PDA

View Full Version : Hard drive vs optical drive...



steveinaz
31-01-2012, 05:45 PM
Does anyone else find that hard drive derived music sounds a bit "smoother" than optical drive music? I noticed after buying a Squeezebox Touch, and burning all my CD's to HDD w/flac, that the music sounds abit more analog---versus my C.E.C. Cd transport (CD3300). Both the CDP and Touch are run via coaxial cable thru my Benchmark DAC/PRE. Not a huge difference mind, in fact quite subtle, but noticable.

Pluto
31-01-2012, 06:25 PM
Does anyone else find that hard drive derived music sounds a bit "smoother" than optical drive music?I doubt this very much but you would need to play the two sources via identical paths to obtain any worthwhile evidence of this suggestion.


...the music sounds a bit more analog
I seriously hope not. I spent years waiting for a viable means of music delivery that eliminated the flaws inherent in analogue media. If your system sounds "analogue", you ought to investigate where the problem lies.

steveinaz
31-01-2012, 07:22 PM
- Both sources run identical cables, to the same DAC.
- Never heard anyone say "I wish my system sounded more digital." Analog in the context of an analog signal---not necessarily analog media.

It makes me wonder if maybe there is some things going on differently when reading data optically, versus and armature/head magnetic extraction that happens via a hard drive. More robust error correction? I don't know...that's why I'm asking.

Pluto
31-01-2012, 09:37 PM
Never heard anyone say "I wish my system sounded more digital.
Sorry, but I don't understand this. Who are the "anyone" you so revere? When I first heard a fully digital playback system some years ago, it was immediately apparent that a massive veil had been lifted from the sound when comparing the studio master to the published product - the two were, for all intents and purposes, the same. Do folks really wish for a return to the misty sound of the pre-digital era?

I know of no evidence to support the idea of large amounts of interpolation (a fancy word for 'guess') on optical media. Remember that error correction is exactly that - the data emerging from the error correction 'machine' is 100% accurate. If the error correction mechanism cannot cope with the level of damage to the media, the system then interpolates, so at this stage all bets are off. This is, however, a rare event.

Having ripped hundreds of CDs on a $20 computer drive running about 40◊ faster than an audio drive, I have learned two things. First, that there are very few* uncorrectable errors on discs that have been cared-for and second, that it is very easy to tell when the ripping drive is in difficulties which is, in itself, a rare event. All of which leads to the conclusion that CDs are a remarkably error-free medium - which we know to be true from the amount of critical (thoroughly error-checked) data transferred via optical media, at speeds vastly in excess of 16/44 audio and with an error rate so low as to be largely irrelevant.

*I have a problem with, maybe, 1 disc in every 30

HUG-1
31-01-2012, 10:26 PM
Never heard anyone say "I wish my system sounded more digital."Analog in the context of an analog signal---not necessarily analog media....People do seem to like a certain soft sound. Will ask Alan to complete the recent preference comparison on another thread here.

What is it about "analogue" which people find attractive?

Kumar Kane
01-02-2012, 01:43 AM
What is it about "analogue" which people find attractive?
Because, like similar things in other areas, it harkens back to the "good" old days. Which become so some time after they have passed away.

EricW
01-02-2012, 02:17 AM
I think steveinaz is just expressing a widely and commonly-held view that "digital" = "cold, harsh, clinical, lifeless" ... pick your adjective of choice.

Because many seem to hold this view, rightly or wrongly, rather than jumping on him for it, it is perhaps better to ask (as the moderator has) why this preference appears to exist.

Although I'm not sure it is actually a preference rather than a preconception, and am also waiting for the results of the "comparison" thread to be made public. However, given the conditions under which people were told to compare (e.g. using cheap computer speakers or even built-in laptop speakers), I'm sceptical about what the comparison actually will convey. But it will be interesting to see.

As with many other things, the HUG has clarified my thinking on the subject. It also seems to me - entirely subjectively and perhaps wrongly - that CDs do sound signficantly better now than when they first came out. Even if true, however, that may have nothing to do with the medium itself.

kittykat
01-02-2012, 09:25 AM
Does anyone else find that hard drive derived music sounds a bit "smoother" than optical drive music? I noticed after buying a Squeezebox Touch, ...

