Help me rate audio sources from best to worst

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Allan Mack, Apr 28, 2003.

  1. Allan Mack

    Allan Mack Supporting Actor

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    On one of the computer forums I often visit, we were discussing the sound quality of mp3s. I posted that mp3s were not as good as CDs, and that a good, high-end vinyl/turntable setup would sound even better than a CD player. Well, I basically got laughed off the board, probably because the members there have never even auditioned a properly set-up turntable/vinyl system. I also mentioned SACD and DVD-A, and none of them even acknowledged their existence. For these guys, their main stereo system is their computer, and for them, mp3s are their main method of listening to music.

    Anyway, I just wanted to do a casual survey here of what you people think, since we're a little more educated and knowledgeable here about stuff like this here. How would you rate the following from best to worst in terms of sound quality? (Let's assume that we are using a high-end player for each type of format):

    1) Vinyl LP
    2) CD
    3) SACD
    4) DVD-A
    5) mp3

    Personally, I would rate the above in this order, from best to worst:

    1) Vinyl LP
    2) SACD and DVD-A (tie)
    3) CD
    4) mp3

    Perhaps you can even share a bit about how you came to these conclusions (example, did you do A-B tests, did you go into a high-end stereo store, etc).

    The reason I mention this is because many of these computer geeks are gushing over Apple's new music online service, which offers music in their new AAC format (which is supposedly better sounding than mp3s and comes close to "rivalling the sound of CDs".) For these geeks, they think this is the future of music purchasing, and that eventually store-bought CDs (and even SACDs and DVD-As) will become obsolete. For me, I dread this, because this will mean a step backward in terms of sound quality. Will this mean conusmers won't be able to get even CD quality music anymore? For me, CD quality is the minimum for purchasing music; mp3s just don't sound that good on my $4000 stereo system, you now what I mean?
     
  2. Ronn.W

    Ronn.W Second Unit

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    I would put vinyl below DVD-A/SACD, but above CD. MP3 definitely on the bottom. Keep in mind that you can't argue with people that think the MP3 is the end all of music listening. People that listen to music primarily on their PC don't know quality. Even if they spent a bundle on a sound card and speakers, they still aren't getting good sound no matter what the source is, whether it's an MP3 or a CD. These are the same people that will load up their MP3 player and listen to it through cheap earbuds. No wonder MP3's sound as good as CDs to them, they probably both sound like garbage.
     
  3. Allan Mack

    Allan Mack Supporting Actor

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    Thanks, Ronn! Well said. I agree with you that most people don't know what good quality sound is really like.

    But... Only ONE response so far? Gee, I was hoping you guys would help me out here! I want to submit this thread to that other forum so that they know I'm not the only one who doesn't think that CDs and MP3s are the pinnacle of sound quality.

    Come on guys, help me out here! I know this is a home theater forum, but there's gotta be some audiophiles here as well![​IMG]
     
  4. Craig_Kg

    Craig_Kg Supporting Actor

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    It'll probably degenerate into a format war if it gets going but IMO, the order is

    1) SACD and DVD-A (tie - haven't heard enough to decide)
    2) CD
    3) Vinyl LP
    4) ATRAC
    5) cassette
    6) mp3

    Of course, lower bit rates can make ATRAC and mp3 worse as can bad cassettes and scratched LPs.
     
  5. Thomas_Berg

    Thomas_Berg Screenwriter

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    my computer is my primary source for music in my 2-channel only system, and i personally think it's an excellent quality 'transport'. 95% of the music i have on my comp is in .ape format (a lossless compression algorithm) ripped from CDs that i own. i agree 100% that mp3 is a crap format, but it works for j6p so who's to tell him that he's wrong?

    and i agree that SACD/DVD-A is a big step ahead of CDs. i cannot (and will not) comment on vinyl since 1) i am too young to get into the hobby and 2) i am too poor to get into the hobby [​IMG]

    for reference, my system consists of: Vandersteen 2ce speakers, Theta DS Basic Pro II DAC, Classe CP-35 pre, Classe CA-150 amp, Panny CP72 for DVD-A&V, and a Marantz CC4000 CD changer i rarely use (since the computer is a much better transport IMO).
     
  6. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Allan said:

     
  7. Sihan Goi

    Sihan Goi Second Unit

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    Actually the quality of mp3 depends very much on the source(how its ripped), the encoder, as well as the encoding parameters. mp3s can sound almost as good as the original source. It will never beat it of course.
     
