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Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in (Read 6776 times)
Fireblade
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #30 - 01/16/12 at 01:06:10
 
Well guys, this is getting interesting.  Let me address one point at a time, if you please (I apologise in advance for a possible lengthy reply):

Pale Rider and will, I did not imply anything related to the streaming process (check it out), I was merely stating presumed facts about the nature of the files themselves (FLAC vs WAV), 'before' being streamed.

I don't quite understand your points on the digital nature of the files.  They are digital because they are 0's and 1's in a certain array.  How we compress, copy or de-compress these, without affecting the original array, is another matter.  

On streaming, I prefer Asynchronous sampling because the clock is under the control of the DAC (and not the CPU), in defining the time ditribution function of the stream of music.  The design of these algorithms is essential in avoiding further jitter creation. That's just my opinion, but is independent of the point I make above.

Pale Rider, evidently the ripping process is essential, but since we are discussing a bit-by-bit comparison and against a database of the same files owned by lots of people, if the result is 100% or even 99.9% accurate, there's implication that the ripping process has been able to preserve the array of 0's and 1's enough to conform to the original file.

will, of course a lot of jitter (noise) is produced by the computer, that's why the PC has to be optimized for music streaming (OS), avoid the use of sound cards, limit the background activity of the CPU, etc. to deter possible noise induction into the stream.

And that's why we deal with asynchronous and other similarly effective sampling methods to deter jitter and distortion 'creation' that may also contaminate the music stream.  Although nothing is perfect, these little DACs do one hell of a job, IMHO.

From a theoretical point of view, at least, if all these things are done right, the WAV and the FLAC files are, at best, as bad as the original CD source material.  That source material cannot be improved.  So IMHO, jitter or coloration or distortion, mostly will come from the original recording setup.

Before you guys jump all over me, this is correct 'before' going to the amp and speakers, or whatever other components are in the pipeline. More jitter, noise, distortion can be induced in the final product that we end up hearing from the speakers (or headphones), as the streamed music goes through RFI from power cords, interconnects, speaker wires, etc.

will, the original point is I will test (with my ears) the difference between WAV and FLAC if there's any.  And for a batch process to create WAV files out of CD's, the last I heard there are agencies around charging you to do that job (expensive) so I don't think we can do this automatically, but I honestly don't know.  Sorry again for the lengthy message...






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will
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #31 - 01/16/12 at 08:22:37
 
Fireblade,

Sorry for the misunderstanding. It seems you were referring only to files and I was referring to how the files play. I have no issue with the 1s and 0s from FLAC files, but when I first checked it out, I did notice "lossless" file playback losing something in the audio, and I suspect the computer and computer/DAC interaction as the probable culprits. But also....noise, not from timing issues, but from electronics...the analog part that can go to the DAC along with the digital material. Computer noise that increases with more electronic activity (like processing FLAC files) especially if the computer is prone to heat issues and noise based upon its components and design.

Then there is the further possibility of truncation from inefficiency once the chips and circuits in the computer heat up, potentially limiting the resolution of the many micro detail shades inherent to music. So I would say a whole lot that is not music's friend can enter the stream, optimized or not, async or not, depending on the level of design, build and optimization. Music is so vastly complex, how can its conveyance from digits to sound be any less so.

Also, my suggestion was to look for batch FLAC to WAV conversion, not CD to WAV. Only if you need it of course....I feel sure I had some ripping program that would do this.

In the context of my pet theme.... popular ideas versus experience.....this may be of some interest. I have a NOS Tranquility DAC (no async or upsampling), and an upsampling ZDAC with a V-Link async unit. They both sound great, designed by folks with great ears, and with much trial and error.

Many say Async is necessary to temper jitter from the computer, while incidentally making USB cables unimportant. And many will say good upsampling makes for smoother, more detailed sound. And these can be true.

