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Why do my CDs sound bad?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello Head-Fi,

I've got a question for more experienced members. I have lots of experience with audiophilia in my living room system, but just starting with the computer audio.

 

I've got a Dell Latitude E6502/Windows 7-64 with the NuForce uDAC-2SE and Sony MDR-7509HD phones. I've noticed something strange:

 

When I play a higher-res track from a YouTube music video, it sounds better than the same track listening to the real CD spinning in my DVD tray! I've verified this with several tracks I'm very familiar with. How could YouTube sound better than the real CD?

 

Second, if I RIP the CD to HDD, then play the track, it sounds great, even better than the YouTube stream, and more like I'm familiar with from my main system.

 

Why wouldn't playing the CD itself, spinning in the DVD tray, sound good? It's thin, fatiguing, and rather tipped up in the upper midrange. At any rate, I never get past playing more than one or two tracks, and I stop it.

 

Any one else have this experience? Does it mean only music RIP'd to HDD is going to sound good? Since I have 8GB of memory, can one load a whole CD into memory (about 400MB) and play it from there?

 

Thanks for any advice!

post #2 of 10

Are you using the Nuforce with your DVD player? There is no reason why using your DVD player as a transport would sound worse than using your computer as a transport. The youtube videos should sound like garbage regardless.

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by logwed View Post

Are you using the Nuforce with your DVD player? There is no reason why using your DVD player as a transport would sound worse than using your computer as a transport. The youtube videos should sound like garbage regardless.

 

I'm using the DVD player that's built into my laptop, you know, that little slot tray that slides in and out. So, my laptop is my transport. YouTube is all mp3, right?

 

Comparing the exact same track from a CD and a good YouTube upload, the CD sounds dry and two dimensional. The CD has more detail, but becomes fatiguing, seeming to lack the usual emotion. The YouTube stream seems to have more air, a more lush midrange, almost more spacioius.

 

I can understand the difference between spinning the DVD tray, and playing from the HDD. They go through different circuits, there may be less mechanical movement and maybe less electromagnetic nosie bouncing around for the HDD. Of course, with the YouTube stream, there's no HDD spinning and no DVD tray spinning, no mechanical movement at all.

 

Some YouTube streams are atrocious, of course. But some uploads seem really good. I was surprised. Do you think your laptop as a transport sounds good?

post #4 of 10
"rip" isn't an acronym - no need to caps.

Anyways, it's hard to say what's going on - I'm really keen on dismissing this as psychological and not founded though; YouTube does not generally mean HQ audio (it's flash encoded video with extremely low bitrate audio) - and it sounds like you're ripping these lossy anyways. Perhaps you just dislike lossless/non-artefacted audio? Or perhaps there's a level mismatch? Or some other factor that's influencing your opinion on this matter.

Overall, I've never noticed a difference between playing the CD in my PC, and (properly) ripping it to WMA-L/WMA-VBR and listening to the files. Now if I lose my mind and rip it at 96k or something, sure, I'll hear that difference. But overall there's nothing to write home about.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

"rip" isn't an acronym - no need to caps.
Anyways, it's hard to say what's going on - I'm really keen on dismissing this as psychological and not founded though; YouTube does not generally mean HQ audio (it's flash encoded video with extremely low bitrate audio) - and it sounds like you're ripping these lossy anyways. Perhaps you just dislike lossless/non-artefacted audio? Or perhaps there's a level mismatch? Or some other factor that's influencing your opinion on this matter.
Overall, I've never noticed a difference between playing the CD in my PC, and (properly) ripping it to WMA-L/WMA-VBR and listening to the files. Now if I lose my mind and rip it at 96k or something, sure, I'll hear that difference. But overall there's nothing to write home about.

 

That's funny, ripping is really ripping, isn't it? It's not Ripping Installing and Playing ..

I've been playing with this all evening. Playing from the HDD sounds better to me than spinning the DVD tray. Not much, but the midrange is more "light", less engaging, less emotional using the DVD tray. It does make me curious if anyone else has noticed this.

 

I do know what hi-res audio is about. I had a $60k living room system with all the mega-goodies and total audio-nirvana. I miss it. (divorce casualty!) This laptop audio is promising, though. DACs have come a long way. This NuForce uDAC-2SE is tiny and sounds very good.

 

What bit rates are the YouTube music streams? Does anyone know? Are they different rates depending on that "resolution" selection, which can be 240, 360, 480 and so on? Or is the audio one rate no matter what, and that's just the video? I think I hear a difference in the audio between the 240 and the 480 ...

post #6 of 10
Depends on the video itself as to what the audio is; I've heard claims that some artists will upload video-less content and set it to 240p and you get a 256k audio stream. But there is a cap on the bandwidth available. I'm not sure how you accurately peg what you're listening to in terms of it's bitrate or quality though.

I'm really not sure what else to tell you; I'm not hearing any difference with what you're describing unless the rip is fouled. That doesn't mean my CDP and PC sound identical (I'd actually like very much to rip my CDP's DtoA out and have it at the PC).

As far as ripping, yes its just ripping - there is no installation or anything of the sort, no acronym. smily_headphones1.gif
post #7 of 10

I've never noticed a difference when spinning a CD in my laptop and playing that same album from my HDD, and I can't think of a good reason why it would sound different. The information is being read, just that in one it is read off of a spinning optical disc and the other reads it off of a spinning magnetic disc. The information is still all the same when it goes to your DAC.

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

The only thing might be that on my particular laptop, a little more electromagnetic noise might get through to the uDAC-2SE headphone amp from the DVD spinning than the HDD. Can't think of anything else.

post #9 of 10

What is your ripping and playback software?

 

Remember when ripping you have error correction going on that allows a section to  be read a few times before it is put down in the ripped file.  Playing from DVD is most often real time requiring the firmware on the dvd drive to interpret the bits and guess as to what the missing or corrupted bits are and then quickly add that to the stream that is output to your dac via USB (assuming the nuforce is usb).

 

One thing is for certain in my experience, anything that is going on in a computer that involved spinning disks, other applications running, etc will affect the sound you hear.  My guess is the DVD drive is adding a lot of jitter to the signal because of the processes involved in reading and streaming the data to your dvd play back software.  I don't think the software will read it into memory and then play but correct me if I am wrong.


Edited by bixby - 7/4/12 at 9:56am
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bixby View Post

What is your ripping and playback software?

 

Remember when ripping you have error correction going on that allows a section to  be read a few times before it is put down in the ripped file.  Playing from DVD is most often real time requiring the firmware on the dvd drive to interpret the bits and guess as to what the missing or corrupted bits are and then quickly add that to the stream that is output to your dac via USB (assuming the nuforce is usb).

 

One thing is for certain in my experience, anything that is going on in a computer that involved spinning disks, other applications running, etc will affect the sound you hear.  My guess is the DVD drive is adding a lot of jitter to the signal because of the processes involved in reading and streaming the data to your dvd play back software.  I don't think the software will read it into memory and then play but correct me if I am wrong.

I'm using Window MP for ripping. I tend to agree, the DVD tray probably generates more noise that gets into, ultimately my headphone amp, than the HDD.

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