DVD-A vs SACD?
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Mike Walker

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In my opinion the best way to demonstrate the benefits of surround sound to music is not to re-release vintage recordings with instruments and voices (annoyingly!) panned to the rear. It's to release NEW concert recordings! This surround formats can reproduce better than anything else. Music up front, audience all around, ambience from behind and even above. THIS is something that multi-channel dvd-a and sacd are quite obviously better at!

While I agree with Kelly that what is needed is high-powered material available ONLY in the new formats, I don't think that any record executive would find that approach financially viable now. Material by "heavy-hitting" artists MUST be released on regular cd in order to become profitable, just as in the early days of dvd movies had to be available on vhs!

As audiophiles we must not forget, however, that most music listening isn't done on high end home systems, regardless of the number of channels. It's done on boomboxes, portable cd players, car stereos, table radios, and "walkpersons". This is what "real people" listen on. And in this "real world" stereo is still "exotic", never mind surround! Surround will NEVER have any real impact on this world. Listen carefully and you can hear 'Joe Consumer' say "Nah, it's not for me. What else have you got?"
 
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Pepzhez

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I do agree that DVD-A and SACD do not offer the inticing features that are necessary to capture the interest of the general public. More than that, I do think we underestimate how many people play their CDs and DVDs in their PCs and Macs. I took an informal poll in one of the classes I teach. It turned out that close to 60% of these university students (average ages: 19-22 - the entertainment industry's target demographic, mind you) said that their computer setup was their exclusive audio/video device. On top of that, an astounding 85% said that they either possessed an ipod-like solid state device or were planning on obtaining one eventually. Of course audiophiles may shudder or sneer at the very thought of it all, but that doesn't change the fact that this is their preferred mode of listening to/watching things. Now if these numbers are indicative of anything larger (and I'm certain that they must be), do you really believe that formats designed to not work in computers really has much of a future? Of course it does not have to be this way, but if Sony, et al. insist on dedicated hardware and other such limitations, the formats can only but fail, particularly when the dedicated hardware/software offers no tangible features, perceived "improvements" or novelty factors, as kelly pointed out.

Now last week, kelly and I discussed and agreed that downloadable, virtual file systems (audio and video both) could be and should be the present and the future. We also agreed that we feel pessimistic over it ever being implemented correctly. Both the record industry and the electronics industries are hopelessly chained to an old, now archaic paradigm, viz. they will retain control, they will continue to sell dictate terms, they will decide upon formats and their attendant dedicated hardware and software standards. After all, that's the way it was and the way it worked for around 100 years.

This sort of obstinate inflexibility, desperation, and arrogance is a losing proposition in light of the changes which have taken place over the past decade. Technology, everyday technology which everyone who possesses a computer has at her/his fingertips has shifted the paradigm completely. The old business models can no longer keep up with development; by the time dedicated hardware/software is introduced into the market, it is already obsolete. DVD-A and SACD have been languishing in the marketplace for - what is it now? Two years? Nearly three years? Now consider how easy and affordable it is to obtain computer soundcards and recording/editing software that record high resolution PCM. And such a degree of flexibility is quite easy to obtain. A simple software update or the quick act of downloading a new codec is all it takes.

Case in point: although DVD does offer a quality improvement over VHS, the MPEG-2 video compression standard leaves a lot to be desired. MPEG-2, however, has already been surpassed by MPEG-4 - a more efficient, more flexible, simply all-around better codec than MPEG-2. As a filmmaker, I recently created a gallery video installation - all of which is computer-driven, using superior and more efficient MPEG-4 encoding. The advantages are thus:

1) Better picture quality than MPEG-2, hands down. Easily noticeable with large-scale, projected video. MPEG-4 is more scalable, more flexible than the DVD standard.

2) New hardware costs: $0; completely compatible with existing hardware and software. By using MPEG-4, I not only had better picure quality than if I had put this material on DVD, I also did not have to buy a DVD burner, DVD creation software or DVD blanks (or incur the costs of having a production house do this). My only cost was the $30 I spent on Quick Time 6 Pro from Apple in order to obtain the included MPEG-4 codec.

