High Definition Audio

Posted by: gnickers

High Definition Audio - 03/28/13 05:19 PM

Not sure where this goes...

I've recently switched from 2 channel audio to 7.1 channel and i am very happy with the sound.

Most tracks in DTS-HD Master sound very realistic, acoustic guitars and pianos and voices sound like they do in real life. Even with older recordings you hear things you didn't know where there..crickets (Dire Straights), bongo drums (Steely Dan) etc.

Audio equipment has improved so tremendously since i stared in 1972 with a Dynaco tube amp, AR manual turntable and AR speakers and yet the source formats seem stuck in the past, IMHO CD's are now the limiting factor at 'removing the curtain'. You can spend $100,000 and have the sound compromised by a 35year old format.

BTW, i just listened to Neil Young's Le Noise and the 1st acoustic number is awesome as you can really hear his voice and the guitar. Who knew that he could actually sing?

The frustrating part is trying to find content. Local stores stock only CD's, many HD online stores can't sell in Canada and even Amazon is spotty. If i could find a place that will sell HD discs they can have my credit card on loan.

There are also a lot of albums i would like to hear in HD (recognizing that a poor original recording will not be a good HD release) but there seems to be so little released in HD. After listening to the HD version of Neil Young's Harvest the CD version is packed away for a yard sale.

Why are CD's still around? It is your parent's format...blu-ray discs and even DVD discs can hold so much better resolution.

The sound on the Eagles Farewell Tour from melbourne is fantastic, same for the Pink Funhouse Tour. I plan to move to 9 or 11 channel sound ASAP...

</rant off>
Posted by: CatBrat

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/28/13 05:36 PM

It's because most people simply don't want to spend extra money on something beyond what a low quality CD recording can supply. And they don't know the difference. Nor seem to care.

Like last night at a meeting I attended. "You spent $4000 on a TV? Why would anyone in the world do that, because there's nothing out there that's worth watching anyway."

That's what I have to put up with.
Posted by: exlabdriver

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/28/13 07:37 PM

I've gotten into SACDs in the past years. Generally very good, full sound in most instances.

I don't think that one can blame the CD format - it is the poor mixing & compression that the recording engineers seem to use today. I don't know why the artists put up with it. SACDs seem to be much better recorded & mixed, probably because they are deemed to be 'audiophile' type recording. Most include a 5 CH surround layer, although I use mine only in 2.1 CH mode.

Lots on Amazon but ebay is best for me in selection & price wise...

Posted by: Gr8_White_North

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/28/13 07:56 PM

Check out the LOUDNESS WARS on youtube . <<<<< This is why CD's sound like crap and its has been going on longer than most of us realize. They got us listening to MP3's and lousy compressed internet radio stations, and now no one knows what the ***K music is suppose to sound like. I for one have bought a nice TT and listen to my music the way its meant to be heard, on vinyl.
IMHO apple destroyed all things musical with the ipod revolution.
Posted by: JohnK

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/28/13 09:54 PM

Gord, you're underestimating the CD as a format. The 44.1/16 sampling and bit depth characteristics it has are ample for the capabilities of human ears and the dynamic range of the music we listen to. Carefully controlled blind listening tests conducted a few years ago showed that SACDs and DVD-As of excellent quality were audibly just as excellent when their output was run through an ADC/DAC conversion process to "downgrade" them to the 44.1/16 CD standard. As has been mentioned, the problem isn't the capabilities of the format, but the quality of the recording, mixing and mastering used in producing a particular disc.

This applies to stereo source material, not discrete multi-channel, of course, but using modes such as DPLII to extract the natural ambience coming from directions other than the front captured by the microphones and imprisoned in the front channels(there was no place else to put it)can greatly increase the realism of the listening experience by sending it to the surrounds where it belongs. I always listen to 2-channel music sources in 5.1 or 7.1 surround with full enjoyment of the(almost entirely classical)music I appreciate.
Posted by: gnickers

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/29/13 01:08 PM

John, you are correct in that a well recorded CD can be good. I used to use a demo CD produced by John Eargle to test equipment. Mr. Earle was a good engineer who understood recording. Hunt down any of his albums or writings, well worth it. However, many or most CD recordings sound constrained or restricted or unnatural compared with good HD material. I've got hundreds stored away.

For example, my Harmonia Mundi CD's still sound good, but they are not as realistic a re-creation of the original recording as a HD version.

As a test take something like Mark Knopfler's Shangri-La CD and HD versions. I hauled the cd player and the cd out of storage and switching between the CD and the HD version is like night and day. The dynamic range and presence, sense of depth etc all add up to the feeling he is 'in the room'.

IMHO the argument that there are good CD's or good LP's does not refute the fact that DTS-HD master recordings on good equipment can be 'almost' like the original performance.

In my opinion the 'holy grail' of audio is to make them indistinguishable, so that a person sitting in front of a curtain or blindfolded cannot tell if it is 'live or memorex'. (to quote an old marketing slogan)

I think the new audio formats come closer to this than anything before and take full advantage of all the advances in audio and in a person's investment in their equipment

That does not negate the enjoyment of LP records or reel to reel tape, it is possible to enjoy a sound that is not totally an accurate representation of the original performance (certain high-end speakers prove that!)

