HDCD list

Discussion in 'Music' started by megaptera, Mar 28, 2004.
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  1. veloroad
    A good number of the titles The Jacques Loussier Trio recorded on the Telarc label are HDCDs...
    Satie Gymnopedies - Gnossiennes (Telarc CD-83431)
    Ravel's Bolero (Telarc CD-83466)
    The Bach Book - 40th Anniversary Album (Telarc CD-83474)
    Jacques Loussier Trio Plays Debussy (Telarc CD-83511) 
    Baroque Favorites (Telarc CD-83516)
    Beethoven Allegretto from Symphony No.7 (Telarc CD-83580)
    Mozart Piano Concertos 20/23 (Telarc CD-83628)
    Genre of music: Jazz (interpretations of classical themes)
    All of the above are 'true' HDCD - that is, all have Peak Extend engaged and some have Low Level Extension detected.
    Enjoy the music.
  2. CHansen
    Hello VeloRoad,
    Good work on finding these hidden HDCDs. They will definitely sound more dynamic when decoded, ss the top 9 dB of range is compressed into 3 dB on the disc. Decoding it will restore the full dynamic range. One thing I like to do is to turn on the Peak Meter module in Foobar. I make them nice and big, filling up the area below the playlist.

    The expansion only occurs when the level exceeds -9 dB. With the Peak Meters are enabled, it is trivially easy to see when this happens. With a well-mastered disc, it is not all that often (perhaps surprisingly). The mastering engineer likes to leave some headroom to ensure the file never clips. It's a nice way to also see how rare it is for the level to drop to -45 dB and engage the LLE.

    Ayre has just announced the QX-5 Twenty Digital Hub. It has a feature that will make HDCD fans happy. If there is anything to decode (PE and/or LLE that was engaged by the mastering engineer), it will decode it and display a "d" in front of the "44" sample rate to show that the disc is being properly decoded. This will be much easier than loading Foobar, installing the special string in the status bar, and watching to see if PE and/or LLE are in use.
  3. wojakwojak
    Hi, I've just read about "fake" and "real" HDCD. So I've checked some of my discs. For example Yes Relayer is "true" HDCD. But some are "fake". Nevertheles all HDCD discs sound better than most other "non-HDCD" disc. For example Steve Vai Ultra Zone, turned out to be "fake", yet it sounds beautiful. All these discs sound good in players having HDCD logo and "normal" (non-hdcd) players. So I cannot agree that playing HDCD with "non-hdcd" player degrades sound - it still sounds good. Some time ago I've ripped all my cd's to wav files. I listen to them using hard drive connected with usb port to BR player (non-hdcd player). And here is my question. Is it in your opinion better to rip those files to normal 44,1/16 wavs or to rip them using HDCD DSP (plugin to bdpoweramp). Using hdcd plugin produces 24 bit files. One can also check +6dB Amplification (aligns 20 bit result in upper 24 bit range). So there are 3 ways to rip hdcd tracks. First - "normal" - 44,1/16 - hdcd is still "visible" (for example in foobar). Second - using hdcd plugin - 44,1/24 - hdcd is "not visible". Third - using hdcd plugin with +6bd amp - 44,1/24 - hdcd "not visible" and the file is louder and the dynamics is compressed about 3/4dB. First and second methods produce the same dynamics and loudness. Wchich is the best - in theory - in your opinion. And what do you think the +6dB amp is for - it reduses dynamics which is contrary to the reason hdcd is here.
  4. bpzero

