I still buy CD's mostly from Amazon, but I rip every one of them and playback using Mac and Amarra. CD players are not even close. I dont do computer audio for the convenience, I do it for the sound quality. I modded CD players and transport for customers for 10 years. Even modded ones dont cut it IMO. I dont mod anymore.
I'm with Steve on this one except that the only thing I can mod are my fingernails: that's the extent of my talents.
Buy and rip.
Playback on your Mac, or PC.
Another vote for Steve. Who want's to be bothered with searching through stacks and stacks of Cd's. I have around 2800 Cd's ripped. My music server is not much bigger than a deck of cards and I can control my Squeezeboxes with my iphone. Spinning discs is so 2004.
When cd-quality music is widely available for affordable streaming from the Cloud, then the cd will likely be all but dead. Until then, I suspect the format will hold on longer than some expect. It's also worth considering that cd's can be purchased for 8 dollars while the digital download of the same material can be 50 percent more expensive. The end is certainly near for the shiny disc but reports of its demise may be a tad exaggerated.
The comments like the above make me realize even more how i am still in a backwater.
I do not have any stuff to do all the cool server things with.
Right now i am pretty satisfied with my rig.
Perhaps next year i will start looking into doing a music server.
IMHO, most server systems are still a bit wonky...sort of where home wifi was 5 years ago...a tad complex if one isn't computer savy. That is rapidly changing and I suspect most companies will have easy-to-install and reliable systems within 24 months. Anyone who says setting up state-of-the art computer audio is currently as easy as pressing play on a cd player is probably trying to sell something. One day it will be that easy, but not right now.
I am thinking of going down the path you've outlined. I have heard that Amarra is good for playback but what should I use for ripping to the hard drive on my mac? Is Itunes good enough or do I need a designated ripping program. Also should I rip in AIFF or WAV???
I still buy cds both new and used. (The new Impulse 2-on-1s are excellent and cheap.) I only handle them long enough to rip them to disk and then I file them away in my storage room.
I find the sound is better off hard disk than any of my 3 players ever were. I don't care if cds are discontinued as long as downloads are as inexpensive. I have never been a fan of the cd format.
Rrm - use XLD for ripping to Mac - its free:
You must be on line to rip using Accurate-Rip for comparison. iTunes is not good enough.
I would recommend to rip CD's to AIFF if you want tags and album art to be preserved. If you only care about sound quality, rip to .wav.
These are great questions. More audiophiles should ask these. This way, you dont have to do it over, only once.
While I use sacd/cd primarily as back up to my vinyl rig, I know that I am a dinosaur and think that the future is where Steve is now.
I already lived through the "death" of vinyl and sure am glad I never bought into it and retained my records and improved my vinyl rig. I feel the same way about sacd/cd and after screwing around with no disc and sony repair finally jettisoned the 777.
I ended up getting a great deal on a Esoteric X03SE and son of a bitch what a spinner. I fully realize I am still in the honeymoon stage of ownership but I am delighted beyond measure with the sound quality.
If a server can dish up sound like or better than the esoteric than I do not blame anyone for investigating or using their computer.
I do like how the prices on cd's have dropped because all the kids are ripping. Thanks Dudes.
"These are great questions. More audiophiles should ask these.
Some of us are so overwhelmed by just the jargon that we dont feel we can put our questions into words. My whole life, I thought I was pretty smart and could learn anything... until computers.
I buy CDs and rip them to my server. I like having the physical medium and I can pick up used CDs cheap. Since there is no such thing as a used download, I'm unlikely to find an album in Redbook or better for a $1.
A CD is a digital storage medium. Digital storage mediums have and continue to change/advance with technology. I still buy CDs, but I literally never use my CD player to listen to them - I use them (CDs) as storage mediums!
To say that, they (the players) "will never be dead," is a bit short-sighted...Don't you think?
I may be the odd one out here. I like buying CDs. I like playing CDs on CD players. I like one box CD players. I like my CD players (Rega Apollo, Musical Fidelity CD Pre 24). It's pretty simple for me.
I have absolutely no interest in setting up and using a server for music. I work in technology, so I understand the science.
In addition, I have enough CDs that if I never purchased another CD, I would have enough listening material for the rest of my listening days. These days, my most anticipated CD purchases are the re-mastered classics. I use the net to discover new music and then buy the CD.
I have had an iPod since they were first introduced 8 or 9 years ago. I am at best indifferent and only use it when travelling, as I don't like loading it up. Not that it is hard, I just don't care for doing it. I own an iMac, so it's not a hardware thing.
