CD format war and resultant music players

Anybody cares to speculate what's the next audiophile music media going to be now that SACD and DVD-A don't seem to get anywhere?

Audiophile market is such a niche market that the general public don't have the ears to understand as to why we are so fussy. However I do suspect that this high-definition video war will actually reach a preferred choice. Everybody likes movies and TVs. The widescreen HDTV business does take off. Perhaps the music equipment people would piggy back onto whatever video media format that wins out. The SACDs and the DVD-As have more memory space to store music data than your regular CDs. So would these high-def video media storage.
The formats for audiophiles will remain what they are today. Audiophiles will stick with what they already own for music ... vinyl, CDs; and SACDs. At some point, even audiophiles will not go along with replacing their music collections for relatively minor improvements in playback quality. I know that even I am not up to replacing 2000+ CD's (did that already with vinyl). I am open to hard drive based systems, but that is because I would be copying my own CD's to the hard drive.

Regards, Rich

what Rar1 said...
The war is over, audiophiles lost. Many have been killed but most have been taken prisoner by insane prices.
Given the niche mkt. status of SACD & DVD-A, what prompts your thinking that there is ANY impetus for a new hi-rez format?
I'm with Rich, I'm not going to replace my 600 cd collection either.
Not even if all could be replaced with SACD's at $5 a cd. Not even for $2 a cd. I think you get the iddea I'm not sold on this SACD bunk.
btw my collection is complete, I buy a cd twice/3X's a yr
I certainly am not going to toss my CDs away either. It's just that all of the current equipment selections, from CD players to preamps, becomes rather pointless until this format war is over. So on one hand, who wants to spend serious money on equipment offering technologies that are obsoleting right in front of your eyes. On the other hand, my personal feeling is that there will be a preferred format for both video and audio combined in less than 5 years. So focusing on just CDs alone is a safe bet with its popularity out there. But that is not a complete picture. I don't want to invest thousands of dollars in CD player and preamps only to find out 3 years from now there exists something else which combines CD with this new but well accepted format. And that something else performs just as well on CDs while obviously showpieces the superior sound of this new audio media format. Given SACD peformance, though being phased out as it is, you just know that the next generation audio media will perform significantly better than redbook CDs.

Basically I just poll and see if anybody out there think there soon be a new audio media, and what choices of media might there be.
There is no longer any need for a new media. Download speeds continue to increase and storage is cheap. The iPod generation is not going to be buying little plastic discs to get their music. Computer based servers and either hard drives or some form of solid state storage is the next generation.

If you take my comments to the next logical step, purchasing top flight equipment makes total sense. If you know upfront that you will not be replacing your music collection anytime soon, if ever ... all these format wars become moot. You should then purchase the equipment that will allow for as near total enjoyment as possible with your current choice of media. In fact, buy an additional back-up player, if you think that your current choice of media may not survive another twenty years. Given my listening habits, how much time I have available, my declining hearing, saving for retirement, my wife's love for cruises, etc. ... plunking down sizeable cash to get a marginally (and debateable) better version of the Byrds singing "Hey Joe" (multiply this by 2000, btw) is not occurring.

A new format may make sense for new releases ... but you will find that as you get older you are not buying all that much from new artists. Same argument holds for video ... how many copies of the ultimate Godfather collection can one own?

Regards, Rich
The SACD & DVD-A market is essentially dead, thanks to our friends at Sony. The major difference between them and CDs is they have lots of memory space to store digital information. Well, somebody else would take advantage of the upcoming video-formated disc, when its market is secured, and utitlize it for audio. Given such major improvement over CDs, it might fly. No I wouldn't buy a copy of the same thing if it's an incremental improvement. We are talking about huge result here.

On the other hand, this hard drive concept is something to chew on. I don't hear about hard drive sound superiority if any. Even computers are suitably design to slip into family room audio-visual arrangement these days. And the mp3 market is booming. This computer stuff is much more mature than your blu-ray and hd-dvd. Perhaps it would only take 2 versus 5 years for the audio chip to fall into place.

