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HUG-1
17-02-2012, 09:04 AM
The music (recording) industry and the audio equipment industry share many characteristics. Both are driven by the for-profit motive, both appeal to emotions over logic, both are economically and technically stagnant. Both are masters at self-promotion and creating demand for mediocrity dressed up as revolution. Both are vicious, ruthless businesses.

The audiophile (a person willing to spend heavily on exotic audio equipment) is chasing a sonic dream, one which the cost-conscious recording industry does not recognise and does not provide. The illusion of limitless improvements in fidelity is a fantasy created by the marketing machine of the audio equipment industry not the record industry. This thread hopefully pulls-together the many words written here over the years cautioning consumers about getting caught-up in the pitiful mental torture of audiophilia.

Stephen PG
28-02-2012, 12:30 PM
The audiophile (a person willing to spend heavily on exotic audio equipment) is chasing a sonic dream, one which the cost-conscious recording industry does not recognise and does not provide. The illusion of limitless improvements in fidelity is a fantasy created by the marketing machine of the audio equipment industry not the record industry. This thread hopefully pulls-together the many words written here over the years cautioning consumers about getting caught-up in the pitiful mental torture of audiophilia.

Hear hear.

Don't believe everything you read on the internet without question, (obviously the Harbeth User Group (ignoring the sandbox) is an exception).

Playing with a new W7 PC, I began to record some of my LP's I've been unable to find on CD onto the computer using Audacity, a free recording program. Whilst doing this, I thought of this, could I record from the analogue outputs of my CD player - an Arcam CD36, an old DVD I've had for years, a Squeezebox Touch and Duet, and how would the recording compare to the original track?

Well, I did this and the results were surprising...

Here is the first set:

Fifty Ways A (http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?b32zvdojvk169h8)

Fifty Ways B (http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?qwoarnhycbv5ql9)

Fifty Ways C (http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?sac231hlq37cdzb)

Fifty Ways D (http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?srr4lh4icadmff8)


Second set:

Kid A (http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?d9bmuuav12ov7vl)

Kid B (http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?0b8dkscia2f1tfw)

Kid C (http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?x8sdmasqe4x7zg5)

Kid D (http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?o6fbcuvf46s6a0t)

Enjoy! And just list the tracks in the order you think sounds best.

PLEASE REFER TO POST 15

STHLS5
28-02-2012, 03:21 PM
Enjoy! And just list the tracks in the order you think sounds best.

They all sounded the same to me and nothing too obvious over my laptop. But I think the vocals in A and D seemed to be the best. If I have to make a choice then it will be D, A, C and B. Having problem downloading the Kid tracks.

ST

b4sound
29-02-2012, 11:52 AM
They all sound the same to me too and even clicking across the beginning if each 4 tracks quickly I can't tell.

Stephen PG
01-03-2012, 10:26 AM
thurston,

As Alan said...


The illusion of limitless improvements in fidelity is a fantasy created by the marketing machine of the audio equipment industry not the record industry.

It's quite simple.

So far, no one has been able to tell the difference between a CD player, costing over a thousand pounds (), a 10+ year old dvd player and a couple of squeezeboxes (A Touch & Duet - 200 each-ish...).

Interestingly, the hard core subjectivists have ignored the challenge completely at the other places I've posted this. I guess the golden ears really do only work when the eyes are there...

STHLS5
01-03-2012, 12:35 PM
,

So far, no one has been able to tell the difference between a CD player, costing over a thousand pounds (), a 10+ year old dvd player and a couple of squeezeboxes (A Touch & Duet - 200 each-ish...).

Interestingly, the hard core subjectivists have ignored the challenge completely at the other places I've posted this. I guess the golden ears really do only work when the eyes are there...

Ouch... I guessed wrongly! Maybe, I should have kept quiet so that I would be still known as an audiophile, a person with the golden ears. Will try downloading the Kid again and play them over my audiophile equipments.

Once, someone said that his sound improved so much after putting a Schumann resonator in his room. I asked him whether he could tell the difference under DBT. He said " I don't need to test myself. I know of the improvement and I need not prove them". I don't think he is an exception.

ST

STHLS5
01-03-2012, 01:38 PM
.

So far, no one has been able to tell the difference between a CD player, costing over a thousand pounds (), a 10+ year old dvd player and a couple of squeezeboxes (A Touch & Duet - 200 each-ish...).
...

Stephen, could please tell us if your recording is the original CD played and the digital copy played in different players or you are playing the digital version of the LP copy? Thanks

ST

Kumar Kane
01-03-2012, 02:27 PM
Once, someone said that his sound improved so much after putting a Schumann resonator in his room. I asked him whether he could tell the difference under DBT. He said " I don't need to test myself. I know of the improvement and I need not prove them". I don't think he is an exception.

ST
I have come to the conclusion that if this floats someone's boat, one should leave that person be. Life is too short...

A.S.
01-03-2012, 02:50 PM
This is all very well, but who has a FLAC player? I don't on this PC. As we have said before, it's esseential that A-B comparisons are INSTANTANEOUS. And than means no faffing about; with as short a gap between the pieces as possible.

Can I suggest that you recreate these as 320kb MP3s?

DONE - see post #15

Stephen PG
02-03-2012, 11:27 AM
Sorry, I'd have replied sooner but I didn't notice this thread had been duplicated in another place.

As the person who slaved over a hot A to D converter for many hours to create these files, I can confirm they are all from CD's... and are taken directly from the analogue outputs of the various machines. Also level matched, to make it fair!

{MP3 cuts embedded in normal Harbeth HTML5 format calling supplied MP3 files (not in any way re-encoded)}.

/library/mp3files/A.mp3 Clip A

/library/mp3files/B.mp3 Clip B

/library/mp3files/C.mp3 Clip C

/library/mp3files/D.mp3 Clip D


/library/mp3files/Fifty Ways - A.mp3
Fifty Ways A - Clip E

/library/mp3files/Fifty Ways - B.mp3
Fifty Ways B - Clip F

b4sound
02-03-2012, 12:03 PM
Interestingly, the hard core subjectivists have ignored the challenge completely at the other places I've posted this. I guess the golden ears really do only work when the eyes are there...

It may well be that the hard cores at the other places have listened to them and also could not tell the difference and did not want to be embarrassed...
Having said this - how do we know that you might be pulling our legs and when revealed, all four are in fact from the same source? ;)

Personally I am not technical (more like not capable) and do not wish to get too deep in trying to understand the jitter, high resolution and all.
High resolution in particular is over-rated but also under supplied. A well recorded red-book CD remains just as enjoyable for me.

