Does High Resolution Audio Sound Better?

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Audiophiles, audio professionals and scientists tend to disagree about whether high-resolution digital audio sounds better than standard, CD-quality audio. This paper examines the technical and psychoacoustic issues to find an answer.

With the recent advent of high-resolution downloads, audiophiles have enthusiastically embraced high-resolution digital audio. Digital-to-analog converters (DACs) are now expected to include high-resolution capability, and are often judged by the maximum digital resolution and file formats they support. High-resolution audio technology has been a standard and expected feature in professional digital audio equipment for more than a decade.

However, audio researchers and scientists have been less eager to embrace high-resolution audio. They point out technical problems with the various formats. They question whether the theoretical advantages of high-resolution audio can have any benefit given the limits of human hearing and the typical listening environment. They point to the fact that the difference between standard-resolution and high-resolution audio is only rarely detectable in controlled, blind listening tests.

Which side is correct? Or is the truth somewhere in between? This paper will examine the issues and come to a satisfactory conclusion.