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HDTracks 2017 sampler

So what sort of quality do people get when they download so-called "Hi Rez" tracks on the web?

In order to evaluate this I downloaded what one might expect to be one of the most reliable "Hi Rez" web sites: HDTRACKS.COM.  I donwloaded what should be one of their most exceptional collections: their headlining sampler. This is he music that convinces audiophiles to buy their products!

Remember this is the web site that posts proudly on their home page:

"HDtracks is the only music store founded, funded, and operated by musicians, artists, and audiophiles. Started in 2008 by Norman and David Chesky, pioneers of revolutionary recording techniques and founders of the groundbreaking audiophile label Chesky Records, HDtracks takes their obssession with quality to the most important part of any recording: you, the listener. With industry-leading and painstaking quality controls, everything sold on HDtracks is of the highest possible quality, and available in a diverse range of formats so technology doesn't interfere with the listening experience."

"We're looking to ensure all files sold on the site are true to the format they are listed as on the site. All 24bit is tested to have true 24 ACTIVE bits so 16 bit upsamples can be identified. We also test to make sure the freq extends to 1/2 the sampling frequency nyquist in order to identify they are not coming from lower resolution recordings (96khz will extend to 48khz nyquist)."

Please review the attached graphic.

The first picture is of the description of the tracks in the 2017 sampler. I downloaded it on the *last* day of the year 2017, so it has probably been downloaded thousands of times and its sound quality as perceived by its clients has convinced those thousands of audiophiles that it is as described above.

Or, why else did they sign up and pay good money download tracks from it?

The second picture is a FFT of the first track (Track 1)  in the sampler. It is rather obviously slavishly upsampled from a 44 KHz file.

The second file in the sampler is not pictured because despite being identified as a 24/96 FLAC, it is in fact a 44 KHz FLAC.

The last FFT is a typical expanded view of that second file. Please note the rather obvious clipping.

Now, just for grins look at this page and view the faces of the people who have brought this collection of files  to you:  https://www.hdtracks.com/about-us

BTW this is by no means the extent of exceptional findings about this file collection.  Check it out!

 

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #1
I thought we didn't use graphs to prove audio quality. "Ears, not eyes" and all of that...

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #2
I thought we didn't use graphs to prove audio quality. "Ears, not eyes" and all of that...
Not all quality is sound quality. When their product is advertised as hi-res, true 24 bit dynamic range, no upsampling and then said product happens to be just a resample... not what the customer expects, that's bad quality.

And this is yet another reason to avoid this hi-rez online shops, you just pay a premium for the sake of paying. The few "hi-res" albums on my collection come from some bandcamp indie groups. At 48khz -24bit it seems they decided to just publish it like that, since there were no claims about "hi-res" or extraordinary quality.


Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #3
But we don't know that. These could have been originally recorded with 44.1 and dynamic limiting. I don't disagree with avoiding hires shops - of course they are all bullshit, but you cannot judge the quality of audio through a graph.

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #4
I thought we didn't use graphs to prove audio quality. "Ears, not eyes" and all of that...

Be careful of stuffing words into my mouth, or anybody else's mouth. I never said that any of this stuff sounds bad. Of course the ears are the final authority when it comes to sound quality.

 However, its perfectly OK around here to revel in the absurdity of falling for common illusions such as the McGurk effect, and you'll get laughed into the next dimension around here if you try to argue that the evidence of your ears is the final authority about the contents of McGurk-Effect videos.

 If a FFT says that the music has been brick-walled at 22.05 KHz like this one does, who in their right mind is going to champion it as a true example of high rex audio at its best? Are you?

It is well known that you can reliably tell some basic things about the provenance of audio tracks from simple technical tests. It is safe to say that a vendor who promises in so many words to avoid upsampling and provides demo tracks that are so obviously upsampled, is not exactly exercising the utmost care that he promises.

Remember, this sampler seems to have been in place for most of the year, and either nobody complained, or HDTracks customer care just might leave something to be desired.  Knowing what I know from following Hydrogen Audio: nobody noticed.


Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #5
But we don't know that. These could have been originally recorded with 44.1 and dynamic limiting. I don't disagree with avoiding hires shops - of course they are all bullshit, but you cannot judge the quality of audio through a graph.

If you can read, you do know that the upsampled file, and the 44.1 file were labelled as being 24/96 or better files. It is there in black and white, no?  What doe "96 kHz FLAC" mean to you?  44.1 kHz sampling? :-)

Furthermore, they are misleading the public by suggesting the use of false criteria for determining that a file came from a >16 bit source. Fact is that upsampling and redithering a 16 bit file will ensure that the lower order bits are active.

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #6
They are 24/96 files though - do they need to be, is the question.  Would you be complaining about a 44.1kHz file if it only used 20kHz of bandwidth? Or when a CD doesn't utilize all 16 bits of dynamic range?

I assume HDtracks contact studios for the the files. This is most likely what the studio supplied. There is likely no hires master available (although I assume the dithering is different in these files.)

You think that 96kHz implies there should be higher frequencies - it does not.

I look at it this way - if we're sure that 44.1kHz is enough (and it is), why are we criticizing a production that does not contain higher frequencies? Or is this a this a technical criticism? The engineer could have saved space by only exporting at 44.1? Would this recording be better if you could see the frequencies above 22.05kHz? No.

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #7
They are 24/96 files though - do they need to be, is the question. 

Depends on how you define *Need*. If one defines *need* as passing an ABX comparison with a file that has very large bandwidth and resolution, then the occasions where 24/96 are veru rare, indeed. Science has known that for at least 2 decades.

Quote
Would you be complaining about a 44.1kHz file if it only used 20kHz of bandwidth?

In general, the point where brickwalling becomes noticable is about 16 kHz, depending on the music.  OTOH there is some venefit to having some allowance for a transition band. The intent of 44 kHz sampling was great sound with a 20-20KHz bandpass, and some allowance for the transition from band pass to band stop - at least 2 KHz.  That was too tight for practical analog filters of the day, and here we are with digital filtering.  There is some evidence that an allowance for a finite transition band as opposed to the narowest one possible, is good for the SQ.

Quote
Or when a CD doesn't utilize all 16 bits of dynamic range?

That's according to plan, as well. At the time 13 or 14 bits was considered to be the goal, and 16 bits came in on the shirt tails of common computing word lengths. 12 bits wasn't quite enough, and the next practical stopping point was 16.  If you do the listening tests, 15 or even 14 bits well-dithered can be pretty amazing.  16 bits of ideally perceptually shaped dither is subjectively similar to 19-20 bits of flat spectrum dither. Yet flat spectrum dither is what gets used the most and few are really complaining. When is the last time you read a review where the reviewer bled all over the page decrying the flat-spectrum dither?

Quote
I assume HDtracks contact studios for the the files. This is most likely what the studio supplied. There is likely no hires master available (although I assume the dithering is different in these files.)

Point of order. HDTracks does not seem to portray themselves as blithe purveyors of whatever the cat drug in!

Quote
You think that 96kHz implies there should be higher frequencies - it does not.

I know what happens if someone takes a logical or engineering approach to making recordings that are 24/96. Logic does not include putting 12 or 14 KHz or even 20 KHz bottlenecks into the production plan!  Yet, that is common place today. It is all about cynicism. 

If you have a studio with wall to wall 24/96 capable gear, there will always be measurable content with an identifiable coherent source up to 40-ish kHz.

Quote
I look at it this way - if we're sure that 44.1kHz is enough (and it is), why are we criticizing a production that does not contain higher frequencies?

Because their jars say "tasty fruit" and the sniff test says "the usual crapola in fancy jars for premium pirces."

Quote
Or is this a this a technical criticism?

It is about excercising reasaonable care and delivering what you claim you are delivering. 

