24-bit 384kHz: The trade-off and some differences

Despite the improvements that I can differentiate between the 24-bit 44kHz and 24-bit 384kHz, there is a slight trade-off as well as I’ve realized, outputing audio at that rate. While I was doing my homework (some of which involves doing it online) I encountered some freezing of the screen like it needed time to process all the information it was receiving, such as the streaming, downloading of data and generating them. Another thing to note was that the fan was almost constantly running when all that was happening. Obviously with these signs, it was no doubt that the processor was running hot, and that meant that it was taking more battery as well. I know sometimes that the companies that make laptops can be a bit overextending their specs when they mention battery life, but this completely made it seem like it was running a relatively intense game.

For this specific Lenovo I have, they do claim about 10 hours of batter life, but really a lot of reviews say about 6-7 in real life scenarios. With everything that was going on that one time, I lasted about barely 4 hours. Using this laptop in class and everything could last me to the whole day (which I think is about 6-7 hours of actual use without having to charge on a good day). Worse days so far, which included using CAD software such as PTC Creo (it’s just one of many CAD softwares) for about an hour account for the battery like being at least 5 and a half hours. I’m doing basically similar things when doing homework in between class time and at home, but when I’m connected to the DAC at the same time doing 24-bit 384kHz, it drops completely.

So, I’ll probably switch from 24-bit 384kHz to 24-bit 192kHz to save processing power and batter so it doesn’t drain the battery as much, and in turn shorten the lifespan of the battery due to the charging.

However, there are some immediate noticeable differences when switching from 44kHz to 384kHz. In terms of overall sound quality, you can definitely tell that there is a difference. Since I play almost exclusively MP3 at 320kbps, I think the bit-rate for this format can be better or the same as CD quality at 16bit 44kHz. Playing music comparatively between 24-bit 44kHz and 24-bit 384kHz, you can definitely tell a difference. Like it was meant and can be played at a higher bit-rate comfortably. Although you should give credit to CD for being able to play sound at a level 24-bit 384kHz can produce at the lower-bit rate with a good upscaling DAC (but that’s also on a system worth more than 5 digits).

On to the real comparison, in my personal experience with the bit-rate change, I heard a difference in the overall realism of the sound, sound-stage and imaging. Basically everything. When playing at the lower kHz (44), comparatively with the 384kHz, you would think that the music has been unleashed. It literally gave me that impression. Immediate benefits can be heard and rightfully so, given the right components used in this case as well. Image is sharper and more defined, sound-stage makes you feel like you are listening to the music live, and the realism of just feeling like you’re listening to a real voice in front of you with instruments you can easily recognize with emotion, the atmosphere or feel as you can call it. Everything comes alive.

I’ve just talked about music being played in general, from Youtube, streaming services, to local downloaded music. Now, in terms of native 24-bit 384kHz music I’ve actually had a chance to try out (mostly classical music), one other thing that stands out for me is the precision of every quick note change, every short notes, every sudden pause. It’s like there is no-room-for-error type of precision. In a general comparison, those kinds of classical music with sudden pauses, quick note changes in particular tend to blur the separation between them. It’s like sometimes, you can’t tell if they are holding the note or playing the same notes over and over again really quickly, if I were to say it in simple terms.

In the short time using 24-bit 384kHz output, I’ve felt satisfied “unleashing” my music. Everything was a joy to listen to if you’re not on a laptop running down the battery. I would like to listen to the output more, but since there is a compromise alternative for more battery life, I would rather compromise for the sake of my battery-life and academics. If there were to be a reason you can use this format(playing actual 384kHz music) with a good DAC, and with a component that don’t need worrying for battery, definitely try it out and you will find a world of music coming right at you in the comfort of your own home.


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