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Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, a scientific mind and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

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Hard drive vs optical drive...

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  • Hard drive vs optical drive...

    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.

  • #2
    Originally posted by steveinaz View Post
    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.

    Originally posted by steveinaz View Post
    ...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.

    Comment


    • #3
      - 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.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by steveinaz View Post
        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

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        • #5
          Originally posted by steveinaz View Post
          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?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by HUG-1 View Post
            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.

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            • #7
              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.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by steveinaz View Post
                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.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by EricW View Post
                  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

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kittykat View Post
                    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!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by steveinaz View Post
                      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

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Pluto View Post
                        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.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                          ...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...

                          Originally posted by steveinaz View Post
                          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

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Pluto View Post
                            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

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              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?

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