The eldest of two evils’ science project is coming up so she had to figure out what she wanted to do. She seemed rather lackluster about it and just hopped online, looking up things she thought would be interesting, but nothing really piqued her interest, and the few things she thought she’d want to do were so basic that I felt it was a waste of her time. She’d not learn anything nor would she really do science!
The other thing is my girls need to do something that either their mother or I can help them with. Some of the things she was looking at would have been 90% me building crap & setting it up for her and I said “No” to those.
Being that both my girls are into music like Daddy, I figured something to do with audio would be something that would interest both of us, give her a chance to learn about sound, digital audio, compression, etc. AND do real science! to boot.
So, for her project she is doing “Sounds Good to Me – Can people hear the difference between 44.1kHz/16bit audio and 96kHz/24bit?”
What they found - From a sample of 554 listeners that included professionals, the general population & young listeners (prized for their high-frequency hearing), those that correctly identified the higher quality audio was 276, or 49.8%. The same number you would get if you just flipped a coin 554 times or asked untrained monkeys to do the task. No sub-group outperformed chance. In summary, 16 Bit 41.1 kHz sound is indistinguishable from ~24 Bit @ 192 kHz for music distribution. Yes, 32 Bit is important for audio processing in a DAW application, but once it comes time to convert that audio into a format useful for distribution and human consumption, you can't meaningfully improve on the CD standard.
But she needs to determine this herself.
Now, the trick is ensuring the equipment we use is up to snuff to actually present the audio well enough. My headphones are AKG K44s which have an 18Hz-20kHz range so they may not be sensitive enough to perform this task. I may check with some of the recording studios nearby to see if they have something I can borrow.
My audio interface is a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 which definitely does 96/24 output. The problem is Windows doesn’t seem to want to allow the 24bit part and is stuck at 16bit. This may or may not be correctable as I do have the latest drivers. If I can’t get 24bit, then we’ll switch the experiment to isolate just the sample rate rather than the bit depth. Which then will have people screaming “THE BIT DEPTH MATTERS!” because you can DEFINITELY tell a 1/65,536th volume difference, but oh well.
Any thoughts, ideas, warnings, etc. are appreciated.