Posted by: chesseroo

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/29/13 03:18 PM

Originally Posted By: JohnK

This applies to stereo source material, not discrete multi-channel, of course,

I'm glad you added that part John b/c DPL-II does not sound at all like a discrete multi channel recording.

As previously and long stated, i find DPL-II to sound echoey like a fake DSP was added to the sound and much prefer music in 2-channel on direct mode in these circumstances.
Best overall surround sound i get are from DVDA (SACD, DD, etc.) without a doubt.
Posted by: gnickers

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/29/13 08:56 PM

Agree, dolby pro logic is passe....

My disillusionment with the audio orthodoxy reached the breaking point after reading yet another stereophile reviewer wax poetic about slam, pace, etc while all the time trumpeting the superiority of the last century technology (LP records). Having owned many LP's, i put up with their imperfections as that was the best sound you could get at the time.

Once i realized the high-end reviews were basically useless i started questioning the high-end assumptions.

What if multi-channel audio on DVD discs could provide a more realistic re-creation of the original recording? Has the high-end focus 2 channel analog audio held back progress?

I vowed never to pay attention to Stereofool again and decided to go my own way. The results have been satisfying, over a period of years i've managed to assemble at 'reasonable' cost an excellent system for audio (and movies).

Doing this required overturning some high-end truisms. For example, after comparing to multi-channel analog and multi-channel digital i decided to go all digital as far as possible.

And rather than spend 1/3 or 1/2 of the budget on the CD/DVD player i looked for a unit that had the best chipset at a reasonable price and had HDMI. I settled on the Oppo unit, a new unknown at the time. Now on my 3rd Oppo having upgraded as new models to get the latest chipsets.

And rather than spend huge sums on a Krell or other bling amp i went with Emotiva amps. Low cost and no cache but they amplify sound and they have XLR connectors.

I select the low-cost Integra 9.8 pre-amp as it had DTS-HD master and other multi formats, used HDMI, had XLR connectors, and good chipsets. It also has the audyessy audio equalization with mic so i could auto calibrate the speakers to the room.

The bulk of the budget with to 2 areas, the speakers and the screen.

Rather than follow the usual recommendation of having all the speakers from the same manufacturer i looked for speakers with the same characteristics and specs - figuring that at a certain price point well made traditional box speakers will sound very much alike (a point shown in the NRC work done by Dr. Floyd Toole on what listeners preferred in sound characteristics, you should read his stuff.) I also needed speakers that would work well in the intended location.

I selected the PSB titanium speakers for front left/right and the axiom vp180 for center as i liked it better than the psb offering. They mated together perfectly in a seamless front (once the minor level differences were calibrated with odyssey).

Because the front speakers had to be a bit too close to the corners than was optimal i added a paradigm 15" active servo sub which gives bass without boom. Finally for the 4 surround channels i used mirage omnipolars. I find their driver arrangement excellent for surround effects with great dispersion.

For a screen I choose the best panasonic plasma (non 3D, non smart, no speakers, crap tuner) as it had very good black level and once calibrated the screen is very realistic. Would have preferred a Kuro but they are hard to come by on the used market in my area. Also built an XBMC htpc unit to provide youtube, streaming video and audio etc for non-critical use.

The whole project took a couple of years to put together but the result is excellent. The problem now is in finding content!

Of course, no technology stands still so the next set of upgrades is to add front left high/wide and front right high/wide channels which means replacing the integra 9.8 and adding 4 more amps. At least i already have the extra 4 mirage units...bulk buy when on sale!

anyway - thanks for reading this long rant, i guess what i have learned is to ignore the high-end audio press and do your own research and listening and figure out what you want and what works for you. Put your money where it counts and where it will pay off, not in esoteric power cords, tube designs from the 30's or "cryogenically frozen reverse polarity oxygen free" cables...

happy listening
Posted by: JohnK

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/29/13 11:03 PM

Gord, since it's extremely unlikely that human hearing capabilities will miraculously improve in the future so as to make the CD 44.1/16 specs become inadequate, I expect to continue enjoying(in surround)the excellence of the present CDs I have and to purchase new ones.

You appear to have an impression that DTS-HD MA is some uniform high definition standard. In fact, if you examine The Bluray stats here (select DTS-HD MA in the Audio box and then Filter), you'll see from the summary table at the bottom that most of the discs have no special HD characteristics(other than the label). Generally the audio is 48/16, similar to the CD's 44.1/16.
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/30/13 01:05 AM

Gord, your philosophy seems to parallel that of my own.
A bit of research and a bit of personal experience to blend a fit.
There is no rant per se rather than a simple belief, and philosophy. Beyond that, things start to get stupidly complicated and it really doesn't need to be.

I say congratulations on your choices. It seems like you are on my own path toward audio nirvana.
Happy and blissful.

does it matter than i've had half a bottle of Mondavo '00 cab sav before posting?
But Alanis MOrrisette never sounded so good on my Angstrom Legatos.
Posted by: gnickers

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/31/13 12:06 PM

You are correct in that many blu-rays do not take advantage of the possibilities the format offers. I did not say it was a standard, only that when used with good source recordings it is the closest re-creation of the original source available. I own a lot of fairly crappy blu-ray transfers.

