Bob Stuart, Meridien and Super Audio

John Kotches

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Keith, it's the 800/861 combo, at 34K (and up) it's very pricey.
Later this year, the 598 will be released. It won't be cheap either, but it will be relatively speaking "affordable" where we're talking relative only to the 800/861 combo

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John Kotches

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Lee,

Now that I've slept on things for the night.

Bob Stuart has said that DSD has serious limitations and backed them up with Science and Math. Bob is a technical guy, and he is unhappy with DSD because it has the limitations that PCM @ higher sampling depths and rates does not.

Since you can't argue with the technical grounds, you have turned to attacking him personally.

Sounds to me like Bob has hit pretty close to the mark as have Vanderkooy and Lipshitz.

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Lee Scoggins

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BTW, can you share with us the Chesky recordings you've participated in? Given that I have a few of them on CD, DVD-V, DVD-A and SACD, I'd like to take a listen to your part time handiwork.
As far as Chesky goes, well I really am glad you brought that up. I like my friends there and truly believe they do some outstanding work. I started working with David and Norman Chesky in 1989 following an introduction by Steve Guttenberg who was my sales guy at Sound By Singer. David came by one evening for a rare piano concert at the store - I think it was an early performance of the New York Chorinhos and we hit it off very well. He invited me to drop by the Village Gate jazz club for an upcoming recording session of Clark Terry (Paquito D'Rivera dropped in as well for a couple of tunes) and his band. This became an audiophile favorite Live at the Village Gate. Since David was short of staff, I offered and he put me to work including asking people not to smoke around the microphones - tough job for a New York jazz club.
After that, I kept asking and getting invited back to work on sessions. I was an investment banker at the time, but the sessions usually occurred on the weekends and late at night so it did ont interfere with my 70-90 hour week regular job (no exaggeration here folks!).
My usual job is to construct the microphone tree which is complex and highly stabilized - I may be able to get a digital pic of this for you - I have a good one in my apartment. I also worked on cables and setting up the minimal processing mixing board and fetching stuff for artists. My famous run was to get cigarettes for Ron Carter the bass player at all hours-knowledge of CVS stores and bodegas in NYC required! Once setup I would assist Steve Guttenberg and David Chesky by sharing my opinion on sound quality, musical performances, microphone selection, talk with Norman about various business matters (including private banking and stock selection) etc. So I wore many hats and got an excellent education in the studio, all from a preferred audiophile standpoint. What made us happy is the regular visits by everyone from classical composers to minor rock stars to Wynton Marsalis and his brothers to, yes, Kathie Lee Gifford and Al Pacino.
I really loved working in the studio, but it does not pay well enough for a career - you have to own the record label to make money.
The best recording I did was McCoy Tyner New York Reunion (listed as a production assistant usually, a few albums uncredited, always serving as second to third engineer on project). This album ran up the Billboard Jazz charts over several months and it was fun to watch knowing a played a small role. I miked the saxophone of Joe Henderson, rest his sole one of the nicest people I have met, on the track Ask Me Now, a classic high end demo if slightly hotly recorded. I just enjoyed working with the musicians which included McCoy as leader, Al Foster on drums (he played for Miles) and Ron carter on bass of course. I feel that many jazz musicians love what they do and although difficult to make a tremendous amount of money on this, they are happy people. I have worked with many classical quarterts and Livingston Taylor, Badi Assad (amazing guitarist), and many others in addition to work here in Atlanta.
As far as sound quality, Chesky and Reference are considered to make some of the best recordings out there. What has surprised me is the quality of performance and level of musician that David has been able to get over the years as a very small operation in NYC. I think in many ways he is sought out.
Any way, that is some biography for you. I think of Woody Allen's quote about 80% of success is just showing up. I showed up one night at Sound By Singer and got pulled into a fascinating world of recording and music and high end sonics. By the way, we did work in Kaufman Astorio Studios, home of much of Allen's work.
To bring the story around, this is why I like Super Audio so much - it does get very close to the master tape. And this is why I defend people who spend so much money on cables, because I have first hand knowledge it can make a tremendous amount of difference. We once substituted Cardas 300B Microtwin cable for mics for top line Canare and the detail and dynamics went to the sky. Even small things matter, when you sit, for instance, four jazz or classical musicians around a AKG C24 (modified to nth degree of course) tube mic, a quarter inch move of a chair means a lot on the master tape.
Anyway, this is likely more than you want to know. I will check with David and see if I can talk about any sessions that are in the can. It is public knowledge that a killer David Johansson and the Harry Smiths blues album is due out soon.
Also check out Badi Assad's work and Gary Schocker Bach Telemann on Chesky. I worked on those and are good examples of what I can do with many talented others when I am not writing controversial posts
on my favorite forum.
Also, see Steve Guttenberg's Sampler and Audiophile Test CD for Chesky if you want to tweak your setup.
 

