WHY IS EVERYONE SO DOWN ON CD?

billy.armstrong@ntlworld.com -- Wed, 01/26/2011 - 17:44

I've been lucky enough to be involved in the high-end audio industry for the last five years (I'm not currently, so please don't read the following as an attempt to drum up business) but for at least the last year or so I've been utterly dismayed by the fact that it's impossible to open up a hi-fi magazine withouth the 'DEATH OF CD' gleefully being pronounced. Why am I perturbed? Because over the last 2-3 years the performance of the CD format has improved exponentially. Players like Esoteric's K01 or K03, Audio Research's CD8, Gryphon's Mikado Signature, Wadia's 581 - all of them (and yes I have heard all of them) offer lifelike sound with large dollops of emotional involvement. And none of them bear the thumb print of the dreaded digititis.
Recently I heard the following system: ML 512 SACD / 326S pre / 532 power amp and ProAc Carbon6 loudspeakers. Now I can safely say I had NEVER heard sound like this before. Previous great systems I'd experienced might have been able to match up to it on one specific genre or another, but irrespective of whatever type of music I threw at it, this system (well, to me at least) represented a new frontier. I've seen Donald Fagen's 'Nightfly' album described before in the hi-fi press as a compressed 80's recording - well, not this time round. Here this 'compressed' recording opened up and bloomed in a startling glue-you-to-your-seat manner. I imagined that this is how it must have sounded in the control room of The Village Recorder, maybe even better (I've been in a lot of recording studios!) It was just so supremely pleasurable; how I wished all the high-end nay-sayers out there could have heard it even just for one minute.
The same hi-fi press who are so gleefully collaborating in the attempt to bury the optical disk have conversely been the main cheerleaders in the vinyl revival. Why is it worth all the endless faffing about? For one simple reason: it sounds better. Well I've got news for you - it doesn't! There's a review online of the 512 (I think it's Home Theatre.com or something like that) and the reviewer opines that the 512 is the first CD player he's experienced that actually surpasses the performance of the mega price-ticket turntables. Am I allowed to repeat such a sacriligious assertion here on the hallowed territory of The Absolute Sound!
I'm not immune to the appeal of hi-res downloads, and I can appreciate a space-saving set up that's high on useability and low on messing about. But I've auditioned both a full-fat Sooloos system as well as a Macbook (with solid state drive)/ Ayre QB9 and neither matched up sonically to the players I've mentioned. Yes they both sounded great, but not OMG great. And isn't OMG great the goal all of us audiophiles are meant to be aiming for.
So, to anyone out there planning on spending their next thousand free evenings burning music onto a computer - don't bother. Instead visit your local dealer and ask him to let you listen to a CD player that he thinks is really good. Then buy it, take it home, and let the music flow. And don't bother about the fact you can't control it from your ipad. I mean we spend all day as it is staring at screens, do we really need to do more goggling when we get home, just to enjoy our music collection?
And p.s. Could Absolute review Mark Levinson's new gear? The 512 SACD player has been available for two years already.

rossop -- Wed, 01/26/2011 - 18:50

I think people originally took up CD for its convenience and the fact they didn't scratch like records. Convenience was the biggie. Then it took about twenty years for them to even begin to sound any good. Remember the sound of early CD players? Perfect sound forever, or what?
 
I have the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC. It is a good sounding combo but with the Bridge installed in the DAC it is  far more convenient than playing CD. It sounds just as good too which makes it a win win situation.
 
If I have to get up all the time I would rather play vinyl. It is much more fun and sounds just great as well

Priaptor -- Wed, 01/26/2011 - 19:20

I think the PWT/PWD is fantastic and an incredible bargain for the price.

However, I do not think the Bridge is as good as the PWT. I did some extensive comparisons and my conclusions mirrored some others opinion as well.

I also compared the ARC DAC 8 via USB and Pure Music to the Bridge and found the Bridge better.

For me, the PWT still rules.

I actually bought the PWD/Bridge so I didn't need a transport. After borrowing my dealers transport and doing an A/B I bought the transport immediately thereafter.

Sam -- Wed, 01/26/2011 - 19:18

Billy, while I agree from ur tests that those specific players do indeed sound superior, there are some music server setups that do sound equal to them. The problem is setting it up properly. I also didn't find the sound of wadia 170 I transport or the sooloos reference level....not even close. I think if music is copied bit perfect with proper setup on some servers with and excellent digital interface then a music server can be rewarding. It is sad that magazine declare winners so quickly when they have so many flaws. That's why always audition. And that's what you did. If ur search continues you may find a hard disk setup as good sounding as the others u heard, but an excellent DAC and proper software hardware and digital transfer/interface is key.

Priaptor -- Wed, 01/26/2011 - 19:35

Sam,

I can only speak on my comparisons of the ARC DAC 8 using their HD USB interface, properly set up, with Pure Music as the front end and it was not as nice as the Bridge from PSA.

Having said that, I was kind of distraught hearing the PWT, which I purchased afterwards, sounding better than PSA's bridge. Their PWT/PWD is an amazing product and a real bargain in the audio world. While I will continue to use their Bridge, I will do my serious listening using their Transport.

rossop -- Wed, 01/26/2011 - 21:23

In my setup I have found the differences between the bridge and transport to be so minimal that it is just like splitting hairs.

I like the Cisco hybrid SACD of Jennifer Warnes The Well. I put the CD in the transport and play the ripped version through the bridge and change back and forth between the two. They sound very similar to me. What I would really like is some magic wand that makes my bad sounding music sound as listenable as this album. Now that would be something!

rossop -- Thu, 01/27/2011 - 18:23

Sam, what would you consider to be the best setup for streaming to PWD with bridge? Its all new to me. I just put a $100 1tb hard drive in my PC. Nothing special. I used dBpoweramp to rip CDs and I use J.River Media Center as a DLNA sever. Any tips would be very handy. Thanks

Mr Plus -- Thu, 01/27/2011 - 06:39

There is nothing whatsoever wrong with CD. A good CD player delivers a remarkable sound. We in the media aren't 'down' on CD. We are, however, attempting to be realistic about what's happening in the CD market.
 