    You should rip HDCD from CD to FLAC at 16/44.1khz, keeping the HDCD encoded data, and then play it through a player that can decode HDCD, or transcode it to a lossy format using a tool that will decode HDCD. There is no reason to waste the space on expanding it to 24-bit lossy files, as no new information can be created that isn't already encoded in the 16-bit stream. Also, HDCD decoders may be improved, and then you'd have to re-rip your collection, because the HDCD information is lost in the 24-bit version.
    This thread has been a very useful source of information, but I think a wiki page with more details about each CD would be even more useful. I've started one at List of HDCD-encoded Compact Discs. This way anyone can contribute their results to the list, with details about which HDCD features, if any, are used by each disc, and what value HDCD decoding adds to the audio. Anyone with HDCD-encoded CDs is welcome to contribute.
  5. CHansen
    Hello, I tend to agree with this advice, and also there are pros and cons that can make one way better than another. If one has a player that decodes HDCD in hardware, that will provide the best decoding. I have looked at the available software decoders and there are small, but definite errors in the curve used for the Peak Expansion (PE) playback - which is the most important part of HDCD decoding. Hardware decoders fall into two categories:
    1) Old CD-only players that had the Pacific Microsonics HDCD decoding chip built in. Obviously, this is the "gold standard" for how the disc should be decoded.
    2) When PM discontinued production of that chip, the only option available was to pay a licensing fee to Microsoft (they had purchased all of PM's assets) to gain access to the algorithm that would allow for decoding in a DSP chip. This became quite common when DVD players arrived, as they all have extremely powerful processors to decode the MPEG-2 format used for the video. There was plenty of power left over to decode the HDCD audio, and the $10,000 licensing fee was trivial compared to the $150,000+ licensing fees required for DVD, Dolby, HDMI, DTS, CSS, et cetera.
    On the other hand if one does not have hardware decoding available, small errors in software decoding are likely not large enough for most people to hear. I would guess it would be better to hear a software decoded disc than not have any decoding at all.
    Th issue of storage space is not a huge one for many. A straight WAV or AIFF rip of a CD requires 1411 kb/s. Decoding it to 24 bits will up that to 2117 kb/s, which is a 50% increase in file size. However as only the top 17 bits are actually used, the rest is padded with zeroes. Any good lossless compression (eg, FLAC) can perform very efficient compression when presented with strings of zeroes. I've not done a test but would guess that a decoded HDCD file compressed with FLAC would likely take up no more than 10% more space than the 16-bit original.
    It may be out of the price range of most readers, but the new Ayre QX-5 Twenty digital hub has two features that make all of this trivially easy:
    1) Any disc played with the HDCD "subcode" will light up a green LED on the front panel. This indicates it was recorded using the PM A/D encoder.
    2) If either the Peak Extension or the Low-Level Extension was engaged by the mastering engineer, the green light will come on, the display will show "hd44" in the area for the sample rate (not "d44" as noted in a previous post), and the disc will be decoded with a bit-perfect hardware implementation of the HDCD decoding protocol.
    Thanks for compiling a new list! The Foobar tools are invaluable for figuring out what is what. Many thanks to Kode54, who wrote the Foobar plug-in. (If you are new to all of this, a previous post explains the string to put in the Status Bar in the Foobar user interface to tell exactly what is happening with any given disc.
    A few comments on the linked page:
    1) I'm not sure how the "ffmpeg" plug-in shows what features are enabled. The tools for the Foobar plug-in allow for real-time visibility into everything that is going on.
    2) When Gain Adjust (LLE) is employed, the value dynamically varies throughout the track. It only starts being engaged when the peak signal level falls below -45 dBFS. This only happens on pop music during fade-ins and fade outs. It rarely happens with classical music. I have only seen it when there are very quiet passages with only one or two instruments playing softly. In that case, the Gain Adjust value will flicker in 0.5 dB steps between 0.5 and 4.0 dB.
    3) While the PM A/D converters have a "professional mode that allows up to 7.5 dB of Gain Adjust (LLE), this is only for use in the studio when working on mixes and should never be seen on a final released CD.
    4) The Transient Filter (TF) will always flickering as the song is played, as there were two different anti-aliasing filters built into the PM A/D converters. These are automatically selected based on the amount of high-frequency content. However, there is no way to decode this. It turns out that Ed Meitner (working at the time for Museatex) had already patented this idea and PM could not use it. If the only feature that shows up is the TF, the disc is a "fake" HDCD, as no decoding is required or even possible.
    Hope this helps!
  6. bpzero
    I'm new here. I'll admit that I am not very much an audiophile, and I don't have any super-high-end audio equipment. I only heard about HDCD sometime last year, (late to the party), and it caught my interest for technical reasons when an open source decoder was recently included in ffmpeg that I could play with.
    The ffmpeg HDCD decode filter that is currently in git:master, not yet in a release, will scan a whole stream and report stats about the HDCD encoding at the end. It's nice because you can scan a whole archive of your FLAC CD rips in a minute or so, all script-able with bash or whatever you like. The wiki list, as it is, represents the few HDCD-encoded albums that were found in that archive.
      To start, thank you for the interesting information and perspective.
    1) The ffmpeg HDCD filter is very much based on the Kode54 foobar work, but it has advantages over foobar in being multiplatform and part of a large and otherwise useful audio processing framework.
    For an example you could:
    ffmpeg -i "Silver_&_Gold.flac" -af hdcd /run/shm/OUT.flac
    and get (along with a 24-bit version) these interesting stats:
    HDCD detected: yes, peak_extend: enabled, max_gain_adj: -4.0 dB, transient_filter: detected, detectable errors: 0
    The foobar scanner is nice, but it is not script-able, and Windows only, and there's no way to export the data. So for me, ffmpeg is where the data comes from, and there is even more interesting data if using -v verbose. And this is the kind of thing that interests me.
    2&3) Thanks for the information. The most I know about it is that it uses 4 bits in the control code, so there are 16 possible values encoded as 3.1 fixed-point, so between 0 and -7.5 in 0.5 steps. How and when it would be triggered while encoding was unknown to me.
    4) Thanks for confirming that nothing is to be done with TF, but...
    Regarding only-TF being "fake" HDCD: As I see it, the HDCD encoding is still there, even if no features are used. Even if every HDCD control code signals PE off and gain adjust 0.0, that is different from a CD that has no HDCD codes at all. The control code has a built in error check to confirm a valid code. The no-op is still a code, and it still must have passed through HDCD encoding equipment to have tens of thousands of such error-free no-ops embedded. In this case the HDCD encoding may add no value, but it is still there. For that reason I included them on the list, but made their HDCD detected "Yes" yellow instead of green, as described in the key at the top of the page.
