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xrcd vs digital downloads?

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I've recently bought some xrcd's and had the opportunity to compare them to standard versions of the same albums. THe music does sound clearer and more defined, as if a veil was lifted. As i understand it, xrcd's improved audio quality by enhancing the process of mastering and manufacturing compact discs. They don't remaster the music itself like Mobile fidelity (MFSL) does. THey just enhance the transfer of the music to cd, so they sound the same as the standard cd's, just clearer. Unfortunately they are expensive and hard to find.


My question is if you buy digital music from places such as HDTracks and Music Giants, do you get music the same quality as xrcd since you skip the whole cd process altogether.


I'd love to try this experiment out.. i have the standard diana krall look of love cd, and the the xrcd version of it. I was going to buy the digital version when i found out Music Giants only accept U.S. buyers (i'm canadian).


So guys, any thoughts?




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We are in the process now of transferring dozens of XRCD24 MO discs for a client. I'd have to say the comparison to the finished product is pretty much night and day. You wouldn't believe the fidelity that is available. I know I'm comparing apples/oranges since these are 24bit files. I'd love to see these titles offered as downloads. We'll see if I can talk him into it.





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XRCD do not re-master the audio material in that kind, as usually most other companies are doing this (more bandwidth, less noise, louder and so less dynamic, (most times, I prefer the original versions over the re-mastered versions (not all time, but most times)) but they do change the data. Most times they leave the frequency behavior untouched (which is fine), but the do a little bit dynamic tweaking. A large difference is visible in the noise shaping when you compare the XRCD data with the original issue and also a little bit compression. So I agree, most times (not all times) they do sound better, but definitely, the data is also different. So you can rip both versions and compare the data with a DAW or appropriate audio program and you will see the difference you hear.





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I hope I'm not offending anyone here, but all XRCDs I ran into, sound distorted. They also do not sound better. They sound saturated and for that matter commercial.


The process used is one that clips the data all over. Go have a look in there. You will be cured forever.




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I don't think that XRCD on its own is always superior to its regular CD counterpart. Some XRCDs sound spectacular while some is not really much different from regular CDs. I imagine that the most important aspect is in re-mastering engineer rather than re-mastering technique/process. I think great engineer probably could procuce better sounding recording on regular CD than mediocre engineer on XRCD recording.

Recently I also got a copy of K2HD sample disc. Some tracks are incredible while some really left me cold.


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I guess my question is a multipart:


1. Do xrcd's only tweak the cd mastering process?


2. Do digital downloads bypass this process? Meaning they come straight from the original studio masters and are not just ripped off cd's. (i'm talking about legal places like HDTracks)


3. if 1 and 2 are correct, than should digital downloads have the benifits (or more) of the supposed xrcd process vs regular cd's. Meaning would the xrcd process become obsolete in terms of digital downloads... meaning it would be better to get the digital download in terms of sound quality vs buying a cd or xrcd and ripping it.


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1. Leaving the re-mastering process outside of this answer, the XRCD process is really fantastic and you are right, with digital downloads the XRCD process is obsolete.


2. Will official downloads do offer the same files? I am traveling very often to High End shows in the US; in the Far East and in Europe, and when I buy some (High End Music) CDs at the theses shows, it is very often the case, that not only the track numbers on the CDs differ between them, also the files are sounding different. So when ripping and looking at the files with a DAW (or audio software), they are different (not always but very often). So what is the correct file? I can’t tell. So with buying CDs I refer only to the 16 Bit CD format and I can’t tell you what will the case, when you download 24 Bit files. So will the 24 Bit files from HD Tracks be the same as the same song downloaded from Linn Records or from 2L?


This must mean that the original mastering engineer has to offer and deliver all different file formats in order to prevent any re-sampling or re-mastering process. So besides answer one, you can’t be sure what you get unless you bought it and listen to it. And coming back to CDs, really I have a lot of CDs, that I bought at different places which really sound different, so I have to sit down and listen an made my own decision, which version I through away (or sell), and which version I should take (and I am not talking about the very strong re-mastering to increase the loudness).





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This is confusing, but I hope I can clear it up.


XRCD is a) a manufacturing process; b) a mastering process.

The mastering process includes proprietary equipment, but like Mobile Fidelity or anyone else doing a mastering, it involves choices in level, equalization, compression, echo, you name it. In my opinion, the sonic differences between XRCDs and other versions are entirely due to these measurable sonic treatments. To wit, many of them sound to me like the treble has been boosted.


However, when downloading or ripping an XRCD, the effects of the manufacturing process (a) should disappear, leaving only the mastering.


What you hear from a download will depend upon how it was mastered, just like a cd.



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  • 2 years later...

This is only to answer the question, "if you buy digital music from places such as HDTracks and Music Giants, do you get music the same quality as xrcd since you skip the whole cd process altogether"


As stated previously it depends:


Not naming anyone in particular, the high res digital downloads can and do things differently depending on what is available and I guess time:


I have found the following:


1) Back to source or master tape and then to 24/96

2) Vinyl to 24/96 (with surface noise)

3a) SACD to Analog (via who know's what player) to 24/96, and

3b) SACD to 24/88.2 direct rip (though there is no such thing, it still is not DSD)

4) DVDA to 24/96 digital (so you get what the DVDA Author did)

5) DVDA to 24/192 digital (Ditto)


So as you can see it is all over the map.




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