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The dBpoweramp / Exact Audio Copy Sound Experiment - Do you hear the difference?

Poll Results: Do you hear the difference between dBpoweramp and Exact Audio Copy CD rips?

 
  • 66% (8)
    I do not hear any difference at all.
  • 8% (1)
    I hear a difference! dBpoweramp sounds better to me.
  • 25% (3)
    I hear a difference! Exact Audio Copy sounds better to me.
  • 0% (0)
    I hear a difference...but I'm not sure which I prefer.
12 Total Votes  
post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 

Update as of 1/1/2014:

 

What an embarrassing revelation. After more listening tests, I have discovered that I was wrong.

 

The differences I thought I heard were merely my overactive imagination. You could say that I was analyzing little details so closely that I began hearing things that weren't there. Ironically, it was only when I listened more casually that I saw the error of my ways. I should have known this all along, since the objective data already told me the truth.

 

I hereby rescind my mistaken assertion and formally apologize for any confusion caused by this thread.

 

My personal choice will now be dBpoweramp, due to its higher ripping speed and ease of use. Exact Audio Copy will be used as a backup when need be. Both are excellent programs nonetheless.

 

On a more positive note, at least now I (and indeed, all of us) can move on to better things...like gear that actually will drastically improve the sound.

 

---

(original post is below)

 

Head-Fi has been invaluable to me for info about audio equipment. While I have never posted here myself, I thought a little experiment of mine would serve as a worthy introduction.

 

I have ripped thousands of CDs with dBpoweramp and Exact Audio Copy and can declare with 100% certainty that each program has its own unique sonic signature.

 

These are obvious (not subtle) audible differences that are often heard immediately on just about any song.

 

As far as subjective listening is concerned, I have tested this extensively, over a period of many months, across a spectrum of styles, including pop, rock, metal, dance, rap, jazz, ambient, orchestral, and everything in-between.

 

Here's where it gets confusing.

 

To analyze the data, I used foobar2000's Binary Comparator component, Exact Audio Copy's WAV comparison feature, and Liberty Instruments Audio DiffMaker signal difference extraction software.

 

All three indicate that the files are bit-identical; yet, they sound drastically different!

 

Objectively, this should not be happening at all...but it undoubtedly is.

 

I also went to great lengths to ensure I had the proper settings configured for both programs to generate flawless rips, so I know the problem doesn't lie there.

 

The following parameters were constant throughout the experiment.

 

--- Rip settings ---

*File format: Wave (.WAV)

*Read sample offset correction: +6

*C2 error pointers for error detection

*AccurateRip verified

 

--- Ripping equipment ---

*Computer: Alienware M11x laptop

*Operating system: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

*CD drive: external LG Portable Super Multi Drive model GP10NB20

 

--- Listening equipment ---

*Digital audio player: Apple iPod Classic 160 GB (on Electronic EQ setting)

*Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 15 (with Duracell PreCharged Rechargable AAA battery)

 

Since I do not have a dedicated DAC, listening directly from the laptop with headphones (even with JPlay Mini software) doesn't sound as good as the iPod.

 

Admittedly, my setup is not what you would call high-end, but I can clearly hear innumerable differences nonetheless. I suspect that those of you with better gear will be able to hear even more.

 

EAC rips were typically done in secure mode. (I have experimented with paranoid and burst modes, if this is relevant.) dB rips were done in ultra secure mode, which ultimately rips in burst mode for each pass, even if there is a problem with AccurateRip verification.

 

I initially ripped everything to a 12 TB Buffalo DriveStation Quad external hard drive array, but recently found that, for whatever reason, ripping directly to the laptop hard drive produces noticeably superior sound quality.

 

(A similar phenomenon applies here. All the files are bit-identical, but the old rips sound somewhat distorted compared to the new ones. The sonic differences between the two ripping programs have become even more apparent, now that the music has greater clarity and detail.)

 

As a result, I am now re-ripping my entire collection. I'm inclined to do it with just one program this time around, to reduce the workload, if I can figure out which one has objectively better sound quality. (Then again, I may end up using both, to have aural options to choose from, depending on my mood.)

 

Here's where you come in! I would like qualified individuals to participate in this experiment with me and share their results.

 

If you have ripped a significant selection of CDs with both dBpoweramp and Exact Audio Copy and listened closely to the files, or are willing to do so in the near future, you qualify.

 

I cordially invite you to join me in my quest for musical excellence.

 

For your convenience, feel free to refer to albums that you are most familiar with. Naturally, some songs will be easier to detect anomalies on than others, so please be thorough and strive to include a broad range of genres to evaluate.

