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Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts (Read 7114 times)
Lonely Raven
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Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
10/19/16 at 18:21:18
 
This is just going to be sort of a stream of thought post about why and how I got into this Digital Audio thing. Hopefully it's interesting, and readable.   Grin

Chances are it's just going to be long-winded.  ;)

So, we've had discussions here on Decware forums about media, especially since Steve helped many of us (re)discover Reel to Reel. This got a lot of us really thinking about our sources, and the media our music comes on. Being a lot of long time audiophiles (read - older folks LOL) several of us are well entrenched in our ways and love the ritual of pulling a record off the rack, enjoying the cover art, reading the liner notes, carefully pulling the vinyl out of its sleeve, setting it on the turntable and gently dropping the needle....sitting back and letting the music flow.

I get that, I totally get that, and I wouldn't knock it (except maybe jokingly ribbing friends) as I really enjoyed the Reel to Reel ritual and the quality of analog sound...man, once you've heard a good "master tape"...the density and presence...

But then there are those of us who love the convenience and instant gratification of simply thinking of a song, an album, or even a whole playlist, and it's only a few clicks away from being projected into the room. No need to get up from the "sweet spot", turn on lights, fish through well organized (or not!) collections of media, be it reels of magnetic tape, spinning vinyl, or little shiny discs.

Add to that, the gear(!) and inter-connectivity, and information! While I don't have a 40 year old 12" X 12" cardboard sleeve with (faded) photos and liner notes; I do have this clever pocket computer that sends me alerts when some of my favorite artists release a new album...which I can purchase, receive, and start playback of from the comfort of my favorite listening chair, all while reading up on the bands bio, reviews of the album, and current tour dates! And sometimes I even receive calls on said device.  ;D

To me, Digital Audio is about convenience and information. I'd put a good digital system up against a good vinyl system and feel each has it's strengths and weaknesses; and I feel that digital reproduction is encroaching on that "analog sound" more and more each year. Hell, in just the two to three years I've been dabbling in this realm, I've seen huge leaps in sound quality. I can only expect it to improve as clever minds and good ears get together to leverage the ever improving technology. And the nice thing about technology...prices tend to go down as technology moves forward...
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #1 - 10/19/16 at 19:16:28
 
How I got into digital audio:


I gave up records a long time ago. I was a kid with a crappy integrated stereo-turntable, who didn't know how to care for records, and was simply blown away by the dynamics and detail available from an inexpensive CD based system. When I got my first decent car, I put a six disc Alpine changer in it, with Boston Acoustics speakers, and Rockford Fosgate amps. When I wasn't spending money on girls or guitars, I was buying CDs...ahh the early 90s.

Fast Forward 20 years and 1000+ CDs later; I had reconnected with the Decware family (always loved tube amps being a casual guitar player who loves good gear), recently had my old Zen amp tuned up by Steve, purchased some MG944, and being a long time home theater fan totally splurged on the recently released Oppo BDP-105. I went for the higher end model with the better DAC because I figured I'd not only use it for Blu-Ray, but be enjoying my CD collection on my Decware gear.

Now, I've not kept up with audio trends from about 2001 to 2013 when my job happened to take me to Peoria, and I reconnected with Steve and his wonderful gear. I was impressed that this fancy new Universal Disc Player from Oppo has USB ports and even a network connection! Snazzy! Even though I'm a "techy geek", it was literally months before I realized what those two options could do for me; I was too busy building giant subwoofers that made the siding on my house flap while watching War of the Worlds and the Terminator movies, and enjoying feeding CDs to my "high end Blu-Ray player with the upgraded DAC". Imagine my surprise when I realized I could, with the remote control, browse my network and play back both videos and audio right from my theater chair!

