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I won't belabor this. (OTOH, maybe I will.) The comparison was informal and not one of those A-B-type affairs. I shifted at will from segment to segment, from format to format, mostly in extended sessions of a movement at a time on each platform. The contestants: the new RCA SACD, the newly-arrived but superbly well-preserved 40-year-old RCA open-reel tape, and the recently-purchased Classic Records 33-1/3 rpm LP reissue.
The tape sounded "nice," but truth be told, it was exceedingly short in the high frequency department. This emphasized the reverberant acoustic of Symphony Hall, as every instrument and section, thanks to the lack of definition, sank into the murk. It was not an unpleasant effect, but it by no means represented what was truly inscribed on the master tapes, as we know by hearing the other formats. This I will say: in movement four, where the huge orchestral/organ peroration occurs, the massed sound was impactful, and the bass was round and deep. Unfortunately, at peaks, there was also evidence of overmodulation, a.k.a. overload distortion. Not nice. In the olden days, this tape would've been a lovely format in which to own the recording; given the level of performance of most of the record playing equipment of the day, this at least had the merits of quiet backgrounds and extended low frequencies. Not unpleasant, but not possibly a winner in this 2004 competition by any stretch. See how honest?
The SACD, for all its newness and greatness, is inescapably digital, and when pushed beyond a certain volume level it is possessed of a touch of what we insiders [;-)] call "digititis." Nowhere near the extent of a typical CD, mind you. Still, it can go only so far before it reaches its limit, beyond which it can go no further. It's almost as if it has an automatic volume limiter attached. You can turn it up so far and then it kind of stays that way, regardless of how you try to push it. Is this a limitation of my power amp and speakers? No, because it doesn't do it with the LP.
Speaking of the LP...
The orchestra is playing in what is discernibly a real space with a volume of air in it; on the SACD, the orchestra is a lovely piece of artwork, but it's painted-on nonetheless. The LP is a sculpture: a three-dimensional object that exists in all dimensions including space. (Enter Rod Serling...) The LP has more loud-to-soft (dynamic range). The sections of the orchestra are less congealed and better differentiated. A certain plastic coloration present in the SACD is largely (but not completely--I believe Symphony Hall contributes) absent in the LP. The LP has an abundance of fine detail and is super-extended in the highs.
Is it a rout? Well, let's just say that on my stereo system, it's audible in a musically significant way. Were we not doing a comparison with the LP, the SACD would've soundly trounced the open-reel tape, and we all would've lived happily ever after. Not that the big black record has no black marks: though new, it has fairly noisy surfaces. "Quiex" my ass. Well, at least it's heavy and has a nice big pretty picture of Maestro Munch (sounds like a character from "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory") on the cover.
Caveat: I've got an excellent SACD player that nonetheless represents something like seven-year-old technology in a field in which there are constant innovations. I've got a relatively new and really good record player that's been tweaked to the hilt. Your mileage and that of the more certifiably sane segment of humanity may vary.
Is the SACD of this performance still one of the best little discs I've ever heard? You betcha. Hear the Mercury Living Presence SACDs. They're closer yet--not to the sound of the LPs, which, like the RCAs, they don't particularly resemble, but to the sounds, no doubt, of the master tapes.
I'm tempted to suggest that the LP may be contributing some of the things that cause me to choose it over and above the SACD, and that they aren't part and parcel of the master tapes, but rather "euphonic colorations." Still, doesn't it seem a strange coincidence that all these factors are highly musical in nature? Since I don't have the luxury of comparing these formats directly to the masters, I'll have to accept the verdict of my own ears, and assume that if it sounds good, it *is* good. In several ways, the SACDs are more "tapelike"--lack of surface noise, lack of "inner groove" distortion, optimum channel separation; but in the things that make music sound like music, LP still wins.
A comparison of three formats that makes for interesting reading so thanks for posting it.
Of course, it's really a comparison of your source components but you already appreciate this yourself and don't imply that the comparison is definitive or even objective so I can't see why anyone should have a problem with it, apart from the fact that on this forum you should have had SACD romping away with your affections.
