London’s Queen Mary University conducted a study to see whether the hype about Hi-Res was justified – can people really tell the difference?
The study compared data from over 12,000 individual trials over 18 studies. The study compared the ability of participants to distinguish between samples of jazz and classical music, played in different formats.
The study was initiated due to the argument over whether supposed high resolution audio was actually audibly improved when listened to by the human ear. It’s an argument that has become increasingly pervasive thanks to new hi-res streaming services like Tidal, hi-res players like Pono and Onkyo’s new player, and many other audio players/platforms that have been marketed for their hi-res capabilities in recent years.
Dr Joshua Reiss of Queen Mary’s centre for digital music in the school of electronic engineering and computer science explained:
Our study is the first attempt to have a thorough and impartial look at whether high res audio can be heard. We gathered 80 publications, and analysed all available data, even asking authors of earlier studies for their original reports from old filing cabinets. We subjected the data to many forms of analysis.
The effect was clear, and there were some indicators as to what conditions demonstrate it most effectively. Hopefully, we can now move forward towards identifying how and why we perceive these differences.
One of the biggest contests over hi-res audio has been because of Jay Z’s music streaming service, Tidal’s, hi-res streaming tier that costs $10 extra than average streaming services. People didn’t know whether it was worth paying double for lossless, high fidelity audio if they couldn’t tell the difference – but it appears you can, or at least the average person can.
Reiss continued: “Audio purists and industry should welcome these findings – our study finds high-resolution audio has a small but important advantage in its quality of reproduction over standard audio content.”