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Are we expecting a little too much from all this?


daglesj
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Ok folks this isnt a topic of full on heresy. I just want folks to sit and think about this one in a rational way for a minute or two.

 

We read often about folks needing or wanting 'bit perfect' playback and worried to death about 'jitter' etc. etc.

 

But do we really have any idea if it actually effects us or not?

 

Take 'bit perfect' for example. How many bits are there on a 750Mb CD? Lots and lots. CDs are pressed so thats not perfect to start with, error correction may be used that could introduce interploation which isnt strictly perfect. Then a 'bit error' occurs, how much of a time is that? 0.00001 of a second? I dont know. Could we really notice 1 bit error on a 70 minute recording? 10? 1000? 100000 strewn at random through the data?

 

I dont know if I could? What would I be listening for? I havent a clue and I dont want to know but I dont hear pops, crackles and skips on my recordings if that's what it is. They all sound great to me.

 

All I'm asking is are these 'digital nightmares' really that bad or are they something that we've been led to believe are bad, happen all the time and WILL ruin our listening pleasure unless we invest x amount and make sure we do this that and the other (which usually means more investment).

 

Are we really being too anal about things that really dont affect us and we should just let the tech get on with it while we get on with just enjoying the tunes?

 

By all means take care to make sure your kit is all working to the best it can but dont fret over it too much.

 

I look forward to Cmdr Data coming back saying he can detect a bit error in a recording! lol.

 

Your thoughts please.

 

 

 

 

 

Meridian 551 amp / Meridian 507 CD / Zune Mk1

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"Are we really being too anal about things that really dont affect us and we should just let the tech get on with it while we get on with just enjoying the tunes?"

 

I think you've just defined the audiophile.

 

Regarding your questions:

 

1) Bit perfect is not asking too much, is very easy to achieve and should (many say does) make the differences between computers as sources irrelevant.

 

2) We concern ourselves with, and spend way too much money on, jitter in particular and digital to analog conversion in general. And what we gain in the process are mostly phantoms.

 

Tim

 

 

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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...that I'm not one that is actually worried about bit perfect or jitter. I just get on with listening.

 

I have long since lost my fears of 'audio perfection' and just accepted that there are some things that I have little or no control over so dont worry about it. I take it so far and then stop.

 

If an adjustment or tweak is easy to do and does provide a quantifiable benefit at a very resonable cost then I'll do it. If there is conjecture then I dont bother.

 

The freedom that gives me is wonderful. Quite liberating.

 

Meridian 551 amp / Meridian 507 CD / Zune Mk1

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I rip everything lossless as well, but I'd rather listen to a 128kbps file of a great master than a flat, or juiced master at lossless. Recording and mastering are the great limitation, and it makes the pursuit of audio perfection nearly futile, IMO. Mics don't hear the way ears do. Studio control rooms don't sound like concert halls, clubs or living rooms. Multitrack recordings are an almost impossible way to create the illusion of a live performance. We can tweak our systems to perfection and they will not make the overwhelming majority of recordings in our collections sound like "we're there." "There" is an illusion. And often, extremely resolving equipment breaks the illusion down and makes recordings sound worse, not better.

 

Does this mean that we should stop seeking fidelity and all listen to iPods and earbuds? Of course not. But it might mean that, after a point, we're obsessing over the wrong things. If you find yourself seeking out audiophile recordings instead of the music you love, there's your sign.

 

Back to gear, here's my not-so-humble opinion: If you have $6,000 you want to spend on audio, skip the $5,000 DAC and the $1,000 re-clocker. Buy the best $6,000 speakers you can put your hands on. They'll l make a much bigger improvement in your listening experience.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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You need to separate what to listen for from what to measure for. I know very little about what to measure for except for what I read. I have very little in the way of test equipment. I have a sound pressure meter, an electronic multimeter, and test tone CDs/LPs.

 

However, I do know what to listen for. I have been to enough live performances of classical, jazz, rock and reggae to be familiar with the qualities of excellent sound or sonics, as opposed to excellent performances or presentations. Obviously both the sonics or musical fidelity and performances are important to our quest for maximizing musical enjoyment.

 

I cannot change the musicians’ presentations but I can often pick the best available seat in the house, choose the preferred concert hall or club and yes, put together the best affordable audio playback system and source for me.

