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      03-24-2008, 02:38 PM   #1
john970
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Audio bitrates

In preparation for the 1er, I did another listening test last night to help determine if I would get any benefit out of losslessly encoding my audio collection (I encode at 256Kbps vbr aac and occasionaly buy music at either 128 or more often 256 from the iTunes music store).

Tester:
I consider myself to be a fairly discriminating listener, although I am realistic about it and revile undefined audiophile terms like "more musical" that people revert to using when they are trying to "describe" an imperceptible difference.

Bitrates tested:
I tested AAC only for compression at 96Kbps VBR, 128Kbps VBR, 256Kbps VBR and ALC (Apple Lossless) as a control, which was usually around 900kbps.

Audio Equipment:
Denon 2807 processor and amplifier with B&W DM 604 tower speakers using MIT cables. No separate subwoofer was used for the test. I also used Shure e2c headphones, switching between headphones and the speakers during the test.

Source:
I used some tom petty tracks, batman begins soundtrack, and some 2pac. They were encoded from the CDs using my Mac Mini and iTunes encoders and sent to my Denon over an optical out (digital), so the Denon was used for the DAC and amplifier stages. No EQ was enabled (DIRECT mode on the denon). My center and surround speakers we not used.

Methodology:
This was a blind test, which is absolutely key in this type of testing. I setup the 4 tracks on the screen (per song), started playing them all simultaneously, and switched between them and attempted to order them from best to worst quality for a selection of tracks. Sometimes I would play a section over on different recordings until I felt I heard a difference.

Results:
This was HARD. I expected to have trouble between 160&256, but identifying 96 vs. lossless in a controlled environment listening to the same track was suprisingly difficult, and not obvious. I believe Variable Bitrate Encoding (VBR) is instrumental in this: complex sections are given enough attention to be indistinguishable while silent or simple passages are compressed heavily. This makes my job very hard...

96kbps: I identified all of these tracks, but just barely. The tracks had a general sense of reduced range - the high shrills, cymbals, etc. sounded more muffled. I can see getting less out of your music at this bitrate.

128kbps: I identified all but 1 of these which I confused with 256. Very difficult: listening to certain passages it was possible to tell the difference. Depending on the material, I can see getting less out of your music at this bitrate on a good system.

256Kbps: I confused 1 of these tracks with 128 and two more with ALC. This sounds great - hard to tell between this and lossless. Certain music and certain tracks for certain people on high end equipment might be able to spot the difference but: You get full enjoyment out of your music at this bitrate. There are some differences, but they are academic.

ALC: I confused two of these with 256 and got the other 3 right. This is not much better than luck. On some tracks, I feel comfortable saying an audiophile would be throwing darts guessing between the two (256 and ALC) on a good audio system, maybe getting 2/3 on a CD he/she had heard 100 times.

Conclusion:
Lossless codecs are needed to ensure when the next hot codec comes along you have a way to reencode. And someone out there has a proper audiophile listening room and the right ears to spot differences between 256kbps and the ~900kbps data contained in a PCM audio stream. This should be regarded as the "gold standard", and 256kbps as the "consumer standard", as I believe you get every bit of enjoyment out of your audio using 256kbps audio.

Thus, I will use 256kbps VBR AAC as my standard audio format.

Caveat:
I didn't do a scientific test on this, but 128 CBR MP3 sounds substantially worse than anything I tested above. CBR is just way worse for a given bitrate, it is very easy to pick a complex section and spot the difference. I wouldn't pay for music at this bit rate/format.

Other notes:
HD Radio stations usually push a 96Kbps HE-AAC stream on FM, which is similar sounding to a 96kbps VBR AAC (read: good) from a polk audio hd-radio reciever and my shure e2c headphones.

Satellite radio uses a similar, slightly more efficient codec, at 40-50kbps on average for music stations. It is completely obvious that this is not a CD to even the least discriminating listener, to the point where I do not enjoy music on it. I use their online feed (128kbps wma) and record it, and transfer it to my iPod after converting it to 160kbps vbr mp3 using LAME).

Makes it obvious to me why SACD and DVD-Audio failed.

PHEW.
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      03-24-2008, 05:40 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john970 View Post
In preparation for the 1er, I did another listening test last night to help determine if I would get any benefit out of losslessly encoding my audio collection (I encode at 256Kbps vbr aac and occasionaly buy music at either 128 or more often 256 from the iTunes music store).


Other notes:
HD Radio stations usually push a 96Kbps HE-AAC stream on FM, which is similar sounding to a 96kbps VBR AAC (read: good) from a polk audio hd-radio reciever and my shure e2c headphones.

