30 Years of Perfect Sound?


http://kenrockwell.com/audio/why-cds-sound-great.htm

I'm interested get people's thoughts on this article.

Cheers,
Mark
markhyams
WIth a quick read, and without time to re-confirm the math, I might nitpick a things, but the article as a whole seems to be pretty good and reasonably accurate.
It explains why I prefer my CDP over my simple and cost effective computer set up.
By a wide margin.

All the best,
Nonoise
Nonoise,

With your moniker, i could see where computer audio might not sit well.

There are effective ways to isolate stereo from computer. Network players like squeezebox with a wireless connection and outboard dac perhaps if desired are hard to beat.
Perfect Sound Forever.......blah blah blah........vinyl is bad.......blah blah blah.......Perfect Sound Forever.....blah blah blah.......
Mapman,

You hit the nail on the head. It would take too much money for me to equal and surpass the sound I get from my CDP. Fun, yes, but expensive.

All the best,
Nonoise
The story I heard was a little different with Philips inventing the CD and bringing in Sony when it was time to introduce it.

Does anyone remember listening to the first couple of generations of Philips/Magnavox CD players? It is obvious they were voicing their CD players to sound like vinyl. Not to mention the build quality with an all metal mechanism and double glass lasers developed by an optics specialist in Germany. These CD players were manufactured in Belgium and many are still operational today. If you happen upon one of these early CD players let it warm up for several days before giving it a serious listen.
Mr. Rockwell should stick with photography articles. Yet another bit-head caught up in the numbers game - some of his diatribe sounds like something straight out of the mouth of a typical clueless Best Buy employee. Here is what I found most amusing:

"Today's moral? Buy more CDs, put them on your iPod and computer if you like, and enjoy them. Get a great DAC if you've got computer stuff to enjoy, but don't waste your time futzing with computer equipment and music software when you can just buy CDs and enjoy the music itself instead of fiddling with stereo gear. God help us that some people waste time fiddling on their computers just to get music; half the reason the general public loves the CD over LP is simple convenience and never having to align a cartridge, flip an album or clean records or worry about wearing them out."

Just wow! Note that he emphasizes the 'general public' who loves CD's over LP's. And that is just the audience this article is targeted.

"CDs as a recording medium are completely uncompressed, unadulterated and bit-for-bit accurate, even if you boil them or drill a hole through them."

tee hee...good to know
The net... For all the hypsters trying to sell "high resolution" hardware and software... what really matters is the mastering process.
My first player was a first or second gen Magnavox, one of the early popular units. It was a mixed bag. My digital has only gotten to the point of competing with my vinyl in recent years. That is more due to me and my priorities than the state of the technology at any particular time I would say.

I do think that the sound quality of many CDs started to peak in the 90's sometime. Earlier CDs still sound good sometimes but were more hit or miss. SOme seemed to be just cranked out with little thought prior to meet the demands of the new burgeoning market.
The only part of the article that I really take exception with is that on SACD.

From the moment that I auditioned the product upon its initial release in 1999, I have always found it to sound extremely good and much, much closer to live music than CD (which to my ears sounds noticeably flatter and less realtistic, with less tonal saturation and authenticity than SACD).

SACDs can (often) fool me into thinking that I am hearing live musicians. CDs have never done that for me.

I don't hear any problem with SACD's high frequency noise shaping (probably because I am not a bat and cannot hear ultrasonic, greater than 20-kHz frequenicies).
He can throw all the numbers and "logic" at me that he wants, but it doesn't
explain why my shoulders hunch and my brow furrows when digitally sourced
music is playing, and I relax and have a positive emotional response to analog.
24-bit adds nothing? Then why does 24/96 sound like a breath of fresh air after
listening to some 16/44.1 demos? And I'm talking about John Atkinson
personally demo-ing his recordings from his laptop, and the same thing from
Peter McGrath's laptop for demo-ing Wilson Sashas and Maxxes?
About KR.

Dunno anything else about him. He has a nice website though! And nice photography.

Nice looking kids too!
He should listen to gear more and report what he hears rather than make technical conjectures why he thinks something must sound better. For example I have been privy to listening tests between a top of the line Wadia (and other stuff) to a battery powered Hiface directly feeding I2S into a PCM1704 DAC chip - it murdered the Wadia - a joke comparison. I also have a Playback Designs DAC - via PCM its a bit ordinary compared to my reference DAC but via DSD it is in another league.

Thanks
Bill
I can tell you one thing about CDs, they can skip just as bad as a record if the scratch is in the wrong direction. This might be the fault of the CD player and not the Medium. I have had finger prints cause problems also, again this may be a flaw with the CD player. And DVDs are even worse but that is another story.