Every six months (in January and July), the UK industry gets an update on market trends from the statistics company GfK. As you might expect, the market stats for 2010 were pretty grim reading across the board, but they were especially depressing when it comes to CD player sales. The most enthusiastic metric you could point to in CD showed sales down by about 40% on last year, which was already down about a third on the year before that. The average value of those CD player sales had also fallen, too. This possibly inverts at the very top end; sales and typical outlay for a CD player are both up slightly (from anecdotal evidence in speaking to high-end dealers, distributors and manufacturers, not information extracted from the market data stats), which would seem to follow a trend seen in turntable sales, when people used to talk about 'final vinyl' systems.
 
Curiously, according to the interim GfK report six months ago, turntable sales outstipped CD sales in the UK for the first time in 20 years. In addition, if you look at the number of CD players and record decks sold, and compare that to the total number of magazines sold at the same time, it's clear that these trends are not necessarily being driven by the magazines; they are happening to the market, and the magazines are reacting to those changes.
 
At this time, it's unclear whether CD player (or, for that matter, disc) sales will bounce back as they did in the turntable market, or whether this downward trend is set to continue. Certainly at this time, new CD players are pretty thin on the ground and practically every company that made its mark as a digital audio brand now has some kind of relatively new post-CD solution, usually alongside an aging CD player line. And it may be that factoid that gives the appearance of magazines being somehow down on CD; if you get 10 new streamers for every one new CD player for review, a magazine will almost automatically look pro-streamer. We also are duty bound to describe the right way to make such products work and integrate with existing systems, which means features explaining the terminology and the technology. All of which can combine to make a magazine seem to disfavor CD.
 
For my part, this is something of a tightrope walk. As the digital world is in a state of flux at this time, like most editors, I get criticised for being both too stuck in the old ways and too enthusiastic for the new... at the same time. If we run too many reviews and features that meantion streaming or USB, emails spring up about us trying to kill off CD, but if we run too many reviews and features about CD (and especially about SACD), emails pop into my inbox asking me to set my watch to 21st Century time. The reality is, we won't be abandoning either, just as we won't be abandoning vinyl. Streaming products are just another couple of shelves on the hi-fi system; whether those shelves never get filled, push the CD player off its own shelf or whether the old and the new sit side by side on the rack is ultimately immaterial.
 
Finally, while I can't speak for my Absolute Sound colleagues, I've been waiting for a review sample of the 512 since it was announced. Perhaps this year I'll get lucky.

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

miguel@miguelc.com -- Thu, 08/30/2012 - 13:20

Curious that nobody in this discussion has even mentioned one good reason for the CD demise? I have not bought a CD in three years. 99% of CDs can now be downloaded in different lossless files directly to your hard drive for usually a better price. More and more titles are being recorded or remastered in 96hz or higher sampling. With an ever growing choice of DAC and music software you can compose the equivalent of a very sophisticated sound system for a fraction of the price. Precise up sampling and equalization can be performed for less than $200 and with a quality shy of $20k of analog equipment. And what about the sound? Well, after 3 years and tens of friends in the audio industry doing AB listening up to the wee hours, we have yet to hear a cd played on the best players outclass what is already the present and definitely the future! And following CD sales, I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Apple, PureMusic, Wavelength DAC & Electronics, Avantgarde Grosso

Miguel de Miranda Correa

Eagertrader -- Thu, 08/30/2012 - 15:29

Miguel, going straight to the point, there is an intrinsic value on the physical ownership of music, be it in CD or LP format. It is palpable, visual, as well as auditory. I get what you are saying, you save a lot of storage real estate and money, for roughly the same sound, although that may be a debate for others to continue. The audio hobby, especially at the high end, is not concerned with convenience, but with collecting, much like art collectors would buy and pride in the ownership of the actual art, as opposed to having HD flat screens displaying thousands of paintings at a megafraction of their cost.

Having the sounds stored in a hard disk or in memory and having a collection of recorded music are two different things. Neither better, just different.

miguel@miguelc.com -- Sat, 09/01/2012 - 08:38

I can understand that. My best friend has 7000 lps. We love arguing while listening to great music...

mcduman -- Thu, 01/27/2011 - 11:23

i feel your pain, mr plus. i could never imagine quoting from stereophile but they did a good job identifying different types of digitial sources in the market today. i am a subscriber both to your magazine and the TAS and personally I would be happier if you reviewed Type 2. 
 

1. Optimized Music Computers: These are hot-rodded off-the-shelf computers and software packages from Amarra and Pure Music to help you set up your own computer as a high quality server.
2. Disc Players/Music Streamers: These are disc players that also stream files and can connect to hard drives with varying ability
3. Disc Players/Music Streamers/Preamps: Same as the list above, but also have varying degrees of preamp functionality built in.
4. Music Server Hubs:These are the servers which don't include music storage and at the same time leverage Apple or Microsoft products for an interface and file management. Some have disc drives for ripping discs and some don't (another sub-category perhaps?). They provide an optimized center portion of an audiophile music server, but not the edges. Some include streaming from internet radio sources.
5. Music Server Hubs with Storage: Some companies include varying degrees of internal music storage, but still leverage Apple devices to control their systems.
6. Complete Music Server Solutions: Then there are the tip-to-tail solutions all of which provide everything you need straight out of the box with varying degrees of upgradability. You can add an iPod/iPad interface if you like, but it is not necessary.
7. USB DACs. These are sprouting all over, and have varying capabilities regarding higher sampling rates (note that most of the above products have USB inputs on them as well)

DaveC -- Thu, 01/27/2011 - 12:36

For those of a "certain age" the "ritual of the disc" is an integral element of the listening experience. This is one area where the CD has something in common w/ vinyl. I believe that CDs will continue to be important as long as there listeners, most likely at the high end, who continue to enjoy their CD collections in conjunction with their vinyl.  I actually have very little interest in the new server technology since for my part the emphasis is on data storage capability and convenience.  I listen to my CDs and vinyl as a respite from the mass data storage culture.

