Upsampling and Stereophile

Last summer there were several threads here on Audiogon about digital upsampling and over sampling (a couple long and heated), but the opinion(s) of the audio press were conspicuously absent. In the Dec. 2000 issue of Stereophile, page 3, John Atkinson, has an editorial explaining their position on this in his "As We See It" column, page 3. I encourage everyone interested in the subject to look up the article. I have excerpted the following quotes that I think sums up Stereophile's opinion, and that may pique your interst: (1) "....the audio industry has settled on an 8X-oversampling ratio, the 44.1 kHZ CD data being converted to a 352.8 kHZ datastream before D/A conversion." (2) "no matter how good these upsampling products can sound-- and the dCS, Bel Canto, and MSB products indeed sound excellent-- there is no conceptual difference between them and traditional CD playback systems. I am now convinced that the sonic differences we have heard and reported on are merely due to the different choices in digital filters made by the designers of these products." (3) "In the meantime don't buy a digital product because it has "24/96" emblazoned on its front panel. Buy it because it makes your CDs sound great". Cheers. Craig.
Hello Craig. I realize I will probably get flamed for saying this, but confusion is getting the best of me. I am reminded of what one of my great professors during Veterinary school said, "I don't know how the automatic transmission works, but I can still drive my truck." (Yogi Berra's got nothin' on him, boy.) So, following that logic, forgive me if I say, "I don't know how my Bel Canto DAC1-toslink-DVD transport works, but I can put a cd in it, and, for a $1600 combo, it sounds very, very good!" Oh, and I understand there is a new upgrade for the DAC1, has to do with the power supply................. Charlie
Yo,Danvect; 50 % of Audio is 1/2 mental.Heck,I'm out of butane. There are many things in life I don't understand,my auto.trans,being one of them.As I see it,the very best dig.stuff (Forcell, Burmiester,Jadis & the like)don't benifit from upsampling.So it ain't upsampling per say;it's how the circuit/conversion is done. Upsamping ' do ' improve lesser designs ;as in, the ones I can afford.Market ploy or not,it has been a boom for the dig. companies.So we can all whine our stuff is obsolete,but THAT is what keeps us going.-the quest for more/better. I had my Theata 5a upgraded /best $300 improvment /for me. I think it is smart for Stereophile to stay out of our discussions. Why would the chicken go into the fox's den? When we go to sell something,most are proud to say'class a', beyond that, writers are 'trashed' continuously.As Craig says in his quote from JA,if it sounds better;enjoy it(or something like that). Anybody got some butane?
Absolutely! ........I'm still looking for a screwdriver so I can get into this damn where is the power supply?????
Well said Avguy, and Hi Charlie; My purpose(s) in posting this info. from Stereophile is because , as you say, this is complicated technology to us average bears. And for a year or more, Stereophile has been reviewing and promoting upsampling devices as being some kind of fantastic new technology. I think JA's editorial sets the record straight regarding Stereophile's position on up & oversampling technology, ie they are essentially the same thing. I do not mean to imply that the Stereophile guys are incompetent, in fact I respect JA and the rest of the Stereophile reviewers. I've learned much from the magazine, even though I certainly don't always agree with them. Charlie, in another thread you mentioned listening to "Tres Hombres" on 8 trk tapes, quad or something-- were you referring to the "Tres Hombres" that ZZ Top has done? That's grat music BTW. Happy Turkey Day. Craig.
Craig, you bet it was the Top! Their early stuff was excellent blues rock, missed by many. The quadrophonic, as I remember it, rocked front to back with the bottom end. It was very cool, esp in '75. Charlie
Also would like to note that Tres Hombres has my favorite inner cover artwork/photo of all time. I drool just thinking about it. Had it tacked up on my wall for years, I think right in between my Linda Rondstat and Farah Fawcett posters. Those were the days...
Garfish, that a product has "24/96 emblazoned" does not mean it upsamples. I don't believe in upsampling yet I have a 24/96 product and I definitely, definitely recommend 24/96.
Joe; You're right re: 24/96-- that is just part of the Stereophile quote. I too have a DAC (ML 360S) that is capable of decoding a 24/96 digital stream. But to use the 24/96 capability (in my DAC) the transport would have to output a 24/96 digital stream to the DAC, and I don't know of any 24/96 players that (at least for music only) presently do that? Cheers. Craig.
