Very simple questions, please help!
Sep 13, 2009 at 2:31 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

ssckp86

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I have a few very simple (to you people, obviously not to me since I'm asking) questions. I just started to really "listen" to music. One of the first steps has been to listen to only cds or lossless files. I know that headphones make a huge difference in sound quality, what I'm not so sure about is the other stuff.

If you could answer these questions (even a short "yes" or "no" will be much appreciated and in-depth explanations will engender great thanks!)

1. The sound card matters in the playback quality of music? (I always thought the audio information was just read and sent like a fax or something, does the sound card process it?)

1b. What about computers w/o sound cards?

2. If so, is it better to listen to cds or burn lossless files on cds and listen to them on a player?

3. cd players have sound cards? why are they so cheap? or are there "good" cd players and "bad" ones?

4. Does the method in which you burn lossless files onto a cd matter in quality?

5. What else matters in sound quality?

6. What would be the best and cheapest way to get the best quality? (obviously headphones instead of speaker systems but cd players over computers? what else?)

7. Finally, how to choose a good cd player? or a sound card if that is cheaper

I just very recently started to be interested in audio quality so excuse my extreme ignorance. Replies will be MUCH appreciated.

THANKS!
 
Sep 13, 2009 at 3:00 AM Post #2 of 12

DeusEx

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1. Yes - what handles the processing is called a DAC, a digital-to-analog converter, which comes on a sound card, there are also external DACs you can purchase alone.
1b. I'm assuming you mean onboard sound - generally speaking, they are usually of less-than-decent quality, and have higher levels of noise than a dedicated chip.

2. If you are burning actual lossless, than the sound is virtually the same

3. CD Players have DACs. Or they're called transports, if they're bitstreaming to a DAC. Most CDPs are so cheap because built-in DAC, as well as processing support, are horrible.

4. Question is not clearly worded - what method are you referring to?

5. A myriad of things. Let's start with the headphones/speakers, power, decoding, transmission, and source.

6. Very vague - define best and cheapest. What sort of budget determines what you can get.

7. Read Headfi, and do searches. Some simple searching would have probably answered most of your questions here.
 
Sep 13, 2009 at 3:08 AM Post #3 of 12

johnwmclean

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...the questions you've asked are really quite involved and there's really no simple answer.

You need to research a little about digital sound and digital to analogue converters (DAC), to get your head around SQ issues regarding soundcards and cd players.

There are various options for getting sound out of your computer, either as a line signal where the soundcard has already processed the digital signal, or raw digital via a toslink or USB cable for an external DAC to process.

The differences between cd players depends a lot on the implementation of the digital conversion (the chip) and quality of the analogue section/s.
 
Sep 13, 2009 at 11:00 AM Post #4 of 12

wink

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Just like headphones:- CD players, DAC's, Sound cards, Amplifiers; all have different sound signatures and levels of fidelity.
Fidelity means the faithfulness of the input to the output of the device.
Since components used affect the resultant sound, and there is no such thing as a device with absolutely no distortion (in all it's various forms), they are never perfect translators from one medium to the other.e.g. CD player to amplifier, amp to headphone, headphone to sound wave.
The closer to a perfect transformation of the input to the output of the device - the higher the fidelity.
 
Sep 13, 2009 at 11:58 AM Post #5 of 12

Aimless1

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Welcome to head-fi! As we say around here ... sorry about your wallet.

If you haven't read this tutorial please take some time to do so. The stickies have good information for all of us.

Also telling us what you currently have, what you're trying to achieve (hard to do especially at first) and your budget the community can offer suggestions for ways in which to improve your system.

This is a fun hobby. Our audio systems are works in progress. This means they are not a race to finish, but an ongoing event to be savored. If you haven't take some time to read. Start with the Stickies. The Headphones, Dedicated Source Componets and Computer Audio forums would be great places for you to search out your answers.
 
