DVD-A vs SACD?
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Mike Walker

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The masters WERE prepared differently, at least at some point, between the SACD and redbook layers...BECAUSE the technology is NOT interchangable!

I believe that simply believing that SACD is capable of better quality is enough to influence Bob Ludwig (or anyone else) to "make it so" (to quote Jean-Luc Picard). A slight bit of hf eq on the Redbook master (to make up for the earlier rolloff of 44.1khz sampling), or a slight reduction (or increase in) bass level on the redbook layer to compensate for the anticipated lack of a dedicated subwoofer channel when playing two channel stereo audio (AND OF COURSE THIS HAPPENS!) is all that it would take to make SACD and redbook layers sound quite noticably different, when in fact they were capable of sounding much more alike!

Mastering engineers are human beings. Human beings are loaded with biases. Among the best known biases of today's mastering engineers is their love affair with the new "high rez" formats which, in many cases, began before they had even heard them! Because mastering is at least as much art as science (perhaps more), those who do it often think more like artists than scientists, which means (in my opinion) they are less qualified to make scientifically significant comparisons than would someone who perhaps doesn't even work in the audio industry, but has a logical mind, and love of statistical methodology.

One does not, and never will be able to decide if SACD or Redbook sound better, or even different, using material which was mastered to sound it's "best" in both formats by someone who believes one to be intrinsically superior. Better to take a "neutral" source (such as a very high quality analog tape), and record to both formats simultaneously with matched levels, and no equalization or other tinkering. Then synchronize the playback of the recordings in both formats, and use an a/b/x technique to quiz a listening panel about whether source x is the same as source a or b (with a being sacd, for instance, b being redbook, and x being either a or b chosen randomly). One SHOULD NOT ask which sounds better, because if the listeners can't tell if x is a or b, they have proven they hear no difference! The listeners SHOULD NOT know what they are comparing (whether it's two cd players playing the same recording, two formats, analog vs digital, or if through speakers whether they're comparing speakers or amplifiers). Again what's "better" is beside the point. If one can't reliably and repeatedly tell whether source "x" is a or b, they they HEARD NO DIFFERENCE!

Even with the above technique, there is one variable which I don't know how to eliminate. Conversion technology! A/D and D/A converters for SACD (dsd) and PCM (redbook) are such entirely different beasts that I don't know how one can be sure that differences are the result of superiority of one format over another, or simply the quality of the converters.

See what I mean? Arriving at truly meaningful answers is VERY difficult. To do so, those of us who really want to know the truth (if a format is audibly superior, or even different under properly controlled circumstances with matched levels and the same number of reproduced channels) MUST BE SKEPTICAL OF ANY AND ALL CLAIMS UNTIL THEY ARE PROVEN!

Recent advances in PCM converter technology have indicated that oversampling conventional cds at a very high rate can improve their perceived quality. Many think this improvement brings these conventionally prepared recordings into the same quality league as the new "high rez" formats. Perhaps simply moving alias/sampling effects still higher above the audio band, and consequently reducing phase and amplitude "ripple" within the range of human hearing is enough. If this is true, then replacing our current library of music in yet another format (and accepting the record companies' restrictions on our fair-use rights, as well as audibly consequential copy-protection schemes) is unnecessary! How ironic that the best turntables, phono cartridges, and tonearms in history have been introduced since the vast majority of the world's population put the black vinyl in storage forever! Perhaps it's destiny that the pinnacle of redbook cd reproduction will be reached a decade after most stores have stopped selling the damn things! Admittedly that's not likely (imho the cd is FAR from dead!), but still an intriguing thought!

Bye all (for now). I'll be gone a few days. My wife and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip!
 
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post-220769
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markl

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Quote:

The masters WERE prepared differently, at least at some point, between the SACD and redbook layers...BECAUSE the technology is NOT interchangable!


Duh! I fully understand this, but you're trying to have it both ways here. if I follow your argument correctly, you are saying:

1. A regular Redbook-only version of the same material will sound (or at least has the *potential* to sound) better than the Redbook layer on a hybrid SACD. Why? because the process of creating the Redbook layer of the hybrid SACD is inherently *different* than creating a regular Redbook-only release. Somehow, the process of creating the SACD layer "taints" the creation of the Redbook layer. The end result is a difference in the process of creating these Redbook CD versions, regardless of how they are distributed (separately or as a layer on the hybrid SACD).

2. At the same time, you seem to be stating that the creating the SACD layer and the Redbook layer of the hybrid SACD are completely different processes, totally separate (and this seems completely obvious to anyone).

So, exactly what IS the difference between the Redbook performance of a hybrid CD or a stand-alone release? I bet you there's none. I bet the process of creating that Redbook layer of the hybrid disc and the regular Redbook Cd are identical. I bet if you compared the bits on a hybrid disc and a re-mastered Redbook only release, you'll find a bit-for-bit match.

If you don't think so, please explain why, and resolve the contradiction you've created above.

