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Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2520
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to JasonM

In the late 1980s I started reading Stereophile magazine--while it was still in the small format. I thought they were either nuts, or the world's greatest deadpan humorists. They kept writing about how different CD players sounded different.

Before moving to Kwajalein in the central Pacific, there were a couple of things I wanted: a good classical guitar and a good set of headphones. I bought a spruce/Brazilian "doble tapa" (actually a double back) from Manuel Contreras Sr. in Madrid.

Though Santa Barbara is a fairly small town, there were two "high end" audio shops there. One of them was run by an engineer who used to work at the Delco defense plant. He demonstrated a pair of six foot ( 2 meters) tall electrostatic speakers. I asked him to play one of the Julian Bream CDs made in Wardour Chapell by the well known recording engineer, speaker designer and entrepreneur John Bowers. The speakers sounded horrible--extremely overemphasized high frequencies. I asked the owner if he wanted to know what a guitar really sounded like. He said,"Sure." I went home, brought back the Contreras, and played it sitting between the speakers. The shop owner said he was amazed.

He had a pair of Stax Signature Lambda headphones on sale. I listened to the Bream CD on them, and bought them on the spot. The owner looked a little disappointed. He said, "I thought I was going to get to take them home."

Next I went around to various places and listened to CD players with the Staxes. Guess what? The CD players sounded different. I bought a mid-range Sony: $350, when consumer decks were going for about $150. I was happy at Kwajalein for a while. The Staxes are still the cleanest transducer I have ever heard, but they don't kick you in the chest on the bass like a good speaker.

I started carrying around the Staxes and a half dozen CDs I liked when I traveled to USA, Europe and Asia. The $1,000 Sony and Meridian CD players sounded a little better than mine, but not worth that much money to me. I heard lots of $10-25K systems that sounded really, really terrible--and a few that were pretty good, mainly in England and Germany where people actually listened to live classical music. A small shop in Honolulu gave me a good deal on some used B&W 803 speakers and a new Adcom amp. I was fairly happy.

A couple of years later I stopped by the Honolulu shop and plugged the Staxes into a Linn CD player. It cost as much as the other two high end jobs, but sounded much better to me. My investments had been going pretty well, and you can save some cash working at Kwajalein, so I bought the Linn.

Next time I was in Houston, I dropped by the Linn dealer. Ended up buying a pair of Keltik speakers, and had them shipped to Kwaj--all 440 pounds (200 kilos).

Linn had been following a fairly radical path in speaker design for a while. Instead of putting an analog crossover network in the box with a set of speaker drivers, they designed daughter cards to go on the front ends their amps. Each speaker driver gets a separate channel, with its own frequency and phase tailored by the daughter card on its amp channel.

The Keltiks were the best dynamic speakers I ever heard. Just a tiny bit less clean and detailed then the Quad electrostatics, but they will really kick you in the chest on both classical and rock, which the Quads can't do.

A friend said he was interested in buying the Adcom and B&Ws, along with my Sony CD player. He and his wife came to listen. She is a professional violinist, played in various symphony orchestras, including Boston. Another guy came along to listen as well. He is an M.I.T. PhD electrical engineer, who worked as a professional sound engineer before he went to M.I.T. He worked on some of the classical guitarist Christopher Parkening's commercial recordings. All three said the Linn rig was head and shoulders above the Adcom and B&Ws.

I've never tried to tell one amp from another. I don't know whether I could. But the difference between the Linn rig and the other one was obvious right off the bat. I think a big part of it may be moving the frequency shaping to the front end of the amps, taking the somewhat non-reciprocal crossover network out of the feedback loop. But another factor may be that each of the four drivers in each box gets its own 200 watt amp channel.

The only time I entered an audio shop after I bought the Linn rig was after I retired and moved back to Austin. I wanted a setup to go in my computer room. I bought some used Linn bookshelf speakers, a used Linn subwoofer and a used Linn FM tuner/CD player combo, all for a $few hundred. I can play Youtube stuff over Wi-Fi. If I want to listen to something critically I get out the Staxes, but the the computer's sound card is the weak link, along with Youtube lossy compression when it's low quality.