John Kotches

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Lee

Let's talk about that infamous zero crossing distortion shall we?

With DSD, everytime you change from 0 to 1 or 1 to 0 you end up with the potential of switching noise. At current rates of 64fs, this is the theoretical potential of > 2 million occurrences of switching noise. Realistically, it isn't quite that drastic, as there aren't usually constant oscillations between 0 and 1, which is DSDs equivalent of digital zero.

DSD can't have a clear cut encoding of the value zero, it is a one bit system, which defines 1 as a full + pulse, and 0 as a full - pulse. To arrive at zero, you toggle +v/-v and average over time. That's not radically different from switching distortion. With PCM, the bits you're concerned with have values in the 1/250,000th of a volt (2^19), 1/500,000th of a volt(2^20), 1/1,000,000th of a volt (2^21), 1/2,000,000th of a volt (2^22), 1/4,000,000th of a volt (2^23). One bit is used for signing, one bit is on each side is set to carry the value of 1v. Maximum encodable value is 2v.

OTOH, the switching noise for DSD, is at the level of +2v/-2v, as there are no intermediate values.

While there might be zero crossing distortion, no one has actually provided measurements of this distortion. OTOH, it has been demonstrated on paper and with production players, that the noise floor is abyssmal above 10K and in some players above 4K, with values that are worse than DSDs intended replacement, CD.

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Lee Scoggins

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John,

You must be a cold-hearted person. I spend a lot of time talking about my work at Chesky and how it influences my audio philosophy and all you can focus on is the technical detail of zero crossing distortion?

I am disturbed that you would have no comment at all on this passage I worked on for a long time. As a reviewer of all people, I thought you would have an interest in this.

From now on, I will ignore your efforts to and interest in listening to my work.
 

John Kotches

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Lee,

What makes you think I'm not going to comment on it?

I ordered the McCoy Tyner disc today as it isn't available at any of my local haunts. I can't really say anything about a recording I haven't heard yet, now can I?

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Lee Scoggins

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While there might be zero crossing distortion, no one has actually provided measurements of this distortion. OTOH, it has been demonstrated on paper and with production players, that the noise floor is abyssmal above 10K and in some players above 4K, with values that are worse than DSDs intended replacement, CD.
This is a good example of what is unfair about the DVD Audio camp. They are blowing this so-called noise issue all out of proprotion. Here is some recent evidence that refutes this:
1. HiFi News and Record Review just looked into this and in a controlled test, the reviewer while highly concerned about the noise could not identify the ultrasonic noise. He simply could not tell. Many recording engineers including myself simply do not hear this either in the studio even when we use $7,000 highly detail revealing Stax headphones on ultra-clean recordings. Michael Bishop of Telarc cannot tell, Bob Ludwig of Gateway cannot tell, among many others. If it was a big factor, believe me these gentlemen would know.
2. In paper #5478 of the AES "Effective Dither in High Order Sigma-Delta Modulators" in December 2001, James Angus and Derk Reefman looked into Delta-Sigma dither and created simulations to show that all noise artifacts in the audio band could be eliminated to less than 20 bit level CD with a proper amount of dithering. (I always thought Beavis would enjoy the word "dither"
)
Now let's look at the results (sorry AES wants cash for the paper and I have not found a free web link but still looking).
How low is the noise floor they reached in the white paper with "noisy" DSD? -160 db
If you work on recordings, you know this is plenty damn low. And you know what? it might go down to -180db. If you have a system that this matters in, let me know what exotic equipment you are using and invite me over to listen.