Dan; cover art on ZZ Top's "Eliminator" Lp is great too. In fact I'm going to frame it-- The whole frontend of an early hotrod fills the cover. Craig.
I'd like to get some old ZZ Top on vinyl. If you guys have any extra mint copies, you could sell them to me. I searched for live ZZ Top on Napster a couple months ago, and instead found a bunch of rare Van Halen covers of ZZ Top songs (with DLR fronting), and also Boston live bootlegs. Sonically aren't much, but it IS "about the music, afterall", and I do enjoy them. The Boston bootlegs are recorded where one channel is facing the FOH speakers, the other is facing away, and you can hear people close to the mikes clapping and having a good time. Maybe some of you have heard these before? I had heard the Boston ones on the radio a few years ago, I think.
Carl; I found an excellent LP, ZZ Top "Eliminator" on eBay-- pretty reasonably too. I sure like the cover art on some LPs too. Good Luck. Craig.
Just so we are clear on this....I have a sarcist sense of humor that is lost on some, isn't it Carl? I would not want to seem leacherous. The Tres Hombres foldout is of a huge plate of enchiladas, or something, under about a pound of shredded cheeses starting to melt with a cold sweating beer next to it. I do not have an excuse for the Linda and Farah posters, however. Charlie
As an owner of the dCS Purcell and Delius I am both spoiled and biased. Robert Stuart's (Meridian) letter in the same issue is also very interesting reading. Even if we agree that upsamplers and oversampling are the "same" thing - it's really a mute point. The point is how the music sounds and the dCS gear is fantastic stuff and it makes music and that's what's important. Cheers, Dan
Just so we are clear on this....I have a sarcist sense of humor that is lost on some, isn't it Carl? I would not want to seem leacherous. The Tres Hombres foldout is of a huge plate of enchiladas, or something, under about a pound of shredded cheeses starting to melt with a cold sweating beer next to it. I do not have an excuse for the Linda and Farah posters, however. Charlie
sarcist should have been sarcastic, sorry
I knew I could look on e-bay, but was just curious. Thanks. I'm most interested in all the albums before Eliminator. I have the "Six-Pack" CD set, and the two greatest hits CD's, and still think the vinyl would nuke them, provided it's not worn out.
Garfish, I understand that 24/96 players from, for instance Ayre and Muse read and decode 24/96 code from audio DVDs from Chesky, Classic Records, etc.
Joe; we're in an area of semantics here, but in the case of my 24/96 DAC, the transport would have to output a 24/96 digital signal, eg SACD players do not even have digital out as I understand it-- to prevent copying in this very high quality digital domain. DVD-A players are just now becoming available, and I don't know if they will have a digital out terminal either? I don't think DVD-V players have 24/96 digital out either-- also to prevent HQ copying. Dan2112, I've not heard the dCS gear but from everything I've read it's absolutely top quality, and that is part of Stereophile's point too. I only posted this thread too help clear up the confusion between the terms upsampling and oversampling. I became very interested in this before purchasing a Levinson 360S DAC, ie before spending a LOT of money. Cheers, Craig.
Garfish, Sorry – I hope I didn't come across the wrong way. I agree it's a very confusing topic. I think that maybe the manufactures kinda got caught off guard by the whole upsampling thing. Stereophile to their credit reported what they heard about the digital converters and the term "upsampling" entered the realm of audiophiles. Now there are religious camps forming and its unfortunate that people have to be confused. Even dCS's papers say "we don't know why it sounds better, but it does." My wife still can't believe how good it sounds. In her words... "The notes sound more defined and round." Cheers, Dan.
Dan; no need for apology, I think we're all correct here-- just getting the terminology sorted out. Cheers. Craig.
