CD Rom Drives
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shard

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I was just wondering, current CD Rom drives have on board cache, error correction, can spin at multiple times the normal CD reading speed and a ton of other features.

How do they compare to a decent CD transport?
 
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badmonkey

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Depends on how you use them.

As long as you read the audio off them digitally, you get a bit for bit, byte for byte reproduction of what's on the CD, and then it's up to the rest of the computer to do good (or bad) things with it.

There are two ways of reading the music digitally; either via a dedicated SPDIF cable which runs from the drive to your sound card, or just via the IDE cable which is how data CDs are read. The SPDIF option requires the right type of connection on your sound card (internally), and may imply complications to do with the SPDIF processing onboard the soundcard (may not be very good). However it is completely transparent to the system, and you can just tell the drive to play normally, and tell your soundcard to listen to the CD drive. The other option is the same method used to 'rip' or copy audio CDs; the music is effectively copied and streamed through whatever the audio output of the computer is. This is the easiest (and probably most reliable) hardware option, but you must have audio playback software which supports it (most good players do, some don't).

If you're just playing the CD using the standard audio CD functionality of the drive, which outputs analogue, then they simply do not compare to decent dedicated transports.
 
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shard

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At the moment (it changes on a daily basis), my set up is:

Plextor Premium -IDE Cable-> Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS -Coaxial Digital-> Musical Fidelity A3 24 DAC -Straightwire Sonata-> Sugden Headmaster -Equinox-> HD650

If I can get my hands on a 1820M, I will sub the Audigy 2 with that. But since I am using an external DAC that really is not necessary? What is a good player to use for CD playback? EAC?

With the above setup, I cannot tell the difference between my PC and my Sudgen CDMaster. Since I use the Headmaster, its really easy to conduct source comparisons.

I just bought 2 400GB (Yup 400 gigabytes! They are monsters!) Hitachi SATA drives. I think I am going to try to rip my entire CD collection in lossless, my current collection of 1000+ CDs takes up about 150GB (192bits). Last time I ripped my collection I almost went nuts. 1000+ CDs in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Labelling was a nightmare.
 
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badmonkey

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1) Let me say that first and foremost it matters what you can hear, not what the specifications are... if you like the sound then your set-up is perfect. There is however some logic in upgrading components if you know them to be inferior, in the hope of 'learning' to hear the difference.
2) Creative cards do not output what is input, even in digital mode. Look around this forum for more information specific to soundcards. I hate Creative and so am biased; their marketing lies are appalling. Anyway, the point is a better card will... well, be better.
3) A good player I suppose is defined by its ability to play CDs digitally for you? EAC is a ripper, not a player - it copies CDs and allows you to do what you will, MP3 or lossless etc. Windows Media Player and Sonique 2 both support digital playback. These are the two I use - there are others. There are many other factors which will affect your choice of player.
4) You want to rip lossless, which is fine, but do some testing before hand. MP3 is still the best supported and easiest format to work with. I encode at 320k MP3 and to my ears it is completely transparent. This is another huge debate; again what matters is what you can hear. However you will no doubt find ripping and encoding a large number of CDs to be a little easier if you use MP3, because the encoding software available tends to be a little more developed. I would recommend AudioGrabber - tie it into the CDDB for track listing, and your ripping process will be largely automated.
 
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shard

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Quote:

Originally Posted by badmonkey
3) A good player I suppose is defined by its ability to play CDs digitally for you? EAC is a ripper, not a player - it copies CDs and allows you to do what you will, MP3 or lossless etc. Windows Media Player and Sonique 2 both support digital playback. These are the two I use - there are others. There are many other factors which will affect your choice of player.


I think EAC has play features for CDs.

Quote:

Originally Posted by badmonkey
4) You want to rip lossless, which is fine, but do some testing before hand. MP3 is still the best supported and easiest format to work with. I encode at 320k MP3 and to my ears it is completely transparent. This is another huge debate; again what matters is what you can hear. However you will no doubt find ripping and encoding a large number of CDs to be a little easier if you use MP3, because the encoding software available tends to be a little more developed. I would recommend AudioGrabber - tie it into the CDDB for track listing, and your ripping process will be largely automated.


I was looking at the new lossless compression from Apple, supposed to have all the bells and whistles as MP3s. Problem is using iTunes to rip, with error correction enabled, it can take forever.
 
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Stephonovich

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Quote:

Originally Posted by shard
I just bought 2 400GB (Yup 400 gigabytes! They are monsters!) Hitachi SATA drives. I think I am going to try to rip my entire CD collection in lossless, my current collection of 1000+ CDs takes up about 150GB (192bits). Last time I ripped my collection I almost went nuts. 1000+ CDs in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Labelling was a nightmare.