    In support of my assertion:
    Neil Young - Silver and Gold: 30040 error-free HDCD packets in each channel, all signaling at least PE.
    Silverchair - Diorama: 34279 error-free HDCD packets in each channel, all no-ops.
    Beck - Midnight Vultures: (chan0:49738, chan1:50051) error-free HDCD packets, either no-op or TF only.
    521 other non-HDCDs combined: 12 apparently error-free HDCD packets, and 8 broken ones, all by random chance.
    Thanks again for your information. I'm guessing you are the founder of Ayre Acoustics, which I only know because I wrote a stub article about that company at Wikipedia last year sometime while actually writing about the Pono Player technical specs. I hope you don't take my minor quibble about HDCD decoding still being possible (even if useless) on TF-only discs as an insult. I have no doubt that you are an expert.
  7. CHansen
    Thanks for the info. I was unaware of the capabilities of ffmpeg. It sounds like some nice advantages are there:
    a) Multi-platform
    b) Can scan the entire track
    However if you see a max gain adjustment of 4 dB in a track, you can be certain it was just a fade-out in a song. I have looked at many, many tracks with Foobar, and the only time I've see the LLE come on with non-classical music was a fade-out.. Foobar has some really nice bar-graph style peak level meters and you can see the levels. LLE doesn't engage until the level reaches -45 dBFS, which essentially never happens except with fade-outs in non-classical music. From the PM operator's manual:
    There are two modes of Low Level Extension, “Normal” and “Special”. Normal mode begins
    to affect the input signal 45 dB below peak level, gradually raising the gain 4 dB as the
    level drops over an 18 dB range. Special mode begins to affect the input signal 39 dB
    below peak level, and gradually raises the gain 7.5 dB over a 26 dB range. Normal mode is
    optimized to provide the best combination of decoded dynamic range and resolution and
    undecoded compatibility. Special mode is designed to provide the best possible decoded
    dynamic range and resolution at some potential expense of undecoded compatibility. To
    access Special mode, from the Operating Menu select (SETUP/OUTPUT/HDCD_16/LOWLVL/
    SPECIAL). Typically, Special mode is used only for HDCD 16-bit master tracking with the
    assumption that the recording will be decoded by the Model Two to a 24-bit or 20-bit word
    length for digital post production before being re-encoded to HDCD 16-bit using Normal
    mode to produce a release master.
    If you see a level of greater than 4.0 of gain adjustment, there was an error made in the disc where the mastering engineer mistakenly used "Special Mode". This is not only wrong, but there is no consumer equipment that can even decode this level of gain adjustment! Only by playing this back through the PM Model One (44 and 48 kHz only) or the PM Model Two (added dual- and quad-rate sampling rates) could this file be properly decoded...
    The LLE does not begin until the level reaches -45 dBFS and then reaches a maximum adjustment of 4 dB as the peak signal level reaches -63 dBFS. This only happens with fade-outs and is not worth decoding. On classical music I have seen very low-level passages with one or two instruments playing quietly where the gain adjustment changes between 0.5 dB, 1.0 dB, and 1.5 dB. I have never seen a case where the gain adjust reaches even 2.0 dB. It takes -18 dB to trigger a 4 dB gain adjustment, which means that I have never seen even a super high-fidelity classical recording reach a level of -9 dB below -45 dBFS  = -54 dBFS. It is certainly possible that such a recording exists, as although I've examined scores of HDCD recordings, I've certainly not examined every single one ever made.
    But remember that a CD only has a maximum S/N ratio of roughly 96 dB. By the time the recorded level gets down to -54 dBFS, the signal-to-noise ratio would only be 42 dB - hardly "high fidelity". That is precisely why modern formats use 24 bits instead of 16. The entire premise of HDCD was largely market-driven and misleading. Even in the very best case, HDCD could only add about 1.4 bits of resolution, and rarely added even 1 bit of resolution.
    The real reason HDCD recordings sound so good is that the PM A/D converter was the first really good sounding A/D converter on the market. When it came out, the only competition it had were the Sony units, which were in large part responsible for much of CD's reputation for "harsh" sound. By the late '90s there were a few more good sounding A/D converters available, and today there are many, many more. But the PM is still one of the better choices available, even today. However in 2009 when The Beatles CDs were remastered, the folks at Abbey Road chose the Prism as the best sounding one in their DAC shootout.
    There are two reasons to care about HDCD at all in 2016. First is that if it was recorded with a PM A/D, it will likely sound very good - especially for recordings made between 1998 and the early 2000s. (By the mid-2000s there were many other good sounding choices available.) It's the same thing with all audio equipment. Some amplifiers sound better than others. Some CD players sound better than others. Some portable players sound better than others. Some software players sound better than others. We don't always understand the reasons why, but audible differences exist in pretty much everything.
    No, the flashing TF are still "fake" HDCDs simply because there is no player on the planet (including the PM Model One and Model Two professional units, which were combination A/D and D/A converters) that had two different playback (reconstruction) filters for HDCD. While the PM A/D used two different anti-aliasing filters while performing A/D conversion (depending on the level of high-frequency content), they were precluded from using two different playback filters as Ed Meitner had already patented that idea for Museatex (now out of business). Since there is nothing to decode, one does not need any special type of player or software to achieve proper playback of the HDCD files when the TF flag triggers.
    As noted in the thread, it is mildly interesting to know that a CD was made with the PM A/D converter. However any disc made with the PM A/D converter will light up the "HDCD" light, as they always injected the "subcode" even when there was nothing to decode. In my opinion this was likely a misleading tactic deliberately taken by PM to scare people into buying an HDCD-equipped CD player.
    Further, the actual use of LLE only occurs in non-classical music during fade-outs, and only extremely rarely during classical music - to the point where it arguable whether it is even worth decoding. The only mode that arguably benefits from decoding is PE. Decoding PE will restore the full dynamic range of the recording, as PE "squishes" the top 9 dB of signal into 3 dB of codes on the disc. If not decoded, it is like adding "compression" in the studio - a tool that many people like the sound of. Again, from the PM operator's manual:
    Using Peak Extension allows very high average recording levels without “clipping” or gen-
    erating “overs”. This approach can be used to get the “hottest” possible sound (almost no
    dynamics) during undecoded playback for air play, with decoding restoring normal dynam-
    ics for home listening.