I suspect that I could put one fat turd in every batch of chili they serve where they serve chili and no diner would ever taste it. Please nominate me for "Chef of the Year" like the guys listed at https://www.hdtracks.com/about-us

Quote
The engineer could have saved space by only exporting at 44.1? Would this recording be better if you could see the frequencies above 22.05kHz? No.

Sure, if HDTracks.com sold 44.1 kHz files for 44.1 kHz prices and labelled them 44.1 kHz files, who would complain? 

What would happen to their sales or profits if they did that? 

Please tell me about your preferences for gas stations that sell two-quart gallons of gas. :-)



Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #9
I thought we didn't use graphs to prove audio quality. "Ears, not eyes" and all of that...

Who said anything about audio quality?  That's a different argument, much discussed elsewhere, and I don't think there's much doubt about which side of it most people here are on.

This post is about HDTracks claims that their HD tracks are actually more than 16 bits of audio resolution and more than 44.1kHz-worth of Nyquist frequency.  Arnold's graphs say they are deluded or lying.

None of this may be audible, but I'll assume that it isn't readily audible or a lot of people would be complaining about how bad it sounds.  I suspect that was an implicit point of the original post.

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #10
I thought we didn't use graphs to prove audio quality. "Ears, not eyes" and all of that...

Who said anything about audio quality?  That's a different argument, much discussed elsewhere, and I don't think there's much doubt about which side of it most people here are on.


The very first sentence of the very first post.

"So what sort of quality do people get when they download so-called "Hi Rez" tracks on the web?"

But hey, maybe it's me that's mis-reading things, huh? Typical HA...

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #11
but you cannot judge the quality of audio through a graph.
You're projecting again.

No, I firmly stand by my statement. You cannot judge audio quality based on graphs, be it FFT or otherwise.

Arnold - I'll reply when I get a second - your post is too long for me to fully digest quickly.

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #12
@Arnold B. Krueger,

I don't have time to do the quote dissection thing. However I disagree with the analogies you are making.

Is the file 96/24? Yes, we can see that in the properties. Was the music recording in a way that is suitable for this format? Arguably no, because there are no ultrasonics and (I guess) limited dynamics.

Does this warrant complaining about? No, I don't believe so. Thy file is very likely completely transparent. The frequencies that are "missing" are never audible. Should it be encapsulated in a lower sampling rate - absolutely.  None of this affects the quality of the recording though.

Think of it this way - you watch a movie that's 1080p. However, it is letter boxed to be 21:9. Is it still 1080p?

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #13
But hey, maybe it's me that's mis-reading things, huh?
It certainly is you. Fun to stuff a guy with straw and start shooting arrows, nonetheless.

Typical HA...
Go on...
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #14
But hey, maybe it's me that's mis-reading things, huh?
It certainly is you. Fun to stuff a guy with straw and start shooting arrows, nonetheless.

Typical HA...
Go on...

No, Arnold asked about quality. Lithopsian couldn't even read the first sentence of the first post. It was a direct response to a direct question. How you can confuse that as a straw man, I'll never know.

And by typical HA, I am referring to the pseudo intellectualism that riddles this board, along with the twisting of rules to suite our own agenda.

If someone else had come here with an FFT to show that their high res files was much better quality than the 44.1kHz files, we'd laugh our heads off. However, because it suits our agenda at the moment, we refuse to acknowledge that a frequency response graph doesn't allow us to see quality. You can argue if the content is appropriate for hi-res, but not about quality.

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #15
No, I firmly stand by my statement. You cannot judge audio quality based on graphs, be it FFT or otherwise.
The way I read it, Arny isn't judging audio quality from these graphs. He's judging the honesty of HDTracks' claims.

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #16
Can't be helped. He's got too much riding on the scarecrow brandishing a wooden sign around its neck with the word audio all in caps that he's yelling at.

HDTracks is a fraud (no surprise there) and Funkstar is as clueless as ever...of the steadfast variety (again, no surprise).
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #17
but you cannot judge the quality of audio through a graph.
You're projecting again.