3) Smaller files, better quality. Using this codec, one can fit an entire 100 minute film on a single CD-R with no compromise in resolution, saves harddrive space, etc., etc.

In other words, this offers every conceivable advantage for me. And as soon as a better codec comes along (which should be any day, if not already), all I will have to do is download it and continue with my work. And this is how it should be. I value this degree of flexibility without being forced to invest in new hardware, etc. And this is precisely what DVD-A and SACD cannot do. Like it or not, Apple has the right idea with the ipod (and , no, I don't own one). And you don't have to look very far to see how enthralled Joe Public is with such a device (and how disinterested Joe Public is in SACD/DVD-A).

Sorry to be so longwinded about this.
 
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post-209845
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kelly

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Pephez
Hybrid SACDs can be played in PCs and Macs, just not the high res layer - or not yet anyway. I really don't think their decisions about this will stick.

On the video stuff, you're saying that this new format (MPEG4) makes video that looks better than MPEG2 and fits on a standard CD ROM? (DVD ROM is like 5G a layer, CD is 750MB, so you're saying at least 7 times the old compression and better quality??).
 
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markl

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Quote:

Someone (sorry I forget who) asked if we wanted to still be listening to cds in 20 years. I don't. But I certainly don't want to replace my cds with discs which look identical to them, and still are subject to wear, mistracking, skipping, etc. I still believe that the (distant) future is solid state! The less distant future is hard-drive based storage. While they may not offer the ultimate in sound quality (although it's far better at optimum settings than any "purist" will admit), portable devices such as the IPOD (to name the favorite, although not MY favorite) allow us to carry our entire music collection (or at least a huge portion of it) in a shirt pocket.


But where is this hypothetical solid-state media? Does it exist? No. Are there plans to release such a media? Not as far as I'm aware. The issue at hand is the new formats on discs much like DVDs and CDs. So, our best *real* bet for formats better than the Redbook CD are still DVD-A/SACD.

Quote:

Guess I'll jump back into this debate again. Yes, the redbook layers of the Stones remasters are downsampled from the DSD masters. In fact, this was a requirement from Sony, i,e, all hybrid discs' redbook layers could only be downsampled and only by Sony engineers.


Whether or not this is true, there is an underlying assumption that "downsampled" SACDs are somehow "worse" than regular Redbook CD masters? And this is based on....?

Quote:

I've stated several times on the other hi-rez thread at this forum that I am not convinced about the "superiority" of these hi-rez formats based on what I have heard. I suppose it has potential, but at the moment that is all it has.


So answer this basic question that Mike Walker also avoided:
Quote:

So where's the cut off for being able to detect a difference? Are we just as well off with 12-bit media sampled at 24KHz? 8-bit media sampled at 16KHz?
Look-- either new format offers substantially more data than the 16-bit Redbook CD, thereby more closely replicating the uninterrupted analog signal contained on the master tape. This makes the new formats much closer to analog than old Redbook CD. This difference is not just hypothetical-- it's clearly audible.


Mark
 
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Pepzhez

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kelly,

We've already seen Sony forced to give ground, re: abandoning full control of mastering the redbook layer of hybrids. There is little doubt that they will be forced to rethink compatibility and fair use issues if they want the format to survive at all. Time will tell what their decisions will be.

As for MPEG-4, yes, at an 11:1 compression ratio, it is far, far smaller (file size) and indistinguishable from decent MPEG-2 encoding. The beauty of MPEG-4 is its flexibility and scalability - advantages MPEG-2 does not possess. At an even higher bitrate it simply blows away MPEG-2. It does not take a trained eye to see the difference either.

I believe that we will soon see standalone DVD players from China which will support MPEG-4 playback. (The Japanese and Western firms have too many vested interests in maintaining an MPEG-2 DVD standard to be so bold.) MPEG-4, or some future variation thereof, is already being pegged as the standard for high definition DVD (probably blue laser technology at that) as well as for HD satellite broadcasting. However, an inferior, already obsolete video codec (MPEG-2) has been placed in the market (DVD) and it will continue to be supported as the "standard" by a dinosaur business consortium - Hollywood and the electronics industry, as well as a greedy tech industry which would rather see you purchase new DVD-enabled hardware and software - whose interest is not quality but rather control and monopoly. In other words, don't expect to see them do anything with MPEG-4 any time soon.