    However, because Peak Extension limiting has an “easy over” curve that begins to affect
    the signal at - 3 dBfs, it usually shouldn’t be used with highly compressed source material
    that will almost always be in the limiting curve, unless a highly limited or distorted sound
    is desired during undecoded playback.

    Typically, Peak Extension recordings do not have the “crunch” or “edge” produced by hard
    clipping that is sometimes desired for certain types of rock material.
    Even Pacfic Microsonics recommended against using PE for many types of pop music! The advantage of decoding it is that you will hear it exactly as intended. The disadvantage is that after decoding, the signal level can be reduced by anywhere between 0 dB and 6 dB - depending on how the mastering engineer set the levels during the final mastering process. If you decode an HDCD track that had PE engaged, you may want to increase the volume level slightly. Based on the many tracks I have analyzed, I would suggest doing it by ear, but usually +1 dB or +2 dB is sufficient. I've not seen any tracks where I felt that the PE compressed the music so much that it would require a full +6 dB of gain adjustment.
    But I always find that each album requires a different playback level anyway. I always play Led Zeppelin at higher volumes than Pete Seeger, for example. For that reason I never use "volume leveling" features of any kind. I suppose for "background listening" it might be useful, but I never listen to music as "background noise". In fact my experience is that a good stereo makes "background listening" impossible, as Tyll Hertsen noted in his review of the Pono Player:
    I had started with a few very familiar test tracks and quickly determined they sounded
    pretty good and I should just move on to some casual listening as I wrote. I pulled up
    an old favorite, Lyle Mays' (keyboard player on many of Pat Metheny's albums) "Street
    Dreams." Three or four tracks into it I realized that my eyes were closed and my fingers
    had been hovering over the keyboard unmoved for the last ten minutes...I had been
    sucked into an old favorite and was way inside this particular album again for the first time
    in a long time.
    "What the...."
    I shook it off, and tried another old favorite; this time Carmen McRae's "Carmen Sings Monk".
    First cut on the album is a live recording of "Get it Straight." There's an instrumental break
    in the middle of this short 3:55 tune, and a little bass solo that starts at 2:12 that has a
    spine tingling run of notes starting at 2:28 in which you can hear audience members gasp
    at the crescendo of notes and intensity. I was swept right along until, as the song wound down,
    I opened my eyes to see, yet again, my fingers hovering motionless above the keyboard.
    "Damit, I'm not going to get anything done with this Pono gadget playing in my ears."