"Perhaps it would only take 2 versus 5 years for the audio chip to fall into place."

But who would care? Yes, SACD was an improvement over Redbook CD, but not that major and not to the point that I was willing to own a duplicate music library. At the time that I purchased my SACD player five years ago (SONY SCD 555ES), I did so because I needed a new CD player ... otherwise I wouldn't have done it ... well, the good price helped also. To date, I have maybe 10 duplicate SACDs/CDs.

It would have to be one hell of an audio chip to get me to bite. The promise of additional video information is meaningless to me ... I prefer listening to my music, not watching it.

As I said previously, perfecting the hard drive interests me ... but because it would result in a hardware purchase, not a software one.

Regards, Rich
1. a well-engineered CD often sounds better than a SACD and there seem to be more and more well-engineered CDs. Barring some serious marketing (Beatles on SACD for example), I think the high-rez formats will go nowhere...
2. hard drive storage linked to good DACs seem to be the logical next step. And why not? Computers/chips keep getting better and cheaper while good CD/SACD players are still extremely expensive.
3. vinyl STILL sounds better than all the digital formats and is alive and well!
""Perhaps it would only take 2 versus 5 years for the audio chip to fall into place.""

"But who would care?"

Just a thought, or two. First point is the speed at which computer related technology advances, and second is a glimpse of the (not too distant) future where audio recordings could be downloaded onto a server or small storage devices of some type that are portable and connectable to home systems, boom boxes, I-pods, HT and automobile systems and the buyer is charged electronically at the time of purchase. I doubt we will be buying discs forever. In the meantime, I am not selling my CD/DVD player.
I haven't heard any CDs that sound better than their SACD counterparts. I have heard CDs that sound much better than their DVD Audio counterparts.
Well then, would somebody be willing to talk about where real audiophile equipment manufacturers are at with computerized music. I am not talking about mp3, ipod, or any mid-fi companies. I am talking about, if such exists, of people at the caliber of Levinson, Meridian, Linn type. I am the traditionalist into disc players, preamps and amps, thus am unfamiliar with exotically new technologies. It would help knowing about the technology and how far on the horizon might it be. Thanks.
The next "audiophile" media will be vinyl. Oops, its already happening. Vinyl and vinyl playback systems are booming, and CD and SACD sales are dropping.
This is not exotica, basically the computer just replaces the transport. Computerized music is the same as CD music in the sense that it is the same data so it doesn't matter if Levinson gets on board or not. It just a more convenient way to store and manipulate the data. It also has the advantage that ripped with the proper software you can get an error free copy stored on your hard drive. Once you've ripped the disc all you have to do is add a DAC that the computer can talk to via the USB port. There are some like Wavelength's and modified products from Emperical Audio that are USB compatible, or you can get a USB - spdif converter and use any DAC you want, including a Levinson.

Don't underestimate this technology, it is very mature. Computers and DACs have been around for quite a while and the only thing that could be considered "new" is the USB interface, and this is also really just a mature technology being used in a slightly new way.
Very true Herman. I don't understand what the big deal is with computers and audio. My computer has a digital out as well as firewire. I have a computer with my sound system and it is connected to my DAC with the digital output. It works like a regular DVD or CD player except it is a pain in the arse to use like a computer is prone to be. I seldom use it for CD playback but have stored a few CDs on it just because I could. It comes in handy for playing DVDs from other regions as well as PAL discs. Of course you need software like DVD Regionfree from for this to work.
The transport from the hard drive itself into your DAC involves a number of components--the hard drive cable, the motherboard, the soundcard, the I/O between the sound card and the DAC, and all sort of computer components that could general noises to the line. And I don't know about performance differences between various multimedia softwares regarding their reading of these digital information. One would think that pure "1" and "0" binary numbers from your hard drive are just that until they are converted into analog signal by your DAC. Yet CD transport is a technology by itself. So what about hard drive transport? It would help if the real audiophile manufacturers say yeah or neh as opposed to relying on the computer geeks.