 

For most of us this is a hobby, building an enjoyable music system and listening to good music. Some of us also have many other hobbies such as art, cooking, dancing, hunting, fishing, boating, cars, building other things, etc. that we are equally passionate about and hopefully share with others.

 

We often have to take the good with the bad, the mediocrity with excellence, but I guess I would rather go through life expecting too much than expecting too little, especially for the things I care about. Better to reach for the stars than not reach at all.

 

 

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For most of us this is a hobby, building an enjoyable music system and listening to good music. Some of us also have many other hobbies such as art, cooking, dancing, hunting, fishing, boating, cars, building other things, etc. that we are equally passionate about and hopefully share with others.

Beautifully written. It´s like every other hobby, that´s right. So we tend to be passionate about this and sometimes... well, exaggerate a bit.

 

I´m not a stranger to this myself, I exaggerated in the past and I´ll do it in the future. That´s the downside of my hobby. But the upside I want to achieve is a benefit to ALL my music I own. The first reason of buying music still is the artist. I also like a beautiful cover design. I´m never thinking of the sound. If the sound of a newly bought CD doesn´t match my criteria, I´ll make it that way myself.

 

I did buy CDs in the past for their sound quality. TELARC is a prime example and the only way where it worked the other way round. When getting over the great sound quality I discovered that there were actually some very good (classical) interpretations on it. This CDs are my only sin: I buy them because the artistic quality AND the sound are very good.

 

Jitter and perfect bit... well, one can be obsessed about it. However, one has to make sure that this only contributes roughly 0-20% of the sound. Not having jitter won´t make a perfect record. I know this, but I like to be sure. If you on the other hand are happy with your sound, then stay with it. There can´t be a general rule, people are different and music (art in general) reflects that very good. I´m crazy about this, but you won´t need to be. We both have the stars - only they are different. That´s all.

 

E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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"Take 'bit perfect' for example. How many bits are there on a 750Mb CD? Lots and lots. CDs are pressed so thats not perfect to start with, error correction may be used that could introduce interploation which isnt strictly perfect. Then a 'bit error' occurs, how much of a time is that? 0.00001 of a second? I dont know. Could we really notice 1 bit error on a 70 minute recording? 10? 1000? 100000 strewn at random through the data?"

 

I'm sorry, but that's quite a few misconceptions in there. Let me correct you

- pressed cd's _are_ perfect. Ever tried installing software from a cd? Even if one bit is incorrect, the software will crash. Never happened to me.

- error correction does _not_ introduce interpolation. It finds and corrects errors. Data on a cd is stored with many more bits than there is data. The extra bits are used to identify and correct errors. After correction, the drive returns the exact data that was recorded on it. Many of the patents for the original cd actually deal with this subject. Did you ever burn a document on a cd and get a different document back on reading?

- Philips once produced a cd player which would display the amount of corrected errors. They thought this would be a cool cadget. Most players were returned as people thought they were faulty. Typically they'd show the number of corrected bits between 10-25% iirc. Of course, the actual output was exactly correct, after error correction. All cd players have to do so much error correction.

- Whether one wrong bit is audible depends on where the bit is. If it's the most significant bit in a sample, yes, that's certainly audible. Just grab your favourite music editor (e.g. audacity) and edit one sample in a file.

 

Maarten

 

 

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Back to gear, here's my not-so-humble opinion: If you have $6,000 you want to spend on audio, skip the $5,000 DAC and the $1,000 re-clocker. Buy the best $6,000 speakers you can put your hands on. They'll l make a much bigger improvement in your listening experience.

 

Absolutely, Tim

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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"- pressed cd's _are_ perfect. Ever tried installing software from a cd? Even if one bit is incorrect, the software will crash. Never happened to me."

 

Thats what error correction is for. Plus they cant be perfect by the nature of all things universal, good enough is probably the best interpretation. I must admit though that major physical errors from pressing would be pretty rare otherwise the tech wouldnt have caught on. Maybe I am just digging a deeper hole for myself? lol

 

"- error correction does _not_ introduce interpolation. It finds and corrects errors. Data on a cd is stored with many more bits than there is data. The extra bits are used to identify and correct errors. After correction, the drive returns the exact data that was recorded on it. Many of the patents for the original cd actually deal with this subject. Did you ever burn a document on a cd and get a different document back on reading?"

 

The error correction on CD players will use interpolation if the data is missing (say a scratch).