Over the recent xmas break, I was restricted to a tiny setup playing from an iTouch for 2 weeks and immensely enjoyed every minute.
http://i781.photobucket.com/albums/yy92/b4sound/20110818%20Realistic%20Minimus%207/e64c73fa.jpg
Those tiny Realistic Minimus 7s are quite something for their size, age and price.

Stephen PG
02-03-2012, 12:14 PM
As the person who slaved over a hot A to D converter for many hours to create these files, I can confirm they are all from CD's... and are taken directly from the analogue outputs of the various machines. Also level matched, to make it fair!


b4sound,

You have my word as a gentleman and Harbeth owner, each track is from the output of either an Arcam CD player, an old dvd player, a touch or a Duet with no pre-amp in between.

b4sound
02-03-2012, 12:23 PM
As the person who slaved over a hot A to D converter for many hours to create these files, I can confirm they are all from CD's... and are taken directly from the analogue outputs of the various machines. Also level matched, to make it fair!



Would you mind explaining the A to D part? Is it possible that the converter may impart a very similar signature during the conversion?

A.S.
02-03-2012, 12:26 PM
... Is it possible that the converter may impart a very similar signature during the conversion?This assumes that DAC converters do have a signature. I'm not so sure about that. Why would they? Where would this 'personality' component actually reside in the DAC? Another great marketing myth?

And (although I am prejudging the outcome as I have only given the briefest listen on these PC speakers) if the CD players have different DAC technologies (as you would expect at different price points and even from different eras) if initial comments are of little or no sonic difference doesn't that suggest that the DAC is a rather (or utterly) insignificant part of the audio chain (which is my opinion)?

Stephen PG
02-03-2012, 12:45 PM
b4sound,

I can give you links (via PM) to some clips of lp's I've recorded, (ones I can't find on CD, I used to work in a specialist classical record shop and have many very old, very rare records!) to see if you think the PCs A to D converter made them sound the same?

Duet and Touch, wireless streamers.

http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg120/Basil_023/IMG_0924.jpg

b4sound
02-03-2012, 12:52 PM
b4sound,

I can give you links (via PM) to some clips of lp's I've recorded, (ones I can't find on CD, I used to work in a specialist classical record shop and have many very old, very rare records!) to see if you think the PCs A to D converter made them sound the same?

Sure but what what would I be comparing them against? Curious also when you will eventually reveal if you can / cannot tell the difference yourself.

Also - please don't be offended as I was only messing with you about pulling our leg!

Stephen PG
02-03-2012, 12:56 PM
They sound the same to me through the SHL5s... I had to make a note of which is which... plus I can't tell any of them from the original rip of the CD.

All will be revealed.

But I bet no one gets it exactly right.

The DVD:

http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg120/Basil_023/IMG_0933.jpg

With magic dust!

The Arcam, 24bit 192 up-sampler...

http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg120/Basil_023/IMG_0934.jpg

b4sound
02-03-2012, 01:07 PM
And (although I am prejudging the outcome as I have only given the briefest listen on these PC speakers) if the CD players have different DAC technologies (as you would expect at different price points and even from different eras) if initial comments are of little or no sonic difference doesn't that suggest that the DAC is a rather (or utterly) insignificant part of the audio chain (which is my opinion)?

Partly I ended up here was because I wanted to put together a "simple" system that had the fewest components possible with the convenience of streaming. So this ruled out vinyl (not starting a fight as I do like how a good vinyl setup sounds just not the TLC required). But Alan, I am not yet as sceptical and still believe DACs can make quite a difference in the chain.

Stephen PG
02-03-2012, 01:18 PM
But Alan, I am not yet as sceptical and still believe DACs can make quite a difference in the chain.

You need to do any comparisons between DACs blind and level matched, for a genuine, un-biased result.

A.S.
02-03-2012, 02:24 PM
But Alan, I am not yet as sceptical and still believe DACs can make quite a difference in the chain.DACs are extremely simple devices. Why should such a simple device have such a profound effect?

Consider this: at the recording end of the chain in the studio, most modern studios have digital recording desks (consoles). How many ADCs (much more tricky components to design than the inverse, DACs) do you think the microphones have passed through? I mean, if you have fifty mics, you'll need at least 50 ADCs. And I'm failry sure that almost nobody at the sharp end of the business (the studio) gives a tinker's cuss about ADCs, DAC's, cables, isolators or any of the other paraphernalia that those at the back end of the chain (the audiophiles) lose sleep over. When the red light turns on, money starts to burn, and the recording business is above all else, a business.

Funny old world isn't it when those that walk around a gallery are more obsessed with minutia than the painters themselves!

A.S.
02-03-2012, 02:39 PM
OK I found a pair of internet-listening supra-aural headphones (Jabra brand) in the office. They don't have a lot of top, but it's adequate.

Using the embedded MP3s in post #15 it's easy to make almost instantaneous A-B comparisons. So whilst this isn't a perfect method, it's far, far more reliable than an audiophile turning off A, unplugging and swapping to B, turning on B.

As far as I can tell by listening alone to the first minute or so to any of these tracks, I cannot detect any definite difference between them. Based on this brief test I would be satisfied with whatever CD equipment had been used regardless of price, size, colour, brand, technology or age. I lost interest after switching between the tracks after the first minute or so because if there were differences, I would have expected to hear them immediately and not after minutes of straining.

I can't recall which Steely Dan album A-D are from; one album (Katie Lied?) marked not only their first use of digital recording technology but one of the very first pop albums to do so. The Paul Simon track is analogue and I'd guess that the Steely Dan is too.

If I've missed something subtle here please tell me so I can listen again. If only loudspeakers exhibited such small performance differences between models.

P.S. I have not investigated the spectral content of any of these: my comment is based on brief listening on cheap headphones alone.

Stephen PG
02-03-2012, 03:19 PM
Alan,

The Steely Dan track 'Kid Charlemagne' is from 'The Royal Scam' taken from the CD box set 'Citizen'

The Paul Simon track 'Fifty Ways...' is taken from the compilation CD 'Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-1986'

Originally, it was on the album 'Still Crazy After All These Years' which was analogue.

And you're right, if you have to sit clenching as if your life depended on it, the differences are not worth worrying about... :-)

Thanks for making the effort feel worth it,

Oh, and ta for the 'triffic speakers too!

A.S.
02-03-2012, 03:31 PM
... And you're right, if you have to sit clenching as if your life depended on it, the differences are not worth worrying about... :-)...That's a perfect summary of my experience. I've since listened a little further into these tracks and again, bringing each up the the same stop/start point and toggling between them. I just cannot hear a difference. That does not of course mean that there isn't a difference - merely that under these sub-optimal conditions I can't hear it.

Perhaps when other have commented you'd tell us what we were actually listening to. I slightly regret posting my comments publicly because of the bias it may lead to, but I'm also aware that I need to prime the pump.

If you were to say that there was a 100:1 price variation I would not be the slightest surprised. If that manifest itself in a better build quality, better remote, properly-funded after care, longer service life etc. I may be willing to pay, but on the basis of these brief uncontrolled tests, I wouldn't pay a cent more of sonic 'improvements'.

P.S. Sorry I missed this comment earlier ....


You have my word as a gentleman and Harbeth owner, each track is from the output of either an Arcam CD player, an old dvd player, a touch or a Duet with no pre-amp in between.So we do know what we were comparing against. Doesn't change my opinion.

STHLS5
02-03-2012, 03:34 PM
I am skeptical about the use of computer sound card to record from the analogue output. If the sound card itself was with limitations then we cannot reliably hear any difference that may exceed the sound card. Furthermore, the computer process sound with certain limitations. I read an article about window OS and its architecture on how it suppose to handle each information and when it comes to audio there was certain caps imposed. Maybe, some experts here could shed some light on this.

Let's look it another way. Would you expect to hear any difference if I were to make a LP from the CD, DVD and media players analogue output?*

ST

A.S.
02-03-2012, 03:51 PM
I am skeptical about the use of computer sound card to record from the analogue output. If the sound card itself was with limitations then we cannot reliably hear any difference that may exceed the sound card. ...I do not know what card was used to make these examples but even an average modern PC sound card is capable of far better fidelity than even a professional mixing desk of ten years ago. And a first class modern PC sound card is capable of truly fantastic fidelity, far exceeding the performance of CD's 44k/16 bit technology.

For almost nothing you can buy a 192kb/24 bit multi channel card of simply incredible performance. Multi-channel cards like this one (http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Delta1010LT.html) are widely used in the music recording industry to record and edit the very music, broadcast and film sound we are surrounded with now.

Another audio myth busted.

b4sound
02-03-2012, 10:08 PM
You need to do any comparisons between DACs blind and level matched, for a genuine, un-biased result. I am afraid level matching and ABX is beyond my capabilities... but lets come back down to earth where I say > Lets not try too hard to hear any differences. My preference now is just let it play and you will know after some time if you like it or not. I am still learning this from the wife - she doesn't try to hear the the difference - she simply listens. ('Men' perhaps are not designed to function this way)


DACs are extremely simple devices. Why should such a simple device have such a profound effect?

This place really is very different - any where else and someone or two would have torn into this with all sorts of arguments and justifications and in close proximity even a fight...


I am skeptical about the use of computer sound card to record from the analogue output. If the sound card itself was with limitations then we cannot reliably hear any difference that may exceed the sound card. Furthermore, the computer process sound with certain limitations. I read an article about window OS and its architecture on how it suppose to handle each information and when it comes to audio there was certain caps imposed. Maybe, some experts here could shed some light on this.

ST

STHLS5, you have expressed this much better than my attempt above - although A.S does not agree, I too am asking this question.
Since I should be able to take a break this weekend from work, I will go get the Paul Simon CD, rip that (I use XLD on Mac) and will click through the 50 ways against Stephen's 4 samples just to test if there are any audible differences (sorry level matching is not in my skill set... )

A.S.
02-03-2012, 11:36 PM
I am afraid level matching and ABX is beyond my capabilities... ...I will go get the Paul Simon CD, rip that (I use XLD on Mac) and will click through the 50 ways against Stephen's 4 samples just to test if there are any audible differences (sorry level matching is not in my skill set... )VERY IMPORTANT POINT which will be engraved onto my tomb stone (not too soon I hope) but it encapsulates a lifetime's experience of critically judging audio.....

IF YOU DO NOT MATCH THE LEVELS YOU MUST EXPECT TO HEAR A DIFFERENCE IN PERCEIVED SOUND QUALITY BETWEEN A & B EVEN IF A & B ARE EXACTLY THE SAME EQUIPMENT.

Accepting this fact is 100% fundamental to working within the limitations of the human ear. Rejecting this fact means that you are rejecting the well understood way that the ear works, which would be the height of ignorance. There is absolutely no doubt that level matching is CRUCIAL. There is no substitute for level matching. Those studying the ear/brain would study the ear's level sensitivity in the early stages of their career. Audiophiles make no effort whatsoever to understand this point.

Marketing people consult with acousticians (who thoroughly understand the ear) to find ways of deliberately manipulating the ear's peculiarities with the objective of confusing the listener and deceiving him into making an inappropriate purchase. The simplest, cheapest, surest way is to deliberately manipulate loudness levels. Whichever of A or B is the louder (in my experience) will manifest itself as 'full bodied', 'most involving', 'warmer', 'more musical, 'truer to life', 'more revealing' etc. etc.. Swap the levels around so that B is now the louder and the listener's experience will reverse. The positive sonic attributes I have listed of warmth and involvement (etc. etc.) follow the louder signal.

If I made a version (which is impossible) of for example, the SHL5 which was 1-2dB louder than the conventional SHL5, sales of the louder SHL5 would rapidly kill-off sales off sales of the quieter SHL5 even though their technical characteristics were completely identical except for the increased loudness for the same electrical input.

Why do we take a strong line of these points? Because we understand how the ear works, we know exactly how to deceive ourselves and we know how to deceive you, the listener. We are empowered with these tools but we do not use them against our customers or users. We have no need to with a long order book and quarter-by-quarter sales growth.

I cannot stress this point enough.

STHLS5
03-03-2012, 08:51 AM
.

As the person who slaved over a hot A to D converter for many hours to create these files, I can confirm they are all from CD's... and are taken directly from the analogue outputs of the various machines. Also level matched, to make it fair!

{ F


I just checked the flac file properties and all of them are compressed by at least 50%. played with EQ and not much changes at 12KHz. Can we safely say that this comparison will ever be regarded as valid to the believers?

ST

b4sound
03-03-2012, 09:22 AM
IF YOU DO NOT MATCH THE LEVELS YOU MUST EXPECT TO HEAR A DIFFERENCE IN PERCEIVED SOUND QUALITY BETWEEN A & B EVEN IF A & B ARE EXACTLY THE SAME EQUIPMENT.

I cannot stress this point enough.

Hear you loud and clear Sir! :)

Actually, I have ripped 50 ways uncompressed into FLAC from CD and also cannot tell the difference.
Not sure where Stephen stores the FLACs - I can add version E.

A.S.
03-03-2012, 10:13 AM
I have downloaded the supplied A,B,C,D MP3 files and pasted them side by side in a four channel stereo multitrack and highlighted a random section of the wavefile for visual comparison.

