A New Theory about DVDA and SACD Sonic Qualities

Discussion in 'Music' started by Lee Scoggins, Nov 20, 2003.

  1. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Friends,

    I have a new theory about hirez I wanted to share with you and get your opinion on. I have been working with hirez PCM recently and listening to a lot of DSD recordings. I have also been playing both for my friends and listening to more DVDAs on some supersystems.

    Here are some observations (with strictly no desire to start a format war, please):

    1. Some of my friends who have turntables and listen to a lot of vinyl prefer Super Audio CDs. When I press them for the reason, they say it seems more like vinyl than hirez PCM.

    2. Some of my friends who are very sensitive to high frequencies, prefer 24/96 DVDA. They seem to feel that DSD is not as crisp sounding at the upper bands.

    3. Some of my friends like a lot of pure midrange, and I fall into this group to be honest. We seem to prefer SACD. In my case, I think it stems from working in the studio with certain acoustical instruments like piano and saxaphone where getting the tonality right and transient capture is important.

    4. Some of my friends just outright prefer DVDA citing coherence from low band to high band.

    Keep in mind we used mostly audiophile source material...

    So with this in mind, I got to thinking. Maybe there are some good and bad characteristics of each format that appeal to different people's listening characteristics and proclivities.

    What do you think?

    If you prefer DVDA, do you think it has to do with any of the above like HF extension?

    If you prefer Super Audio, are you an analog fan or someone who is interested in correct instrument tonality?

    I would love to read your thoughts. [​IMG]

    It would be nice to see if there are patterns in what one likes in terms of music and preferred area of the music band (ie. low, medium, high range) and the favorite choice of high resolution format.

    Remember I like both formats and listen to both.
     
  2. Brian+H

    Brian+H Stunt Coordinator

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    'So with this in mind, I got to thinking. Maybe there are some good and bad characteristics of each format that appeal to different people's listening characteristics and proclivities.'

    That's the conclusion I came to about a month ago.

    dvd-a and sacd appeal to different people for different reasons.

    Music is so subjective there's not one 'superior' way of listening to it.

    A lot of people think dsd sounds like vinyl. To some that's great, to others that's a bad thing.

    Depends on the person.

    Some people mention numbers showing one format's better than the other; I personally couldn't care less about numbers, bit-rates, sampling, etc. If I think it sounds better, I don't care about what's on paper.

    I think in the end, it will come down to ease of use because most people who aren't audiophiles probably won't notice a difference in sonic quality.
     
  3. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Brian,

    Thanks for your comments but I am interested in what you like about each format...
     
  4. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    Seth,

    What does "" mean?
     
  5. Phil A

    Phil A Producer

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    Lee, I would concur with the differences noted in your original post, but as a generalization. The underlying mastering process is so important to the sound and I have music of each format that played back on my system I would bet could not be identified as to which format was playing regardless of how familiar one was with the source material. While the nature of what music is released on each format is changing, SACD has catered more to the audiophile vs. putting out newer stuff, which has both good and bad points. One major advantage to DVD-A at this point, which is almost never mentioned, although I also expect the landscape to change over time, is that manufacturers of consumer hardware have a lot more experience building hardware based on PCM vs. DSD. At this point in time this translates into one being able to get a DVD-A machine that can play at a level much closer to more state-of-the-art equipment than cheaper SACD machines can do. I think people criticize the fact that high end manuf. as not making as many DVD-A only products vs. SACD, and while that is true, it is not a valid criticism in my view from what I have heard on a fairly good system.

    I definitely in general prefer SACD in my main system, in terms of what I hear in the way of timbre nuances of real instruments vs. what I hear in many DVD-As as a refinement of listening to a better version of some studio experience that is a little colder in terms of presentation. I did however note that there are DVD-As that cannot really be distinguished from teh sonic qualitiies of SACDs. Sonically I can live with either. I can't stand the lack of std. size cases for DVD-As, don't like the middle sized jewel box they use with most of the stuff or the DVD-V size, but I guess if they want to differentiate it from a CD they could at least come to a std. I also can't stand the interface of DVD-A vs. SACD and don't need or want all the stuff other than the music which I am buying for in the 1st place. I certainly don't like paying a premium for it as is charged by some cos. vs. a CD. If I want a DVD-V, I can buy one of those.