 

To quote Barry Diament to a similar query - "Actually, I'd agree that in those instances when it can't effect full correction, it does "guess". The technical term for when it does is "interpolation".

 

Per Webster, to interpolate is "to estimate values of (data or a function) between two known values"."

 

"- Whether one wrong bit is audible depends on where the bit is. If it's the most significant bit in a sample, yes, that's certainly audible. Just grab your favourite music editor (e.g. audacity) and edit one sample in a file."

 

I've yet to hear this I have to say. Maybe I've been lucky?

 

Instances may be few and far between but there you go. Open to interpretation maybe but I see where you are going.

 

Interesting kettle of fish isnt it. All I'm getting at is are folks fretting too much about it all? I think they are.

 

So can anyone tell when a bit error occurs in listening? I'm not talking about lab conditions editing a sample to add an error.

 

Meridian 551 amp / Meridian 507 CD / Zune Mk1

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"So can anyone tell when a bit error occurs in listening? I'm not talking about lab conditions editing a sample to add an error."

 

This is an interesting kettle of fish as you say. To answer your question above, Yes. I had a ReQuest music server here for a month or two and I was testing a synchronization feature to and from my Mac and the music server. I have a number of albums (originating from the ReQuest) that produce clicks, stutters, and pops because the ripping capability of the early ReQuest units was subpar. It's my understanding this has been resolved.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Ditto all of Tim's comments, particularly putting the cash in the speakers.

 

I hope that we can look forward to more/better recordings --

and also more quality remasters of the good old stuff, if that can help us

enjoy the old stuff even a little bit more.

However many bits they use, I don't care. It seems to be much

more about the 'art' of the recording/mastering process,

from what I'm reading, and from recent posts here by recording engineers.

The art part -- can't replace it with science. Thank the gods for that. :-)

 

 

 

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on this one.

 

Panasonic PXP 42 V20; Panasonic DMP BD35; Sky+ HD Box. [br]Optical out from Asus P7H55-M into AVI ADM 9.1 speakers. [br]\"Music will provide the light you cannot resist\"[br]

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Off topic but somebody download the free Wavelab 5 demo and tell me if they also think it sounds better than their media player, or whether I am hearing things because, well, maybe I want to ..

 

Matt.

 

HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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FWIW, and only what you've paid for it ;-) ...

 

I owned your NAD amp, and BR2s, and later BR6s.

Great stuff! Many hours of blissful listening.

Later, I upgraded amps, and sources, to Arcam's top of line in both cases.

More great stuff! But then even later, I upgraded to MA GS series,

and then after that to their PL series.

The speaker upgrades were revelations in each case.

The electronics upgrades ... ehhh, so very close that

I would never want to have been subjected to an A/B/X

test, if anything was on the line. Repeating Tim's thoughts

on where the best bang for $ is ... it's those speakers!

 

 

 

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Repeating Tim's thoughts on where the best bang for $ is ... it's those speakers!

 

I have previously agreed with that, but I recently sold a Sugden A48 I bought new in 1978. I had been using it to drive a pair of old Goodmans Maxims attached to the study PC. Temporarily I hooked up my son's cheap Denon Amp - that was quite awful in comparison - rough! A Quad 77 Integrated Amp now drives those Maxims - what a difference.

 

So there is a basic minimum needed in an amp - but the threshold is lower than many claim.

 

I have always used expensive speakers relative to the cost of the other components. As sources and amplifiers have improved in moderate price brackets, the principle has strengthened.

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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- ok, I'll give you there might be a few errors on pressed cds. However, compared to reading errors their number is completely negligable.

 

- If you've got scratches on the cd, nothing is going to give you the same output as the master. The error correction on cd players is there to correct the odd bit of reading errors, not something major like scratches. If it were a data cd, the system would just tell you the disk is bad and refuse to read anything. That it tries to read the audio disk anyway and prevents your audio equipment and ears from overload (by interpolating instead of outputting garbage), that's great. I don't agree with Barry in calling that error "correction" though. Call me a nitpick if you wish.

 

- If I have a bad rip of a audio cd, I can hear small (single bit?) errors. Using good drives and software, I don't get such errors.

 

By the way, does it matter to you whether a change was purposefully created to test something or whether it was created by a reading error from disk? A flip of a single bit is still a flip of a single bit and effects you in the same way.

