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Differences I can and can't hear

oscroft

Member
I've been upgrading/servicing/tweaking in recent months, and that has me thinking generally about what things make differences I can hear and what things don't. This is with my 61-year-old ears and fairly modest music system. (Sources = Rega Planar 3/Audiolab 8000CD/Streaming [via Squeezebox Duet, Toslink, USB into DacMagic Plus]. Amps = Audiolab 8000A/8000SX/8000P. Speakers = Mission 780/Eltax home modded bass boxes/IPL active subwoofer). Other people, especially younger ones and people with better equipment, will be able to hear differences I can't, but I hope rating them comparatively might be of interest...

* I can hear a difference between Rega R200 and RB300 arms, big difference
* I can hear a difference aligning my cartridge accurately, small difference
* I can hear a difference replacing my Audiolab 8000A power supply caps, big difference
* I can hear a difference using a Tacima mains strip, fairly big difference
* I can hear a difference replacing my hardened rubber turntable feet, modest difference
* I can hear a difference between different modest level DACs, fairly subtle
* I can hear a difference between the various filters on my DacMagic Plus, fairly subtle
* I can't hear any difference between different speaker cables
* I can't hear any difference between different RCA interconnects
* I can't hear any difference between different mains cables

* I can hear differences in the engineering quality of recordings, from minor to big differences
* I can hear differences between LP, CD and computer streaming, of varying levels
* I can't hear any difference between 192/24 and 44.1/16 FLAC files
* I can't hear any difference between FLAC and 320kbps MP3
 
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Numpty112233

Active Member
Interesting. Thank's for sharing
Curious about the mains strip - what is it actually doing (please forgive my ignorance)?
Surprised you can't hear differences between different res files. I'm wondering if you are somehow getting the high res downgraded somewhere along the chain without realising?
Oh and the differences between LP, CD and streaming can you elaborate please?
 

drummerman

Banned
I have been using Tacimas on my TV's, Hifi and soldering irons for years.

I can't comment on any sound improvements or otherwise but they do no harm and look better than a 3 quid strip.
 

oscroft

Member
Interesting. Thank's for sharing
Curious about the mains strip - what is it actually doing (please forgive my ignorance)?
Surprised you can't hear differences between different res files. I'm wondering if you are somehow getting the high res downgraded somewhere along the chain without realising?
Oh and the differences between LP, CD and streaming can you elaborate please?
The Tacima is supposed to filter out interference, inc RFI. It also does surge protection, which I think is worth having. After hearing the difference, I went back to an ordinary mains strip and then moved components over one by one. It made the biggest difference to my Squeezebox Duet receiver, opening up the clarity and detail. The Squeezebox only had a cheap wall wart at the time, so I think it was probably especially susceptible to mains noise - I've replaced that with a linear PS now. Another possible contributor is that it's all in the same room as a load of computer equipment, with lots more warts which may well be putting noise back into the mains ring.

As for high res files, I can tell I'm not getting a res downgrade because the DacMagic has indicator LEDs and it shows 192k. But I do have some speculation... The DAC upsamples to 384k before filtering (though obviously can't add real extra resolution, just interpolation), so it can use better filtering instead of the steep filter forced by 44.1kz sampling. I can switch between the traditional steep filter and a couple of better ones, and I can clearly hear a difference. So maybe the biggest difference is in the higher sample rate itself (and the better filtering it allows) rather than actual extra information? If I could play 192/24 and 44.1/16 without upsampling, each through the best applicable filter, I suspect I'd hear a difference - but I'm not equipped to do that.

Another thought is that perhaps newly-released hi-res music is remastered too and sounds better because of that - there's a lot of poorly mastered music out there. The samples I used were made at different resolutions from the same master. Again, this is just speculation.

The other obvious possibility, of course, is that my old ears no longer have the resolution to hear what high res can offer. I know my high frequency hearing and noise floor aren't what they used to be - and even in total silence I always have some low level noise in my ears. But even if it's down to my ears, I think it's still interesting to rank it alongside other differences I can and can't hear.

