Still Own It: Now What??


#1

I’m the one who began a “Am I Missing Something?” thread here a month ago, puzzled that I actually slightly preferred playing CDs through my PWT>Cambridge 840 cdp than with the DS in the mix. Got plenty of great responses, so no need to re-open that subject, BUT since I’m keeping (for now, at least) the DS, I am near-desperate to have some “high res/music download/computer audio” explanations shared – both the HOW-TO and the WHY.

I realize most of you learned by studying, trial and error, etc., but after reading just enough to reach full-on brain cramp, I’m too confused to move ahead. Here are several questions that have me stumped; please feel free to chime-in on any or all:

First, basic question: For those of you who ripped tons of CDs to hard drives, did you do it to . . .

 1) Save valuable shelf space in your living area?

 2) Manage your CD library more easily/effectively?

 3) Improve the audio quality of that music?

#1 and 2 are NOT important to me, so I won’t even consider moving on this unless convinced that sound quality is enhanced. (And yes, I have burned a few CDRs, but can’t discern much differences when comparing to originals.)

IF #3 gets a few votes here, will someone be kind enough to tell me whether there’s a better (sonically) way than through iTunes?

Next question: Most DACs these days upsample to 24/96 or beyond; when considering a downloaded file from, say, HD Tracks, how is a sound engineer’s up sampling of an original studio file any different than my DAC doing it? I don’t care to know the science here, just the end results. So, is a high res download of a song recorded 20 years ago, maybe on analogue tape, better than what up sampling at the playback end can do? Lots? Worth my learning more about how-to?

Ok, time to adjourn Audio 1A for now. Thanks for whatever responses you care to share, and I may be back for more (you’ve been warned).

Thanks!

Ron

PS: I still have the DirectStream mainly because I’m fascinated by its elegant upgradability. Don’t want to miss what Ted/Paul may have up their sleeves down the audio road . . .


#2

Ripping CDs to hard drive primarily allows you to have your entire library at your fingertips. You can instantly access anything, create mixed playlists, etc. I couldn’t say whether there are any sonic benefits as compared to a PWT as I don’t own one.

HDtracks has been known to sell some albums that were just up sampled rebook, especially early on (they claim they just passed on what they were provided and supposedly now have someone who checks the files to make sure they are true HD). Upsampled files are not truly high resolution. They don’t have any information that was not on the original. Well done high res potentially has greater dynamic range (24 bits versus 16 translates in a bigger difference between the loudest and softest passages) and a broader frequency response (the highest frequency that can be reproduced is approximately half the sampling rate). In theory a high res transfer from analog tape should sound closer to the master tape than redbook. High res files should have some high frequency information that redbook cannot capture. How much of a difference that makes is debatable. What matters most is the quality of the mastering (did they get the best quality master tapes, use the best equipment, how much EQ an compression they used, etc.). I find some high res files seem less compressed than the CD versions. Whether that is attributable to the greater dynamic range of high res or different choices by the mastering engineers, I could not say. I have high res transfers of jazz records from the '50s that sound incredible. The differences can be quite subtle. Best thing to do is spring for an album or two and see for yourself. You can burn the files to DVD-R and play them on your PWT if you’re not ready to go the server route.


#3

Thanks so much for the detailed response, Steve! (my headache is already beginning to subside) Appreciate your take on the “ripping” question; will be eager to hear from others regarding whether any significant sonic advantages are to be had.

Regarding the high res questions, do I hear you saying that what recording engineers can do with (even older) master tapes is inherently different/better than the up sampling that our playback devices provide? That’s interesting . . .

I HAVE tried to download/burn to dvd a couple high res music files; to my ears, they sounded great, but not having a CD reference handy, it’s impossible for me to tell what improvement, if any, the downloaded files might provide. (I think I just figured out what my NEXT chore is)

Thank-you!

Ron


#4

I haven’t done that, ripped my cds to hard drives and gone computer audio. But. . . I bought a PerfectWave Transport / Memory Player. And it did improve my sound quality with my cds when used via the HDMI connection with my PWD that became a PWD Mark 2 and then a DirectStream. So I’m not even tempted to move my cds into digital file storage.


#5

Ron,

Yes, redbook files that are upsampled to say 96/24 are not the same as files that are actually recorded in 96/24, whether natively or from tape. Upsampling can be useful (as I understand it, it mostly has to do with the way frequencies above the audible range are filtered out) but, again, it cannot add information that is not there. For example, upsampled CD files cannot reproduce anything about above about 22 kHz while, in theory, true 96k could go up to around 48 kHz. Not that we can hear that high anyway. It is hard to compare CDs to high res files because you generally don’t know if the resolution is the only thing that changes. For example, they might be from different generation master tapes or the engineer might have compressed the dynamics of the CD more. There are a few high res download sites that offer free sample files using different resolutions where they should otherwise be the same. I think HDtracks offers some samples if you are not already a customer but I don’t know what’s included.


#6

Well, thank-you again for the further explanation; that aspect of my questions is coming into better focus now! And I did run into a music site someone recommended (Music Liaison, or something similar) which offers a free download of 2 pieces, each in 4 different resolutions. Guess I should take advantage of that, listen for a bit, and maybe will come even closer to workable solutions to my dilemma.