However, this technology is easily within reach. I deal a lot with video codecs of all kinds, and MPEG-4 is the most impressive one thus far. It is easily obtainable - just get the latest version of Quick Time Pro if you wish to experiment with it. (Mac, Linux and Windows versions are available). The mp4 music compression format (also included) shows promise as well.
 
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andrzejpw

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Quote:

That's like saying there's no need for both CD and vinyl records, so one should have to go. I completely disagree with this, on a fundamental pseudo-democracy "more-choice-is-good" perspective.


I don't see vinyl and cd as the same. That's like saying VHS and DVD are the same. They're not. CDs were made to replace vinyl. Look at the convenience! Remote controls, cd changers, smaller size, easier to throw frisbees, etc. Sure, it may not sound as good to some. But does Joe Smith really care, when he can carry a few of them in his pockets?

SACD and DVD-A basically are going for the same thing: hi resolution playback. Sure, choice is good. But after a while, I think the two will merge somehow.
 
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Zin_Ramu

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Quote:

Originally posted by markl
Whether or not this is true, there is an underlying assumption that "downsampled" SACDs are somehow "worse" than regular Redbook CD masters? And this is based on....?


Excellent question Mark, I'd be very interested if someone knowledgable about recording processes could reply this question.

It also has implications for DVD-A vs SACD debate and whether or not there is a "format war". While the war may not be waged on the consumer side (assuming relative abudance of universal players and putting aside the question of whether players could be made better if they only had to play one format versus two), it may be the recording side where decisions have to made.

Zin
 
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Pepzhez

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Quote:

So answer this basic question that Mike Walker also avoided:


Quote:

So where's the cut off for being able to detect a difference? Are we just as well off with 12-bit media sampled at 24KHz? 8-bit media sampled at 16KHz? Look-- either new format offers substantially more data than the 16-bit Redbook CD, thereby more closely replicating the uninterrupted analog signal contained on the master tape. This makes the new formats much closer to analog than old Redbook CD. This difference is not just hypothetical-- it's clearly audible.


The problem here is that you demand a simple answer to a question that has no one answer. For example, I could challenge you to an A/B comparison between a test tone played back at hi-rez 96 kHz/24 bits and the same test tone at 5:1 LAME MP3 compression, dropped to 32 kHz, let's say 12 bit resolution - and I'd defy you or anyone else to be able to spot the difference.

I use the test tone example only because it is the simplest waveform imaginable. Now obviously this is not representative of music, but the implication should be clear: music is different, some waveforms are more complex than others, some recordings are meant to have more presence than others, some exhibit a wider dynamic range than others, the characteristics of acoustic instruments and the human voice generate much more complex waveforms than that of electric guitars and synthesizers, and so on and so forth. It's much less problematic to drop the sampling and bit-rate of, let's say a repeating 5 note pentatonic scale played on a digital synth than doing the same thing with a multu-miked recording of a Wagner opera consisting of hundreds of elements - and all of those elements being acoustic instruments and human voices.

As I see it, you are operating from a number of inaccurate assumptions. First of all, why do you persist in referring to the "uninterrupted analog signal contained on the master tape"? This assumes that all masters are indeed analog, when the true fact of the matter is that in this day and age, the overwhelming majority of master tapes are NOT. Using this line of logic, why not turn it around and state that a large number of masters are actually 16 bit/48 kHz digital and therefore all that is needed for identical sound reproduction is indeed a 16 bit/48 kHz playback medium? Do you believe, then, that all CDs whose masters originated as 48/16 sound identical to the master recording? (OK, drop the sampling rate from 48 kHz down to 44.1 ... )

I suppose that in theory they should. So the question becomes - why don't they then? This only proves the old adage that the truth is not in the numbers. If the answer was solely in the numbers - bandwidth and bitrate specs - how do you explain the progress made in CDs overall sonic progression from 1983 to the present? They were 44.1/16 then and have remained so to the present day. Must not be the numbers then. The early argument over digital vs. analog, at least from the digital zealots, was that digital was inherently superior - 1's and 0's being more efficient and accurate than any analog signal (provided of course that jitter and error correction issues were resolved). It's a sound theory, surely, but the numbers do not explain the particular aesthetic characteristics of an "analog sound" or a "digital sound".