Soon I was watching all my TV shows and movies through the Oppo - it had almost completely replaced this big, loud, expensive computer I built, stuffed with hard drives that was doing the same thing. The only thing the Oppo didn't have was storage...but as long as said storage was on the network, the Oppo could find it and play it! All the while I was still feeding CDs to the player, shutting off the surround sound receiver and the giant subwoofer with thousands of watts behind it all, and instead turning on my little 2 watt Zen amp and playing my CDs...I was frequently getting pissed at finding discs that didn't always play back smoothly...years and years of handling them both at home and in a car...rattling around in a six disc changer, simply hadn't been kind to them. I did my best, polishing them up, but some were a complete loss. I decided it was time to archive every single one of them, and store them somewhere on the network and simply use the network function like I had been with movies and TV, and only bring out the discs for "critical listening" or "special occasions".

So I do some research, find a good software recommended for ripping CDs I own, and decide to rip everything to FLAC of course. I was impressed to see the software even does a checksum of the rip, and compares it to an international database to make sure my rip is just like everyone else's; an extra layer of security so I know my rips are as bit-perfect as I can make them, and further helps me ferret out any CDs that aren't playing back perfectly. Slow going, but pretty cool setup.

So after I get everything setup and sorted out, I rip a disc and decide to play it back via USB flash drive on the Oppo just to make sure I'm doing this right...no hitches, glitches, or dropouts. You know, trust the ears, even though the fancy software said it was good. I have the original CD in the drive and listen to a track or two for reference, then I pop the flash drive in and press play intending to listen to the whole album to be sure I did this right, and head off to the kitchen to make dinner...

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!! Why does this FLAC file sound *better* than the original CD in the very same player? Even from the kitchen I could hear better clarity, accuracy, and detail. Seriously, WTF!!  I came running back into the living/listening room and bounce between the original CD and the FLAC files on flash drive, I can't wrap my head around this. I'm a big believer of K.I.S.S. and because of that, I had assumed the *source* CD was the *best* sound I could have, and a digital rip of the disc while technically "accurate" couldn't sound better...there's too many things that could go wrong, too many steps, too many variable etc.

So, dinner completely forgotten, I quickly rip a couple more albums and reproduce the same results. I'm absolutely baffled by this - and I go post in the various Home Theater and Audiophile forums about my discovery, and ask how this is even possible. Of course I immediately get pummeled by all these electrical engineers and guys with letters after their names, as well as experienced "audiophiles" and people in the home theater business that say emphatically I'm hearing things, I'm tricking myself, and "bits are bits" so it's impossible...or "something must be wrong with your transport".

That last part worried me, as I had dropped $1200 on this player, and that's quite a bit of money for me. But, I did my own research, and I learn about this thing called jitter, and how it could make the same tracks sound different depending on how it's played back, what it's going through etc. This I could wrap my head around, it reminded me of how having room treatment can clean up audio smearing in the time domain. So I follow up my research by writing Oppo technical support, asking if they felt I had a bad transport, or if what I was hearing was real...does my CD Rip actually sound better being played via USB Flash Drive, all things being equal. They responded that a spinning disc is more prone to jitter, and my FLAC files being played from USB Flash Drive should indeed sound better.

Suck it EEs and PHDs!!  


All around this time, within the same few months, I got to hear the Mystery Amp, now called the Zen Mystery Amp, and I also got a chance to hear the soon to be released PS Audio DirectStream DAC, and I had ripped all my remaining CDs...which took me almost 3 months! Add to that, downloadable HD music, DSD, and SACDs, and Network Attached Storage and further down the rabbit hole I fall... But that's all maybe a story for another day.   Wink
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #2 - 08/04/17 at 14:52:38
 
LR,

 I am trying to get there myself. I mean, as things roll on, I discover,usually by accident, another way to source my collection. No surprise though that I am often overwhelmed by all of the information available for me to sift through. I don't like doing this.
At present, my goal is to listen to my headphones through my computer. FLAC files are the way that I am choosing to go. OK great, now I learn that I must have a way to play them on my computer.  I have done so, but am using some Windows system or something. Not hard to guess that there is a much better way. Any recommendations?
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #3 - 08/04/17 at 18:09:43
 

What are you using as a DAC off your Windows System? Or are you listening through your sound card??

The reason we don't want to use Windows as our playback software (notice, I'm saying playback software, not to be confused with the Operating System of choice) is because any music going through windows will be run through the EQ, and sound FX, and sound processing etc. We want Bit Perfect from the file to your DAC.

