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Opening Shots: SACD vs. Vinyl

post #1 of 65
Thread Starter 
Well, the NS500V has been burning in for about 60 hours now (the SACD demo disk on infinite repeat), so I figured I'd do a comparison to our aging, entry-level Technics SL-BD22 turntable with stock tonearm and A-T DC20 cart...

I used Miles Davis: Kind of Blue as a recording, since it's on the SACD demo disk and we also have it in vinyl.

SACD is "softer", smoother, a bit warmer. The Technics has perhaps some higher highs, but it's sharper and harsher. Also the Sony has better bass - deeper and bigger. The trumpet sounds more like a knife on the turntable, whereas on SACD it's got a smoother, more liquid quality that I've really only heard before on Baroque horns. (if it's not baroque, don't fix it... )

What struck me is the reversal of roles here... where CD is considered to be harsh and all that, vinyl is considered to be smoother, warmer, "analoguey", more real. Yet here it's the vinyl that sounds harsh, and the SACD that sounds smooth, warm, and analoguey...

Wierd, eh? I guess we need a new turntable
post #2 of 65
Well... SACD is a high resolution format.

I'd get an SACD player, but I'd need to buy a bass management system for the HT setup too. Too many other things to get by the holidays. High-res will have to wait for 5 to 6 months for me.

Glad to hear it's stacking up nicely.
post #3 of 65
What about transients (drum hits, piano attacks, etc.)? This should be SACD's failing, although a lot of people seem to prefer the sound (sort of the same way that I liked the sound of the Orpheus).
post #4 of 65

what version or type of vinyl were you using?The Technics is a very basic table but the performance should be better than you have experienced.What type of cartridge?give some details man,.....
post #5 of 65
Originally posted by Dusty Chalk
What about transients (drum hits, piano attacks, etc.)? This should be SACD's failing.
Can you be more precise: Why do you expect SACD to fail in this particular way?

I've heard about high ultrasonic noise levels with SACD; does this have anything to do with it?
post #6 of 65
Thread Starter 
True, it could have been the recording.

As for the cartridge, it's the A-T DC20, as mentioned in the topic post... Phono premp is an Antique Sound PP1 with stock Sovtek 12AX7s. ICs to the phono stage are some no-name POSes, ICs from stage to MA6500 integrated amp are Audioquest things (they're red and one step below the Copperheads, that's all I remember), ICs from the MA6500 (used as a switchbox here) to the Wheatfield HA2 are Outlaw PCAs. ICs from the NS500V are even worse no-name POSes, about 6' long. (no wonder I had to turn the output on the phono stage down so much to match the volume of the ns500v...)

No power conditioning or isolation / vibration damping.

The Technics BD22 and tonearm are factory adjusted for antiskate and tracking.

The only record cleaning thingy we have is a clear-plastic counterbalanced tube that's meant to be filled with an isopropyl alcohol/water mix, it wets the record as it plays. I tried it with bottled water, the sound got horribly distorted after awhile (I found out later due to the buildup of dust on the stylus, which I cleaned off *very* carefully) so I stopped using it before putting on the Miles Davis record.

Oh, and I listened with RIAA EQ ON.

Enough details? Horrified yet? (speaking of which, I've guessed that we're badly in need of an upgrade somewhere... any recommendations?)
post #7 of 65
I think he's referring to the DSD encoding method of SACD:

Old CD uses PCM encoding: the absolute position of the waveform is specified in time.

SACD uses DSD encoding: instead of encoding the absolute position, for each time-step the position is specified relative to the previous time-step by a '+1' or '-1'.

So I suppose you could say that a square wave can't be accurately represented by DSD.

But then again, it can't be accurately represented by CD either--the time resolution is much poorer.

For all practical purposes SACD should have even better transients than CD

Oh heck, I don't seem to be making much sense here, let me try again:

DSD is the new digital recording technology employed by the SACD. A high-density format dependent on the high speed microprocessors and large capacity storage devices being created by the modern high tech boom, DSD takes a new approach to the basic problems of digital music recording. By using a completely different system of encoding, DSD avoids many of the limitations of physics, electronics, and manufacturing technology inherent to the current method of PCM recording used for CDs and other current digital audio applications.

The encoding process uses a single bit (1 or 0) to represent how the music signal (acoustic or electronic waveform) is changing over time, that is, taking its trajectory rather than its absolute value. This process is repeated very rapidly--2.8 million times per second--to get an accurate picture of how the signal is shaped.
So you can see that it seems impossible for DSD to encode instant massive changes in the waveform (like transients or a square wave). But in reality since the sampling rate of SACD is so high (2.8MHz) a string of +1s should encode the rising edge of a transient just as effectively, if not more so, than CD PCM. Although PCM can jump to any value 'instantly', the low sampling rate of 44.1kHz cancels the advantage completely.
post #8 of 65
What a coincidence!

I finally had time to move my burned in Sony CE-775 SACD player down from my bedroom to my vinyl rig. I've got a clearaudio Champion with a Benz Glider low output moving coil and Phonomena phono stage with battery option. This isn't really a fair comparison if you consider that the whole vinyl rig costs 10 to 15 times what the Sony costs list, but nevertheless vinyl has been around for more than half a century and you would think that technology would have caught up by now.