So then, now we just have the top end CD players and turntables. Only a few years from now, somebody decides to turn a reader that just reads CDs into one that reads CDs and hard drives. The player could be an independent box hooked up to your DAC or preamp. Or it could be an audiophile computer. Will I have to invest in such music player all over again, after doing something about my system now? I rather think not. The point is that hard drive is rich with space. A lot of digital information could be stored per song to make it sounds good relative to redbook CDs. So the general public have their boring computers to download music. While these audiophile companies turn the hard drive transport system into good sound producting computer. And who knows what kind of preamp it takes to receive such signal from the hard drive transport.

This hard drive thing is a serious contender. It's not just us amateurs talking here. I read an article in Sound and Vision a few hours ago discussing the shrinking market of CDs in light of music download. The professionals already started throw up out number of years before possible disappearance, complete or partial, of CDs. That article even mentioned certain bands who won't release music into CDs. Instead it would strictly be for downloading. Somebody complained about how the recording studios took all their money through CD mastering and distribution.
Mr Svhoang, the future is now. it is here. Search the net and you will find a large number of USB DACs at various price points.

There is no such thing as an audiophile computer or hard drive. There are a number of programs that make bit perfect copies of the data on a CD and store it on your hard drive..The idea is to rip the CD to a hard drive and not use the CD/DVD drive as a transport.

That's it. It is a perfect copy. You cannot make anything better than a perfect copy. It doesn't matter if "audiophile companies" get involved. They cannot improve on perfection.

Once you have a perfect copy the computer does not corrupt the data. If it did the programs wouldn't run and your files would be corrupted all of the time. This simply doesn't happen very often, and when it does (if you are smart) you have a perfect backup copy of your perfect data.
I finally look around on the Internet regarding music server versus CDP. It appears that usb DAC, with the included interest from Stereophile, performs at least at the level of the Linn Unidisk SC which is an upper but not top end CDP. I also searched for comments on the Squeezebox version 3 to wirelessly remove the noisy server away from the stereo system. And there are design limitations to this piece, along with suggested modifications from private outfits. It seems that the music server/DAC idea give traditional CDP manufacturers a run for their money. However, the technology is young and need time to develop. Basically we are back to the sit still and do nothing with traditional equipment upgrade or cutting edge technology.

Anybody cares to disagree? Thanks.
You can use any DAC in the world with a music server. A well designed computer can be dead quiet. This technology has been around for many years. In what way do you think this is infant technology?

Digital is constantly changing and will continue to constanly change, so if you wait around for the final solution it will never arrive. Even one box CD players are much better today than they were just a few years ago and CDs have been around for 20 years. If you are waiting for a mature technology then I would go with vinyl.

If you are basing your opinions on what you read in Stereophile then just buy a Musical Fidelity CD player and be happy.
One of the important advantages of both SACD and DVD-A is that it forces the recording studios and music companies to pay some attention to the sounds below 100 Hz and above 12 Khz, to use better microphones, and generally not process the sound to death.
If you record for example a short guitar piece with a top quality microphone with good digital gear in the right environment and play it back immediately then the quality is way better than anything delivered on CD, SACD, DVD-A or anything else available commercially. We are being completely short-changed in terms of sound quality at the production end, apart from the delivery end.
I suspect this problem will be dealt with by market forces once the record companies are out of the picture and distribution of music in the form of files becomes the norm.
The young technology is about hooking up your computer to a DAC at the audiophile level. If you don't know what to do with usb DAC because there is only a handful of products and comments out there, then there are plenty of standard DACs. But to hook up a standard DAC, you would either have to use the soundcard S/PDIF output or a limited choice of connecting boxes one of which is the Squeezebox. So far I have not heard anything conclusive reports from reliable sources that the whole setup is leap and bound above all CDP available out there.

As to quiet PC, I have been using various components recommended by on my main computer. They are quiet relative to the standard stuff. However, the whole box is not as quiet as a good CDP.

Perhaps one reason that you are not reading conclusive reports from reliable sorces is that many of the printed media reviewers are older and started out in this hobby 20 or more years ago and so the idea of using a PC with hifi equipment is not intuitive or desireable. I am 49 years old, have been around hifi gear literally all my life (my dad was an electronics repair technician), and would not think of having the PC hooked up to my stereos. I just enjoy buying CD's and playing them in the CD player. Downloading doesn't replace the going to Tower or Virgin or J&R and looking through the stacks.