Interestingly, I get more apparent inner and micro detail from the non-async, NOS DAC than from the Music Fidelity V-Llink/ZDAC. The V-Link increases the inner detail of the ZDAC some, but by my ear, the Tranquility is notably better at smooth micro detail with no async or upsampling.

Also, I have two good USB cables, one from DbAudioLabs, the Tranquility folks, and a Wireworld Startlight. Both are designed to separate the power and ground (potential noise) from the audio, and both sound good, but they sound notably different. It is more apparent direct into the DACs, but also in front of the async/ZDAC.

These examples support my need to ultimately resolve what is real by listening.

In the case of the NOS nonasync Tranquility, to many it is simply unbelievable how good it is because it is soooo not the current thought. In fact, it soundly disproves many popular beliefs. At the same time it is a glowing example of the creative process, realizing that thinking inside the box can be self-limiting, and thinking outside the box can be a vehicle for exploration and meaningful discovery. They used all the info in the box, but didn't get stuck by it, making sure to follow even seemingly illogical tracks with double blind listening tests being the determinant.

I hope this explains the basis of my comments, and sorry for any misunderstandings.

Wink

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« Last Edit: 01/16/12 at 08:27:54 by will »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #32 - 01/16/12 at 11:30:31
 
Hey will, good points you made there.  I agree with almost everything you said, and I'm taking notes.  ;)

The only thing I disagree with, is on converting FLAC into WAV for this particular test (and for re-converting my collection to WAV, if you are proven right), as by the time you have the FLAC, the hypothetical 'damage' has been done already and WAV files restored from this material could not warrant the original data array (as it has already been compressed).

Therefore, unfortunately, going from CD to WAV is the only viable means to ensure original data integrity, assuming there are indeed differences as you tend to believe.

After learning from your positive experience with it, I will also check on the NOS Tranquility DAC, as I'm curious about their proposed sampling procedure.  

With respect to the additional sources of jitter inherent to the PC/CPU/inner heat dissipation processes, etc., although certainly true, I can personally attest to the evident improvement of this setup compared to a Hi-Fi DVD/CD player like mine (all other things being equal in the system).  So, apparently those CPU/OS sources of jitter are maybe at a lower order of magnitude compared to the inexact transport reading process of NOT high-end players like mine.

As a consequence, IMHO, best bang for the buck is USB streaming, as a comparable transport would be very expensive (and you'll keep tied-up to physical CD's).  This money ought to be better spent in the DAC, in my opinion.

Interesting topic, indeed ...

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will
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #33 - 01/16/12 at 15:45:00
 
It has been years since I looked at lossless, but if memory serves, the theory is that FLAC compression removes only non-music data. Therefore there is no "damage" to the music part of the file and it can be decompressed exactly to the original sound file. Other data may be lost, but the sound file is supposed to be completely retrievable. This is why it is called lossless. So there may be some compromise to converting to WAV, but I gather not to the music.

You might check out FLAC conversion to WAV on Google and see what you find.

I agree, I like the computer platform too for many reasons. But as with it all, the quest for getting the feeling of the music as refined as it can be, I look at the small details since a lot of small details add up to big stuff. No use hobbling the sound in any way if we can help it!

But man, we are way off topic!
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Fireblade
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #34 - 01/16/12 at 17:01:17
 
Yes will, but your hypothesis is there may be a difference between the two formats.  Now you are applying the definition of FLAC, as lossless, which was my first argument, remember?  If it is lossless in music data, then WAV and FLAC are indeed equivalent!

Therefore, I propose the only way to prove if your hypothesis is right is to compare both formats coming from the original source material (and not risking FLAC compression-related potential elimination of those presumed music data differences.)

At least for this test, I would do it this way, just to make sure.

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will
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #35 - 01/16/12 at 18:58:20
 
Fireblade,

I guess I am not communicating well. I never said FLAC did not have all the basic sound data.