Quote:

I believe that simply believing that SACD is capable of better quality is enough to influence Bob Ludwig (or anyone else) to "make it so" (to quote Jean-Luc Picard). A slight bit of hf eq on the Redbook master (to make up for the earlier rolloff of 44.1khz sampling), or a slight reduction (or increase in) bass level on the redbook layer to compensate for the anticipated lack of a dedicated subwoofer channel when playing two channel stereo audio (AND OF COURSE THIS HAPPENS!) is all that it would take to make SACD and redbook layers sound quite noticably different, when in fact they were capable of sounding much more alike!


With all due respect, you are simply speculating, and stretching your argument pretty far afield in the process. why not ask the other Members here who have SACDPs and the Rolling Stone re-masters what they think? I think you'll find to a man, they prefer the SACD layer. All we all "dupes"? Be careful!

Or.. you could just listen for yourself...

OK, one last tidbit. This is a quote from the latest issue of Sound & Vision from famous rock 'n roll producer Michael Beinhorn on the new formats:
"Many people obviously use DSD for SACDs, but we found it also works very nicely for mixdowns. We also tried 1/2" analog tape and A/B'd the two. It was tempting to go analog for an enhancement of the low-end. But... DSD has a certain clarity that I'd never heard from other two-channel sources. "

So, he now uses DSD technology even for his non-SACD releases. More fuel for the fire, I guess! Cheers.

Mark
 
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Mike Walker

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Mark I NEVER said, nor did I intend to imply that redbook only cds have greater quality potential than the redbook layer of a hybrid cd. What I meant is that, if one is doing two versions of a master (one for each layer), and one believes that DSD (used in the SACD layer) is "obviously" superior, then it's human nature to make it sound better with slightly different equalization and other mastering choices to the two layers, without even being conscious one has done so. This isn't some wild, off the mark idea. Anyone familiar with the science of psychoacoustics knows that having a bias in favor of one format (component, etc) over another before a comparison is often enough to tilt the comparison in favor of the favored format.

My point is that someone mastering for a redbook only cd has only one job...make it sound as good as possible. One mastering for a "hybrid" cd might have a hidden agenda...to make the new format toward which they are personally biased sound better. Human beings are often not even aware they're doing this, which is why double-blind testing is so critical!

Perhaps I should write more clearly Mark, but you responded to what you thought I meant rather than what I actually said. And yes I'm aware that mixing down to analog tape is an often used production "trick". But strictly speaking, the mixdown phase IS NOT MASTERING. Mastering is all the tweaking of eq/compression/etc that takes place later. And yes I'm aware that sometimes a mastering engineer will run a purely digital tape through a pass of analog tape to "warm it up". But this is different! The mixdown has already taken place, done by the producer/recording engineer. Again, mastering is a completely separate (but equal, and certainly important) process. Cheers!
 
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dishwarp

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Quote:

Originally posted by Mike Walker
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


When you attend a concert, normally you are seated in the audience section while the orchestra performs on the stage in front of you.

I have yet to attend a concert where part of the orchestra was on stage, some were on the ceiling and the bassoons and French horns were back somewhere up in the balcony.

If you have a large room, or even just a decent sized listening area, you should be able to have two properly placed speakers in stereo in front of you, and the music coming from them would create an ambience in the room, which is unique to the sound of that room, just as the sound you hear in the concert hall is unique to that venue.

What is the point in having surround sound speakers recreating 'ambience' which is then 'distorted' by the room those 'reproducing' speakers are in? All you need are some properly placed room mics and you can get a proper illusion of depth from your stereo system. Adding extra options and channells only creates other problems that will eventually cause frustration and likely distract you from the reason you were enjoying the performance in the first place.

Still, multi-channell cannot be simply ignored or discounted outright, and I agree with you fully on your point about only new specially designed recordings for mutlti-channell playback, rather that trying to create these from existing two channell recordings. For those, they should simply focus on being able to give us those in a format with the highest possible resolution without adding gimmicks or altering the sound of the original. If you can eventually have something where you can close your eyes and feel like you are 'there', there will surely be a market demand from a large number of folk who get off on that sort of thing.
 
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AndreYew

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Yes, an orchestra sits in front, however human hearing uses cues from all around the head to create a impression of the space it's in. Two channel cannot deliver lateral-moving signals (left to right or right to left) which are very important for one's perception of envelopment in a hall, for example. Listening rooms are tiny compared to a hall with RT60s of a few seconds, and will not properly reproduce the correct ambience.

Many people have found that a multi-channel setup is less demanding of a listening room's acoustics than a stereo setup, so overlaying two acoustics is not the deal-killer many make it out to be. Nevertheless, a bad room will sound bad in stereo or multichannel, so I don't think that's a good excuse for not using multichannel.

Two-channel's been known to be a compromise by its inventors since the early 30s, and was adopted simply because no practical technology existed to carry more than two channels, and those that did exist could barely carry two uncorrelated channels (eg. LP). The original papers by Bell Labs and Alan Blumlein's patents on stereo miking techniques in the 30s pointed out the compromises of two channels.