Hi steveinaz

I found your comments really interesting as I had a nagging similar, sort of, feeling. I use a CEC3300, a TL51XR and a squeezebox as well. I donít run the squeezebox through a dac but against the tl51xr by itself, I can concur that the sb sounds ďsmoothĒ to the point of being unengaging if not boring. The treble notes donít sound as defined and things just sound a tad smeared. I donít think it has anything to do with the harddrive. I donít really understand it, as an item, the sb seems to measure really well as a digital player (stereophile measurements). I canít but conclude that the sb just ainít that good imo. It takes too long to scan a harddrive, has annoying (and very audible) clicks when starting and changing tracks. Im sorry I use to recommend it but playing with it a lot over Christmas show its faults. It keeps wanting to go home and if the computer server version and the firmware version is not the same, it just keeps looping updates. bloody annoying product which drive me up the wall, and now confirms my suspicions, not very good fidelity either.

Pluto
01-02-2012, 09:25 AM
I think steveinaz is just expressing a widely and commonly-held view that "digital" = "cold, harsh, clinical, lifeless" ... pick your adjective of choice.

Because many seem to hold this view, rightly or wrongly, rather than jumping on him for it, it is perhaps better to ask (as the moderator has) why this preference appears to exist.
It's very dangerous to repeat "commonly-held views"* without justification. Sometimes, it's necessary to establish precisely what is meant by the terms "analogue" & "digital". It appears that in many cases, when audiophilia picks its adjectives, the pejorative terms are applied to CD and the positives to the gramophone.

In this particular instance, the point that SteveInAZ has raised is one of a perceived difference between, I presume, the Red Book CD as a data source and a hard disk, reporting the latter to be "less digital". Do you not think that this apparent absurdity demands reasonably robust investigation?

For what it's worth, the truth that finally outs usually comes down to the fact that the listener is comparing an oldish CD player (one he is well used to) with hard disk playback via a modern DAC and clearly, in such a situation, there are too many differences to resolve. But here, Steve has pointed out that there is much in common between the two playback environments so we need to examine how and why two sources of apparently identical data are reported as sounding different.

This, I am sure you would not deny, appears on the surface to be a near-impossibility therefore a reasonably robust stance is absolutely necessary if the answer is to be understood. I therefore suggest that SteveInAZ provides more complete details of precisely how the data is being transmitted to his DAC in each of the instances outlined above.

I must lay on the line that my own criteria for determining the viability of a distribution medium are based on its ability to reproduce the signal created at the mastering stage. Given that a book printed in London ought be no more or less enjoyable than the same work printed in Melbourne, I believe I am asking a reasonable question.

*it's a "commonly-held view" that vinyl is a high-resolution medium

Pluto
01-02-2012, 09:55 AM
I use a CEC3300, a TL51XR and a squeezebox as well.
Kitty, could you please explain all these part numbers for those of us not keeping a catalogue in our heads. Thanks!

STHLS5
01-02-2012, 10:07 AM
Does anyone else find that hard drive derived music sounds a bit "smoother" than optical drive music? I noticed after buying a Squeezebox Touch, and burning all my CD's to HDD w/flac, that the music sounds abit more analog---versus my C.E.C. Cd transport (CD3300). Both the CDP and Touch are run via coaxial cable thru my Benchmark DAC/PRE. Not a huge difference mind, in fact quite subtle, but noticable.


I agree with you. Having ripped few thousand songs with another 1000 CDs to go I do find there are subtle difference between Marantz SA11S2 and AIFF and WAV ripped to MYBOOK LIVE played thru iTunes connect via DELL to Theta Digital GenIII DAC.*

And I don't believe in cable, cones, stands and whole lot of other things. But in this case my hearing tells me that the SA11 sounds better then the music from the hard drive.

ST

kittykat
01-02-2012, 11:21 AM
Kitty, could you please explain all these part numbers for those of us not keeping a catalogue in our heads. Thanks!

sorry, they are both CEC branded players. the TL51XR is a top loader with a belt drive and better dac supposedly. i have never compared it with the CEC CD3300 extensively but don't think they sound very different.

Pluto
01-02-2012, 12:35 PM
...my hearing tells me that the SA11 [Marantz CD player] sounds better then the music from the hard drive
So - and please tell me if I'm wrong here - you say that you prefer the sound of CDs, while Steve in Arizona has said...


Does anyone else find that hard drive derived music sounds a bit "smoother" than optical drive music?
There's nothing like consistency to help an argument move forward :)

STHLS5
01-02-2012, 01:40 PM
So - and please tell me if I'm wrong here - you say that you prefer the sound of CDs, while Steve in Arizona has said...


There's nothing like consistency to help an argument move forward :)

Yes, if "smooth" is the word to describe the sound from my hard drive. I would also call it mellow. If I want to be critical I would said it lacked resolution. and yes I prefer my CD players sound. Must smooth and analogue like be always better? Oh dear, I missed his post #3. He likes Hard drive sound. in that case I should disagree with him.
:)
ST

HUG-1
01-02-2012, 04:15 PM
Would anyone here be foolish enough to compare two pieces of equipment such as a CD transport v; a HD playback without equalising the loudness a.k.a. replay level? Would they actually have confidence in their observation?