    Hope this helps!
  8. topoftheworld
    I would like to add that, while I keep my "true" HDCD-encoded 16/44 files, I also decode them to 24-bit FLACs with HDCD postprocessing and halved audio output in order to play them back properly on devices which don't support HDCD. I know that I'm wasting space by making them 24-bit, but I want them to sound exactly the way foobar2000 decodes them during playback, even if it's just probably only 17 bits used. I want to play it safe, you know? :) And I can confirm what CHansen says that the file size difference is really not that big: a 16-bit HDCD-encoded FLAC of 30.2MB becomes 45.6MB when decoded to 24-bits with the method I described. Thank you for the new list, bpzero! We really needed a list that separates the "true" from the "fake" ones! Also, foo_hdcd has been updated and has fixed some audio-channel errors with some HDCDs (e.g. some that were falsely decoded with a louder left channel), so I'd suggest everyone to download the latest update!
  9. Artzat
    Jan 2017, I just got a Yamaha BD-S681 player and found out that HDCD existed! I had never heard of it before today. I saw it on the CD/DVD display, did some research, and learned that I wasn't imagining the distortion I have heard for decades in some of my CDs.Thanks so much for this list! So I'm not crazy after all!
    One correction I can offer, Mark Knopfler "Heart of Gold" is actually titled "Golden Heart." It happens to be one of my favorite albums.
  10. whitwye
    Thanks for the informative digging into what HDCD is or isn't. Since I'd found this thread after ordering an Emotiva ERC-3 to find out what I might be missing in listening to a large number of Grateful Dead HDCDs on an Onkyo C-7030 (without HDCD support), the argument that "it's only the equivalent of 1 bit more" had me wondering if it would be a subtle thing. It's not at all, to my ears. While all CDs sound markedly better on the Emotiva than the Onkyo, the degree of extra realism on the Dead HDCDs is noticeably greater than for other plain CDs. Now, this could just be because the Dead have better audio engineers, than, say Radiohead. But given that Radiohead have obviously fine ears for what they're doing, that would surprise me. So at least on first approximation, even if HDCD is really the equivalent of only an improvement from 16 bits to 17 bits rather than to the 20 bits once advertised for it, it seems like that one bit buys a lot. Or else the Dead just have better audio engineers. In any case the Emotiva's realism is far beyond the Onkyo's with everything -- which makes sense considering the difference in price, but nicely surprises me, given the Onkyo's reputation.
  11. CHansen
    Ideally a listening test only changes one variable at a time, leaving all else constant. I would suggest a different test to understand the difference offered by decoding HDCDs:
    Foobar makes a module that allows the user to convert the 16-bit file ripped from an HDCD into a 24-bit file (the seven LSBs are padded with zeroes to reach the full 24 bits). Then Foobar (or any file-based music software) can play back either the undecoded 16-bit file or the decoded 17-bit file. In this way the only variable that has changed is whether or not the HDCD has been decoded. If anyone tries this test, please let us know what you hear.
  12. Rod Welst
     World Without Tears by Lucinda Williams is HDCD encoded... 
  13. veloroad
    Decided to drop by the used audio store after work and in the bins I find something that'll close out the summer...Beach Boys - in particular, All Summer Long! It's the Capital reissue copyrighted 2012 (50999 404423 27), with the HDCD symbol...will I luck out with a 'true' HDCD like the 2001 Capital release of Pet Sounds (72435-26266-2-5)? OK, shelled out a minor amount of USD...2 hours later, dropped it in the PC and clicked Foobar and...it's HDCD but no PE, no LLE, plenty of TF flickering. Oh well...faded promises...
  14. CHansen
    Hi Veloroad - Don't feel bad, this just means that the Pacific Micronsonics A/D converter was used when transferring the analog tape to digital. Even a dozen years after it's been discontinued, it still is one of the best sounding A/D converters in the world. Also, any mastering engineer with one of these units actually cares about sound quality. So you've got a great-sounding disc that doesn't need any special decoding! It will sound great on any CD player or when ripped to any hard drive. This is actually a good thing, as otherwise you would need either a special CD player or to rip the disc with a special program to get the best sound from it.