By the way, Peter Craven also canceled from Meridian at the presentation of the white paper.
I guess they didn't want to talk about zero-crossing distortion.
yes, I will try to put together a primer on the phenomena for the HTF readership.
 

John Kotches

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Lee,

To get to the levels discussed (-160dB), you have to change out from 64fs. I'm guessing this system is either 256fs, perhaps even 512fs. The entire delivery infrastructure would have to be changed out. I haven't read the paper yet, but that's the only way to improve DSD -- higher sampling rates, and noise shaping.

For PCM to get to -160dB, they have to go from 24 to 27 bits, although the next logical step is 32bits from an ease of production standpoint. At which point, you're at -192dB SNR.

In either case, you're talking about noise down almost to the atomic level. The guy breathing at the console in the mixing room is probably going to impact negatively on that SNR.

I'm all in favor of high resolution recording, where the storage format exceeds the capabilities of the rest of the recording chain. In that case, the medium itself is not a limiting factor, which is a good thing for all involved.

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Lee Scoggins

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If you have a system that this matters in, let me know what exotic equipment you are using and invite me over to listen.
Maybe Jonathan Scull or Harry Pearson (super stereos) will answer me!
By the way, let's all pray there is no mixing console on your favorite recordings - they are noisy as hell, even the good ones. Fewer circuits in the chain is better here folks.
 

John Kotches

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Lee,
When you say that you get there "with just proper dithering" you are implying that things aren't being done properly in the commercial product as it exists today. I'm sure that's not the meaning you want to get across though.... It's probably more along the lines of improving the dithering scheme

Let's explore zero crossing some more. In the example cited, we're talking about going from (literally) digital zero to the maximum encodable value, in the span of one sample. I don't see the power supply, which is tasked with supplying all of +/- 2v (plus the parasitic draw of the A/D or D/A as appropriate) as being very stressed out. I understand Ed's argument, it simply does not ring true to me.
With DSD, this oscillation between extremes occurs nearly continuously, as you toggle your one bit back and forth, back and forth. How is this not stressful, given the nearly 3mHz requirement for these potential oscillations? The more rapidly the waveform changes, the worse the oscillations of the bit occurs.
I agree that DSD has a different goal, encoding a difference between the current value and the integral of the previous samples. It's been a while, but I think I remember the basics of calculus. Lately, I think of DSD (conceptually) as an attempt to approximate the area under the curve of the waveform, with a sufficiently small delta to get a decent idea of the value. Whether the delta is sufficient is another matter altogether.
In terms of the super systems HP and Scull use, some of the components don't spec out so well
This applies especially to tube amplifiers, which aren't the quietest of quiet.
Regards,
 

KeithH

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I read over on Audio Asylum that the current issue of Stereophile has a blurb about Meridian considering the release of an SACD player. I haven't seen the issue myself, and I obviously can't say if there is any validity to the statement, but it could prove to be an interesting development.
 

John Kotches

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Lee,
I don't agree with Ed on a point he makes, it doesn't work in my brain. That isn't the end of the world, and it doesn't change my respect for Ed one bit. Can I disprove Ed's assertion mathematically, or with physics, no. Come to think of it, that's the same argument used by many when it comes to measuring a products performance, vs subjective differences.
You're somehow making the leap in your brain, for whatever reason, that because I don't agree with someone I have no respect for them. That isn't true, and personally I find the discussion to be healthy.
The jump as you call it, is either from full +2v to full -2v in under 1/4th of a microsecond. The difference is never small from a storage standpoint every time you flip the bit you're making the maximum change in value and the smaller the value of the voltage over a period of time, the more you have to oscillate that bit.
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Lee Scoggins

