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Digital Music.

Cable Monkey

Prominent Member
Has digitally stored music found an 'audiophile' way of expressing itself?

The Transporter.
 

rowlandhills

Established Member
I'm thinking that the guy who makes the SB+ (an audiophile version of the Squeezebox, with offboard PSU, upgraded DACs etc.) must be a bit worried about this one.

I'm very tempted, on the other hand :)
 

Welwynnick

Distinguished Member
Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio has been quite convincing in promoting computer audio as better than CD players for a while now. Anyone come across him?

Nick
 
A

Abootnoo

Guest
Just read:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/technology/5212396.stm

What utter BS!

So, our mate Slim is going to build a version of the Squeezebox that's better than the original source is he? In ripping tracks from CD's the quality will somehow improve over the CD player used to do it.

He talks about "audiophiles" as though they are some kind of mythical, cave-dwelling creatures that people on the street only vaguely understand.

I really dislike this techno-babble, semi-scientific, aspirational marketing that uses straps like "components only normally found in a £10,000 product". Generally they're referring to a component that will only benefit from being linked to other similar quality items - hence the £10k price tag.

Still, plenty of people will take the bait. He and his fellow directors can then sit back and watch the cheques arrive.
 

Cable Monkey

Prominent Member
The product will attract a few who think the technobabble guarantees them a superior experience, but the product will stand or fall on the basis of what happens when people listen. While you may dislike the ethos whith which the product is being marketed dismissing the product out of hand is an even bigger folly!

And if you think audiophiles are normal, you may want to take a long hard look in the mirror for we are indeed wierd beasts! :D
 

bobdixon

Established Member
Abootnoo said:
Just read:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/technology/5212396.stm

What utter BS!

So, our mate Slim is going to build a version of the Squeezebox that's better than the original source is he? In ripping tracks from CD's the quality will somehow improve over the CD player used to do it.

He talks about "audiophiles" as though they are some kind of mythical, cave-dwelling creatures that people on the street only vaguely understand.

I really dislike this techno-babble, semi-scientific, aspirational marketing that uses straps like "components only normally found in a £10,000 product". Generally they're referring to a component that will only benefit from being linked to other similar quality items - hence the £10k price tag.

Still, plenty of people will take the bait. He and his fellow directors can then sit back and watch the cheques arrive.

Well he's right in that MP3s etc are compressed (128 kbps I think) to such an extent that quality is reduced. For example if I burn a downloaded MP3 to CD, when playing it my RCS indicates clipping almost without fail - that is purely down to compressed files that were already mastered for extra loudness :eek: So if you want to rip your CDs (or vinyl come to that) instead of using MP3 etc you should use the lossless format of Wav or Flac or similar which 'do not' compress the files. In fact a new company in the states (called musicgiants I think) are offering downloads of uncompressed music of up to 1100 kbps which will be better quality without a doubt.
 

Cable Monkey

Prominent Member
bobdixon said:
Well he's right in that MP3s etc are compressed (128 kbps I think) to such an extent that quality is reduced. For example if I burn a downloaded MP3 to CD, when playing it my RCS indicates clipping almost without fail - that is purely down to compressed files that were already mastered for extra loudness :eek: So if you want to rip your CDs (or vinyl come to that) instead of using MP3 etc you should use the lossless format of Wav or Flac or similar which 'do not' compress the files. In fact a new company in the states (called musicgiants I think) are offering downloads of uncompressed music of up to 1100 kbps which will be better quality without a doubt.

Most who spend $2000 on a front end like thay will be making use of its lossless abilities. It handles FLAC, AAC and WMV lossless formats and it would be the only way I would assess its abilities.
 

rupbert

Established Member
Abootnoo said:
I really dislike this techno-babble, semi-scientific, aspirational marketing that uses straps like "components only normally found in a £10,000 product". Generally they're referring to a component that will only benefit from being linked to other similar quality items - hence the £10k price tag.

Indeed a £10k component won't sound like a £10k component if your using £50 speakers.
 

PeteD64

Established Member
Abootnoo said:
Just read:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/technology/5212396.stm
In ripping tracks from CD's the quality will somehow improve over the CD player used to do it.
Why not?