So bottom line, while the CD maybe the "perfect" medium, the CD player can become seriously flawed. Yes, a turntable can also become out of wack, but I can adjust it myself where-as a CD player I can not. So for portability I will use an iPod but at home it's Turntable only.

Being a Human Being, and thus imperfect, I will stick with the "imperfect" medium.
And nice teeth.
Markh,

Now I am curious, why the interest in this particular article?

Thanks.
The recording/mastering studios have more to do with bad sound than the formate itself. I have CD's that sonically trounce LP's and vice versa. To much is being made of the formate and not enough about the way music is being procured to a disc of any size.
"He should listen to gear more and report what he hears rather than make technical conjectures why he thinks something must sound better. "

His site seems to be a nice mix of facts and opinion.

Listening and reporting is only an opinion. Anyone can do that. Doing the technical research to understand why one might hear what they hear is a lot harder. If you look at his site, he appears to do a good job with technical research relating to photography first and audio second. Photography and audio are not unrelated technically.

I gather he is 100% bought into digital photography and audio despite being old enough to recall what preceeded it and I think even working professionally in these areas.

I like his site. Not for analog buffs mainly though he does review some interesting vintage audio gear perhaps not well known to high end audio affectionados.
Or better yet- burn a copy of the manufactured cd onto a good quality cd-r and it improves. Moral of the story-Use as much of whatever you've got to make the experience meaningful for you. I'm pretty happy listening to
Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys on a Victrola if that's what's available. The book is important but it's the story that captivates...
Mapman: No hidden agenda here. I've been reading KR's site for several years for his photography reviews and when he started writing about audio I was pleased to hear his perspective. I just thought this was a well-thought out article with a lot of technical stuff that might be of interest on this forum.

I'm still not sold on his premise that 44.1/16 is enough bits, as I've heard some pretty great 96/24 stuff, but I have to say that I've heard A LOT of great 44.1/16 stuff too.

I remember reading about a blind-test done a while back regarding SACD. The testers had people listen to SACD, and then the same music, but with an ADC-DAC in the chain between the SACD player and the preamp. The testers changed the ADC-DAC conversion rate for various tests, and found that a statistically significant number of subjects could not tell the difference between the pure SACD signal and Redbook. I wish I could find the link to this test somewhere. I'd also be interested to see the results of the same test but with LPs as the original source.

Of course the quality of the SACD player has a big impact on a study like this.
"I'm still not sold on his premise that 44.1/16 is enough bits, as I've heard some pretty great 96/24 stuff, but I have to say that I've heard A LOT of great 44.1/16 stuff too."

I think there may be some cases where more is better, but I do think the CD medium was well thought to meet the needs of most (similar to how 33 1/3 vinyl was in its day) which is part of the reason it has lasted as long as it has despite much technical progress in the last 30 years that should have rendered it totally obsolete years ago and still more to come down the road.
No audio product has ever succeeded because it was better, only because it was cheaper, smaller, or easier to use.
Digital was ok the way it is. A Mass Market Medium. Some tried with a lot of money to push it in the "Perfect Sound" Category. This game didn't stop, so stay tuned :-)
Reading over the rest of this man's site as pertains to audio I find a lot of contradictions and misinformation. I would take his opinions with a grain of salt.
No audio product has ever succeeded because it was better, only because it was cheaper, smaller, or easier to use.

Syntax,

What you said is so true, I believe it has been said that Beta was better than VHS but we all know that VHS had won out because it could record more time.

Then there was Laserdisc, I personal think that Laserdisc was personally better than DVD, especially the early DVDs (not Blu-ray).

Also don't forget marketing, if you spend enough money on marketing you can brainwash people into buying an inferior product thinking its the best product. For example, Bose has great marketing.
" burn a copy of the manufactured cd onto a good quality cd-r and it improves "
If your CD burner is doing it's job the sound will be identical.
'Listening and reporting is only an opinion. Anyone can do that. Doing the technical research to understand why one might hear what they hear is a lot harder.'

Yes it is a lot harder - much much harder. And even if you are an engineer with many many years experience you will quite possibly get it wrong - check out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CkyrDIGzOE

Best to simply listen to it and make up your own mind since even the experts can get it wrong - or to be more exact have to constantly revise what they thought previously.

There is simply no shortcut to actually hearing gear.

Thanks
Bill
Hmm, I think if one has a website about technology (photography and home audio) one should offer up more than just opinion based on listening.

For the average Joe listener, nothing wrong with listening and deciding, but a little understanding of the technology can never hurt.

