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I'm starting to think this issue just comes to biology. I think some people just have the ears to hear the difference in hi-rez music, while others don't.
I've been listening to two SACD's lately: Bob Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks" and Carol King's "Tapestry." They both sound clearly better to me than their CD counterparts. And here's the thing: I don't even have a set of speakers for my player yet. The sound is coming through my TV's speakers, and I still hear the difference -I swear.
Another interesting fact: often, when my family is done watching TV, they will turn off the cable box, but not the TV itself. The screen goes blank so they think the TV is off. But I know it's still on because I can hear the high-pitched whining sound it is making. I am the only one in my family who hears this, and it annoys the crap out of me so I always must make sure both the TV and the cable box are off. But no one else in my family picks up this sound.
I still believe this is the case. The best recorded SA-CD beats the best recorded RB-CD. In the beginning I assume we were all somewhat in awe of the new medium. Fairly simple and cheap SACD players easily showed off the format's capabilities. SA-CD also sparked a sudden increase in quality of regular CD-player's.
But then the SA-CD novelty-factor wore off. The medium matured further. Faults and disappointments became apparent. And I have no doubt that many of us witnessed a socalled 'the emperor has no clothes' effect. Some SA-CD are truly not Super-anything. OTOH, well recorded SA-CD's have opened our eyes to what can be possible. The industry and audiophiles alike actually have a lot to thank SA-CD for.
The inherent qualities of SA-CD have pointed me towards an appreciation for vinyl. I would say that vinyl is a truly hi-rez format and it takes a LOT to better it. I am not yet experienced enough to definitively state that vinyl is better than SA-CD, but I am leaning towards this conclusion. I think I can support the conclusion that it is cheaper, relatively speaking, to achieve true reference quality audio playback with vinyl than with digital. For a few thousand dollars a reference quality vinyl system can be built. It takes multple tens of thousands of dollars to achieve the same with digital.
Joel wrote: I think I can support the conclusion that it is cheaper, relatively speaking, to achieve true reference quality audio playback with vinyl than with digital. For a few thousand dollars a reference quality vinyl system can be built. It takes multple tens of thousands of dollars to achieve the same with digital.
I don't quite agree with this, Joel. Granted, I have not upgraded my vinyl playback system in a while, but there was a time when all of its parts were considered SOTA. Given that some of my local audiophile friends are still very deep into analog (with systems costing tens of thousands, not just thousands as you suggest), it's almost humorous to hear an SACD player that cost the owner less than a fourth of what he has in his vinyl rig proffer up some really good sounds. The player has been modified to the hilt, that's true, but his total investment still comes in well under $2500. His top of the line vinyl rig -- complete with $3K cartridge, no less -- does sound a bit better than mine, but it still gets the job done compared to things like stock SCD-1's or 777's.
Having come to the conclusion that SACD has lots of promise but little on the delivery of that promise, I've succumbed to the lure of the highly modified CD camp, and couldn;t be happier. Right now I'm running a machine that was custom built for me. The innards are stuck in an old Music Hall CD player, and it uses its original drive, but the machine is otherwise one of only three like it in the USA. I dare say that with the level of performance this is offering me, I'm in no hurry to spend tens of thousands on vinyl playback upgrades (especially in view of the fact that this machine set me back less than $2K).
I am in full agreement with your thoughts on vinyl, the only question that I have is how do you cope with the vinyl surface noise? on very large high resolution system the surface noise is simply too much for me to cope with, it starts to interfere with music and it can only increse with repeated playing.
I have a second smaller stereo with tiny two way bookshelf B&W speakers just for playing vinyl, on my main system vinyl sounds awful.
I am continuously surprised how quiet vinyl can be. There is no denying that you have to deal with some surface noise on (parts of) some discs, but if it occurs I find I can listen through it as it were. I have many discs that are really quiet. I am also pleasantly surprised by how long these records stay quiet despite continuous play. The effects of damage done by playing is greatly exagerated imo.
My policy is to buy only NM/M/SS vinyl, with the occasional VG+ thrown in if I trust the online seller or can view it myself. And of course I clean with an RCM.
I can understand though that if you are into classical your preferred medium might very well be SA-CD. Listening to classical music with its large dynamics is definitely enhanced by the digital silence, especially when played loud. I listen mostly to jazz.
With a hi-end TT surface noise can be vanishingly low. Even more remarkable, great vinyl subjectively surpasses digital (at least RBCD) in revealing inner detail that is above the electronic noise floor (as distinguished from surface noise.) I would suspect that this "true" noise floor is at or below what is perceived as the inherent surface noise of an LP.
"The best recorded SA-CD beats the best recorded RB-CD."
True enough when both formats are played on the same CDP. But the RBCD performance of one deck can easily surpass the SACD performance of another. I knew the SACD format was a dead letter when in 2002 I threw a couple of mods into my SCD-1 that brought the player's modded RBCD performance to a higher level than the stock player's SACD. Yes, SACD on the modded player sounded better yet. But with more mods the hopscotch continued to a level that the all of the criticisms about RBCD that led to the introduction of the SACD format were moot. I think my experience with this unit pretty much parallels general trends in hi-end CDPs.
