There was an article on positive feedback where the reviewer talked bout the best cd formats, he details SHM CDs too...
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By definition, SHM-CD (Super High Material CD) format features enhanced audio quality through the use of a special polycarbonate plastic. However they offer the same resolution (16bits/44.1kHz) as regular CD’s and sound exactly the same. There is no uptick in SQ with SHM-CD’s, atleast I couldn’t discern any difference in a direct comparison. To OP, they sound nothing like original master tapes.
IMHO, XRCD’s sounds markedly better than regular CD’s due to its painstaking mastering and manufacturing process. XRCD and SACD are the only reason I am still buying the discs.
My experience as I have a bunch of SHM-CD’s: most of them have a very good sound. Percentage of them having very good sound is clearly higher than “standard” CD’s.
I have two identical records in CD’s and SHM-CD’s: both cases sound in SHM-CD is better.
If this is because the special material, a more careful manufacturing process (pressing, .....) or any other reason I do not know and I do not mind: if I find the SHM-CD version, I buy it.
I listen to classical music, mostly orchestral.
If you talk to people who compare the sound of every different release of various CDs trying to find the best (you’ll find them on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums), what matters is the the tape or the file used and the mastering.
CD releases from different countries released at the same time can be different, and CD releases from the same country released at different times can be different. For example, the 2012 American reissue of album XXXX may have used the original master tape while the 2014 Japanese reissue may have used a safety copy, or vice versa. And then there’s the mastering. Who did it? Was it a good example of his work, did he hit this one out of the park, or did the record label force him to compress it? And on and on...
Of course, the most popular albums have had the most releases or reissues and are more likely to have some good and some bad releases. Some albums only have bad releases.
Some people just love SHM CDs too. I think the packaging is usually better quality at least. Sometimes an SHM CD is one of the best sounding, sometimes not.
Anyway the Hoffman Forum is the place to learn about these things, but remember that the differences between CDs that are significant to some people there may not be as significant to you, and there may not be a consensus as to which release is the best.
One of the ’advantages’ of digital is you can make copies of the master without any sonic loss. So the big sonic differences that existed between various vinyl pressings from different countries is mostly a thing of the past. So if the sonic quality of the master is any good, all cd pressings made from that master will probably sound good as well.
The one remaining variable is the manufacturing process of the disc itself. In my experience Japanese cd pressings usually sound a little better, even if they use the same digital master as its source. I suspect this can be attributed to better manufacturing, as Japanese cd’s are much better centered than cd’s manufactured elsewhere. It seems the laser/transport has more difficulty reading discs which are not centered, causing errors that need to be corrected in the digital domain. This manipulation may affect sound quality.
SHM is only about the material of the disc, not about manufacturing or digital processing (like Victor’s K2 or XRCD mastering). The SHM cd’s do feel somewhat heavier than regular discs, but it seems a stretch to attribute any sonic benefits to this.
So the data is encoded as a series of on and off, or ones and zeros. This is the digital system, it's an encoded language. The actually transfer and storage of the data exists in the analogue world. A flip flop is an electrical circuit, used to store a value, this is what the digital data is stored in with RAM.
The quality of the storage system/device and the retrieval of the data is all done in the analogue world. For example it could be via a cable, where the electrical signal energizes and de-energizes delivering the pattern representing the values of the data being conveyed. The device creating the analogue signal, electrically, through an oscillating stream of light, or a radio signal, what have you, the connecting medium through which the signal travels and the end device that through engineering has to read or discern what the signal represents have varying degrees of efficiency.
The encoding is called digital, as for the entire rest of the computing system including the transfer of the language it's electronics and can be transferred by light pulses or an electrical system, radio signals. All of these methods of transfer of a language are prone to mechanical limitations and failure.
Digital being the organized structure of the data may be perfect, the storage, retrieval and conversion from and back to the analogue world is not perfect. That is why the technology for storage, retrieval, computation and conversion is always being improved upon by engineering methods.
As for SHM CD this appears useful >
For whats it's worth I have 4 of their cd's and play them consistently. They just sound better to my ears than any other cd's I have ever owned. Especially Bill Evans "Waltz for Debby". I can actually hear background conversation, a bit distracting, and glasses clinking. Also I never get tired of "Getz/Gilberto" circa 1964.
I have a couple of SHM's that do sound better, including Black Sabbath Paranoid. Also excellent are Sony's Blu Spec CD's and Blu Spec CD2's which are made using Blu-ray machinery and laser processes. The thing to do is try these in your system particularly if you can find some music you like that you own on regular CD's as well.
I haven't played any of my SHM CD's for a while, so last night I played my Supertramp Breakfast in America SHM SACD and it sounded bright, as I remembered. Listening to Steely Dan Aja now on SHM SACD and it sounds much better. Still a little on the bright side, but leaning more towards "detailed" than too hot.
My system is quite resolving and SHM, Blu Spec CD2, XRCD, Ultra HD CD, UHQCD, and MFSL all sound better than the original versions. My only limitation in sharing my experience is that I'm not an EE guy, nor do I know the physics of how laser lights read bits of information, so I can't comment on why it's impossible that they would sound better.