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32blownhemi

The best 'source' for music? Download 24 bit? Vinyl? Or ?

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32blownhemi    42

What's the best source to get music from? I was going to get a CD player but the place I got my 2nd amp from said to download 24 bit from a site like HD Tracks. Guy tried to sell me something that stored the music & then something else he said I needed to play it. I just got confused & figured I'd better ask questions here first. All I've used as a source so far is Apple I Tunes from my computer running to my pre amp. So what's the best set-up? And is downloading 24 bit better than SDCD's? or Vinyl?   Thank You!   Bill

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Schu    2429

Best set up or to a price point?

There is nothing wrong with cd's...

Is 24 bit better than sacd? It's all about the source material not the file size or the medium.

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pbphoto    143
22 minutes ago, Schu said:

Best set up or to a price point?

There is nothing wrong with cd's...

Is 24 bit better than sacd? It's all about the source material not the file size or the medium.

Agree 100%.  Some artists and/or engineers put much more effort into producing a great source product - especially if it's advertised as an all-analog AAA or hi-res digital project.  For music that's important to you, it's worth checking hdtracks vs iTunes vs vinyl to see if there is a difference in the source material, not because one medium is better than another.  For me, it's tough to beat the convenience and quality of iTunes for most of my stuff.  However, I do have hi-res and vinyl for stuff that is special to me.

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DizRotus    4085

"Best" is a subjective term.   For me, hi-res downloads from such sources as HDTracks, LINN, High Definition Tape Transfers, and the now defunct Pono store are the best way to acquire and play new music.  HDTracks and LINN have free samples, so try them.

 

You will need a device capable of playing dense hi-res files.  While waiting for the arrival of my beloved Pono player, I downloaded free samples from HDTracks and LINN.  I was able to use my Android phone to play them.  I purchased Brubeck's Time Out from HDTracks, but my phone could not play it.  HDTracks explained that, while the phone could play some marginally hi-res files, it could not handle large dense hi-res files like Time Out.  I was able to play it on my computer while awaiting the arrival of the Pono player.

 

The salesman was probably trying to sell you a DAC (digital audio converter), as well as a portable player, such as a Fiio, Astell & Kearn, etc.  A high quality DAC is essential to getting maximum enjoyment from hi-res files.  Similarly, the better the rest of the playback chain, the better you will experience the superiority of hi-res music files, which to me means dynamic range, full frequency range, especially low frequency content, and dead silence between musical notes.

 

While some will argue that the "benefits" of hi-res digital music are imagined, my experience is to the contrary.  EVERYONE for whom I have demonstrated a comparison of Michael Jacskson's Billie Jean using only my Pono player and my battery powered chip amp DIY boombox can tell the difference between the MP3 and a hi-res version.   More important, everyone prefers the hi-res version.

 

IMO vinyl can sound excellent despite dragging a rock across plastic, not because of it.  To me, vinyl remains important as the only source of recordings not otherwise available.  When I find a lost treasure on vinyl, I clean it with the incomparable Reg Williamson PVA facial, rip it to a FLAC file, and never play it again.  At it's best, new vinyl has surface noise that only gets worse with each trip of the rock across the bumps.  The ones and zeroes of hi-res digital recordings preserve all the music with full frequency  range and full dynamic range and play it back indefinitely with no degradation.

 

As the quality of streaming improves, I feel the need to acquire music less and less.  In other words, I don't always buy music, but when I do it's hi-res digital.

 

 

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Schu    2429

You need a quality DAC to begin with OP... preferably one with dual dac chips.

Your system is a capable one fir sure.

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Chris A    1571
On 5/25/2017 at 5:55 AM, 32blownhemi said:

What's the best source to get music from? I was going to get a CD player but the place I got my 2nd amp from said to download 24 bit from a site like HD Tracks. Guy tried to sell me something that stored the music & then something else he said I needed to play it. I just got confused & figured I'd better ask questions here first...So what's the best set-up? And is downloading 24 bit better than SACD's? or Vinyl?