And thanks, Lonson, for your reply; I, too, have found the PWT/HDMI to improve CD playback – regardless of the DAC used.

So, here’s another question that assumes I’ll find good high-res file compelling: Are there significant sonic differences among the choices of playing through a dedicated music server, a computer-based DIY (a la Paul’s “How-to” article), or burning to DVD? At this point, I am not terribly eager to invest large amounts of funds and learning-curve tackling, but burning some discs wouldn’t be much of an issue. Would love to pick brains of anyone who has done some of each and is willing to compare results!

Ron


#7
ronritcher said Are there significant sonic differences among the choices of playing through a dedicated music server, a computer-based DIY (a la Paul's "How-to" article), or burning to DVD?
Unfortunately, the answer is "it depends." Each can provide superb sound if it is a good product and set up appropriately.

Burning to DVD and playing back on the PWT is an excellent option. It takes a little to get the process down, but the sound is excellent. High quality dedicated servers, such as the Bryson BDP-2 which I have, provide excellent sound - rivaling the PWT, but are pricey. A computer is the hardest to get to sound truly good, takes expertise and willingness to tweak, and saves relatively little in comparison to buying a dedicated server if you want to get to that level.


#8

Bingo!

That’s a very meaningful comparison, Elk, and while it may represent a small sample, I’m glad you shared. In terms of burning to DVD, you mention “it takes a little to get the process down”. Care to elaborate just a tad? I’d love to get your take and maybe avoid a few potential pitfalls along the way.

Much appreciated . . .

Ron


#9
ronritcher said Bingo!

That’s a very meaningful comparison, Elk, and while it may represent a small sample, I’m glad you shared. In terms of burning to DVD, you mention “it takes a little to get the process down”. Care to elaborate just a tad? I’d love to get your take and maybe avoid a few potential pitfalls along the way.

Much appreciated . . .

Ron


+1. I can never seem to get them to sound as good as I expect no matter how I try on my Mac.

Odd


#10

The big trick is to use the proepr version of UDF, UDF 1.02. it is important that the DVD-R be burned with UDF 1.02 format. This is a common format and what the PWT expects.

See, click, for instructions.


#11

If you use a Mac, Paul has said he just copies the files in Finder (I assume at the root level, i.e., no folders) and burns the disc.


#12

Thanks, Guys, for keeping the info coming . . .

So, while the DS requires WAV files, the PWT does, too?? And I am working with a Mac, so good to know Paul’s tip.

I’ll give this a go . . .

Ron


#13

The DS does not require WAV. I use wav, flac,m4a,mp3,and on and on. Am I missing something?


#14

Hahahahaha no your not the post is odd .


#15

No, Woot, I’m the “misser” here. Somehow, I got the idea that the DirectStream needed WAVs; in reality, the PWT’s the one, yes? (But if I decide to try hi-res downloads to burn to DVD and play through the PWT, I will have to stick with the WAV files anyway) Obviously, I’m late to the party; thanks, folks, for helping to catch me up.

Ron


#16

Ok, just to clarify, I’ll rephrase an earlier question, which Elk already responded to. This comes from reading a late post in the “PP OS Is Live…” thread, in which a gentleman mentions that a certain file player, one of JRiver’s competitors, sounds noticeably better in his system.

Now, this is a moot point for me IF, as Elk suggested, burning high-res files to disc matches the SQ of using either a server or computer. I am not interested in cataloging, storing, fingertip playback, etc. I just want, within reason, the best sound my gear will produce. Can I, for now at least, not worry about what I’m missing (in sonic terms) by not having the Bryson player or a dedicated iMac setup – as long as I can find and burn quality high resolution files?

And to tag onto an earlier post, I did download a very informative sample file from Audio Liaison, and find the 24/96 pieces edge out the redbook versions – not earth-shattering, but clear and preferable. So, this may have been a first step into the hi-res universe . . .

Apology time; the PSA forums are terrific because of the civil, informed, inquisitive give-and-take. Unfortunately, I’ve been a total “taker”, with my lack of audio knowledge. (Ask me about golf, photography, or constitutional federalism, and I can be a better “giver”) So, thanks again for the generously-shared help!

Ron


#17

Just burn your (WAV) files to DVD-R (or CD-R if they are redbook rather than high res files) and play them on your PWT. Sounds like that’s all you need for the moment.


#18

KISS. Keep It Simple Seriously. Play from your PC. JRiver, iTunes, something ez. Use a cheap USB cable. That’s the way the DS was designed to work. Kick back and enjoy. You’ll get 99.9999% of the audio fidelity, 110% of the ez/pz joy of listening to music. The rest, fahgetaboutit. My 2 cents.


#19

Burning high resolution files to DVD-R for playback on the PWT is comparable/equal to a state of the art server and a good deal better than any dedicated computer setup I have heard.

Try this first as it costs little.


#20

Ok! Elk has convinced me that my work (and yours!) is done here.*

*Until the next issue arises (-:

Thanks . . .

Ron

PS to Woot: My KISS will likely involve resting the checkbook and walking across the room for another disc; but I appreciate the reminder to not sweat the small stuff – too much!