Future of physical digital media?


#1

I wrote here a few times, how enthusiastic I am about the concept of the DS DAC with Bridge II together with a NAS in terms of a money saving HW solution compared to drive/DAC, ext. streamer/DAC or music server/DAC combos. Especially expensive combinations of drives with music servers seem completely unnecessary and a waste of money if something like the DS DAC with bridge is available and one uses a ripping service or diy. The PSA SACD Transport certainly is necessary for plug & play customers and the only official option to play SACD over a DAC for those without an old Playstation to rip.

Once I had ripped all my physical media to the NAS and got used to the flexibility in tagging, categorizing and searching, I realized how retrospective even the current offers of other manufacturers are in terms of the above mentioned HW combinations. I simply can’t imagine anymore, why anyone who’s buying new HW should invest in a physical media drive (except for the SACD case).

What makes it even harder is, that since I recognized, that SACD often (if not mostly) is only a DSD converted container for PCM recorded music (most SACD’s seem to be recorded in 24/96, only a fraction is real DSD recorded stuff), I wondered why these PCM recordings are sometimes only available as SACD.

Convinced that DVD-A is unnecessary anyway as just containing PCM files, I wonder if Sony keeps their copyright for the physical SACD media and so let’s SACD die in the course of time, or if they start making the SACD inherited DSD or PCM files available by download?

It seems labels are tending to publish their PCM or DSD recordings for download themselves and at the end only Sony will be serving their hires music on SACD media in a forseeable time.

I’d be interested in the opinion of some folks more involved in this industry matter.

Currently I can only see the theory of Sony grabbing money as long as it’s possible from SACD customers before forced to offer downloads, too. It can’t take long I guess, then SACD transports are unnecessary, too.

Currently I see that most titles offered on SACD are not available as download, but some are as PCM i.e. on hdtracks.com or even as DSD i.e. on nativedsd.com

I wonder how’s the rule, who’s allowed to offer downloads aside SACD media and who not or if it’s just a matter of business decision of labels or a licensing issue. I just can’t believe anyone not seeing the end of physical media.


#2

I’m just guessing but I suspect part of the issue is the licensing deal with the content owners (labels). The deals may have been limited to physical SACDs with the various restrictions imposed thereon, including inability to rip them or send an unencrypted DSD stream to an external DAC. Sony was undoubtedly motivated by self interest in creating these restrictions but if they are part of the licensing deals they’re stuck with them whether Sony likes it or not unless and until the licenses are renegotiated. Again, I’m just speculating.


#3

Interesting post, Jazznut. I also run a NAS with MinimServer playing to B2 and I love it.

  1. The end of physical media.
    This will come, but not for a while. One example: I have a good friend who has a large collection of vinyl and CDs built up over a lifetime. He will never get into downloads because he just doesn’t like (and therefore has not developed skills) working with computers at anything beyond a plug and play level. There are many like him. I enjoy messing around with computers, which turned out to be a good thing when I decided to get into digital audio; at the moment, you really can’t make a setup like yours or mine work without being very comfortable with technology.

Downloads and streaming are actually pretty new, which those of us who enjoy this technology every day tend to forget. For a long time, if you wanted better sound than was available on CD, SACD (or vinyl) was the only option. So some folks built up considerable collections of SACD discs.

Furthermore, some people live in areas with no broadband access, which makes downloading large files or using services like Tidal unrealistic. People who enjoy high-speed connections every day tend to be unaware of this issue, which has many ramifications beyond audio. I live on the edge of a rural area and I hear how businesses won’t locate there, children are limited in what they can do for schoolwork, etc. due to poor internet.

  1. Selling hi-res music.
    If one owns the rights to a recording, one can do whatever one wishes with it: CD, SACD, Blu-ray, downloads at various resolutions. It’s just a business decision in terms of what will make money. I assume there are licensing fees that must be paid to Sony for issuing a recording on SACD but I don’t know. Companies will make recordings available for download if they think it’s in their interest to do so unless (as Steve points out) there are restrictions in the contracts.