I said that I heard a difference between playback of ALAC (also proven lossless) and uncompressed AIFF files. I ripped from CD to error corrected AIFF files, and then ripped from CD to error corrected ALAC files. Then listened. I said that I suspected this minor loss of audio fidelity was from the computer decompression costs, and associated playback issues, and followed this with ideas about why. My current system may or may not reveal the difference in sound. But I am good with being on the safe side.

That FLAC data (after reassembly) are the same as WAV music data does not make them equivalent. They are equivalent only after reassembly, and functionally, reassembly while playing the tune has its potential costs and degradation.

The bottom line for me is the music experience, and since I heard fidelity loss playing a lossless file, it is not functionally the same to me no matter the reason.

And this is not a hypothesis, it is listening experience with the gear at the time of my tests. You may or may not hear it in your tests, and having to have 30-50% more hard drive to run uncompressed files may or may not be worth it to you if you do hear it.

A different point altogether was over your concern over having all your files FLAC and having to re-rip to WAV if you like WAV better. And if my memory of lossless technology is correct, I believe the FLAC compression method likely allows for the music to be uncompressed to be equivalent to WAV music data....the same thing your computer does now, but it could get done without potential costs to playback fidelity. And I bet you could batch process.
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Fireblade
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #36 - 01/16/12 at 21:33:00
 
Got it, sorry I misunderstood you there.  So, when the FLAC or WAV is processed into analogue signal, that's where you assume the sound differences appear.  I guess there's some logic to that too.  Going from uncompressed (i.e., WAV) to analogue requires less 'treatments' than from compressed (i.e., FLAC) to analogue.  Good point!

Being so, I could definitely try to swap the FLAC files into WAV, using EAC (have to check if that's possible), and A/B listen.  Thanks will, I'll let you know of my findings.
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Fireblade
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #37 - 01/16/12 at 22:26:04
 
These are just very preliminary results.  On the A/B listening tests, playing the Mozart Aria 'E Susanna non vien!' (Kiri Te Kanawa/Solti) from Nozze di Figaro, I seem to note a little less white noise in the background, on specific passages ... The noise is present in both files, but with a lkittle less emphasis in the WAV reproduction (ceteris paribus).

This is by no means easy.  I have to struggle to hear that difference.  I'm using headphones which are not high-end by any measure, but one step above the commercially available headsets.  The important issue here is that me are comparing apples to apples having all other variables controlled.

My ears may not be what they used to, so if I hear a difference, other people will definitely notice them too.  I'm not sure if these tiny differences are going to make it through the real setup (with amp and speakers ,I mean).

I'll keep reporting.
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Fireblade
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #38 - 01/16/12 at 22:41:12
 
Definitely there are small differences in the white noise I hear at the edge of the voice's highs, for example.  These distortions are present in both files, but more accentuated in the flac files.

I've been trying to play a game where I really d'ont know what file format I'm listening at some point, and at the first indication of jitter I repass the passage on both formats to assesss the difference.

I'm very sceptical, so I'm trying to be the devil's advocate, but so far it seems there's some substance to it ... Later
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will
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #39 - 01/17/12 at 00:14:53
 
Quote:
So, when the FLAC or WAV is processed into analogue signal, that's where you assume the sound differences appear.  I guess there's some logic to that too.  Going from uncompressed (i.e., WAV) to analogue requires less 'treatments' than from compressed (i.e., FLAC) to analogue.


Yes, I think this is true...the audible result of the digital activity "appears" at the DAC output since this is our analog result of all previous activity. But the file restoration from compression occurs well before this in the computer, right?  

So yes, the extra "treatment" from having to decompress Lossless files could compound the problems innate to a given computer and USB cable. This could possibly increase truncation of the digital data. ALSO, analog noise generated in the computer could be conveyed through the USB cable ALONG WITH the digital stream. Of course there is the possibility of collecting noise from the environment by the cable too, contributing further to noise, but this is after the compression has been resolved.

An indication of the potential analog component may be expressed in how "digital cables" sound different. How could this be if the cable only carried the exact same digital information as the original recording?