Differences between LP, CD and streaming...

CD and streaming first, and I think that's mainly a DAC difference. My CD player has old style ladder DACs (though they're decent Burr Brown ones), with the low-level inaccuracies they can introduce. I can play the CD digital out through my DacMagic, and that provides better detail and resolution. But with the internal DAC, the best way I can describe it is more mellow and relaxing, and that can suit my mood better.

LP and digital is harder to try to describe, mainly because it's so dependent on the recording itself. And I don't have many recordings on both LP and digital to compare. I have one, a Charlie Haden recording, on LP and digital, and the quality is remarkably similar (which pleasantly surprised me when I got my turntable working again after years of only digital music). But while the quality is very close, there's a different tonal balance that I can't really describe (I'm no good at describing music, and other than very basic things I can't picture what other people mean when they describe it). In other cases, I have CD and LP versions of music where the CD is clearly made from the original LP master - and the LP sounds better with superior dynamics, where the CD sounds very flat.

Anyway, that's a lot of waffling - hope it makes some sense.
 
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Ascotbilly

Active Member
My vinyl sounds quiet when compared to an album I have on CD. I’m hoping a Rega Fono is the answer.

I regularly stream Radio Paradise. At the weekend I noted the settings from Low to FLAC for the first time in ages. Played FLAC first it sounded bright very clear, excellent. Made my way down the options to Low.
In conclusion the only difference being the higher quality versions obviously took longer to “load” and start, they all sounded more than acceptable to me.

Maybe you need a system costing £1000’s to spot the difference ?
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
Thank you @oscroft for your "waffling". Appreciated.
Two different products, but where you could hear differences between filter settings on your DacMagic Plus I couldn't between the filter settings on my Audiolab M-ONE. In truth I didn't listen very hard, just flicked between them and said to myself they all sound the same lol. Did it a couple of times too...
Contrary to you I can hear differences between high res, CD and MP3 even though, like you mine are being upscaled, albeit to 32/352.8 via USB and I think the same via disk player. Upscaling does definitely reduce the differences. Occasionally I actually prefer the CD to high res which can be too hard, fast and fatiguing on percussion for example but on smoother music high res can make digital sound "more analogue". I'm not saying there is a big difference, but to use your analogy a slight (but noticeable) difference. A modern high res recording well mastered and provided as high res (mostly classical or jazz) is unbeatable sq.
Different masters of the same album vary noticeably - remasters of mainstream music are usually a victim of the loudness wars and have inferior dynamics to the original, which may explain your CD having less dynamics than your LP. Check out Album list - Dynamic Range Database showing my SACD actually has half the dynamic range of my old CD which can clearly be heard and is unforgivable (think I've just upset a certain moderator on here ;-) .
Like for like however I find my old turntable is also remarkably similar to a CD, except that unlike yours it is less dynamic and less fatiguing with, as you say, a different (and very pleasant) tonal balance.
Anyway I'll stop waffling as I have already waffled far far too much on this subject on my UPDATED Denon PMA-2500NE & DCD1600NE review - a voyage of discovery… and Denon PMA-2500NE & DCD1600NE review threads
It's good to listen / investigate with an open mind and then compare with others who have independently done the same and come to their own conclusions purely through listening
Appreciated
 

Steve356

Well-known Member
I would certainly agree with the comment of the most readily available BIA SACD. Its dynamic range is pitiful compared to the original CD. I also have it on DVD-Audio and personally, I don't think that is any better than the 20th Anniversary SACD. The only reason I keep them is that the surround sound on them can be interesting to listen to occasionally. Having said that, I also have the Mobile Fidelity SACD of BIA and that is fantastic to listen too. Amazing dynamics and clarity.
 