I haven't tried distinguishing high bitrate MP3s from uncompressed high quality audio--never had any reason to.

I don't consider myself an audiophile. I just wanted some gear that had a tonal balance about like that of a symphony orchestra in a good hall, which includes powerful bass when called for, and where you could hear some detail in a good recording. No recording sounds like the real thing, but it's surprisingly rare to hear a rig that meets even the few requirements in the second sentence of this paragraph.

And it's rare to hear a recording that actually sounds pretty much like a guitar. Engineers like to pile on a bunch of processing, and players seem to like it--if in fact they have any control over the final product.

Most professional classical musicians I know have pretty cheap sound systems. Most of them say, "It never sounds like the real thing, so why spend a bunch of money?"

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2018 2:49:28
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3691
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Ruphus

What should matter the most on CD players would be D/A convertors and the avoidance of glitches through clocking concept. Also, as common with audio gear, I assume that rigid PSUs may be helpful. Further large scale investments into consistent turning similar to efforts with high-end turntables, I as layman assume to be of no true contribution.


In his seven or so places in Europe and USA my brother used to have all different rigs. From above mentioned sorts of 2m tall ribbon speakers, over quadrophony to fine stereo builds.

To my impression the most spatial one used to be a combination from Bang & Olafson, but that might have had to do with room and placement.

From his place in Switzerland I have two large three-way speakers, so boutique that you can´t find a single hint about the maker on the internet, driven by Luxman´s second best amp of the firm´s best period.


These speakers used to come in for the price of a BMW of that time. Inside looking like some palaeo-tech with caps of the size of beer cans.

As impressive as they seem to sound to everyone, if I´d put my ADAM near field monitors next to them, the boutique thingies would appear as if from under a blanket.

And yet, that smoothness, space and tranquility of these boxes, apparently built for pop music, has some enchanting quality to it. Everything is so pierce-free and never obtrusive. You can listen for hours without ever experiencing fatigue. And it surprises time and time again to realize at what levels you have been listening (inspite of the vol. pot residing at only ~7-8 o´clock) without sensing any screaming loudness. (Every other time, sitting in lively rounds -at a fair distance from the stereo- , yelling in need of overcoming the music in the background, still never ever anyone being annoyed "by noise". -Not even me, who with age is becoming more and more sensible to audible interference and noise.)

Something you could probably not have with most of rigs, and lesser even with the Adams (who have been made for another task, anyway.)

Regarding balanced sound field for most natural and translating feedback, in the audio engineering community simple concepts like Yamaha´s NS10s or even just ghettoblasters have proven useful- (as complement to surgical auditioning through elaborate speakers).

And there seems something to single cones.
Like those Blaupunkt balls that I had hanging from the ceiling in the seventies. As mentioned before, sitting under them, with stellar music enjoying high-life with friends visiting from home town, after hours they asked where the music was coming from; thinking the BPs to be lamps.

If I am not mistaking single cones (almost like with a kind of insider tip) appear to be rediscovered these days for consumer rigs. And if they can make up for a missing of dedicated HF tweeters, then maybe on the other hand the splitting of frequencies (and in consequence encountering either gap or build-up of overlapping contents, or both in the same time) might be meaning a fundamental disadvantage, which again, to compensate for takes a lot of technical effort.

When was the last time that you guys listened to a pair of quality-built single cones?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 22 2018 13:10:54
 
JasonM

Posts: 815
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

Yes, The DACs in the CD players sound different. DACs keep getting better and better like computers. I have a stand alone DAC from a company called ScHiit Audio (pronounced "****") where you can upgrade components as technology improves instead of throwing it in the trash. Richard, I totally get the quest for that natural, realistic recreation of sound. It can be an endless search for the right components. Sounds like you have a nice rig. I always wanted to try a set of Magnapan electrostatics but never had the room.