Satellite radio uses a similar, slightly more efficient codec, at 40-50kbps on average for music stations. It is completely obvious that this is not a CD to even the least discriminating listener, to the point where I do not enjoy music on it. I use their online feed (128kbps wma) and record it, and transfer it to my iPod after converting it to 160kbps vbr mp3 using LAME).

Makes it obvious to me why SACD and DVD-Audio failed.

PHEW.
:w00t:
+10

Hello, nice write up and I am glad you found a happy-medium for your listening habits. I too sat down over a coarse of a few weeks and did the exact thing you have just done.

Even though I have an iPod (for jogging) I have my entire musical collection ripped to my HD at 320kbps. The iPod and iTunes is just crap for actual listening.

I may have a more discernible ear than most because even at 320kbps, the songs/passages are just not CD quality. VBR sounds too sporadic to me and cymbals just sound weird, etc. A strait bitrate I feel is better than a variable. And to me that is why your listening to music in the first place, is for the sound. VBR is for when HD space was expensive and your trying to save space.

Which is not the case in 2008. They have 16gig thumb drives that will hold about 90 albums. So, to me, choosing a VBR is pointless. The mobility of MP3s are great, but an actual CD album is still better. So that same 16gig thumb drive can still hold about 22 albums.

With the ease of swapping albums on a thumb drive, I see no reason why I would need more than 22 albums for a road trip or weekly driving. I can always swap, or just have a second thumb drive for classical, rock, etc.

The sound of MP3s (320kbps) is just too compressed for my listening habits. Not bad for background music or when entertaining, but when I am alone listening to my music, I need a wav file.


ED:There is just no point in being conservative with MP3s, just rip them at the highest standards available. Storage is cheap.
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      03-24-2008, 08:03 PM   #3
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nice report. i've done similar tests and drew the exact same conclusion. thanks for sharing the detail rather than just expressing the opinion. :P
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      03-29-2008, 08:33 AM   #4
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im glad you confirmed my thoughts on sat rad. a friend of mine has it in his car, i like the selection, but always thought it sounded like old-school 96k CBR MP3 crap, didn't want to pay for the unit, then monthly to play such low bitrates through my $900 premium audio option. makes no sense.
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      04-04-2008, 01:00 PM   #5
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Current VBR MP3 codecs have gotten impressively good. The suggested encoding method for MP3s (for software that uses the LAME encoder [not iTunes]) translates to 192k VBR. Those files can only be distinguished from lossless by someone who knows a song very well, knows what to listen for in regard to MP3 artifacts, and has very good speakers in optimal conditions. I have personally done this test on hardware similar to the original poster, and was unable to distinguish between the MP3 and the lossless file, and I do know what to listen for.

AAC options in iTunes are similar. 128k VBR is very nearly as good as 192k VBR MP3, and 256k is arguably better.

If your only target listening environment is your BMW, it's worth noting that the speaker layout is far from ideal, and any road noise at all will wipe out those subtle differences. Any format encoded at 128k or above should be satisfactory in a moving vehicle.


Summary: Using iTunes, set it to 256k AAC. Using something else like EAC or Max or CDEx or anything else that uses the LAME MP3 codec, use a setting called "transparent" or "--alt-preset standard" or "-V2 --vbr-new". (Those three options produce the same results.) This will give you great sound and not take up too much space.
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      04-22-2008, 01:12 PM   #6
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I'll second that LAME is a great mp3 encoder and has come a long way since the 128k cbr mp3's I downloaded in college. If you have 192kbps mp3's from LAME I certainly wouldn't reencode them using AAC (or anything else).

High end audio has become a religion. There is a reason Stereophile magazine doesn't have a section called "double-blind testing".
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      04-22-2008, 02:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john970 View Post
I'll second that LAME is a great mp3 encoder and has come a long way since the 128k cbr mp3's I downloaded in college. If you have 192kbps mp3's from LAME I certainly wouldn't reencode them using AAC (or anything else).

High end audio has become a religion. There is a reason Stereophile magazine doesn't have a section called "double-blind testing".
Dude, don't you owe use a post about the trip??? Or did I miss it?
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      05-28-2008, 09:02 AM   #8
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I can easily tell the difference between 128kbps and higher (192+) rates on my Orb audio Orb2 speakers. This annoys me so much that I try not use anything less than 192.

