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A Digital-Domain Listening Test for High-Resolution

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There is much debate over whether sampling rates and wordlengths greater than the CD standard are significant for high-quality audio. Tests that have been done require extreme care in selecting compatible devices with known characteristics. I propose tests which use the highest-quality wide-band microphones, only one set of ADCs and DACs, and wide-band reproducing loudspeakers. Real music and artificial signals can be used which have ultrasonic content. The ADCs and DACs are always used at the same extended bit width and high sampling rate, typically 24 bits and 176.4 0r 192 kHz. To perform comparative tests at reduced sampling rates and lower bit widths, the digital data is mathematically altered to conform closely to the reduced specification. Files so created can be played back with precise time registration and identical level. ABX tests can be used to quantify if differences are heard, and ensure blindness of tests. Switching of program material can be done in the digital domain, so that relays or other compromising connectivity can be avoided. This paper discusses some remaining difficult issues and outlines the mathematical computations that will be necessary for sample-rate conversion, linear-phase aliasing and reconstruction filters, dithering and noise shaping of the processed signal.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society