You don't want to use your computers sound card, because it's just sound processed by the most cost effective method (could be software, could be hardware, could be something embedded in a chip that's doing a million other processes). Sound quality is usually a last thought if at all.

If you're still using your sound card, I would look into a DAC instead. If you're already using a DAC and don't currently have any Bit Perfect specific software - here is a method (in Windows 10, I'm not sure if it's the same in Windows 7) to shut off as much as the Windows sound processing as possible.

1) Press WIN+X (windows key and the X key) to open the "power menu"
2) Select "control panel" from the list
3) Select "sound" from the control panel that opened up.
4) Highlight the entry that represents your external DAC device. (Note: It has to be connected to show up in the list)
5) With your device highlighted click "properties" (A new box with 4 tabs will open)
6)On the "Levels" tab make sure the volume and L&R balance are all set to 100%
7)On the "Enhancements" tab make sure "disable all enhancements" is checked. (This should uncheck everything else)
8) On the "Advanced" tab make sure both boxes under "exclusive mode" are checked.
9) Click 'apply" then click "OK" to close the window.
10) Restart your computer and enjoy the greatly improved sound! (Assuming you had to change any settings above)

Ultimately - you'll want some bit perfect software - Foobar2000 takes some fiddling to get going, but it's FREE! There are many guides around the internet, and I'll eventually link to one I like next time I need to install Foobar - but search yourself, they are out there, and it's free.

If you want easy, well, easy isn't free. My favorite easy, good sounding, bit perfect software would be Roon - which is currently a little over $100 a year subscription, or $500 for lifetime.  I'm currently on a 1 year subscription, and considering going Lifetime when my subscription is up in September....assuming I can afford it.  :P

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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #4 - 08/04/17 at 20:22:10
 
I will digest this and apply it soon.. There is always more to the story when it comes to digital. I do have an outboard DAC, but I guess that even through the USB I am using Windows?
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #5 - 08/04/17 at 20:49:55
 

Yes, that's the gist of it - basically unless your using software that addresses your DAC via the USB *directly*, then it's probably going through the Windows Mixer for volume, reverb, EQ and all sorts of stuff you don't want between the file, and your Headphones.

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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #6 - 08/06/17 at 22:56:25
 
 Ok, now I am rolling my eyes. Thing is, I have a good memory, but it's short. I have been here before! Went about solving the problem the first time around 9a couple of years ago) and came up with an old Yamaha MCX-1000. Sold for $1300 back in the day. Got it for $150 PP. The results were not worth it. Let me back up. This unit was the answer to my Digital Question, how do I use a computer/digital device to serve my needs?  My thinking then and still now, is to forget the computer stuff altogether, and find a 'box' that does the ripping/storing/playback. Hey not a big problem 'cept for one thing,,,,,, money. I am not interested in spending thousands to do what seems to be pretty much standard, not breaking news, today.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #7 - 08/07/17 at 19:59:54
 

There are devices out there, but they aren't cheap. Bottom end would be something like this.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Cocktail-Audio-X12-CD-Ripper-HD-Music-Server-Streamer-Bl...

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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #8 - 08/08/17 at 05:57:25
 
The Bluesound Vault is a music server with a built in CD ripper and a 2 terabyte hard drive.  It also streams Tidal and several other services.  It supports MQA and hi res files up to 192.  It has digital out so you can use an outboard DAC of your choice.  It's built in DAC is not bad.  It sells for 1200$  I have been using one for a couple of years and I'm very happy with its sound.
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #9 - 08/08/17 at 18:29:05
 
LR,

 I actually have that item on my 'saved' list at Ebay. Still above my means/interest.