The visual differences between the representations of these tracks are subtle, but the most obvious visual difference is that track D (the last L/R pair at the bottom) more frequently reach maximum level than the others. The visual effect is of 'more light green waveform information' with the spikes that are frequent in clip A (for example) are less evident in D because overall, D has less dynamic range. Or had the average level increased a little.

This says to me that these tracks have either been selectively and intentionally post-capture processed i.e. compressed/loudness adjusted or unintentionally the level match between the sources has not been exact for whatever reason (incl. perhaps limited availability of accurate measuring equipment.)

Are we are seeing/(not) hearing solely the potential differences between alternative CD player analogue outputs? Processed or not, the previous listening test results are unchanged.

A zoomed-out spectral analysis of the first minute's play from A and D (randomly selected) shows a (virtually) identical frequency response, but as noted above, a slight level shift. Spectral D v A (plot attached) at this zoom level shown no obvious level offset. However, toggling between these two plots shows a level jump, so zoomed-in we can see that D is (exactly) 1dB louder than A overall.

>

A.S.
03-03-2012, 11:01 AM
I have the original CD of The Royal Scam MCLD 19083 which I bought at least twenty years ago, before the loudness wars started. I also have the LP.

Comparison between my original track 1, Kid Charlemagne (the one you used for A-D) and your clip A is shown on the attached plot. The original is quieter (less light green waveform plot) and has plenty of dark green headroom around the waveform with nice, occasional peaks. Your examples are much louder, have a much smaller dynamic range (less dark green, more light green). Watching the level meters, if I increase the loudness of my original by an overall 5dB to peak at about the same as your A, it clips. So this implies that either you, or your repackaged/remasted CD has signal compression and loudness increase compared with my original CD.

If that's true, and assuming that your sole objective was to demonstrate the sonic difference (or not) between CD transports, using a compressed audio example was a dubious choice perhaps as it has introduced unwanted variable into the experiment?

Here is a comparison between your A (as before) and my CD track; both 320kb MP3.

/library/mp3files/A.mp3 Clip A

/library/mp3files/Kid Charlemagne AS CD 320.mp3 My original CD (Clip G)

I'd guess that had you never heard the original CD that you would be attracted to the louder 'more involving' sound of the compressed A.

Now, it's very easy to turn my original into a more dynamic modern sound by applying hard limiting - see attached images. Now we can compare your A with my H hardened version of the original CD sound. Which do you prefer now?

/library/mp3files/Kid Charlemagne AS HL 320.mp3 Clip H: Hardened version of my original CD

So after nearly three hours analysing, I'm somewhat confused as to what we are really comparing between A, B, C and D. Is it really four raw, unadjusted audio tracks exactly as they appear at the analogue outputs of the devices with no more than some simple gain adjustment?

>

P.S. Out of curiosity, by how much can the original CD clip (G) be increased in loudness without clipping? In other words, preserving the intentions of the original 1976 mastering engineer, how much can we turn up the loudness? The answer is a tiny 0.53dB - completely inaudible. Beyond that level increase, we changed the sonic intentions of the original recording. We've become part of the artistic process and we shouldn't ever be that.

Here is the original CD clip again (G, as above)

/library/mp3files/Kid Charlemagne AS CD 320.mp3 Clip G again

and here is the absolute maximum gain increase before we're changing the artist's intentions:

/library/mp3files/KC_norm0dB.mp3Maximum boost (Clip J)

See picture. You will not be able to hear the 0.53dB level increase between clips G and J.

It may not be obvious exactly which part of the entire song is the very loudest, reaching 0dB, fully saturated. Of the two I've marked in the picture, it's in the middle of this clip:

/library/mp3files/KC_norm0dB_loudest.mp3 Clip K: the absolute loudest note in the entire track is the piano chord <<< here

STHLS5
03-03-2012, 12:43 PM
.... However, toggling between these two plots shows a level jump, so zoomed-in we can see that D is (exactly) 1dB louder than A overall.

>


....... If I have to make a choice then it will be D, A, C and B.


I don't know what to say. I have previously taken the audiocheeck test and I couldnt tell the difference of 1dB using test tones. And now, my preference was based soley on 1dB difference? Could this mean we listen music differently as compared to test tones?

ST

A.S.
03-03-2012, 12:52 PM
Looks to me like D, A, C and B are random selections which given enough flips of the coin may change. Yes, we do analyse tones differently to music. The reason must be this: we can give our entire mental processing power and the ear's mechanical limitations to concentrating on just the tone and nothing else but the tone. We can turn ourselves into a single-pitch laboratory instrument.

But listening to and interpreting music means that we have to divide that focus over many aspects of what we are hearing: pitch, loudness, harmonics, rhythm, speed, interpretation of what is being said/sung, various emotional connotations, considerations of distortion and spectral balance, fidelity etc. etc.. No surprise loudness resolution as a single aspect diminishes - right? And of course, we do not analyse music as a test instrument or audio analyser does.

Consider this (some homework for you!) .... how fast does one cell in the nerve fibre electrochemically pass its charge (that's how the message is conveyed) to the next cell? And how long is the nerve from the ear to the brain? And how many cells are there in that chain? And what is the total transmission time from the first to the last cell? Now the interesting bit ..... if that time exceeds the periodicity of a high frequency waveform ... how do we sense HF at all because the signal has ceased or changed before the brain is even aware that it arrived at the ear?

thurston
03-03-2012, 01:39 PM
It saddens me a little when I see how easily I (as an "audiophile", haha) am tricked by hot mastering. Even though I know what it is about!

One thing that came to my mind (because it at some point is a DIFFERENT record afterwards, what Mr Shaw means by becoming part of an artistic process):

How much dynamic compression does MP3 make by itself? Because in a way, if MP3 results in less dynamic compression than "Remastering" it could well be possible that MP3 somehow is nearer to the (recorded) original, hence better than these "improved" CD's!!

A.S.
03-03-2012, 06:06 PM
...How much dynamic compression does MP3 make by itself? Because in a way, if MP3 results in less dynamic compression than "Remastering" it could well be possible that MP3 somehow is nearer to the (recorded) original, hence better than these "improved" CD's!!Let's boil MP3 down to the bare bones ....