  8. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    Allan,

    I agree with your original order. I'm actually trying to increase my LP collection via yard sales and what not - got a whole crate of LPs for 10 bucks. [​IMG]

    When done well mp3 can sound pretty good. But like was mentioned earlier it can never be as good as the original.

    Most of the times for me it is the recording that is the limiting factor and not the format/media.
     
  9. Sathyan

    Sathyan Second Unit

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    I've found much greater variations in recording/mastering than between quality formats (vinyl, SACD/DVDA, CD). Assessments are made based upon comparably priced sources.

    Good means Chesky, Mo-Fi, etc. doing jazz, classical or ethnomusicological recordings (folk)

    1. 2" reel (OK this is much more expensive; heard in a studio)
    2. good SACD/DVD-A
    3. XRCD (NB I've never heard a bad XRCD)
    4. good, new/mint 45 rpm vinyl (in theory 78 would be even better but the recording tech was so bad back then ...)
    5. good HDCD
    6. good new/mint LP
    7. good CD
    8. bad high rez
    9. bad HDCD/CD (advantage of HDCD cannot be heard when the mastering is like this)
    10. bad vinyl
    11. VHS hifi (in audio use; I use this for home recording)
    12. MP3 (DigiRip, Lame VBR floor of 256)
    13. cassette
    14. minidisc
    15. downloaded MP3 (these tend to be between 128 & 192)
    16. WMA
    17. RM

    Public FM I'd put near #8; ClearChannel around #12
     
  10. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    I agree:

     
  11. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

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    OK, assuming equal quality, I think good cassette recording, played back on a properly-calibrated top-of-the-line cassette deck will demolish all other portable formats, with exception of DAT. And it will do quite good when compared to home formats like CD and vinyl. And a Nakamichi is not needed as other manufacturers like TEAC and Sony made some awesome tape decks in cassette's heydays.

    Of course, 99.9% of people out there have neither the patience, the equipment, or the technical skills to make a truly excellent cassette recording.

    I am surprised no one mentioned DAT earlier.
     
  12. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    DAT, to a large degree, isn't that much different than CD.

    Native CD 16/44.1. Native DAT is 16/48.

    Cassette suffers from wow and flutter, print through, shedding oxide particles, etc, unlike any digital format. I have a Nak CR-7A. One of the best cassette decks ever made. But I would still take a Sony ES MD deck with ATRAC 4.5/type R over it. [​IMG]
     
  13. JeremyFr

    JeremyFr Supporting Actor

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    I dont know how I'd rate them being I'm a vinyl junky but at the same time have never played vinyl on a really good turntable aside from a Technics 1200 mkIII with ortofon needles no where near top of the line but pretty damn good sounding none the less. I'd say I've been pretty happy with DVD-A and would rate that quite high, next I'd put DTS CD's after that CD, then Minidisc & mp3 for a tie, and then cassette.
     
  14. JoeHard

    JoeHard Stunt Coordinator

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    1 DVD audio SACD 2 CD 3 Vinyl 4 mp3 I strongly disagree that lp's are best, especialy when considering the cost of a truly high end turntable and cartridge.
     
  15. JamesHl

    JamesHl Supporting Actor

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    AAC is okay, but it's no ogg, and not that much better than mp3. The iPod and iTunes are neat, and probably are some indication of the future of music, but there will always be a demand for physical product, and the quality is just not there yet, as those before me have previously indicated.

    Man, that was a long sentence.

    Anyhow, if we're using comparably priced equipment...

    1) SACD/DVD-A
    2) Vinyl
    3) CD
     
  16. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Concerning cassette sound from an old fart [​IMG]:

    Cassettes can sound EXCELLENT, if you: set the recording levels correctly; use good chrome tape (I never liked metal's sound); and use at least Dolby "B" noise reduction.

    While at work once, we took our $300 Sony three-head demo deck (1995 model) and made a test recording using Dolby "S". Wow! Indistinguishable from the CD.

    Even a $200 JVC with Dolby "B" sounded very good.

    Most people never set their levels properly, so either too hissy (set too low) or distorted (set too high & tape overloaded).

    LJ
     
  17. Allan Mack

    Allan Mack Supporting Actor

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    Heh. I had forgotten about this thread that I started. Where were you guys last month when I needed you?[​IMG]
     
  18. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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  19. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

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    [​IMG] There was a recent thread over at Head-Fi about the quality of cassette recordings.
     

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