Ah... now you're on the right track. Good luck to you, sir, on your noble quest. And here I thought ripping 50 CDs was a PITA...


Quote:

Originally Posted by badmonkey
You want to rip lossless, which is fine, but do some testing before hand. MP3 is still the best supported and easiest format to work with. I encode at 320k MP3 and to my ears it is completely transparent. This is another huge debate; again what matters is what you can hear. However you will no doubt find ripping and encoding a large number of CDs to be a little easier if you use MP3, because the encoding software available tends to be a little more developed. I would recommend AudioGrabber - tie it into the CDDB for track listing, and your ripping process will be largely automated.


But the point of going lossless is that when the next format of the minute comes out, you can try it out with a couple simple steps, rather than having to re-rip the CD. Lossy > Lossy isn't good; I don't care how high of a bitrate you have. MPC is the only one I'd ever consider doing that with, and only if it was necessary. It's a pity there's no hardware MPC support. That's the most transparent lossy codec I've ever heard, hands down.

As for transparency, I agree, I have difficulties telling LAME 3.90.3 --aps apart from originals, (IIRC, --aps is going to be better than a CBR 320, due to pyschoacoustic tweaks. Use --api if you want high bitrates) but as I said, the point is ease of use. Plus, it's a backup in case you ever lose the original.

As for Audiograbber, yeah, it's not bad, but EAC does all that you mentioned, except it uses freedb instead of CDDB. Plus it's more accurate.


(-:Stephonovich:)
 
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shard

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Back to my original question. So in theory, a CD Rom drive as just a transport will rival good hifi level transports?
 
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Glassman

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Meridian G08 use computer CD-ROM drive for example, and it is well regarded multi-$$$ player
 
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Stephonovich

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Yeah, some are awesome. Others, however, are crap. I think the current most recommended one is NEC, but I could be wrong. However, good playback != good DAE. So be sure to check out the DAE speed, if you rip stuff often.

(-:Stephonovich:)
 
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halcyon

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How do cd-roms compare to a good transport? CD-ROM drives (the best) can have:

- better error correction (in the best cdr drives)
- better interpolation of unfixable errors (less audible distortion)
- usually more noisy (even at 1x) compared to the best rack transports
- usually more flimsy, plastic feeling and of cheaper parts
- probably much higher transport jitter (importance if your DAC doesn't have superior jitter attenuation capabilities. Most don't)
- cheaper price
- useless analog output (I know you said transports, but...)

Those are the obvious ones that come to mind.

I'd use Winamp along with Copah's CD Reader plugin ( http://www.url.ru/~copah/Index.htm ). It reads at 4x (for example) and can try to re-read parts that are unreadable. Combine that with a reader that is A) quiet B) excellent scratched disc reading capability C) very good interpolation of uncorrectable errors, then you have a decent computer transport for cheap.

Back to the last question:

Will a computer cd-rom drive automatically rival a good rack high end cd player in sound quality.

IMHO, no. The reason is transport jitter.

Good transports (whether cdrom drive or high end cd player) produce neglible amounts of jitter in their output signal.

This can be important, because external DACs often don't have a jitter attenuation capability that can remove all trace of incoming jitter.

This jitter, once it hits the DA conversion, can alter the sound. Some argue that in an audible way. At least it can be measured.

So, the devil is in the details (implementation) and not just whether it's high end audio player or computer cd-rom drive.

Unfortunately there are no simple jitter measurements for basic computer cd-rom drives in a computer setup, nor are the jitter tolerance values for computer sound cards. At least not publicly easily available.

regards,
halcyon

PS I'm not saying that cd-rom drive + sound card cannot be a high quality enjoyable combo. I'm using such myself right now on my computer. However it's not comparable to the best of cd players that I've heard.
 
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shard

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Thanks for the answers. It was very informative.
 
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Glassman

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as long as you're performing DAE (Digital Audio Extraction) and not just a basic CDDA playback, you can completely forget about jitter, because the drive is slave, DAC is master.. it's all upon the soundcard or any other master device which receive data from the drive..

transport is basicaly about two things - perfect reading & error correction and minimum jitter.. if you take computer drive, you're done with the jitter and you're getting the best error correction mechanism you can, ie. re-reading the disc more than one times, C2 error notification, you can process as precise interpolation as you want in case the drive can't get rid of C2 error even after re-reading..
 
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