#4
jazznut said What makes it even harder is, that since I recognized, that SACD often (if not mostly) is only a DSD converted container for PCM recorded music (most SACD's seem to be recorded in 24/96, only a fraction is real DSD recorded stuff), I wondered why these PCM recordings are sometimes only available as SACD.
The majority of SACDs are sourced from analog or directly recorded in DSD not 192k or lower rate PCM. I have thousands of SACDs and by no means are most of them 24/96 sourced.

You didn’t mention multichannel SACDs which is very important for me, the extra realism from good multichannel recordings is amazing (soundstage isn’t even a concept - you are just there in the audience with people around you and things aren’t artificially compressed to be in front of you…)

Pentatone sells SACD .iso’s directly. They sound great and in general Pentatone does great recordings. And many (or most?) are multichannel as well. (http://www.pentatonemusic.com/)


#5

Thanks Ted, I think your certainly have much more experience with SACD’s than I have and I believe many are analog sourced, although I really wondered how many of the audiophile labels like Sound liaison etc. have lower hires sources they also offer as DSD andwhen I looked into the booklets I recognized in not only few cases they recorded in 24/96. But my examples may be misleading, I only have around 200 something SACD/DSD albums, I take your word.

Multichannel is something I have no experience with as my knowledge is, you need a multi channel speaker environment (who the heck has several speakers of real high end quality)? And that only few recordings make use of just ambiance reproduced by the side/back speakers and not producing a sit in the middle of the orchestra effect. But again, I don’t have experience.


#6
magister said Interesting post, Jazznut. I also run a NAS with MinimServer playing to B2 and I love it.
  1. The end of physical media.
    This will come, but not for a while. One example: I have a good friend who has a large collection of vinyl and CDs built up over a lifetime. He will never get into downloads because he just doesn’t like (and therefore has not developed skills) working with computers at anything beyond a plug and play level. There are many like him. I enjoy messing around with computers, which turned out to be a good thing when I decided to get into digital audio; at the moment, you really can’t make a setup like yours or mine work without being very comfortable with technology.

Downloads and streaming are actually pretty new, which those of us who enjoy this technology every day tend to forget. For a long time, if you wanted better sound than was available on CD, SACD (or vinyl) was the only option. So some folks built up considerable collections of SACD discs.

Furthermore, some people live in areas with no broadband access, which makes downloading large files or using services like Tidal unrealistic. People who enjoy high-speed connections every day tend to be unaware of this issue, which has many ramifications beyond audio. I live on the edge of a rural area and I hear how businesses won’t locate there, children are limited in what they can do for schoolwork, etc. due to poor internet.

  1. Selling hi-res music.
    If one owns the rights to a recording, one can do whatever one wishes with it: CD, SACD, Blu-ray, downloads at various resolutions. It’s just a business decision in terms of what will make money. I assume there are licensing fees that must be paid to Sony for issuing a recording on SACD but I don’t know. Companies will make recordings available for download if they think it’s in their interest to do so unless (as Steve points out) there are restrictions in the contracts.

Magister, you nailed me down to the floor and you’re right.

You reminded me on my own thoughts before I finally achieved a perfect world for me. Not only I’m into IT, as you I also think this NAS/Network/Tagging/Mobile Device/Bridge remote stuff is nothing I would recommend to anyone for setup.

For people like us physical media is past, but yes, for many the network setups are too complicated and tagging/filing too much work and many have large collections they don’t want to move on a hard drive. Anyhow I think for those the future is cloud services like Sonos on a higher level, not physical media. And our children look at physical media with big eyes anyhow with a “why?” in their face

In my eyes physical media is just for a very momentary population.


#7
jazznut said Thanks Ted, I think your certainly have much more experience with SACD’s than I have and I believe many are analog sourced, although I really wondered how many of the audiophile labels like Sound liaison etc. have lower hires sources they also offer as DSD andwhen I looked into the booklets I recognized in not only few cases they recorded in 24/96. But my examples may be misleading, I only have around 200 something SACD/DSD files, I take your word.

Multichannel is something I have no experience with as my knowledge is, you need a multi channel speaker environment (who the heck has several speakers of real high end quality)? And that only few recordings make use of just ambiance reproduced by the side/back speakers and not producing a sit in the middle of the orchestra effect. But again, I don’t have experience.


