I was just reading your comparison of DVD-A vs SACD, and had heard that you won't get the full benefit of either without full-range speakers for each channel, is that correct? And if we can't hear anything above 22 to 25 kHz, isn't more pointless? Thanks for your time, and thanks for the great articles and advice. -- Lanny
Thanks for your e-mail and your nice comments on my articles.
Theoretically, many SACD and DVD-A recordings are mixed to be played back on full-range speakers in every channel, but in most cases, you can set up the bass management of your AV receiver and/or SACD/DVD-A player so that the deep bass is routed to a subwoofer or to a couple of full-range speakers in the front left and right channels.
As to human hearing and the supposed benefits of much higher sampling rates (48 kHz, 96 kHz and higher vs the standard CD rate of 44.1 khz/16-bit) yes, you are correct. There isn't any point, because the conventional 44.1 kHz sampling rate of standard CD recordings will fully cover the uppermost limits of human hearing. Indeed, after our teen years, most males can't hear anything above 15 kHz. Not that it matters, because there is little or no musical information of interest in those ultra-high frequencies.
The best DVD-A and SACD recordings sound "better" to many enthusiasts mostly because greater care is taken in the recording and engineering. These formats also permit a bigger dynamic range, but even here, conventional CD will cover the audible dynamic range of the most extreme orchestral or instrumental dynamics.
In fact, a recent study presented at a meeting of the Audio Engineering Society showed that a large sample of recording engineers and enthusiasts were unable to detect the presence of a 44.1-kHz, 16-bit A-to-D and D-to-A converter in a line-level music signal. In other words, they couldn't distinguish any difference in standard CD recording and the high sampling rate DVD-A and SACD standards.
That is also my experience, in a casual listening experiment performed in the mixing studios of Chesky Records (the owner and composer/producer, David Chesky, is a friend) in New York. There were six of us present, all senior editors and writers about sound and recording, and none of us could reliably identify or distinguish 44.1 kHz/16-bit from 48 kHz and 96 kHz (24-bit) recordings using identical music sources.