Ded Frag -- Sun, 01/30/2011 - 14:37

 There's a rule that explains in part the original poster's question." Any given technology is always perfected soon after it's regarded by the buying public as obsolete." 

jtein -- Fri, 02/11/2011 - 01:40

Believe it or not, I actually prefer the sound of CD (well-recorded ones) to that of SACD, high-res and even vinyl! I find it has a more 'live' and dynamic feel to it. Is my hearing screwed? 

JLeeMD -- Fri, 02/11/2011 - 16:57

No. I find SACDs to have higher resolution, more natural timbres and better dynamics (especially microdynamic shading) resulting in a musical presentation with a greater sense of ease. At times, however, I do find CDs to have better leading edge articulation thus giving the music a more vivid presentation. Having said that, when a SACD recording is done well, the results are sublime!

Ded Frag -- Fri, 02/11/2011 - 18:41

Hang on a moment. Lets be careful we're not comparing apples with oranges here. For all we know jten's assessment might be based on a state of the art CD player/DAC compared with a less than perfect SACD player. For instance, I'd rather listen to my Meridian 808.2 playing CD's than some of the cheaper SACD players I've auditioned but prefer SACD by a long shot if the SACD player is up to the task.

JLeeMD -- Fri, 02/11/2011 - 19:00

A great CD recording played back on a great CD player will sound better than a so-so SACD recording played back on a so-so SACD player. But I agree with you that a great SACD recording played back on a great SACD player (mine's an Esoteric X-05) sounds fantastic and seems to offer a more palpable, realistic presentation compared with the CD layer on a hybrid disc.

Michael James -- Tue, 06/07/2011 - 07:18

I think that it's ironic, that we are hearing about the so called demise of the CD, because one of of the very two things that heralded it's introduction : convenience.
Ever since the invention of the hand held remote, we've become less and less physically involved with certain aspects of life. Like changing a record over or getting up to change a channel on the TV, radio station, or dialing a phone.. now we are seeing phones without keys...
Yes, the high end hi fi stores are going the way of record stores and bookstores.... but... I think that it's a bit like synthesizer music.. At one time, every musical instrument could be played from a keyboard. And a lot of music was made using a synthesizer.
Then people grew weary of listening to a beat that wasn't from a real drum or the sound of a horn that wasn't created with the human breath..
MTV Unplugged, with their all acoustic sets, was viewed as a return to music that was fresh.
I think that people will come back around to wanting to be involved with the music they listen to.. and the CD and the LP will be what people play..

Do you want to better or do you want to be good?
 

JA FANT -- Tue, 06/07/2011 - 05:37

Not me. I love the CD and will continue to show my support buying them.

ElvisisBack -- Thu, 06/23/2011 - 13:22

The High-End is in trouble. Prices are sky high and out of reach of most boomers who support the high-end for over 50 years. Boomers are aging and as they age they go one to different interests. CD is not dead by a long shot. I have LPs and around 1200 CDs. Do you think I have the time to sit there and download all my CDs onto a music server? Alternatively, for that matter, why would I spend money again to buy them online and download them? I am sure CDs will go the way of the LP (in 10-20 years or so); digital was the future and has been for 30 years now. However, the heart of high-end audio is the boomers, and music collectors are the boomers. The loss that the industry is feeling is the boomers are getting up there in age with no large group to replace them.
Digital today is wonderful and like all technologies (like 78 to LP's) improved as more was understood as time marched on. They say a spinning disc is not a good way to listen to music, then the LP must really suck, it spins, has tracking errors through the playback, pops and clicks, tone arm and cartridge colorations. But it still sounds good. I know if I only purchased a $15,000 turntable, $10,000 arm and $5,000 cartridge I been in hog heaven.
This is not a knock to Vinyl (another retro trend), but just to say all the so-called reviewer magazines are pushing a new way to listen because what else is new due to digital coming into its own and sounds so dam good. Therefore, what else can we help create to get buyers buying again? Oh yeah will help create a new market, and say CD is dead enough and they will believe it. Truth is people just are not buying music in any format like the way they once did. To many other options and for the younger generation they grew up with PCs, gaming, DVDs, texting, iPods, and cell phones, just as we grew up with cars, radios, LPs, and dreaming about a great audio system. Two different generations with different wants and needs. The younger ones also care little about the quality [and are concerned] more about just having the music portable and fast.
Until the high end starts to market itself better, and when I start seeing less gray hair at CES, will I then say a new generation is into hi-fi. I have as much music as I need, and I will continue to buy CDs and excellent CD players. My current one is the Marantz SA-7S1 and it is just superb. Against my vinyl, it sounds as good or better as long at that CD was mastered with care. This does not mean the LP doesn’t sound good or downloads, I’m just saying a false myth as been created. People just are not buying music, and when they do they make copies for family and friends, so a lot of the so-called lost sales come from copies where content matters not the sound quality, they just what the tune. This is the main reason for lack of sales, not that CD is dead.
SACD is a niche market for one good reason: Red Book CD mastering came so far during the past 12 years that SACD no longer reigns as always the best sounding. As for the LP reissue, why the same damn titles over and over and over and at $50 a pop or two LPs for $75?. Not me.
Looking at the FACTS, LP's are the least in music sales (same old titles released over and over same for SACD) , downloads (disappointment thus far in sales or better yet lagging in what the expected) and at the top still is CD's.
Having said that, what the creators of this marketing hype do not say is music of any sort is down across the board as far as sales go. Reason one illegal free downloads, reason two boomers are not buying, and boomers are the heart and soul of collecting music, and high-end audio. With CD, being the dominant format it sales will reflect the greatest drop but this drop is across the board. However, to say it is dead no, less sales yes, but still much higher that downloading or the .5% vinyl market.
So what can we push that is fresh and can get us new sales….ah, make downloading hip, the new thing, throw out that CD player, it sucks big time. Therefore, they all write buy a music servicer, DAC’s and all the rest. An Apple mini will do just fine for downloading files, but they can sell you a Meridian Soolos for 10’s thousands of dollars with cables makers as you noticed now selling USB cables in the hundreds of dollars, wow did they catch on fast!
The points is digital is cheap, very cheap, it also a format that is not controllable, vinyl was because of it limitations to making good copies with ease and needing lots of real time to make a copy of just 1 LP. The music industry at least could have kept control of the medium if they kept LP as the medium, but then who knew Napster was coming and people who flock in droves to free music content.
Yep, I know it is different to be able to point to your screen and play music, but I cannot see why anyone who has a good collection has to go that route unless you can no longer buy CDs, which is not the case and by a long shot. This is why our generation knows music history, even artists and songs before we were born, and that will never be seen again, because music was the thing back then, today that is no longer the case, many other avenues to spend our money.
I hope that people will start spending on music again, if not it will fade as the boomers die off and something new will have taken its place. I mean I know serious gamers as nuts as audiophiles who are in the late 30’s and early 40’s now. Time waits for no one.