I have a few multichannel disks that are sourced from two or three track masters that just add a little fake ambiance, but by far most of my multichannel discs are from three, four, five or six channel sources. And even a larger portion of my classical disks are from true multichannel sources which give a very real in the audience effect (most of the music from the front, the audience sounds all around, etc.)

Of course there are disks sourced from old quad recordings where each channel was (over) produced individually, but, for example, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” just seems right when you are surrounded by a wall of sound from the guitars, vocals, etc… :slight_smile:


#8

I’m interested in how typical multichannel setup is built, may I ask how you listen multichannel compared to 2 channel?

Is your multichannel amp comparably good as your two channel amp and do you use your 2 channel main speakers a front and some less good as side/back-speakers?

Except in case of very rich people I always thought multichannel setups are more like medium home cinema setups with big effect but low quality in other aspects. I always asked myself who really listens to multichannel as you have to build up an expensive system for only comparably few recordings. Paul would need some more IRSV in the back!?

How do you use the DS DAC for multichannel, combine it with two more?


#9

Most of the early Sony and Telarc SACDs had an insert talking about the ITU circle. If the center is in front of you at 0 degrees the left front should be at -60, the left rear at -110, RR +110, RF +60 and the sub somewhere. Not all SACDs are mastered with these assumptions, but most are. Since there’s hardly ever a delay setting in SACD players all of the speakers have to be equal distant from the center listening position. (Including the sub(s) IMO - tho low bass may be a little hard to pinpoint and may have a wavelength so large that the exact distance doesn’t matter much, most subs have a crossover which allows lower levels of some higher frequencies that will comb filter with the other speakers if the sub isn’t about the same distance as those other speakers.)

Also the ideal setup is to use identical speakers all around I compromise with using the same tweeters and mids all the way around, but my rear speakers don’t go quite as deep as my fronts, tho they are full range speakers.

Since with multichannel you aren’t counting on some artificial sound stage from just two speakers, if you don’t have rear ported or bipolar speakers then they can be a little closer to the walls than you might choose for a stereo only system and you’ll still have just as immersive an experience. The downside of not having your speakers as far into the room as you might for a stereo system is that for stereo only music your sound stage might be a little more shallow. Still with good recordings my sound stage goes quite deep behind the front wall.

My system is primarily set up as a multichannel system - before working on the DSD DAC project I listened to primarily multichannel music.

I chose to have my speakers 11’ from the listening position so I needed a room about 22’ wide and at least, say, 20’ deep, tho we knocked down a wall and got a space about 30’ deep.

Another theoretical compromise I made was to modify my preamp so that I have a phantom center - i.e. I mix 1/2 of the center to the left front and 1/2 to the right front. Since all speakers are equidistant (at least at the sweet spot) this is identical to a real center. In my system just getting the center speaker out from in between the two front speakers makes the whole room sound better and not having a center speaker saves a lot of headaches with having video in my system too. The downside is that obviously your preamp, amps and front speakers have to deal with about 1.5 times as much power as gracefully as they would if they had the help of a real center and center amp.

I have 3 DS’s - my development system drives the front left and front right. Another drives the rears and the last drives the center and sub. I’m looking forward to the new PWT, but in the mean time an Oppo BDP-103 with a Audiopraise Vanity HD card serves as my multichannel transport.

Here’s a rough description of my system and at the bottom is a link to some pictures of it: http://cgi.audioasylum.com/systems/3367.html

View from left read speaker before I nuked the center:

View from left rear speaker

After nuking the center:

Center speaker gone


#10

Crazy shit, that’s a hell of a multi channel System with all those optimizations aside!

Now I know a few things more:

  1. you're one of those "very rich" guys ;-)
  2. why I'm no multi channel guy
  3. I want to hear Pink Floyd there
  4. and many more...

#11

WOW…! Ted, That is one serious multichannel setup . How do manage RFI/EMI issues with miles of cabling throughout the room… What’s in the basket left to the TV ? Is it another bunch of interconnects, etc. I do like the vaulted design of the ceiling! Yes, Very - Impressive!!


#12

The cables may look like a mess (and indeed they are) but making sure that the power cords and interconnects meet at 90 degrees, using lots of optical cables, using balanced cables and having very solid grounds help a lot. Using wire ties or otherwise dressing the cables too much would cause a lot more crosstalk.