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HDCD feedback and information thread

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I have been curious about HDCD for a while. What is your experience with it? 

 

Useful information

 

As for playback software that decodes HDCD:

1. Windows Media Player - decodes HDCD

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Media_Player

2. JRiver - MC25 decodes HDCD

https://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php/topic,119387.0.html

3. XX High End -  decodes HDCD

http://www.phasure.com/index.php?board=1.0

4. Roon - does not decode HDCD

5. FooBar2000 - decodes HDCD

(foo_dsp_hdcd) This DSP component will decode HDCD data in any 16-bit PCM stream passed through it, resulting in 20-bit PCM. Also, has a handy scanner to find all your HDCD content.

6. Audirvana - need to research this

7. HQ Player - need to research this

8. any other you can think about let me know

 

As for ripping software that decodes HDCD:

1. DB Power Amp - per manual,

"Depending upon which audio player is used, if the player can handle 24 bit audio files, then adding the DSP effect HDCD is useful, in that any HDCD audio CDs (a special encoded audio CD with 20 bits of encoded audio information) will be detected and encoded to a 24 bit audio file, non HDCDs are left at 16 bit." 

https://www.dbpoweramp.com/cd-ripper-setup-guide.htm
2. Exact Audio Copy - need to research this

3. any other you can think about let me know

 

As for software that decodes HDCDs or find HDCDs in your library:

1. hdcd.exe

http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?p=1815788#post1815788

2. libhdcd

https://github.com/bp0/libhdcd/blob/master/README.md

3. FFmpeg

https://ffmpeg.org/ffmpeg-filters.html#hdcd

4. CUETools

http://cue.tools/wiki/CUETools

5. Script for Linux to find your FLAC HDCDs

https://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=High_Definition_Compatible_Digital

6. any other you can think about let me know

 

Lists of HDCDs:

1. http://www.goodwinshighend.com/music/hdcd/hdcd_recordings.htm

2. https://www.head-fi.org/threads/hdcd-list.65414/

3. https://musicbrainz.org/search?query=format%3Ahdcd&type=release&limit=25&method=advanced

4. https://wiki.hydrogenaud.io/index.php?title=List_of_HDCD-encoded_Compact_Discs

5. any other you can think about let me know

 

Technical Stuff

1. By Jim Web
http://www.audiomisc.co.uk/HFN/HDCD/Enigma.html
http://www.audiomisc.co.uk/HFN/HDCD/Examined.html

2. By Charles Hansen

https://www.audioasylum.com/audio/digital/messages/18/184385.html

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10 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

I have been curious about HDCD for a while. What is your experience with it? 

 

I owned a Pacific Microsonics Model Two for many years. I played around extensively with the various HDCD processes for 16/44.1, and always ended up preferring no HDCD processing. Above 16-bit, there was no HDCD processing applied by the Model One/Two.

 

When you play an HDCD-encoded 16/44.1, you generally have no idea exactly what HDCD processing was applied. (Hopefully the HDCD.exe decoder in your SW player is smart enough to figure this out, if you're not using a built-in HW decoder in your DAC/CD-player.)

 

For me, the biggest benefit of using HDCD-encoded CDs or files is that they were mastered on a Model One/Two, which was, and still is, a simply superb ADC. 16/44.1 is good, but try getting hold of some 24/176.4 or 24/192 mastered on a Model One/Two. Reference Recordings is the obvious source. The 24/192 of Kind of Blue was created using a Model Two. If there's any way you can play these files back natively (with no filtering or SDM), the sound quality is stunning.

 

HTH.

 

Mani.


Phasure Mach III audio PC -> HQPlayer/XXHighEnd @24/705.6 -> Phasure NOS1 DAC -> First Watt F5-cloned mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horn speakers

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25 minutes ago, mansr said:

Does it still exist? Honest question.

 

HDCD 16/44.1, I don't think so - I can't imagine why anyone would do use HDCD processing nowadays. But 'HDCD' 24/176.4 or 24/192, definitely. But they're not really HDCD (see previous post).

 

Mani.


Phasure Mach III audio PC -> HQPlayer/XXHighEnd @24/705.6 -> Phasure NOS1 DAC -> First Watt F5-cloned mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horn speakers

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There is a comprehensive thread on this - I posted on it, maybe started it with a question - if you do a search.