 Got your PM and look forward to getting something set up.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #10 - 08/08/17 at 18:34:39
 

I will get back to you later tonight - I have several systems queued up to be built - I'll message you when I get back from my work trip.
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #11 - 08/22/17 at 01:28:21
 
 Eclipsing Digital. There. That's the ticket. Sounds snappy, and it's true. From what I have experienced before and as of today, is a start over/eclipse of prior attempts. Thanks to the help of LR, I have heard for the first time today, FLAC files over my headphones, and also through my system. Just received a computer from LR today that is all set up to do the right thing to begin with, and yah, I got a LOT of listening to do. Would like to tell y'all about it right now, but there is much more to listen to before I can even get into that part. So far though, I have sampled Aaron Copland  Fanfare for the Common man, Beatles   Here comes the Sun, a must during an eclipse, and ELP  Lucky Man. All were incredible in different ways, but mostly equal were the transients and clarity. 'nuff for now,  Greg
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #12 - 08/22/17 at 05:33:55
 
I'm glad you like the system I built for you my friend. I'd love to hear more about it when you get some time on it - good or bad. I'd like to be able to build these for other forum members. I've sold several locally, but you're the first forum member to take me up on a system.

Just to clarify for everyone else - after explaining that listening on a Windows (or Apple) system with the common/built in software, is not bit perfect playback; It's going through (software) mixers and FX and normalizers and such. So I offered to build a small desktop or laptop with Windows, Foobar2000 setup for bit-perfect playback, and an audio ripping program, setup for bit perfect ripping with verification of the ripped files. Just load up your DAC drivers, connect your DAC and enjoy.

It's been a couple years since I've setup Foobar2000, so I had to give myself a crash course on it again (it's a slowly but ever evolving program), and played it on my DirectStream DAC before sending. I have to say it gave Roon a definite run for it's money. I'll have to do a serious side by side with identical system soon. Roon vs Foobar.
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #13 - 08/29/17 at 02:48:14
 
Let me check in every so often to report on my experience with LR's product. First of all, is the fact that I am not very computer saavy and likely never will be, so my experience is pretty much about my ability in that way. What I am saying here is that I am presently using the system by bypassing the Foobar program. This is because I have not come up with a way to have Foobar recognize my DAC, which is a sort of an off brand product. Anyway, what I am using successfully is the Groove music program that is allowing me to run music through the computer, and to great benefit. Apparently, these are FLAC files as well, and so I am getting a good idea of computer sound. Hard to say what I like best, but it is the clean signal that stands out here.
On another program that Eric installed, I ripped Hotel California knowing that it was a great recording in it's day. It didn't disappoint either, and the ripping process was about as easy as it gets. I have done most of this before on an old Yamaha MCX1000 machine, but that was a machine made too early in the digital day. The sound was not impressive, about like listening to XFM radio or something. I gave it up a couple of years ago, and finally am here with this setup that bests both of my CD Players, One a Rega Apollo R, and the other a Emotiva ER3. Neither of these machines are top of the list that's for sure, and were the reason that I bought a DAC to begin with.

 More after I get the Foobar working as intended later this week.
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #14 - 08/30/17 at 18:35:31
 
Even though I am from the LP generation age-wise (~48), I have always considered myself more of a CD person.  When I was growing up in Ankara, Turkey, in the 70's and 80's, we did not have much access to LP's and the LP's we could reach were expensive for our modest to none-existent student budgets.  But there were these "cassette houses" that we frequented and had stuff copied for us for a nominal price (of course, it was an illegal practice that did not care about copyrights and other sort of intellectual property, etc.).  

When CD's started getting into the Turkish market, I jumped on the bandwagon and started collecting CD's.  I must have been making some money by that time, I assume.  Of course, the big break was when I moved to California in 1995 where I had the option to buy both new and used CD's and was able to go through the used CD collections of Amoeba and Rasputin in Berkeley!  I ended up with 3-4k CD's in a matter of 15 years or so.

So, we come to 2011 and we decide to move to Istanbul, Turkey leaving pretty much all of our belongings in our Brooklyn apartment.  Up until that point, I was adamantly against listening to music from a computer, let alone using streaming sites.  I never enjoyed listening to music through cans anyway; I have never been a Walkman or a DiscMan boy to start with.  My reasoning was, more so than the sound quality, the physical aspect of a CD; you can hold it, you can read the booklet, you can look at the pictures of the musicians, etc.; some of the reasons that vinyl folks were critical of CD as a new medium in its day (again, apart from sound quality reasons).  Anyway, as we did not want to carry thousands of CD's from the US to Turkey, I started ripping some of the relatively more important stuff onto an external HD that would use iTunes on a Mac Mini (later on with an upgrade to Amarra).  Quite a few CD burners must have been dead throughout the process...