BTW, I just realized that his subtitle "30 years of perfect sound forever" is probably the biggest offense. Clearly nothings perfect nor forever. A bit of exaggeration in writing can help make a read more interesting and controversial albeit less accurate.
Does anyone here know if it's true that a CDP has no jitter as stated in the article in question? It's one thing to knock the guy and how he came to his conclusions but I haven't seen a refutation of the no jitter issue.

Considering the extreme value that computer audio places on jitter and its elimination, this all makes me very curious as to whether more dosh should be place towards better CD playback or not.

I know this is only one aspect of music reproduction but I've personally heard the MSB setup at the Newport Audio show and no other room using PC playback came even close. I thought it was some kind of PC setup until it was pointed out that I was listening to a CDP.

All the best,
Nonoise
CDP's can and do have jitter. How anyone could think otherwise is beyond me.

The reason I am knocking the guy is the simplistic approach he is taking. Listen to stuff rather than try and show technically its all perfect and don't worry about it.

Like I have said I have been privy to listening tests with some pretty expensive and heavily tweaked CDP's and computer audio. Computer Audio MURDERED it.

Thanks
Bill
Thanks for the clarification, Bill.

All the best,
Nonoise
CDP's do have jitter. But as we all know by now the amount of jitter has been reduced by newer generations of players to a level that is measurable but no longer audible, even to the most discerning ears. AES has had some interesting but lengthy papers on the subject.
The only thing that computer audio has murdered is the sound.
And thank you, Tmsorosk, for the further clarification.
I'll try to understand those AES papers.

I guess if I get more clarification, then, like butter, all the impurities will separate and a finer product will arise, which will allow me a recipe for better for sound.:-)

All the best,
Nonoise
"The only thing that computer audio has murdered is the sound.'

Come hear mine. Maybe I can change your mind.

10-06-12: Nonoise
Does anyone here know if it's true that a CDP has no jitter as stated in the article in question? It's one thing to knock the guy and how he came to his conclusions but I haven't seen a refutation of the no jitter issue.

Even if that were so, it doesn't address that CDs themselves can have varying amounts of inherent jitter. How could there not be when pits are being encoded on a flimsy disc spinning at high speed?

Does anyone remember the Genesis Time Lens? It was meant to be placed between the transport and the DAC. The Time Lens had enough RAM to buffer all the bits and then reclock the datastream before sending it on to the DAC. Genesis founder Arnie Nudell said one secret to his excellent-sounding demos was that he played CD-Rs he'd recorded through the Digital Time Lens. According to the article, he claimed that his de-jittered copies sounded better than the originals.

In my computer-based audio I use Audirvana's buffering feature, streaming the datastream into a 700MB cache before it's sent on to the DAC. It definitely sounds better than directly streaming it from the USB drive where I hold all my music.
Johnnyb53,

It seems from what else I've read that streaming from memory is one of the better ways to go (so many ways to skin this cat).

As for the mediocre standards when making CDs, I couldn't agree more. There are CDs and then there are CDs. On an aside, I've read somewhere that Sony is coming out with better CD (pits and all), made to a higher standard that can be read by redbook CDPs. The only downside is when they'll get around to reissuing the ones that I want.

All the best,
Nonoise
Actually CD's don't spin at high rates as someone above has stated. I'm not sure of what RPM they turn at but if you've ever watched a CD player operate with the top off you will see that it turns much slower than an LP. And as far as them being flimsy, when you take into consideration there size they flex much less than most LP's. There not perfect, but technology a side, they still sound better than any hard drive solution I've heard or owned.
According to WikiAnswers, the CD spins between 200 and 400 rpm, depending whether the laser is reading the first or later tracks.
a CD player operate with the top off you will see that it turns much slower than an LP.

I am not sure what CD players or turntables you have been using, but I have seen a typical CD player spin a disc and it is a lot, and I mean a lot faster than a typical turntable.

My LPs spin at 33.3 rpm or maybe 45 rpm, slow enough that if I watch closely I can move my eyes with the record, I have never been able to do that with a typical CD player. I never have used 78 rpm records however.

I would agree with GEOFFKAIT that the Wiki is probably correct in CD spin 200 to 400 RPM.

Much, much, much faster than a typical LP.

10-08-12: Tmsorosk
Actually CD's don't spin at high rates as someone above has stated. I'm not sure of what RPM they turn at but if you've ever watched a CD player operate with the top off you will see that it turns much slower than an LP.

What time/space continuum are you from? They spin far faster than the eye can follow.
This article is an antique and should be gathering dust in some used furniture store IMO. Nothing in here reflects the true potential of digital music, including a live-sounding playback.

