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Which format is closest to the master: vinyl, CD, DVD-A, or SACD? - Page 4

post #46 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ooheadsoo
Doesn't that only apply to that particular square wave? I dont know why the example that stereophile chose to show was at the edge of the spectrum. Square waves at other frequencies could well be within the audible range, starting from 20hz and up, right?
The sample shown is a 1-kHz square-wave signal, thus absolutely in the audible range. The ringing, however, happens in the ultrasonic range, at 22 kHz. Because this is the resonance frequency of the low-pass filter. However, every frequency below is also affected by the filter-induced tendency towards delayed decay -- the closer to the filter's corner frequency, the more pronounced.

To give an illustration, based on the above-mentioned amplitude modulation, which is the normal response with the CD format before any low-pass filtering. You must know that CD players and DACs with conventional anti-aliasing filters produce a flat frequency response up to 20 kHz without the amplitude modulation. How this? Well, that close below the filter resonance the resonance effect is still quite strong, so strong that it equalizes the amplitude differences, because of the heavy delayed-decay tendency. Now, in an imagined scenario where the original signal in fact does have such an amplitude-modulated shape, a CD player with this filter characteristic can't reproduce it properly -- it makes a continuous sine wave out of it.

post #47 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by markl
We'll never really know what the analog tape really sounds like in the abstract sense. How do we know we are hearing the sound of the master tape or the sound of the playback device?
A nicely formulated hifi-epistemological problem!


Regards,

L.
post #48 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leporello
A nicely formulated hifi-epistemological problem!
In the context of the virtual test configuration: not if the reference point is the reference tape recorder's line out, not the tape itself.

post #49 of 64
One distinct advantage of digital storage over analog storage is that the signal doesn't degrade every time you play it.

The resolution of vinyl changes a small amount every time the needle hits the record, particularly if your cartridge isn't alligned properly.

CD's are low maintenance, and don't exhibit the snap crackle pop syndrome that I have a hard time dealing with over headphones.

I think digital sound is far from perfect but I do get great sound out of CD's.

Also, aren't most current masters stored straight to digital? In that case, if you purchased an LP of a current album, it likely was converted from digital to analog for storage to vinyl. That would defeat any advantage that the vinyl format has over CD (although the crapiness of this transfer may be mitigated by high def recordings and a good quality studio D/A like the Mietner DAC).
post #50 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Canman
Also, aren't most current masters stored straight to digital? In that case, if you purchased an LP of a current album, it likely was converted from digital to analog for storage to vinyl.
Good point! I own a few albums on both LP and CD, all recorded digitally. On vinyl they sound clearly more analog and organic -- just like vinyl is thought to sound. Which means there's some coloration in play. Whereas the CD should be an 1:1 copy of the master tape.

post #51 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Canman
In that case, if you purchased an LP of a current album, it likely was converted from digital to analog for storage to vinyl.
And even if the original recording was completely analog the record cutter may have used a digital delay (shock, horror... ). Does anyone know if this is still the practice when cutting current vinyl releases?


Regards,

L.
post #52 of 64
Perhaps analog can be more true to the master, but manufacturers (or whatever you call them) are not treating vinyl the way it should be treated? I have no objections to vinyl in terms of accuracy and trueness, but I do feel it is inferior to digital as a medium. Yeah, I know that is a bit OT, but you can't discuss which is more true to the master without also discussing the other attributes...well, atleast I can't The simple fact that vinyl can add extra pops, cracks, and even hiss to the playback should not be counted out as a factor to trueness to the master.
post #53 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Canman
Also, aren't most current masters stored straight to digital? In that case, if you purchased an LP of a current album, it likely was converted from digital to analog for storage to vinyl. That would defeat any advantage that the vinyl format has over CD.

Well, the digital master is almost certainly going to be much higher res than a cd - 24/96 quite probably. Vinyl (like SACD and DVDA) is largely capable of capturing this higher resolution that will be lost when transferred to cd.

Also, depending on the type of music, vinyl can add euphonics, much the same as tubes do, which can add something to the music the digital seems to lose - electronic music certainly seems to benefit from the warmth..
post #54 of 64
Thread Starter 
drminky...

