The Grateful Dead Get High-Res; But They’re a Bit Confused

As more and more vendors and artists try to jump on the high-resolution bandwagon, it’s clear that a lot of them are confused. Take this example of the Grateful Dead. Yesterday, the band send out an email saying that they now have “High Definition Dead.”

Mail001.png

And they are offering high-definition – or high-resolution – files in “AAC and FLAC.”

Oops. It’s not AAC, but ALAC, or Apple Lossless, as you can see when you go to their website:

Safari001.png

Okay, so it’s only one letter, but it is an example of the confusion around these file formats.

But there’s something else: they make a distinction between Apple Lossless files and “HD FLAC” files. They could provide high-resolution files in either format; both Apple Lossless and FLAC support the 24-bit 192 kHz format they are offering. And to confuse things even more, the Grateful Dead have long sold CDs in the HDCD format; they’re the only artist or label I’ve ever seen selling these. These are hybrid CDs that “encodes the equivalent of 20 bits worth of data in a 16-bit digital audio signal by using custom dithering, audio filters, and some reversible amplitude and gain encoding,” according to a Wikipedia article. (I’ve never understood what this is, but it sounds like some sort of lossy compression used for the extra bit depth.)

You won’t find many of these CDs; this may be, in part, because Microsoft bought the format from its original creator, and most likely has some arcane licensing rules for it.

In any case, the Grateful Dead always highlight the fact that their CD releases are in HDCD format, and now they’re talking about “high definition Dead” downloads; this will only confuse people.

22 thoughts on “The Grateful Dead Get High-Res; But They’re a Bit Confused

  1. I appreciate very much your comments but there are no questions for any Person loving Grateful dead music
    Hdcd was a great Cd format but experience the 192/24 format is like opening a window …..you will re discover what you believe you knew so well but open sound space and details are here….
    We will purchase again what we already got but with the best digital we can put in any new 24 bits player

    • This is only for the new 1990 release. And, anyway, the whole high-res thing is just marketing. But I’m not going to get into that here…

    • Anyone wanting to know why this is kind of ridiculous (respectfully), should read this in its entirety:

      http://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

      Of course, it is always possible when new releases come out in 24/192 or 24/96 they used better, more carefully made masters – BUT, that has nothing to do with the high resolution; they can just as easily release the better masters in 16/44.1.

      Read the above to find out why that hi-res “so much deeper and more resolution” is marketing bunk.

      Also, here’s a link explaining a lot about “expectation bias”, and how it effects EVERYONE including people who know they’re being tested for expectation bias! :

      http://nwavguy.blogspot.de/2012/04/what-we-hear.html

      • Almost every extended discussion of higher-than-16/44-resolution digital playback eventually results in somebody posting a link to Monty Montgomery’s xiph.org stuff debunking hi-res digital, and it’s not uncommon to see the reclusive NwAVguy cited as well. It’s ironic that these often-scathing expressions of skepticism (Kirk too is witheringly dismissive of hi-res audio, and is also fond of phrases similar to this comment’s “marketing bunk”) express unwavering faith-based devotion toward a couple of reductive and (to me) flawed xiph.org posts as if they are definitive holy writ. The invariable point being that it has been established for all time that 16/44 is the ultimate and perfect digital format. Because Ogg/Vorbis! And I can haz math.

        Hi-fi enthusiasts can be crazily unscientific and credulous, and finding things mock among their effusions is like shooting fish in a barrel. Yes, good engineering and mastering is the fundamental and supremely important factor in good sound. But there’s something oddly Luddite about the compulsion to angrily frame all higher-resolution digital playback as a dishonest fraud perpetrated by hucksters.

        • Hmm, could that be because the basic science and mathematics that form the foundation of what 16/44.1 can encode, and the science, mathematics and biology that determine what you can hear is properly described in the xiph article, and isn’t going to change in the foreseeable millions of years? Jeez.

          • I think that the actual terminology for what you’re calling “basic science and mathematics” is “scientism.” Research and study and innovation in digital music playback continues, despite the tech-gadget skeptic’s fever of lock-step debunking, and was not settled for all time with the Red Book standard and Perfect 16/44 Forever.

            • Listening tells the tale. I’ve listened to high res for half a year now – I went with an external DAC/amp option. To become an audiophile with sincerity is to embrace the complete system of playback from master recordings to headphones and speakers and everything between. There are times I can’t tell a difference between vinyl and cd and fewer times I can’t tell the difference between high-res and cd. There are many more times listening to 24/96 that I am awakened to a more complete sound that fills my room in a way 16/44 just doesn’t. None of this truly matters to my appreciation of the MUSIC. I’ll listen in many ways. But to dismiss high-res based on what you read is a mistake. To judge properly is to commit to the process and rewards of audiophilia.

              Even after this discussion, I am still not clear on what is being offered by the Dead. What is the original encoding of those lossless files? I’m more concerned with their live offerings. I’ll have to inquire directly I suppose. Thanks!

            • I can report that, despite the persistent confusing language identified by the original post, the digital downloads at dead.net clearly identify the bit/khz of the files. As for the quality of a 24/192 download (and they are not the norm there), I can attest to being rather overwhelmed by the presence of the performance (Wake Up to Find Out: 3-29-90) especially through my old home 2-channel stereo setup with portable DAC playing off my Galaxy S5. I’d never felt so close to the band over the stereo! I may not have the electronics knowledge to explain my reaction, but I have listened to my 10K hours of the Dead. This sounds phenomenal.