oscroft

Member
Thank you @oscroft for your "waffling". Appreciated.
Two different products, but where you could hear differences between filter settings on your DacMagic Plus I couldn't between the filter settings on my Audiolab M-ONE. In truth I didn't listen very hard, just flicked between them and said to myself they all sound the same lol. Did it a couple of times too...
Contrary to you I can hear differences between high res, CD and MP3 even though, like you mine are being upscaled, albeit to 32/352.8 via USB and I think the same via disk player. Upscaling does definitely reduce the differences. Occasionally I actually prefer the CD to high res which can be too hard, fast and fatiguing on percussion for example but on smoother music high res can make digital sound "more analogue". I'm not saying there is a big difference, but to use your analogy a slight (but noticeable) difference. A modern high res recording well mastered and provided as high res (mostly classical or jazz) is unbeatable sq.
Different masters of the same album vary noticeably - remasters of mainstream music are usually a victim of the loudness wars and have inferior dynamics to the original, which may explain your CD having less dynamics than your LP. Check out Album list - Dynamic Range Database showing my SACD actually has half the dynamic range of my old CD which can clearly be heard and is unforgivable (think I've just upset a certain moderator on here ;-) .
Like for like however I find my old turntable is also remarkably similar to a CD, except that unlike yours it is less dynamic and less fatiguing with, as you say, a different (and very pleasant) tonal balance.
Anyway I'll stop waffling as I have already waffled far far too much on this subject on my UPDATED Denon PMA-2500NE & DCD1600NE review - a voyage of discovery… and Denon PMA-2500NE & DCD1600NE review threads

Appreciated
Interesting observations. On the DAC filter thing, mine has three options. One is the old-style steep filter, and there are two choices for shallower filters. The biggest difference (not actually big, but certainly noticeable) is between the steep one and either of the two others. With the two shallow filters, I can hear a small difference if I switch repeatedly between them - but if I walked into the room and one was selected, I wouldn't be able to tell you which it was.

Expanding a bit on my CD comparison, I'm talking of old CDs, including early generation 80s ones when they just stuck the LP master on a CD. I haven't bought a new CD in years - I mostly only buy 2nd hand old classical ones.

As an example of bad CDs, the first two Roxy Music albums. I got the LPs in the early days, and the CDs later. They're possibly the worst two CDs I've heard - really flat with no dynamic range. To be fair, listening to the LPs again shows they're pretty poor too, so I presume they were mastered poorly in the first place, but they're better than the CDs. What is really sad is that today's loudness wars seem to be turning the whole thing full circle and recreating the dross of the 80s.

I have some others where well-mastered CDs are excellent and better than the LPs, so there's no way I can categorically choose which kind of source I prefer.

It's good to listen / investigate with an open mind and then compare with others who have independently done the same and come to their own conclusions purely through listening.
Definitely, yes. In a subject where there are too many people trying to push one thing over another, and people constantly arguing, it's really valuable just to exchange honest personal experiences.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
(think I've just upset a certain moderator on here ;-) .
:p

I have the full Moody Blues SACD collection. Some of them have a lower DR reading than the redbook counterparts but taken from the quad re-mixes they certainly have a wider soundstage, something that I found on the anniversary issue of BIA. Some SACD are not all they're cracked up to be, that's for sure, others absolutely slay the original vinyl releases, the Sony Legacy release of Carole King's opus Tapestry and Analogue Productions issue of Dusty Springfields Dusty in Memphis being two such discs.

I do take your meaning of BIA but yet it's wider soundstage really suits headphone listening whereas I found the redbook fatiguing.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
:p

I have the full Moody Blues SACD collection. Some of them have a lower DR reading than the redbook counterparts but taken from the quad re-mixes they certainly have a wider soundstage, something that I found on the anniversary issue of BIA. Some SACD are not all they're cracked up to be, that's for sure, others absolutely slay the original vinyl releases, the Sony Legacy release of Carole King's opus Tapestry and Analogue Productions issue of Dusty Springfields Dusty in Memphis being two such discs.