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I read over on Audio Asylum that the current issue of Stereophile has a blurb about Meridian considering the release of an SACD player.
Keith,
Bingo! That article on page 17 & 18 is what I quoted to start the thread. The magazine is very good as well even if $47,000 Burmester speakers are out of my budget. I was sad to learn that Lisa Astor and Jonathan Scull are leaving. I wonder if they are joining Bob Harley over at The Absolute Sound which is my new favorite magazine?
In any event I would like to find out if the article is true or not. I have several calls into industry insiders. I am also working on a primer on zero crossing distortion. It is complicated, like the ultrasonic issue in DSD, but I feel DSD deserves equal time for a similarly serious audible effect given the attention of DVDA folk.
John,
You can't compare the jump in DSD because it does not reset to zero which is very different in PCM. More on this as the story develops.
My overall point is simply this:
Ultrasonic noise in DSD is not better or worse in audible band terms than zero-crossing distortion is in the PCM format. So you have two, not-quite-perfect formats that still represent a huge step up in sound definition for the market.
There should probably be more time spent on (1) improving dithering techniques to lower the noise floor in DSD (even though most of us, if not all, can't perceive it) and (2) more time on PCM in improving hardware power supplies and chips in the whole recording chain. One thing PCM has is that case study of XRCD improving the mastering process on redbook. As lessons are learned from that and applied to 24/96 or 24/192 (Keith to answer your earlier question on the Musical Fidelity A3 24, audiophiles feel sometimes 96 is better than 192 in upsampling), DVD Audio will improve.
I would like to see a more permanent high rez format take hold rather than none. I have an open mind. It's just that I honestly feel that Super Audio gets the closest to the master tape. And I do have just as much invested in either format so I don't feel I am biased. I do admit that I am very impressed with the build quality on my SCD777ES but hey we audiophiles love weight!

Lee
 

John Kotches

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Lee,
If universal players become the norm then the "format war" becomes irrelevant IMO, as people then just buy the titles they want, and don't have to think about whether it's DVD-A or SACD. As I pointed out in an another thread, I purchase the titles that appeal to me, without regard to the format.
If I hear mention of a title I might like, I tend to purchase it

In all of our commentary in this thread, I think this is the most lucid one to date by either of us:
Ultrasonic noise in DSD is not better or worse in audible band terms than zero-crossing distortion is in the PCM format. So you have two, not-quite-perfect formats that still represent a huge step up in sound definition for the market.
 

Lee Scoggins

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In all of our commentary in this thread, I think this is the most lucid one to date by either of us
Thanks John, I think we have reached some level of peace and agreement here.

Still, you raised some good questions and I think would be useful perhaps to HTF visitors if we get to the bottom of the technical aspects as evidence becomes available over time.

In the end, the music is all that really matters.

If I really like a piece, I buy it. I do confess that I look for certain audiophile labels that I know represent a happy medium between great performance and great sound like Chesky, Reference Recordings, Telarc, FIM, Analogue Productions and just about anything Steve Hoffman, Tony Faulkner, Bob Katz, Jeremy Kipnis, or Peter McGrath put their hands on.

Hopefully there can be really good universal players like the 47A, but with better Super Audio performance. Maybe Ed Meitner will create something special here. I could foresee a situation where DVDA or SACD gets mass acceptance and the other becomes a niche audiophile product. The more I think about this, the more I think Sony is fairly clever by spending some energy in the pro market. If archiving becomes DSD and universal players gain hold, then the consumer has the ultimate choice and that's what the USA is all about.
 

Jeff Keene

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I was sad to learn that Lisa Astor and Jonathan Scull are leaving. I wonder if they are joining Bob Harley over at The Absolute Sound which is my new favorite magazine?
The Absolute Sound is my favorite magazine as well, especially now that they've expanded their music section.

Regarding Lisa Astor, the editor's note at the end of her column says that (paraphrasing) due to changes in her personal life, she will no longer be able to write about "her audiophile". This is none of our business, but it seems that the source of her material is no longer around for one reason or another.
 

Lee Scoggins

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Granted the Pioneer 47A is not a high end player, but it represents a means to compare both formats on the same electronics. Since there are still a lot of scope for improvements in both formats, why just the "Super Audio Performance"?
Sutjahjo,
To be fair here, this is just my personal opinion on the player (47A). I feel the SACD is not up to Sony's SACD standards, likely due to implementation issues.
There have been comparisons of both formats that unfairly knock SACD because the source has been this player. I think it would be more even and equal to use another source for such tests.
Overall, I am trying to be fair to both formats, despite my own preference.
 

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