STHLS5
01-02-2012, 05:30 PM
Well I actually did just that. In fact, I increased the HD playback level yet my preference is still the CD player. I have even posted here that in previous AB test I couldnt even tell the difference between my vintage DAC and my current player but I could with the HD.

ST

TimVG
01-02-2012, 05:38 PM
I can't tell the difference between a CD and a high quality lossy rip (e.g. 320 kpbs mp3 file). Having all of your music on hard drive makes it so very easy to make playlists without having to go through all of your discs.
I don't have a seperate CD player anymore, don't see the point in it anymore.

For those who can hear the difference, please take part in blind testing if possible. This reminds me of a thread on an American forum where there was a blind subwoofer test. One of the questions was what type of subwoofer they were listening to (sealed, ported, horn).. The answers were all over the place. Which was surprising, because beforehand, it was obvious that no big ported subwoofer could possibly be accepted as good enough for music, no?

Can you imagine the outcome of a blind test with CD-players, let alone stuff like cables?

steveinaz
01-02-2012, 08:12 PM
A lab rat, I'm not; just curious if anyone else had noticed this. I find it mildly interesting because I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the way the data is read.

Both my CD Player and Squeezebox are connected to my Benchmark via coaxial cable. It is an identical signal path. The files on the HD are flac encoded, from CD rips using EAC. While the squeezebox is run wireless, the computer is connected to my modem via ethernet. I stream the music in PCM, letting my main computer decode flac before sending to the Touch. The Touch has not been modded in any way, though I do use a Channel Island PS with it, thanks to Santa.

Some you are a little hardcore, relax; it's just a topic that interest me--and I was just wondering if the placebo fairies were kicking me in the ears, or if possibly someone else had noted the observations I had. Keep in mind, I'm talking "subtleties" here, nothing monumental nor earth shattering.

EricW
01-02-2012, 11:44 PM
In this particular instance, the point that SteveInAZ has raised is one of a perceived difference between, I presume, the Red Book CD as a data source and a hard disk, reporting the latter to be "less digital". Do you not think that this apparent absurdity demands reasonably robust investigation?



Absolutely. I just meant, let's keep it friendly. It's audio, not geopolitics.

Your questions are entirely valid. To me, it seems a matter of nomenclature. If you understand the word "digital" in its technical, engineering sense, then you're right, of course, it's an absurdity to say that one form of digital is more or less digital than the other. But I don't think that's what was meant by the original comment - words take on different meanings in different contexts, and it seemed to me that Steve was using the word "digital" to describe a certain perceived unpleasant sonic quality associated by some with digital encoding of music. We may agree that the association ("digital" = "harsh", say) is wrong, but the wrongness of the association doesn't erase the fact of the existence of that particular usage.

Does that make sense?

steveinaz
02-02-2012, 03:17 PM
To set the record straight, my statement was that it sounded "smoother, more analog"" I never said "less digital." I'm not sure where I got pegged saying that. But Eric articulated far better than me on the context of what I was saying. There's nothing wrong with digital, there's everything wrong with poor mastering; and unfortunately there's a huge percentage of digital media these days that is poorly mastered.

jair44
02-02-2012, 05:34 PM
That's the funniest thing I've read on here for ages. There's no doubt that the whole digital industry has gradually been moving towards a more analogue sound ie organic, pleasing and human. Even in the world of portable audio the high end iPods, Sony A series, Cowon etc all aspire towards a more softer, warmer, organic ie analogue sound.

In fact virtually all the high end is obsessed with capturing the magic of valves without their shortcomings, apart from the slam bam bang brigade who are in it for the speed and dynamics primarily. Even major recording artists want their music to sound more analogue.

Analogue = good Digital = bad is a popularly held view that won't go away until digital starts to really deliver. One gives you the warmth and the other gives you the detail if you'll forgive the gross generalisation.

STHLS5
16-02-2012, 06:36 AM
I agree with you. Having ripped few thousand songs with another 1000 CDs to go I do find there are subtle difference between Marantz SA11S2 and AIFF and WAV ripped to MYBOOK LIVE played thru iTunes connect via DELL to Theta Digital GenIII DAC.*

And I don't believe in cable, cones, stands and whole lot of other things. But in this case my hearing tells me that the SA11 sounds better then the music from the hard drive.

ST


Would anyone here be foolish enough to compare two pieces of equipment such as a CD transport v; a HD playback without equalising the loudness a.k.a. replay level? Would they actually have confidence in their observation?