    I suspect as the end of the day with so many universal players the issue for masses is a non-issue. As consumers we don't control what will be released on a particular format and can only buy the music we like.
     
  6. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    I haven't listened to nearly as many DVD-A's as SACD's. DVD-A sound quality is clearly better than CD so it flips my switch. I just don't buy all that many DVD-A because so few have included a stereo mix. I don't have any strong feelings about the differences in the sound quality between the two formats yet. I do think that SACD portrays horns amazingly well. DVD-A may too? I need more non-Silverline data![​IMG]
     
  7. Brian+H

    Brian+H Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Lee.

    I'm new to posting here, but I've been observing for a while.

    What I like about each format?
    I am an audiophile, I love the warm easy tone of vinyl.
    But I don't like the hassle of it. I tend to see the two formats in comparison to either vinyl or cd.

    I am very tired of cd sound. It is sterile, cold, harsh...
    I am no fan of it.
    When it comes to dvd-a, it's hard to say. I don't really care about the 'extra' features of dvd-a. I just want the best analog-like sound possible. I much prefer analog to digital sound.

    So SACD appeals to me more than dvd-a does at this moment.
    I also think that PCM is basically at the end of its life.
    It can't get much better than 24-192 at least for a while.
    I think that dsd is just getting started.

    So I prefer dsd at this moment for it's analog-like sound.
    But a lot of it depends on the mastering and engineering involved too.

    I have been following very closely the progress of both formats on the net. Listening to people's reactions and frustrations of BOTH formats. I think one of these formats will become the next standard after cd audio.
    It's been fascinating watching them gain popularity.

    IMO, the industry is embracing dsd more enthusiastically than dvd-a at this moment. I always say 'at this moment' cause ya never know whats around the bend.
     
  8. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  9. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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  10. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  11. Jeff Keene

    Jeff Keene Supporting Actor

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    It's hard for me to judge, since my Pioneer 47a is universally disparaged as an SACD player. Indeed, in my house DVD-As sound much more alive with a deep soundstage and SACD's sound rather flat, so that where I'm at right now. I buy plenty of SACD's though, and much prefer them to CDs, especially with recordings with a lot of dynamic range (see: Ravel Bolero). The Alison Kraus New Favorite, Beck's Sea Change, and several others sound stellar, but don't have the depth that some of my DVD-A's have. I'm hoping it's the player.
     
  12. Dave Bennett

    Dave Bennett Screenwriter

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    I can't really compare the two formats because I don't yet have the same album in both formats. However, if Steely Dan's Gaucho comes out on DVD-A on the 16th of December as scheduled, I'll definately be doing some comparison to the SACD version.
     
  13. Joe Cole

    Joe Cole Second Unit

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    Lee, great and interesting thread!

    I have only bought 2 DVD-As, Eagles Hotel california and George Benson's Breezin. And around 75 SACDs, most jazz and classical, a couple CC and the whole Dylan set.

    I bought the Eagles because it has the 24/196 hirez rate. I don't really like rock too much any more but I used to like the eagles. This release is very good sound quality wise. Especially the second half. Obviously better than the CD. Benson is only 24/96 but still much better than the CD. I don't agree how ever that DVD-A does highs better than DVD-A. But I don't have much to compare with.

    I do have one question for you Lee. I find many or most even, SACDs that come from analog source material sound the best except for a few pure DSD disk I own. Especially ones that were recorded at 30 ips. What does this mean in regard to your theory? I do have some DSD disks that are incredibly sounding and none that are as bad as cds.


    I have Sinatra's Live at the Sands on order [dvd-a] and I am looking forward to it arriving.
     
  14. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  15. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    I had found both formats to be equally good,and highly dependent[naturally] on the original recording/mastering,if it's not a new recording made for one of these formats.
    I personally was hoping that DSD would clearly outshine Hi-rez PCM based on all the hype from the "audiophile" press[I should have known better],but like I said all in all it was the "same".
    When it comes to user friendliness though, SACD is a clear winner.
     
  16. Brian+H

    Brian+H Stunt Coordinator

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    User friendliness may be the key.

    If/when dvd-a sacd come into the mainstream, I think most people will not notice much diff between formats sound wise.

    Both also have 5.1. So that won't make people lean either way either.

