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DVD-A and SACD--really worth it?
Cygnus X1
post Jun 5 2002, 06:35
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Hello all!

I was wondering if anybody who owns an SACD/DVD-A audio player could comment on the quality of their machine and if they can hear a difference between a standard 44.1Khz/16 bit CD and the newer formats. I am asking this because I have been tempted to purchase such a player, but cannot decide between the two formats. In addition, since I am on a low budget, I wonder if SACD/DVD-A are even worth it? Isn't the 192Khz sampling rate a tad excessive (or the 2.8(?)Mhz DSD stream on SACD)? 44.1Khz seems fine to my ears. . .24-bit word-length would be nice, but how much difference would it make, esp. considering that 99.9% of the 900 recordings I own were done in analog?
I probably won't purchase the SACD/DVD-A format unless there is a proven difference (statistically significant) in subjective quality in a laboratory, and a meaningful one at that. Any thoughts on this, or papers somebody could point me towards?
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Ruse
post Jun 5 2002, 08:20
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Cygnus X1
I probably won't purchase the SACD/DVD-A format unless there is a proven difference (statistically significant) in subjective quality in a laboratory, and a meaningful one at that. 

Wow, I don't think you'll be buying one then! smile.gif

Remember these formats are mainly about marketing and 'secure digital'.


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rc55
post Jun 5 2002, 10:25
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Don't forget HDCD - yet another format CD - now (I think) owned by Microsoft.

What a shame this is happening - I hate having more non compliant CD formats (assuming its some sub-channel kludge). It's an interesting idea but I think if no one can tell the difference there really is no point to it all.

Ruairi


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ssamadhi97
post Jun 5 2002, 11:30
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QUOTE
Originally posted by rc55
I hate having more non compliant CD formats (assuming its some sub-channel kludge).

well, at least HDCD is 100% redbook compliant (I think) - all information needed for a hdcd decoder to work is stored in the LSB of the audio data


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rc55
post Jun 5 2002, 11:33
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That's quite interesting. smile.gif

If only there were some open tools to make HDCD... - then again I'm contradicting myself - I probably couldnt tell the difference.

Ruairi


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ssamadhi97
post Jun 5 2002, 12:00
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QUOTE
Originally posted by rc55
That's quite interesting. smile.gif

If only there were some open tools to make HDCD...

the basic idea is that upon "encoding" a 20-24bit audio signal to hdcd filters are applied if necessary (dynamics compression on low levels, limiter to prevent clipping), and when you play the cd through a hdcd decoder, the control stream in the lsb triggers complementary filters to undo these operations, effectively pushing the resolution of the sound to 18-20bit.

I don't know how much of this can be really heard though, since I never had the opportunity to listen to a HDCD tongue.gif


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cmagic
post Jun 5 2002, 12:31
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Hi,

I own a Tosh (model 500) DVD/ DVD-A/HDCD player and I have a few HDCD encoded CDs. I don't have any DVD-A yet !

As for the HDCD encoded CDs (24bits), they are perfectly compatible with any CD player (16 bits). Frankly, the difference between the same CD played on my HDCD compatible player and my old Technics CD player using the same amp is not that obvious. You really nead a very quiet listening setup and set your amp with a comfortable volume to notice a slight improvement (mainly in the stereo image and in the treble) but i'm not an expert listener.

IMHO the main point with DVD-A or SACD is the ability to reproduce multi-channel recorded stuff. And I think this is quite an improvement over 2 channels CD or HDCD. You don't need to be an expert to feel the difference between a stereo recorded concert and a multichannel recorded one (5.1 -> 7.1). But of course you need more hardware !