Logically - at least for 'accuracy' (compared to the master-tapes) as opposed to your own preference - reel to reel should have been the winner followed by SACD then vinyl, but all involve their own specific colourations and it's a case of which you deem least damaging to your musical enjoyment.
Have a nice day then, but if you want to make more friends over here I suggest you either heavily modify the SCD-1 or remove all your tweaks to the turntable before making further comparisons. :0)
...heavily modify the SCD-1..."
> ...or remove all your tweaks to the turntable before making further comparisons. :0) <
Really tweaking the Revox could be the most surprising change to this package - I have a G-36 (tube) Revox and several other rebuilt big tape players, and I've never had a commercail tape beaten by an LP made at the same time - I don't mean Classic Records (etc) re-issues. There can be real magic in them thar tapes!
"Really tweaking the Revox could be the most surprising change to this package - I have a G-36 (tube) Revox and several other rebuilt big tape players, and I've never had a commercail tape beaten by an LP made at the same time - I don't mean Classic Records (etc) re-issues. There can be real magic in them thar tapes!"
I'll confess to never having heard reel to reel in a home audio system, but whenever I've seen mention of it the consensus was that reel to reel was the finest playback available, as it should be in theory with a player capable of extracting the best from the medium.
When reading up about my own EAR 509 amps I came across an article describing how Tim DeParavicini specialised in modifying a Revox G36 and that the playback was extraordinary; it's just a shame that the tapes are apparently subject to wear and tear and that other players haven't been subjected to the same level of evolution/development in their engineering like turntables have.
Before making the comparison, I actually expected the open-reel tape to come out on top. What I think is that this tape--which I just acquired and played for the first time--is either not a particularly good tape to start with (they weren't *all* great), or may have been subject to some kind of wear or damage. (I don't know what would erase the highs, though. Possibly magnetization?)
I have a fairly large library of reels, and they *are* pretty much uniformly terrific. I just made digital dubs for comparison purposes of the reel and the LPs (original Capitol pressings) of Beecham's Carmen. In this case, I felt the LPs might have the edge. Wrong again! The tapes won out by a huge margin--aside from some dropouts along the way. No contest whatsoever. Even dubbed to CD-R, where there is very audible signal degradation, the superiority of the open-reel tape is plain.
Certainly possible, Teresa. I don't really know its history prior to it coming into my possession, so who knows?
Ha! I should've seen it coming...I've been around here for awhile. Thanks for understanding exactly what I was trying to do. Your comments are much appreciated. :-)
I am thankful to get these SACDs but they aren't as good as they could have been if they had used good old tubes.
I have a second point though. I looked hard for good copies of most of these for years on LP. Often I ended up with noisy pressings or warps, or ticks and pops. I aso often found after buying them that I had not gotten the orginal recordings but some latter pressing that in many cases was compressed and just lousy.
Third if your listening on an unmodded SCD-1 you have not heard a fare comparison to your vynal rig.
Fouth the tape may sound more like real life. Ever time I go to a live performance I am struck by the lack of audiophile high frequencies.
This is a fascinating thread. I just read Teresa's comments as well. All I ever hear anywhere is about the "superiority of vinyl", as if it's the Holy Grail. But I see now that vinyl (even the BEST) is often am equalized "distrtion" of the master tape. That leads me to believe that the "superiority" is actually a preference for the BALANCE presented on vinyl, which aligns with my own experience. Vinyl is, generally, "warmer" than digitial. It took me a while to get used to that when I started listening to digital. Now, of course, digital is often "thinner/colder" -- so the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, being a case-by-case thing.
I’ve been comparing the Classic LP reissues to the SACD’s in this series and am finding that Classic consistently did a better job at remastering. I’m hearing a weaker bass and exaggerated treble from most of the SACD’s.
we are getting what the master tape actually sounds like. Classic Records' Michael Hobson did use some EQ on the 180 / 200 Gram LPs except those which he deamed the Master tape perfect.