...good thoughts! It has indeed to be considered that many modern recordings are made with high-res PCM, which vinyl records will benefit from, unlike CDs. Nevertheless, I doubt that the majority of the available digitally recorded LPs have such a background. I don't think it's the case with my references:

Alexander Glasunov - Symphonies, 3 albums, Orfeo, 1984
Alban Berg - Violin Concerto/Three Orchestral Pieces, Philips, 1984
Arthur Honegger - Orchestral Works/Symphonies, 3 albums, Erato, 1986
The Nits - Henk, CBS, 1986

All these recordings seem to sound «better» from vinyl in some ways, at least more organic and natural than the corresponding CD version.

post #55 of 64
We all remember that Redbook CD's are sort of the first generation of digital medium, right? I think people expect too much from them.
post #56 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaZZ

All these recordings seem to sound «better» from vinyl in some ways, at least more organic and natural than the corresponding CD version.

I'm not surprised. Early CD mastering circa mid 80s was notoriously bad (harsh), whereas lp mastering could be really good at that stage. They have got much better as time has gone on (if you don't count the highly-compressed-hot-as-hell-maximum-loudness school of cd mastering).


To be honest, I think both mediums are better at certain things. Analouge and Vinyl (and tubes) seem to love minimalism in music. The human voice, the pluck of the guitar string, a flute, a horn, the tap of congas etc (and simple combinations thereof) are all rendered beautifully on analouge. IMO Where it falls down is music that is really 'busy' (think 'radiohead' or 'Godspeed You Black Emporer' in full swing - lots of overdriven electric guitars going crazy that kind of thing). Everything can become saturated, smeared, compressed and overwhemled (although this can still sound good if it is meant to sound like this). The ability to make sense of a wall of sound is where I think digital can really come into its own. Hence, when I buy music I tend to choose the medium I think will best suit the style of music. I am sure similar 'creative' decisions are oft taken in the studio as well (ie, whether to record analouge or digital master depending on which will render it the best)
post #57 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by recephasan
The people involved are in the business of creating and/or evaluating recordings and IMO their opinions are the ones that matter more than any measurement since they are the ones that hear the original unmixed music and then decide how it should sound.

So what is it that you're trying to quantify since the process of music creation itself is subjective?
I'm interested to know which format is closest to the original sound -- in the perception of humans, not measuring instruments. For this purpose comments such as

- 2" analog tape is superb
- vinyl is beautiful
- DSD (SACD) mostly sounds very good
- PCM at 24 bits (DVD Audio) sounds very good if it is WELL CLOCKED


give not the least clue. Also because these people -- whose trustworthiness I don't challenge -- are just valuing the degree of euphony here, not the degree of deviation from the original.

Isn't this the primary goal of every audiophile: a sound as accurate and neutral as possible, at least a sound with as little flaws as possible? So isn't it interesting to know which audio format comes closest to this goal? If you have to deal with an audio format with inherent flaws, there's the need for compensating (or forgiving) gear from the very beginning, with a high likelihood that this won't be the theoretically best and most accurate gear. I'm an absolute believer in synergies -- another word for compensating effects: flaws compensating for the flaws of the other components in the chain. Wouldn't it be great to know that you can at least rely on what the source format offers?

As to the sonic beauty of vinyl: nothing against liking or even preferring it to digital. But I'm rather sure that it's wrong to equate euphony with fidelity. My own experiences with audio devices have taught me otherwise. Renouncing the preamp and replacing it by a simple attenuator was a sobering experience. Luckily, as a speaker builder, I could mess around with the tuning of my speaker's crossover network and once the sweet spot was found to discover that the setup sounds better than ever. A highly accurate source signal seems to be much more critical in view of the overall sonic balance in its finest facets than a euphonically or otherwise colored signal, such as from the radio or the turntable. Another experiment was renouncing the headphone amp and connecting the HD 600/650 directly to the DAC's line out. The resulting sound was so revealing that I had troubles to accept all the hard edges and the lack of warmth in the beginning. Changing the DAC and finally the cables brought the ultimate revelation: accuracy doesn't mean beauty, but the beauty can absolutely be in the accuracy once you're ready to take the plunge and have the right, synergetic equipment.

Of course there's room left for speculation why digital -- provided that it's indeed more accurate -- is more critical. One reason could be that it reveals all the flaws in a recording caused by the recording equipment (not to speak of bad microphone placement/mixing/equalizing, etc.). I'm sure the microphones used today are still far from being perfect, from delivering a perfectly pure electrical equivalent of the acoustic event, just to name the most obvious issue. The other possible perspective, which doesn't exclude the aforementioned, is the imperfection of the CD format, making the sound heard through highly revealing equipment less favorable than through more forgiving and less transparent gear. I have my own assumptions about the cause for the often lamented «digital» sound, especially in the context of low-res PCM. Apart from the plausible flaws in the players and DACs, such as jitter, converter nonlinearity and quantization noise, the main reason could be the sharp low-pass filter at 20 kHz -- independent of its implementation (analog brickwall filter, digital up-/oversampling filter) and to a lesser degree also valid for time-optimized and filterless designs due to the fact that there has to be filtering before A/D conversion anyway.