Regards, Rich
heard anything conclusive reports from reliable sources that the whole setup is leap and bound above all CDP available out there.

Nor will you. It is not "leaps and bounds above." How could it be? A lot of people have been working very hard for a long time to optimize CD playback. The likelihood of a leap forward at this point is very remote.

As for reliable sources, I've have been looking into this for some time now including implementing a system of my own, studying numerous web sites, and talking to a network of friends who use this approach. If you do the same you will find that a large number of people agree that this is a viable alternative and quite likely a superior one.

Everyone has their own comfort level, but if you have to wait for the blessing of Stereophile or The Absolute Sound before you try something then you are missing out on a whole world of wonderful possibilities to expand your audiophile horizons.

As for quiet, both my Mac Mini and Macbook are dead quiet more than an inch or two away.

I also agree about the joy of the hunt while searching through record stores, but I haven’t quit buying music. I just have a more convenient way to store and play it back as well as one that is sonically just as good if not better than the old way.
Per Txp1, "The next "audiophile" media will be vinyl. Oops, its already happening. Vinyl and vinyl playback systems are booming . . ."

Well, that sure sounds nice but let's take a look at the facts (took about 30 seconds to find, by the way). Per the RIAA, vinyl LP sales dropped 25% in 2005 from 2004; vinyl singles (which dominate vinyl in unit shipments) fell by 35.4%. These followed 2004's declines of 11.9% and 7.3% respectively, which followed 2003's drops of 11.5% and 14%, which came after 2002's falls of 23.7% and 20.8% . . .

That said, LPs have kept up their solid 0.7% market share (if you don't include downloads, that is - if you do, vinyl's share is much, much lower).

Is this what you call a "booming" market? Maybe if the boom comes from a collapse into vacuum, perhaps . . .
A lot of people have been working very hard for a long time to optimize CD playback. The likelihood of a leap forward at this point is very remote.

I think the issue here is not so much sound quality, but convenience. When you have thousands of CD's then it gets really hard to locate one specific track on one specific CD. PC based systems make a huge difference here. The sound quality can be the same if done with care.

I believe we are on a threshold of an explosion of this type of system. Two years ago it took twelve 120Gb drives to assemble 1Tb of raid storage. Now the same can be done with four drives at a third of the price. These are actual figures - I just added my second Tb of storage.

The only thing still missing is a good ADC solution for home use. Not everyone has access to professional equipment and the average sound card falls down seriously in this area. This won't bother CD only people though.

I have just been able to aquire an MFSL Ultradisk version of REM Murmur. The improvement in sound quality over the standard version is far greater than anything I could get by upgrading my equipment. I believe that in many cases we have reached the limit of what the record labels are prepared to market.

It isn't my style, but I have wondered what would happen if two keen music collectors, each with a few Tb of music met up and did the obvious thing with a network cable. Short of a re-enactment of prohibition, there is no stopping this.
I do agree with you that music server will most likely be well received by the general public in the immediate future. Perhaps the current audiophile DAC manufacturers would adapt their DACs with proper hook up for the computer. There are different kinds of ports on the motherboard. It does not have to be through the soundcard if they really want to develop the DACs. In my specific case however, it seems that spending serious money on top end CDP and preamp is unwise given the CD market trend and the music server technology. While spending money on music server right away does not get me far beyond my current music quality attainment.

We are not dealing with the far future here. I suspect two years from now this music server setup will present itself with a much more developed technology. We all know the computer industry sheds its face by the month. Let's see what the audiophile DAC people will do. In fact the CDP people have their own DAC board inside their equipment. This DAC thing might as well be their evolving product to stay in the game.

You mentioned about not many people have "professional" equipment. You also mentioned about your new acquisition. Would you comment on yours as well as other professional pieces out there. How are they hooked up? Especially how do they sound in compared to traditional equipment? Thanks.