One of those is Arthur Fiedler's version of Offenbach's Gaite Parisienne, the current SACD by BMG Hong Kong uses EQ and was passed thru PCM. If RCA releases this on SACD, it would be interesting to compare RCA SACD (No EQ) with the BMG Hong Kong SACD (EQed) and the Classic Records LP (No EQ).
Does anyone know of any other Classic Records LP versions besides the Offenbach on which EQ was not applied?
At first I though the Classic Records LPs were superior to the new Living Stereo SACDs but now I am not so sure. The Classic Records are more spectacular because of the boosted low frequencies. However to my ears I think the new SACDs sound more natural. I just had to get used to hearing them with the EQ removed but now that I have adjusted I that the SACDs are better.
Just my 2 cents,
1) The original vinyl recordings were mastered from (then) new mastertapes while the current SACDs were mastered from 50 year old mastertapes. How could that not make a difference.
2) According to an artical in the current issue of The Absolute Sound concerning the RCA SACDs, the digital files on the hardrive used to create the SACD disks sound closer to the mastertape than the disks themselves. Something got changed when the SACD disks were created by the disk manufacturer. The same kind of thing happens with regular CDs too. The disk replicators are messing things up.
As far as the digital vs. vinyl debate goes, neither is an exact replica of the mastertape, so to me the arguments as to which is superior are moot. Personally, I prefer SACD, but I also think that vinyl has its strengths. It certainly is fun to play with.
I say, name your poison, and enjoy your brief existence. Life's too short for silly arguments.
Although I haven't made the comaprison on the recordings you mention .I agree in general terms.LP still seems to rule as the ultimate hi-res format, in my experience.
Thanks for confirming my own assessments about these and, dare I say it? the majority of transfers from analog to SACD that I have personally auditioned.
My reaction to many (most) of these is from a different perspective, though, than the digiphiles who regard each and every new SACD release as the second coming. Knowing that transfers to SACD from analog can be quite convincing — products from Opus 3, Proprius, FIM, GrooveNote and, to a far lesser extent, Audio Fidelity, have largely demonstrated this — I am almost certain that the most central problem is the methodology and not format transition. Ergo, the blame can be placed squarely on the engineers who haven't a clue how these recordings SHOULD sound; there isn't much inititiative to find out how they should sound either.
I haven't bothered to compare this SACD to my copy of the Classic Records vinyl since it was demonstrated to me a few years back that an original pressing can set this on its behind quite handily.
Moreover, the claims that the source of the SACD is a newly discovered tape that, apparently, had not been used in earlier releases would have me thinking that this would be something like comparing tangerines to satsumas. Curiosity got the best of me, though, so I extracted the second and fourth movements of the CD layer of the SACD and the previously available CD, burned them onto a CDR then played them in random order (using the random play button on the player) just to get a sense of what might be different, and different they are.
"Curiosity got the best of me, though, so I extracted the second and fourth movements of the CD layer of the SACD and the previously available CD, burned them onto a CDR then played them in random order (using the random play button on the player) just to get a sense of what might be different, and different they are."
Come on...don't leave me hanging there! Next thing you know, you'll tell me I have to tune in again next week!
Well, I'm not avoiding the question, but the few words I said on the issue at Stephen's site might be helpful
I've worked in recording studios for summer jobs. Unless your playback equipment is optimized for the tape, it isn't going to sound its best...also, it's 40 years old.
Yes, you and the other member who commented on this certainly may have somethiing. The vast majority of tapes I play on the ReVox (a well-maintained and sparingly-used late Dolby B model), however, do sound excellent, so I felt fairly secure in making the comparison.
I was in fact prepared to crown the open-reel tape king before the party began...I'm an open-reel lover from way back, and in fact my audiophile aspirations came from my dad, who had a nice tubed Ampex back in the early '60s. I still own all his tapes, and consider them the crown jewels of my collection--the operas especially. And whenever anyone asks for opera recommendations, I'm usually quick to point out that the open reel "sounds best"--even if they can't get it or play it!