First, MP3 encoding is a patented technology. The patents are held by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany (http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/bf/amm/produkte/audiocodec/audiocodecs/mp3/index.jsp). They are watertight. And they are watertight because they are based on a thorough understanding of how the human ear works. And that means that they cannot be circumvented, bypassed or possibly even improved. These patents are the the complete, concise and proven intellectual model of how to encode and decode audio using the minimum amount of data to describe the audio so that, at different bit rates, users are satisfied with the sound. The business brains behind Fraunhofer Institute have to be congratulated for turning astute observations about the ear into a multi-million pound licence revenue stream. If only the hifi industry has such a firm technical foundation. They follow in the steps of Ray Dolby who, a generation before, used his understanding of the ear to give us noise reduction technology and in return, his own IP revenue stream.

The objective of a coding/decoding system is to reduce the amount of data (information) in the stream of bits that pass from one equipment to another. That simplifies circuit complexity, component count, reduces cost and size, and increases reliability. Since coding systems are about discarding data that cannot be heard (even if the waves can be seen and measured by technical equipment) there will be two ways of attacking the selection of what to keep and what to throw away ....

Frequency based analysis: if one or some notes in music swamp others, there is no absolutely no point in coding those that are swamped.

DIY experiment to prove frequency masking in the human ear: Turn on a portable radio and place 2-3m from your ear. Borrow your wife's hair dryer and waft it around your head as if you were drying your hair. The radio's sound is masked by the hair dryer until you either turn up the radio until it exceeds the masking threshold of your ear and/or you turn off or turn down the hair dryer. You have just demonstrated how frequency masking works.

Temporal analysis: Sounds fancy doesn't it but all it means is the coder being sensitive to what happens as time passes and the music progresses. Crude explanation: You can think of this as making an analogue tape recording of a song and then chopping it into small pieces with a pair of scissors. Each piece or 'block' of the song may be anything from a mm to many cms long - you decide where to cut. Clearly, if you want to make precision technical decisions on how to encode any slice of tape, it would be best to make those slices as small as possible - perhaps only 1 or 2mm long, just enough for one note to morph into the next in the music. There is no need to have much more resolution that the tempo of a typical tune, because if the notes don't change more often than so many times a second, then there really is no point encoding all the slices; all that would be necessary is to encode one and then say 'repeat that for 7 slices' or whatever. That would save a lot of data. It's very lucky that music proceeds at a regular pace and is not random. If it were random, like hiss, the encoder would not be able to make predictions about what was to follow, and it would not be able to discard data for fear that it had thrown away signal of fundamental importance.

So these two attacks are made on the audio waveform in tandem. And MP3 works extremely well when even 90% or more of the waveform is discarded, which of course, means that the data rate between equipment A and B can be reduced by 90%. Or alternatively, for the same original data rate, nine more channels can be carried along the same digital pipe. Or even a mix of audio and video. Or audio + data + video.

STHLS5
03-03-2012, 06:09 PM
....

Consider this (some homework for you!) .... how fast does one cell in the nerve fibre electrochemically pass its charge (that's how the message is conveyed) to the next cell? And how long is the nerve from the ear to the brain? And how many cells are there in that chain? And what is the total transmission time from the first to the last cell? Now the interesting bit ..... if that time exceeds the periodicity of a high frequency waveform ... how do we sense HF at all because the signal has ceased or changed before the brain is even aware that it arrived at the ear?

It may take a week or so to finish reading the 91 pages of Neuronal Signalling. So far I know it takes about 2 ms from one neuron to another. Total transmission time varies from 1 to 120 meter/second. I am guessing that evolution would have made that our auditory and visual sensory should transmit at the fastest speed. That's why the eyes and ears are located closer to the brain. ........ I doubt anyone would even want to know this in HUG.:)

Could you please explain your last sentence? That part is interesting and I doubt I can find the answer in the 91 pages.

Thuston, I agree that some MP3 recording sound better than the poor analogue copy of CD. In fact, some of the oldies that I used to hear in LP sounds so much better over the FM radio than on CD .

ST

A.S.
03-03-2012, 06:21 PM
So far I know it takes about 2 ms from one neuron to another. Total transmission time varies from 1 to 120 meter/second. I am guessing that evolution would have made that our auditory and visual sensory should transmit at the fastest speed. That's why the eyes and ears are located closer to the brain. ........ I doubt anyone would even want to know this in HUG.:)

Could you please explain your last sentence? That part is interesting and I doubt I can find the answer in the 91 pages....Well if they don't appreciate how their own ear/brain works perhaps they are going to be putty in the hands of marketeers!

OK, you say that for one cell to pass an electrical impulse to another takes 2mS. That's two thousandths of a second. Very, very slow indeed. In fact, that is a signal that crawls along the nervous system at a snails pace (literally).

I don't have much time to spend on this but here is an excellent video of the basics of the outer and inner ear ... here (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1948643-overview#aw2aab6b3).

Here is a good walk through (all we need to know) about nerves here (http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/nerve1.htm). Specifically here (http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/nerve4.htm), we can appreciate that the entire electrical transmission system along our nerves is made possible by the presence of chemicals potassium and sodium: without these in the correct balance, we cannot sense the world around us.

Let's make a guess or two. Let's say that the nerve-to-nerve transmission of the electrical signal from ear to brain is at a rate of 10m per second. The way the signal passes from cell to cell is the same as water is passed along a fireman's bucket chain (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub7E0njrQCg&feature=related), with each bucket being in-line. You can see that this is a really slow process.

I don't know how long the auditory nerve from the brain to ear is, but let's make another guess: let's say 10cms. As we have said that the transmission rate is 10m per second, for our 10cms nerve channel (0.1m) it would take one hundredth of a second (0.1s) for the signal to pass from our ear to brain along the guesstimated 10cms nerve. That's a time equivalent to about two cycles of the mains frequency - almost an eternity. Cross check: if you say that the cell-to-cell transmission is 2mS (0.002s) then that implies that there are (0.1 / 0.002) cells in the line. Is it possible that each cell is (0.1m / 50) = 2mm long? Is my maths right? Does it sound credible?

Now, suppose we consider what musical note has a period equivalent to 2mS. That will be once cycle of the frequency (1/0.002 =) 500Hz. That surely means that the chemistry in any one cell takes as long as a complete single cycle of 500Hz to pass to the next cell that a sound has been detected by the ear. What happens if the detected sound, for simplification, is a higher frequency of 600Hz, or 1000Hz or 10,000Hz? The period of a 10,000 (10kHz) tone is (1 / 10000 =) 0.1mS - twenty times shorter than the inter-cell transmission time. So just as cell A starts to think about ramping up its electrical charge to send it to cell B, the tone has completed its cycle and perhaps ceased altogether.

Clearly the way the ear senses frequencies with a period shorter than the inter-cell transmission speed cannot be as discrete frequencies. The nerve channel would be far, far too slow and that high-frequency 'snap' sound that told of an approaching predator simply wouldn't be processed in time to make our escape unless the 'snap' sound persisted for a long time. But we know that high frequency sounds are often impulsive in nature - they come and they go very fast.

