subscribe to the belief in vast and undiscovered powers of the human mind which psychedelics tap into. It actually wouldn't surprise me either way.

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011
Two Sides

I'm sure I can't hear the difference. I'm not sure no one can. I'm not ignoring anything -- I'm actively participating. There is another side to this that I want to explore (and NOT ignore). I'm not convinced there is absolutely nothing to the claim that 24 bit has merit. I may come to believe that eventually, and Jon you certainly have done more than your share to try to push me in that direction. But it ain't over for me yet. I know several people in the pro recording world and I want to hear what they have to say. Other 24 bit proponents may have evidence or counterarguments I have not heard. And I want to test some other listeners here at home. I'm not advocating this, but maybe a listener high on hallucinogens would have a different perspective.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Thanks for taking the time

Thanks for taking the time to test using meticulous methodology, and reporting back results whichever way it went.

Obviously, I'm still confused by the statement "I still believe it is possible for younger, less damaged ears to distinguish the difference." That's why understanding the science behind this is so important. What would younger less damaged ears have that would enable them to distinguish the difference more readily? An ability to hear frequencies over the 22khz that 44.1khz digital audio files already encode perfectly without encoding frequencies above that? Not unless they're infants. An ability to distinguish gradations of volume more finely than 65,536 gradations of amplitude? LP's, because of required dynamic compression, and analog tape because of inherent tape hiss causing a much higher noise floor, already have far less dynamic range than a 16-bit digital audio file.

In other words, exactly what do you think is in files that use more than 16-bits and and higher sampling frequency than 44,100 times per second, that these younger less damaged ears would pick up???

When choosing the original CD standard, they specifically looked to the science to determine the minimum specs required to reproduce audio at the frequency and dynamic range limits that completely covers the abilities of human hearing (see my caveat about dynamic range below). Going beyond this was a waste of precious space (at the time), while not going this far would not provide maximum audio quality. No one disputed the usefulness of recording at higher bit rates and sampling frequencies for the purposes of digital manipulation of audio files, which was already standard.

Again, what is it in 24-bit files or 96mhz or 192mhz files that you think younger ears could hear that is not completely contained in 16-bit 44.1mhz files? That's what I'm not getting.

What is the difference between ignoring what the science says about how this works, and the assumptions made by people who don't understand the logical fallacy in stating that since flac is better than MP3, hi-res flac must be even better?

Edit - it is possible someone will point out that my statement that 16-bits can encode the same dynamic range as the dynamic range capabilities of human hearing, is not strictly accurate. But, the point is moot, as no recording of music requires the full range. As stated, 16 bits already covers FAR more dyanamic range than LP OR analog magnetic tape. If you tried to record the sound of a slight breeze juxtaposed against the sound of a cannon with a microphone in the barrel, 16-bits would fall slightly short. BUT, of course this is NOT the argument hi-res proponents espouse. They refer to the actual music that people listen to every day, from jazz to hip hop to rock to whatever. It is recordings of THAT they believe derives some benefit, and the dynamic range of all of those are more than contained in 16-bits (way more than). So, for all practical purposes, the dynamic range issue is moot.

Additionally, it's ironic that many of the proponents of hi res are also analog aficionados, where the dynamic range is TRULY impaired. Not all of them, of course. There are many lovers of analog who are also aware of its limitations and distortions, and are aware that digital audio is a more accurate and clear reproduction of the original sounds that were recorded; it is the specific and unique nature of the sound of the analog media themselves we have developed a love for.

floridabobaloo's picture
Joined: Apr 30 2014
One Man and modern marketing

I once tried a similar test.
My friends all drank Bud. So I bought some Bud and some Busch, and did the Pepsi challenge so to say.
To my surprise, the majority picked the Busch and said they were sure it was the Bud!
The lesson we learned?
Buy Busch when playing quarters!
But now I will spring for the good booze, cause Everybody can tell, and the headaches arnt worth it
Glad with my iPod,
I remain.......Bobaloo

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011
I Tried It

So this morning I transferred the studio version of "Candyman" from a previously-unplayed vinyl LP copy of American Beauty to two digital files -- one in 24 bit/96k and one in 16 bit/44.1. The levels for both were precisely the same (I didn't even touch any of the input controls other than switching file formats) and I trimmed the top of each file so the audio wave started at the same time. Of course, I cheated while doing this and listened to parts of each file. I thought man, this is going to be easy. The 24/96 file sounded so airy on top and rich and clear throughout, and the 16/44.1 not so much.

