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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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Take up the challenge

  • Find the smallest difference in sound levels you can detect. 
    The Level Series:  6dB  3dB  1dB  0.5dB  0.2dB  0.1dB 

  • Find the highest frequency you can reliably hear.
    The Frequency Series:  10kHz 11k 12k 13k 14k 15k 16k 17k 18k 19k 20kHz

  • Find the smallest difference in pitch (frequency) you can hear. 
    The Pitch Series:  50c  20c  10c  5c  2c  1c 

  • Find the shortest timing difference you can reliably hear. NEW
    The Timing Series:  1ms  2ms  5ms  10ms  20ms  50ms  100ms 

  • Find the highest dynamic range offered by your listening environment. 
    The Dynamic Range Series:  36dB  42dB  48dB  54dB  60dB  66dB  72dB  78dB 

  • Do you have the absolute hearing ability? 
    The Perfect Pitch Blind Test:  C Scale  Chromatic 

  • Are your ears sensitive to Absolute Phase? 
    The Absolute Polarity Blind Test:  Here 

  • Can you hear a difference between 16-bit and 8-bit audio files? 
    The 16-bit v/s 8-bit Blind Test

For sound and studio engineers