PJB

rossop -- Fri, 06/24/2011 - 16:41

I only have half the number of CDs you have. It took me a couple of days to burn them all to hard drive. I play them back via PS Audio Bridge and find it rather rewarding. I dont use the transport much at all and my turntable even less. I still like to buy CDs and burn them. I find it cheaper to do that than download them plus you actually 'have' them.
I take your point though: things aint what they used to be and it is a pitty.
I showed a couple of thirteen year olds a copy of the latest Lady Ga Ga album on vinyl and they literally could not keep their hands off it. They had never seen anything like it. Something that size that they can actually touch really astounded them.

saren david -- Mon, 08/27/2012 - 23:18

Am very fond of music and have a great collection of my own. One thing i never bothered about is the details and small small technicalities associated with the music. Am so happy to go through yoyr blog and getting a broad picture of the entire concept.
cd printing

Keladrin -- Tue, 08/28/2012 - 10:48

When we look at the weakest link in the audio chain by far - the loudspeaker, it's not difficult to realise that the potential for observable Hi-Fi quality actually reached a plateaux several decades ago - probably with the introduction of CD, together with decent mastering techniques to make use of the increased dynamic range and stero separation available. It's still the case that the loudspeaker has not caught up so the debate about media is a bit of a red herring. As soon as you mention the speakers you use in the equipment chain you are overhelmingly dictating what your system is capable of. Sorry for the generalisation but that's the state of play at the moment.

You have to do some fundamental improvement to loudspeaker technology to reproduce anything like what recording media is capable of storing and we are just not there yet with standard speakers. The future in Hi-fi is developing the acoustic transducer along innovative lines (electrostatics, arrays, dipoles, full-range drivers, combinations of these), not trying to extract the last few hundreths of a percentage points of harmonic distortion or dynamics from the CD, DVD, BD, vinyl, solid state. Vinyl revivial is just another symptom of the loudspeaker dead-end we are all at.

Marcel -- Wed, 08/29/2012 - 02:22

Well spoken!

Eagertrader -- Thu, 08/30/2012 - 12:37

 You have to define yourself as to which of these categories you belong to: 1) A serious listener of music or 2) A serious listener of how good can a system sound. Musicians created music long before there was technology, thus it stands to reason that most music was/is/will be created for the first group in mind.
My ego drove me to the second group above for many years, always looking to get more and better. There is a fair amount of "listener anxiety" that takes away from the experience. As I matured (and so did my system), I found that most of the rewards are in the content/context itself.
I point out the above because I found that loading the CD or queing an LP as being part of the musical experience, is not a nuisance but an integral part of the musical foreplay. Washing my LP's w/my VPI machine equates to carefully marinating a prime steak.
Another most enjoyable activity is reading the booklet on the CD or the cover of the LP as I listen. It is amazing what one can learn about the life and times of notable musicians, and the visual rewards the artful pictures and drawings. None of this has to do with "convenience", but with contributing to the education of one's mind. No Server or Dac is able to give me that amount of pleasure. Certainly staring at your Laptop or Ipod even if you know that there is a large collection of files, is not visually as rewarding at looking at your LP's or CD's neatly stacked on your shelves.

TheArt (not verified) -- Thu, 08/30/2012 - 16:08

I find it amusing that the 'vinyl revolution' started at almost exactly the point where state-of-the-art digital started to eclipse the capabilities of the LP.  Many audiophiles heard those first awful-sounding CDs back in the '70s and swore off digital sources FOREVER. (I still have a copy of Telarc's 1978 'Firebird', with its 2-inch deep soundstage and tympani that sound like big sheets of metal.)  But recent digital recordings bear no resemblence to those awful early attempts.  They have much better frequency-range and dynamic extension (better than LPs ever had!), and on a good player they produce instrumental timbres and ambient cues as "alive" as any LP.  If you still suffer from digititis, you need a better CD player... period.

I am just now STARTING to hear downloads that sound as good (or better) than polycarbonate discs played back on an excellent CDP.  That's still not easy to do, but it's coming.  Eventually, DSD (and Double DSD!) downloads will be the ultimate source material.  I'm in no hurry to get there.  I'll happily let the early-adaptors pay the big bucks, make the mistakes, and suffer the frustration as the bugs are slowly worked out.  But it's pretty clear to me that eliminating the laser & transport (weakest link in most CDPs) with reading from electronic memory will eventually provide big sonic improvements.  Potentially, you should be able to greatly reduce jitter and virtually eliminate error correction.

We are not there yet, and I am nowhere near giving up my CDs and SACDs.  I'd say the best solution right now is an excellent-sounding CDP can accept digital input from a PC or server (if only for 'future use').  I've found that payers with tubed output stages sound best (to me).  My current players are the E.A.R. Acute, and for SACDs the Modwright/Sony XA-5400ES.  I can't wait to hear the upcoming Acute IV, which will handle SACD and boasts a new proprietary transport and an outboard power supply.