Then I talked my wife into playing the first verse and chorus of each file randomly, using a random number generator to decide which one to play. We repeated the test 25 times, listening first on studio monitors, then on one pair of headphones, then another. I correctly identified the file format less than half the time. Sometimes I felt sure I had it right but this was not an indicator of success. I failed. I cannot hear the difference.

This is not to say no one can. I still believe it is possible for younger, less damaged ears to distinguish the difference. I will try it on some other folks when they visit. But I won't be buying a PONO, since my iPhone plays lossless files and they sound great. I'm still rooting for old Neil, but he has some 'splaining to do.

Interesting sidebar -- I discovered some audio feedback in the intro of the song I'd never noticed before, along with an unintelligible human voice shouting something. These were plenty audible on both file formats.

TheeAmazingAce333's picture
Joined: May 1 2012

i'm personally not hip to this kinda stuff, but a good friend & fellow Head showed me the list of nominees for Best Limited Edition Boxset (or something like that) & THIS BOXSET WAS ON THE LIST, so again, CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYONE INVOLVED IN MAKING THIS HAPPEN, ON THE GRAMMY NOMINATION!!! ♤

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Double blind

You COULD do it double blind. But, you HAVE to make sure you start with the same files. Take your 24/96 or whatever file, have it professionally converted to 16-bit. Don't just get separate files to start with. Even very slight differences in volume will make a difference (louder is almost always reported as better in testing). Then get someone to help with the a/b testing. Ideally, you should NOT be able to see the other individual, and it would better if he didn't even talk if he is going to know which is which; to keep it double blind he nor you should know which is 24 and which is 16 until after all testing. Try to take no less than 100 listens. Use equipment to make sure volume level is truly identical, not the volume setting of the playback equipment, but the volume of the playback itself. And, of course, he shouldn't just switch back from one to the other. Use a random number generator to determine the order of which files to playback in what order. Ideally, you should check both files with visual analysis software so that you can really see if the conversion to 16 bit was done well. The sine wave results should be virtually indistinguishable in amplitude when overlayed. The only real visual dupifference you should be able to see would be possible content in frequency ranges above 22khz in the hi res file that wouldn't exist in the 16/44.1 file. If this is not the case you're not comparing apples to apples and the test won't mean anything.

P.S professionals use 24 bit recording for reasons that have nothing to do audio quality of the listening experience of those files. It has to do with the playing room it gives for subsequent digital manipulation. I think one of the articles I linked to talks about this.

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011
Owsley Can You Hear Me Now?

I wish Owsley Stanley were still alive to debate this. He said to me that digital audio (all of it) is "a bad joke" and I tend to agree as far as in comparison to analog. The day I plugged in my (24 bit/48K) multitrack in place of my old Otari MX-70 (1-inch 16-track analog magnetic tape) was the day my studio began sounding less warm and snuggly. Of course, there are a million reasons why this is true, none of which are likely to be cured by "better" digital audio technology. I'm sure someone has tried to invent a tape emulation algorithm and I don't see that gaining any traction.

That aside, virtually all professional studios use 24 bit recording, even knowing the product will end up as 16 bit. I have the choice but have never used 16 bit multitrack. Maybe I'll try that. It won't be double blind, but it could be revealing if I use a MIDI source, drum machine and/or other "pre-recorded" sources so there will not be any performance cues. I could even transfer a song from an old LP and hear it both ways. I'll report back with results.

I am not down with false marketing of 24-bit audio. The science should not be tampered with to make a buck. PONO makers and the like should just explain what they have done and see what the market will bear. I don't plan to buy one, but I could change my mind.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Yes, we will have to agree to disagree

"Do frequencies (including noise purposely placed) outside the audible range change our reaction to music?" People keep missing the point that even if it's just feelings or some unquantifiable non-auditory affect, if it made ANY difference - even one you couldn't put your finger on, that would SHOW UP on the results of the double blind test. Scientifically (as far I'm concerned) they've proven that there is nothing, not even something inaudible or even supernatural, that is making a difference, or the results would be different.