Since CD stores are gone and we live in a world of compressed music and YouTube I've given up on it all.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 23 2018 1:16:25
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3691
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to JasonM

quote:

ORIGINAL: JasonM

I have a stand alone DAC from a company called ScHiit Audio (pronounced "****") where you can upgrade components as technology improves instead of throwing it in the trash.



Me too. Going digitally from both CD player and digital music box into a DAC from Benchmark Media Systems. It is not upgradeable, but uncomparable to most of convertors in consumer gear.

It was way more needed back then though, over ten years ago, than today. For, meanwhile cheap convertors have improved quite some.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 23 2018 10:26:50
 
JasonM

Posts: 815
Joined: Dec. 8 2005
From: Baltimore

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Ruphus

Hear is proof that you can hear yourself the difference between lossy and lossless/uncompressed audio:
https://romaco.ca/blog/2015/03/23/experimental-differences-in-audio-compression-formats/

He takes the CD PCM waveform and subtracts it from the MP3 waveform. Even at 320kbs you can make out the lyrics. For most of what I listen to (flamenco) i usually can't hear a tremendous difference if any but will always go for FLAC. But put in a cd of Diana Krall and I can tell on my reference system.

Ruphus are those your speakers in the pic? They look pretty cool. Yeah sure Benchmark DACs. Good stuff. I used to know one of the engineers there.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 23 2018 16:56:01
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3691
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

The Benchmakr folks are really enthusiastic geeks. They even managed making me (a total technical ignorant) reading articles and white papers several times.

And when I reviewd their unit, another very reputated maker sent me theirs for me to compare, however they didn´t like what I found (kind of layering and distortion).
-

I listened to the 256 k example. Clearly audible.
However, subtracted content won´t equal ability of detecting differences between examples of format.

I still prefer uncompressed or flac alikes for matter of confidence, but it could be esoteric approach for many or all of sources above 256 kBit/s.
-

Yes, those are the speakers I was talking about. They almost landed on the street. My stupid sister called me, saying something like: "These things are just too large. If you won´t come and pick them up right away, I ´ll put them on the pavement before the house."
She also had them positioned miserably and right before radiators. Luckily they survived the torture, though. (Also managed to pop out the cones convex central cover which her little son´s fingers had dented in. It can be done.)

I organized a lift and hurried to pick them up same day. A little bit like rescuing mistreated creature.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 23 2018 18:48:49
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2520
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

Strictly speaking the DAC is the integrated circuit which takes in a digital signal and outputs an analog one. All the DACs that I know of put out a "stairstep" analog signal which still contains a strong component of the sampling frequency. For accurate reproduction the sampling frequency must be more than twice the highest frequency in the original signal. For human hearing the highest frequency is usually taken as something at or below 20 KHz. Few adults in industrialized countries can hear anything near 20 KHz.

There is some question whether audible transients like sharp clicks are accurately represented by signals band limited to 20KHz.

In modern CD players, the digital signal is typically oversampled. Samples in the 44.1 KHz digital stream are interpolated to produce a digital signal at some multiple of 44.1 KHz. Thus the sampling frequency component in the output analog signal from the DAC is much higher than 44.1 KHz.

The reason for this is to make the reconstruction filter in the analog domain, which filters out the sampling frequency, easier to implement. It can have a more gradual rolloff above 20 KHz. Analog filters with gradual rolloffs are easier to implement without introducing artifacts, than were the "brick wall" filters of the earliest CD players, which had very steep rolloffs, and sounded bad.

Different players can use the same DAC chip, but implement the analog reconstruction filter differently, as well as other elements of the analog signal path. Such players can sound different.

The clock implementation in early players contributed distortion.

