AES London 2010
Recording Industry Event W6

Sunday, May 23, 14:00 — 15:45 (Room C2)

W6 - How Do We Evaluate High Resolution Formats for Digital Audio?

Hans van Maanen, Temporal Coherence - The Netherlands
Peter Craven
Milind Kunchur, University of South Carolina - SC, USA
Thomas Sporer, Fraunhofer Institue for Digital Media Technology IDMT - Ilmenau, Germany
Menno van der Veen, Ir. Bureau Vanderveen
Wieslaw Woszczyk, McGill University - Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Since the introduction of the High Resolution Formats for Digital Audio (e.g. SACD, 192 kHz / 24 bit), there has been discussion about the audibility of these formats, compared to the CD format (44.1 kHz / 16 bit). What difference does high sample rate and bit depth make in our perception? Can we hear tones above 20 kHz? Can we perceive quantization errors in 16-bit audio? Does high sample rate make a difference in our phase resolution? Are we even asking the right questions? Controlled, scientific listening tests have mostly given ambiguous or inconclusive results, yet a large number of consumers, using "high-end" audio equipment, prefer the sound from the "high resolution" formats over the CD. The workshop will start with introductory notes from the panel members, discussing the differences between "analog" and first-generation digital formats, address some of the paradoxes of the CD format, present results on "circumstantial" evidence and subjective testing, show results on the audibility of the human hearing, which cannot be explained by the commonly accepted 20 kHz upper limit and discuss the problems and pitfalls of "scientific" listening tests, where possible illustrated with demonstrations.

These introductory notes should provoke a discussion with the audience about the audibility of the improvements of the "high resolution" formats We attempt to reach consensus, where possible, regarding what is known and what is not with respect to our ability to perceive the differences between standard and high resolution audio. We further discuss the paradigms of testing for evaluating the quality and perception of high resolution audio, how to structure the tests, how to configure the testing environment, and how to analyze the results.

The outcome of the workshop should also be to find the way forward by identifying the bottlenecks which—at this moment—hamper the further implementation of the "high resolution" formats for "high-end" audio as these formats create an opportunity for the audio industry as a whole: better sources stimulate the development of better reproduction systems.