As far as noise, it is the EXACT same issue. Scientifically, any added noise from dithering should be inaudible unless you have a noise floor about zero, which never happens. And again, exactly as before, if it made ANY detectable difference it would skew the results of the double-blind studies - which clearly it did not; that speaks for itself.

Yes, we can agree to disagree. I prefer engineering that errs on the side of not intentionally trying to take advantage of the less technically informed for a buck. And I also disagree with the characterization that this is going a "step beyond" and what it implies. You are repeating things like "demonstrably greater noise" while ignoring that noise you can't hear isn't really noise. If snake oil makes someone feel a little better it NEVER changes the original intent behind the making of that snake oil, and never will. Unfortunately, this is precisely the kind of disagreement, discussion and outcome that the folks who ARE aware of the science behind digital audio technology and are trying to capitalize on it are counting on. They have to. But, like I said, it's not my money and there are much more important things to worry about.

For what it is worth, if you do spend your extra money on "hi res" files and equipment and storage space and download times, etc., I do hope you enjoy them. Especially if it's Jerry!

EDIT - And, doesn't it bother you AT ALL that in the marketing on places like HDTracks and other Hi-Res sites, they are intentionally misleading. While you, after reading some of the science, have realized that the "smoothness" issue, and the "stair step" issue are bogus, even if you don't seem to see the same with the "noise" issue, it is simply fact, not opinion that there is no "stair-step" issue, but if you go look, that is precisely the kind of material using graphs, etc., that they use in their marketing. In other words, they are using something that, regardless of how you feel about so called hi-res audio files, is entirely scientifically bogus - you can see on audio sound analyzers that the music/sound waves that are produced are as smooth and identical to the originals, but these sites display graphs showing stair steps of rectangular discreet "samples" and showing more samples making a sound wave smoother, using words like giving the music a more "natural" less digital "feel" (demonstrably false). Doesn't this kind of marketing TELL you anything about what is going on??? And, in light of that, when you refer to how we don't understand everything about how humans/the brain respond to this or that, are you implying that they might be right BY ACCIDENT, that even though they're clearly intentionally lying to their buyers about much, that COINCIDENTALLY they might be selling a higher quality product?? Not buying it. I'm with the Society of Audio Engineers on this one.

EDIT 2 - And, while you're talking about the (as far as I'm concerned illusory) intangible but maybe real and subtle differences, doesn't it bother you to read about the legions of people out there are who buy these hi-res files and then post about how they're SO MUCH better, you can just hear how much deeper the sound is, the cymbals are so much crisper (that would be in the AUDIBLE frequency range), the sound is so much smoother, you HAVE TO experience it for yourself! You now know how much of that is simply not factually possible (other than in the mind due to expectations), but you can still stand behind this? Sorry, I can't, I just can't.

EDIT 3 - I thought of something else, too. While you appear willing to overlook the most glaring falsehoods being perpetrated on the off-chance that the "hi res" MIGHT offer some virtually intangible benefits, you appear completely ready to ignore things like the quote from the first link I sent which reads "Unfortunately, there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space." He goes on to explain why, and I believe at least one of the other articles mentions it also - if not, I know you can find ones that do. The reasons for the slight inferiority, which have to do with the potential affects of inaudible frequencies attempted to be reproduced by sound equipment whereby the actually AUDIBLE frequencies are interfered with (something that wouldn't happen from listening to live music, like a guitar, but DOES happen due to the inherent inadequacies of speakers and headphones of whatever quality) - you seem to be perfectly willing to just ignore any negative (and in this case demonstrable) affects of using playback files that store frequencies that are not just a little but astronomically above human hearing level. Again, to quote "Neither audio transducers nor power amplifiers are free of distortion, and distortion tends to increase rapidly at the lowest and highest frequencies. If the same transducer reproduces ultrasonics along with audible content, any nonlinearity will shift some of the ultrasonic content down into the audible range as an uncontrolled spray of intermodulation distortion products covering the entire audible spectrum. Nonlinearity in a power amplifier will produce the same effect. The effect is very slight, but listening tests have confirmed that both effects can be audible." Also being ignored are the fact that virtually no microphones (certainly none in use commercially) are even capable of picking up these frequencies to begin with, so ANY frequencies in that range ARE noise introduced as part of the digital file manipulation phases, which 16/44.1 files would simply lop off, but are still contained in a 96 or 192khz file? The list goes on and on and on. And, for me, I just will never get over the INTENTIONALITY of the original deception for the sake of greed, and how it has now spilled over into otherwise well-intentioned, but misguided supporters.