You in fact contradict yourself, markl, as you clearly stated in the other thread (what in the hell was its name?) that digital and analog were two distinct media, each with their own sound characteristics. I agree 100%, yet I find it puzzling indeed that you are now claiming that a high-rez DSD or PCM digital transfer of an analog tape will be identical in sound. At best and in theory, we can say that a higher bandwidth digital signal may be more accomodating to the original analog master - that is the theory anyway (and I stress THEORY), but does that mean it will sound identical? First you claim no; now you are saying it will. Which is it?

I would say that if Sony and ABKCO agreed with this, then ABKCO can toss out all of their Stones (analog) masters right now, seeing as every SACD allegedly contains a sonically identical copy of said master, so why bother with storage costs and archiving of said fragile, expensive, bulky, decaying master tape? I'm willing to bet that ABKCO didn't and has zero intention to do such a thing, and I don't believe they are holding onto the masters for mere sentimental reasons either.

The truth is that you are buying into the myth of "perfect sound forever", subscribing to the belief that there is an "ultimate" template (the vaunted form - "form" in a strictly Platonist sense - master tape which may or may not sound identical to a DSD copy, depending on which thread you are posting on) and a corresponding "ultimate" solution. This is the 1983 CD consortium argument redux, only now it's higher bandwidth and faster bit-rates that will lead us to sonic "perfection". The truth of it all is that "perfection" is a nonexistent state; all things considered, the bottom line is more relative than you would think. Twenty years ago, I heard the very same arguments from people who were convinced that the newly introduced CD and DAT was the end of the sonic quest; today it's you with hi-rez, in a few more years it will be someone else bashing the laughable primitivism of 96/24 and praising 10,000 kHz/364 bit (or whatever).

The proof is in the sound, not in the 1's and 0's. It is not a question of how close it sounds to the master tape (which most have never heard and never will hear). Keep in mind why a master tape exists to begin with: it is mastered for a specific reason, with a specific format in mind. I know from experience how different my own recordings have sounded after making the jump from studio playback to disc. Likewise, I have plenty of examples of low-rez recordings which lose their appealing sonic character when transferred from the originating cassette or MD to a higher-rez studio console. In theory, they should sound identical, and perhaps the resulting waveforms look identical, yet the magic is entirely gone. Will picking up the phone and asking a Sony engineer why that is result in a satisfactory answer? I think not. It is precisely that elusive and mysterious aesthetic consideration that is at the real heart of this question, and it is one that cannot be explained by 1's and 0's.

Maybe you should turn your question around and ask what the resolution cutoff point would be in the other direction. If 96/24 seems good, would 192/48 be better? And would 29998282/48747477 be even better than that? And if we were double those numbers, would ... I don't know the answer to this either. Does 96/24 approach or resolve at the uppermost limits of human hearing? Where does it just become overkill? And why does my original UK vinyl pressing of "Between the Buttons" still sound better to me - more airy, more natural, more open, warmer, more dynamic - than the SACD version (which still sounds pretty good, yet not as good as the redbook layer through my Van Alstine DAC)? Numbers and tech specs just aren't going to provide answers to any of this, obviously.
 
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markl

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Quote:

As I see it, you are operating from a number of inaccurate assumptions. First of all, why do you persist in referring to the "uninterrupted analog signal contained on the master tape"? This assumes that all masters are indeed analog, when the true fact of the matter is that in this day and age, the overwhelming majority of master tapes are NOT.


So, you're asserting that most master "tapes" (an inherently analog medium) are somehow not analog but "digital". Prove it. You're essentially arguing that *most* modern albums are recorded in digital. I would dispute this. How do we resolve this??