The CD doesn't rotate at constant speed. It starts around 500 rpm at the beginning when the laser reader is near the center of the disk, and slows gradually to around 200 rpm as the read head moves to the outer edge. This is to cause the track of bits on the disk to pass over the read head at constant speed--approximately. No mechanism is perfect. The drive mechanism monitors the bit rate, and controls the speed via a feedback loop to the drive motor.

The bit rate collected in the drive mechanism was used in early players as the basis of the clock that controlled the decoding, error correction, and the feed of the data into the DAC. A phase locked loop with a relatively long time constant was locked to the collected bit stream, providing a reasonably steady clock. The designers of the early CD players didn't realize how stable the clock needed to be, not to introduce distortion.

Note that the data recorded on the disk contains error-correcting code that is at least 30% as big as the data itself. Pick up one of your CDs and hold it up to the light. Use a magnifier if you need to, but you will see thousands of tiny holes in the metal reflective film sputtered onto the disk as it is made. This requires a robust error correction process, carried out in a specialized computer chip in the player.

Unfortunately the non-return-to-zero recording

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-return-to-zero

of the encoded data onto the disk makes the bit rate collected by the drive mechanism a poor basis for a clock. The result was persistent clock jitter, which turned out to be quite audible in the early players.

The solution was to add a little circuitry. A stable clock was generated, probably from a quartz crystal oscillator. This was used to drive the decoding and the feed to the DAC. The bit rate collected by the drive mechanism was compared to the stable clock to derive the error signal for the drive motor.

More than one block of digital data are read from the disk and stored in memory. The stable clock then herds them through the rest of the process.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 26 2018 0:08:19
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3691
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

Yep, the makers of finer gear like Lavry, Weiss & co. used to always emphasize how important the analog circuit in convertors is.

In discussions about why steep filter curves tend to produce artifacts and as to why inaudible frequency contents could matter altogether, there was mentioning of reciprocal effects into audible range.

Again, isn´t it interesting how early digital audio is being explored as handicapped, whereas back then at commercial rise of the D-tech, people and special editorials would be enthuse over stellar characteristics, based solely on amazing appearing specs. (Until, -as mentioned already, years later listeners of classical music started complaining about brittle violin sound ... And then gradually, common sense would follow on track of those times digital audio imperfection.)
Mark Twain´s whether forecast still at work, just like thousands of years ago.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 27 2018 15:12:25
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2520
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

Aliasing occurs in digital recording when there are frequency components in the recorded signal that are greater than half the sampling frequency. The graph illustrates the cause.

The red curve is a cosine wave of 0.9 Hz (cycles per second). Note that it is nearing its peak at one second, but not quite there yet. The yellow line is a cosine wave of 1.1 Hz. At one second it is just past its peak, on the way back down. The blue stairstep is the result of sampling the red curve at 2 Hz, that is, a sample every half second. But wait, the blue curve is also the result of sampling the yellow curve. At a 2 Hz sample rate, the curves are indistinguishable, they yield exactly the same samples. A simple trigonometric identity shows that the phenomenon persists indefinitely.

This is why the analog signal must be filtered before it is digitized. If it were not, frequencies a given distance above half the sample rate would be recorded as signals the same distance below half the sample rate. (In the example, 1+1/10 Hz is recorded as 1-1/10 Hz.)

In the early days of commercial digital recording, modified video cassette recorders (VCRs) were used to digitize. Assuming human hearing doesn't extend beyond 20 KHz, a sample rate of 40 KHz is fast enough to capture audible sounds. Reasonably straightforward mods to VCRs yielded a 44.i KHz sample rate, still the CD standard. This meant that frequencies in the incoming signal above 22.05 KHz had to be eliminated while still in the analog domain.

The cutoff frequency of 22.05 KHz was uncomfortably close to the highest desired frequency, 20 KHz, resulting in awkward problems of analog filter implementation. The ones used in the early days sounded bad.

These days much higher sample rates are readily achievable. At a 96 KHz sample rate, available in a lot of consumer equipment, only signal content above 48KHz has to be eliminated to prevent aliasing. The anti-aliasing filter can have a much gentler roloff in the range from 20 to 48 KHz, making them easier to implement, and better sounding.