 

To replicate the experiment and remove as many variables as possible, it would be best if all participants used Wave files ripped directly to their computer's internal hard drive. (While compressed lossless formats are bit-identical to uncompressed Wave, a growing number of audiophiles have reported hearing differences on their system.)

 

Remember that you need the correct read offset setting for your drive. This is done automatically when you configure AccurateRip, but if you run into any problems, you may be able to find the number you need on their website. (Resource links are listed at the bottom of this post.) Just look for the model of your CD drive.

 

As an optional precaution, you can analyze the ripped files like I did, using any of the aforementioned free resources.

 

In addition, the Binary Comparator in foobar2000 lets you compare files to the CD itself. Unsurprisingly, all rips came up identical, unless the wrong offset was used.

 

(You must set the right offset setting in foobar2000 for this to work. Click File, Open audio CD..., Drive settings, and either manually input the number in the field next to Read offset correction:, or click auto, then click OK. To run the bit comparison, right-click on at least one of your ripped files (or two if you are comparing digital files only) and click Play in foobar2000, or Open with... and select foobar2000. With the files open in the playlist, click File, Open audio CD..., Add to playlist. Click on one of your files in the playlist, hold Ctrl and click on the corresponding track on the CD, then right-click that track, hover over Utilities and click Bit-Compare Tracks... If all goes well, a box will pop up with the message "All tracks decoded fine, no differences found." and "No differences in decoded data found.")

 

This is beside the point, since the purpose of this exercise is to subjectively examine the qualities of sound files during playback. First and foremost, this is a listening experiment.

 

Whenever I pinpointed a section of interest where deviations were heard in a song, I would then implement a repeat comparison and listen to that section over and over on both files, to make sure it wasn't merely my imagination. I recommend that you do the same.

 

You can take the sweeping approach and listen to full albums back to back, to get a general feel, but I find that targeted listening is more effective.

 

If you are able to listen to CDs directly with the same hardware setup as the digital files (the higher quality the system, the better), you can also share your thoughts on which ripper sounds closer (or identical) to the original CD.

 

Once you make an informed decision, I encourage you to vote in the poll at the top of this page.

 

There are four possibilities for your results:

1.) You do not hear any difference at all.

2.) You hear differences and believe that dBpoweramp sounds better.

3.) You hear differences and believe that Exact Audio Copy sounds better.

4.) You hear differences, but have no preference and can't tell which sounds better to you.

 

After listening to a LOT of music ripped by both programs, I can say that I enjoy the sound of dBpoweramp, but at the same time get the feeling that EAC may sound more accurate to the CD source. There is tighter bass and a greater sense of realism, for example.

 

Again, I understand that these files are technically bit-identical. (After all, I conducted objective tests to confirm as much.)

 

If you are convinced that they *must* therefore sound identical (which they indeed do not) and refuse to attempt the ripping/listening experiment altogether, I respectfully request that you refrain from posting in this thread.

 

I hold nothing but esteem for music enthusiasts - particularly those who are passionate about computer audio - so please do not interpret my proposal as intending to be provocative or create controversy for its own sake. I simply want to uncover the truth.

 

I am equally aware that this has been debated elsewhere, but it is rather difficult to find sufficient information on the subject.

 

Given the stellar reputation of these digital audio extractors in the audiophile community, I am astonished at the lack of deliberation regarding this matter.

 

From the rare occasions that I discovered descriptions of discernible differences (sorry, I delight in alliteration!) between dBpoweramp and Exact Audio Copy rips, I estimate the public's preference to be 50/50.

 

I need to experiment further, as well as gather more opinions. There is definitely something going on here.

 

I would love to get a productive discussion going. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reply. I will be happy to help.

 

I especially look forward to hearing about specific details of variations in sound, be they real or perceived.

 

(For the moment, I will decline to disclose my own experiences, to prevent any bias on your part...not to mention that it would take eons to document the fine points.)

 

Happy ripping!

 

--- Resource links ---

http://www.accuraterip.com/driveoffsets.htm
http://www.dbpoweramp.com
http://www.exactaudiocopy.de
http://www.foobar2000.org
http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_bitcompare
http://www.libinst.com/Audio%20DiffMaker.htm


Edited by Music Alchemist - 1/1/14 at 3:44pm
post #2 of 67
Thread Starter 

Reserved for updates.


Edited by Music Alchemist - 1/1/14 at 3:44pm
post #3 of 67

It sounds like something is borked with your playback if 2 bit identical files sound "drastically different!". I would trust file bit compare results over my hearing any day, there are so many variables with hearing that could skew your results.

 

Why don't you post 2 samples (30 seconds long) of the same song that you can hear the difference so other people can check.