Quote:

The problem here is that you demand a simple answer to a question that has no one answer. For example, I could challenge you to an A/B comparison between a test tone played back at hi-rez 96 kHz/24 bits and the same test tone at 5:1 LAME MP3 compression, dropped to 32 kHz, let's say 12 bit resolution - and I'd defy you or anyone else to be able to spot the difference.


Entirely a hypothetical on your part. Again my question is this: can the "average" person tell the difference between a 16-bit, 48 KHz Redbook CD and a 24-bit 96 KHz SACD and/or DVD-A, and I believe they can. I certainly can.

Quote:

As I see it, you are operating from a number of inaccurate assumptions. First of all, why do you persist in referring to the "uninterrupted analog signal contained on the master tape"? This assumes that all masters are indeed analog,


If I had to estimate, I'd say 90% of all "master tapes" are indeed still analog. What's your estimate?

Quote:

If the answer was solely in the numbers - bandwidth and bitrate specs - how do you explain the progress made in CDs overall sonic progression from 1983 to the present? They were 44.1/16 then and have remained so to the present day. Must not be the numbers then.


I suspect this is beyond either your or my ability to technically explain. How, indeed have they been able to improve the basic sound of 16-bit 48KHz digital?? We can only assume that based on this, they will easily be able to improve upon the 24-bit 96KHz+ digital offered by today's advanced hi-rez formats. I'd say that that the sound quality we have from today's hi-rez formats is only the absolute baseline of what we can expect in the future. As good as they are now, they're only going to get *better*.

Quote:

The truth is that you are buying into the myth of "perfect sound forever", subscribing to the belief that there is an "ultimate" template


The "ultimate template" is obviously the master tape. You can't "add" information to the master tape that was not recorded in the first place. However, you can more accurately represent the information that's on the "master tape" through the new formats than you can through 16-bit/44.1 KHz Redbook CDs.

Mark
 
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Pepzhez

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And as for downsampled redbook layers sounding "worse" than a dedicated redbook mastering job, no one here is claiming that they are inherently worse. The real issue is that do you want a Sony engineer - someone you've never met and never will meet - making these decisions? Or probably not even a Sony engineer, but simply a Sony downsampling machine that does not make an optimal 44.1/16 master. An acceptable one, perhaps, but not the best or most desirable. This is the concern and it is an understandable one. It is a no-brainer to see that Sony's resources have gone into SACD, not into making the best redbook masters imaginable.

There is a valid debate on the question of how DSD handles high frequencies, with many engineers and audiophiles weighing in. Perhaps it is possible that DSD's handling of the upper frequency range may very well sound even more horrid when downsampled to a straight PCM transfer. I'm not saying this is so, but it is a valid question, and if true in any way, would certainly not flatter the redbook layer. I'm not subscribing to the Sony conspiracy theory, but I am fairly convinced that a better redbook master would be made with a caring engineer working from the master tapes, rather than a Sony tea-boy feeding the DSD master into the machine and pushing the "start/begin downsampling" button.

Let me ask you - if it were YOUR recording, is this a chance you want to take?
 
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AndreYew

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Mark,

Quote:


Whether or not this is true, there is an underlying assumption that "downsampled" SACDs are somehow "worse" than regular Redbook CD masters? And this is based on....?


It's ironic to read this, because when DSD first appeared some 5 years ago, the first recording engineers who recorded with it, and then downsampled it to 44.1/16 for CD release claimed that downsampled DSD retained many of the sonic advantages of the original DSD. These were not fly-by-night random engineers, but serious people from established companies claiming this.

How can this be? The answer may also contain implications for your question as well. Some people conjecture that 44.1 kHz may be too low for human hearing because of the steepness of the brickwall filter. The transition band of the filter is shorter than the narrowest human cochlear filter, meaning that we may be able to hear transients more precisely than what can be transmitted with 44.1 kHz using a traditional brickwall filter. Note that this is only a conjecture, and no one's done good experiments to test this yet. It's believed that when Tom Stockham designed the Soundstream digital recorder in the 70s, he did the experiments, and decided on 50 kHz as a good sampling rate. However the data's lost, and Stockham is pretty much out of commission because of Alzheimer's, so no one really knows what he found.