So, currently, I have close to 1,600 albums in that Mac system.  For quite some time, I also stayed away from streaming sites, as the sound quality was very much confined to the limits of MP3 which I do not care much for.  But as soon as TIDAL came to life, I am also into streaming these days.  

So, I moved back to Brooklyn at the beginning of 2017, and even though I have access to all of my CD's now, I realize that I use streaming more often than anything else.  My two CD players are in the living room dedicated to the main music system.  In my bedroom, my source is an Apple TV (or an Airport Express).  So, I do not have much incentive to take the CD out of its jewel box and put it into the transport and confine myself only to listening to music in the living room.  Of course, some of the stuff is still not streamable.  Well, that is a different story...

In the meantime, I had invested in a decent turntable and I have a good phono stage as well, but I have never had the incentive to invest in LP's.  I have just a handful of them, as I love the ritual.  But I do not think it will go any further.  Maybe once in a while, I would buy an LP here and there...

Now my challenge is to get used to the interface of the streaming sites, which I am not a big fan of.  I am still old school in that sense, but I am sure I will get used to that too, as I was ready to give up CD's at the blink of an eye back in 2011!  :)

So, that is my story of how I switched to digital where my analog experience was confined to a few LP's and mostly to cassettes...

Thanks for starting this topic Lone...

Cheers,

Alper
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #15 - 08/30/17 at 19:18:02
 
Alper,

I appreciate you sharing this with us. There are countless stories of audio experiences, and they may have changed for us over time. I am with you, resistant until the last 'bit'. CD's are still fine for me, but it is easy to see how much this digital horizon has in store. I still wonder what I am hearing as far as difference between the analog and digital versions of the same recordings. In the end, both are great for me. Before I die, I might get the chance to at least hear reel to reel set up correctly. sigh.
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #16 - 08/30/17 at 19:33:40
 
Hey Greg,

I am not even sure how to have access to any recording on reel tape...  My first professional studio experience as a musician was back in 1994 where we recorded the whole album to tape.  After the DAW's started taking over the recording scene, there remained only a handful of studios, let alone engineers, that can handle analog recordings.

The interesting thing is if you have the financial means as a musician (or if you are signed to a label that is willing to throw some extra money), you can ask the mastering engineer to run your digital master through tape and then re-digitize, and even that gives such a nice analog feel to the sound.  As far as I remember, Emily Lazar, my mastering engineer, did that to my last album (Different City, Different Mood) and I am very happy with the outcome...

The worst thing is you spend tons of time, effort and money on an album, and people still listen to it via $10-worth iPhone in-ears!  :)  If they ever listen to it, of course...

Best,

Alper
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #17 - 08/30/17 at 21:49:15
 
Great thread guys fun and interesting read.

JD
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #18 - 08/31/17 at 15:11:46
 
By the way, quite a few years ago, I gave a series of talks at an audiophile club in Istanbul.  The place is called "Timpani Music" and the owner became a dear friend of mine.  Two of these talks were titled "From Studio to the Stereo I & II."  

In the first event, I talked about production of music in general starting from the composition, arrangement, and orchestration to getting in the studio and the whole post-production stage.  The second one was about the development of my "Different City, Different Mood" album.  I showed the sheet music which I scored on Finale; we listened to all the instruments track by track (by the way, drums were recorded into 13 tracks, piano into 4, Fender Rhodes into 2, and electric bass into 3), the rough mixes I made at home, first and second (and last) rounds of mix from the engineer, and finally the finished product after the mastering.

Some of the questions that always rose from the audience who are mostly vinyl fans included if I would ever release the album in an analog format, or why I did not record it to tape to start with.