Edited by A_Man_Eating_Duck - 12/20/13 at 10:50am
post #4 of 67
Thread Starter 

Hm, copyright infringement is a problem for me, so I don't know how I would go about that. (I am willing to do so, if I can do it legally.)

 

There are no variations involved in the playback, other than different Wave files being played.


Edited by Music Alchemist - 12/20/13 at 5:59pm
post #5 of 67

Fair enough, maybe a mod can step in an let us know if posting a sample is ok.

 

Maybe you could make a crude ABX on your ipod.

 

Make 10 copies of the EAC rip, name each file EAC1, EAC2, EAC3, etc....

Make 10 copies of the poweramp rip, name each file DBP1, DBP2, DBP3, etc....

 

put your Ipod on random, shut your eyes and press forward 5 times and try and guess which version it is. try this 10 times taking note of you results.

 

Report back.

post #6 of 67
Quote:

There is tighter bass and a greater sense of realism, for example.

 

This has been exactly my experience comparing dBpoweramp rips and EAC rips.  EAC having tighter bass and sounding cleaner compared to dBpoweramp rips.  It's very subtle, but it's there and I notice it every time, even after re-ripping several times.

 

I have noticed this on a variety of albums.  I notice it on albums I listen to a lot such as my MFSL Dark Side Of The Moon and Daft Punk RAM.  The dBpoweramp rips have a lot of bass but compared to the EAC rips sound less detailed.  

 

You noted that you ripped to WAV.  I normally rip to FLAC and thought that the two programs could possibly be using a different FLAC encoder.  So I ripped these two albums to WAV with both programs and I can still hear the difference.  EAC rips sounded better to me.

 

I'm curious to hear from the experts on this, or possibly from somebody with much better equipment than mine.  I'm just listening with foobar2000 on my ATH-M50 headphones.

 

I always had this same sneaking suspicion as the original poster, but I really couldn't find anybody who was having similar experiences except for an old thread at a website called XXHighEnd (http://www.phasure.com/index.php?topic=2180.0) who reported EAC rips sounding better also.  

 

If playback is being done on the exact same equipment, how would the playback chain be the culprit?

 

-hogger 


Edited by hogger129 - 12/28/13 at 8:17am
post #7 of 67
Thread Starter 

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I wish I had the time to share all of mine.

 

I rip in Wave format, so encoding to FLAC is not a variable for me, but as far as sound differences are concerned...

 

One reason I have imagined is that since dBpoweramp always rips in burst passes, regardless of security settings, there could possibly be a loss in quality due to ripping too fast. This assertion is unconfirmed, but is plausible. From listening tests, I would swear that Paranoid mode rips in EAC sound better than Burst mode rips in EAC - but again, it could just be my imagination playing tricks on me. I hope it's not true, since for me, Paranoid mode takes 30 to 90 minutes to rip a single CD!

 

lol, you keep editing your post, so I'll edit mine too.

 

During my research, I encountered at least a dozen sources claiming that one program sounds better than the other. I wanted people to perform the experiment and decide for themselves, though, so I didn't document those sources here.

 

It's funny that you linked to that one site, because there is another link on the site discussing the same subject, except in favor of dBpoweramp: http://www.phasure.com/index.php?topic=1908

 

The disadvantage to seeking counsel from renowned experts is that many of them would simply refuse to participate in this listening experiment in the first place - insisting that "bits are bits" and whatnot.


Edited by Music Alchemist - 12/28/13 at 8:24am
post #8 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Music Alchemist View Post
 

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I wish I had the time to share all of mine.

 

I rip in Wave format, so encoding to FLAC is not a variable for me, but as far as sound differences are concerned...

 

One reason I have imagined is that since dBpoweramp always rips in burst passes, regardless of security settings, there could possibly be a loss in quality due to ripping too fast. This assertion is unconfirmed, but is plausible. From listening tests, I would swear that Paranoid mode rips in EAC sound better than Burst mode rips in EAC - but again, it could just be my imagination playing tricks on me. I hope it's not true, since for me, Paranoid mode takes 30 to 90 minutes to rip a single CD!

 

lol, you keep editing your post, so I'll edit mine too.

 

It's funny that you linked to that one site, because there is another link on the site discussing the same subject, except in favor of dBpoweramp: http://www.phasure.com/index.php?topic=1908

 

I almost wondered that too, that the slower rip speed of EAC could account for differences in sound quality.  But if both rips are verified as accurate, there shouldn't be any differences in sound quality because it's all the same data whether it's ripped by EAC or poweramp.  I am only using Secure Mode in both programs and I still hear a difference.