Fortunately there are ways around this. One could, like what Pacific Microsonics has done with its HDCD encoder, have an adaptive downsampler that switches downsampling filters based upon how transient-y the signal looks within some time window. It's well-known that you can trade frequency response flatness for better transient behavior in filters, and the HDCD encoder does this on the fly, while embedding a code in the bitstream that tells the HDCD decoder what complementary filter should be used. Similar tactics can be used for DSD downsampling --- DSD's sample rate is so high that a DSD downsampler can pretty much have complete flexibility in the kind of downsampling filter it uses, because there's all that empty, unused space from 20 kHz to 1+ MHz.

So, to answer your question, it depends. You can have good downsampling, or bad downsampling, depending on the material and the low-pass filters used. Sony's keeping SBM Direct pretty much proprietary, so we don't know what they're doing. Also, often the CD layer is mastered for different results than the DSD layer in hybrid SACDs, because they expect different audiences for each layer.

This is a good question --- it's an active debate in the pro world, and they haven't quite decided how to deal with it yet either.

--Andre
 
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Pepzhez

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markl,

If you truly believe that the majority of recording studios are running modern, spiffed up versions of Ampex 600 consoles, then you have absolutely no idea. Take a look at the current offerings from all of the major studio recording manufacturers and tell me how many analog multitracks you can count. Also tell me what percentage of the horrid chart music around today you believe originates in an analog studio. And of the very few that do, tell me how many of those analog tapes weren't edited digitally and had the dynamic range squashed out of them via Pro Tools and the like.

Also, the vast majority of tape use today IS digital. Ask any parent with their Sony DV handicam about that. Or visit any broadcast station or video production house. Digibeta SP (the current broadcast standard), Mini DV (the current consumer and prosumer standard), Digital 8 (another consumer standard), DVCAM/DVPRO (broadcast and high-end prosumer), DAT (still VERY much in use), ADAT (the source of a huge amount of master tapes over the past decade), not to mention Panavision's HD video cameras - ALL are based on magnetic tape and all are 100% digital. I am sorry, markl, but you just have no idea what you are talking about. Please get your facts straight before making statements along the lines of "tape is an inherently analog medium" when the reality today is quite the opposite.

You'd be hard pressed to find any film production anywhere recording sound on analog equipment - from Hollywood down to low budget indie using DAT or MD. Some - and very few - post-production sound designers do occasionally utilize analog recordings in their bag of tricks (particularly for explosion sounds), but that's about it. (And those analog samples are bounced straight to the digital desk.)

As usual, markl, you are conveniently ignoring the difficult questions brought up in the course of discussion, and distorting the few you do choose to address. I suppose I should by now be resigned to the fact that your zealotry precludes any objective considerations. Very well then. (sigh)

About all I can say is that SACD has not greatly impressed me thus far. It sounds inferior to me than a corresponding redbook as played through my Van Alstine DAC. This is an issue I have brought up several times with you and you have yet to address it in any way. So be it. I am sure SACD and DVD-A will certainly improve, should they survive at all. Fine. When and if it is truly better and the incentives are there (selection, selection, selection), then I will try it again. But I will NOT be an early adopter of any of these formats just for the sake of showing loyalty to the potential of the hi-rez cause or to have my wallet throw a pep rally for Sony. Screw that nonsense.
 
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williamgoody

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Quote:

As usual, markl, you are conveniently ignoring the difficult questions brought up in the course of discussion, and distorting the few you do choose to address. I suppose I should by now be resigned to the fact that your zealotry precludes any objective considerations. Very well then. (sigh)


Par for the course.

Zealotry. Good word, and in this case very accurate.
 
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Mike Walker

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Sorry MarkL, but have you been to a store lately? "Where is this hypothetical solid state media"? It's inside my PDA, mp3 player, digital camera, etc. Not just mine, but the digital devices of millions of people worldwide. It ALREADY exists.