I've already explained a few posts earlier what I think sharp low-pass filters do to the sound. But why doesn't e.g. FM radio have a «digital» timbre as well, considering it also suffers from abrupt low-pass filtering? And why can tube-based amplification stages eliminate it to a certain degree? Based on the fact that the sharp low-pass filter creates a resonance with side effects reaching deep into the audible range, the main audible effect is that of smeared transients in the treble -- giving the impression of coolness and glossiness/glassiness. This phenomenon can be compensated by a relatively high amount of harmonic distortion, virtually «restoring» some of transient sharpness in the treble by adding sharp-edged components otherwise completely missing (this can also apply to vinyl in the case of a digital master, BTW). I hope my way of portraying the scenario is passably understandable.

post #58 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaZZ
Isn't this the primary goal of every audiophile: a sound as accurate and neutral as possible, at least a sound with as little flaws as possible?
I like how people on this forum all seem to think that's what it means to be an audiophile..audiophile technically means "lover of audio", those who like a super accurate sound are one type of audiophile (there is certain music just seems to be made with heavy compensation from audio equipment in mind. Techno for example Neutral, accurate techno and other electronica can sound extremely boring and bland) Nothing critical though, just speaking my mind . I do agree on your views on digital. Drminky makes a good point too
post #59 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaZZ
I'm interested to know which format is closest to the original sound -- in the perception of humans, not measuring instruments.
Thank you for the thorough case you made for your point of view.
However, I still beg to differ. I respect your opinions and valuations. It is not my business to tell anyone how to listen to music and what to expect from a recording.

However, I seriously doubt any CD would be listenable if it were an exact duplicate of the original. And I say this because we still have not defined 'original'.
As you most probably know, most studio recordings are made in order, not with the entire band prestent at the same moment to perform, so there is no original to speak of.
Concert performances are what they are: sound coming from loudspeakers the size of a door. So there is no correspondance between the 'original' and what is mastered for home audio. If one is speaking of reproducing the sounds of instruments without amplification, well, the debate gets muddier. When speaking of a violin, it depends on how close you sit from the instument. Electric bass? Are we trying to reproduce perfectly what comes out of an amp and speakers? Do these not depend on where one places the microphone, what kind of microphone cable is used, whether a compressor is in use etc. etc?

A listenable recording is mastered so that it sounds well. Accuracy is accuracy with respect to what? When there is nothing to be reproduced, the product is a work of craft (or art, if you are commercially inclined) and not a matter of technology only. A recoding technician/artist creates the recording. Most bands rely on skilled technicians to achieve their 'sound'.

Now, that said, and I know you know all that, if the debate is which of the formats reproduces the original single track which was recorded in the studio and mixed with other single tracks to form the final mix, OK, then. However I disagree with the pursuit of accuracy. I am a sucker for musicality and synergy.

...even though the source(s) I use can't reflect them
post #60 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by recephasan
...I seriously doubt any CD would be listenable if it were an exact duplicate of the original. And I say this because we still have not defined 'original'.
As you most probably know, most studio recordings are made in order, not with the entire band present at the same moment to perform, so there is no original to speak of.
A listenable recording is mastered so that it sounds well. Accuracy is accuracy with respect to what?
The input signal before recording/encoding to the storage format. Simple as that. I don't care for the technical or musical quality of the recording at this point. Hence the analog master tape as the sole reference (= the original), or more precisely the signal out of the tape recorder's line out. We could discuss the correct way of recording to preserve the intention of the composer, the musicians or the recording engineer or whatsoever, but that's beyond my competence. I'm just interested in the technical quality of the storage format itself in its consequence for the perceived sonic characteristic. I'm rather sure even you wouldn't accept MP3 at 64 kb/s or cassette tape as storage format because of the missing accuracy.


Quote:
However I disagree with the pursuit of accuracy. I am a sucker for musicality and synergy.
You know, synergy means reciprocal compensation for flaws in a reproduction chain, with the goal to achieve something like an approximated restoration of accuracy -- or what else? Of course I want «musicality» too in the end, but I'm convinced to find it in a reproduction as neutral as possible, not in euphonic coloration. Or do you think an undistorted violin or piano doesn't sound musical (enough)?


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