 

Upshot - several aspects to HDCD & releases may or may not have used all or some of them - there is a compilation on the web somewhere which describes what had which aspects

 

PM ADC may be the biggest factor re SQ


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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23 hours ago, mansr said:

Does it still exist? Honest question.

I'm going to assume people are still recording with Pacific Microsonics' gear, but I'm not sure if they are releasing any new content with it. I still have cds with the mark though:)

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1 hour ago, manisandher said:

 

I owned a Pacific Microsonics Model Two for many years. I played around extensively with the various HDCD processes for 16/44.1, and always ended up preferring no HDCD processing. Above 16-bit, there was no HDCD processing applied by the Model One/Two.

 

When you play an HDCD-encoded 16/44.1, you generally have no idea exactly what HDCD processing was applied. (Hopefully the HDCD.exe decoder in your SW player is smart enough to figure this out, if you're not using a built-in HW decoder in your DAC/CD-player.)

 

For me, the biggest benefit of using HDCD-encoded CDs or files is that they were mastered on a Model One/Two, which was, and still is, a simply superb ADC. 16/44.1 is good, but try getting hold of some 24/176.4 or 24/192 mastered on a Model One/Two. Reference Recordings is the obvious source. The 24/192 of Kind of Blue was created using a Model Two. If there's any way you can play these files back natively (with no filtering or SDM), the sound quality is stunning.

 

HTH.

 

Mani.

My understanding is that you were suppose to get 24 bit playback? I understand you need a device capable of decoding it. I think the Berkeley gear can decode it. I didn't think about Reference Recordings so yes it's still being available. 

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22 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

There is a comprehensive thread on this - I posted on it, maybe started it with a question - if you do a search.

 

Upshot - several aspects to HDCD & releases may or may not have used all or some of them - there is a compilation on the web somewhere which describes what had which aspects

 

PM ADC may be the biggest factor re SQ

I'll look for it. I remember something about that issue as well. The compilation should be interesting. Agree on the PM ADC.

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41 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

My understanding is that you were suppose to get 24 bit playback? I understand you need a device capable of decoding it. I think the Berkeley gear can decode it. I didn't think about Reference Recordings so yes it's still being available. 

If done properly, e.g., Reference Recordings, you can get an extra 6 dB of dynamic range. The Ayre QX-5 Twenty can decode HDCD and I still enjoy my few RR recordings that have never been reissued in Hi Res. Another can of worms IMHO and totally unneeded today.


Sonore ultraRendu (MPD), Sonore ultraDigital, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, B&W 802 Diamond (Series 2), RealTraps acoustic treatments

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36 minutes ago, manisandher said:

 

HDCD 16/44.1, I don't think so - I can't imagine why anyone would do use HDCD processing nowadays. But 'HDCD' 24/176.4 or 24/192, definitely. But they're not really HDCD (see previous post).

 

Mani.

I did a search on Amazon and the information is sketchy at best. Reference Recordings seems to be the only new source based on a quick search. 

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9 minutes ago, Axiom05 said:

If done properly, e.g., Reference Recordings, you can get an extra 6 dB of dynamic range. The Ayre QX-5 Twenty can decode HDCD and I still enjoy my few RR recordings that have never been reissued in Hi Res. Another can of worms IMHO and totally unneeded today.

Why unneeded? If you have an old CD that is HDCD and a DAC that can decode it would you not want to use it that way and see the light come on. I think I would. 

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54 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

Why unneeded? If you have an old CD that is HDCD and a DAC that can decode it would you not want to use it that way and see the light come on. I think I would. 

I was really referring to the need for new recordings using HDCD. Honestly, I was hoping to replace all of my Reference Recordings HDCD CD's with Hi Res files and dispense with the need for HDCD decoding completely. Unfortunately, RR has only made a relatively small number of their recordings available in Hi Res while many remain only available as HDCD encoded 16-bit. Also note that some CD's from other labels that claim to be HDCD encoded really are not encoded, they are just plain CD's that were recorded using a PM2 ADC. There  really are only a very small number of true HDCD encoded recordings out there. I would venture a guess that many of these recordings, which could be 20+ years old now, have been replaced with newer recordings and are no longer played. I did not buy a QX-5 Twenty for its HDCD capability and certainly could happily live w/o the ability to decode HDCD files.


