I can’t hear the tracks that I’ve downloaded.
Make sure you can hear other things, like YouTube. Make sure the volume is up. Check Settings: Sound.
If you still can’t hear anything, your computer may not be able to play DXD files.You can simply add a converter (see our converter listings below). You can then plug headphones into the converter.
I can’t get the sound loud enough on my computer.
Make sure the sound bar is all the way up in Setting: Sound, and on your computer dashboard.
If it’s still too quiet, you can simply add a converter (see our converter listings below). You can then plug headphones into the converter. The headphone volume control on the converter will provide excellent volume.
What is “resolution”?
It’s a combination of sampling rate speeds and how many digits are used to give the computer feedback about the boundaries of each note. This is called “digital word length.” It can be 16 bits (CD sound) or as much as 32 bits (DXD).
What is the advantage of “high resolution”?
It sounds like you’re actually in a good recording session. If it’s a great piano or violin or cello, you can tell. You can hear the instruments as if you’re right in the room with them.
What are the kinds of high resolution?
There’s 24/96, 24/192, 24/356, 32/384, and 32/768 (the highest). The first number shows the bits used for each digital “word.” the second number shows how many times (in thousands) the word samples the original sound.
What is a sampling rate?
The higher the sampling rate, the more accurate the description. The computer actually visits the original master tape as many as 768,000 times a second. This is written 768 kHz (kiloHertz, or a thousand vibrations), as in 32/768.
Is DXD better than vinyl?
Originally, performers were recorded in 17 channels by RCA. But no one could figure out how to put more than one channel into the side of each groove. So vinyl became mono and then stereo (two channels). After a few plays, vinyl begins to sound scratchy. It also thumps as the physical vinyl disk wobbles, because the plastic mold warps over time. Dust on the disk causes pops.
DXD has the same warmth as the original master tape, but without the pops, thumps, and scratches of vinyl. It also has the potential to play back as many as 10 channels.
Are headphones better than loudspeakers?
A cheap $60 pair of Dr. Dre “Beats” headphones sounds as good as a stereo costing an awful lot. Headphones sound better than speakers generally because their sound goes immediately into your ear, with no friction from the air or from distance to degrade the sound waves. When you sit 10 feet from a speaker, you lose a surprisingly large amount of the sound by the time it reaches you.
There are great headphones from Sony, AKG, Sennheiser, Bose, Beyer, B&W. Grado, Focal, Audeze, Stax, Shure, HiFiMan, and Sonoma make more expensive headphones, with diminishing returns.
Can I just plug headphones into my computer?
Yes. Apple computers can play files up to 32/384. Using the headphone
miniplug, just plug in your headphones and hit play on the computer. Other computer brands may need a converter plugged into their USB port (with headphones attached) to play resolutions higher than 24/96.
What is a converter?
A converter is a unit which converts sound waves from digital modes (which the ear can’t hear) to analogue waveforms (which is what our ears can hear). Digital files, vinyl records, compact disks, DVDs, and Blu-rays need to be translated into the waveforms which our ears hear as frequencies.
The technical term for a converter is a Digital-to Analogue Converter, or DAC. Today, you can plug a DAC the size of a pencil sharpener into one of the ports of your computer and then plug headphones (or speakers) into that DAC.
Many headphones sound just fine by themselves. Other kinds require a boost in volume. Many DACs have amplifiers in them, so you just plug and play.
Is there a difference in quality between cheap and expensive DACs?
Not always. For instance, the iFi Nano “LeDAC,” for $139, can handle files up to 384 kHz. You can spend thousands of dollars for a DAC with the same chip and the sound will be exactly the same.
What is a “chip”?
A chip is a minuscule wafer with wires in it. The wires form an integrated circuit, which conducts electricity. Sometimes wires aren’t full conductors, like copper, but can be made of very inexpensive materials like silicon (sand) or even biomaterials which use human biological material. There are various bands. Sabre chips can make an inexpensive converter sound as good as an expensive one which also uses Sabre chips. Burr-Brown chips, now made by Texas Instruments,
are also very good. Different models of these chips are hard to tell apart. The Topping DX7 retrieves more detail from complicated classical files, and thus produces greater depth in the music. Crystal, ESS, and AKM all produce fine chips.
Why are some DACs more expensive?
Using different materials and different designs of circuits will produce different results, so you pay for the “room” or the configuration in which the chip is seated, not the chip. For instance, a moderately sized engine in a Tesla or a Lexus will produce faster acceleration than a Ferrari, because an electric motor has no gears and thus no friction to slow it down.
How can I hear multichannel sound?
