Do high end CD players actually make a difference?

Saurav

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Vinyl, mostly, and sometimes CD. CD's and radio are usually for background music.
 

Manuel Delaflor

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I find really interesting that a knowledgeable individual like you don't like to listen to CD's. For one hand, this leaves most so called "objectivists" without arguments (who can argue against a preference?). On the other hand, it shows that no matter what one "knows", in the end what one listen is far more important (when predjuices doesn't come first, of course).
What I have found is that I really like the sound of a good turntable, in fact, I was surprised when I listened to one after long time listening only to CD's, I couldn't believe it sounded that good. Other than a certain lack of bass I just loved the sound.
Innumerable posts on this and other forums have argued against the "colored", "distorted" or "highly inaccurate" sound of LP's, but when you are in front of them all those argumentations simply ceases to exist.
Now, some believe that the newer sample rates can deal better with audio (back to topic as you can see
) than the CD's limitations. I believe so, specially after paying close attention to the graphs on stereophile showing the differences on a 1Khz sinewave reproduction of higher end DAC's.
I don't listen to vinyl, but that is just because I don't have LP's. On the other hand, I still don't want to buy a SACD or DVDA player. So in the meantime I certainly enjoy very much the audio from most CD's, but that is because the output signal from my CDP is introduced first to the ADE-24 (the device I reviewed on "tweaks" forum) and this little gear really do wonders to the sound. IMO, since you like that much the sound of vinyl, you need to test one!
 

Lee Scoggins

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How will you do this Lee? If you actually introduce extra words in the track, that would be MASSIVE jitter.
This is how we have done the experiment in the past.

1. Secure high quality analog tapes.

2. Convert to digital using Alessis ML9600 and store on hard drive as "control" case. We will keep word length the same 24 bits throughout.

3. Convert same tape on same songs and time to digital using Alessis ML9600 and store on hard drive but use an external GenX master clock signal (which the Alessis automatically syncs to ). This will be the "low jitter sample".

4. Listen to both CDs. Take notes.

It would be interesting to send a handful of CDs out to you and get your results on a blind basis.

We could then pool results and then show which sample was "control" and which was "low jitter".

My only problem with this is expense (possibly) and the fact that each of you have varied playback systems.

Maybe we will do this anyway...I have all the equipment if I get a couple of friends on board.
 

mike_decock

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My only problem with this is expense (possibly) and the fact that each of you have varied playback systems.
I wouldn't mind chipping in a few dollars if the expense is a concern. IMO, the variety of playback systems would be a benefit in the experiment. It makes it more of a "real world" test.

-Mike...
 

Lee Scoggins

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I wouldn't mind chipping in a few dollars if the expense is a concern. IMO, the variety of playback systems would be a benefit in the experiment. It makes it more of a "real world" test.
A good point: it certainly would indicate that various systems would be susceptible. I have found that to be true in the past.
My concern would remain that those with low resolution systems may not be able to detect a difference. This may also be true for those who are not familiar with the type of music we use or have critical listening skills (no slight to anyone here just trying to be objective on results).
For $10 bucks I could likely purchase some blank CDs and make copies for free.
I would imagine placing the following minor conditions on the participants:
1. The playback systems and equipment must be noted and emailed in with the results.
2. Participants will endeavor to make honest assessments of what they hear. Honor system in effect here.
3. Participants will make an effort to provide honest and open "listening notes" on the differences, if any, they hear between the two samples of varying jitter.
4. Participants will email results to me on which sample they feel is lower in jitter.
5. I will compile results and reveal the lower jitter music sample.
I will not want to get into statistical significance discussions since we don't have enough of a controlled environment.
we would then post the results in the thread and let the chips fall where they may.
Does that work for everyone?
 

Lee Scoggins

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This sounds easy but it isn't. I used to feel exactly the same until I heard the difference between a very good CD player and a fabulous DAC. Producing the correct outlput levels/word is easy. The timing is the hard part hence all the talk about jitter. Then there is also the quality of the analog stages past the DAC to consider.
Agreed and there is another problem - jitter introduced in the production of CDs at the manufacturing plant.

JVC solved this with the same "clock" throughout which has resulted in part in the new XRCDs which are uniformly praised for sonic quality.
 

Lee Scoggins

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Please tell that to Stereophile, Hi Fi News and Record Review and a certain and a certain Mr. Miller who sells software that reads out jitter in Hz and dB
This shows that you have to be suspicious what you read in RAHE...

The Miller Audio gear also provides picosecond and other timing measurements. I have used the gear and it is very well done and super-accurate.
 

Saurav

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Manuel,
At retail value, my current analog front end costs about 4 times what my digital front end costs, so in my system it's not really a fair comparison. Nevertheless, I preferred the sound of LPs even with my $25 70's turntable. I also like the fact that I can try out many different genres of music at 50c an album instead of $5 - $7, it lets me experiment much more than I would have otherwise. Just that factor alone has had a large impact in the direction in which my music collection is going.
And as for lack of bass... if you're ever in northern California, come over to my place and we'll see just how much bass a decent turntable lacks
 

RobertR

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The Miller Audio gear also provides picosecond and other timing measurements.
But that doesn't answer the question of why Miller bothers to include a corresponding dB measurement if it has no meaning. Also, since you haven't contradicted the RAHE post that says Miller includes a dB measurement, if anything you've given people a reason NOT to be suspicious of RAHE.
 

Chu Gai

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I think that's a splendid and generous offer upon your part Lee. Basically you're saying that all is identical in the recording chain, including the final output levels to the CD's except for the 'jitter thing'. Just don't label them Low Jitter and High Jitter! Overall, it'd be fascinating to look at the data.
 

Lee Scoggins

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The previously cited Dolby (I doubt that anyone is much better equipped to conduct psychocoustic studies than Dolby) study indicates that the threshold is 10 nanoseconds.
My reading of that paper is that it is misleading for two reasons:
1. The 10ns occurs over a period of time so it is an aggregate number. Even in that paper they reference "500 picosecond" jitter.
2. The latest research has gotten the numbers down a bit lower since the paper was completed in 1999.
I will call Bob Katz and see if I can present some research showing lower jitter numbers being audible.
You have to agree that basing the discussion on one paper in ten is dangerous at best.
 

Lee Scoggins

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It appears that Chu and Mike are on board.
Robert?
Saurav? (sorry no LP version exists
)
Others?
Let me know and PM me your interest in participating.
For the time let's limit this to 6-10 participants + postage to keep the costs down.
Chu, let's get together next time I am in NYC. I am sorry I have not been able to line up a cable test room yet. Maybe Andy Singer will let us use a room for listening down in Union Square at his store...
 

RobertR

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The latest research has gotten the numbers down a bit lower
Ok, I'll look to see good sound psychoacoustic research showing a lower figure. Of course, "research" along the lines of an anecdotal Atkinson experience sans good experimental controls won't cut it.
 

Saurav

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Time to build a new clock oscillator for my CD player.
Go for it. I tried one circuit and I think it made a difference. Not as much of a difference as upgrading opamps though. And none of this was scientifically tested
 

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