STHLS5
04-03-2012, 05:08 AM
......
I don't know how long the auditory nerve from the brain to ear is, but let's make another guess: let's say 10cms. As we have said that the transmission rate is 10m per second, for our 10cms nerve channel (0.1m) it would take one hundredth of a second (0.1s) for the signal to pass from our ear to brain along the guesstimated 10cms nerve. That's a time equivalent to about two cycles of the mains frequency - almost an eternity. Cross check: if you say that the cell-to-cell transmission is 2mS (0.002s) then that implies that there are (0.1 / 0.002) cells in the line. Is it possible that each cell is (0.1m / 50) = 2mm long? Is my maths right? Does it sound credible?

Now, suppose we consider what musical note has a period equivalent to 2mS. That will be once cycle of the frequency (1/0.002 =) 500Hz. That surely means that the chemistry in any one cell takes as long as a complete single cycle of 500Hz to pass to the next cell that a sound has been detected by the ear. What happens if the detected sound, for simplification, is a higher frequency of 600Hz, or 1000Hz or 10,000Hz? The period of a 10,000 (10kHz) tone is (1 / 10000 =) 0.1mS - twenty times shorter than the inter-cell transmission time. So just as cell A starts to think about ramping up its electrical charge to send it to cell B, the tone has completed its cycle and perhaps ceased altogether.

...


Cells (neurons) cannot be 2 mm long though the calculation seems to be correct. Otherwise we wouldn't need an electron microscope to see them. Neurons size vary from 0.004mm to 0.1mm.

Before we consider the transmission time for the brain to receive the signal, we should consider the speed of sound itself which is 3 times faster than what our sensory transmission capable of. Theoretically, the sound hit our ears with three time more information then our brain could ever capable of processing at a given time. But that doesn't stop us from processing the sound accurately.

Looking at another mammal besides humans, the bats, they are are capable of emitting frequency at 200 kHz lasting just about 100 ms for the purpose of echolocation. How do bats process the sound. Being mammals their neurons too function similar to humans.

I think the brain, even if it is slow to process the sound but it got enough buffers to store the signals until it processes them. Just like sending your digital photograph from the computer screen to the printer. It maybe slow but the end result will be the exact replica of what you see on the screen. That's how brain too should work. IMHO.

There are many things not known about the functions of the brain. Only recently researchers found out that the exact location where our brain processes speech is miles away than originally thought. And in another research, they found that there are two channels in the ears that transmit sound to the brain. One to carry the signal at the onset of the impulse and another at the offset contrary to the long held believe that All signals transmit Thru the same pathway. I read Sciencedaily.com :)) Another interesting fact about some parts in the ears of adult males is atleast 30% larger than females. No wonder there are more guys than girls in the audiophile world.

ST

weaver
04-03-2012, 07:33 AM
Firstly, many thanks Alan for posts 30 and 31 - I have come back to them several times over the past couple of days and will continue to do so as my understanding of their implications increases at each reading.

Secondly - some time ago (around 18 months or so) discussions of mp3 encoding had progressed quite a long way on HUG and I don't intend to sidetrack this thread back into that area, however one issue that really stuck for me was that the encoding does not simply remove information it also creates noise and that 'masking' is the rug under which this noise is swept. Reading further into this, the issue that I arrived at was 'quantization' and at that point I'm afraid I ran out of ability to understand the maths - or even the implications of the maths.

One of the practical consequences of this created noise is that repeated encodings of a file can have much more detrimental affects on quality than might at first be imagined. There was a BBC technical paper on this subject which was cited on HUG but I haven't checked whether the reference is still current.

Edit: my post relating to the above paper click here (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?964-MP3-and-audio-data-compression&p=10956&highlight=#post10956)

from the technical paper:


Introduction

The production and broadcast of audio is a technically complex operation. The audio signal will typically pass through several distinct processes including recording, sending to the studio, postproduction and so on. Increasingly, people have been turning to bitrate reduction to reduce the cost, or to increase the speed, of these processes. In isolation, the impact on audio quality of a single application of bitrate reduction can appear negligible. However, the reality is that the cumulative effects of bitrate reduction throughout the broadcast chain is far from negligible. If each process removes all redundant audio information, or uses the signal to mask the noise being introduced, then the next process might have nothing left to remove, or will see previously introduced noise as signal to be used to mask more noise.

full paper still available here (http://tech.ebu.ch/docs/techreview/trev_304-cascading.pdf)

b4sound
04-03-2012, 08:20 AM
Firstly, many thanks Alan for posts 30 and 31 - I have come back to them several times over the past couple of days and will continue to do so as my understanding of their implications increases at each reading.

+1 thanks to Alan. I have also been back on and off but my base was quite low and this weekend i discovered that youtube can be more effective than wikipedia with some types of explanations. And my attention was lost when you guys got to cells.... :)

After all this, going back to the original question, are we concluding that we are not able to tell from listening the differences between the samples. However, Alan's analysis is somewhat saying that it appears the CD has had compression performed on it therefore unable to conclude that it is a reliable source for the purpose of this exercise?

thurston
04-03-2012, 09:12 AM
...did not really understand everything in the previous posts yet but Ill keep trying.

One thing I did however is to buy an (old, un-remastered) version of Stelly Dans "Aja" via eBay. I have the remastered version here as well (borrowed from a friend) and liked the sound, allthough I can honestly say that it felt somewhat loud and too overwhelming sometimes.

(other side-effect: because so many people think of cds as something of the past, nearly like vinyl, there are lots of bargains to be made second-hand. And usually the unremastered versions are cheaper. Had to buy Led Zeppelins IV as well looking forward to Sandy Denny on "Battle Of Evermore"...ahh!)

thurston
04-03-2012, 09:31 AM
Interesting homepage: http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/

Lots of cds were tested to quantify their loudness/compression. If they are right my fears referring "Aja" are not justified.

Extremely difficult to trust your own ears, I am nearly dumb it seems!!

A.S.
04-03-2012, 07:06 PM
Firstly, many thanks Alan for posts 30 and 31 - I have come back to them several times over the past couple of days and will continue to do so as my understanding of their implications increases at each reading.

Secondly - some time ago (around 18 months or so) discussions of mp3 encoding had progressed quite a long way on HUG and I don't intend to sidetrack this thread back into that area, however one issue that really stuck for me was that the encoding does not simply remove information it also creates noise and that 'masking' is the rug under which this noise is swept. Reading further into this, the issue that I arrived at was 'quantization' ...Thanks for feedback.