Christian
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Sachankara
post Jun 5 2002, 12:36
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Well, there's a huge difference between 6 channel DVD-Audio and normal stereo CD-Audio when it comes to actually "feel" the music... (Assuming the [re]mastering has been done well...) But quality-wise, there's not much difference for the majority of people... Even if you have the equipment to deliver 96kHz, 24-bit audio per channel you probably won't have the hearing to actually be able to hear any difference if you only use two channels... wink.gif

I've never heard SACD so I can't say I know how it sounds... But it seems cool to be able to play them in normal CD players without a SACD player... Stereo audio only though, but still... smile.gif

The only thing I "really really" don't like about these two new formats is the encryption and therefor I won't buy any new discs of the newer formats for a long time... I already own one DVD-Audio disc, but that's enough for me... Normal CD-Audio works just fine at the moment with my equipment... smile.gif
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Cygnus X1
post Jun 5 2002, 16:26
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The opinions everybody has stated here largely reflect my own regarding the two newer formats. Another thing I did not consider was the fact that the only "new" recordings I buy are classical and jazz, since IMHO the best rock and roll recordings have long ago been cut. Classical may sound good in 7.1 if the engineer knew what he was doing; the added ambience would probably be much more pleasing (and natural sounding) than using DSP effects to create reverb, a capability found on many modern recievers. Save for that fact, I am one of those people who would rather hear two well-recorded channels of audio rather than 5 or 6 channels of echoey, poorly mixed sludge. Opening another can of worms, I also agree with several posters that the DRM on the newer formats is appauling. How can the record companies put out consistently worse material (i.e. bands completely lacking in musical talent and ability) and complain when people don't buy new albums and/or put compressed audio on the internet of better, older music? In any case, it looks like the ubiquitous audio CD will continue to be my format of choice (though I have gone to a 512MB solid-state player and --alt-preset standard for portable use).
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Pio2001
post Jun 5 2002, 21:23
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Here was a big topic about PCM (that is CD or DVD-A) versus DSD (that is SACD) in George Massenbourg professional audio recording forum :

http://www.musicplayer.com/cgi-bin/ultimat...ic;f=3;t=002225

I'll try to summarize what I remember of it, from the audiophile point of view :

First point, impossible to find scientific well documented papers about how the DSD technology of SACD is supposed to improve the sound. Only advertisement hype.

Then, as it was discussed in an older huge thread ( http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/ultimatebb....t=000822#000000 , more than 1000 posts, better read from the end wink.gif ) there is no proof that frequencies above the limit of the audition affects the sound (but, according to the non-linearity of human hearing, no proof of the opposite either). In fact, there is one article, but we can't read it : http://www.aes.org/events/110/workshops/HW-7.html . It might only deal with distortion in electronic gear, I don't know. A similar claim was made by Mike Richter (see the end of the huge post linked above), but the experimental setup is not rigorous, at least as it is reported.

Therefore the improvement promised by 192 kHz sample rate is not granted.

High resolution PCM (96, 192 kHz, 24, 32 bits) is required in the mixing process, that's a fact, because the signal get amplified or changed, and inaudible parts can become audible after processing (think about increasing treble, or lowering the speed, for example), but can it improve sound for the final user ?

One argument is that DACs must use lowpass filters at 22,050 Hz, that affect the sound, because the lowpassing process must be smooth in order not to create artifacts, therefore the lowpass must run from 19 or 20 kHz, for example, to 22,050 Hz. A higher sample rate gives more margin.
On the other hand, it is quite impossible to mix audio in pure DSD. A conversion to PCM is needed to apply even a volume/balance adjustment. Some prototypes of pure DSD processing machines exists, but they are not yet distributed. Thus an SACD is in fact just like a copy of DVD-A !

Another argument, common to PCM and DSD, is that DVDA and SACD behaves like partly converted audio data. A DVDA is like a CD that would have already been oversampled before analog conversion, and an SACD goes even further in the process. In short, it's a bit like if half of the D to A conversion had already been done before burning, so that you only need half a DAC in your player to play the SACD. therefore you benefit from a state of the art professional quality for the first half of the DAC (before the mastering of the CD) and a classic second half (in your player).

Now the negative part : frequencies above 20 kHz, that are the main advertised advantage of these new technologies should be rejected anyway, in order not introduce distortion in the rest of the chain !!!