2. "...it is cheaper, relatively speaking, to achieve true reference quality audio playback with vinyl than with digital."
True short of absolute SOTA reference as defined in the brave new world of $80K TTs that cost twice the price of SOTA $40K DACs. However, not to worry as presumably most of the buyers of such reference equipment are hedge fund managers with deaf ears.
That's what I was alluding to in my original response to wegman. Modifications have shown us that it was the digital play back systems that were at fault and not so much the medium. In turn this sparked a response by the industry to create better machines. Despite that, the real audiophile excitement can be found in that cottage industry of modifyiers rather than in stock players.
Still I find it much easier to 'beat' CD with vinyl than well recorded SA-CD. My machine is no slouch (APL Denon).
It seems to me that people who are familiar with the sound of "live" unamplified music prefer SACD the most. Conversely, for those unfamiliar with live music, CD is their musical reference and SACD does not sound as bright and garish as they are used to...too smooth in their opinion.
To me SACD sounds closer to live music than CD ever has. SACD sounds organic and natural and real. CD sounds like an approximation of live music. If you listen closely (with live music as a reference) CD sounds brighter, cruder, flatter...more like a cartoon of a live musical event whereas SACD sounds like a "photograph," its realism is just much closer to that of the subject.
Anyway, I know exactly what you mean about high frequency noises. They bug the hell out of me too. Even as I type these words, I can hear the high frequency buzzing of my computer monitor and that of the television, which is on right now (tuned to a classical music tv station). No one else in the house seems to know that the TV is still on even when the screen goes black.
has been that SACD's trash RBCD on my system. Mostly in the areas of a lowered noise floor and image clarity & depth. I have read/been told by experts that the high end RB players are a match or even beat SACD - but i am not in the $10,000 per component league. (I am speaking only of Stereo SACD as i do not have a surround system).
I would disagree about high end players, if you spend that much on a good SACD player as well, SACD still skunks Redbook (at least in my experience.)
"read/been told by experts".
And the "experts" almost always follow the golden rule of "it only gets better if you spend more, preferably mega thousands, of bucks".
16/44.1 is all there is in rbcd. If it contains all the music, then okay. A fancy 24 bit dac, output stage, jitter reducer, etc. will get you all the info in the 16 bits, with very good sound.
But if there's more to the music than 16/44.1, then less is less.
The September 2006 issue of "Stereophile" has an interesting interview with Steve Harris of Meridian Audio ("The Prime Meridian: Bob Stuart Talks to Steve Harris"). Mr. Harris provides some interesting thoughts on high-resolution media, the capabilities of Redbook CD, and the practices of the corporate music industry.
With regard to the debate, I would say there IS something better about SACD, but I also find that NOT every SACD that I've purchased "sounds better" or engages me more than a "regular" CD. And to my ears, that is the subjective realm in which the difference lies: a difference in level of engagement or presence of the music, something that is probably very difficult to quantify or make general statements about, given the normal range of human hearing ability and discernment. (And SACD players are not all the same, either.)
I just hope we will continue to have some kind of “high resolution” digital audio product. Like Mr. Harris, I certainly don’t buy the idea that the Redbook standard is all that was ever really needed. The CD standard is a twenty-three year-old compromise made so that the music business could put out “digital” music (they could have at least done 24-bit, 96 kHz from the start). Even so, if all SACD means is that a bunch of great old recordings and some new performances have been given good attention by some top-notch recording engineers and thoughtful producers, SACD may be worth the trip.
SACDs are quieter, - dampened. Sometimes too dampened.
There's a LOT to be milked from the Redbook CD medium.
After hearing a few of these latest SOTA players, with a few of these SOTA transports, - like the VRDS-NEO, - I'm convinced that there's still a lot of love left in the redbook medium.
Also, - there's a lot involved in the recording process. I have more than a few great redbook recordings wherein they sound amazing. Unfortunately, - with the exception of "Jazz at the Pawnshop," and the Police, - they do not have SACD counterparts available for a direct comparison. When one does compare "JPS" SACD with the Redbook version, - the Redbook version clearly DESTROYS the SACD version: and I'm not the only one who thinks so. This could be testament to a poor implementation of the SACD recording/transfer/mastering. But the SACD is more recessed and less dynamic and less alive than the redbook... I also feel that way about the Police Hybrid SACD......
I do agree that just about every SACD or DVD-A I have, does sound better than the redbook. Sometimes the original recording is crappy, - like the Simple Minds, - "New Gold Dream." Then, the improvement is noticable, - but it still doesn't sound that great. With the Peter Gabriel SACDs, - sometimes the improvement is very evident, sometimes not. In his case, - he released some redbook remasters that improved the original recordings pretty dramatically.... This could be the case because it's "Rock." And, sadly, I'm forced to admit that rock recordings in general are rarely as good as jazz and classical. Some rock folks are working on this, - but it's way too long in coming.....