In terms of out-of-the-box fidelity of bought music (i.e., not transferred by a consumer into another format), that's pretty clear, and in order of appearance on this list:

  1. DVD-Audio (DVD-A) comes in first in terms of fidelity (5-channel, stereo)
  2. SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc)-stereo or 5-channel "hybrid multichannel" format.
  3. HD-Tracks ("Hi-Rez") downloads are usually cleaned up and free of noise, but suffer from the same loudness war practices described below in CDs.  You'll need a computer with reasonable sound card or solid state music player to play these.  These can be of the highest quality, or they can be low quality--like the original recording made decades ago.
  4. CDs (including "HDCD" encoded ones) usually come in a distant third but not because of the format, but because of the mastering EQ and other signal compression techniques used to make them sound louder (literally they sound loud relative to uncompressed music CDs). Same story for the original recording quality controlling fidelity.
  5. Reel-to-reel (RTR) tapes (analog) are just below CDs in terms of fidelity and noise, but usually above CDs in terms of freedom from mastering compression and EQ, due to their age when produced because mastering practices were far less invasive way back when.
  6. A distant sixth goes to vinyl in terms of fidelity to the master recording (i.e., however it was compressed and distorted by EQ).  However, since vinyl has much less latitude than any of the other formats, the techniques used to make the music sound louder on CDs cannot be used on the restricted latitude that is available on vinyl, so you usually wind up with the highest dynamic range on vinyl (some of which is artificially higher than CD due to transfer losses).  So a lot of people go for vinyl to minimize the loudness war practices if they just want to play their music without trying to restore the music to rid themselves of abusive mastering practices.  Pops, ticks, wow, flutter, rumble, and...drum roll, please...modulation distortion by the bucket loads are all your friends if you prefer vinyl, but phonograph records can be enjoyable if you prefer certain music genres that don't expose the format's limitations (via a psychoacoustic phenomenon known as "masking").
  7. All on-line streaming services are typically audibly below vinyl in terms of fidelity (IMO), unless they are streaming "lossless formats"--which are almost non-existent to find nowadays.  Most of these formats are based on the "AAC" compressed format, some on MP3 (recently in the news due to the expiration of the patents and associated fees), and some on proprietary formats--like Apple uses.
  8. Last and least, the old cassette formats that still exist.  Avoid unless there is no other choice.

Chris

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DizRotus    4085
3 hours ago, Schu said:

It's all about the source material not the file size or the medium.

 

I agree.  The most high resolution version of a bad recording of a bad performance will still sound bad.  The most important, IMO, fact is an excellent recording of an excellent performance, irrespective of the recording or playback medium.  That said, I would always prefer a high resolution digital  recording, even if it was ripped from vinyl, R2R, cassette, 8-track, whatever.

 

The Pono player has a "Revealer" mode that can be used to compare the same file in various resolutions:

  • 192.0kHz/24 bit;
  • 96.0kHz/24bit;
  • 44.1kHz/16bit; and
  • MP3(Amazon).

With poor recordings of poor performances it is often difficult to perceive difference between resolution levels.  With an excellent recording, such as Billie Jean, everyone acknowledges a difference between MP3 and the higher resolutions.  There is far from universal agreement regarding the differences, if any, between the higher resolutions.  The detail available from a high resolution recording reveals the best and worst of the source material, just as bad recordings sound especially bad when played through highly revealing Klipsch high efficiency low distortion speakers, excellent recordings sound especially excellent.  As always, garbage in; garbage out.

 

 

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Chris A    1571

GIGO: garbage in-garbage out. 

 

Anyone that tries to convince you otherwise is either trying to fool you into buying something from them, or themselves--to convince themselves that those expensive digital downloads they paid for are better than the "original master". 

 

All formats are usually the least contributors to resulting fidelity.  That quantity--fidelity--is at the mercy of people that you probably don't want to know personally or professionally (IMO).  It's usually the A&R executives of the big record companies that control their client's output via contractual obligation, sometimes it's the musicians themselves trying to make the biggest bucks that they can--but based on the mistaken notion (and now...corporate culture) that "mastering makes a record album sell", and sometimes it's the mastering people themselves that tell their clients that they know best how to master a recording--just leave it to them... 

 

The best recordings that I've ever heard had no mastering applied--only mixed down to two tracks or 6 tracks (surround sound) if more than 2 microphones were used (stereo) or 5 microphones used (surround)--all for music tracks. 

 

Movies are another animal.

 

Chris

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derrickdj1    6640
22 minutes ago, DizRotus said:

everyone acknowledges a difference between MP3 and the higher resolutions.  There is far from universal agreement regarding the differences, if any, between the higher resolutions.

My mp3's and Flac are equal on this system.  The Pioneer is set to upsample X2- X4 the mp3 files are 256 ACC/VBR or 320 which are CD quality or the higher studio quality.  I can't detect a difference between CD and studio quality.  I agrees with Chirs, a bad recording in HD is still a bad recording.  I can say that in a shootout with near 20 people the mp3's were equal to the Flac files on my system.  Preamp quality speaks for itself in what it can do.  A poor preamp will need more help.