Let's finish with this exellent joke : http://www.prosoundweb.com/recpit/viewtopic.php?t=1556

From Nika :
QUOTE
I have talked to a lot of manufacturers about this, and many of them say that there will be no benefit to higher sampling frequencies with their boxes. This includes Lexicon amongst many others. 

Many manufacturers say that the only benefit is the potential audible ability of us to hear above 20kHz. While they say that THEY can't hear a difference, they make the boxes for those who claim they can.



Sorry if I was too technical for this board, it has nothing to do with my new status .:red:
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Cygnus X1
post Jun 5 2002, 22:29
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Thanks Pio2001 for your input and info!

For all the arguing people engage in over high-sampling rate/word length audio, it seems from my perspective that there is a lack of empirical support for using ungodly sampling rates and/or 32 bit wordlengths. I also find it amusing when people complain about aliasing. . .am I correct in that this hasn't been a problem with CD players for at least a decade? I can recall when CD players came out that they used a very steep lowpass filter around 19-20Khz, which lead to some harshness (and if I recall correctly) even some phase shifting near the filter frequencies. Of course, oversampling has since been implemented to use much less steep cutoffs. In either case, the filtering around ~20Khz leaves 2.05Khz between the lowpass and the "last" possible sample values, and given that there isn't much in the way of dynamics around 24Khz and up, I am not sure why aliasing would even be discussed anymore. In addition, if the companies like Sony are providing recordings and machines with ultra-high frequency content for those "who can hear it", why then is most of the SACD catalouge comprised of old 1950's jazz? Im sorry, but I am doubtful that 1950's two or three track tape technology could capture those frequencies , even at 15ips, especially considering the primitive FeO2 tape coatings used at the time. I have a great recording from 1959, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, both in analouge (vinyl) and on CD (with 20-bit remastering). They both sound the same to me, though my vinyl introduces a host of surface noise defects that I find annoying to say the least.
I think I'll pass on the SACD player and instead use the money to build a box to play MPC's or mp3's in my car:D
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DarkAvenger
post Jun 5 2002, 22:32
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I say we don't need DVD-A/SACD, as current solutions offer good enough audio. If CDDA is not enough, just use auio-only DVD with DD or DTS tracks. That gives you mc capabilities and (with high enough bitrates) better sound in plain stereo, as well. I guess even here it will be hard to tell the difference between a 44,1kHz 16bit int track and a DD/DTS track, which is 48kHz and (theor.) 32bit float. In case of DD/DTS it depends on the amp with how many bits it decodes, and of course on the mastering with how many bits the source was digitized before encoding. On should note that DD/DTS can also be recored on a plain CD - then with 44,1kHz.

So DVD-A/SACD is only a marketing hype to
a) make money (of course) without much (or any) improvement to audio quality to 99,99% (guessed number) of the people (including me I guess)
b) make more money by adding copy protections into the standard

Yes, the music industry is trying to copy protect CDDA, but that is by breaking the standards (Red Book) and in the end it is not very effective.

But of course there are always people with too much money (the Laserdisc/upcoming D-VHS guys out there) who probably will have fun in buying DVD-A/SACD...
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Pio2001
post Jun 5 2002, 22:48
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QUOTE
Originally posted by DarkAvenger
I say we don't need DVD-A/SACD, as current solutions offer good enough audio. 


Exept if they manage in the future to built DVDA or SACD players that sounds as well as 3000 CD players, but for 200 only. That would be interesting smile.gif
In my opinion, it's the only relevant question about audiophile (=not talking about multichannel, I mean) possibility of these new media.
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cmokruhl
post Jun 5 2002, 22:55
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I have heard SACD, HDCD and DVD-A. I own two SACD players (Sony NS500V... $200!). SACD is the superior format IMHO. The difference between CD and DVD-A is always described as "subtle". The difference between CD and SACD is definitely noticable. My parents (truly non-audiophiles) heard the Sony demonstration at Hi-Fi '99 in Chicago with me and both commented on how much better SACD sounded.