Music is important to me. I have a playback medium that works for me and that's fine by me. There will always be CD players ... maybe not as many, but there will be some around.
Enough already with the CD is dead, CD is not dead, yada, yada, yada. It's boring already. It sounds too much like the SACD is dead crap.
You are not the only one about the server. I am in the same boat. Though I can play with computer registry and stuff like that, I love to spin the good old CD. Future might force us to take up a server, but for now we are good :-)
I a not with Steve on this one. My computer audio front end and others I have heard do not sound as good as a great CD/SACD player in my experience. Not yet anyway. I love the convenience however! I love Spotify and Pandora etc...
The battery operated DAC section in my modified Sony CD player (TRL) still sounds better than the Apple/$1000 dac options I have tried.Perhaps I need to spend more on the DAC to compete with my CD player? Don't know. I expect at some point I will like the sound of computer audio better, but this far no.
Funny you should mention TRL in this thread. I have owned one of their modded Sony players for several years now. It has beat up some pretty expensive seedee players in this time.
I just put together a modest system of SB Touch and MHDT Havana DAC. I have to concede that this does indeed sound better than my cdp. The TRL will be for sale in the near future. This is the best digital sound I have heard in my system.
Shakeydeal, his mods vary and mine is the latest with the battery power supply and all (modified last year). Tell me about yours? Love to know how (what program) you use to rip CD's? I have not had as much luck as you getting computer audio to sound as good. I also use the Squeezebox Touch and a good Bel Canto DAC? No way it sounds as good. I stream wireless to the SB Touch however.
This is the issue I have with computer based audio. So many ways to cobble out the final sound that perhaps I could be doing SOMETHING better? That something is confusing and a royal pain to me....
Granny wrote: "My computer audio front end and others I have heard do not sound as good as a great CD/SACD player in my experience."
You just need to buy the right computer interface. There is no reason why it should not beat both your CD player and your vinyl.
Yes, I must buy the right one and every other step in this whole process must also be sorted out and done the best way possible. I swear it is this bottomless black hole of cobbled together computer audio with all of its twists and turns that confounds me. One says I need a better dac, another says I need to rip with this other program, and yet another says I need to store in this format on this device. On and on and on...
I guess I am doing something wrong or not the optimal way it seems. My $1500 CD cannot sound better I am told, but is does so what now? I so want to like computer based audio and use my CD player as my 2nd choice as I love the convenience of playing my music on a computer. Thus far I have not heard better sound then my CD player however. I won't spend $5000 either, no more than $1500.
are you so confident that you would make a wager that i would prefer your digital front end, over my favorite cd player ??
My TRL is not the latest version, it is a few years old. And it does sound really good. I am ripping seedees using DB poweramp into Apple Lossless. I find that this sounds better than FLAC or WAV to my ears. I added the CIA PS for the squeezebox, but that is the only mod so far. I plan to have Bolder do their digital out mod on the SB.
Wayne at Bolder modded my linear PS and I am loving the result. He's got a Bybee mod that's supposed to be amazing. Too bad I'm over budget right now.
Thanks Shakey and point well taken Vhiner. I will wait more.
I do own a Squeezebox Touch and an Apple iMac into a Bel Canto DAC in my smaller second system. I will try your DB Poweramp idea and press on learning in my second system.
The biggest obstacle to a music server for me, beyond ripping over 1500 CDs, is the music selection process. When I look at the shelves of CDs it allows me to browse in a different way than any computer graphics can give me. I'm the sort of listener that seldom knows what I want to hear until I browse. This is the same issue I have with shopping for CDs on Amazon, which I usually do, but how I miss music stores. With Amazon and with music servers it works best if you know approxomately what you want. I'm, perhaps, too impulsive.
"I swear it is this bottomless black hole of cobbled together computer audio with all of its twists and turns that confounds me."
Granny - The best thing is to pick a manufacturer and stick with them. Good ones have all of the questions answered for you.
"are you so confident that you would make a wager that i would prefer your digital front end, over my favorite cd player ??"
Are we talking about a transport or player?
If it's a transport, I'll give you a money back guarantee that my gear will beat it. However, you must follow ALL of my advice for ripping S/W, playback S/W, format and use a Mac Mini.
Steve I think you may have a valid point for me on this topic.
If we are strictly answering the question, then CD players will never be dead as long as you need a door stop.