Actually, a few years ago when MP3 was a hot topic, I gave a short presentation to a pro audio conference about this very issue of quantisation, and the implications of multiple encode-decode-re-encode. What I did - and I think I'll recreate it again - was to use the multi-track audio editor to place side by side (in a vertical stack actually) the recording at each step in the encode-decode cycle. You could see significant changes in the waveform from generation to generation, so that after about three or four cycles it was really markedly different in appearance.

I didn't have the technology then to give a demonstration of how the sound changed by switching quickly from one generation to another, but here on HUG we can do that now. I'll add it to the growing heap of things to present: remind me in a month or so please.

A.S.
04-03-2012, 07:19 PM
I hold Steely Dan as my favourite rock band and it's interesting to read now, decades later, how hard they worked to achieve technical and sonic perfection. I had no idea in the 70s that their attraction to me was the special combination of the great music plus great sound: I just liked what I heard.

Seems though that it wasn't all plain sailing .... read here about noise reduction problems (http://www.steelydan.com/dennys3.html) from the era of analogue tape. Yo analogue! No wonder they were amongst the first to go digital.

Also read the reality of squeezing playable music onto a vinyl record.

denjo
05-03-2012, 09:43 AM
Hi Alan

This is a very interesting thread! Are you then saying that ALL DACs playing through the same amplifier and speakers would sound the same (identical)?

Would speakers that use the same drivers as Harbeths all sound the same, whatever the enclosure, wires, connectors, crossover? Surely not right? That would be diminishing the labourious work that you have put in to design the crossover, the cabinets, etc? Equally, why should ALL DACs sound the same since each manufacturer would use a standard DAC chip and then expend time, money, effort and material tweaking with opamps, etc, to make it sound like what they think sounds the best. Am I correct?

Best Regards
Dennis

A.S.
05-03-2012, 09:50 AM
No it would be ridiculous to say that all DACS, amps, cables or whatever was of identical performance. The point is how big are those performance differences if they do exist And are they repeatable?


Would speakers that use the same drivers as Harbeths all sound the same, whatever the enclosure, wires, connectors, crossover? Surely not right? ...Can't answer that precisely because we make all our own bass/midrange drivers at Harbeth UK. So no other brand has our technology. But if they did, and copied all the parts you mentioned, why wouldn't the sound the same? There is no magic ingredient that we build-in, much though you may like to believe that! The designs all obeys the universal laws of physics

How do you tweak op amps? They are, by definition, dozens of transistors in one, neat, sealed, cheap package. If you want to tweak, you have to build the equivalent circuitry with individual transistors, then you have complete flexibility (and huge complexity/reliability/cost/pcb issues.)

Stephen PG
05-03-2012, 02:11 PM
No it would be ridiculous to say that all DACS, amps, cables or whatever was of identical performance. The point is how big are those performance differences if they do exist And are they repeatable?

Only one person here has attempted this so far...

Speaks volumes...

thurston
05-03-2012, 04:14 PM
...I will never really understand how much people insist on huge (audible) differences between amps, cd-players and dacs that are almost unmeasureably different.

You have to bear in mind that you try to hear ultra tiny differences by using a comparably bad reproducer (the speaker) and an equally bad measuring device (the ear).
The differences may be measureable but after processing the above mentioned stages they are trashed.
All the more when the usual listening room further trashes the frequency curves.

Stephen PG
05-03-2012, 04:22 PM
...I will never really understand how much people insist on huge (audible) differences between amps, cd-players and dacs that are almost unmeasureably different.

thurston,

Blatant self-aggrandisement, plain and simple... or 'see how good my hearing is, if you can't hear this, you must be deaf...'

Read between the lines of almost all posts in the subjective fora, and this is what you'll find.

thurston
05-03-2012, 04:38 PM
ok, in fact it is really easy to understand!

I have to confess that it took me quite some time to believe my own ears when I did NOT hear differences. When I think about how long it took to listen to a Mission Cyrus, Thorens and Aura-CD-Player 15 years ago untill finally buying the Mission.

And being completely true to myself: I liked the toploader-mechanism...

Just fancy stuff.

Stephen PG
06-03-2012, 02:02 PM
Can we please have access to the two files so that we can here at HUG HQ place them on the page in the usual way?

I made a right pigs ear of that, didn't I! Sorry... here they are

/library/mp3files/Aaa.mp3 Clip L

/library/mp3files/Bbb.mp3 Clip M

A.S.
06-03-2012, 09:06 PM
Seems to me that L sounds markedly louder than M. Are these supposed to be at the same replay level?

Can you just remind us please what these two clip are allowing us to compare please?

STHLS5
07-03-2012, 06:13 AM
L is louder and both sound identical except when you push the volume up then you find M feels a little gentle to the ears on longer (like an hour) listening. Interestingly, I see the difference better with IPad and my laptop then the desktop. For the Ipad and desktop I used Sennheiser earphones.

ST

Stephen PG
07-03-2012, 10:08 AM
Seems to me that L sounds markedly louder than M. Are these supposed to be at the same replay level?

Can you just remind us please what these two clip are allowing us to compare please?

Ok.

One is the rip from the CD using EAC.

One is recorded from the output of a CD player.

One has been through the A to D converter of my PC.

One hasn't.

One to rule them all...


Ok, that last one was a joke!

:)

A.S.
07-03-2012, 10:16 AM
Can you confirm if you have applied any signal processing at all? I mean, did you open any of the files in an audio editor and perform any tone/loudness/eq to L or M?

I much appreciate your effort to give us these clips. However, my long experience of A-B comparisons cautions me that we must only change one variable at a time. For example, we could change loudness in A but not in B. We could change the tone of A (using equalisers) but not alter B. But if we simultaneously changed the loudness and/or the tone of one but not the other, we would have introduced two variables. It would be impossible to reliably mentally appraise each of the two variables in isolation - the ear would fuse their effect together. We could easily jump to the wrong conclusion.

A practical example: if you simultaneously swapped your amplifier and your speakers, how could you possibly comment authoritatively about the sonic effect of either part in isolation? You couldn't: your experience would be a composite of both. Would you believe it: I have observed visitors to a hi-fi show enter an unfamiliar room, playing unfamiliar music on unfamiliar speakers (that's a minimum of three variables, plus maybe cables, interconnects etc. etc.) and, sighting a certain brand of amplifier, announce to the room that the reason the demo sounds so good/bad is entirely because of the amp. That makes no sense at all.

Stephen PG
07-03-2012, 02:23 PM
Can you confirm if you have applied any signal processing at all? I mean, did you open any of the files in an audio editor and perform any tone/loudness/eq to L or M?

None at all.