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DizRotus    4085
10 minutes ago, derrickdj1 said:

in a shootout with near 20 people the mp3's were equal to the Flac files on my system.

 

I agree that a bad recording is a bad recording, irrespective of the format.  Merely saving a bad recording as a FLAC file does nothing to improve it.  There is nothing magical about FLAC files.  Derrick are your FLAC files dense hi-res files, or are they rips of recordings in other formats?

 

With the ready availability of inexpensive digital storage, IMO, there is no reason to not store recordings in the highest resolution available.  Sure the bad recordings will still sound bad, but what's the harm?  Such files can always be ripped to compressed MP3 files for use on portable devices when storage capacity becomes an issue.

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derrickdj1    6640

Neil, I have both and it does not make a difference.  For the most part, recording quality is a mute point.  Pandora and Spotify free versions sound like pay versions on the system.  A lot people will say get a cheaper avr with preout and you are good.  The SC 99 has dual DAC's and Sabre 32 processing so, in my system the mp3 which are high quality loose nothing to Flac flies from HD track or other download sites.  I don't own any CD's or Vinyl an am strictly digital.  So, the quality of digital is important and reign supreme in this system  .

 

One thing I have not entertained is replacing the mp3's with FLAC.  I have some of the same recordings and really don't think twice on which file to play.  Good quality mp3 save disc space and allow for additional storage.  People can make all the claims they want for all HD file but, I will keep collecting both file types without regard to all the hyperbole.   See you can pick them apart in a vaccum but, the total system has to be considered.

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derrickdj1    6640

People underestimate the benefit of a good preamp.  They buy DAC's and other things that could have been avoided if the first component had what it takes for good sound quality.   I for one, am not into the warm sound, etc., I am in the camp of accurate reproduction and digital is eternal as long as the files are not corrupt.  Even with my tube amp setup, I am not looking for warmth but, accuracy.  I am a fanboy of clean, unaltered audio.  I don't believe in having to remaster thing and just want to plug n play.  If it is good it will get palyed more often and if it is a poor digital copy, it may never get played.  The quality issues is there, just not all the fuss on how to do it.

 

I'm totally digital and no plans to change.  As much money as I've spent on audio, separates don't offer an improved quality over the current.  Most of my gear is flagship quality and avr or separates is not going to be a game changer.

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Thaddeus Smith    2689

Unfortunately I only know of less scrupulous sources for hi res music, so I've nothing to offer there. But I definitely suggest getting to that format for at least a portion of your library. 

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derrickdj1    6640

Over the years, I have probably been to most sites and am happy with my current sites for quality.  I like digital and it is the future.  Get the best preamp and processing possible in the budget.  Don't shy away from digital thinking analog is better.  The variety and choice of selection is so much greater in digital.  Your are not strapped to 20 or 30 year old recordings.  Times change and whether you want to move or not, it is still happening.  Sometimes the old generation just have to die out.  " Time stands still for no man".  

 

I have enough music to play for about 1 month without having to repeat a play.  If mp3's fall to the wayside, I'm ready to import more HD files.


 

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twk123    614

Personally I run Fidelify on my laptop into my DAC using WASAPI output then into a Class T amp and it sounds great.  Class T or D amps are a good match for Klipsch because they are ultra low distortion as long as you dont drive the amp hard. Luckily with high efficiency speakers this is rarely a worry.

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Derrick    186

In my experience, the original source recording has the largest impact on the final sound regardless of the media type. There are good and bad in all media types. The one thing that I love about vinyl is the experience that goes along with the music. The sound quality aside, playing an album from start to finish, the way the artist intended (I am less likely to skip songs) makes you appreciate B-sides that you may have never listened to before. Plus you get the album artwork, liner notes, occasional posters, etc. If you want an incredible album on vinyl check out The White Stripes "Icky Thump". Fantastic engineering job. 

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thebes    1507

It's really very simple.

 

Music is subjective no matter how well or badly mastered.

 

The ultimate reason I favor vinyl over zero and ones is that I have cried many times in wonder, joy, ecstasy and passion delivered by the music on a record, but never once while listening to a cd.

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pbphoto    143

Interesting video.  Is it saying that if we watched our music on a computer screen, we could tell that vinyl was superior to a CD because it has stuff above 22Khz?  I'll have to ask my cats if they enjoy the vinyl version more than the CD version.  My old ears certainly can't hear anything up there.

 

Now if the video made the argument that, given the identical source material, playback on vinyl sounds different, and subjectively better, than playback on CD, I'll go for that.  But even so, back to the OP's original question, I'd go for the best source material first and worry about the medium second.

 

 

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