I completely agree with you that when implemented correctly, Redbook CDs can provide truly amazing and very realistic sound. Sadly though, as we all know, this is all too frequently not the case. But then does SACD always provide an improvement? -- again, clearly not. Furthermore, even in situations where the SACD is sonically better to a Redbook version...what are we really comparing it to. Often this may be a prior Redbook issue based on an inferior master or mastering process. It is actually very difficult to compare the RB vs SACD versions of a particular recording, even those included on hybrid discs, since you can never be sure that the two versions come from the same master. Interestingly I have found on several occasions, where both versions are most likely produced from the same master, that I actually prefer the Redbook version over the SACD version, the main reason being that the SACD version, as you put it above, is too dampened, dynamics-wise, and even more disturbingly exhibits some peculiar distortions in the high frequency arena that can be particularly annoying. Given the choice between an excellent Redbook recording (for example, some of the Mapleshade jazz CDs, some XRCDs, and others, especially CDs derived from good analogue tape masters) vs a SACD, I would take the Redbook version anytime. The most serious problem, however, that I see with any of the hi-rez formats - SACD or DVD-A - is the appalling lack of variety with regard to available repertoire, and that is what will eventually doom these formats to either complete disappearance or at best extreme niche status. In fact, I beleive if anything, the appearance of so-called hi-rez digital has revived interest in vinyl, for which there actually is a very well established niche market for new issues, not to say the large number of vinyl available from the past. I personally have not gone the vinyl route, and probably will not in the future, since I have no vinyl and have a 1000+ Redbook CD collection.
Not to rain on your parade or unsult, Wegman, but you ain't heard nothin' yet. While being great music, the Dylan and King SACDs are hardly indicative of the capability of the SACD medium. With some better recorded material, you will be floored how good SACD can sound.
What you are saying has been discussed many many times..I think the main explanations are that CD is a Lossy format.People forget that the D to A convertor is creating a sound from not enough bits.There is also the effect of brickwall filters at 20k and the lower noise level.....Another oft forgotten and under mentioned point is lower distortion at the lower signal levels.These points would also apply to half decent DVDAs as well.
I am not sure most Tv sets are capable of ultrasonics due to many technical reasons..certainly some of the tiny speakers may go up that high. BTW The oscilation you can hear could mean something on its way out on the TV..time will tell..
is not coming from speakers. It is coming from the flyback transformer and is generated by magnetostriction of the ferrite core.
Were these CDs the later remastering or the first CD release (which sound quite poor)?
If you hear the difference between CD and SACD through TV speakers, there must some other difference than just 16/44 vs DSD sound.
I don't know, Nefertitti, but after doing a recent upgrade to my SACD player, all my designer buddy had available to demo it was a set of thise indoor / outdoor speakers. Even on those low buck speakers the significant quality differences between the before and after were readily apparent.
Being one of my favorite albums - I picked this SACD for the exorbident (sp?) price.
If you have an old cd version - you will really enjoy improvement sonically
(not necessarily soundstage as it is more mono if I remember right -- with Maggies this is disappointing on the DSD conversions)
if you have a remastered cd, less obviously
and the darn thing is SACD ONLY which makes the price almost not worth it in my opinion !!
If the Miles SACDs were hybrids with remastered cd cuts -- it would be more resonable, and I would replace all my old Miles CDs
When I first heard SACD it was at an AES show on five very expensive speakers/amps in a great room. It was so amazing that when I got home I bought a Sony SCD-777ES; by far the most expensive piece of audio equipment I'd ever purchased. I hoped that what I heard at the show was SACDness as opposed to what a very expensive system could do. I wasn't disappointed. My daughter and I listened for five or six hours to the SACDs I had also purchased and were enjoying it quite a bit. My system wasn't just the TV speakers: it was a Yamaha surround AV receiver and an inexpensive M&K sat/sub system. When we put in a CD we both just reached for the eject button, Yipes!
I've since learned that CD can sound very good on a great system, but the memory of going back to CD from SACD for the first time is still emblazoned in my mind.
When I point out some of the differences to friends then they hear them. Sometimes it then impresses them and sometimes not. I still remember playing an SACD for a friend who reported the next day that he went home and got out his TT. He said he'd forgotten what music sounded like by just listening to CDs.
Well.... I can definately hear the difference between SACD and CD. SACD is superior but the mastering is still important.
I have some hearing damage from being in a rock band for many years, but I can still clearly hear changes in my components from break and I do hear differences in cables.
I am beginning to believe that some people cannot hear some of these differences. I am not sure if some are tone deaf just like some people are color blind. Maybe, some people don't know what to listen for or some people just don't care.
Congratulations - you will likely enjoy some SACDs!
BTW sensitivity to ultra-high-frequency sound is quite common among younger people. I remember hearing the TV just like you described - some 20 years ago and not anymore. But I guess there is more to "golden ears" than this.
I agree that there is more to golden ears than this. I think it may be hearing tonal discrepencies. I think many people can hear differences in sound but aren't willing to invest the time and money to acheive better sound. It is the good enough syndrom.
I have seen the same phenomenon with regards to high definition TV. To me, hi-def TV is an amazing improvement over standard definition, no question about it. But believe it or not, I have met people who simply are not impressed- they just don't see much of a difference. I don't know how to account for this discrepancy, really.
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