I cant tell the difference between the original CD and a 'lossless' 800+ recording though.
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      05-28-2008, 09:51 AM   #9
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The difference between 128k and 192k CBR is very noticeable, particularly in the higher frequencies (naturally). I've only ever encoded my music at 192k CBR. I got into the habit of using CBR back when VBR was not as widely supported as it is today. I should really experiment with VBR for the space savings.
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      05-28-2008, 10:11 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alext View Post
I can easily tell the difference between 128kbps and higher (192+) rates on my Orb audio Orb2 speakers. This annoys me so much that I try not use anything less than 192.

I cant tell the difference between the original CD and a 'lossless' 800+ recording though.
There isn't any difference between any lossless encoding and the original CD.
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      09-03-2008, 03:19 PM   #11
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Personally, I rip to lossless so that I can transcode as needed. With hard drives getting cheaper and cheaper, it does not make a lot of sense to archive in anything other than lossless.

I have lossess on my 160GB iPod, but I will most likely transcode to 256 since I know I can be happy with it. The main differences are just as the OP described. The cymbals and brass instruments do not have the same punch at lower bitrates. I agree that the car is not the best audiophile environment, but I plan to take it with me on trips and want the better sound over headphones.
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      01-02-2009, 05:59 PM   #12
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Just as another data point, I use 192k for ripping. But for the songs that I use to rate stereo equipment, I ripped them using the Apple Lossless. When using my high end headphones or stereo, it sometimes gives me a headache when I listen to 192k. But listening to the actual CD...or yikes...VINYL (for those of you who are old enough to know what that is) does NOT give me the same headache. Interesting, huh? But I echo the findings of everyone else above where for car stereo, 192k is good enough for me.
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      07-19-2009, 04:54 PM   #13
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Great post John970, thx a lot for taking the time to do a blind test...

I'm just thankful for the digital age letting us play tunes without static, scratches, hiss, and other spurious crap infecting the music, and getting us really close to the studio master recording. And it's so cheap now for really good sound (although I spent a buttload on Mcintosh and B&W) - iPods rock!

I never owned a turntable and never will. But, if you prefer, cool, whatever floats yer boat!

I've got my iTunes folders loaded up with Apple Lossless from CDs. I wish you could choose MP3 downsampling for iPods as an option - MP3 takes up so much less space on these small devices where you might not choose the extra fidelity.
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      07-21-2009, 10:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
I'm just thankful for the digital age letting us play tunes without static, scratches, hiss, and other spurious crap infecting the music, and getting us really close to the studio master recording. And it's so cheap now for really good sound (although I spent a buttload on Mcintosh and B&W) - iPods rock!

I never owned a turntable and never will. But, if you prefer, cool, whatever floats yer boat!
I have more CDs than any other medium (by far), but clean vinyl sounds great. Old scratched up records sound like crap and it sounds like those are the only type of records you have listened to... so you are missing out.

Many CDs have clipping of the digital "waveform" and dynamic range compression. This is not because of the limits of CD, but because of piss poor mastering related to the so-called "loudness wars"... Also, CDs only take a snapshot of the analog waveform, so even at their best, they are missing information from the original analog recording.

Not saying that CDs can't sound decent, but clean vinyl can sound better...Vinyl can also be recorded to a computer and converted to mp3/wav or whatever digital format you like. It just takes a lot longer for the conversion because you have to do it in real time. As a result, a few new vinyl releases actually contain a digital copy for your computer.

That being said, I prefer hybrid SACD because they usually have better mastering than CDs and get closer to the analog waveform, but unfortunately they never really caught on.

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      10-23-2009, 05:40 PM   #15
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Just a quick question, i tried encoding in ALC and running it through a 325i sedan with professional navigation/idrive system. it read the files, got all the info for the artist and song title but still stated the file was in an "unreadable format" and wouldnt allow me to play any of the songs.

Have i done somehting wrong ? or is there a trick with the idrive system as i am used a the profesisonal head unit without idrive or navigation.
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      01-26-2010, 09:15 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john970 View Post
In preparation for the 1er, I did another listening test last night to help determine if I would get any benefit out of losslessly encoding my audio collection (I encode at 256Kbps vbr aac and occasionaly buy music at either 128 or more often 256 from the iTunes music store).

Makes it obvious to me why SACD and DVD-Audio failed.

PHEW.
Kind of an interesting write up albeit flawed, and the conclusion is a non-sequiter.

SACD has a sampling rate of 2.8224MHz, 64 times the rate of a standard compact disc. The formats and algorithms you tested pale in comparison to that amount of data as content. Since the real debate (settled long ago I believe) was more between analogue and digital than it is between the commercially compromised digital formats you have tested I think your SACD comment at the end is flat wrong.

