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Upsamplers, DACs, jitter, shakes and analogue withdrawals, this is it.

RE: he's not completely wrong ...

The technical problem I have with digital audio in general, and CD in particular, is that the intended signal (music) contains time-domain sensitive information. The 44.1ksps CD channel rate was designed with the frequency-domain requirements of music in mind. As far as I can tell, little to no consideration was given to the time-domain implications of the medium, either for recording or playback.

The root of the time-domain problems are two-fold, as I see them. First, the fact that CD's channel bandwidth of 22.05kHz is so close to the recorded information bandwidth creates the requirement for very sharp anti-alias (recording) and anti-image (playback) filter responses. Which necessarily have a poor time-domain response, manifesting as the now fimiliar high-Q filter ringing. As it turns out, this severe ringing is fundamental to producing an accurate frequency-domain reconstruction of the original signal upon playback. Yes, I'm also aware that such ringing occurs at the edge of the ultrasonic range and should be pretty much inaudible, but that is only half the story, to which I'll shortly return. If the information to channel bandwidth ratio were wider, as it can be with high-res. digital, then both the anti-imaging and anti-aliasing filters could be much less sharp, with greatly reduced time-domain distortion. Mike Story of dCS has published a paper concluding that to be one of the reasons why high sample rate digital sounds superior to CD.

My own empirical experiments lead me to suspect that a second, non-obvious mechanism is also at work. I suspect that the time-domain problems extend to the dynamic inter-action, or intermodulation, of the near ultrasonic ringing responses of the multiple SINC filters utilized from recording, to mixing or other re-sampling, and finally to playback. Resulting in artifacts within the audible range.

One of my self designed experimental DACs contains a programmable digital SINC filter. This programmable filter has enabled me to empirically evaluate oversampling, non-oversampling, and apodising digital filters. Here's what I heard. As is well known by now, non-oversampling, aka, NOS - which eliminates the playback SINC filter but does not affect the recording and mixing SINC filters - produces the natural and non-fatigueing sound so typically lacking in CD. Apodising - which retains the playback SINC filter, but removes the affect of the recording and mixing SINC filters - sounds equally natural and non-fatiguing as NOS. Oversampling - with all SINC filter responses in place - on the other hand, produces the typically fatiguing and course CD sound.

My hypothesis is that the primary source for what we have come to know as digititus, or traditional CD sound, is the dynamic intermodulation of the multiple SINC filter time-domain (ringing) responses of the standard CD recording, mixing, and playback chain. Eliminating one or the other of these sharp filter responses greatly restores the natural and non-fatiguing quality otherwise absent. This hypothesis would also explain why high sample rate audio is often disappointingly not completely rid of unpleasant CD type artifacts. The use of SINC filters across a high sample rate chain could still produce time-domain filter response interaction which are audible. I will surmise that high sample rate recording-playback chains which take advantage of the extra channel bandwidth not for increased frequency-domain signal capture, but for utilizing anti-alias and anti-image filters having much less ringing in their time-domain responses, will subjectively provide the best high sample rate audio quality.

I've not yet developed an experiment to test this hypothesis, so it may prove faulty in so far as the exact distortion mechanism responsible is concerned. The empirical results, however, have been consistant and very obvious.
Ken Newton

Edits: 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12 03/15/12

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