Right before hearing the Saint-Saens, I listened to my reels of the Beecham Carmen. They sounded stunning, but surface noise aside...the original Capitol LPs are even better! (Hey, maybe I do need some maintenance work... ;-)
"The vast majority of tapes I play on the ReVox (a well-maintained and sparingly-used late Dolby B model), however, do sound excellent, so I felt fairly secure in making the comparison."
You shouldn't. You won't hear the best from that tape until you play it back on the machine it was recorded on. Also, any high speed duplicated tape will sound significantly worse that what it was recorded from.
There are many decks that can make a great recording but not play back as well, the stock G-36 comes to mind. I find the G-36 Revox to be a killer recorder but have always found the tapes recorded on them to sound better on other decks.
"You shouldn't. You won't hear the best from that tape until you play it back on the machine it was recorded on. Also, any high speed duplicated tape will sound significantly worse that what it was recorded from."
Um...we're talking here about a high-speed duplicated tape: a commercially-issued reel-to-reel from the early '60s. It's not likely I'll be in a position to "play it back on the machine it was recorded on."
That's why you shouldn't have included the tape in your "analysis." All you really revealed is that "the 40 year old high speed duplicated tape didn't sound very good being played back wrong."
So you compare using one title “an excellent SACD player that nonetheless represents something like seven-year-old technology in a field in which there are constant innovations” to “a relatively new and really good record player that's been tweaked to the hilt” and conclude “LP still wins”.
And this tells us………what?
As a thought experiment lets pretend we are reading a sports car magazine and they are doing a similar test. Here are the conclusions:
“At the end of the day we were shocked, yes SHOCKED, to find that the seven-year-old BMW was unable to keep up with the relatively new RUF tweaked Porsche. So we can only conclude what we insiders know which is in the things that make a sports car like a race car, the RUF Porsche still wins.”
So back in the land of SACD what does this ‘test’ prove? It seems to me the conclusion is that if your system has several front end sources the one you have put the most resources into is likely to sound the best. Wow, that never would have occurred to me.
Yes, Norman, it's true--as I take pains to admit--that my five-thousand-dollar, three-year-old (only the *design* is seven years old--not the machine) SACD player does not represent the latest technology. It is still, however, regarded as a very competitive SACD player, and should be sufficient to tell me something useful about the sound of the discs played on it.
Note that I've also taken great pains to list my system components, as this forum allows us to do.
Looking at the space on your page where one should be able to find your equipment, all I find is a list of the cars you own. Not to mention a photo of your car on the same page as your posting. Not to mention a link to a page about cars. I didn't know this forum had anything to do with cars.
I took the time to write a long and detailed analysis of what I made clear was not a "scientific" experiment, but rather an informal set of reactions.
"It is still, however, regarded as a very competitive SACD player"
Without having heard this player (or its sibling) I take issue with this oft-repeated claim. It's widely acknowledged that the SCD-1 benefits greatly from a better clock (so despite its heft it's not without jitter issues) and its output stage has been roundly criticized. I suggest that if you listen to current players at significantly less than the SCD-1's original cost, you might be amazed how much better you can do. In the right hands, the SCD-1 would appear to make a great base for mods, but that's about it ... or at least this is the conclusion I've come to based on reading hundreds of relevant posts here.
That said, I think the Mercury Living Presence series (I'm still working my way through these) would be a much better base for any such format comparison than the Living Stereo set (which I thought were just OK). But inevitably you're still comparing player/format combinations. I tend to simply judge discs on their own merits ... was the outlay worth the music/performance/sonics.
Over the past few years I have often read posts from people bashing equipment they've never heard. I guess it shouldn't surprise me, but for some reason it still does.
At least you admitted it, which is more than most bashers do.