 

Apologies for editing my post a lot.

 

-hogger

post #9 of 67
My experience has been that lossless rips on anything other than EAC (in my older pc setup) resulted in enough uncorrected read errors to be noticeable. And even when corrected, redbook allows for differences. Remember, there are no "files" on a CD...it's linear PCM stream. That being said, the files were never bit identical when compared. Bit identical files regardless of the source sound the same to me, as they should. A thought exercise to think about: if you could actually print out the data from both.....could you tell them apart? Of you took the time to type it all back in by hand (assuming you made no mistakes)...could you hear the difference? Of course not. My point here is the files are clearly different if they sound different.....surely the header files and metadata is different if sourced from different programs. The question I would ask is why don't my ripped files from differing programs play the same/properly in my system.

"Super fast" rips almost always result in flawed files (in my experience)...regardless of the program used. Don't let redbook fill in the blanks for you....rip more slowly. I use ~8x
Edited by GrindingThud - 12/28/13 at 9:00am
post #10 of 67
Thread Starter 

Did this happen for undamaged discs as well? Both programs have excellent error correction. For every CD I have ripped with them, with the rare exception of very damaged discs, the files were bit identical, when compared using the methods shown above.

 

Here is something that is important to note: when you analyze lossless/uncompressed files in different formats, it still says they are bit identical, despite the bits being organized in different ways. In other words, "bit identical" does not necessarily mean that the data in the file is identical; merely that it should produce the same result after processing.

 

You could open the audio files in Notepad and print them out...but there is so much data to look at that it would be fruitless. In any case, the topic of this thread is primarily focused on subjective listening experiences.


Edited by Music Alchemist - 12/28/13 at 9:04am
post #11 of 67

This is just getting silly, if the files are exactly the same (filecompare, checksum, etc) where is the extra information coming from?

 

The ripping program or ripping method in each program can't be faulted because it's producing exactly the same file.

 

If you want to test this properly then do a blind ABX test using the foobar component. If the differences are that noticeable then this test should take less than 5 minutes doing 10 trials. Please post your results.

 

http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_abx

 

BTW ripping in paranoid mode is bad for your drive, it will put a lot more stress on it.


Edited by A_Man_Eating_Duck - 12/28/13 at 11:44am
post #12 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by A_Man_Eating_Duck View Post
 

This is just getting silly, if the files are exactly the same (filecompare, checksum, etc) where is the extra information coming from?

 

The ripping program or ripping method in each program can't be faulted because it's producing exactly the same file.

 

If you want to test this properly then do a blind ABX test using the foobar component. If the differences are that noticeable then this test should take less than 5 minutes doing 10 trials. Please post your results.

 

http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_abx

 

BTW ripping in paranoid mode is bad for your drive, it will put a lot more stress on it.

 

Gave it a try on my Daft Punk RAM CD and I could tell the difference 9 out of 10 times.


Edited by hogger129 - 12/28/13 at 12:42pm
post #13 of 67

Could you post you ABX report please, it will add credibility to your statement.


Edited by A_Man_Eating_Duck - 12/28/13 at 1:38pm
post #14 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by A_Man_Eating_Duck View Post
 

Could you post you ABX results please, it will add credibility to your statement.

 

I did.  I said I guessed right 9/10.

post #15 of 67
Agree bit identical does not mean identical files....but we're talking about why similar files from different processes sound different. So, to start, you need files of the same source material ripped in the same format, created on the same hardware (drive), from the same CD. These should be the same....but as you've noticed, they are not, and sound different.
Plenty of utilities examine files bit for bit. Use windiff or any binary programming utility to check differences. You will see them all.
Different files can sound different....does not mean they will. That being said, most can't hear the difference between 320mp3 and uncompressed, let alone hear a bit error correction.

My simple point (and others in the thread) is if you hear differences 10 out of 10 times using a common player, the files are different. I use EAC because my experience has been it yields least discernible artifacts from a rip. YMMV. smily_headphones1.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by Music Alchemist View Post

Did this happen for undamaged discs as well? Both programs have excellent error correction. For every CD I have ripped with them, with the rare exception of very damaged discs, the files were bit identical, when compared using the methods shown above.

Here is something that is important to note: when you analyze lossless/uncompressed files in different formats, it still says they are bit identical, despite the bits being organized in different ways. In other words, "bit identical" does not necessarily mean that the data in the file is identical; merely that it should produce the same result after processing.

You could open the audio files in Notepad and print them out...but there is so much data to look at that it would be fruitless. In any case, the topic of this thread is primarily focused on subjective listening experiences.

Edited by GrindingThud - 12/28/13 at 1:43pm
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