Just to tease them, I said "look guys, you are in love with the compression that comes from the limitations of the vinyl; give me a decent compressor and I will make a good digital recording sound so analog that you won't be able to tell."  Of course, this made quite a few enemies around me (we are still good friends, though)!  

As I mentioned above, I am not into vinyl mostly for financial reasons, but just to see if these guys had a merit in what they said, I invested in a Rega RP6 with a decent Rega cartridge, and my Copland CTA405 has a very good tube phono stage.  I bought vinyls of some of the albums that I had on digital.  

Let me say this; the vinyl in most cases sounds a bit nicer; warm, airy, more 3D, etc.  And aahh, the ritual!  Hearing the needle touching the vinyl and the first few rounds is really priceless.  I still wonder, though, after playing the same vinyl, say, 50 times, what would happen as the medium is subject to physical deterioration...

Anyway, all good!  As long as it is good music listened to on a nice system, I am game!  :)

Cheers,

Alper
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #19 - 08/31/17 at 15:26:50
 
Quote:
Let me say this; the vinyl in most cases sounds a bit nicer; warm, airy, more 3D, etc.  And aahh, the ritual!  Hearing the needle touching the vinyl and the first few rounds is really priceless.  I still wonder, though, after playing the same vinyl, say, 50 times, what would happen as the medium is subject to physical deterioration...


You and I think a lot alike. I absolutely get everything you've said.

Also, having heard reel to reel tapes at Decware, and at home, I can say that DSD is finally getting closer to sounding like the original  master tapes, and due to the better noise floor and dynamics of digital, I feel it's surpassing vinyl in all but the ritual.

Granted, it takes a hell of a digital system and good source material to get you there.

The "Density" of information on tape is really the only thing that digital hasn't been able to copy exactly. I'm wondering if maybe we need even higher sampling rate than we have, or an as of yet not thought of sampling/format.
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #20 - 08/31/17 at 16:54:06
 
Have you tried any HD stuff?  I buy some albums from HDTracks at 96/24, and they sound quite fine.  Of course, I have not had a chance to compare than with vinyl (or tape) but it can get quite satisfactory.  I have yet to come across a theoretical explanation, though, why hi-def stuff sounds better, despite the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem which is the underlying theory behind CD's.

Also, interestingly, when I stream from TIDAL using my Hegel HD30 DAC via its Ethernet port (fed by my Internet router), it sounds better than listening to it via the CD player that digitally feeds the HD30's CO1 input, which has some propitiatory technology for excellent conversion.  Interestingly, this is the observation of quite some Hegel HD30 users.  

I have never gotten into the DSD thing.  I must admit I even do not know what it is.

Best,

Alper
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #21 - 08/31/17 at 18:04:51
 
 I just read an article in the September TAS this morning talking about MQA and it's merits:
  "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing it's opponents and making them see the light, but rather that it's opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

 This quote struck me on many points of my personal beliefs, whether audio or not. I personally cannot say anything about MQA and it's merits, but the article provided insight that I was not yet aware of.
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #22 - 08/31/17 at 21:52:19
 
Quote:
Have you tried any HD stuff?  I buy some albums from HDTracks at 96/24, and they sound quite fine.  Of course, I have not had a chance to compare than with vinyl (or tape) but it can get quite satisfactory.  I have yet to come across a theoretical explanation, though, why hi-def stuff sounds better, despite the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem which is the underlying theory behind CD's.


I don't really purchase from HDTracks because of one major point and some related issues I have with them: The fact is, they will post anything up, not knowing the provenance of the digital file and simply adjust the price according to the resolution. Where this becomes a problem is when someone buys an HDTracks HD album for say $40, runs it through a spectral analyzer, and it's clear that the file is just an upsampled copy of the CD. When confronted, HDTracks just shrugs it off and says "we just sell what the studios give us".

*Real* High Definition music should be a fresh sampling of the original source material, and the studio as well as the shop that sells the files should verify this is what they are selling - *everyone* should know the provenance of what you're purchasing.

To put it in other terms, would you want an original first pressing of a Beatles album, or would you want a pressing from India with no knowledge of who did it or where it came from? Without knowing where that vinyl came from, it could be recordings dubbed off the radio and pressed to vinyl in the back room of a grocery store.