SACD is the only of the digital formats whose operational waveforms are almost identical to analog versus the typical digital pattern. Assuming responsible dithering to keep noise outside the audible bandwidth, SACD is capable of reproduction quality no other format has been able to come close to. SACD is the only format that can reproduce material in upper octaves sufficiently to preserve the upper harmonic structures that makes music rich. That makes a Stradivarius sound different from a kid’s rental violin. All while keeping odd order harmonics in check.

Evaluating music in this realm involves going way beyond listening for ‘shrillness’ but listening for timbre, transparency, depth, soundstage and space between instruments, their notes and the ‘rosin on the bowstring’.

SACD had clearly won the hearts of audiophiles over DVD-Audio just prior to the entire audiophile format movement collapsing from a commercial standpoint. It was clear today's consumer is more in to quantity and portability than quality.

There is a glimmer in the fact that vinyl has made resurgence and that is a testament to the stubborn holdouts among the audiophile ranks.
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      04-29-2010, 12:21 PM   #17
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Thumbs down Vinyl More Accurate Than CD?

"Many CDs have clipping of the digital "waveform" and dynamic range compression... Also, CDs only take a snapshot of the analog waveform, so even at their best, they are missing information from the original analog recording."

"Vinyl can also be recorded to a computer and converted to mp3/wav or whatever digital format you like..."

"SACD is the only of the digital formats whose operational waveforms are almost identical to analog versus the typical digital pattern. SACD is the only format that can reproduce material in upper octaves sufficiently to preserve the upper harmonic structures that makes music rich. That makes a Stradivarius sound different from a kid’s rental violin."



Of course, the bottom line is whatever sounds best to you is the way to go. I'm sure we can all agree to that.

And I'm sure we can accept that standard digital CD can provide excellent sound at such a low cost, in the medium itself and on playback equipment, the market has obviously moved there.


However, I'll go even further - there is no way that one can maintain that a vinyl record is a better copy of the live or studio performance than a CD.


Firstly, the dynamic range, frequency response, and stereo separation of vinyl is so limited compared to a CD that it is laughable... and audible.

Next, the number of audio tricks applied just to get the sound in and out of the grooves of a record - RIAA equalization/de-equalization, de-essing, and many more - are indefensible if one contends that vinyl maintains the integrity of the original recording. These are supposedly accurately undone at playback? Is there any error correction? No way.

Finally, what's the amount of color added by a sharp, weighted stylus surfing a spinning groove, wearing it down with each turn? Can we say "snap, crackle, pop, warble"? Accuracy? Adjustments?


The humble CD gets you to 16-bit, error-corrected, no noise added perfection of the original master recording.


It was clear since I heard it for the first time in college in 1983 (CD released 1982), to when I bought a first generation Sony DiscMan D50, to my current Macintosh iTunes lossless files/digital out/McIntosh AV/McIntosh amp/B&W speakers/Sunfire subwoofer system, that CD sounds much better than anything that came before it.

So, just maybe, if you are listening to a single violin, at a low volume, for that first spin of the virgin vinyl from the pressing plant, on a $5,000 granite turntable, it may sound really great. (And I might contend it's the "color" added by the analog process that you really like...)

But add to that some low frequencies (organ pedal, Moog, kettle drum, Tama kit), some high frequencies, some voice, some dynamic range, a wide stereo sound stage, etc., and I bet anyone could tell which sounded closer to the original performance.


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Last edited by plasar; 04-29-2010 at 12:51 PM.
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      04-29-2010, 01:09 PM   #18
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I'm no vinyl apologist (though I do prefer the format for its tactile qualities) but CDs have lots and lots of problems too. The great sounding and mastered CDs pretty much all happened well out of the 80's because it took the engineers that long to figure out how to properly master out the exhausting amounts of hi-end. And then IMO many of the best sounding recordings on CDs that exist today were ones originally recorded in a pure analog manner. Fast forward to 2010 and you've got most CDs being compressed so much (because the CD can handle it) that you've lost all of that dynamic range it has the capability of reproducing. And don't get me started on how the computer has ruined the art of the recording process. Imagine what The Who would sound like if some dooshbag producer had them clipping apart Moon's drum tracks and Townshend's windmills or pitch correcting Daltrey's vocals.

With a good set of headphones it should be a bit tricky but not impossible to tell the difference between a 320kbs MP3 and a pure CD Audio track. Typically the MP3 will have a bit less bottom end and the highs will garble. Make that a 192kbs or less and to me the differences are astounding in any reasonably controlled environment.