Would I recommend SACD to everyone? No. I have *very* high resolution listening rigs at work and home and, on them, these differences are very noticable. On a boombox or computer speakers, I doubt the difference would be noticable. Beyond that, there are some serious flaws in Sony's marketing of SACDs. The catalog is weak at best. ALL of Sony's releases are non-hybrid (they won't play in a normal CD player). You can't rip MPCs from these discs.

So, for me, SACD is a curiosity. I'll get some cornerstone discs in the SACD format (Kind of Blue, etc.) because the SACD sounds markedly better than the CD. I'd like the format to take off, but don't think it will.
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cmokruhl
post Jun 5 2002, 22:58
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Pio2001

Exept if they manage in the future to built DVDA or SACD players that sounds as well as 3000 CD players, but for 200 only. That would be interesting smile.gif 
In my opinion, it's the only relevant question about audiophile (=not talking about multichannel, I mean) possibility of these new media.


Pio - FWIW, my $200 Sony NS500V playing the SACD sounds better than my $900 Rega Planet 2000 playing the CD. The NS500V sounds awful playing CDs, though.
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gdougherty
post Jun 6 2002, 00:05
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The real problem with saying one sounds better than the other is that you can't make any true comparisons at the moment.

SACD material will have been recorded either with analog gear and then digitally recorded from the master into DSD (which supposedly sounds quite good) which is tough to compare to a pre-existing CD version since the converters used are probably different and could have been lower quality for the original CD. Tech advances over the past few years have enabled some pretty amazing sounding converters, so more recent CD's might sound better in comparison than the same master recorded 10 years ago onto CD. So that's tough.

Some material originally done at 16 or 20-24 bit at 44.1 at 48Khz sampling rates and then converted to DSD probably won't sound much better than the original unless some additional tweaking is done, which would probably make a version released on CD sound better as well.

Anything done these days in digital format is probably recorded at 24/48Khz, some are moving to 24/96, but that takes alot of processing power to mix and record. anything at 48Khz is upsampled to 96Khz for DVD-Audio, possibly when moving to DSD, but again, you're limited by the performance of the converters at 48Khz. As was previously mentioned low-pass filters are used in 44.1 and 48Khz conversions and the quality of the filters also affects the recorded sound. A good chunk of the material currently on DVD-Audio is simply upsampled 24/48 material, so comparing it to the CD version wouldn't reveal any huge differences.

Due to the different companies involved, it's impossible to compare a DVD-Audio release to a SACD release because nothing's available in both formats to make a direct comparison. Even if you could, the test would have to be done by a third party since in the DD vs DTS comparisons, the mixing engineers can often tweak things differently for different encoding processes, making one sound "better" than the other. Mixing, mastering and encoding all play in heavily on the final sound. Better clarity in the high end or deeper bass could simply be due to different instruments, asthetic tastes and many other things that have nothing to do with the final release.

In truth, there is no real answer and the most likely answer is that DVD-Audio, using PCM technology which is already in use across the industry will win because it involves the least financial investment. Using my $800 8-channel recording unit sitting next to me I could mix and created DVD-Audio discs if I already had the appropriate software. SACD would require a significant investment and the same situation exists in most digital studios around the world. Spend $3000 on DVD-Audio software or spend $30K+ on DSD conversion hardware, which do you think most studios would go for?

G
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Annuka
post Jun 6 2002, 00:09
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QUOTE
Originally posted by cmokruhl
I have heard SACD, HDCD and DVD-A.  I own two SACD players (Sony NS500V...  0!).  SACD is the superior format IMHO.  The difference between CD and DVD-A is always described as "subtle".  The difference between CD and SACD is definitely noticable.  My parents (truly non-audiophiles) heard the Sony demonstration at Hi-Fi '99 in Chicago with me and both commented on how much better SACD sounded.


It is not hard to produce desired test results. Just do a sloppy job when mastering the CD and an excellent job when mastering the SACD. How many CD<>SACD comparisons have you done and can you list the titles?
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cmokruhl
post Jun 6 2002, 00:17
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Annuka
It is not hard to produce desired test results. Just do a sloppy job when mastering the CD and an excellent job when mastering the SACD. How many CD<>SACD comparisons have you done and can you list the titles?


Joe Satriani "Engines of Creation" -> recent recording so the "old ADC" argument doesn't work.
Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" -> compared against recent SBM remaster
Santana "Abraxas" -> compared against original
Stevie Ray Vaughan "Texas Flood" -> compared against recent SBM remaster

In all cases, the highs sounded much purer and more natural. Being a guitarist, I know the sound of a guitar and there's a much more natural attack and purity of tone in the SACDs. Even good sounding CDs sound "digital" when compared to the SACD.
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Ruse
post Jun 6 2002, 02:58
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QUOTE
Originally posted by cmokruhl


Joe Satriani "Engines of Creation"  ->  recent recording so the "old ADC" argument doesn't work.
Miles Davis "Kind of Blue"  ->  compared against recent SBM remaster
Santana "Abraxas"  ->  compared against original
Stevie Ray Vaughan "Texas Flood"  ->  compared against recent SBM remaster

In all cases, the highs sounded much purer and more natural.  Being a guitarist, I know the sound of a guitar and there's a much more natural attack and purity of tone in the SACDs.  Even good sounding CDs sound "digital" when compared to the SACD.


Black magic and witcvhcraft.
Where's your proof - double blind listening tests or other validated test methodology.
The sort of 'analysis' you make above is similar to the high end hi-fi media.
It may be true, but you demonstrate no proof. The placebo effect is powerful. If I buy a new SACD machine, drop my new $big SCAD in the tray, smoothly glide it into the soft lit front panel and press play - my god its going to sound good!


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cmokruhl
post Jun 6 2002, 03:03
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Ruse
Black magic and witcvhcraft.
Where's your proof - double blind listening tests or other validated test methodology.

Just because I didn't do double-blind listening tests does not necessarily mean there is no difference. I mean, if I listen to a rock CD followed by a classical CD and comment that they sound different, would you say that my opinion is invalid because I didn't do a double-blind listening test?
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Ruse
post Jun 6 2002, 03:23
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Its this comment particularly that needs proving:
QUOTE
Originally posted by cmokruhl
Even good sounding CDs sound "digital" when compared to the SACD.

With reference to many comments above about the recording, mixing and mastering of each medium, I don't think this assertion will be settled as fact or fiction for a long time.

The new generation of CD players with upsampling techniques blurs the issue as well. You see, its not just an issue of the media, but the recording, mixing, mastering and the player technology. So when you make a bald statement like the one I have quoted, I just think that you have not really considered all the variables much.


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DigitalMan
post Jun 6 2002, 04:11
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Some random thoughts to add to this thread:

A few years ago Audio magazine (RIP) published a very technical article that tested the affects of HDCD and the upshot was that at best it did nothing and at worst it raised the noise floor of the recording. Of course, it was a toss up as to whether it was worse to encode / decode with HDCD at all or to have an HDCD encoded CD that was not decoded. Anyway, most of the affect was marginal at all.

I have heard both DVD audio and SACD, and they sound quite good. As to whey they are primarily old jazz releases the reason is that SACD is targeted initially at audiophiles who as a group prefer old jazz and orchestral (classical) recordings. Britany fans aren't running out to buy SACD gear; middle age weathly audiophiles will buy it, so give them the recordings they like.

DVD-Audio is a sad Frankenstein of a format that had potential when it first started. Originally intended to be the mother of all audio formats, technically its okay. It is very flexible (44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, and 192kHz sampling rates; word lengths of 16, 20 and 24 bits; and 2 to 6 channles of audio; lossless MLP [Meridian Lossless Packing] compression is available; ability to store data, pictures, lyrics, etc.; of course encryption; and "watermarking" to hunt down the evil doers who might bother to copy one of these things and prevent unauthorized recordings/broadcasts). The encryption was originally the same as DVD-Video (of course), but DVD-Audio was about to launch at the time that the DVD-Video encryption was compromised. So, DVD-Audio was delayed a year to redo the encryption. Some nice things about the format are that in dual layer, 16bit, 44.1kHz stereo with MLP (true CD audio equivalent) I think I calculated play times of about 20 hours. Now, if you could use ogg....The encryption and watermarking were not enough to protect this fortmat, so we have the further restriction that you can only get analog outputs from DVD-Audio (and SACD) players. There are some high-end propriatary digital links, but the manufacturers have you run six analog cables to your receiver, and you have to mess with delays and crossovers in the DVD-Audio or SACD player separatetly from your home theater Dolby Digital settings lest you defile your prescious 24bit/192kHz DVD-Audio analog signal by crunching it through an AD/DA cycle in the receiver....

So, there you have it, SACD and DVD-Audio crippleware. On top of it all, SACDs and DVD-Audio discs cost more than CDs ($25 US +). Tough to see a mass market for these as much as they are technically impressive. Remember that 24bits gives you a dynamic range of 144dB - not many audio systems have that kind of accuracy, and it really become pointless in a car/airplane or even a home with an air conditioner.

Rant over.


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bryant
post Jun 6 2002, 05:08
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QUOTE
Originally posted by DigitalMan
So, there you have it, SACD and DVD-Audio crippleware.  On top of it all, SACDs and DVD-Audio discs cost more than CDs ( US +).  Tough to see a mass market for these as much as they are technically impressive.  Remember that 24bits gives you a dynamic range of 144dB - not many audio systems have that kind of accuracy, and it really become pointless in a car/airplane or even a home with an air conditioner.

I would go further and say that there is no chance of either of these formats having any kind of mass market. However, their development was not driven by customer's desires for multi-channel remixes of their favorite CDs (or their disgust with that wretched 16/44 sound). Their development was driven by the major label's demands for a secure format and their inability to make unrippable CDs. And I suspect that as soon as most new CD players will handle SACD and/or most DVD players will do DVD-Audio, then the phase-out of the CD will begin.

...assuming that the market puts up with that... wink.gif
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gdougherty
post Jun 6 2002, 05:25
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QUOTE
Originally posted by bryant

I would go further and say that there is no chance of either of these formats having any kind of mass market. However, their development was not driven by customer's desires for multi-channel remixes of their favorite CDs (or their disgust with that wretched 16/44 sound). Their development was driven by the major label's demands for a secure format and their inability to make unrippable CDs. And I suspect that as soon as most new CD players will handle SACD and/or most DVD players will do DVD-Audio, then the phase-out of the CD will begin.

...assuming that the market puts up with that...  wink.gif


The sad thing is that we'll whine and complain, but if that's the only way in which we can procure new music, we'll buy it. It'll piss me off to no end though if they keep the prices at $25 and CD's at $15-$18. At that point I might just stop buying music. Old tech is supposed to drop in price, not increase.

G
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Uosdwis R. Dewoh
post Jun 6 2002, 08:35
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To clarify:

HDCD is not 24 bits. It is 16 bit, otherwise it wouldn't be playable in a normal CD-player. Aside from the filtering stuff, there's the dynamics compression/expansion which results in some extra dynamic range, and there's subtractive dither going on, but that's it.

I owned a HDCD-player not long ago and liked it alot. I think the problem with HDCD is that the mastering engineer has a number of options to choose from, and choosing full-fledged HDCD means compromising undecoded playback, and vice versa. Hence, many HDCD's don't sound as good as they could. Good examples of great HDCD's are Neil Young's "Silver & Gold", Rodney Crowell's "Houston Kid" and Bruce Springsteen's box-set "Tracks" (or "18 tracks") - all guitar-heavy stuff that sounds very good on a HDCD-player. Beck's "Mutation" and "Midnite Vultures" are great too, but mastered to loud, in my opinion.

/ Uosdwis
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