And this is aside from jitter and it's distortions.

So yes, the possibilities of this all working optimally seem higher with less digital "treatment" at the computer...just like your points about the reasons for optimizing the computer for audio.
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will
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #40 - 01/17/12 at 00:22:22
 
Quote:
My ears may not be what they used to, so if I hear a difference, other people will definitely notice them too.  I'm not sure if these tiny differences are going to make it through the real setup (with amp and speakers ,I mean).


Listen also for the details of the edges of the notes, especially in the upper mids and highs. Is there more than just white noise. Any thinning or brittle sound due to missing harmonic textures?

It will be interesting to compare with your Decware gear. I don't know what you are using now, but the Decware stuff is very revealing, and could potentially be as, or more revealing through your speakers than your current headphones.
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« Last Edit: 01/17/12 at 00:27:46 by will »  

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will
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #41 - 01/17/12 at 00:27:14
 
Quote:
I've been trying to play a game where I really d'ont know what file format I'm listening at some point, and at the first indication of jitter I repass the passage on both formats to assesss the difference.

I'm very sceptical, so I'm trying to be the devil's advocate, but so far it seems there's some substance to it ... Later


This is part of the fun and what the naysayers don't seem to get. Why would a sane, intelligent person questing for a truly refined musical experience try to fool themselves into delusion perspectives? This is certainly possible, but just doesn't make a lot of sense in a solution oriented creative exploration.

Wink
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Fireblade
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #42 - 01/17/12 at 00:55:23
 
Ok, here's what I'm doing.  I already identified several passages with white noise and edginess jitter/brittleness on high frequency voice notes, which show potential differences between those two file formats via laptop headphones.  

Now I'm going to process the signal through the whole setup (DAC/Amp/Speakers), and concentrate in those passages.  There are two possibilities:

1. Differences would be unnoticed (I'll keep using FLAC files).

2. Differences would be enhanced (I'll swap my collection to WAV and buy a remote hard disk.)

I will be testing this for the next day or so, so I'll keep you posted.  My current SS setup is a JVC Hi-Fi mini component with a bi-amping/bi-wiring design. My DAC is a Music Streamer II and the speakers are two-way small bookshelf type with birch wood baffles on both transducers.  I'm also using a 160 Watt active Velodyne subwoofer.

I agree with your comments.  Probably the Decware gear will really separate both performances and make it easier to detect.  The headphones helped in isolating the sound from the environment so I could more easily identify those crucial passages for the test.

I w'ont be convinced until I hear differences from my speakers though.  Funny, I would have never thought I would be doing this either ... Later








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will
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #43 - 01/17/12 at 01:25:43
 
Double blind listening tests by the dbAudioLabs Tranquility team confirmed that using an external hard drive on the Firewire buss (so it is not the same circuit as USB avoiding noise introduction there) made audible improvements. Also the internal drive is part of your computer electronics, so limiting its activity to the bare essentials is logical within our theme of reducing noise and processing truncation.

I heard this difference with my very quiet mac Mini. Subtle but I heard it.
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« Last Edit: 01/17/12 at 01:26:53 by will »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Compounded Mini Torii/MD945's break-in
Reply #44 - 01/17/12 at 02:51:42
 
Interesting to learn about additional advantages of an external HD (makes sense): I'd be killing two birds with one stone, then.  

Something that called my attention from the Tranquility team: They incorporate the power unit inside the same DAC box.  The norm is to use a separate box to avoid noisy RFI induction to the signal (or use the USB power from the PC).  

The other thing that surprised me (I guess is pure marketing), they have this speech about not making compromises, but right there they offer you an upgraded (Signature) model for an extra $500.  If they don't make compromises how come they offer you the lower cost unit to start with?

You know, I still don't understand what they do for sampling.  They talk about high-end components and listening feedback and all, but that's not it.  Maybe there's more literature on their site I did not get.

Later ...
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