All I did was play the ripped file in Audacity to set the record level of the one I recorded from the CD player.

I obviously missed by a bit...the dB meter on Audacity could be better.

A.S.
07-03-2012, 05:25 PM
None at all. All I did was play the ripped file in Audacity to set the record level of the one I recorded from the CD player.

I obviously missed by a bit...the dB meter on Audacity could be better.No other changes to the audio files other than the (approximate, by eye) level adjustment? Sure?

Stephen PG
08-03-2012, 10:00 AM
No other changes to the audio files other than the (approximate, by eye) level adjustment? Sure?

Yes, I am.

A.S.
08-03-2012, 12:59 PM
I'm really surprised. Also the same source disk?

Did you notice that, upon examination of the audio waveforms A and B, there are significant visual differences in dynamic (transient) range? And also a 3dB difference in level.

STHLS5
08-03-2012, 02:15 PM
Looks like some posts are missing. I think one is the digital copy of the CD and another one is the analogue sound recorded using his PC. I am surprised that the sound difference is not obvious.

Stephen, what's the answer for your post No 2?

ST

Stephen PG
09-03-2012, 10:56 AM
I'm really surprised. Also the same source disk?

Did you notice that, upon examination of the audio waveforms A and B, there are significant visual differences in dynamic (transient) range? And also a 3dB difference in level.

Yes, the ripped file, ie the one that wasn't played and recorded from the CD player shows a better 'definition' for want of a better word. Example, the first 3 seconds of the song, the drum beats, play the rip and the first rapid strikes hit a fraction under -3dB and the following deeper drum takes it to almost halfway to 0dB.

Play the same clip from the recorded track and the first rapid strikes hit almost halfway to 0dB, and the second beat doesn't advance it any further.

Examples:

recording (http://www.mediafire.com/?skdgsyfv2sjc6hj)

rip (http://www.mediafire.com/?7l8yfynoa2cswo7)

A.S.
09-03-2012, 11:19 AM
Have you studied the waveforms? Can you see how different they are? Why is that? One shows strong evidence of dynamic range compression.

Stephen PG
09-03-2012, 11:56 AM
Have you studied the waveforms? Can you see how different they are? Why is that? One shows strong evidence of dynamic range compression.

You're asking me?

:-)

Ok, try this one...

Excerpt2 (http://www.mediafire.com/?7xx3z79k06cp99i)

I'll tell you what I've changed after you've confirmed that there is a difference.

But it does explain why my LP rips have been so good...

weaver
29-04-2012, 07:15 AM
Thanks for feedback.

Actually, a few years ago when MP3 was a hot topic, I gave a short presentation to a pro audio conference about this very issue of quantisation, and the implications of multiple encode-decode-re-encode. What I did - and I think I'll recreate it again - was to use the multi-track audio editor to place side by side (in a vertical stack actually) the recording at each step in the encode-decode cycle. You could see significant changes in the waveform from generation to generation, so that after about three or four cycles it was really markedly different in appearance.

I didn't have the technology then to give a demonstration of how the sound changed by switching quickly from one generation to another, but here on HUG we can do that now. I'll add it to the growing heap of things to present: remind me in a month or so please.

There have been other 'hot topics' here for the past few weeks, but as requested - a nudge further up the pile for this one.

thanks Alan

A.S.
01-05-2012, 04:30 PM
There have been other 'hot topics' here for the past few weeks, but as requested - a nudge further up the pile for this one.

thanks AlanOops! Sorry - glad you reminded me and I feel a bit guilty now!

Answer moved here .... (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?1610-Multi-pass-MP3-encoding-listen-for-yourself)

jplaurel
12-05-2012, 07:28 AM
Since we're talking Steely Dan, we should note that, while they were among the first to go digital, they went back to analogue for "Everything Must Go" and Fagen recorded "Morph the Cat" on analogue tape as well. And it seems Elliot Scheiner's opinion on the digital vs analogue recording debate has hardened. It's hard to dismiss Elliot Scheiner's opinion on sound. He engineered the last couple of Steely Dan albums, including the 4x Grammy winning "Two Against Nature", Fagen's "Nightfly" and "Morph the Cat", numerous Dan 5.1 SACD and 5.1 remasters, and worked with Roger Nichols as an engineer all the way back to "The Royal Scam". See his extensive discography here: http://www.panasonic.com/els_surround/Scheiner_Bio.pdf

From http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug03/articles/steelydan.htm
...Donald Fagen's explanation for Steely Dan's return to analogue recording was, typically, more surreal: "Digital sound loosens the fillings in your teeth. I had a lot of work done on my teeth since I started working with digital."

From http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug06/articles/fagen.htm
...Still, given the recent improvements in digital sound, and the scores of people claiming that digital has finally come of age with high sampling rates and 24-bit resolution, it's surprising the hear the praises of analogue sung like this. In Scheiner's judgement even vastly improved digital is still no match for analogue, which, notes Fagen, has itself been improved. "Elliot told me that there had been a lot of improvement in analogue tape since the digital age began. He was right."

"The quality of analogue tape has become better, but I don't think it makes that much of a difference," the engineer retorts. "We had quality tape back then as well. In the early days I used Scotch 3M 250, switched to 3M 26 at some point, and on the last record we used BASF 900. I grew up and learned analogue and I'm an analogue geek. It's not that I'm kicking digital, but analogue has a much better sound. When you are able to A/B analogue and digital, which we could do in this case, there's simply no comparison. The top end is so sweet and beautiful. I've never heard anyone say about digital, even at 24-bit/96kHz or 192kHz: 'Isn't the top end as sweet and beautiful as you've ever heard?' You don't because digital just doesn't sound that way."

Scheiner stresses that he isn't claiming that analogue gives a more truthful representation of reality. "Analogue changes something in the sound," he elaborates, "but I think it does something good. By contrast, digital is pristine and sterile. On the other hand, it has great things about it. There's nothing better than be able to fly stuff around or tune it in a digital workstation. That's really outstanding. And I don't think every project should be recorded on analogue. You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. When you consider that the majority of today's music is rather lo-fi, then it's really not that important what you record it on. But there are some projects that command that importance."


I hold Steely Dan as my favourite rock band and it's interesting to read now, decades later, how hard they worked to achieve technical and sonic perfection. I had no idea in the 70s that their attraction to me was the special combination of the great music plus great sound: I just liked what I heard.

Seems though that it wasn't all plain sailing .... read here about noise reduction problems (http://www.steelydan.com/dennys3.html) from the era of analogue tape. Yo analogue! No wonder they were amongst the first to go digital.

Also read the reality of squeezing playable music onto a vinyl record.