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Burning copies that sound better than original CDs


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First time poster here. Please point me to the appropriate discussion if this has been covered already.


I have heard CD copies that sound spectacular but have never been able to burn disks myself that quite measure up to the originals. What's the secret? I'm on a Mac, but have access to a Windows machine if that's what's required.


To expand on this a bit, I'm not interested in copying CDs except to make compilations for the car and to take to audio shows. My real curiosity here is that I imagine that if you can burn copies that sound better, you should be able to get the same "better" effect from a music server.


Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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Hi Dan


Best you can hope for is to get an exact copy of a CD. Beyond that, if it "sounds" better it's probably opinion. (I toss amp eq, coloration, speaker and amp choice under opinion.) The data is the data.


If you're using iTunes you could start with a few quick checks - error correction on, AIFF format, max volume in iTunes, itunes volume equalization and eq off.


Then how are you coming out of the PC? USB maybe? Or using a headphone jack with a splitter?


Try a rip and burn there and see how it goes using a Mac.


Let us know what you find!




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Actually, there is some very interesting reading on this topic by Gary Koh of Genesis and you can find it here:


In Quest of Absolute Fidelity™: The Saga of the Black CD - Finding Black Gold




Gary talks about how bad the read/write errors of the Redbook spec really are and describes at length how one can duplicate his research to reproduce the process for themselves and actually obtain better sound. The process involves using the best, quietest laptop and Plextor cd burner along with EAC, some expensive black discs (or the Gold ones by various manufacturers) and a few tweaks to produce a cd of better quality. He makes an interesting point. It seems plausible that hi-volume cd duplication machines might not be all that accurate.


And if you don't believe him, just look at all the products out there designed to improve readability of a cd: tweaks from applying black marker to the edges of the disc to inserting discs with a cover on them (I forget the manufacturer of this gimmik, but heard it used in the MBL demo room a few years back at CES. I heard the difference.)


—Believe it or not.




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Hi Lee


Well, if it works for your ears then it's a good thing


There's a lot of snake oil around. I'll go read it and maybe I'll learn something new. But I can't tell much difference between Home Depot lamp cord and a fancy cable on speakers. Call me utilitarian.


edit - ok I read it. I'm gonna stand by if you like it then it's good. Personally, it lacked factual info that would compel me to dig further. I bet you get a lot more effect from the playback system if it's a properly written cd to begin with.


Have you tried them and like them?





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Hey George,


You are right, a better written CD to begin with is key. But that's exactly the issue with Redbook spec. These things are massed produced and allow for too many read/write errors right from the start. And to me it makes sense to choose hi-quality writers, a quiet environment like a laptop running on battery and with screen turned off, use of EAC, use of hi-rez gold discs, etc. to get the writer to have to do less work, generate less heat and noise and ultimately get fewer errors. In theory, that all works for me.


In practice, I'm sure anyone can debate the ultimate result. As for my ears, I think I heard a difference when I tried it, going back and forth between Redbook and my "black" copy. I definitely heard the difference when Gary Koe demo'd it for me at CES, although, who knows what he may have done to the discs he played.


The article is pretty long though, not sure what more factual info you could want. He explains what he does then describes the resulting sound, which of course is subjective.


Also keep in mind that one can get a system to 90% pretty easily. But it's the 97-98% and up struggles that are difficult, expensive, and open to interpretation. I was at a demo of Keith Johnson's Reference Recording hi-rez 24/176 tracks in January in Oaklnd and I definitely heard differences in timbre, depth, soundstage, richness. However there were plenty of more experienced ears there that heard things I didn't, and were even more wowed.


IMO, this black cd process is out of date as the search now is toward 24/96 and up hi-rez music via music servers such as those explained in this blog. I think we can all agree that music servers will be everywhere soon enough and that being apart of this garage tech-lab is exciting.


Will be interesting to see if the one box solutions like Sonoos and Olive will be able to get their specs up to the level of these systems we are talking about: these systems by the way, are generally producing too much internal noise and jitter from things like HD spin to be considered reference quality... similar to the cd dilemma.




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Thanks for the discussion, guys, (Lee, are you a BAAS member by any chance?)


I tried to read that Genesis piece a while back and found it the worst kind of audiophile snake-oil worship and couldn't get through it. Not that I don't appreciate his efforts or allow that he may really be onto something, but it just turned me off. And it seems that he has now decided it's all moot because music servers are even better. I think the importance of EAC is overrated -- iTunes makes error corrected rips. Something else is going on...


For another perspective on why copies might be better than originals and why "bit perfect" may not necessarily mean sonically identical, see Robert Harley's post of 10 September in the TAS forum here: http://forums.avguide.com/viewtopic.php?t=4271 If he's right, there really is potential for us to get better sound from our servers than from the average shiny disc.





Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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Hey Dan,


Good to hear from you. Ouch though... you've been a bit more agreable in the past... ;-)


Yeah...I tend to think the black CD thing is pushing it a bit, and certainly and out of date exploration given recent developments. But I found it interesting that somebody challenged the comparatively poor redbook spec and provided a way to improve it, at least theoretically.


I'd like to know what Apple (and third party developers) have in store for their OS, iTunes and new products, that will get away from mp3s and address the needs of the audiophile niche, as small as it still is. Chris keeps hinting at things, as does Tim Marutani. I hope they hurry up and do it. Maybe you could share a thing or two?


See you at RMAF?




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Didn't recognize you from your login ID. How's Maryland?


I have no inside info on Apple, but I think it's safe to say that audiophiles are not top of mind in their product decisions. My guess is Chris and Tim are expecting something great from elsewhere. My only hope is that I won't be forced to abandon the Mac platform in order to get truly great sound from a music server.




Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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