This reminds me of the early days of CD's when some companies would transfer an LP to CD without considering the huge equalization that went into an LP to make it sound decent on a turntable. The result was harsh, horrible sounding CD's that turned many off the format. I believe this happens with some companies and blu-rays too.

A friend came over with their new blu-ray of Jaws and was very disappointed in that the blu-ray version seems to be no different than the dvd version.

An example is the beach scenes, a perfect opportunity for good use of multi channel surround sound....and there is practically none. I think there was only 1 point in the movie when some useful surround kicked in and it was immediately noticeable because of it's previous absence!

But this does not negate the potential for the best re-creation of the original source, which IMHO should be the goal of audiophiles...I think stereofool and other high-end publications have retarded that progress which is one reason i no longer buy them. I do miss Sound & Vision and kept all my copies...a great Canadian magazine

Posted by: casey01

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/31/13 01:29 PM

Over the years, generally speaking, any of the source media discussed here will sound good , IF, the recording and mixing process is done with care right at the beginning. Many cds of popular music are recorded and mixed at several different locations, hence, often the uneven quality that it is heard on that recording. More often than not Jazz and Classical music is superior because they are recorded at one location where the engineering process always seems to be done with extra care and you will see this style of music used more often when a reviewer is doing critiques of various equipment.

If one looks back in the history of recorded music, when mono changed to stereo, even then there was a reluctance on the part of producers and recording engineers to deal with it and that went through several incarnations before they figured out what to do with it and finally established some sort of standard. Mult-channel audio(SACD and DVD Audio) among others was even a bigger challenge that they really didn't want to deal with, thus, it really never caught hold and prices were too high anyway. A lot of this stuff remained in the "boutique" category because the major companies such as Sony, didn't want to spend the money to promote it and gave up early on in the game. "AIX" is an example of a company who is really interested in superior recordings and sound, BUT, once again, it won't be mainstream and they are dealing in certain genres of music and many unknown performers.

In the case of older movies transferred to Blu-Ray, it just seems to be a case if the original movie was, in its original form and quality, crappy to begin with, there is not much one can do with the transfer and, of course, the audio, is never going to be as good as a newer movie with its superior recording systems.

What is that saying, "you can't put lipstick on a pig"!
Posted by: jakewash

Re: High Definition Audio - 03/31/13 08:29 PM

Originally Posted By: gnickers
....I own a lot of fairly crappy blu-ray transfers.

....A friend came over with their new blu-ray of Jaws and was very disappointed in that the blu-ray version seems to be no different than the dvd version.

I have noticed that many older movies have no updates to either the video nor audio, the studios have simply transferred the material to a BR disc.
Posted by: Murph

Re: High Definition Audio - 04/01/13 08:15 AM

Side tracking a bit but something caught my eye here.

Originally Posted By: JohnK
.....with full enjoyment of the(almost entirely classical)music I appreciate.

John, I'm sure you will be able to correct me but I don't recall you ever posting a reference to non-classical music, (I'm using "classical" in a 'perhaps unfairly' broad sense.) I'm just being nosy curious but I would be interested to hear what other genres you listen to. Much of my own classical collection comes from your always excellent recommendations, thus the curiosity.
Posted by: MarkSJohnson

Re: High Definition Audio - 04/01/13 09:15 AM

JohnK is, in addition to classical, into thrash metal.
Posted by: pmbuko

Re: High Definition Audio - 04/01/13 09:33 AM

JohnK's neighbors have seen him prancing about his living room enjoying some Broadway tunes.

Posted by: Murph

Re: High Definition Audio - 04/01/13 09:38 AM

My apologies for what I have started here....
Posted by: pmbuko

Re: High Definition Audio - 04/01/13 09:39 AM

The prancing part might not be true, but JohnK has mentioned that he enjoys musicals.
Posted by: CatBrat

Re: High Definition Audio - 04/01/13 09:42 AM

I never could get into classical. Especially the classical classical. I do like some symphony orchestra music on occasion, as long as is not one of the classics.
Posted by: Murph

Re: High Definition Audio - 04/01/13 09:52 AM

Try this as a compromise Cat.
Collective Soul - Home

It's my favorite rock/symphony hybrid. You need to get past the first song or two to get a feel of how well these guys gel together. It's also fun to see how much fun the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra are having playing with Collective Soul. The conductor really holds nothing back.
Posted by: JohnK

Re: High Definition Audio - 04/01/13 09:42 PM

Yes Andrew, as Peter mentions, I've occasionally suggested Broadway and Hollywood musicals that I appreciate. These aren't light comedies, but shows with beautiful, romantic songs. Examples would include Brigadoon, Desert Song, Kismet, New Moon and Show Boat.

Besides these, as I'm a member of our Eastern Rite Catholic Church choir(six women, three men), I have a small collection of CDs covering that liturgy or the similar music used in Orthodox liturgies.