Along with cassette,mini disk and DAT confined to history. RIP
i suggested that a test be constructed between a cd player of my choice versus a digital front end of your choice. i did not
suggest comparing transports.
i would conjecture that your design philosophy diverges from my audio preferences.
you may recall that i visited your room several times when you exhibited at the st. tropez.
"When I look at the shelves of CDs it allows me to browse in a different way than any computer graphics can give me. I'm the sort of listener that seldom knows what I want to hear until I browse.
Thats very understandable Irv. Why not just leave your CDs displayed as they are; then you can browse any way you want.
I'll wait for on demand streaming downloads to mature into a viable option. No way, never in my lifetime will I rip 1000's of cds onto a hard drive. Till then I will continue to enjoy rotating cd players of different sonic merits. Modifying each to my satisfaction.
Mr. Tennis - The problem with comparing my USB DAC with your CD player is that everything is different, the interface and the DAC. My DAC even has a volume control, so it would replace your preamp. It's not fair really. It will make your CD player sound like a boombox. This is an award-winning front-end that got best of show from TAS for the last 2 years at RMAF.
A more fair comparison to see how computer audio compares to optical disc would be to compare your CD player as a transport to my USB converter as a transport, both driving the same good DAC with the same S/PDIF cable.
Reb - Here is what I think of on-line streaming music: It will probably be a rent as you go basis, just like streaming movies. It will also be limited in bandwith by using compressed lossy formats, so the quality will suffer. I dont want to pay each time I listen to a music track, particularly if it's not master tape quality.
To Steve (Audioengr) or anyone else inclined to explain...How is it possible for a copy of a CD played from a computer hard drive to sound better than the original CD? I'm not trying to be argumentative. I would really like to understand what the improvement derives from. Is it the "ripping" (copying?) process that unlocks more info from the original CD? or is it the bit stream being read off the hard drive that is some how superior to what a conventional (or even mod'd.) CD player can produce? Is it the result of something else? I don't get it.
I'm taking a stab at this so bear with me until someone more knowledgable chimes in. I think it is a combination and quality of things that bear on the playback.
I've heard my DACmini out of a top of the line Ayon CDP and it was a bit better than the Ayon by itself.
I tried it out of my TEAC PD-H600 and it, too was better than the TEAC by itself, by a wider margin.
The DACmini out of my iMac with Bitperfect (CAN'T forget the add ons) sounded similar, but better, than with the Ayon and much, much better than with the TEAC.
This all leads me to believe that the transport is the culprit. Every time that CDP spins and reads, its never the same. It can't be replicated equally, every time. But with an iMac (or PC based) hard drive or SSD, its the same read every time. All of that without the spinning platter and laser read of the disk.
I remember reading a review over at 6moons.com about how the reading of a disk and transfer to the DAC, in a CDP, is still an analog (mechanical) function or something to that effect. Its not really digital until the conversion. With a computer, or computer based server, its digital (not mechanical) through and through. I hope I've remembered it correctly and I hope this helps until someone with better skills and background can explain.
All the best,
Nonoise- Thanks for the helpful reply. I have a bit more of a clue about this now.
"I remember reading a review over at 6moons.com about how the reading of a disk and transfer to the DAC, in a CDP, is still an analog (mechanical) function or something to that effect. Its not really digital until the conversion.
It cant be called analog because the disc being read is digitally encoded. What would make sense to me is if 6moons compared the inherent irregularities of the mechanical function of a CDP to those of an analog playback system.
Now that I've had some time to think about it the article at 6moons went on to state that the pits in the CD are read by the laser similar to a needle tracking a groove on a record. Its still not a 'digital' read as the laser never really reads the same pits in the same manner, or something like that. There is still some guess work done before it goes onto the DAC. I'll try to find the article and post it here.
All the best,
Nonoise, regardless of the details in the article, youre right about the ripping process being bit-perfect while the transport read is not and is reliant on error correction.
It took a bit but here is the article; http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/psaudio7/perfectwave.html
Hope this helps. I'm re-reading it myself.
All the best,
Would someone care to weigh in on the PSAudio Perfect Wave memory player? It may not be better than computer audio files that never touched a disc, but I've found it to be equal to anything ripped from a disc and then fed to a DAC. Here's why: The PW player uploads the data from a disc into a buffer and then the data is transmitted bit perfect to the PW DAC via an I2S interface.
I just came from the PSAudio site and boy, do I wish I were rich.
