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I tried to identify high-quality audio samples and failed miserably

Billy Steele
June 3, 2015
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High-resolution audio is getting a lot buzz as of late thanks to the efforts of Tidal, Neil Young and others. While Tidal had a test of its own, NPR set up another quiz to see if you can tell the difference between MP3s and uncompressed WAVs. I couldn't, and I listened to the samples through a pair of B&O H6s routed through an Apogee Groove DAC/headphone amp. In fact, the only track out of the six in which I was able to accurately identify the uncompressed audio was Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" (oddly enough, I'm a big KP fan). For reference, 320kbps MP3s, which are the mid-grade option here, are what streaming services like Spotify, Rdio and others use for their catalogs.

In addition to the most streamed song of 2014, NPR serves up Jay Z's "Tom Ford," Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner," Neil Young's "There's a World," Coldplay's "Speed of Sound" and a Mozart piano concerto from The English Chamber Orchestra. For each selection, you're given three samples -- 192kbps MP3, 320kbps MP3 and the uncompressed WAV -- to choose from. Of course, your selection of headphones could hinder those listening skills, or if your ears aren't used to the clear sounds of HiFi. Unsure about all the chatter surrounding audio quality? Here's your chance to see if you'll be able to notice a difference.

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