Sonore ultraRendu (MPD), Sonore ultraDigital, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, B&W 802 Diamond (Series 2), RealTraps acoustic treatments

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29 minutes ago, Axiom05 said:

I was really referring to the need for new recordings using HDCD. Honestly, I was hoping to replace all of my Reference Recordings HDCD CD's with Hi Res files and dispense with the need for HDCD decoding completely. Unfortunately, RR has only made a relatively small number of their recordings available in Hi Res while many remain only available as HDCD encoded 16-bit. Also note that some CD's from other labels that claim to be HDCD encoded really are not encoded, they are just plain CD's that were recorded using a PM2 ADC. There  really are only a very small number of true HDCD encoded recordings out there. I would venture a guess that many of these recordings, which could be 20+ years old now, have been replaced with newer recordings and are no longer played. I did not buy a QX-5 Twenty for its HDCD capability and certainly could happily live w/o the ability to decode HDCD files.

Sounds like you are still affected by all of this;) The software I ran some time ago to find the HDCDs found more in my library than I though I had. 

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39 minutes ago, vortecjr said:

Let's let make list:
 

As for playback software that decodes HDCD:

1. Windows Media Player - supports HDCD

2. JRiver - need to research this

3. Audirvana - need to research this

4. HQ Player - need to research this

5. any other you can think about let me know

 

As for ripping software that decodes HDCD:

1. DB Power Amp - need to research this
2. Exact Audio Copy - need to research this

2. any other you can think about let me know

 

As for conversion software that can decode HDCD:

1. HDCD.com - suports HDCD *do not apply transient filters

2. any other you can think about let me know

 

As for software that find HDCDs in your library

1. There was an application that would dig into your library and find all your HDCDs. I'm going to look for it. 

 

I ripped and converted  all my HDCDs to 24bit decoded files using DBPowerAmp. Had about 20 of them, as it turns out.


-Paul

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On 4/6/2019 at 10:17 PM, Axiom05 said:

Also note that some CD's from other labels that claim to be HDCD encoded really are not encoded, they are just plain CD's that were recorded using a PM2 ADC.

 

If the labels used a PM1/2, they certainly had the ability to encode HDCD fully. But whether they did or not would be down to whether they invoked any of the various HDCD encoding processes in the PM1/2.

 

When I had my PM2, I could create fully encoded 16/44.1 HDCD files. I chose not to, because I preferred the sound with no HDCD encoding at all - perhaps other labels shared my preference?

 

Actually, I created very few encoded/non-encoded 16/44.1 files - I much preferred the sound of 24/176.4 or 24/192, where the PM2 starts sounding really magical.

 

Mani.


Phasure Mach III audio PC -> HQPlayer/XXHighEnd @24/705.6 -> Phasure NOS1 DAC -> First Watt F5-cloned mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horn speakers

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4 hours ago, manisandher said:

 

If the labels used a PM1/2, they certainly had the ability to encode HDCD fully. But whether they did or not would be down to whether they invoked any of the various HDCD encoding processes in the PM1/2.

 

When I had my PM2, I could create fully encoded 16/44.1 HDCD files. I chose not to, because I preferred the sound with no HDCD encoding at all - perhaps other labels shared my preference?

 

Actually, I created very few encoded/non-encoded 16/44.1 files - I much preferred the sound of 24/176.4 or 24/192, where the PM2 starts sounding really magical.

 

Mani.

Preferences aside if you look at the data online the 16/44.1 version is compromised unless you decode it.

 

I scanned my library with FooBar2000 and found 64 albums with the embedded HDCD flags. According to the output from FooBar2000 some of these have their min gain set to 0 DB, max gain set to 0 DB, peak extension disabled, and transient filters disabled. Seems pointless to convert and compare these.  

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14 hours ago, manisandher said:

Actually, I created very few encoded/non-encoded 16/44.1 files - I much preferred the sound of 24/176.4 or 24/192, where the PM2 starts sounding really magical.

 

Mani.

Mani, are you able to provide me an encoded file made with your former PM2 and the original unencoded file? 

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The Pacific Micrsonics units allow for a number of HDCD features to be turned on or off during production. Some are "transient filters" aka a primitive version of MQA's claimed filtering, whereby the HDCD music file tells the HDCD-capable playback device what filter to apply based on how the file was encoded during production.