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      04-29-2010, 02:15 PM   #19
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I’m sorry, not to be rude but I think there is a whole lot of misguided misinformation being misunderstood here.

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Of course, the bottom line is whatever sounds best to you is the way to go. I'm sure we can all agree to that.
While I guess we can agree that you should buy what ever floats your boat – indicating that it is ‘the way to go’ may be a bit much. There are absolutes that cannot be dismissed. And having advised folks for many years, I have seen all too many cases where, as the ear gets educated, the compromised ‘way to go’ decision made becomes very dissatisfying down the road. Additionally a strong dissatisfier in audio systems is a factor called ‘long term listener fatigue’. It is caused by known flaws in the ‘way to go’ systems. Odd Order Harmonic Distortion being a very key factor among many, many others.

Quote:
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However, I'll go even further - there is no way that one can maintain that a vinyl record is a better copy of the live or studio performance than a CD.


Firstly, the dynamic range, frequency response, and stereo separation of vinyl is so limited compared to a CD that it is laughable... and audible.
Uh, hello… it is a pretty standard assumption in the audiophile world that vinyl is WORLDS better than CD. The ONLY thing a CD does better that you have listed is separation. Unfortunately it is capable of better separation than a real acoustic environment is – rendering that ability useless in the world of real music.

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Next, the number of audio tricks applied just to get the sound in and out of the grooves of a record - RIAA equalization/de-equalization, de-essing, and many more - are indefensible if one contends that vinyl maintains the integrity of the original recording. These are supposedly accurately undone at playback? Is there any error correction? No way.
The TRICKS to which you refer are done at the recording end of the process. They are present whether the playback end is digital (CD) or analogue (vinyl). Really doesn’t apply in a comparison between the two mediums. And the side-chain compression or broadband de-essing you refer to is just high frequency suppresion for the human voice sibilence that is done in most recording studios.

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Finally, what's the amount of color added by a sharp, weighted stylus surfing a spinning groove, wearing it down with each turn? Can we say "snap, crackle, pop, warble"? Accuracy? Adjustments?
The ‘color’ you attribute to vinyl pales in comparison to the ‘color’ from a medium that cannot even reproduce a sine wave – a fundamental coefficient of sound reproduction. The codecs used in CD can only recreate a stepladder facsimile of an acoustic sine wave. The missing parts must be interpolated and synthesized out of redundant information. If you do the math computing the sampling rate of a standard CD against the 44.1kHz standard for the medium you will see that when it reaches it’s high frequency cut-off point or maximum, it does not roll off – it drops off at a 90 degree angle a + value to a 0 value in an instant. No natural acoustic instrument does than. It destroys the timbre and the Even Order Harmonics (the natural and good ones) that define the subtleties of music and instruments. And of course this sampling rate itself was selected as a compromise by the then Chairman of Sony Akio Morita who was reacting to his personal friend and Berlin Philharmonic conductor Herbert von Karajan’s insistence that a typical symphony must be able to fit on one side of a CD disc. More musical depth and fidelity would have required more data and hence exceeded the capacity of the CD storage medium. A commercial compromise over acoustic accuracy from the outset.


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The humble CD gets you to 16-bit, error-corrected, no noise added perfection of the original master recording.
The bit depth to which you refer really only controls noise floor and headroom. That’s what makes CD’s sound so ‘clean’. Not musical or accurate mind you, just ‘clean’.


Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
It was clear since I heard it for the first time in college in 1983 (CD released 1982), to when I bought a first generation Sony DiscMan D50, to my current Macintosh iTunes lossless files/digital out/McIntosh AV/McIntosh amp/B&W speakers/Sunfire subwoofer system, that CD sounds much better than anything that came before it.

So, just maybe, if you are listening to a single violin, at a low volume, for that first spin of the virgin vinyl from the pressing plant, on a $5,000 granite turntable, it may sound really great. (And I might contend it's the "color" added by the analog process that you really like...)

But add to that some low frequencies (organ pedal, Moog, kettle drum, Tama kit), some high frequencies, some voice, some dynamic range, a wide stereo sound stage, etc., and I bet anyone could tell which sounded closer to the original performance.
I really don’t disparage you for really enjoying what you’ve listened to. And if your tastes have remained stable and consistent for many years – all the better. However it is the ‘color’ you have decided to cast as a bad thing, that makes a Stradivarius sound different from a Kay rental you’d get your kits in 6th grade to be in the school orchestra. And the Sunfire Subs from dear old Bob carver are more suited to brutal earth shaking home theater LFE channels than too real music. That’s why they have never really been embraced in the audiophile world. Don’t get me wrong, I have 6 of them in my home theater. Bit that system is not my serous music listening vehicle. None-the-less, if there were more folks who cared as much as you, we might have more readily available and affordable music reproduction devices around today than the ipod, mpeg3, aac crap everyone’s got plugged into their ears today.
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      04-29-2010, 07:59 PM   #20
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"I’m sorry, not to be rude but I think there is a whole lot of misguided misinformation being misunderstood here."