No, I firmly stand by my statement.
Me too. Wisdom
You and others like you can't tell anything about SQ from a graph. I read that ad infinitum on DK sites. I believe you. Just don't project.

p.s. you're going to look even sillier pointing to TOS#8
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #18
If someone else had come here with an FFT to show that their high res files was much better quality than the 44.1kHz files, we'd laugh our heads off.
Yep. But that's not what Arny did.

However, because it suits our agenda at the moment, we refuse to acknowledge that a frequency response graph doesn't allow us to see quality.
You're audiophile hallucinating once again.
Loudspeaker manufacturer


Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #20
No, I firmly stand by my statement. You cannot judge audio quality based on graphs, be it FFT or otherwise.

I'll take the above statement to mean: "I, Funkstar De Luxe" cannot myself understand how to, and cannot understand how anybody else can tell one little thing about sound quality with audio technical tests".

I always find it interesting when people propose to limit my capabilities and try to command me in regard to what I can or cannot do.  This is particularly interesting when they tell me that I can't do things that I have been doing reliably and effectively for many decades. This is particularly interesting when doing those things are among the things that thousands of other mortals have been doing the same thing before, during, and presumably long after those decades have come and gone.

Judging audio quality by means of charts and graphs is what many people do, and do with great clarity, accuracy, and success.

Ever hear of science?  Part of the Science Of Audio involves judging audio quality based on graphs. For example, do you want to tell us that *nobody* on this earth could look at those FFT's and make accurate predictions about sound quality perchance the brick wall was a mere octave lower? 

Remember, there are 10 octaves in the normal audio band, and a semblance of accurate reproduction of 9 of them is generally agreed to be essential.

Part of the upper 10th octave of audio has some controversy related to it, and above that, things can get very controversial. 

But this particular brick wall was near the end of the 10th octave.  And, the perpetrator of this particular brick wall has said quite clearly that providing appreciable response well above the 10th octave is a critical success factor for him as a person and his organization as a group.

They obviously failed.


Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #21
...and you, Arnold B. (AKA Dunning) Krueger, obviously failed as well!

You've demonstrated nothing, nada, zero, zilch about the audible quality of the samples you downloaded.

LMAO!!!
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #22
...and you, Arnold B. (AKA Dunning) Krueger, obviously failed as well!

You've demonstrated nothing, nada, zero, zilch about the audible quality of the samples you downloaded.

LMAO!!!


Actually, by demonstrating *nothing*, I demonstrated just about everything about their sound quality advantages over more ordinary audio files that might be reliably demonstrated! :-)

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #23
Irrespective of whether one can discern a 24/96 studio master from a properly mastered 16/44.1 version derived from same (I've certainly not been able to), the complaint seems fairly clear: HDTracks is straight-up lying about the product they are selling.

In more than one place:
Quote from: HDTracks about us
We're looking to ensure all files sold on the site are true to the format they are listed as on the site. All 24bit is tested to have true 24 ACTIVE bits so 16 bit upsamples can be identified. We also test to make sure the freq extends to 1/2 the sampling frequency nyquist in order to identify they are not coming from lower resolution recordings (96khz will extend to 48khz nyquist).

Apparently their testing isn't particularly rigorous. What A Surprise!

Doubtless these are the sole examples that have managed to slip through the intense scrutiny of their dedicated QC team. Odd though, that they would use such rare exceptions as a sampler of what their customers can expect.

Re: HDTracks 2017 sampler

Reply #24
HDTracks is straight-up lying about the product they are selling.
This is the point.

None of the quotes from HDTracks demonstrate any claims about audible sound quality benefits attributable to >16-bit/44.1kHz.  What was quoted about quality could easily be interpreted as assurances that their catalog hasn't been subjected to lossy compression, for example. That the OP would decide to undermine his own topic by raising the (non-issue) of sound quality is more than just a bit awkward.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

 
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