CD vs. SACD - Don't even try to compare them unless you have the exact same recording on both media.  There is no consistent "CD sound" or "SACD sound".  It all depends on the dource recording, mastering, and physical productrion of the disc.  An SACD of a classic jazz recording digitized from the analog master may sound wonderful (if remastered well).  But it cannot sound like one originally recorded in DSD.  In fact, DSD recordings that are mixed down to PCM still sound outstanding, even though there's a lot less data being played back.  (Sony experimented with that over 30 years ago - 'Super Bit-Mapping'.)  There is no winner in CD vs. SACD.  You need to judge every individual recording on its own merits 

Happy Listening to all! Art

Keladrin -- Fri, 08/31/2012 - 09:47

 'But it's pretty clear to me that eliminating the laser & transport (weakest link in most CDPs) with reading from electronic memory will eventually provide big sonic improvements'

Not so sure about this. First of all the the bits are all read into buffer to even out read speed which is essentially solid-state so the transport speed is not an issue. Jitter could theoretically creep in if the clockspeeds are not consistent but this could also be a problem with solid-state as here you are sill relying on the bits being converted to analogue at the correct speed. This is where jitter creeps in. Actually evidence has shown that this jitter is already below audibility in basic cd players.

Then even if you do get an improvement, like I say you are likely well below the threshold as can be resolved by current speaker technology.
Interesting points for discussion  though.

TheArt (not verified) -- Fri, 08/31/2012 - 12:40

Hi Keladrin,  Sorry, but your argument was specious from the start.  By your logic, we needn't spend $$ for good-sounding components because our speakers can't produce better (more accurate?) sound.  That's not at all the way audio works, and I'm sure you know better.  Everything in the chain makes an AUDIBLE difference, including the wires.  And the sound is a result oif the synergy of all these components working together.  How's this.  Pick any speaker (of reasonable qulity) you want, and I will 'dictate' how it sounds by selecting the amp that drives it.

If you are not aware of the vast improvements in speaker technology over the past few decades... well, maybe you need to get out more.  If you want to use this artificial limit of resolution to avoid spending $$ for better sound, go to it.  But you're only fooling yourself.

Next, if you think the introduction of the CD was the last big step forward in audio, you REALLY need to get out more.  The recording and mastering gear (and yes, techniques) bear no resemblence to what was being done then... nor do the results.  Have you ever heard of Hi-Res mastering, or apodizing digital filters?  How about HRx or DSD?  And just as DACs are vastly improved (and still improving) so have the ADCs used in recording. 

Which brings us to the equally vast improvement in playback gear.  Back in the day, there were no players using tubes, there was no Esoteric VRDS-Neo transport, clocks were not as accurate, and the best DACs (Wolfson is my favorite) didn't yet exist.

And think of what we didn't even know back then.  We thought that 22.Khz was the highest frequency you needed to reproduce for good sound.  They wrote 16-bit words, but rarely used more than 14 bits.  'Jitter' was not yet understood, so it could not be addressed.  BTW, your understanding of jitter is not quite correct..  Yes, it can be the result of unsynchonized clocking.  It can also be introduced in the productrion of the disc, or by a poor digital cable.  The one place jitter does NOT occur is in the DAC, where the bits are converted to an analogue signal.

Lastly, the 'evidence' that jitter in 'basic CD players' (whatever that means) is not audible is NONSENSE.  I certainly can hear it.  Can't you?  Don't different players sound different to you?  Haven't you ever noticed the tinny high frequencies and truncated soundstage in inferior CDPs?  You know, what people often call "digititis"?  That is (mostly) the sound of jitter.

None of this has anything whatsoever to do with the speed of the transport.  However, transports vibrate as the disc spins at high speed, making it harder for the laser to accurately read the bits.  That brings in the 2nd enemy of good digital sound - error correction.  It happens every time you spin a disc.  Better players (especially those with better transports) read the bits more accurately, require less error correction, and suqsequently sound much better.  Well, guess what hardly ever reads a wrong bit - a magnetic hard-drive (because computers don't do error correction - you drop a bit, you're screwed).  And guess what's faster, quieter and even more accurate than a hard-drive - electronic memory.

There are still many glitches to work out in 'computer audio'.  Right now, it takes a little skill & knowledge to get sound comparable to an excellent player.  But the potential is there for even BETTER sound by upgrading the weakest link in transmitting the data - which is a light beam trying to read little pits off a piece of aluminum foil spinning (and vibrating) at very high speed.

This is GOOD news! There is even better audio in our future, and that can't be bad.

Happy Listening, Art

Keladrin -- Mon, 09/03/2012 - 07:46

Hi Art,
Sorry you are living in some Audio fantasyland if you think I am going to swallow any of that. Your misconceptions are typical of the commercial audio scene. Just to put a few of your misconceptions in context:

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/ast/26/1/26_1_50/_pdf

 
Sorry but jitter in current gear is not audible, 30,000ps for sighted and 250,000ps for blind.
As for your assumption that jitter does not occur in the DAC  - I'm sure a bit of research on your part will enlighten you. Perhaps the above paper for a start. Do you actually know anything about audio engineering?
Jitter in digital cables - sorry it's to do with clock speeds, get your facts straight. Do you have a clock in your cable?? You are talking to a high end audio design engineer not an audio salesman or journalistic puppet.

As for your 'digititus' - perhaps you should see a doctor. No there's no such thing. There are a number of issues with HF in mics and speakers though and that could be your issue.

Acually 22Khz is the highest frequency you need to reproduce to do eveything the human ear can appreciate - maybe some basic signal theory is required - see any research paper on samplng theory. I can provide a few if you are stuck. A very good one is here:

http://lavryengineering.com/pdfs/lavry-sampling-theory.pdf

To put is basically for you music (we can hear) is all made from up of constituent sinewaves and the highest frequency of these that can be possibly heard is around 20KHz. By reproducing all the constituent sinewaves below the critical filter frequency you can perfecty reconstruct all audiable waveforms. Its called the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem.