When you rip the CD you're copying the raw digital data, not "playing" the CD. I could rip a CD on a cheap PC, copy the information to another PC & then feed the output to a decent DAC & get better quality than if I played it on the original PC it was ripped on.

Playing a losslessy compressed copy of a CD through one of these could sound as good if not better than a top range CD player. It's copying bits over a network (with error correction) & then playing them from its memory buffer rather than a laser trying to read the bits from a plastic disc in real time. I know which sounds more reliable to me.

There's also the advantage of having your whole music collection at your fingertips rather than loading CDs all the time.
 

Welwynnick

Distinguished Member
I think there are good reasons why a PC could be a better source of the digital audio stream than a player. The bit stream is generated in a completely different way, and is more robust. Bit errors are part and parcel of any digital communication system, but are not with computing, where errors are not tolerated. The consequences are all too familiar. With audio, the odd bit error is easily overlooked if you don't know any better.

nick
 

overkill

Distinguished Member
welwynnick said:
I think there are good reasons why a PC could be a better source of the digital audio stream than a player. The bit stream is generated in a completely different way, and is more robust. Bit errors are part and parcel of any digital communication system, but are not with computing, where errors are not tolerated. The consequences are all too familiar. With audio, the odd bit error is easily overlooked if you don't know any better.

nick
The average PC doesn't tolerate errors? It does. Unless you use top grade, ECC memory chips it will make tiny errors all the time - the way a CD player does. Not to mention errors made in transferring data through the buffer to the disc etc. A quick 'system check' with a powerful tool soon reveals plenty of duff files that windows hides from view.

Yes, the PC doesn't make serious errors, although a quick error-checking session may reveal the horror of damaged files, but to think it 'doesn't tolerate' errors is bizarre. These days HDD's alone are so poor that it's a wise man that backs up all the time! Only WD's discs impress me nowadays. Even my current Seagate is pure crap.

On the other side, the Yamaha's have come pretty close to good quality sound with Solid state, so why shouldn't someone go one better and produce a geniune audiophile SS replay system?

With regards the other comment about having your whole music collection at your fingertips, that's another argument altogether. Many feel that unless you store them in album and track order you defeat one of the main objects of musical creation - the album as a 'whole' rather than just a random collection of tracks. This is already happening with the current ripping to HDD's.
 

jon_mendel

Established Member
bobdixon said:
Well he's right in that MP3s etc are compressed (128 kbps I think) to such an extent that quality is reduced. For example if I burn a downloaded MP3 to CD, when playing it my RCS indicates clipping almost without fail - that is purely down to compressed files that were already mastered for extra loudness :eek: So if you want to rip your CDs (or vinyl come to that) instead of using MP3 etc you should use the lossless format of Wav or Flac or similar which 'do not' compress the files. In fact a new company in the states (called musicgiants I think) are offering downloads of uncompressed music of up to 1100 kbps which will be better quality without a doubt.

Am I missing something here? afaik, compression to save disk space (as used on MP3s) is completely different to compression of dynamic range (to make CDs sound louder). Even if you compress a track with good dynamic range to an MP3, it'll still have good dynamic range, although compression may introduce other artefacts (and if an idiot producer/record company has compressed the sound on a CD too much, to make it, like, LOUDER than all the others, you can't fix it :( )

One other thing - I'm always surprised when people claim that compressing files to MP3 does horrible things to the sound. 128 is somewhat noticable, but by the time you get up to 320 then I can't pick out a well-ripped MP3 in a blind test... In sighted tests, the MP3 'sounded' horrible, but blinded I couldn't tell the difference :rolleyes:

If you haven't already done so, well worth trying a blind test of MP3 at 320 (or even 220) vbr vs lossless, to see if you can hear any/much difference. Foobar makes this v easy to do. Lossless is great for archiving, but don't know that I need it for listening...
 

