After buying new music equipment, we enjoy listening to improved sound quality. Some time later, we get used to good things. Have you considered ways to try to improve sound quality without purchasing the next new equipment? Keep reading.
In addition to the equipment, you have multiple recordings in geterogenous audio resolutions. But what resolution is the best for listening to music on your equipment? Below you'll find guide how to look for audio-quality improvement.
In this article, the quality may be improved via playback-distortion decreasing. One of places, where we can do it, is the analog output of digital-to-analog converter.
Resolution is combination of bit depth and sampling rate. 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 sound quality improvement, that described in the guideline, depends on used playback hardware and software. Sound quality improvement isn't guaranteed.
All components of audio system impact to playback sound quality. Here you can see list of the equipment itmes that impact to the quality:
Each electronic device, loudspeakers and the room cause distortions.
The speakers works together with the listening room. A room is capable to "kill sound".
When you purchase a device or loudspeaker, it should cause minimum distortions. Loudspeakers and amplifier should work at optimal loudness that correlates with the room size. Also, speaker size also defined by the room volume.
Read how to how to perform acoustic treatment...
Recording resolution work only together with DAC. Below we'll consider it.
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.
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:
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.
In contrast, audio-file resolution changing, that work together with DAC, dithering allows 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
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.
WARNING: Be careful, to avoid ear damage due to high sound level pressure.
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, which can cause different ear perceptions due to different features:
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.
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 the step-by-step guide on how to check your audio system abilities. Probably it will help you to improve the sound.
Described below testing algorithm may be used for DAC, digital audio player, music server, or any audio device, that has DAC chip.
In general, for the DAC mode comparison, the author recommends turning off digital room acoustic correction. But you can compare results with the room correction and without.
AuI ConverteR has 3 resampling filter modes (Settings > General > Filter Mode):
Optimized filter cut ultrasound (all above 20 kHz).
Non-optimized wide filter:
Optimized G5 filter cuts ultrasound (all above 20 kHz) and causes shorter ringing length for given threshold than Optimized one.
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.
Sound quality is сlarity of sound. Read details...
To improve sound quality you are need pay attention components of your audio system (in importance descending order):
Also, read music-file optimization guide...
To make audio clearer, it's necessary to reduce distortions and noise.
Read that you can to do here...
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.
Muffled sound may have different reasons. It may be partially compansated via:
Audio quality is estimated 2 ways:
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.
In the first place, sound quality is result of low distortion level. However, some details are there.
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...
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...