Some Thoughts On HD Audio

A few musings on so called “hi-res” or HD (High Definition) digital audio files.

Over the last couple of years I’ve slowly moved from working at the client’s project’s native sample rate (whatever that may have been), to upsampling everything to 96kHz before I start work (unless it was there already, congrats if so!) This is for a number of reasons:

1) I end up with 96kHz captures from the analogue chain, pre-limiting, for a super hi-fi archive file that will be available in future if needed.

2) Working at double sample rates ensures that many of the problems inherent in single sample rates (audible resampling filters, aliasing from non-linear processors, Nyquist being so close to audible etc.) are no longer there, but shifted above the audible band.

3) I can run most processing plugins without needing to use their oversampling/upsampling functions. Real time sample rate conversion is rarely as good as a high quality offline resampler (I use RX7 Advanced for upsampling, and FinalCD for getting things back to 44.1kHz, if needed).

4) I’ve done a lot of listening tests over the last few years, and at least for me, even after downsampling things to 44.1kHz for distribution, it seems to offer better audible results. I do keep checking every six months or so, do some more tests etc., just to make sure I am not deluding myself.

But the main point I wanted to make with this post, is that I therefore always have very high quality 24/96 files available for you as a client, if needed, both pre and after the final limiting stage. Just ask! There’s a lot of talk about whether or not it “sounds better”, and for that I invite everyone to do their own listening tests and come to their own conclusions. For me it makes enough of a difference to prefer it.

And a final point, most of you are releasing things digitally these days (even if you also have it available on CD, vinyl or cassette), and a lot of you are choosing Bandcamp to do it, which I highly recommend. For those of your fans that genuinely care about sound quality, and curating their own collections, did you know that whatever format you upload to Bandcamp, will be the same format that they are able to download? If you upload the 24 bit 96kHz files, that is what your fans will be able to download if they choose one of the lossless formats such as .wav, .aif or .flac. I encourage all my clients to do this. Even if they decide to download a lossy format such as .mp3, there is a strong case to be made for preferring that this lossy file be derived from a hi-res source.

Don’t be precious with the hi res files! A part of the trouble is that many people don’t think 24/96 is worth it, but if they don’t have the opportunity to spend a lot of time listening to such files, they will never know. We have the ability to produce music, the quality of which has just not been possible before. Let’s get more of it out there! 💜