Since I design loudspeakers I am an expert in what they are capable of and with even the best you are looking at the weakest chain in the audio chain and by a very long way indeed (outside compromised recordings - I mean dynamic compression here mainly). I can blind you with the science if you like but if you don't get this yet you probably never will. Do some reading up on transient response, dispersion, distortion (harmonic and inter-modulation), low-level detail, compression, frequency smoothness, imaging, resonances (waterfall) for starters!

ElvisisBack -- Sun, 09/02/2012 - 08:42

Keladrin,
 
Well wrote. You also nailed it, and the number 1 spin doctors of half truths and myth's is the audio magzines.
 
They are the spokeman for the manufactures, Like poltics they are in bed with their donors. It also starts at the recording quality with speakers being as you say the weak link. I've found no issue with CD as long as the mastering was done well, and of course the recording being done with quality.
I have a friend who is not digital for all the myth's we could name listen to my system and said I can hear digital compression, I said what the hell is that, he said it is compressed sound that only digital can have, where did you come up with that from, he said I read it somewhere.
Even when he says that sounds good he finds a fault, but play his vinyl then it all the recordings fault if it sounds bad! Again go figure his logic. He reads all the mags, and goes through equipment like socks. He can have a great system, then tears it down and starts over, looking for the perfect sound. I told him go to concerts, then tear down the hall, because that won't sound pefect either.
Got to love it!
 

PJB

Keladrin -- Sun, 09/02/2012 - 10:03

Pjaud,

Couldn't agree more. You have to look a bit beyond the audio mags and so called 'expert reviews'. I personally take alot of what they say with a pinch of salt and a good laugh - it's a bit like learning science from a tabloid newspaper or medicine from a health food shop - doesn't take a genius to see what is going on in the audio trade and the problem is it is shooting the whole industry in the foot. This very thread is a symptom. I could rant on for a few pages but shall stop here for now.

For the uninformed the independent evidence is infinitely more reliable than any of the tripe you see in the mags. I put it to one of the magazines why they totally ignore the scientific papers on jitter and their response was 'our magazine is for the general public not Phd students' - it's just not in their interest to publish correct information (or at least give the whole story) in other words! What you will read, however is a detailed poetic description of how fantastic the music sounds through their preferred DAC, with no proper qualification - it's a joke that is driving alot of us into histerics!

ElvisisBack -- Sun, 09/02/2012 - 11:46

Your rants would be helpful to many and well needed to sort through all the spin. Your right they have killed the hobby.

audio is no different than marketing in genreral. With the middle class going broke slowly due to 30 years of goverment policy. They have little extra income for toys and if they have kids forget it.

So marketing across all products line is catering to the low end or the very high end of the income bracket.

The middle is not on their radar. Anyone for a $8,000 audio rack, line right up, yep the 1%.

PJB

Keladrin -- Mon, 09/03/2012 - 03:26

'So marketing across all products line is catering to the low end or the very high end of the income bracket.'
...you have excellent perception of the problem Elvis!

TheArt (not verified) -- Mon, 09/03/2012 - 19:32

Keladrin & Elvis, enjoy your mutuial admiration society.  Keladrin, your audio engineering expertise obviously exceeds your ears or your familiartity with the sound of live music. According to your thinking, all CDPs sound alike.  In fact, all systems sound alike... based on what speakers are in use.  And of course, hi-res recordings sound the same as redbook PCM.
 
Gee, there's all this inaudible stuff that I - and many others - can clearly hear.  I have a few friends & acquaintances who are audio engineers,. and seem to hear this stuff too.  Perhaps nobody you'd know (George Cardas, Richard Vandersteen, Evaanna Manley, Bob Carver, John Atkinson, Robert Harley, et. al.), but all with a bit of audio engineering background and an idea of what real music sounds like.
 
It also seems that your understanding of human hearing is a bit out of date.  Nyquist is the ancient history that 44.1 KHz is based on.  We all know by know that humans perceive the "supersonic" frequencies of the high harmonics up to at least 40-50KHz.  How?  Because you tell immediately (if you have ears) when they are stripped off.  So go ahead and send me links to obsolete papers proving what humans can't hear and that bumblebees can't fly.
 
Then tell me again who lives in fantasyland.  I'll stay here, where I can hear the improvements of the past several decades, and where I know great engineers who can explain how they are achieved.  You may keep designing speakers based on 1950s physics, which you can measure... but apparently cannot hear.
 
And having said that, let's end this now.  You seem to know everything you'll ever have to learn about audio.  And I'm not goiing to waste my time trading insults with an earless 'engineer'.  Hell, I've got music to listen to!

ElvisisBack -- Mon, 09/03/2012 - 21:36

Keladrin & Elvis, enjoy your mutuial admiration society
Well don't know about that. But I do know the BS spin, and that was my point. The rest is is Keladrin experience. He speaks for that experience.
 
Enjoy the music. Human hearing what up to 16 KHz when your young? Problem with early digital was just that new with unknown issues, what for some reason keep being harped on like it was not 25 years later. My like 78's and the sound pre 1948 and the big advancement after that in sound quality.
In my listening and experience is gets down to the production and mastering, not the format.
Zip worng with CD or LP, and if you don't care at all about contact with your music, and like down loading tracks to a PC that is fine. What ever melts your butter.  But what I've seen happen over 35 years in this hobby is not a good thing.
We all have our view points, and we should respect those view points. This is a hobby at least when it was affordable to more people.
 
Peace, Love, and Happiness.
 
 
 

PJB

TheArt (not verified) -- Mon, 09/03/2012 - 22:53

"In my listening and experience is gets down to the production and mastering, not the format." 100% agreed, especially these days. Though I would say that in the long run, some formats have potential for better sound than others, execution is #1.

"But what I've seen happen over 35 years in this hobby is not a good thing." Not sure exactly what you mean by that. If it's prices, well... I bought my first car for $2K, and the next one cost me $18K. Now, that wouldn't buy me much at all. At the same time, you can get better sound now for cheap than you could 35 years ago... if you try. But "cheap" ain't what it was 35 years ago either. What you can't buy is high-quality 2012 gear at 1977 prices. But is it fair to expect that? One thing hasn't changed - it's easy to good sound by spending a bundle, but still possible to get it spending wisely

BTW, it's the economy - not the audio 'industry' - which makes this affordable to fewer people. And the greatest injustice of all (IMHO) is that we with the best ears and greatest love of music do not have the most money to spend on it.