Sep 13, 2009 at 3:28 PM Post #6 of 12

ssckp86

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Thank you DeusEx, johnwmclean, wink, and Aimless1 for your quick replies! I was thinking about doing research 1st but I have absolutely no idea on this subject of audio quality. It is a bit harder when you know nothing and therefore don't even know what to search
confused_face(1).gif
I'll read the tutorial Aimless linked and the stickies and look up DACs. I see the point about transfer through mediums. I have Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones and it makes a world of difference from $10 earbuds. Also the lossless files, esp. on the 280s, sound much better than mp3s. (I do know how to listen to music, since I've been playing piano for a long time and was briefly studying music at university).

I'm thinking the cheapest way to get the best quality is cd player->headphones....? I guess that was a primary question that wasn't worded properly. Or maybe it is just an invalid question...?
 
Sep 14, 2009 at 12:14 AM Post #7 of 12

joe_cool

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If you have experience with live music then you will want to recreate that experience with your playback system. You are in the minority, as most people experience music as electronic entertainment. HD280s are a decent studio headphone but the amp and source will be very imortant. HiResolution MP3 is not bad (256K and up) but on really good recordings lossless will be preferred. Sadly, really good recordings are not often made today, as the market does not reward quality.
Personally I use my computer to play music as I am an IT professional and find this to be the most flexible route. It is, however, very complicated and many people are seduced by marketing statements.
 
Sep 15, 2009 at 3:32 PM Post #8 of 12

ssckp86

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Interesting observation Joe, I hadn't thought that music could sound different / be a different experience for those who have played live vs. those who have not. Also your statement "really good recordings are not often made" is a cool insight, I may have the best system but it may not play at a golden standard if the recording engineers were not at the top of the game. It may be important to look at the recording engineer or producer in addition to the artist and the work!! I have an intense hate for the "market" and business moguls that cater to it instead of letting artistic freedom run wild.
 
Sep 15, 2009 at 4:27 PM Post #9 of 12

Aimless1

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CDP -> amp -> headphones is a fine option if you already have an amp. Another scenario is computer -> DAC -> amp -> headphones. DAC = digital to analog converter.
Couple of options here include for Apple users the Apogee Duet and for PC owners a Pico with DAC. Either the Duet or the Pico would provide both your DAC and your amp.

So much depends on what you currently have, what your're trying to accomplish and what your budget is.
 
Sep 15, 2009 at 4:57 PM Post #10 of 12

bordins

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Sep 16, 2009 at 8:29 PM Post #11 of 12

bixby

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ssckp86 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Interesting observation Joe, I hadn't thought that music could sound different / be a different experience for those who have played live vs. those who have not. Also your statement "really good recordings are not often made" is a cool insight, I may have the best system but it may not play at a golden standard if the recording engineers were not at the top of the game. It may be important to look at the recording engineer or producer in addition to the artist and the work!! I have an intense hate for the "market" and business moguls that cater to it instead of letting artistic freedom run wild.


Engineers often times are told that a particular mix is not right, not loud enough, or doesn't have enough punch. They are told to go back and make it more........

The mix may be just fine from an engineering and audio standpoint but lots, and I mean lots, of artists and bands in the pop, rap, hip hop, rock etc. world have no idea about quality sound. They just want theirs to be more.......let's say noticeable.

So they tell the engineer they need more pop, punch, bass, vocals, etc., So the engineer compresses the heck out of it rides the gain into the red and viola, we now have that loud popular recording that sounds loud on the radio, in the club and on your portable music device. Problem is.......... it sucks!

There are exceptions to the rule like Pink Floyd, Elbow, Neil Young, the Finn Bros, and many more who are concerned about quality. And most jazz and classical is decently recorded.

Even so, there are many engineers who will compress the heck out of stuff and ride it into distortion to get a unique sound. Look at Garbage for instance. Great band, interesting sound, really crappy from an audio standpoint. Better yet, try listening to Mute Math for 10 minutes. Headache will ensue.

Cheers
 
Sep 16, 2009 at 8:41 PM Post #12 of 12

leeperry

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bordins /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Whether it's true or not, you need to hear it by your own ears.


"The monkeys are the cables, the dresses are the ERS Paper, and the dancing is the jitter." - Patrick82
 

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