No offense taken, and I hope I didn't come across as rude.

I agree there is some misinformation here, that's why I posted. Let me address some points in your response. Also, you might read the articles that I posted first - lots of key info on vinyl mastering.


"Uh, hello… it is a pretty standard assumption in the audiophile world that vinyl is WORLDS better than CD. The ONLY thing a CD does better that you have listed is separation."

And you might say next that audiophiles assume tube amps are superior to solid state. I disagree that vinyl and tube amps are better than CD and solid state. I contend they both vinyl and tubes "distort" in a manner some perceive as "pleasing", and I perceive as plain "distortion".

You don't credit CD with a better dynamic range? Then you are frankly in denial - I'm looking for a reference for comparative specs now.

And regarding frequency response, did you know that the treble is more accurate on the outer grooves of a record verses the inner grooves? That's why they frequently located ballads towards the center. (Read the articles...) Also, there was a RIAA wear standard about how high frequency response can drop off after a number of plays (Wikipedia article below).

Frankly, vinyl cannot come close to CD when looking at the specs - just admit it. The whole argument is in digital sampling and quantization error, and perhaps the ADCs and DACs themselves, and whether the sound is not "natural".


"The TRICKS to which you refer are done at the recording end of the process. They are present whether the playback end is digital (CD) or analogue (vinyl). Really doesn’t apply in a comparison between the two mediums. And the side-chain compression or broadband de-essing you refer to is just high frequency suppresion for the human voice sibilence that is done in most recording studios."

Epic wrong here - read the articles. Of course, you can use any processing you want at any time, but as I said, they are required in the mastering process for vinyl so that the info can fit on the record (without RIAA equalization bass cut, you'd get 5 min per side of LP) and so that the needle doesn't skip out of the groove (sibilance requiring de-essing). Ditto with virtually requiring low frequencies in "mono" - you can't pan left or right.

None of these mastering tricks required for CDs. Just sample directly from the digital or analog final mixes from the studio. Of course, you can "sweeten" the sound however you like at this point too, or leave it as is.


The ‘color’ you attribute to vinyl pales in comparison to the ‘color’ from a medium that cannot even reproduce a sine wave – a fundamental coefficient of sound reproduction. The codecs used in CD can only recreate a stepladder facsimile of an acoustic sine wave. The missing parts must be interpolated and synthesized out of redundant information.

Yes, the CD stores a "stepladder facsimilie" of the sine wave (actually 2 for left/right channels) as sampled from the master as digital bits. After reading this facsimilie back on your CD player (the redundant info helps insure the digital bits are 100% identical to what was sampled at the studio), the DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) converts it back to an analog signal, and a smooth wave, ideally, the sine wave from the original master.

The standard CD sampling rate of 44kHz was chosen to provide frequency response to 22kHz. This means the stepladder is fine enough to record/playback to 22kHz.

We are comparing 100% accurate digital bit transmission copy to a sine wave signal causing a wiggle in a cutting lathe to cut a master presser from which plastic disks are created whose surface is scratched by a stylus that is wiggled back and forth and whose wiggles are then converted back in a sine wave? Look at all these physical transitions... with no error checking!

Add to that all of the mastering tricks required, and yes - I'm saying that vinyl adds a lot more color than CD, and therefore, the CD is a much more accurate sound reproduction of what was recorded in the studio or live performance.


"And the Sunfire Subs from dear old Bob carver are more suited to brutal earth shaking home theater LFE channels than too real music."

You might be right here, I've heard this said several times. I had it tuned great in Hong Kong, but here in San Fran, I can't get it to sound too good. When tuned properly, I liked it better than my REL Strata.

Wikipedia - Gramaphone Record
Uncyclopedia - Vinyl Record

Now, I am definitely not anti-distortion and anti-tube or anti-analog: I play guitar, have 4 tube amps, and I love the sound of analog synths (ex. the French band Air). And violins. I have no issue with any type of "harmonic distortion" in the instruments of the original performances.

But I when I want good, loud, accurate sound reproduction, with low distortion and little color, it's digital and solid state all the way. (Leave the sweetener in the bowl...)