TheArt (not verified) -- Mon, 09/03/2012 - 21:48

Elvis, I apologize because I didn't actually read your posts until now.  Let me start by saying that the friend you described is an idiot.  He doesn't know what he's looking for, and will never find it.  I know quite a few 'audiophiles' like him, who have more money than brains, and little clue as to what music actually sounds like.  They hear every change as an "improvement"... for a week or two, and then they're off again looking for the holy grail.  They maje so many changes so often, they have no idea what their systems sound like.  And of course, the industry LOVES 'em, because they spend WAY more $$ than someone with a clue.
 
BTW, I think I know where he got 'digital compression'.  Maybe he tried to read Robert Harley's excellent recent article on "CD Quality", and got himself all confused.  (Early CDs had dynamic compression like LPs do, till they realized they didn't need it.  Now it's used mostly to make pop music sound 'louder'.) Tell him that every LP he owns is dynamically compressed (or the needle would jump the grooves), and watch his head explode!
 
Now, regarding the audio mags. and 'expert' reviewers...  your attitude is both right & wrong.  Since I actually know someof these people, I assure you that they DO have integrity and are NOT just shills.  (e.g. Stereophile will not review the Maggie 3.7s - the hottest new speaker and best bargain in all of audio - because Magnepan will not let John Atkinson print measurements.) 
 
That being said, it IS an industry and the mags have to survive, so read them with that in mind.  You need to read reviews "between the lines" to find out if a component has a fatal flaw, or just isn't good value.  (They also decline to review products they cannot praise at all.  Components are sometimes sent back to the manufacturer with a 'critique' instead of being reviewed.) 
 
Regarding the 'expert' reviewers... They ARE experts in the sense that they've heard and compared a LOT more audio components than most of us ever will.  That broad range of listening experience does have some value (as I've found out over my 40+ years in audio - Yeah, I started early).  Many of them are also musicians and/or recording engineers.  Some simply hear a lot of live music, but they are all trained listeners.
 
BUT STILL, you should never trust what somebody writes about sound...unless they are wearing your ears!  (... and your tastes, etc. etc.)  About the best you can do is find a reviewer who seems to like a lot of the same components that you do when you hear them.  But you still have to judge for yourself, and "put your money where your ears are".  That way, you won't end up like your friend, spitting out stuff he read but didn't understand, and building a new altar to the audio gods every 6 months.
 
To close, I absolutely agree with your political statement about the shrinking Middle Class.  It's a major concern! Unchecked corporate power (and greed) could turn us into a 3rd World country, with a few rich people and the rest all working poor.  In audio, I see two trends.  The 1st is as you describe, the most expensive gear is becoming even more ridiculously expensive.  The 1%-ers are trading their $100K speakers in for $250K behemoths.  But the 2nd trend is high-end manufacturers selling mid-priced components of excellent value with 'trickle-down' technology from the R&D they did on their flagships.  (and yes, that's the only time you'll ever hear me tout 'trickle down' anything).  I could name you  a half-dozen lovely sounding floorstanding speakers for under $5K/pr.  No way I could have done the same 5 years ago.  It may be the one silver lining to this awful economy.
 
It's important to consider that the high-end audio "industry" is nothing like what you may be thinking of as an "industry".  It is mostly an aggregate of many  small privately-owned companies, most of which are struggling to get by in this recession.  Corporations are NOT people.  But Eveanna Manley (Manley Labs is people.  So is Joe Kubala (Kubala-Sosna cables), and Ray Kimber(Kimber Kable), and Dan Wright (Modwright Instruments), and Richard Vandersteen.  These aren't greedy bastards in suits; They are people who love music, audio & electronics,  trying to make a hobby into a living. 

TheArt (not verified) -- Mon, 09/03/2012 - 22:34

Hey Keladrin,  I know I said that I was done with you, but that was before I read the 7 year old paper on jitter.  What a hilariously flawed experiment, starting wth the fact that they used SIMULATED jitter.  "It was confirmed that the distortions obtained by this method using sinusoidal signals exactly agreed with what were predicted by the phase modulation theory."  What a joke!
 
Hey, it also said this, "Although there are little scientific evidences [sic], it is presumed that this phenomenon, so-called, time jitter depends on a modulation of the power supply, the cable length, circuit implementation details in products".  But you KNOW that cables cannot cause jitter, because they don't have clocks in them.  Transmission speed, cable length, etc. could NOT possibly cause jitter...Right?
 
You know what else they said?  "Because the maximum slope in a waveform of a high frequency sound is larger than that of a low frequency one, the same amount of jitter results in the more distortions in the higher frequency sounds."  Gee that sounds a lot like 'digititis', which doesn't exist... Right?
 
I think I've got you figured out.  You've got a low-rez system from Best Buy... your own speakers which apparently make everything sound the same... and no idea of what's possible.  They say ignorance is bliss, so you must be a happy guy.  Enjoy!

Keladrin -- Tue, 09/04/2012 - 09:32

 If you can't attack the message logically take it out on the messenger comes to mind. Just to point out one simple flaw in your argument I didn't say jitter doesn't exist, only your digititis - the human perception of jitter in just about all equipment out there. Please read carefully before you start your denigrating rants.

So the article is 7 years old - so what? If jitter couldnot not be audibly detected in any devices 7 years ago do you think it may be detectable today when you say yourself that audio has improved so much - another major flaw in your argument

You question the use of simulated jitter - then explain how you would do the test yourself. What better way to measure the threshold that humans can hear jitter than by introducing known degrees and finding where the threshold is? Perhaps you would read one of your favourite audio reviews instead where we are talking about a guy making some poetic comments about the experience of listening to music through a system? Can you see the flaw in your arguments now?