It is not true that 44.1kHz or 16-bits is enough. The math is fine, but implemenations of DACs only approximate the math. Everything, including digital filtering is imperfect. As a result, digital filtering does a lot more damage than good. This is why NOS DACs are so popular.

Because of the flaws in digital filtering hardware, it is usually the case that 24-bit data sounds better, even 24/44.1. It is also the case 99% of DACs sound better with the same track in 96 rather than 44.1. This is because the filter roll-off is pushed much higher in frequency above audibility and the roll-off may also be less steep, creating less phase abberation. If you must have digital filtering, at least push it up beyond audibility.

"A CD player has no measurable jitter." total BS

"the fact that I can measure and show jitter picked up in a top-notch DAC at its analog output under very good conditions impresses even me"

Not me. If he is measuring jitter that easily, it must be huge compared to good systems. Where are the measurements? Good systems have less than 100psec. Good equipment is needed to measure this accurately, such as AP.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
"The only thing that computer audio has murdered is the sound."

If you spend $100 for the computer gear, sure it will murder the sound.

I retired my highly modified CD transport many years ago, after my computer audio system left it in the dust. The modded CD transport was one of the best sounding on the market too. Lots of them still out there.

If you dont have the experience, dont pretend to be an expert. There is already too much misinformation on these forums.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Tmsorosk wrote
'The only thing that computer audio has murdered is the sound.'

Can I ask you what listeing tests you have done to confirm it?

Thanks
Bill
Audioengr wrote:

'I retired my highly modified CD transport many years ago, after my computer audio system left it in the dust. The modded CD transport was one of the best sounding on the market too. Lots of them still out there.'

I have done the listening tests, along with others, a number of times on mine and others systems against some pretty expensive and heavily tweaked transports with exactly the same result. In fact one person involved was very sceptical of computer audio and openly scoffed at it. On some early converters he was correct and people went away with tails between their legs. But along came the Audiophellio 2, Steves own Off-Ramp and a couple of others. Using those the person involved who has many years audiophile experience was instantly converted. On Diana Krall A Case Of You for example you can clearly hear the piano is distorted on the CDP and you can not hear the foot-pedals. After hearing it the person involved got rid of his heavily tweaked battery powered Maraantz that previously bested all comers. And the guy hates computers - but the sound quality increase was just too great.

Regarding the supposedly inaudible jitter of CDP's I can tell you this. Both the Audiophellio 2 and Off-Ramp have extremely low jitter - I seem to recall below 10ps. Yet you can clearly hear the difference between the two - with everyone I have demoed it to preferring the Off-Ramp. There is a lot more to this jitter thing than some would have you believe.

Thanks
Bill
Johnny,,, have you watched one spin while it plays? I have, to the eye it's quite slow, try it.

Audioengr,,, We have demoed many hi end hard drives at audio club members homes and at length , the survey after was split about 50/50 as to which each member preferred. I preferred the CD.
Tmsorosk wrote

'Audioengr,,, We have demoed many hi end hard drives at audio club members homes and at length , the survey after was split about 50/50 as to which each member preferred. I preferred the CD.'

And on that basis you say that the only thing computers murdered is the sound?

What USB converter did you use? - thats the critical thing - not the hard drive. Was it I2S direct to the DAC chip?

Thanks
Bill

10-08-12: Tmsorosk
Johnny,,, have you watched one spin while it plays? I have, to the eye it's quite slow, try it.

Nuh-Uh!
To stop this thread being nonsense we must give more facts.

Tmsorosk, Which CD player was preferred in the shoot out with which HD server and DAC?

I keep seeing these daft comments. I have yet to hear a CD player sound better than a well set up, modern and carefully chosen computer and DAC system.

Just playing from memory alone will change your mind, let alone using the correct software like Amarra etc.

You seem to forget the recording you are probably listening to was recorded and mastered on a computer. So how can a 44.1 16 bit CD sound better unless you have a terrible DAC and computer set up?
Huh? The guy is a nut... The best vinyl still sounds better and is more enjoyable to listen too than the 'best' digital. It is true that the greatest limiting factor is the original recording; great original recording is the first and most important step in achieving great listenable music.

Even the very best digital of today and yesteryear lacks much of the life and emotion contained in those vinyl grooves... Digital is getting better, but it is still lacking overall when compared to the best vinyl..
"The best vinyl still sounds better and is more enjoyable to listen too than the 'best' digital."

You may have heard the best vinyl, but you have not heard the best digital. I can give you several customer reports that they sold their vinyl because it was not as good as their digital. They may not have had the best vinyl, but the cost of that is orders of magnitude higher than the best digital IME.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio