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Tag Archives: cd

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

Too many “weeds” here from Paul, but interesting to some.

Sample rates

There sure is a lot of confusion over sample rates. We hear about CD-quality sample rates at 44.1kHz (and its multiples), or another common sample rate, 48kHz (and its multiples), and then there are multiple higher sample rates (176kHz, 192kHz as examples) and of course DSD.

Lots of numbers. All very confusing.

Perhaps a short primer would help.

First, what is a sample rate? Simply put, it’s a snapshot of the audio signal. A slice of time where we capture the voltage level of the music signal. The number of times per second we take that snapshot determines the sample rate. (Bit depth determines the loudness range we can capture within each sample)

First, what’s the difference between 44.1kHz and 48kHz and why do the two exist? The former is what Sony/Philips set as a standard for the Compact disc. When we do higher sample rate versions of this standard we get 88.2kHz, 176kHz and so forth. The latter, 48kHz, is the standard the “pros” use (because, well, they can’t use something as conventional as consumers, now can they?). 48kHz gives us multiples we’re familiar with like 96kHz, and 192kHz.

What’s painful about the above two standards is the difficulty moving between them. When recording studios record at “pro” sample rates of 48kHz they then have to interpolate down a few Hz to 44.1kHz to make something we poor consumers can listen to.

Silliness.

When we nerds talk about sample rates we use different terminology. We base our discussion on how many multiples of the base frequency (44.1kHz) are in play. So, for instance, the CD sample rate is referred to as 1fs. Its multiples are 2fs, 3fs, etc.

The sampling frequency or sampling rate, fs, is the average number of samples obtained in one second (samples per second). Think of 1fs as the minimum baseline to capture 20Hz to 20kHz.

While we might be familiar with all the differing PCM sample rates, DSD brings in a whole other dimension with its far higher sample rates. For example, standard DSD is 64fs while double rate DSD is twice that at 128fs. So what’s that mean? Well, 1fs is running at 44,000 times per second, while 64fs is running at 64 times that frequency, or 2,822,400 times per second! That’s fast, man.

And, while DSD is so much higher of a sample rate as to raise a few eyebrows, it’s instructive to remember it’s a 1-bit system compared to a basic 16-bit system like PCM (remember that the number of bits is needed to measure amplitude). This boils down to something less hair raising if we do a bit of math. 64fs (1xDSD) runs at a very high clock rate of 2,822,400 Hz (2.8mHz). Now, simply divide that by 16 (the number of bits in a PCM word) and guess what you get? A sample rate of 176kHz. Sound familiar? 176kHz is the same as 4fs PCM. So, while PCM requires 16 bits to adequately measure amplitude, and DSD needs 16 single bits to do the same, it all kind of works out in the end. (Don’t take what I just wrote about DSD and 16 bits as literal. I use it only as a means of helping form a picture. DSD is far more complicated, using a Sigma-Delta Modulator, noise shaping, etc.)

Without getting too much more in the weeds, that’ll give you a brief simplistic overview of sampling rates.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

No guarantees

“Flummoxed.” Now there’s a word you don’t hear that often, but it perfectly describes the problem so many people struggle with when it comes to sample rates and bit depths.

How can a high sample rate and full bit depth master sound significantly worse than a lower sample/bit rate track?

The answer is somewhat the same as how great ingredients don’t always taste as good as poor ones: why the best artist paints don’t always make a better painting, lower distortion doesn’t guarantee a great amp, or a big engine the fastest car.

It isn’t the ingredients or technology that matter as much as the skill of the creator.

In the same way a talented photographer can use an iPhone to produce a better picture than an amateur with the planet’s fanciest camera gear, the quality of ingredients matters most as a final touch rather than the starting point.

Just because a record is mastered at a famous label, a release is in quad rate DSD, or the track was little more than a mere CD, does not in itself help us determine its sonic merits.

We need to listen.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

This article from Paul mentions MQA. MQA, or Master Quality Authentication,  is another way to record and playback music that’s supposed to sound better than full WAV files, yet save disc space…That is, it supposed to sound as good or better than anything and  take up less file space. Does it work, or just the latest fad? My T+A MP2500R Digital Multiplayer, which is an SACD and CD transport, as well as a UPnP player, AM/FM tuner, Internet Radio renderer, etc, sounds fantastic, yet no MQA and I do not believe its in T+A’s plans to make their products compatible with the format.  I can tell you that if it actually improved sound quality, they would probably implement it and do so in a heartbeat.

I do not have it to compare, but after promoting it heavily at the beginning, I sense its fading as so many other musical formats before it. Not a big surprise…

Lossie

The title of today’s post might be a misspelling of a very famous collie or a word that should be expunged from audio’s vocabulary.

Lossie media files save bandwidth by sacrificing musical content. As audiophiles, we should be up in arms or at least a little upset. ��

In the same way few of us are happy about the dumbing down of society, why is it in this day and agree we are alright with lossie music?

The creators of MQA tried to make us believe it was not only ok to lose data but worse, it’s better than lossless!

Spotify seems alright feeding us with lossie music. Fine for them because that’s their business model, but why do audiophiles support them? Probably because Spotify’s library has far more tracks to choose from than the lossless services.

In the end, whatever floats your boat works. Music’s music and it’d be a shame to miss out on great tunes because we’re worried over quality.

Still, it stresses me the word lossie remains alive and well in the context of music reproduction.

 

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I purchased this from PS Audios website and will be able to hear it in its native DSD glory. I ask all of you to buy this CD, as the music seems very good and the effort Paul makes to bring stuff like this to market, is deserving of our support.

Temporary Circumstances

Boy, talk about aptly named. Octave Record’s latest release, Temporary Circumstances, is more than half gone. We just launched it yesterday.

This is one hell of a great recording and tasty as it can be musically.

We had to commit to a fixed number of SACDs due to our Austrian pressing plant’s lead times. So, when this batch is gone that’s it. If you want one, I suspect you’d best go to the website and grab it.

Download bundles will always be available.

We do plan on releasing a limited run of virgin vinyl 45rpm pressings—probably 500 pieces—sometime next month if we’re able. Gus and our engineering team have struggled to get a clean cut from the DSD masters. Seems the extended bandwidth and the nature of DSD are upsetting the cutting lathes. To solve this our chief engineer, Bob Stadtherr, designed and handcrafted a solution. It involves a new type of device unseen in the industry. Turns out the cutting head and the preview track (which knows in advance of the cutting process what to expect in loudness) are delayed so the cutting equipment works together. Tradition has two identical masters feeding each system, one slightly ahead of the other. This can be tricky, but more importantly, it relies upon equipment whose quality we cannot control. Bob’s custom FPGA based solution takes in a single master file and sorts everything out to the exact DACs we wish to use, then reclocks everything, thus maintaining our level of quality from the direct master DSD files. Wicked cool work Bob.

We’ll let you know when the vinyl’s ready.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

So true!!

If you didn’t know

Some of the very best stereo recordings I love are standard resolution CD quality and the opposite is also true. Some of the worst are high resolution.

This means, of course, that it’s the recording quality that really determines if something is good or bad, great or awful. A high sample rate bad recording sounds a bit worse than a standard resolution version because the higher resolution brings us closer to what’s wrong.

How many times have I fallen into the trap of buying the higher resolution version of music new to me without first knowing if the recording’s any good?

Terri put on a new album by a group called Local Natives last night. The music’s really good and refreshing. Though it played in the background as I prepared dinner, I kept getting agitated that perhaps something’s wrong with the system. Dirt on the needle maybe? Nope. Needle’s clean. The high levels of distortion on the record were apparently intended by the musicians. Ugh. A good way to destroy great music.

High resolution recordings can make better what is already good, but you don’t want a better copy of what starts out badly.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

This may work for some, but depends on type and size of the loudspeaker, as well as the listening room. The Red Norvo piece of music is great!

Tilt ‘er back

If you’re looking for a quick and easy fine-tuning technique, try tilting the speakers forward or backward relative to the listening position.

This is a time-honored tweak that not everyone’s familiar with, but it sure works great. The easiest way to do this is by using a CD jewel case under the front of your speaker for tilt back or under the rear of the speaker for tilt-forward. The half inch or so depth of a CD case is about perfect for a tilt change. You can use multiple cases to arrive at your final position.

What you’re doing is aiming the tweeter slightly above or below your ear—off-axis. Tilt back and above your ear will open the soundstage and offer a more airy presentation. Tilt forward and the opposite happens.

For this exercise, I like to start a well recorded multi-instrument piece like Reference Recording’s Red Norvo How’s your mother in law. As I tilt back the speaker the image gets deeper, wider, and more open, but it also loses a bit of upper harmonic energy. Heading in the opposite direction I increase the HF energy (depending on how your tweeters are now aimed) and gain more life.

