How to Improve Sound Quality [Step-by-Step Guide]
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How to Improve Sound Quality [Step-by-Step Guide]

Tutorials

In this article, "to improve sound quality" term means decreasing playback distortions at the analog output of digital-to-analog converter. Read below how to try to decrease the distortions for your audio equipment or portable device (digital audio player, mobile phone, etc.).


 
 
 

Disclaimer: Efficiency of the method of sound quality improvement, that described below, depends on used playback hardware and software. Sound quality improvement isn't guaranteed.

 

Impact of resampling and bit depth on sound quality

Digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is audio hardware that may have different distortion levels for various modes. In the article, DAC mode means a combination of sample rate, bit depth, PCM/DSD.

Different distortions for different DAC modes
How to Improve Sound Quality

One or several modes may have minimal distortions. Below such mode is called "the best sounding mode".

Audio file resolution may be converted to values (sample rate, bit depth, PCM/DSD) of "the best sounding mode" to improve playback sound quality (optimization of audio files).

Read below about:

  • dithering, audio resolution conversion software, and
  • a step-by-step guide on how to check your audio system abilities. Probably it will help to improve the system's sound.

 

Example:

DAC can be able to provide lesser distortions for mode 192 kHz/24 bit/PCM than for 96 kHz/24 bit/PCM.
Therefore, the conversion of audio file resolution to 192 kHz/24 bit/PCM is recommended for playback at the DAC.

 

 

Theoretically, a higher sample rate and bit depth cause lesser noise/distortion level. However, it is an implementation matter rather.

"The best sounding mode" may be found via measurements of the test signals (see in the picture above). However, it demands precise measurement equipment and skills in the measurements.

The article describes step-by-step how to found "the best sounding mode" by ears. It is not a precise way, unlike measurements. But ears allow approximate estimating of the DAC's modes at home without additional measurement equipment.

Read more:

 

 

Dithering impact to sound quality

In contrast, audio-file-resolution changing, that work together with DAC, dithering allow increasing the sound quality of an audio file itself in some cases. Because non-linear distortions of quantization, initially correlated with an audio signal, are smoothed and transformed into uncorrelated noise after dithering.

Dither can improve the sound quality of an audio file via correlated distortion decreasing

Dithering button

If DAC has a noise level above the quantization noise of the audio file, the dithering impact may be decreased or disappeared even. But modern DACs, as rule, have noise level below 16-bit error quantization and dithering noise. Therefore, dithering of such DAC may impact perceived sound quality.

Read more:

 

Impact of audio conversion software to result

Below pro audio conversion software is suggested to convert audio files. It has low distortion noise. Theoretically, we can neglect quality losses of conversion (including non-multiple resampling) for pro class of audio converters.

However, different modes of the audio converter's resampling filters may be there, that can cause different ear perceptions due to different features:

  • steepness of resampling filter's transient band,
  • ringing,
  • flatness of frequency response,
  • phase response linearity,
  • etc.

Different converters also have different features of resampling filters.

Currently, the author knows nothing about reliable results of researches on impact of resampling-filter features to sound perception.

Also, the filtration bandwidth may impact intermodulation distortions at an analog output of DAC.

Watch video about the experiment: we can hear ultrasound noise on some equipment.

Video about intermodulation distortions:
Experiment with removing ultrasound upper 20 kHz ("Optimized resampling filter") during audio file conversion

 
Watch and share: How to remove audible noise for high-resolution audio
 

 

Read more:

 

Recommendations for audio player

For a purer experiment, audio playback software (audio player and system audio driver) should transfer digital audio data from file to DAC without changes of binary content. As example, a preferable way for audio player software is using ASIO or WASAPI output and turning the player processing off.

For hardware (devices) adjusting settings for minimal/without sound processing is recommended.

About digital acoustic correction of a listening room read below.

Read more:

Read the step-by-step guide on how to check your audio system abilities. Probably it will help you to improve the sound.

 

 

How to improve sound quality via "the best sounding mode"

 

Described below testing algorithm may be used for DAC, digital audio player, music server, or any audio device, that has DAC chip.

  1. Found several samples of audio files with different bit depth (16, 24 bit, DSF, DFF, ISO, etc.) for testing of your audio equipment.
     
  2. Launch AuI ConverteR 48x44.
    For sound checking may be used AuI ConverteR 48x44 Free. Despite free version limitations, it allows estimating the abilities of audio file optimization for your equipment or device.
     
  3. Open source audio file(s) from step #1.
     
  4. Go to AuI ConverteR's Settings > General:
     
  5. Uncheck "Don't make DSP for unchanged sample rates" switch.

    Settings - Don't make DSP
     
  6. In Filter Mode list select "Optimized resampling filter" (read about filter modes).

    Resampling filter mode
     
  7. Uncheck "Use minimum phase filter (without pre-ringing)" switch.
    Minimum phase filter causes post-ringing only (no pre-ringing). But, approximatelly, energy of the post-ringing is doubled comparing post-ringing of linear (not minimum) phase filter, that causes both pre- and post-ringing.

    Settings - minimum phase filter
     
  8. Click OK button.
     
  9. Select one of output format: WAV, FLAC, AIFF. If DAC supports DSD mode only, go to step #19.

    Audio converter output format
     
  10. Select output sample rate, bit depth.
    Recommended to begin for maximal sample rate and bit depth, that is native for your DAC.
    However, a higher sample rate and/or bit depth don't guarantee better sound quality.
     
  11. In AuI ConverteR's main window set Dither On.
    For both input and output bit depth upper 16-bit "Dither" button will be ignored.
     
  12. Select new target directory
    Advice: use special name directory for recognizing of used conversion parameters during further testing.
    Example: "44100-16bit-DthOn", "DSD64-DthOn", etc.
     