Before you automatically assume the superiority of newer equipment over the SCD-1, you should listen to one. You might also hearken to reviewers who have listened to the SCD-1 and newer gear. For instance, in a fairly recent review of Sony's current flagship SACD player in The Absolute Sound , the reviewer commented that the newer flagship player doesn't sound as good as the SCD-1. I've seen several other reviews that say similar things.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are better players out there than the SCD-1, but not all of them are better. I own an SCD-1, which I am most emphatically NOT wedded to. I'm actually on the search to replace it. What I've found is that in order to meet or exceed its (stock) performance I'm going to have to pay MORE money than it cost me (a lot more), not less as you assert.
Don't worry...I've read all the posts here, and you can rest assured this will be the last comparison I'll be posting to this board.
I for one appreciate the data points, realizing full well that you cannot draw any general conclusions from any single data point. But they do add up. I posted my own impressions of the Bartok SACD vs. the 45 RPM Classic LP set. On my own antiquated SCD-1. And if people want to tell me the SACD will be the winner on the Meitner, that's fine, but I don't have that, I only have what I have. There can never be a pure format comparison, unless you go back to the recording studio, even then it's different hardware being compared, not just format.
For 20 years now, one digital product after another has come along with reviewers claiming finally as good as the best analog. And that was also the claim when I bought the SCD-1. It's very good, in some cases competitive with analog, but clearly after 4 years now, I know it is not close to the best analog. I am willing to pursue this "digital as good as analog" chimera a bit further eventually, but it gets a little silly when I still have a long upgrade path on the analog side.
And I have no issue with bublitchki reporting what he heard. OK, I admit trashing someone's prized player is bad form. My own player has been superseded twice now and is likely just as uncompetitive. But I think your post is a cop-out. Frankly I couldn't care about the results of these digital/analogue comparisons ... analogue has been and gone as far as I'm concerned. I do however care about the methodology used and the risks in generalizing from limited data points ... even if the conclusions reached are the same. By your own standards you'd have to admit the flaws here. Frankly, I'm looking forward to hearing how much I can wring out of my SA-CDs in five to ten years time. This is my investment, not hardware.
I'm not even sure what that means. I am always very careful to avoid generalizations about formats myself, when other people do that, it drives me up a wall. But I enjoy reading about all kinds of comparisons. I enjoy it infinitely more than 90% of the ruckus that goes on here. I've got two SACD players now and if you want me to generalize, I could say SACD sounds worse than SACD. But in reality, my cheap player sounds much worse than my "real" player. This is important insofar as my cheap player has been reputed to be a giant killer and it's not IMO. A single data point test has nothing at all to do with science, but some people are interested in such things.
Here is why these comparisons matter to me. I spend money on software. Bach's cello sonatas on Mercury are coming out in the U.S. today on SACD. I already have them in various other forms. Of course I will buy them. But they are also out on a vinyl reissue on Speaker's Corner. Had I convinced myself that the Bartok SACD was competitive with the 45 RPM LP, I could easily pass up the $85 Speaker's Corner LP set. But now, I realize I need to have it.
Someday hardware may come along that brings this SACD to parity with the LP or beyond. That would be great. But until then, I've got the LP. Unlike many people apparently, playing an LP is trivially easy for me, I've been doing it for years, it is marginally more difficult than playing a digital disk, but luckily I am not yet an invalid and I am able to manage it without undue stress.
"I am always very careful to avoid generalizations about formats myself, when other people do that, it drives me up a wall."
With respect, you yourself often talk about the format in isolation, when you're really talking about your format/player combination. This was the point I was trying to make, albeit somewhat clumsily. I'm more circumspect now in making format generalizations as I know from experience that I can change the boundaries by upgrades or even simple tweaks. But in the final analysis, it's what the things sound like on what we've got that's important. I made the mistake of commenting on something I have no experience with and I freely admit my mistake.
"Bach's cello sonatas on Mercury are coming out in the U.S. today on SACD. I already have them in various other forms. Of course I will buy them. But they are also out on a vinyl reissue on Speaker's Corner. Had I convinced myself that the Bartok SACD was competitive with the 45 RPM LP, I could easily pass up the $85 Speaker's Corner LP set. But now, I realize I need to have it."