  2. I appreciate very much your comments but there are no questions for any Person loving Grateful dead music
    Hdcd was a great Cd format but experience the 192/24 format is like opening a window …..you will re discover what you believe you knew so well but open sound space and details are here….
    We will purchase again what we already got but with the best digital we can put in any new 24 bits player

    • This is only for the new 1990 release. And, anyway, the whole high-res thing is just marketing. But I’m not going to get into that here…

    • Anyone wanting to know why this is kind of ridiculous (respectfully), should read this in its entirety:

      http://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

      Of course, it is always possible when new releases come out in 24/192 or 24/96 they used better, more carefully made masters – BUT, that has nothing to do with the high resolution; they can just as easily release the better masters in 16/44.1.

      Read the above to find out why that hi-res “so much deeper and more resolution” is marketing bunk.

      Also, here’s a link explaining a lot about “expectation bias”, and how it effects EVERYONE including people who know they’re being tested for expectation bias! :

      http://nwavguy.blogspot.de/2012/04/what-we-hear.html

      • Almost every extended discussion of higher-than-16/44-resolution digital playback eventually results in somebody posting a link to Monty Montgomery’s xiph.org stuff debunking hi-res digital, and it’s not uncommon to see the reclusive NwAVguy cited as well. It’s ironic that these often-scathing expressions of skepticism (Kirk too is witheringly dismissive of hi-res audio, and is also fond of phrases similar to this comment’s “marketing bunk”) express unwavering faith-based devotion toward a couple of reductive and (to me) flawed xiph.org posts as if they are definitive holy writ. The invariable point being that it has been established for all time that 16/44 is the ultimate and perfect digital format. Because Ogg/Vorbis! And I can haz math.

        Hi-fi enthusiasts can be crazily unscientific and credulous, and finding things mock among their effusions is like shooting fish in a barrel. Yes, good engineering and mastering is the fundamental and supremely important factor in good sound. But there’s something oddly Luddite about the compulsion to angrily frame all higher-resolution digital playback as a dishonest fraud perpetrated by hucksters.

        • Hmm, could that be because the basic science and mathematics that form the foundation of what 16/44.1 can encode, and the science, mathematics and biology that determine what you can hear is properly described in the xiph article, and isn’t going to change in the foreseeable millions of years? Jeez.

          • I think that the actual terminology for what you’re calling “basic science and mathematics” is “scientism.” Research and study and innovation in digital music playback continues, despite the tech-gadget skeptic’s fever of lock-step debunking, and was not settled for all time with the Red Book standard and Perfect 16/44 Forever.

            • Listening tells the tale. I’ve listened to high res for half a year now – I went with an external DAC/amp option. To become an audiophile with sincerity is to embrace the complete system of playback from master recordings to headphones and speakers and everything between. There are times I can’t tell a difference between vinyl and cd and fewer times I can’t tell the difference between high-res and cd. There are many more times listening to 24/96 that I am awakened to a more complete sound that fills my room in a way 16/44 just doesn’t. None of this truly matters to my appreciation of the MUSIC. I’ll listen in many ways. But to dismiss high-res based on what you read is a mistake. To judge properly is to commit to the process and rewards of audiophilia.

              Even after this discussion, I am still not clear on what is being offered by the Dead. What is the original encoding of those lossless files? I’m more concerned with their live offerings. I’ll have to inquire directly I suppose. Thanks!

            • I can report that, despite the persistent confusing language identified by the original post, the digital downloads at dead.net clearly identify the bit/khz of the files. As for the quality of a 24/192 download (and they are not the norm there), I can attest to being rather overwhelmed by the presence of the performance (Wake Up to Find Out: 3-29-90) especially through my old home 2-channel stereo setup with portable DAC playing off my Galaxy S5. I’d never felt so close to the band over the stereo! I may not have the electronics knowledge to explain my reaction, but I have listened to my 10K hours of the Dead. This sounds phenomenal.

  3. This is to clear up what was said about 24 bit and higher sampling. Yes 16 bit 44.1 can capture the entire dynamic range and sound if done right for cd. It is my experience that less than 5% of manufactured CD’s do. If they do they will have a very low volume because of 16 bits. 24 bits allows more volume without losing any dynamics. Higher sampling frequencies can hold more dynamics and anything above 44.1 will have more space and make it through to your speakers or headphones. Record some heavy reverb on 16 bit 44.1 and then do the same at 24 bit 176.4. Guess what happens to the 16 bit reverb, an audible loss can be heard and dithering turns a nice wave file that can edited into complete garbage.

  4. This is to clear up what was said about 24 bit and higher sampling. Yes 16 bit 44.1 can capture the entire dynamic range and sound if done right for cd. It is my experience that less than 5% of manufactured CD’s do. If they do they will have a very low volume because of 16 bits. 24 bits allows more volume without losing any dynamics. Higher sampling frequencies can hold more dynamics and anything above 44.1 will have more space and make it through to your speakers or headphones. Record some heavy reverb on 16 bit 44.1 and then do the same at 24 bit 176.4. Guess what happens to the 16 bit reverb, an audible loss can be heard and dithering turns a nice wave file that can edited into complete garbage.

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