Headphones and cellphones can produce only two channels of sound for our two ears. But a stereo system or a home theater nowadays may have five or more speakers to create the effect of being surrounded by sound.
Is multichannel sound better than stereo?
Two stereo channels over headphones can capture so much accurate and deep sound that you don’t need a room with a dozen speakers. That being said, if you have guests for dinner, the most practical way to listen to music or a movie is to have a stereo system so everyone can hear at once.
If you have more speakers, the music seems to come from everywhere, rather than just one point. This creates the psychological effect of being in the original hall where the music was recorded. The music vibrates more, and is thus more “reverberant” or “resonant.”
What about room sound?
Curtains, rugs, and couches absorb sound. Concrete walls and floors make sound bounce back and thus reflect sound, although they can be harsh sounding. If your room has a nice balance between being absorptive and reflective, then your speakers will sound better. Too much furniture absorbs too many frequencies. Cement walls echo too much. So you need to compromise, and have a room that is well “tuned,” or “balanced.”
Then you need good amplifiers with the same power on every speaker, and good speakers. Speakers are mostly directional, so the chairs have to be in the “sweet spot,” where all the frequencies come together. The incredible sound from DXD surround makes it worthwhile, if you want to feel like you’re in the original hall.
But is an expensive stereo better than headphones?
$70 headphones and a good $140 DAC will sound as good, if only one person is listening.
Can two people listen on headphones at the same time?
Yes. You can buy a “splitter,” which splits the signal to two different sets of headphones. Some headphone amps and DACs come with two jacks for two sets of headphones.
Can I hear high resolution on my mobile phone?
Apple phones can play “FLAC completely lossless,” “ALAC uncompressed lossless,” and “AIFF lossy” codecs. But this requires fast bandwidth transmission speeds. Apple Music transmits at 256 kbps (thousand bytes per second), so that any cell phone can play Apple’s streams.
Deezer Premium, Spotify, Slacker, Tidal Premium, and Google Play require 320 kbps. Napster requires 320 kbps for the ideal quality in streaming its files. Pandora requires 300 kbps for the best results. But you can have mediocre results at 150 kbps.
Deezer Elite requires 5 mbps for FLAC files, and 10 mbps for multiple FLAC streams. Tidal HiFi requires 1.411 mbps.
Can I use a DAC on my cellphone
The Apple “Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter” has a built-in lightning port, which works on Apple cellphones.
Are there other kinds of formats for high resolution?
There’s Sony’s DSD, or Direct Stream Digital, which uses a “Delta Sigma” waveform, which is digital, but strangely has the same shape as a similar audio wave. SACDs use this DSD format.
The wave shapes we use aren’t DSD, but PCM (pulse-code modulation), which we feel conveys more dynamic range and accurately conveys sudden shifts in volume, such as a sudden drum beat or a lunge at the piano during a Beethoven sonata.
Many of the DACs recommended below also read DSD high-resolution files, which many people prefer for their smoothness.
Here is an incomplete list of some converters that I’ve run across which provide high resolution and cost below $1,000: themasterswitch.com has up-todate listings for all sorts of audio components, such as speakers, amps, and DACs.
Audiolab MDAC Nano ($195) 32/384 kHZ
Audio Adapter HD ($199) 32/384
Resonessence Herus ($350) 384kHz
FiiO Q1 Mark II ($100) 384kHz
TEAC NT-503 ($899) 384kHz
Chord Mojo Portable DAC ($579) 768kHz
iFi Audio xDSD ($399) 768kHz
iFi Nano iOne DAC ($199) 384kHz
iFi Micro iDSD Black Label ($599) 768kHz
iFi Nano iDSD Black Label DAC and Amp with MQA ($199) 384kHz
iFi xDSD Portable DAC Amplifier with Bluetooth ($409)
768kHz, MQA, DSD 256
iFi Nano iDSD LE DAC ($139) 384kHz
iFi Nano iDSD DAC ($199)
ifi Micro DAC2 ($379) 384 kHz
Optoma NuForce High-Res Mobile uDAC5 ($199) 384kHz
Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus ($349.99) 384kHz Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital Preamplifier
and DAC ($399) 768kHz
Pro-Ject DAC Box S2 Plus ($249) 768kHz
NuPrime uDSD USB DAC ($179) 384kHz
AKG K240 semi-open pro studio headphones ($69)
Sennheiser closed open-back studio headphones ($150)
Sennheiser HD 202 II Professional Headphones ($139)
Sennheiser HD200 Pro Headphones ($68)
Grado SR80e Prestige Series Wired Open Back Stereo Headphones ($99)
Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Pro Monitor Headphones ($76)