Last edited by plasar; 04-29-2010 at 08:51 PM.
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      04-30-2010, 11:51 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
"I’m sorry, not to be rude but I think there is a whole lot of misguided misinformation being misunderstood here."

No offense taken, and I hope I didn't come across as rude. :
Not at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
I agree there is some misinformation here, that's why I posted. Let me address some points in your response. Also, you might read the articles that I posted first - lots of key info on vinyl mastering.


"Uh, hello… it is a pretty standard assumption in the audiophile world that vinyl is WORLDS better than CD. The ONLY thing a CD does better that you have listed is separation."

And you might say next that audiophiles assume tube amps are superior to solid state. I disagree that vinyl and tube amps are better than CD and solid state. I contend they both vinyl and tubes "distort" in a manner some perceive as "pleasing", and I perceive as plain "distortion".

You don't credit CD with a better dynamic range? Then you are frankly in denial - I'm looking for a reference for comparative specs now. :
Perceived and actual dynamic range is certainly better on CD but the debate has always been whether that is overemphasized due to the much lower noise floor of the medium. Tests run in Germany years ago as friends of mine were working with Philips on their IP for the CD to SACD transition format found the sound floor dynamics exceeded that of a good concert hall , most instruments and even small venues and was therefore not usable in much more than non-acoustic full electronic music or for motion picture sound tracks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
And regarding frequency response, did you know that the treble is more accurate on the outer grooves of a record verses the inner grooves? That's why they frequently located ballads towards the center. (Read the articles...) Also, there was a RIAA wear standard about how high frequency response can drop off after a number of plays (Wikipedia article below). :
Treble in and of itself cannot be accurate. Treble can only be there or not be there at the correct frequency and amplitude. If a recorded tone is 16,250Hz @ +16dB, either it is or it is not. Frequency response of mastering studios calibration and test discs can match that of a 44.kHz 16bit CD reference disc. Without the need for dithering. And regarding the record wear VS high frequency debate, there are as many CD degraded substrate debates floating around as to how it hurts digital reproduction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
Frankly, vinyl cannot come close to CD when looking at the specs - just admit it. The whole argument is in digital sampling and quantization error, and perhaps the ADCs and DACs themselves, and whether the sound is not "natural".:
You are right. The full specification picture on paper of a CD versus a vinyl disc goes to the CD. However both mediums are clearly flawed and compromised. It is generally accepted that CD’s flaws cause a non-musical error to the recording while vinyl is much kinder and preserves much more of the natural timbre, harmonic structure and warmth. There is a reason manufacturers are still trying to incorporate tube preamp sections into solid state digital equipment.

I hope you do not buy audio (or video) equipment by specs. We both know that man has yet to define the specification that determines true fidelity and total accuracy to source – or musicality for that matter.


Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
"The TRICKS to which you refer are done at the recording end of the process. They are present whether the playback end is digital (CD) or analogue (vinyl). Really doesn’t apply in a comparison between the two mediums. And the side-chain compression or broadband de-essing you refer to is just high frequency suppresion for the human voice sibilence that is done in most recording studios."

Epic wrong here - read the articles. Of course, you can use any processing you want at any time, but as I said, they are required in the mastering process for vinyl so that the info can fit on the record (without RIAA equalization bass cut, you'd get 5 min per side of LP) and so that the needle doesn't skip out of the groove (sibilance requiring de-essing). Ditto with virtually requiring low frequencies in "mono" - you can't pan left or right.

None of these mastering tricks required for CDs. Just sample directly from the digital or analog final mixes from the studio. Of course, you can "sweeten" the sound however you like at this point too, or leave it as is. :
Not only have I read the articles, but I have employed many of the technics at Bernie Grummun studios and mastering labs in LA. The RIAA EQ refer to certainly originated in an anologue world filled with phono cartridges, cutting lathes and vinyl records. But it is fully alive today as it’s principals and protections are what keeps CD’s capable of album length recording, keeps loudspeakers (analog devices by the way) from having their voice coils jump out of the magnet gap and allows consumers to listen to music on all sizes of loudspeakers and ear buds. In fact the RIAA standards for EQ in digital recordings were just reviewed at a symposium in the Netherlands last year and the application equalization algorithm was actually increased for digital recordings to allow better performance on ipods etc.. And De-Essing really serves an issue that starts at the microphone diaphragm (another analog device). None-the-less, all these are still employed in the studios before the masters are turned over for replication.


Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
The ‘color’ you attribute to vinyl pales in comparison to the ‘color’ from a medium that cannot even reproduce a sine wave – a fundamental coefficient of sound reproduction. The codecs used in CD can only recreate a stepladder facsimile of an acoustic sine wave. The missing parts must be interpolated and synthesized out of redundant information.

Yes, the CD stores a "stepladder facsimilie" of the sine wave (actually 2 for left/right channels) as sampled from the master as digital bits. After reading this facsimilie back on your CD player (the redundant info helps insure the digital bits are 100% identical to what was sampled at the studio), the DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) converts it back to an analog signal, and a smooth wave, ideally, the sine wave from the original master.

The standard CD sampling rate of 44kHz was chosen to provide frequency response to 22kHz. This means the stepladder is fine enough to record/playback to 22kHz. :
Actually the red and blue book standards for CD called for much much more and it was the commercial concession to the length of recording issue on a standard disc that pushed it back to the current deficient specification. Even the engineers behind CD at launch were pissed off. And with a step filter at 22K that has no roll off and no phase compensation and no recovery – where are the harmonics above 22kHz? Gone? Yes. Gone. What is the difference in sound between a Bösendorfer Imperial Grand Piano and a Yamaha electric piano that tries to sound like a Bösendorfer? Harmonics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
We are comparing 100% accurate digital bit transmission copy to a sine wave signal causing a wiggle in a cutting lathe to cut a master presser from which plastic disks are created whose surface is scratched by a stylus that is wiggled back and forth and whose wiggles are then converted back in a sine wave? Look at all these physical transitions... with no error checking! :
Just the fact that CD requires error checking should tell you a bit.
If indeed the 44.1kHz 16 bit format were perfect – why did all of the founding manufacturers and their technical teams work so hard to push it to 46kHz, 92kHz, 196kHz and ultimately to 2.8gHz and keep increasing work width and depth from 4 to 8 to 16 to 1 (bitstream that you refer to)? The same team and companies that created CD (Sony and Philips – I worked for Philips) openly admitted that digital compact disc was a sonically compromised and flawed format. The benchmark they held in development of SuperAudio CD was analog. If fact we toyed with the concept of using ‘the analog of digital’ for the ad tag like and key message for SACD.



Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
Add to that all of the mastering tricks required, and yes - I'm saying that vinyl adds a lot more color than CD, and therefore, the CD is a much more accurate sound reproduction of what was recorded in the studio or live performance. :
Redundancy is sampled. Therefore it wan not nor will ebver nbe a real signal. It is interpolated and synthesized into the real music. And the phase shifts caused in AD and DA convwerters really messes with the harmonic structure and phase integrity of the music.


Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
"And the Sunfire Subs from dear old Bob carver are more suited to brutal earth shaking home theater LFE channels than too real music."

You might be right here, I've heard this said several times. I had it tuned great in Hong Kong, but here in San Fran, I can't get it to sound too good. When tuned properly, I liked it better than my REL Strata.

Wikipedia - Gramaphone Record
Uncyclopedia - Vinyl Record

Now, I am definitely not anti-distortion and anti-tube or anti-analog: I play guitar, have 4 tube amps, and I love the sound of analog synths (ex. the French band Air). And violins. I have no issue with any type of "harmonic distortion" in the instruments of the original performances. :
Why would you have 4 tubed guitar amplifiers with a world of solid state – even digital guitar amplifiers available to you? And they are cheaper, more rugged, smaller, lighter and more reliable. What draws you – and most musicians to tubed amplification?

Quote:
Originally Posted by plasar View Post
But I when I want good, loud, accurate sound reproduction, with low distortion and little color, it's digital and solid state all the way. (Leave the sweetener in the bowl...) :
And I respect your opinion and right to do just that. And I really like finding someone who is passionate about audio, music and the technology behind it. I think we have lost so much over the past few years with MP3 (you must admit it’s less than CD performance) and ear buds for $5 and no one caring about having a really nice system at home…. So sad. I count Jon Dahlquist, Saul Marantz, Stewart Hegeman, Peter Snell, Harold Beveridge, Dr. Roger West, Robert Carver, Joseph Grado and many more over the years among my friends and I just don’t see the throngs of avid audiophiles pushing the envelope any more
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      04-30-2010, 03:14 PM   #22
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RSJean, thanks for the good discussion. I appreciate your points and you helped me learn something in the process. I still hold my opinions, and fully respect your opinions.


One thing though - would you please post a reference to information about RIAA Equalization for digital music?


I still cannot find anything. I still believe this only applies to vinyl. CDs don't care about bass & treble, just level.


Wikipedia - RIAA Equalization
Granite Audio - RIAA Equalization Article
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