There is no audio system in the world giving more than 20 clear bits of signal due to resistance and semiconductor noise characteristics. Most people believe that their 24bit DAC is actually a 24bit DAC. It is not.
If we were to use the full dynamic range of 24bit and a listener had the equipment to reproduce it all (which however does not exist, as explained in point 1), there is a fair chance, depending on age and general health, that the listener would die instantly because, in order to hear the full 24 bit dynamic spectrum, you have to listen to that music at a volume of at least 180dB and 180dB is the figure often quoted for sound pressure levels powerful enough to kill. If you turn down your amp in order to avoid death, then you are not hearing all the detail or the whole dynamic range, so it rather defeats the whole purpose of more dynamic range (more bits) in the first place.
The difference in the real world between 16bit and 24bit is an extra 8bits of noise (due to the dithering process).
If you claim that: “I can easily hear the difference between a 16bit commercial recording and a 24bit Hi-Rez version”, well unfortunately, you can’t. It’s not that you don’t have the equipment or the ears, it is not humanly possible in theory or in practice under any conditions!
24bit is very useful when recording and mixing but pointless for playback. Professional uses 24 bit samples in recording and production but once the music is ready to distribute, there’s no reason to keep more than 16 bits.
Empirical evidence from listening tests backs up the assertion that 44.1kHz/16 bit provides highest-possible fidelity playback. There are numerous controlled tests confirming this.
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