I fail to see what Living Stereo's transfer has to do with those of the Mercury Living Presence series, but there you go. I hadn't heard Starker's suites previously but it definitely has merits alongside my Fournier set (reservations in the Penguin for the Starker aside). I personally would want to put my money on yet another interpretation rather than doubling up.
"Unlike many people apparently, playing an LP is trivially easy for me, I've been doing it for years, it is marginally more difficult than playing a digital disk, but luckily I am not yet an invalid and I am able to manage it without undue stress."
Though not invalided yet, after 30 years I'm glad to finally have the opportunity to move on ... now that good transfers of these legacy recordings are making their way onto SA-CD. In fact, I plan to do a survey of all the transfers now available on SA-CD for a future article. I'm certainly enjoying listening again to some of my old favourites plus discovering great recordings from the past. In the end, it's access to the music that counts.
I have this set on a Mercury reissue that came out on LP called Philips Golden Imports (budget line). I made tapes of these and listened to them often. These became my primary favorite of these very strange and remarkable works. When the MLP CD came out, I got that as well.
I have Fournier on LP and Maurice Gendron on CD. And the CDs of the historic Casals recordings. In reality, there is nobody who rises to the level where they are able to record these pieces who does not have much to offer. All of these are good. But the Starker still is for me the most natural, maybe because it was my first.
Yes I will double up on these two more times, hopefully tonight if it is in stock. Different sound makes it a different thing to me, so I don't really look at it as doubling up. Just looking at the same scenery from different views.
You know, SACD and CD before that, have both been great boons to my enjoyment of music. I am able to do things with these formats that I could not do with vinyl, e.g. play repeatedly in the car and not worry about any wear. I've been listening to Boulez Rite of Spring JSACD not less than 15 times over the last 2 weeks- I pulled it out after I got the Telarc Rite, only to find that the Boulez was a treasure waiting to be mined.
for your sensible posts. Yes, hearing the equipment in question would seem to be a prerequisite to judging it.
I'm quite happy with the SCD-1 right now. I don't have the time, funds, or in general the ability to send it out for modifications. So this is how it's gonna be for awhile. I think it's a damned good player as is. Op-amps notwithstanding. ;-)
Incidentally: to those advising me to tweak/otherwise futz around with my ReVox, the machine is well-maintained, and plays other tapes beautifully. This, for whatever reason, was simply a bad tape. As for the poster who suggested the tape needed to be played back on the machine on which it was recorded, I continue to be baffled.
I could've posted this comparison in the Vinyl Asylum, where I know it would've drawn a more positive response. But I'd decided even before I made the comparison that the release at issue was the new SACD and that the place for the comparison was the Hi-Rez forum--regardless of the results. In my first sentence I state that the comparison was informal and made my general disclaimers. I find it surprising that in a forum where you'd think subjectivity would be encouraged, "invalidity of the rest results" would be invoked in response to a subjective, informal listening test. Do I need to post "for entertainment purposes only" next time?
Two potential issues here: the highs could have been shaved off the tape by playing it with even slightly magnetized heads. Or the tape heads are a bit misaligned.
'Course it could have been a bad tape to begin with. Some of my RCAs are.
Fascinating comparison, though. I have the new Reiner SACD "Pictures at an Exhibition" and it is easily bested by a nearly 50-year-old LP. And the LP isn't even the original US pressing but an Italian-label RCA pressed in Germany!
Most of the RCA quarter track tapes were fairly lame. The shaded dogs usually eclipsed them in most ways. The best of the RCA two track tapes will best the LPs. Try for example, Heldenleben/Reiner, Song of the Nightingale/Reiner or Kije/Reiner. Same for the Mercury and Everest two tracks. Hary Janos/Dorati is simply stunning on tape.
In that category: the Karajan Tosca, absolutely magnificent on open-reel, the Leinsdorf Turandot, far superior to the Shaded Dogs, the Forza and Butterfly, which are competing against Dynagroove LPs, the Karajan Carmen--I've just auditioned a brand-new, unopened copy, and it zowies the Soria LPs, the Serafin Otello, and the Sutherland/Bonynge Norma.
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