EDIT 4 - the argument also reminds me of psychic pay per minute phone lines. It's like hearing an argument from people who spend a few hundred dollars a month on these psychic hotlines explaining that we don't know all the capabilities of the human mind. No, we don't. Does that make it one scintilla more likely that the "psychics" on the other end of the $2.00 per minute phone call are anything but frauds? Nope. And the fact that people can and do legitimately bring up our lack of complete understanding of the capabilities of the human mind muddies the waters and gives some reasonable semblance of credence to these frauds drives me similarly batshit.

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011
Snake Bit

Well, we are going to have to agree to disagree on the "snake oil" issue. If 24 bit has demonstrably lower noise, it's not snake oil, even if subjects in a double blind test can't "hear" it. The effect of audio on humans can only be measured to a certain degree. The rest -- call it "feelings" if you must -- is in the ear and brain of the beholder. Do frequencies (including noise purposely placed) outside the audible range change our reaction to music? I don't know, and no test can prove there is no effect. I'm sure that Warlocks box "sounds" great on paper. It apparently met whatever specs were used to produce it.

I prefer engineering that errs on the side of quality. I want digital audio to go a step beyond the old 16/44.1 design, and now it is going there. And it is unlikely to go further in that direction, if that is any consolation to anyone thinking this will never end.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
I Guess There Are Worse Things For Me To Worry About

I'm not sure what to say. While the Warlocks sound has issues, are they mastering issues? Mixing issues? One thing we know is that it is not a 16/44.1 vs 24/96 issue. We know that that is not the problem. In the tests (talked about in one of the links) where they did a double blind test where they inserted a 16.44.1 loop, they didn't even bother dithering. Dithering is NOT the issue. It moves quantisation error/noise into the mostly inaudible regions of the frequency range.

Part of the problem is that by asking, "So why not go 24/96 from here on out?", it's like hearing someone listen to a snake-oil pitch - snake-oil that won't do any harm, but costs major bucks and for which an entire industry is ready to sell you lots more of it and lots of extremely expensive accessories to go with it. You're asking, what's the harm?

And, part of the ability for them to do that is predicated on people having the same preconceptions and and misunderstandings about digital audio that were in your original post - believing in things like "granularity", a "smoother" sound because you have more discrete samples (probably the most frequently heard misunderstanding), greater "depth" to the recording because you have more bit-depth (COMPLETELY off), the idea it is closer to analog, the idea of that what you get is a "stair-step" sound wave and having more samples makes for more steps, and smoother sound wave, etc. Even many audio professionals who don't deal directly with the technical aspects of how the files work buy into this demonstrably nonsensical understanding of what is going on - and this is CRITICAL for the people who want to take your money unnecessarily (many of them probably belive it too).

As long as there are folks bringing up ambiguity (similar to "the snake oil coulnd't HURT), as long folks repeat nonsense like "well, the extra frequency range in 96khz recordings may not be in the audible range, but the harmonics created by those frequencies probably affect the way the music FEELS". If that were true IN ANY WAY the double blind tests would fail - people would be able to pick out the difference.

In any case, the train's probably already left the station. The idea of "high resolution" is probably already too firmly entrenched, and I expect many people will buy into it. I guess there are worse things, but the snake-oil thing drives me batshit.

P.S. Edit - I recently found out that, contrary to what I implied in an earlier post, unlike in the early years of digital audio, modern DAC's (digital to audio converters), even the most inexpensive ones are virtually perfect. There is no longer really any such thing as a "better" or "higher quality" DAC. They all virtually perfectly reproduce an analog sound wave that is identical to the original.

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011

Thank you for the links. The common caveat seems to be "if properly dithered". I am sure I have heard many digital recordings that lacked proper dithering (or other treatment) because they sounded obviously harsh. So we can't necessarily assume we are always talking about properly dithered recordings. Some sound terrible and it is clearly a digital issue as you don't hear analog recordings sounding this way (although they can obviously have their own problems). Also, John Siau says in his article, "Long word lengths do not improve the amplitude "resolution" of digital systems, they only improve the noise performance. But, noise can mask low-level musical details, so please do not underestimate the importance of a low-noise audio system." So if 16/44.1 is "good enough", it is just barely "good enough" and sometimes probably isn't. So why not go 24/96 from here on out? We will never need to go higher than that.