    The one point that MAY sway people is useability. That might put sacd over the top. Sound quality not being an issue. I wish it were but it probably won't be.

    If people feel more comfortabel with sacd than dvd-a, they'll buy sacd. Plus more title selection doesn't hurt either. People don't want to be frustrated when they use entertainment equipment, they want ease of use if possible.

    And dvd-a isn't as easy to use as sacd.
    So it's cool to have all this discussion about how everything sounds, but sound is subjective.

    Ease of use isn't so much subjective. When you talk about a format taking off and being embraced by the "mainstream",
    you must have people wanting to use it, not throwing their hands up and saying "forget it". 99% of the people out there have no knowledge of dvd-a and sacd. 99% of the people who DO know about the formats have NO die hard preference. They'll go either way.
    And IMO, whichever format is easier to use and understand, will be the winner, if there is in fact a winner here.
     
  17. ReggieW

    ReggieW Screenwriter

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    Ditto to what Lewis said. When someone tells me that DSD hands down "destroys" PCM, I am tempted to say did you compare the same recording in both formats? who mastered it? what kind of player are you using for playback? etc; etc; There are so many factors that go into producing these recordings, it really is hard to say. I enjoy both formats a great deal and think that both have their stinkers as well. Lisrening to the best pure recordings from each format (Chesky/Telarc for SACD, AIX for DVD-A), it is really hard to tell who has the upper hand. this just tells me that both can sound fantastic in their native form.

    Reg
     
  18. Joe Cole

    Joe Cole Second Unit

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    Thanks Lee. Back in the late '80s Telarc put out some digitally recorded LPs that had more dynamic range; up to the allowed levels. i always assumed that analog tape could not produce the same high levels of dynamic range. That it was not just the limiting factor of the LP or tone arm.

    Since the analog sourced SACDs I own all have great dynamic range, considerably better than CDs, is it safe to say that my assumption was wrong. Analog recordings do have as much dynamic range as there digital counterparts.

    I understand the storage advantages of digital over analog, oh wait a minute, do dsd recorders use tape? How about PCM?

    Are storage issues the main reason labels like Telarc have gone completely digital?
     
  19. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    IMHO 99.99% of SACD/DVD-A user preference is purely intellectual as there are very few recordings available on both formats to truly make a comparison. Even then, as Lee points out, there may be mastering choices that make a difference.

    I find both formats to be very transparent; more attention needs to be paid to signal path/engineering choices and hardware and, most importantly, content (which is what it's all about!).

    Cheers,
     
  20. DaveDickey

    DaveDickey Stunt Coordinator

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    Here's my two cents, Lee. I don't claim to be an expert, nor do I have super-human hearing.

    I now have about thirty disks in each format. Here are my impressions:

    * When DVD-A is done right, it sounds incredible. The best DVD-A's sound better than SACD, IMO. I know that few disks are released in both formats, so a head-to-head analysis is impossible. What I'm referring to is the sonic improvement in recordings I'm familiar with that have been re-released in SACD / DVDA.

    * I notice more variation in mastering quality between DVD-A disks than with SACD. All SACD's I've heard sound very good. DVD-A on the other hand...well, some sound incredible... some sound very good... some sound OK... and a few (Silverline) sound worse than the "Kung Fu Fighting" 45 rpm vinyl disk I found in a trunk in my granny's basement last Winter.

    * DVD-A seems to have a "raw" sound. The highs are brighter and sometimes that translates to "harsher," depending on the mastering quality. Let's not discount the importance of the skill of the audio engineer. I have heard a couple of 48/24 disks that sound wonderful. I attribute the great sound to remastering wizardry. What else could account for a clean, dynamic sound from a lower-rez mix?

    I have found that classical music sounds better on SACD, probably because of my perception that SACD sounds "warm" in contrast to the brightness of DVD-A. The new "Ravel's Bolero" multi-channel SACD from MFSL is unbelievable.

    I'm one of the few who is actually thankful that we have competing hi-rez audio formats. I enjoy listening to both and comparing them. After all, this is a hobby for most of us. There is enough of a difference in the way MLP and DSD sound to make things interesting.

    SACD = Warm and Clean.
    DVDA = Bright and Dynamic.

    Just my opinion.

    Dave
     

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