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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

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.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings sub-forum is you. If upon examination we think that Posts are better suited to one sub-forum than than the other, they will be redirected during Moderation, which is applied throughout the site.

Questions and Posts about, for example, 'does amplifier A sounds better than amplifier B' or 'which speaker stands or cables are best' are suitable for the Subjective Soundings area.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters regarding what appears here. That said, very few Posts are rejected. HUG Moderation individually spell and layout checks Posts for clarity but due to the workload, Posts in the Subjective Soundings area, from Oct. 2016 will not be. We regret that but we are unable to accept Posts that present what we consider to be free advertising for products that Harbeth does not make.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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Hard drive vs optical drive...

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  • #16
    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

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    • #17
      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?

      Comment


      • #18
        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.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Pluto View Post
          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?

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          • #20
            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.

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            • #21
              Never heard anyone say "I wish my system sounded more digital"

              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.

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              • #22
                Resistance to changes? Human nature?

                Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                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
                Originally posted by HUG-1 View Post
                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?
                Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                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. Alan Sircom is also a HUG member.

                ST

                Comment


                • #23
                  Alan Sircom's view

                  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.

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                  • #24
                    Rational explanation, please

                    Originally posted by EricW View Post
                    ....

                    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

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      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.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by steveinaz View Post
                        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

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