Garfish: Check Stereophile Vol.22 No. 2 page 17 There's a list of DVD players on the 24/96 subject
"The notes sound more round" with vinyl, also....cheers, Carl
Garfish: Also check you'll see that Pioneer 606 and 414 do pass 24/96 signals through their coaxial digital outs. Regards
Avguygeorge: I just got in after a long weekend and found this thread. From my perspective, it's not only the cheaper stuff that improves; the dCs Purcell upsampler improves the sound even of a Forsell and Audio Logic digital front end; that's why I bought the thing. Smoother, more harmonically fleshed out, deeper bass, better dynamics. I never thought it was adding information (can't match a 24/96 or SACD disc, nor analog), and I always suspected they were doing some sort of filtering tricks, but it sounds substantially better to my aging ears. Closer to analog; I guess that's my goal with digital playback.
Garfish: Add the Marantz DV18 to the list of DVD players that output a 24/96 digital signal--I use that one for that purpose. I think their less expensive ones in that line also can output a 24/96 digital signal too, but I'm not sure. You have to use a video monitor to program the digital out that way.
My integrated CD/DVD payer (Muse 9) definitely passes a 24/96 signal through the decoder. The sound of 24/96 discs is better than all except the most astounding regular CDs. Upsampling on the other hand does not have theoretical advantages. I recommend the white paper in the Muse site or the recent Stereophile article. In any event, the quality of the analog stage is more important than the above considerations. I believe a good CD player with good parts where they count, will in most cases sound better even with regular CDs, than a cheap DVD player at 24/96. Likewise, the sound of an upsampling DAC or CD player is more likely to be affected by its analog stage than by the upsampling itself.
Joe: I certainly agree with you about the quality CD player vs. the cheap DVD player, as the power supplies and analog stages have an awful lot to do with sound quality. With respect to upsampling, I'm not sure, and actually doubt, if it is upsampling alone that makes the Purcell improve the sound of an already excellent transport/dac combo, but the unit certainly makes an improvement to my ears in my system. I have also heard the MSB unit with and without the upsampling, in an A/B test (you can switch it on the back), and felt there was a slight improvement with the upsampling engaged. Could it be that the chip used for the upsampling module in the MSB and Bel Canto units has an effect apart from its upsampling claims (much like the Crystal chip used in HDCD players was thought to provide at least some of the improvements apart from the HDCD encoding)?
Sol322; Thanks for the references re: DVD players that output a 24/96 digital signal. I'll check them out. Craig.
Rcprince, thank you, interesting thoughts. My own sense is that the analog domain (in a digital player), and the recording and production have a much bigger effect in sound quality than the word length and the sampling rate (once you are above redbook CD). From listening to 24/96 material in my Muse, I do get a sense that a more quiet background can be achieved (i.e. dynamic range) than in CDs, but the differences are smaller between a good regular CD and a 24/96 DAD than between a good CD and a badly recorded/produced CD. My opinion on vynil, by the way, is that unless you spend $30K or more you will be hearing the groove, the wow and the flutter, etc, and that it is definitiely not worth it.
Joe: I'll agree with you on the first points. I recently had the Audio Logic analog stage replace my Sony SACD player's analog stage, and the increase in resolution and involvement was a comparative quantum leap vs. the SACD/CD comparison (with very good CDs). The difference between a good CD and a badly recorded one also tends to be a gross, as opposed to subtle, difference. The difference between 24/96 and SACD vs. CD is significant, but not always as easy to spot in an A/B comparison, when you're comparing to a very good CD; it's something that grows on you as you realize it sounds more natural and unrestrained. We'll be having our December NJ Audio Society meeting at my house, where I'll see what the members think of SACD vs. CD; I'm curious as to their reactions. On your last point, we'll have to agree to disagree--I think my Basis Ovation/Graham 2.0tc/Benz Ruby combination still sounds more natural to me with good records, and that's less than $30K (of course, you add in the phono preamp, you're getting closer). Realize, of course, that I've been living with my vinyl for a long time, have a fairly large collection (though nothing compared to some of our posters here) and am probably more tolerant of its shortcomings than many. But that's another thread.....
Thanks Rcprince. I think we're pretty much on the same page. I'd be interested in hearing more about the Audio Logic to the SCD-1.
Joe: Take a look under the thread SACD Demo. I had the 777ES modified, not the SCD 1-- it came down in price to $1600 and I didn't want to spend too much for an analog stage I was going to bypass and a medium I hope survives but hasn't been marketed all that well yet.