--Andre
 
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mcgino

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I got a 963. Paid too much for it (4,150 or so HKD). But its here for our Hong Kong meet tomorrow. Listening now to it through Sony R10s and Twinhead. I think I am done system-wise (OK, interconnect and power cable... but.... well...). Now to focus on content...

Will get the guys that come over tomorrow to write a more in-depth review. All I can say is that it sounds awesome. SACD sounds better than CD (surprise, surprise). Haven't had time to compare the upsampling yet.

Thanks for bringing my attention to this unit! Tomorrow should be a lot of fun.
 
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markl

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Here's an interesting (although annecdotal) account of a comparison done between a DVD-A version and an SACD version of the same recording (Bryan Ferry's latest, "Frantic") as played back on a universal player in the same system, I've lifted from audioasylum:

Quote:

I had a copy of the Frantic DVD-A, and wanted to compare it with the SACD version, which I found on Amazon.de (see links, below). I highly recommend anyone who wants to compare DVD-A and SACD to try this: it puts audio comparisons into perspective.

DVD-A link:
http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASI...216909-6638126

SACD link:
http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASI...216909-6638126

(sorry, I don't know how to paste links)

I have tried to listen to both versions with an unbiased approach, and followed Teresa's advice on SACD A/B comparisons: I listened to the whole album in each format, giving time for adjustment. I used the same player (Marantz D-8300), amp (AV9000 and MM9000), same speakers (Boston CR series and also old Ditton and JBL) and sub (REL Q150), and played both versions in 2CH direct for the stereo version, or in 6CH direct for the MC version, at exactly the same volume level for each comparison. My system is very "midrange", so I expect the differences will be even more obvious to people who own top-end SACD gear or top DVD-A equipment.

In fact, I have listened to the different versions (five, including the CD version) for about four days, in different orders, taking time in-between each, and then doing some comparisons track by track. All in all, I can say I have spent about 10 hours of fairly careful listening, and about 10 hours of not so careful "background" listening. (it’s the only record I listen to, in fact)

Bottom line : The comparison of the two versions is a puzzling experience, and in my view quite disturbing at first. If I have to summarize it, these are not two slightly different renditions of an album with subtle sonic differences, they are two entirely different versions of the album, and there is no way of telling which is "right". The sonic differences are huge, and one comes to wonder if they are not two different mixes altogether.

If I try to keep it simple, the sound of the DVD-A version is far more direct, "manly", with a lot more bass content. Some instruments sound "here and now", and they sound very close to what my imagination can recall of these instruments: harmonica (very revealing), electric guitar, bass, drums, human voices, etc. all have a very clear, engaging, human texture.
What I hear in the DVD-A is real people, playing real instruments, and having fun at it (you can't miss Bryan Ferry's smiles and grins when he's singing). This is clearly a great "rock" record, with very warm ballads, that will make you feel like dancing at times.

The SACD version is en entirely different universe, altogether, and it is a compelling experience. As you would expect from an SACD, it excels on highs, and delivers very subtle, low-key, bass. Piano and strings are out of this world, but there is no bass to speak of (what Marcus Miller might sound like, and this is definitely not it).
All textures and instruments become extremely fine and precisely detailed in the SACD version, to an almost incredible extent. The whole record sounds different, and you get an eerie feeling with synth layers and strings floating about in a very "unreal" (but fascinating), dream-like sound. The sound stage is not three-dimensional, it is non-dimensional (but not 2D, or flat, it is something else that does not match traditional references).

The differences between the DVD-A and the SACD get ever more striking (and disturbing) as you listen in, because some details will almost disappear in one version, and become obvious in the other. For example, in "Hiroshima", the female sounds are very present in the DVD-A version (and irritating, if you ask me), and they almost disappear, fade and melt in the music in the SACD version (if you listen carefully, you can still catch it, though). Brian Eno’s work is remarkable throughout the album, in both versions. Throughout the record, Eno's special effects will become obvious in one version, and appear differently in the other, and there is no way of telling which is "right", "better", etc. Beats me.

Things get even wilder in the MC version comparison, I won't even go into it because the comparison is beyond any description.

I hope these are, in fact, two different mixes of the same record. Otherwise, there is some bad bad news:

- If this comparison is any indication (I will try again with other recordings when I find them), there is a possibility that if we choose one format over the other for a given record (or if the record company decides for us), we are very likely to miss something, one way or the other. If this record had been released only in DVD-A, or only in SACD, I feel I would have missed a great deal.

- However.... should each major recording be published in two different formats, we'd be in big trouble, budget-wise, but also in terms of audio reference. While classical and golden age jazz refers to real life performances and music, how is one to decide how an electronic music recording should sound ?

- it seems pretty clear to me now that there is ample room on my system to upgrade and improve the sound for each of these two formats, but it is unlikely that I can have the best of both worlds. The choice of speakers will be a nightmare, because in my view you are targeting two totally different aesthetics… and the audio reference point becomes a moving target.

For Roxy Music fans, I'll post a separate review.


Mark
 
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