  13. Push Start button and wait for end of conversion.
     
  14. In the main window set Dither Off.
     
  15. Select new target directory.
     
  16. Push Start button and wait for the conversion end.
     
  17. Repeat steps #10 ... 16 for all available sample rate and bit depth combinations, that available for your DAC or device.
     
  18. Repeat steps #10 ... 17 for all filter modes (Settings > General > Filter Mode).
    For "Optimized resampling filter" test both checked and unchecked "Use minimum phase filter (without pre-ringing)" switch.
    For other filter modes, this switch is ignored.

    Settings -resampling filter
     
  19. If your DAC support DSD mode, repeat steps #10 ... 18 for output format DSF.
     
  20. Listen and compare similar files for all conversion modes: compare files with similar audio content, that placed in the different target directories (see steps #12 and #15).
    Conversion parameters of converted audio files, that have the most preferable sound, you may use for conversion (optimization) of your library to playback on tested DAC.

 

In general, for the DAC mode comparison, the author recommends turn off digital room acoustic correction. But you can compare results with the room correction and without.

 

Filter mode description

AuI ConverteR has 3 resampling filter modes (Settings > General > Filter Mode):

  1. Optimized;
  2. Non-optimized;
  3. Non-optimized wide;
  4. Optimized G5 (since version 11.x).
AuI ConverteR filter modes

Optimized filter

Optimized filter cut ultrasound (all above 20 kHz).

Non-optimized filter

Non-optimized filter:

  • for PCM signals, cut half of minimum sampling rate between input and output;
  • for DSD signals, cut all above 20...27 kHz depending on input sampling rate (always lesser half of minimum sampling rate between input and output ones).

Non-optimized wide filter

Non-optimized wide filter:

  • for PCM signals, cut half of minimum sampling rate between input and output;
  • for DSD signals, cut all above 20...100 kHz depending on input sampling rate (always lesser half of minimum sampling rate between input and output ones).

 

Optimized G5 filter

Optimized G5 filter cuts ultrasound (all above 20 kHz) and causes shorter ringing length for given threshold than Optimized one.

 

Our recommendations for the mode using:

  1. Optimized mode is common recommended for better sound quality of playback.
  2. However, you can use any mode, that you like more. Refer to your personal listening experience.
  3. If non-optimized mode causes noise at specific software+hardware, try optimized mode.
  4. If you distribute converted recordings, non-optimized mode for PCM may be recommended. For DSD files, either non-optimized or non-optimized wide mode may be recommended.
    If you use optimized mode, the distributed recording may looks like conversion from CD. Despite it is not the same, your customers may have doubts in source of the distributed hi-res recordings, and additional explanation is need.

 

Tips

  1. If Settings > General > "Don't make DSP..." switch is checked and no audio processing (resampling, gain, DSD to/from PCM, etc.) is applied, resampling filter is ignored.
  2. Filters are calibrated for maximum level of seep sines, but big spectrum energy of musical signal can cause distortions. So, reducing of output level at 0.4 ... 3 dB may be recommended when distortions are happen.


 

Resume

If optimization of audio files gives audible sound advantages in your case, you can convert your audio library to "the best sounding mode"'s parameters: sample rate, bit depth, DSD/PCM.

If in your case no audible sound advantages by optimization, there is not necessary to optimize your library.

It is strongly recommended, original audio files are backup. Because you, probably, will buy new devices or/and new resolution conversion algorithms will be released.

,
Audiophile Inventory's developer

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is meant by sound quality?

Sound quality is сlarity of sound. Read details...

 

 

How can I improve sound quality?

To improve sound quality you are need pay attention components of your audio system (in importance descending order):

  1. loudspeakers;
  2. DAC;
  3. amplifier;
  4. recording;
  5. playback and conversion sotware, its settings.
  6. power conditioner (optionally)

Also, read music-file optimization guide...

 

How do I make my audio clearer?

To make audio clearer, it's necessary to reduce distortions and noise.

Read that you can to do here...

 

How do I make sound clear and crisp?

In the general case, it should be done on recording and mixing stage. Though, you can try it on mix.

General concept: boosting of high frequencies, optional its parallel compressing and mixing to target audio; noise should be suppressed available way.

 

How do you fix a muffled sound?

Muffled sound may have different reasons. It may be partially compansated via:

  • boosting of high frequencies with EQ;
  • compression of dynamic range with boosting level with compressor effect;
  • boosting level.

 

Which is best audio quality?

Audio quality is estimated 2 ways:

  1. how it sounds subjectively, and
  2. how many distortions are measured objectively.

Anyway, zero distortions is the best. But sound is not exists in the vacuum. Listening conditions does matter.

Thus, sound quality is individual criteria, that may refer to persons or their groups.

Read more...

 

What gives sound its quality?

In the first place, sound quality is result of low distortion level. However, some details are there.

Read more...

 

How can I improve MP3 sound quality?

You can't improve mp3 sound quality as itself. However, you can optimize the audio resolution of the mp3's content, when you convert it to WAV/FLAC/AIFF/ALAC//AAC/etc. this way...

 

Is there an app to improve sound quality?

Sound quality may be improved different ways and kinds of applications, respectively. In instance, you can use equalizer (EQ) app and boost high and/or low frequencies, compress dynamic range with compressor application, etc.

By the author opinion, music may be upsampled or downsampled with proper audio converter to optimize for sound quality abilities of your DAC. Read more...

 

How can I boost the sound on my computer?

  1. You can check out mixer on the computer and make maximum gain.
  2. Also, you can install special software. Look at a search engine "real time boost volume windows" or "real time boost volume mac".

 

Read the articles about sound quality

 

November 28, 2022 updated  | since May 9, 2017

 
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