Once that recording is dialed in I put on one of my favorite setup discs, Buddy Holly’s True Love’s Ways. Here I am listening for the immediacy of the voice and make my final tweaks to get it just right.

Nice to have an easy tweak we can try at home.

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Far too often I repeat my oft said pearl: the only thing remaining constant is change.

That said, sometimes it’s a real eye-opener to look far enough in the past that the changes of yesteryear seem laughable. The introduction of the Compact Disc, now known simply as the CD, is one such example.

When reader Paul Stevenson sent me a link to this video  I laughed off my ever-lovin’ arse.

Watch the video. It’ll put a big smile on your face.

But once finished laughing, pause for a moment of reflection. Then, imagine how silly today’s going to look in another 40 years.

 

What we do today seems perfectly normal until you compare it to a handful of tomorrows.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Needles vs. lasers

Sometimes it’s instructive to pull our view of the world back and take a broader look. For example, a 30,000 foot view of music reproduction’s two core methods: vinyl and CD, might look very different than our normal image.

For example, when I don’t put much thought into comparing differences between vinyl on my turntable and CD, I consider them different yet not that different. Both make music, both are wonderful mediums, each has its upsides and downsides. A simplistic view that ignores fundamentals.

A more callous look from afar would be very different indeed. One technology is almost entirely mechanical, relying upon a needle wiggling in a plastic groove to generate a tiny electrical voltage vs. a laser beam scanning an impossibly microscopic mirror to extract ones and zeros. The two technologies couldn’t be further apart, yet each is expected to produce similar results.

For me, it’s helpful when listening to the two disparate sources to place them in different categories and adjust my expectations accordingly. I don’t hope for one to mirror the other. I experience vinyl in a very different way than I do digital.

The next time someone asks which do you prefer best, it might make sense for a moment’s pause to consider that it’s hard to compare apples to oranges.

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

A watched pot never boils
Our perception of reality, of the here and now, of past and future, is relative: time crawls when you watch a clock’s secondhand and speeds past when we’re otherwise occupied.

The same can be said for listening to music. We like to imagine that recordings are immutable, that what’s on the CD or LP or even a streamed music file is fixed and no mood or perceptual change can influence that which is. But, we would be wrong. Just as wrong as thinking time is also immutable, or how long it takes to boil a pot of water when you’re watching it.

Intellectually we understand that clocks and water obey strict laws, yet we cannot say the same for our perception of them.

Measured dynamic range, for example, is rarely a good indicator of how dynamic music sounds. Instead, it is the juxtaposition of loud and soft—the contrast between passages—that makes us feel like it is dynamic, not the measured range itself.

I know the scientist lurking in all of us wishes to measure, quantify, and catalog our physical world. Unfortunately, we haven’t any equipment to measure how we interact with it.

And how it makes us feel is a more valuable measurement than numbers on a page.


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Paul McGowan

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Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The truth of it

That if you set a CD transport on an uneven surface and it lists to one side or another more than about 2 degrees, the sound is off? That the laser, working harder in the uphill direction and easier in the opposite will cause the error correction system to work harder, thus changing the sound quality? People who know this take the time to use a level and get their CD transports straight. It matters.

Alright. This is total BS. I made this up to make a point of how easily bad actors can influence our thought process and belief systems.

I am not a bad actor. And many people who spread misinformation are also not bad actors, they are just sometimes wrong. But then, there are those who intentionally set out to deceive us. Those are the bad actors I refer to—people who put their agendas ahead of the truth.

In our modern world, where outside forces work hard at dividing us (remember the adage “divide and conquer”), one of the most frightening trends is when we’re pushed to believe we cannot trust “anything” because everyone has a spin on the truth. That what we hear daily, even from people we trust, should be viewed with a suspicious eye.

This sentiment is being injected into our culture with intent. It is neither healthy nor true.

There is truth in our world. It’s the mainstream.

Our scientific, medical, engineering, and administrative communities are made of good people who would never violate truth. It’s why you trust your doctor, the scientists who keep us safe, the engineers that design our cars, homes, and bridges.

We don’t have to pay attention to the outliers crying lies and conspiracies. Ignored they will fade.

Even trolls need to eat.

I walk outside and say hi to my neighbor Kyle as we both take out Thursday’s trash.

“How’re the kids?” I ask.

Big smiles. Everything’s just fine. And at the market too. And the post office too. And at work too.

Life and people aren’t changing.

Most of us are doing our best to pull together.

We’re family.

 

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