    If PM had just sold their A/D converter from the beginning as better sounding maybe there would be more great sounding discs. But they got greedy and thought there was more money in licensing a closed system (just like MQA) and it fell apart. However there are quite a few studios still using the PM A/D converter. (Good sound never goes out of style.)

    Charles Hansen
  15. veloroad
    Hi Charles Hansen - Thanks for the comment! I think it's fair to say fully implemented HDCD is going to be rare these days, well into the second decade of the 21st century. Indeed, as I found and noted in a prior post, even Reference Recordings has stopped using PE and LLE since 2008, the last one being RR-115, The Tempest; the following album in the catalog, RR-116, Thinking About Bix, has no PE or LLE. I think the folks at RR saw the way the industry's going, so they dialed back on HDCD without looking like they're abandoning the format altogether, and started ramping up releasing their titles via hi-res downloads and SACD (and now -back to the future! - LP) in the physical format realm.

    So, with the Beach Boys title I was just hoping I'd luck out; I had my suspicions about the 2012 reissue, but I figured what the heck - music first and the HDCD logo indicates at least a PM A/D converter was used in the remastering.

    Funny you should mention MQA; from reading some press and comments about it, I can't help to notice similarities to HDCD's marketing and 'mumness' about the technical aspects of the format...but I guess discussion about that subject is another thread. :nerd:
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