I just did a brief comparison with a couple of different pieces and the vinyl rig walks all over the SACD. SACD still has some of the harshness of redbook and soundstage is compressed compared to vinyl. If you just listening in for a couple of seconds, the sound of SACD is astounishing, but it becomes boring easily. It's ear candy.

My wife says the same and she would have many reasons to prefer SACD: Cheaper, no more garage sale vinyl hunting on Saturdays, no more record washing, no more records archived in the guest room, etc., etc.
My wife plays the violin and SACD just doesn't get the high strings right.

The other thing I've noticed over the past couple of weeks is, that I get tired after about fifteen minutes of listening to SACD. I start looking at the display to see how much longer. Vinyl is addictive, I'm just forced to put another record on all the time.

That's what actually happened tonight with my wife, too. We started to listen to some SACD Mozart and after ten minutes we switched to some Liszt on Vinyl for comparison and we wound up playing all six Hungarian Rhapsodies without stopping.

For the record (pun intended), we've used AKG 501s driven by a Headroom Max and AKG 1000 driven by the same Max as a preamp and a vintage Marantz power amplifier. Crossfeed on, filter off.

Especially with the AKG 1000, it's unbelievable how much imaging you get out off vinyl. Close you eyes and you can pinpoint the location of the musicians within a couple of feet left, right, front and back.

Another example is Brubeck's Time Out LP. Close your eyes and you can tell how far apart the drums are set apart during drum solos. During the piano solos you can see which way the piano is lined up to the stage, not just left to right, but also the angle front to back.

Sorry for rambling, but I just can't believe how good vinyl still performs. You could say I'm biased, but I really am not. I wish very much there would be a more convienient way than the whole vinyl mess.
post #9 of 65
Originally posted by Joe Bloggs
I think he's referring to the DSD encoding method of SACD:
More or less. But I'm not going to be a science/bible-thumper and say that just because it doesn't make sense, doesn't mean that if we hear a difference, then it shouldn't be there. I would like eric's subjective opinions.

But in reality since the sampling rate of SACD is so high (2.8MHz) a string of +1s should encode the rising edge of a transient just as effectively, if not more so, than CD PCM. Although PCM can jump to any value 'instantly', the low sampling rate of 44.1kHz cancels the advantage completely.
Well, that's not completely fair, now, is it? I think 24/96 would be a more fair comparison.

I'm not trying to slag DSD, I just want to hear other peoples' opinions about this aspect of DSD. I've listened to them and made my own opinions (which are continuing to change, as well), and I do agree that I prefer SACD to CD (by far), but I'm not sure I prefer it to high-rate unwatermarked PCM...not that I'm being given that option.

I want to hear the pluck of a stringed instrument, the attack of a hard snare hit, or a brushed high-hat, a piano...you name it. That's all.

And I could care less about the theory, I don't want this to turn into an argument about the theory -- if we're gonig to do that, we should start another thread.
post #10 of 65
I think we all know where I stand on this
post #11 of 65
Belay that! I just did some reading and calculations and...

44.1kHz * 64 = 2.822 MHz

So the sampling rate of DSD is only 64x that of CD?

So, say you have a transient that goes from -1 to +1 on adjacent samples on a CD...

The SACD only has 64 samples to go from the negative extreme to the positive extreme?

So you get 64 +1s...

If you want to preserve this same transient ability of CD, you would have to be able to reach the positive extreme from the negative extreme in 64 steps...

The bit depth would be effectively 6 bits???

This would seem to make SACD completely inferior to CD!!

Am I calculating something wrong here or what?
post #12 of 65
Originally posted by Joe Bloggs
But in reality since the sampling rate of SACD is so high (2.8MHz) a string of +1s should encode the rising edge of a transient just as effectively, if not more so, than CD PCM. Although PCM can jump to any value 'instantly', the low sampling rate of 44.1kHz cancels the advantage completely.
No, this is not true. Please don't repeat Sony's marketing claims without first thinking whether they make sense. 2.8Mhz is only 64 times faster than 44.1kHz. (That's just simple division.)

A regular CD can jump from 0 to 65535 in the same time that it takes SACD to jump from 0 to 63!

Essentially, the worst case performance of SACD is roughly 6-bit sound, versus 16-bit for regular CDs. This is why most people with a background in signal processing believe that transients and high frequencies will never sound right on SACD.
post #13 of 65
I came to this conclusion shortly before you posted

So what the ******'s up with SACD?

I think I can guess... since upper frequencies are lower in amplitude the designers of DSD supposed they could get away with the format not being able to represent a full-swing at 22kHz?

But it still doesn't make any sense...
Say you want to retain 16-bit depth...
65536 steps / 64x sampling rate = 1024 CD-size time-steps to go from 0 to max.
That would mean the upper frequency limit for a full-scale signal is 44.1kHz / 1024 = ~ 43Hz!!!

Anyway, I think I'll shut up and let eric do the talking
post #14 of 65
Argh! (I tried.)
post #15 of 65
I'm starting another thread about this topic in the Other Technologies forum... all my posts here will be copied there. Will anyone interested in that discussion post there and not hijack this thread, please.

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