'Transmission speed, cable length, etc. could NOT possibly cause jitter' - no it absolutely can't, jitter is to do with uneven clock speeds, not signal delay. Please read a bit more so you know what you are talking about. It is nothing to do with the cable.

For the record, I'm not only an expert audio designer with a higher degree but musician with 'perfect pitch' and adept at a number of instruments. Yes I do have a fantastic hi-fi system and for the record it is 99% to do with the loudspeakers. I don't expect everyone to understand this and I can understand your scepticism, having been exposed and brainwashed by the audio scene fro many years. You probably have a vested interest in your views - you you sell or review audio gear by any chance? Just a guess. 

All I can say to you is put your money where your mouth is and do the Richard Clark test on amplifiers - sorry you don't believe in blind tests - but then you say your are an expert in them and have done many yourself - please make up your mind here!
Lets assume you don't believe in the db test, which makes a bit more sense from the majority of your posts. I ask you the following. What special insights do you gain from:

1. Not matching sound levels and
2. Not hiding the nameplates of the manufacturers

You will find these 2 simple steps will clear up alot of your audio delusions. Please come back when your have tried the Richard Clark amplifier test  and you have something to say that stands up to any logical scrutiny without raining basal insults at everyone.

ElvisisBack -- Tue, 09/04/2012 - 04:25

The Art,
Well wrote. My main point was to give feedback to the thread that why bury CD. Those who promoted except a few analog die hards, said the sounds was stellar, now they rip it in every review if they can get a line in somehow to further ingrain pitch your cd's go server or vinyl. To me it is transparent of that they are doing to gain a younger reader, and to hold on the boomers and get some interest of getting back into vinyl with their collections.

I don't care how one listens to music as long as they do. But this 180 degree back slap in just plain crap. Hearing a well setup system and with both a top rated 20K turntable and the SA7-S1 CD player I came away enjoying both as much and depending on the recording no winner as "best sound", not matter what some write monthly. I have no bias towards either one. I owned Vinyl for years of course, I am of that age...smile!

As far as their ears being trained so hear, I think you and I after so many years can hear also, I've also know from expereince that once you get good the rest in personal taste, and unless your in their room, with their gear, and with all the add on's all one can take out of that review is this is how they preceived it sounded in their room, which means in your or my room 100% total different sound.
By now we at this stage of expereince we know the truths about a good system, anything you add, what type of rack or cables, room panels etc, will have a impact on the final sound, and that really gets back to personal taste. Put 4 apples under a preamp and you will get a different sound
I do hear difference in cables, racks and amps, and all the rest, to included recording polairty which CD's seem to need checking more than the LP's and I think this is due to the remastering of them.

But in the end we keep what we like to our hear, and you do not have to spend $$$$$ for a great system.

I am just sick of the BS and spin, and that was my point. I find it unethical and really a disservice to the reader and folks who have invested much money into their CD collections.

Nothing wrong with well recorded CD medium music, and because I love holding music in my hand I continue to buy great sounding CD's. My newest purchase will be the Bear Family Doo Wop collection of CD and Blues CD's coming out this year, I've pre-ordered my sets direct from them to be shipped in Feb. When they all have been released.
They do a stellar job with the tapes and the mastering, and they smoke my Vinyl LP's of the same songs. Not the LP's fault, but the mastering that can be done with digital TODAY, not 30 years ago when it was young format
 
 
 
 
 
 

PJB

TheArt (not verified) -- Tue, 09/04/2012 - 10:12

Elvis, Once again, I agree 100%. I have a friend with an excellent (and very costly) system. No names, but he regularly reviews for a high-end audio publication. He prefers vinyl to any of his 3 digital sources, but I don't necessarily agree. (They all sound great, and each one slightly different, of course.)

And once again, I apologize for lumping you in with Keladrin, the Great Equalizer, who reads about sound, and perhaps, listens to paintings. Sorry, I have a hard time with people who can't hear and insist that anyone else who can is delusional. I wasted too much time on his nonsense.

Happy Listening! Art

Keladrin -- Tue, 09/04/2012 - 11:07

Shame, I was looking forward to having a good laugh at the next great audiophile zombie revelation 
Happy listening (and indeed spending) all

JLeeMD -- Thu, 09/06/2012 - 12:04

Over the last 10 years, I've upgraded from the Sony SCD-777ES to the Esoteric X-05 to my current SACD/CD player the Mark Levinson No.512.  In my experience, the improvements in CD playback over the last decade are not what one hears but rather what one doesn't hear.  I hear less high frequency distortion, less mechanical sound, less harmonic bleaching especially in the lower midrange, less grit, less glare, etc.  The current state of CD playback is actually very good.  I used to be a classical musician so I can appreciate how far CD playback has come in the past 10 years. The new generation of CD players such as the PS Audio PWT/DAC2, my Levinson No.512, Cambridge Audio 851C, Rega Isis all store the digital bits in a memory buffer before passing it on to the DAC. Fundamental improvements in technology such as this has elevated CD playback tremendously. So if anyone with a large CD collections has not experienced a well-designed new generation CD player, do!

michel james -- Fri, 09/07/2012 - 00:17

I never knew that so much technicalities are associated with Cds. Thanks for giving such a detailed description on the same. Will share this information with my friends too.
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michel james -- Fri, 09/07/2012 - 00:20

I never knew that so much technicalities are associated with Cds. Thanks for giving such a detailed description on the same. Will share this information with my friends too.
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vade@att.net -- Fri, 09/07/2012 - 09:25

Since I started using a server as my primary listening source, my CD purchases have increased substantially. I now rip them instead of listening to them directly, but CD is still the primary distribution medium for music files. MP3s may now or soon surpass CDs sales, but like most audiophiles, I regard CD as the minimum acceptable quality standard.
 
Vade Forrester

Keladrin -- Fri, 09/07/2012 - 10:59

'Levinson No.512, Cambridge Audio 851C, Rega Isis all store the digital bits in a memory buffer before passing it on to the DAC'
All CD players infact do this - it's nothing special

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