The 16-bit v/s 8-bit Blind Listening Test, Part 2.

24-bit v/s 16-bit v/s ... 8-bit!

Neil Young's Pono Music relies on the 24-bit 192 kHz audio format. This uncompromised studio quality has been the source of endless debates lately. Chris 'Monty' Montgomery, the respected creator of the Ogg container format and Vorbis audio codec, is also the author of one of the most comprehensive article on this subject, available here. He writes: "The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness."

This page offers you a chance to check the effect of bit depth, in a browser-friendly, easier and even more provocative 16-bit v/s 8-bit scenario. Don't get me wrong, differences between 16-bit and 8-bit are clearly audible, and are demonstrated on my Dynamic Range, Dithering and Noise Shaping page. However, because contemporary popular music has such a limited dynamic range, these differences become subtle, if not inaudible, when tested on it.

Raising awareness of what has happened lately to the dynamic range of our music was the purpose of my original 16-bit v/s 8-bit Blind Listening Test. Recently, after taking that test, a user commented that I should perform it with Neil Young's own music—an ironic suggestion that I thought would be fun to implement. Mr. Young, please forgive me.

Files being tested

16-bit 8-bit

Neil Young's 'Rockin in the Free World' intro, with its original 16-bit format, and its 8-bit down-converted sibling.

The Test

16-bit 8-bit
Listen to [?] then vote — multiple guesses not allowed (your vote triggers a new draw)

To pass a blind test, you will need to perform 10 trials at least, obtain a high score and reach a high confidence level: 95% is standard to rate statistical significance. It means that your score outperforms random guesses by 95%. There is still a probability that you just got lucky though, 5%. To reduce such probability to 1%, keep testing until you reached a confidence level of 99%.

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