Sorry if I sound a bit heated about that, but it seems flat out dishonest to me, and I feel it's a big reason why some people think there is no difference between HD files and CDs.

And for those that think CD is highest resolution we can hear - I can only say we clearly don't know everything about are ear-brain interface and the processing ability of the brain. Even in my 40s I can hear electronic deer repelling devices, and those are supposed to be outside human range...and no, I don't have super magic golden hearing, I think I'm just observant enough to notice something that I think most of us should be able to hear. So there is something to be said for continuing research.

In the mean time, I'll go by what my gut tells me, and that is that true higher definition audio is closer to the master tape. Vinyl does sound really good. And my personal feelings is that sampling rate and time accuracy on the picosecond level are the keys to why a particular format (be it digital or analog) sounds more *real* and engaging.

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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #23 - 08/31/17 at 22:13:01
 
Quote:
Also, interestingly, when I stream from TIDAL using my Hegel HD30 DAC via its Ethernet port (fed by my Internet router), it sounds better than listening to it via the CD player that digitally feeds the HD30's CO1 input, which has some propitiatory technology for excellent conversion.  Interestingly, this is the observation of quite some Hegel HD30 users.


I had a similar epiphany several years ago, that started me on my digital path. Short version of the story, I have an Oppo BDP-105 and I ripped some CDs to FLAC dropped them on USB Flash Drive and was replaying them through the front USB port just to make sure I did it right and everything was sounding OK with my rips (I was prepping tracks to take to Decware and some local audio meets - Demo tunes basically). I was playing all the tracks back (to verify they were good rips) while in the kitchen cooking dinner, and even in another room I realized that the music sounded *better*.  I dropped everything, went back to my listening room, and did  extensive A/B testing between the original CDs and FLAC rips, and in every case the FLAC simply sounded better.

I posted my findings in the AVSForums and was promptly ganged up on by dozens of people that I was imagining things, deluding myself, or just flat out full of it.

So I took my findings and E-mailed Oppo support and the Engineers themselves responded to me saying they weren't surprised, because a spinning disc and variable voltages and noise of motors and all that could be contributing Jitter to the playback of the disc, and none of that would be happening during FLAC playback. I posted Oppo's response in the AVSForums and there was just crickets. Suddenly nobody wanted to talk about it. (Note: I find this funny, because the "S" part of AVS is for Science)

So - for those who are new to digital or falling down the rabbit hole far behind me; while both sources were *bit perfect* playback (meaning exactly from the source, no modifications from the source file - *every* bit is there), one had more jitter (which is a type of distortion) which made one source sound less than the other.

What is jitter? Well, that needs to be a whole post unto itself, and maybe I'll gather up the resources to try and explain it as best as I can, but maybe google for yourself in the mean time.  In short, jitter can have an affect on the timing accuracy of the digital playback - so the less jitter we have in playback, the better timing...and with better timing PRaT, timbre, realism, all those things that bring music to life come into play.

Edit to add: Notice, in the end of my post, it came back to timing accuracy, even though we were talking about digital.
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #24 - 08/31/17 at 22:47:12
 
Very interesting story, Lone...  Interestingly, people really like to fight over these things--and mostly from behind the computer--rather than trying to understand what might have been the real cause.  At the end of the day, there is a huge cognitive component to this as well, so 2+2 is not always 4.  

To your earlier remark regarding HDTracks, I thought they had at least one dedicated person who checked if a file is upsampled from CD (or worse) quality or not; but I have somehow chosen to assume they were serious about this.  I will pay more attention next time I decide to buy something from them.  The ECM (and, I think, ACT, as well) albums are not on streaming sites, so unless you order the CD or the vinyl, unfortunately, you have no other way to listen to them.  Back in Turkey, I used Qobuz, a French site, for some time, but then territorial copyright issues stopped me buying stuff from them.  I am not sure if it works in the US; I have not tried.

Best,

Alper
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #25 - 09/01/17 at 16:36:08
 
Quote:
At the end of the day, there is a huge cognitive component to this as well, so 2+2 is not always 4.  