Relating this to the Grateful Dead, the release "Formerly the Warlocks" sounds terrible to me, and I am nearly certain this is a digital issue. I have never heard an analog recording that lacked this much "depth" and sounded this harsh. By "depth" I am not talking about dynamic range nor frequency range. There is something missing throughout the signal. I can't measure my dissatisfaction with this recording -- all I have for instruments are my ears. But I am sure some other listeners hear what I hear in this recording. I'm not blaming it on 16/44.1. I am blaming it on poor digital engineering of some kind.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Hi One Man

Hi One Man,

Respectfully (seriously), there are too many factual errors and misunderstandings about digital audio technology in your post to reply without writing another tome. I will instead point you to some links that explain some of it.

In particular your understanding of the relationship between how digital audio technology works, and what you are referring to as "granularity" is simply incorrect, but conforms to "common sense" in the sense of how most people believe digital audio works.

If you're interested in the topic I would suggest reading those links in their entirety (I believe they have references to many other locations for further information as well).

Taken together, I think these go a long ways to a good explanation of some things that are not intuitively obvious, things like, from that last link: "So, 24bit does add more 'resolution' compared to 16bit but this added resolution doesn't mean higher quality, it just means we can encode a larger dynamic range. This is the misunderstanding made by many. There are no extra magical properties, nothing which the science does not understand or cannot measure. The only difference between 16bit and 24bit is 48dB of dynamic range (8bits x 6dB = 48dB) and nothing else. This is not a question for interpretation or opinion, it is the provable, undisputed logical mathematics which underpins the very existence of digital audio."

You will also see, as explained in the article on bit-depth, that each "sample" as represented by a 16-bit (or 24-bit or 2-bit) binary number ONLY encodes the amplitude (volume) of the signal. Frequency is controlled ENTIRELY by sampling rate. When you have a particular "volume" measurement played back 1000 times a second, you get a sound frequency of 1000hz at the volume specified. It's easier if you think of each "sample" as encoding a virtually instantaneous "tick" sound where the number of bits controls only the volume of the tick. How fast the ticks are made produces a tone.

While it is true that 16-bit encodes 65,536 different possible numbers, and 24-bit encodes 16,777,216 different numbers, the granularity you refer to I don't think is granularity as you believed it to mean. The difference between 65,536 and 16,777,216 is ONLY the difference of how many VOLUME levels can be encoded. While there is some controversy over whether frequencies over human hearing can affect what we hear (there shouldn't be), there is no controversy that no one can detect the difference in volumes from one level to the very next at the granularity level of either 16-bit or 24-bit, so their "smoothness" is identical to human hearing. For instance, LP's are the equivalent of about 11-bit recordings (they have to compress the dynamic levels so the lowest volume to loudest fits within this range due to the limitation in groove/needle technology). Assuming with the most modern technology, the newest LP's can be equivalent to 12-bit (and I have no reason to think this, but let's assume they've improved), that means LP's as you knew them had a "granularity" of about 2,048 volume levels with newer ones MAYBE having up to 4,096. I don't think the "granularity" of 65,536 is a problem and certainly NOT distinguishable from 16,777,216.

One Man's picture
Joined: May 17 2011
Dither Tizzy

It's partly my fault this board has digressed into a long discussion about digital audio. Sorry about that. But I must say (at least) one more thing. Saying that bit depth only affects dynamic range is way off the mark. Bit depth is the number of values available for each digital sample of the waveform. So the granularity (resolution) of the sound is dependent on bit depth. Sure, it ends up as a sound wave by the time it reaches your ears, but the shape of the wave is modified by digitizing it. Take the logic to the extreme. If you could have a 2 bit recording, each sample could only be assigned to one of 4 values. Imagine how raw that would sound. The number of available values is the number 2 raised to the power of the bit depth. So, an 8 bit recording has a "granularity" of 256 available values per sample. A 16 bit recording has 65,536 available values per sample and at that point is getting quite a bit more resolved. A 24 bit recording has 16,777,216 available values per sample and is thus 256 times more resolved than 16 bit. I'm not saying everyone can hear the difference between 16 and 24 bit. But people can certainly hear 8 bit vs 16 bit. So some people - maybe not enough to statistically skew the even odds stats - probably can hear 16 vs 24. I can tell you from my experience that my analog studio tape machine sounds noticeably better than my high-end 24 bit digital recorder with excellent AD and DA converters. And anything that approaches analog by providing higher resolution is a move in the right direction, even if Neil Young is a grumpy old man having a mid-life crisis about 2 decades late.