IMHO this is a useless feature. The only really useful/audible feature is Peak Extend, as noted above in this thread.

 

Not a whole lot of HDCDs are encoded with Peak Extend. The big notable ones are much of the Grateful Dead and Neil Young catalogues. If you don't have those, then you're likely to have a very small number of Peak Extend-enabled HDCD discs in your collection.

 

An HDCD can be ripped and then post-processed (also as noted earlier in the thread) to decode the HDCD content. The decoded HDCD stream is actually only 20-bit, but since that's an oddball bit-depth, the processing software always pads it out with 4 bits' worth of zeros, to produce a 24-bit file that can be played back pretty much any DAC.

 

All of this illustrates why HDCD is not very compelling technology. All that hassle for just 4 extra bits of bit-depth doesn't seem worth it - especially since exactly zero HDCDs with Peak Extend have musical content whose dynamic range exceeds the 96dB range of normal 16-bit CD. So what Peak Extend really did was enable engineers to peak-limit the mastering, because HDCD allowed the limited peaks to be recovered. If they just mastered the content at the proper volume to begin with, they wouldn't have needed to limit the peaks in the first place.

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I recently ripped my entire CD collection. There were some HDCDs among them, some with peak extension, some without.

 

I found this ripping procedure (using EAC and CUE Tools) on the Steve Hoffman forum and it worked well.

 

Quote

Install CUETools
Click the gear icon in CUETools to get the settings
Select the HDCD tab in settings
Check the "Detect HDCD encoding" option

Rip the CD to a CUE using EAC
Open the CUE file in CUETools
Select the "Verify" action
Click Go
Inspect the log to see if HDCD was detected and what HDCD features were detected (peak extend, filters, gain)
If peak extend or gain was detected then decode to HDCD
If no peak extend or gain then don't bother to decode and keep the file as regular redbook 16-bit/44.1
To decode the HDCD make sure the "Detect HDCD encoding" option is set
Select the "Encode" action
Click Go

 

https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/ripping-hdcd-sacd.301966/#post-8265734

 

Maybe there are quicker procedures, but for my collection (about a dozen HDCDs among 3000 CDs) it was fast enough. I haven't yet done a comparison between the non-HDCD rip and the 24/44 rip.


Claude

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14 hours ago, vortecjr said:

Mani, are you able to provide me an encoded file made with your former PM2 and the original unencoded file? 

 

Will have a look Jesus, but not sure if I'll be able to find any - it was a while ago now, and I gave up on 16/44.1 pretty quickly from what I can recall. Leave it with me...

 

Mani.


Phasure Mach III audio PC -> HQPlayer/XXHighEnd @24/705.6 -> Phasure NOS1 DAC -> First Watt F5-cloned mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horn speakers

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20 hours ago, tmtomh said:

The Pacific Micrsonics units allow for a number of HDCD features to be turned on or off during production. Some are "transient filters" aka a primitive version of MQA's claimed filtering, whereby the HDCD music file tells the HDCD-capable playback device what filter to apply based on how the file was encoded during production.


IMHO this is a useless feature. The only really useful/audible feature is Peak Extend, as noted above in this thread.

 

Not a whole lot of HDCDs are encoded with Peak Extend. The big notable ones are much of the Grateful Dead and Neil Young catalogues. If you don't have those, then you're likely to have a very small number of Peak Extend-enabled HDCD discs in your collection.

 

An HDCD can be ripped and then post-processed (also as noted earlier in the thread) to decode the HDCD content. The decoded HDCD stream is actually only 20-bit, but since that's an oddball bit-depth, the processing software always pads it out with 4 bits' worth of zeros, to produce a 24-bit file that can be played back pretty much any DAC.

 

All of this illustrates why HDCD is not very compelling technology. All that hassle for just 4 extra bits of bit-depth doesn't seem worth it - especially since exactly zero HDCDs with Peak Extend have musical content whose dynamic range exceeds the 96dB range of normal 16-bit CD. So what Peak Extend really did was enable engineers to peak-limit the mastering, because HDCD allowed the limited peaks to be recovered. If they just mastered the content at the proper volume to begin with, they wouldn't have needed to limit the peaks in the first place.

I actually have a lot of HDCDs that have the Peak Extend feature enabled. This thread is not really about if it's worth it or not. The fact is that the content exists and needs to be dealt with properly in a collection.   

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