Well I actually did just that. In fact, I increased the HD playback level yet my preference is still the CD player. I have even posted here that in previous AB test I couldnt even tell the difference between my vintage DAC and my current player but I could with the HD.

ST


Ok, looks like I am not the only one to think my CD player sound to be better than Computer audio. Alan Sircom also prefers the High End sound of the CD players. Read his editorial here (http://www.enjoythemusic.com/hifi_plus/86/editorial.htm). Alan Sircom is also a HUG member.

ST

EricW
16-02-2012, 08:39 AM
I would never impute bad faith to anyone without clear evidence, so let us accept that Mr. Sircom is sincere in his belief. I think it's worth looking at what he actually says. This seems to me to be the key paragraph (the added emphasis is mine):


I have performed such comparisons on several occasions and in a number of different contexts, and I've begun to conclude there is no simple answer. In many cases, the sound of disc and computer audio are on a par with one another. In some cases (and even, with some listeners) computer audio sounds distinctly more natural than CD, and also the reverse is true. But once you breach that top-end barrier, the more people you test, the more you come up with preferences toward the spinning disc… even under blind conditions. In fairness, these differences are fairly subtle, and I still maintain that well-handled computer audio is not 'ruined' next to spinning disc, but the preferences are distinct and consistent.


So, if I may paraphrase: until you get to the highest of the high end, there is no clear preference either way. Some prefer computer audio, some prefer CDs, some have no preference. Nothing is conclusive. This is perhaps not surprising.

But then, suddenly, when one breaks into the rarified air of the truly high end, there is a preference. I can't say with certainty this is wrong, but I'm sceptical. How clear is this preference? Is it statistically significant? Are the test subjects being unwittingly biased or influenced, even in supposedly "blind" (though presumably not double-blind) tests? Could this conclusion not be an example of unconscious "confirmation bias" - i.e. seeing evidence that supports your conclusion, disregarding evidence that doesn't?

And there's a commercial factor here. The manufacturers of CD and SACD players tend to advertise in the pages of audio magazines. Apple, Dell and HP tend not to. I am not challenging Mr. Sircom's integrity in the slightest; nonetheless, he has a clear commercial interest in maintaining the spinning optical disc as a viable music medium. And I do believe that such interests do have a way of shaping and influencing one's beliefs, even where one is intending to be objective (as no doubt Mr. Sircom is).

At the end of the day, if multi-thousand dollar or pound CD players truly sound better than a digital music file from a computer (run through a high quality DAC, of course), there has to be a rational explanation, given that the bits are the same. I'm still not sure what that explanation would be.

STHLS5
16-02-2012, 09:58 AM
....

At the end of the day, if multi-thousand dollar or pound CD players truly sound better than a digital music file from a computer (run through a high quality DAC, of course), there has to be a rational explanation, given that the bits are the same. I'm still not sure what that explanation would be.


At the end of the day, what are you saying? Can there be a difference or not?

One more thing, if you say bits are the same then why a quality DAC sounds better than a cheap DAC? The rational explanation can start from here, if you have any.

It is exasperating for me because after spending months transferring all my CD collections to the hard drive, now I find that my SACD player still sounds better. I am the same man who said I couldn’t tell the difference between a Quad and my player. And the Quad owner too couldn't tell the difference. So why is there a difference with my hardrive and the CD player? It couldn’t be the DAC because I couldn't tell the difference between the DAC and my player previously.


ST

steveinaz
17-02-2012, 03:37 PM
STHLS5--
Don't know why you're having difficulties, but with my squeezebox setup, flac, I'm having great results.

Better DAC's typically feature far better analog sections---this is often overlooked, and is probably why most perform better.

STHLS5
18-02-2012, 04:49 AM
STHLS5--
Don't know why you're having difficulties, but with my squeezebox setup, flac, I'm having great results.

Better DAC's typically feature far better analog sections---this is often overlooked, and is probably why most perform better.

It is not bad. The sound is good enough that any difference is only apparent when I do side by side comparison. I suspect the interface from the Dell USB to Onyko NDS-1 to Theta DAC may be the cause for the slight difference.

My hard drive connection. Storage is MYBOOK LIVE connected via wifi to DELL. ITunes is played on DELL controlled via REMOTE using my IPAD. Dell USB is connected using a standard AB USB cable that came with NDS (I think) then from NDS to DAC connected via 2 meter XLO digital cable. I have tried different cables like replacing the XLO with another half meter XLO cable and with CableTalk and ordinary off the shelf cables. Non made any difference. Btw, my cables are are atleast 10 years old. I stopped the cable chase when I couldn't tell any difference.

My music file format are mostly in AIFF and WAV. Some MP3 especially for the poorly recorded non English oldies which sounds better than the CD versions.

ST