 

 

'Bit perfect' usually means the audio has not been changed to a different sample-rate, bit-depth etc. and does not have to do with (reading or other) errors. Conversion, especially to different sample rates, can produce smaller or larger distortions to the sound according to the algorithm used. How audible that is depends on your equipment and ears. I agree that in general folks are probably fretting too much about many things, but discussions can still be enlightening ;-).

 

 

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So there is a basic minimum needed in an amp - but the threshold is lower than many claim.

 

Agree entirely.

I had a 15 yr old Rotel CD player that did not match

a new $79 Sony multi-disc player. And the Sony could not be reasonably differentiated

from an NAD CD player of same newer vintage. But the difference between the

much older Rotel and both newer models was clear to me at least: clarity, detail.

 

On the other hand, my 20 yr old Hafler Mosfet amp

was no better or worse than it's much younger NAD replacement,

that I could tell.

 

My only point was, assuming reasonable vintage etc,

that speakers are where most of the $ is.

Is that basically a fair & reasonable assertion, caveat emptor?

 

 

 

 

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Indeed they are enlightening. Some good points there!

 

I guess why I put this topic up really was that I read through forums such as these and I kind of worry that folks are sweating the stuff they have really no control over, the 1% if you will, of the total package.

 

In doing so they forget that its the tunes that count, not the hardware. I guess I slightly over exagerrated things to try to make a point.

 

I sometimes think that hifi can be linked to a form of OCD. Always worrying if maybe something isnt quite right when it probably is. You know deep down it is but.........

 

Meridian 551 amp / Meridian 507 CD / Zune Mk1

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My only point was, assuming reasonable vintage etc,

that speakers are where most of the $ is.

Is that basically a fair & reasonable assertion, caveat emptor?

 

We are in entire agreement. My Quart 980s German tower loudspeakers are 20 years old and were in the same price bracket as Quad electrostatics when I bought them. From time to time I stick my head in a HiFi shop, have listen and walk out again. I would have to spend A LOT money even to match my Quarts.

 

My Quad 77 CD player (15 years old) is bettered by an Audigy soundcard - FLAC through my £120 Beresford DAC blows the 77 CD player away.

 

 

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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Good music is food for the soul. Everything that can make it more lifelike and convey the emotion of the music better is a plus IMO. Jitter is one of these things, just like higher sample-rates.

 

I did a series of jitter tests at CES in 2007 and I got some interesting comments back from the listeners. The most compelling of these was the guy that was trying to keep accurate time of the music by tapping his foot etc.. He told me that the configurations that had lower jitter sounded better, but more than that, they allowed him to more easily track the beat of the music. This is pretty fundamental and I found it to be true as well.

 

The brain is a powerful thing. I dont underestimate what it is capable of.

 

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

 

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I suspect your son's Denon wasn't powered well enough for the task. Not to be argumentative, but I've had the opportunity to listen to and use a lot of amps from common consumer stuff up to pro. There are differences that are audible, but they are pretty subtle. Subtle enough that psychological bias is a big question. What is REALLY audible is power. Headroom. Current. But give me two high current amps with more than enough headroom to drive the load. Make one a decent quality AV receiver and the other an audiophile block of aluminum and bragging rights....

 

Now, AB/X those suckers and you'll be listening in as hard as you can to hear which one is which. I'd bet the farm on it.

 

Ashley has this one about right. Build active speakers with amplification perfectly matched to and integrated with the individual drivers and you'll have something that's pretty hard to beat at a lot less than the price of a pair of monoblocks. Too bad there's not far more of that going around.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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I suspect your son's Denon wasn't powered well enough for the task.

 

I agree

 

But give me two high current amps with more than enough headroom to drive the load. Make one a decent quality AV receiver and the other an audiophile block of aluminum and bragging rights....

 

I agree. there is NO reason for the price of amplifiers. Electronics is cheap.

 

Ashley has this one about right. Build active speakers with amplification perfectly matched to and integrated with the individual drivers and you'll have something that's pretty hard to beat at a lot less than the price of a pair of monoblocks. Too bad there's not far more of that going around.

 

I agree. If I didn't have so much invested in my big speakers, that's the way I would go. Pity so few manufacturers have woken up to the facts.

 

My Quad 405-2 cost me £130 on eBay and £80 to replace all the capacitors, the op-amp and to tweek the circuit. Over 100w per channel of sophisticated grunt - but how much goes into cooking the passive crossover?

 

 

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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