Forget 24-bit; can you even tell the difference between 16- and 8-bit?

I can’t.

I’ve recently been upgrading my audio equipment, mainly by buying some stand-alone DACs and better headphones/IEMs. Some folks I know say that now I’ll really be able to enjoy the benefits of HD audio.

Unfortunately, all of the actual research I’ve read —more and more as I try and get up to speed on current audiophile equipment — proves definitively that human beings simply can’t tell the difference, and so HD audio is a sham.

A great article on Tom’s Hardware (,3733.html) pointed me to this site, which features various blind tests to assess your hearing. This one tests whether you can tell the difference between 16- and 8-bit versions of the same audio.

Using my new 1MORE Triple Driver IEMs and a Fiio Olympus 2 DAC/amp — low-end audiophile, but still a huge step up from what most people use — hooked up to my MacBook, I can’t reliably pass this test.

Can you?

I’m a great believer in getting the best audio equipment you can comfortably afford if you care about music. But the more I delve into audiophile sites, the more I feel like they feature a staggering amount of subjectivity and pseudo- to non-scientific reasoning. Ergo, I think it’s important to subject myself to tests like these and to rely on verifiable research.

10 thoughts on “Forget 24-bit; can you even tell the difference between 16- and 8-bit?

  1. This topic would come up when I was active on skeptic forums in the early 2000’s.
    TL/DR: Audiophiles tend toward the credulous. At a certain point, human hearing simply can’t tell the difference. Tons of pseudoscience. Or, so what if the quality is theoretically better if the human ear can’t detect the difference?

  2. Paul Beakley Don’t even get me started on the current obsession with vinyl. I mean, I’ll have a turntable again soon (the stereo equipment I’m inheriting from my mom), so I’l reserve final judgement until I can do some listening, but as far as I can tell it’s pure affectation.