I do take your meaning of BIA but yet it's wider soundstage really suits headphone listening whereas I found the redbook fatiguing.
Forgive me - I was just in wind up mode ;-)
I do much prefer the dynamics of the CD though all the way through but particularly The Mans Too Strong which on the SACD lacks impact. The MOFI SACD is on my wish list
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Forgive me - I was just in wind up mode ;-)
I do much prefer the dynamics of the CD though all the way through but particularly The Mans Too Strong which on the SACD lacks impact. The MOFI SACD is on my wish list
There's a new seller on Discogs with a mint one. $24.99 plus $15 postage. Go on, spoil yourself.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
Very very tempted.... but I've spent fortunes on stack loads of SACDs, high res files, LPs and CDs since getting the Denon and so am in self imposed lock down for a couple of weeks.... or days....
 

Steve356

Well-known Member
You will love it! Then you'll have to get the other four Dire Straits SACDs that MoFi have recently released. They are all superb! ;)

I usually blame Gibbsy too. :rotfl: :laugh: ;)
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Some CDs can astound you with their detail and clarity and makes you wonder why the latest productions are such crap. If you want to hear CDs at their best then try Joan Armatradings Me, Myself, I. I cannot see any HiRes or SACD beating it, absolutely superb, the cymbal strikes are in the room with you. Generally her whole catalogue has high dynamic ranges applied to them.

If the source is right then everything else just falls into place and good kit just enhances that source.
 

Steve356

Well-known Member
Some CDs can astound you with their detail and clarity and makes you wonder why the latest productions are such crap. If you want to hear CDs at their best then try Joan Armatradings Me, Myself, I. I cannot see any HiRes or SACD beating it, absolutely superb, the cymbal strikes are in the room with you. Generally her whole catalogue has high dynamic ranges applied to them.

If the source is right then everything else just falls into place and good kit just enhances that source.
Agree 100%. Her 1st two albums on CD are both very good too.
 

Apollo83

Active Member
Nice one Oscroft. Can I join in?

* I can hear a large difference between 96kbps and 320kbps MP3
* I can hear a large difference in upgrading speakers from Wharfedale Diamond 220 to Monitor Audio Silver 100
* I can hear a large difference between picture disk records and black vinyl records

* I can hear a moderate difference between 128kbps and 320kbps MP3
* I can hear a moderate difference in upgrading cartridge from AT95E to Goldring 1042
* I can hear a moderate difference in upgrading amplifier from CA AM10 to Rega Brio
* I can hear a moderate difference in upgrading CD player from CA 651C to Rega Apollo

* I can hear a small difference in upgrading turntable plinth from Rega Planar 3 to SRM Azure with isolated motor.
* I can hear a small difference in upgrading hub/sub-platter from Rega Planar 3 to Tangospinner
* I can hear a small difference in upgrading tonearm from Rega RB100 to RB300

* I can't hear any difference between FLAC and 320kbps MP3
* I can't hear any difference between 192/24 and 44.1/16 FLAC files
* I can't hear any difference between CD and FLAC played through same DAC
* I can't hear any difference between reasonable quality no-brand and QED Silver/Profile interconnects and speaker cables.
* I can't hear any difference with a cleaned/conditioned power supply

Sometimes when the change over was quick I'd be confident of detecting the difference in a blind A/B test.
Other times it took longer to change over and the reliability of my memory comes into play more! :)
 

oscroft

Member
If you want to hear CDs at their best then try Joan Armatradings Me, Myself, I. I cannot see any HiRes or SACD beating it, absolutely superb, the cymbal strikes are in the room with you. Generally her whole catalogue has high dynamic ranges applied to them.
Yes, it's a cracker. Coincidentally, I was listening to her "Show Some Emotion" earlier, LP version, and that's really good (performance and recording quality).

I saw Joan Armatrading once as a support act, obviously quite a long time ago. As a reflection of how good she was compared to the main act, I've long ago forgotten even who it was.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Yes, it's a cracker. Coincidentally, I was listening to her "Show Some Emotion" earlier, LP version, and that's really good (performance and recording quality).