RNJ



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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 28 2018 6:37:26
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3691
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

When 96 kHz came up and me made my first recordings with it (through high end convertors and front chain), comparing them to lower rates, the audible difference was clear to me and to some others.

Many in the online community however reacted with aggressive denial to posted samples, saying it was all hoax. To their opinion (and rigs limited to 44.1 / 48 kHz) nothing could be gained with anything above 44.1 kHz. A claim that we agreed on regarding 192 kHz and higher, but not on 96 kHz, which appeared beneficial and also of advantage for effects processing.

Apparently whether or not 96 kHz was beneficial also depended on the gear. With prosumer gear chosing the higher rate for recording seemed to not yield better audio.

I guess meanwhile the least will record, mix and master in 44.1 / 48 kHz.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 28 2018 13:05:40
 
Paul Magnussen

Posts: 1516
Joined: Nov. 8 2010
From: London (living in the Bay Area)

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

quote:

Aliasing occurs in digital recording when there are frequency components in the recorded signal that are greater than half the sampling frequency […]


Very clear explanation, Richard; thanks.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 28 2018 17:19:30
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2520
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

Assuming human hearing doesn't extend beyond 20 KHz, a 44.1 KHz sampling rate is a little more than sufficient to record sound--provided that the samples are high enough resolution. Sixteen bits per sample is just barely enough for people with very acute hearing.

But the problem with the 44.1 KHz sample rate is in the analog domain. The anti-aliasing filter before the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is difficult to implement. The 96 KHz, 24-bit format doesn't record the post-aliasing filter signal with markedly superior fidelity--for human hearing purposes, dogs might disagree. But the 96 KHz sampling rate makes implementing the anti-aliasing filter easier. If it is desired to band limit the signal to the range of human hearing, and to down-sample to CD specs, it can easily be done in the digital domain.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 28 2018 22:37:58
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3691
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

Cats have even better hearing than dogs. They can hear mice running in earth channels underground or the current in wall sockets. Both can hear our pulse, and dogs can scent better than cats. (Now trained to alarm diabetic owners beforehand of under glucose, or to indicate sorts of cancer specifically by checking breath.
- Lovely fellow creatures all together ... wittnessing all the time what they or live stock have to endure in ogres sphere, tears me to pieces.)
-


Owning a mobile DSD recorder, it appeared to me as if results were of superior clarity to multi bit tracks, even after converting to 44.1. Some say technically it must be illusion, others confirm.

Also folks were raving about DSD records / players. Even when Beatles stuff was transferred to it, they were unanimously describing amazing listening experiences.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 29 2018 7:35:54
 
Richard Jernigan

Posts: 2520
Joined: Jan. 20 2004
From: Austin, Texas USA

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Ruphus

Different designs are likely to sound different for a variety of reasons.

Maybe one employs better basic technology than the other. Maybe they use the same basic technology, but the designers had different ideas how the equipment should sound. At the time I chose it I liked the sound of my CD player better than that of others at comparable prices by Sony and Meridian, and a lot better than any others I tried. All used the same basic technology.

I have not investigated the relative merits of DSD and PCM. Sony says DSD is better. They are about as free of bullsh1t as any major consumer electronics company, so I am willing to entertain the idea that they may be right.

RNJ
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Apr. 30 2018 0:20:38
 
Ruphus

Posts: 3691
Joined: Nov. 18 2010
 

RE: Uncompressed / lossless audio files (in reply to Richard Jernigan

It has been an interesting read.
As an universal dilettant I always admire the sound sorting of technically versed folks and engineers.

(And for an electrical / electronical ignorant like me there are always valuable bits to gather from technicians, like for instance back then, learning that your average electrician wouldn´t know how to layout AC for a recording studio, which can be surprisingly demanding in terms of optimal grounding and low noise floor.)

Thank you!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 1 2018 12:33:22
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