Cable Monkey

Prominent Member
jon_mendel said:
In sighted tests, the MP3 'sounded' horrible, but blinded I couldn't tell the difference

If the knowledge that what you are listening to is Mp3 spoils your enjoyment then even if a blind test is inconclusive it still makes lossless the prefered option. If our hobby were simply about ears it wouldn't be a problem but unfortunately we complicate things.:)
 

jon_mendel

Established Member
Cable Monkey said:
If the knowledge that what you are listening to is Mp3 spoils your enjoyment then even if a blind test is inconclusive it still makes lossless the prefered option. If our hobby were simply about ears it wouldn't be a problem but unfortunately we complicate things.:)

Fair point. Now I know I can't tell the difference blind, listening 'sighted' doesn't spoil my enjoyment anymore...but for others it might still do so.
 

overkill

Distinguished Member
jon_mendel said:
Fair point. Now I know I can't tell the difference blind, listening 'sighted' doesn't spoil my enjoyment anymore...but for others it might still do so.
Even blind I can still tell the difference between a 320 MP3 and a standard music file. I thought in all honesty I wouldn't be able to, but the kids did a series of tests on me, and I could. Sad really...................
 

rupbert

Established Member
I can tell the difference as well, on a good hi-fi seperate setup anyway. With even a 320kbps file there is just something about it that does not sound like the original.

I accept though that the difference while noticable to some discerning ears, it very small and for the majority of listeners it would not detract from the experience.
 

bobdixon

Established Member
jon_mendel said:
Am I missing something here? afaik, compression to save disk space (as used on MP3s) is completely different to compression of dynamic range (to make CDs sound louder). Even if you compress a track with good dynamic range to an MP3, it'll still have good dynamic range, although compression may introduce other artefacts (and if an idiot producer/record company has compressed the sound on a CD too much, to make it, like, LOUDER than all the others, you can't fix it :( )

One other thing - I'm always surprised when people claim that compressing files to MP3 does horrible things to the sound. 128 is somewhat noticable, but by the time you get up to 320 then I can't pick out a well-ripped MP3 in a blind test... In sighted tests, the MP3 'sounded' horrible, but blinded I couldn't tell the difference :rolleyes:

If you haven't already done so, well worth trying a blind test of MP3 at 320 (or even 220) vbr vs lossless, to see if you can hear any/much difference. Foobar makes this v easy to do. Lossless is great for archiving, but don't know that I need it for listening...

Didn't say that compression to MP3 format and compression of dynamic range to increase loudness were the same, just two incidents of compression none of which improve quality. And almost all downloads are at 128, which to my ears there is a noticeable drop in quality :)
 

rupbert

Established Member
bobdixon said:
And almost all downloads are at 128, which to my ears there is a noticeable drop in quality :)

Personally I cannot listen to anything less than 256kbps, either on my PC or MP3 player.

128kbps is very poor, maybe suitable for streaming radio but certainly nowhere near cd quality.
 

Fluke

Banned
I've compared 320k mp3 vs CD and I cant tell the difference, however on my Sony Minidisc I can, and also on low bitrate MP3's I can hear the difference.
 

jon_mendel

Established Member
bobdixon said:
Didn't say that compression to MP3 format and compression of dynamic range to increase loudness were the same, just two incidents of compression none of which improve quality. And almost all downloads are at 128, which to my ears there is a noticeable drop in quality :)

Sure - sorry if I misunderstood. Were you saying that online MP3 stores re-master files so they're even 'hotter' than before, then :(

And yeah, I'm quite happy to accept that some people can hear the changes caused by even high bitrate MP3s (and apparently those who can't can be trained to do so). Glad I can't, anyway - makes things much easier :D
 
J

jimmy_b

Guest
Cable Monkey said:
If the knowledge that what you are listening to is Mp3 spoils your enjoyment then even if a blind test is inconclusive it still makes lossless the prefered option. If our hobby were simply about ears it wouldn't be a problem but unfortunately we complicate things.:)
Yep, it is silly but true! Also, although I can't tell the difference between 320 and lossless on my current system (I can at 192) there's this the little worry in me that as I upgrade my system, I might eventually reach a point where I can hear a difference at 320. That would be horrible as I wouldn't want to have to rip my entire collection again. So, it's lossless FLAC all the way for me.

Jimmy
 

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