I get that the "math guys" as Steve likes to call them can't or won't wrap their heads around some of the audiophile stuff we do. They scream PROVE IT! And I wholly agree, I'm a man of science, and I do so wish I could prove it. 2 +2 is actually always 4, but the problem is maybe we didn't realize that we are actually adding 2 + negative 2 because we haven't discovered negative 2 yet.  In human history it was a long time before we realized there was such a thing as negative numbers, or even the concept of zero. Imagine die hard "math guys" from 10,000 years ago yelling that you can't add 2 apples and -2 apples because there is no such thing has having negative two apples! LOL  From that point of view, yes, our *current* science says the things we do and hear are bullshit. Some people won't look outside the box of current science, or keep an open mind, or even *try* to see what we're seeing.

So just because we don't understand the why and can't mathematically explain it (YET), doesn't mean it's not there.

I don't bother arguing this in forums anymore - and it's part of why I hang out here at Decware - most everyone is pretty open minded because we've seen a thing or two we can't quite explain, but our predator senses tuned over thousands of years are telling us there is something there.

Steve taught me to trust my gut - If something sounds wrong, it probably is, if something sounds right/better/pleasing....well, it probably is.  :)

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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #26 - 09/01/17 at 16:43:34
 
Quote:
To your earlier remark regarding HDTracks, I thought they had at least one dedicated person who checked if a file is upsampled from CD (or worse) quality or not; but I have somehow chosen to assume they were serious about this.  I will pay more attention next time I decide to buy something from them.  The ECM (and, I think, ACT, as well) albums are not on streaming sites, so unless you order the CD or the vinyl, unfortunately, you have no other way to listen to them.  Back in Turkey, I used Qobuz, a French site, for some time, but then territorial copyright issues stopped me buying stuff from them.  I am not sure if it works in the US; I have not tried.


Things with HD Tracks could have changed - it's been years since I've been burned by them, but they've made themselves the poster child for this BS. So even if they've fixed the issue after lots of public outcry, I still use them as an example, and go elsewhere for my music.

http://www.metal-fi.com/new-low-hdtracks/

http://www.ultrahighendreview.com/another-rip-off-from-hdtracks/


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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #27 - 09/02/18 at 13:58:48
 
Thanks all as this thread has enlightened me in several ways.  Given the warnings with HD Tracks, what are good sources to buy high resolution music from?
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #28 - 09/04/18 at 16:09:04
 
Hi Chumily,
Here's a list of some hi-res download sites I have experience with along with some comments.
https://bluecoastmusic.com/, this a pretty reliable site in terms of provenance. Their selection is a bit limited and prices at least for dsd files is high.
http://bluecoastrecords.com/home, this is a record label associated with blue coast music. They only sell recordings done in house so the provenance is excellent.
https://www.nativedsd.com/, this is another site with a good reputation for provenance. They only do dsd files but have a large multi-channel selection. Like Blue Coast the selection is somewhat limited.
https://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/, this site is interesting, supposedly all of their files are direct transfers from analog tape. I don't know if there is any remastering. The plus is that they have many classical & jazz recordings not available elsewhere.
http://store.acousticsounds.com/, next to hd tracks this site probably has the largest catalog and where a provenance for a recoding is available they give it. I tend to trust purchasing hi-rez downloads from here a bit more than from hd tracks.
http://www.hdtracks.com/, they probably have the largest catalog and since they got called out for upsampling a few years ago they seem to have cleaned things up a bit at least for more recent additions to their catalog. Unfortunately I'm not sure they ever removed the hi-rez recordings that were called into question.

Regards,
Ed
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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #29 - 09/14/18 at 21:06:15
 

2L Also has free sample tracks, expertly recorded and encoded in various formats. It's a great place to start, just to see what all the fuss is about, even if it's not music you're interested in.

http://www.2l.no/hires/

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Re: Why Digital Audio? A Raven's Thoughts
Reply #30 - 09/14/18 at 22:49:30
 
Thanks LR, I will try it out.
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