Joined: Jun 18 2009
"Many are critical of Neal [sic] Young's pono"

I suspect that this is based in some degree on the fact that Neil can be a rather abrasive personality and people will take shots at him when they can. There is also probably a bit of a reflexive distaste for the pricing and kickstarter campaign that came with the pono rollout. As we see here often, any time a product is priced above what a kind veggie burrito cost in the lots at SPAC 1985, people bitch and moan.

Joined: Jan 24 2011
Thanks Dantian

I realized after the fact that every time I referred to uncompressed CD quality files I should have referred instead to lossless CD quality files, as some might not get it that FLACs and SHNs are digitally identical to the uncompressed wav files at playback. I agree about the need for greater availability of lossless downloads. It drives me batshit that iTunes doesn't offer FLAC, and even most sites that have the largest selection of classical music still only offer mp3's. You would think that classical music places would be the first places to realize the demand for lossless download purchases, but I guess not. I create my own high quality mp3's so that I can fit my entire music library on several 160GB portable devices, but I like to have the originals on my home playback library.

dantian's picture
Joined: Aug 6 2013
Good post, wjonjd

I'm glad you continue to speak out on the whole hi-res file marketing scam. I've tried to do the same here in the past, but you definitely have a talent for explaining it in a more accessible, and diplomatic manner.

One good thing I see in Neil Young's Pono service is the promise of greater availability of CD-quality FLAC downloads. That should really be the standard in purchased music downloads, and anything that moves us away from buying MP3s is a step in the right direction.

Joined: Nov 7 2013
Not just nostalgia

I still Love LPs. My Nakamichi DRAGON sounds pretty warm to me.
Maybe it's just my nostalgia. Then again,maybe not.:)

Joined: Jan 24 2011

I haven't looked into the technical specs of the Pono yet, but it would certainly make a difference if they used top of the line components/electronics compared to other devices. For instance, the quality of the built in DAC. If the unit then still allows you to play 16/44.1 files and not just 24/96 and 24/192 files, then it should offer an audible improvement over products that use cheaper components without forcing you into hi res. I will be interested in looking into the pono details - haven't had the time yet. As far as analog warmth, I have yet to hear anything other than vinyl that gives me that. Even though LP's only provide the equivalent of about 11-bit dynamic range, I believe what I've read about the reason for the "warmth", the subtle distortion produced by any sound reproduction medium that requires contact with the medium - distortion from the needle, pressure on the tone arm, etc. Whatever the reason behind what causes it, I think it's largely irreproducible from digital media (unless they digitally record an LP playback! :) Digital files are actually much more accurate to the master recording, have no need of dynamic compression, are clearer, etc. But, there is just something about that LP sound. Maybe it's just nostalgia on my part.

Joined: Nov 7 2013
Re Specious

Thanks for the education. I mean that.
In my previous Specious post, the bottom line was comparing devices not files - pono vs Ipod. Is it a specious argument that a different device or component will reproduce sound with superiority over another ? Will the pono reproduce sound with greater SQ than my Iphone 6 with the same file in playback ?
Are the components used focused on audiophile quality sound reproduction ?
Many are critical of Neal Young's pono prior to investigation.
Are they the former lovers of Daryl Hannah ? Neal Young is not an electronics engineer or designer. Charles Hansen of Ayre Acoustics is. The pono device is Hansen's brainchild funded by Young.

Will the pono player prove to be a portable audiophile device that reproduces any file with transparency, accuracy, as well as an analog warmth that other players lack.
Now that they are being delivered to mailboxes worldwide,we shall see. Or hear rather. Specious indeed. Rock on my fellow Deadheads !!
Thanks again for your post wjonjd. It puts a lot in perspective for me.