I haven't used many audio rippers but with EAC it tells you how many errors are in the rip and if any error correction was used. However, 99% of my audio ripping has never required error correction to be applied. Even with high speed ripping.
My friend who is a tech support engineer (for customers who design equipment) at sanyo, supporting cd rom products has said that bit perfect reads are common place now.
Imagine, if reading a cd is hard, how much error correction would be needed for sacd or blu ray? It just doesn't make sense to assume that a cd drive at 1x speed can't accurately read a cd when a cd-rom drive at 2x or higher can without correction.
Some things in that 6moons article may be right such as power supply affecting servo and diodes (which can be mitigated with proper design)But I'd have to argue that cd is digital. It is, afterall, a representation of a decimated signal that came out of an ADC.
Having said all that, I don't believe that anyone knows why digital can sound different - transports, digital IC's if anyone is interested. The only parameter we know of is jitter to explain differences after accepting the bit perfect argument. Which is why hifi manufacturers don't want us to think that.
well steve, if you think my cd player will sound inferior to your transport and some dac, put your money where your mouth is.
as you realize there is no accounting for taste.
you cannot make a definitive statement that one component sounds better than another, because the null hypothesis will be rejected if one person prefers a cd player.
"To Steve (Audioengr) or anyone else inclined to explain...How is it possible for a copy of a CD played from a computer hard drive to sound better than the original CD?"
Okay, simple. The jitter that is caused by the pits in the CD and their unevenness makes it worse than playing back using sync USB interface or networked interface.
This is easy to test. First rip a CD track using either XLD on Mac or dbpoweramp on PC with Accurate-Rip enabled. Then rewrite a CD onto 2 different CDROM blanks, one Mitsui Gold audio master and the other TDK or equivalent. Then play all three disks on the CD player. If any of them sounds different, then there you have the proof. If you argue that the rip is different, then listen for differences in the 2 CDROMS. If you hear any difference, then ther is your proof. The CD player jitter is affected by the pits on the disk.
"the transport read is not and is reliant on error correction"
That is true, however there is actually very little error correction happening, if any, with a clean CD disk. The difference in audio quality is a result of jitter from the CD player, caused by the pits in the CD or the jitter from the clock in the player or both.
Mr. Tennnis - I will put my product where my mouth is. You put the money down. A bet requires both of us to have skin in the game.
BTW, did you read the Dec. Stereophile?
How is it possible for a copy of a CD played from a computer hard drive to sound better than the original CD?
Some good responses have been provided above. The following excerpts from this thread
provide further elaboration on some of the things that have been touched upon:
If a disc wobbles while it spins then this may cause cyclical adjustments to the pick up laser servo and these repetitive draws on power may induce variations in the clock through the power supply.
CD players, transports, and DACs are a menagerie of true mixed-signal design problems, and there are a lot of different noises sources living in close proximity with suceptible circuit nodes. One oft-overlooked source is crosstalk from the disc servomechanism into other parts of the machine . . . analog circuitry, S/PDIF transmitters, PLL clock, etc., which can be dependent on the condition of the disc.... One would be suprised at some of the nasty things that sometimes come up out of the noise floor when the focus and tracking servos suddenly have to work really hard to read the disc.
The following excerpt from this paper
by Steve reinforces the point about jitter that he stated above:
3. Jitter from the pits on a CD:
These are the pits in the CD media that represent the recorded data. Variation in the spacing of these pits result in jitter when reading the data. Commercially CD's created from a glass-master generally have more variation in the locations of the pits than a CD-R written at 1X speed on a good CD-R writer. Even though most modern CD players have buffering of the data to create some tolerance to this jitter, there is usually a PLL (Phase-locked-loop) involved, which is still somewhat susceptible to jitter. To determine if your player is susceptible, it is a simple experiment to re-write or "clone" a CD and then listen for playback differences from the commercial version. For newer players that completely buffer the data at high-speed from a CDROM reader to a memory buffer, this jitter is not an issue.
Of course, having the digital source and the dac in separate components creates other ways in which jitter can be introduced, especially if synchronous interfaces such as S/PDIF, AES/EBU, or adaptive USB (as opposed to asynchronous USB) are used. And as usual the quality of a given implementation, or lack thereof, can be a more significant factor than the approach that is chosen.
BTW, not to belabor an issue of semantics, but what is being referred to as "error correction" is more properly called "error interpolation" or "error concealment." "Error correction," which as I understand it occurs many times during the reading of a typical cd, is by definition bit perfect, i.e., the error is corrected! See this Wikipedia writeup
, and this one