As for the infrastructure for releasing material for solid state devices, it's already here. It's called "The Internet". Ever heard of it?

The ONLY thing that remains is to bring the price of solid state media down to the point where it can hold a music lover's entire music library, plus a backup copy. And that day is getting closer all the time, as prices for "flash" memory continue to tumble. The day may be 10 years, or even 15 (when we retire our last playback device with moving parts), but it IS coming.

In the meantime, dirt-cheap storage is already here in the form of hard-drive based devices. My bet is that these will be around long after SACD and DVD-A have joined Elcassette and the 8 track in the format garbage heap. But hard drive players are an interim step...a "link" between the past (vinyl and optical media), and the future (solid state).

It doesn't take a genius to figure this out. The movement to hard drive, AND solid state has already begun. How many flash memory based devices do you have around the house? Most of us have several already, and are collecting the devices and memory cards which feed them!
 
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Mike Walker

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Regardless of what MarkL believes, although many recordings today begin life on an aging analog multitrack (or more often, a few tracks such as drums and bass, which many engineers believe benefit from the "squashing" of transient edges which comes from recording on analog tape at a "too hot" level...plus 5db above 250nw/m or higher), these "analog" tracks become digital either at mixdown (which I believe Markl is confusing for "mastering"...mastering takes placd AFTER mixdown, almost always at a separate facility dedicated exclusively to mastering), or if not at mixdown (some mixing is still to analog tape), AT mastering.

Mastering is the final polish that takes place on a recording AFTER mixdown, and is almost exclusively digital!

As for the apparent belief that "analog" and "tape" are the same thing, well this is too dumb to even address. There are certainly more digital tape formats out there than analog. In fact, I don't believe there is a single multitrack analog (open reel, not cassette, so don't write me about 300 dollar Foxtex units!) on the market any more. And the supply of "head stacks" for many of those still in service is drying up. The handwriting is on the wall: in the not too distant future, ALL recording will be digital...or nearly all. No doubt some will keep their vintage Ampex, Scully, Tascam, MCI, and other units running specifically because analog does have a "sound" that can be very useful for recording certain instruments, such as those listed above.

As arrogant as this may sound, those who have never worked in a studio, and never attended (let alone conducted) a "mastering" session probably aren't best equipped to comment on which tools are best, or most often used, for the tasks!

As for "where the cutoff" for quality is, I personally wouldn't want to go below 44.1khz 16 bit for the release of high quality music. I believe the "redbook" standard is right on the edge of what most of us can hear, although sampling at 32khz often has no audible consequence to most of us 35 and older, because like it or not, most adults over 35, particularly men, are stone deaf above 16khz or so.

I collect fm broadcasts of favorite shows, and since I live in the "fringes" of my favorite stations, hiss is always a problem. I have used various plug-ins to reduce hiss, but these almost always have some audible consequence. So I have adopted a rather radical technique for taking a bite out of hiss, but leaving the signal pretty much intact...record hissy fm broadcasts at a 22.050 sample rate rather than 44.1khz. This theoretically removes an octave of hf info, but in the case of fm, 'tain't so. First of all, fm stereo has little energy above 15khz (due to sharp filtering at the radio station, deliverately removing anything higher so that audio won't interfere with the 19khz stereo "pilot" tone). And second, all that's really "up there" is a tiny little bit of "air", "sparkle", or whatever you want to call it...the highest overtones, not "notes". So the effect on sound quality is much less noticable from using a 22.050khz sample rate as a kind of filter, rather than using 44.1khz and a hiss reduction plug-in.

I'm also not down on "high res" formats. I think they make perfect sense, IN THE STUDIO, where numerous dsp tweaks will be made to a signal, and levels will be set conservatively to prevent overload, thus sacrificing a couple of potential "bits" (which can be re-gained by recording at a higher bit depth in the studio). "High res" may even turn out to have some benefits in consumer formats, as well. I belive the jury is still WAY out on that. But as an audio pro and studio owner as well as a consumer, I am not willing to sacrifice ANY of the versatility that today's cds offer in exchange for 24/96, or dsd! Not a "bit"!
 
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