I saw Joan Armatrading once as a support act, obviously quite a long time ago. As a reflection of how good she was compared to the main act, I've long ago forgotten even who it was.
My wife saw her in 1976 opening for Supertramp. I was relegated to taxi driver. Going to have to get some more of her albums now. MoFi were going to release a couple on SACD but that seems to have fallen through but even the re-releases on CD are such good pressings.
 

Ron Hilditch

Active Member
I've been upgrading/servicing/tweaking in recent months, and that has me thinking generally about what things make differences I can hear and what things don't. This is with my 61-year-old ears and fairly modest music system. (Sources = Rega Planar 3/Audiolab 8000CD/Streaming [via Squeezebox Duet, Toslink, USB into DacMagic Plus]. Amps = Audiolab 8000A/8000SX/8000P. Speakers = Mission 780/Eltax home modded bass boxes/IPL active subwoofer). Other people, especially younger ones and people with better equipment, will be able to hear differences I can't, but I hope rating them comparatively might be of interest...

* I can hear a difference between Rega R200 and RB300 arms, big difference
* I can hear a difference aligning my cartridge accurately, small difference
* I can hear a difference replacing my Audiolab 8000A power supply caps, big difference
* I can hear a difference using a Tacima mains strip, fairly big difference
* I can hear a difference replacing my hardened rubber turntable feet, modest difference
* I can hear a difference between different modest level DACs, fairly subtle
* I can hear a difference between the various filters on my DacMagic Plus, fairly subtle
* I can't hear any difference between different speaker cables
* I can't hear any difference between different RCA interconnects
* I can't hear any difference between different mains cables

* I can hear differences in the engineering quality of recordings, from minor to big differences
* I can hear differences between LP, CD and computer streaming, of varying levels
* I can't hear any difference between 192/24 and 44.1/16 FLAC files
* I can't hear any difference between FLAC and 320kbps MP3
Got to agree with your comments on the Tacima mains power bar. They do make a noticeable difference. Got to say my experience of all cables in a HiFi system, is at odds with yours. The difference is quite noticeable and sometimes more expensive means worse. Didn't believe in them at all, a cable is a cable is a cable! Bought some new speakers and felt flush, so bought some well reviewed speaker cables. Never heared a duller sound, so bad I returned the Speakers to the Maker. They sent them back with frequency response graphs. Got some 1.5mm flex from the shed, bingo the system came to life.
 

Numpty112233

Active Member
Got to agree with your comments on the Tacima mains power bar. They do make a noticeable difference. Got to say my experience of all cables in a HiFi system, is at odds with yours. The difference is quite noticeable and sometimes more expensive means worse. Didn't believe in them at all, a cable is a cable is a cable! Bought some new speakers and felt flush, so bought some well reviewed speaker cables. Never heared a duller sound, so bad I returned the Speakers to the Maker. They sent them back with frequency response graphs. Got some 1.5mm flex from the shed, bingo the system came to life.
Not suggesting you did, but wonder if you got the polarity crossed with the expensive cable? Never done it myself, yet.... but have read it would have the effect you describe
 

Ron Hilditch

Active Member
Not suggesting you did, but wonder if you got the polarity crossed with the expensive cable? Never done it myself, yet.... but have read it would have the effect you describe
No never got the polarity crossed. Although recently did something a bit off the wall? My speakers are biwired and accidentally crossed over the right and left chanels on the tweeters. Got to say the instruments seemed to be dancing between the speakers. Not an unpleasant effect, my Nephew who,recently got into HiFi was quite impressed. All back to normal now.
 

oscroft

Member
Got to agree with your comments on the Tacima mains power bar. They do make a noticeable difference. Got to say my experience of all cables in a HiFi system, is at odds with yours. The difference is quite noticeable and sometimes more expensive means worse. Didn't believe in them at all, a cable is a cable is a cable! Bought some new speakers and felt flush, so bought some well reviewed speaker cables. Never heared a duller sound, so bad I returned the Speakers to the Maker. They sent them back with frequency response graphs. Got some 1.5mm flex from the shed, bingo the system came to life.
Ha, I guess I've never spent enough money to hear bad cables :)
 
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