High Definition Releases - Reviews

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by Bigerik, Jan 3, 2013.

  1. FauxHall

    FauxHall Super Member

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    I'm listening to my 192/24 download of Neil Young's greatest hits now via a Sony HAP-Z1ES. It has very impressive sound quality and is one of the best I've ever heard.

    I had this is the two-disc album edition before. One was a Redbook disk and the better one was straight DVD - not DVD-Audio. DVD is 96/24 at best while DVD-A can go 196/24 in stereo.

    Hence my new version is even better than the DVD version in theory. Now, sonic memory is a weak argument, and my current system is substantially different than the one I used with the earlier disc-based version, but this 196/24 sounds almost flawless.

    Neil Young, in spite of what one thinks of his politics, is an excellent and creative musician and is known for being a stickler for delivering sound quality.

    This one was well worth the $27 from HDTracks.
     
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  2. 2channel*

    2channel* Well-Known Member

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    Damn! You're right. I just checked out my "Super Saturated DVD-stereo" of Neil Young's Greatest Hits. LPCM 96/24. I must admit it sounds better than the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere LP, though. (My copy of Decade is straight red book.)
    However, according to Wikipedia LPCM 96/24 can be up to 6,144 kbit/s and I think DVD-A tops out at around 4,600 kbit/s. Is data transfer rate the ultimate indicator of resolution? A bit over my head. Any way, that's the format the stickler chose and I'm sure he could have done a DVD-A. He also chose DVD-V for Greendale, for what it's worth. Pun intended.
     
  3. Wildcat

    Wildcat "Line and Bubble" (Pete Turner, R.I.P.) Subscriber

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    I'm a bit rusty on all of this (I don't worry about it anymore), but all we really need to worry about is the sampling rate and bit rate. The data transfer rate was useful more for MP3 files and compressed files (as an indicator of sound quality, based on how much the data was compressed), but I don't find it directly relevant to lossless digital where we know the sample and bit rates. Pretty sure lossless is a constant bit rate.

    However, the data transfer rate does come into play with DVD-Audio format. Some DVD-Audio titles use Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) since the data rate of six channels (aka 5.1 channels) at 24 bits/96kHz was too much for the format. MLP's lossless compression allowed all of that data to fit within the format. I forget the limit, but two-channel 24/96 (and I believe 24/192 as well) did not need MLP, whereas surround programs usually did. The MLP also helped pack all of those programs onto a DVD-Audio disc--stereo, surround, occasionally video content.

    Hope that helps. If I can find a source of where I read this before, I'll toss a link in here.
     
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  4. Wildcat

    Wildcat "Line and Bubble" (Pete Turner, R.I.P.) Subscriber

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    Actually, as bad as Wikipedia is as a source, this paragraph gives some particulars:
     
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  5. 2channel*

    2channel* Well-Known Member

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    Very illuminating. And as you reminded me yet once again with your statement "I don't worry about it anymore" all I need to do is listen. If I enjoy the music, that's all that matters and that usually depends more on how the original was recorded than how it is stored.

    BTW, I finally got around to getting I Robot on SACD. Now I know why so many have cited it in this and other threads. Very enjoyable!
     
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  6. Wildcat

    Wildcat "Line and Bubble" (Pete Turner, R.I.P.) Subscriber

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    Essentially, the media player and DAC handle everything, and I just get to listen to music. :)

    Anyway...

    One HDTracks download I have been playing quite a bit is the Eiji Oue/Minnesota Symphony recording of a few of Stravinsky's works--Firebird Suite, Song of the Nightingale, The Rite of Spring. I almost want to call this a demo disc, as to my ears, the bass and treble are exaggerated, the dynamics a bit overdone, etc. (I think I was told this is what happens when a symphony is close-mic'ed.) I have other classical works which IMHO sound a lot more natural, more like actually sitting out in the audience. (If one had to put it into perspective, this is almost like being on the podium; others put you a few rows back in the hall.) I expected better from Reference Recordings. Thankfully this is a 24-bit/88.2kHz download--I can imagine that overly bright brass sounding like a sawtooth waveform on a regular CD.

    Oue's renditions of some of his selections can be a bit different (I have even heard the word "controversial" used by others, regarding some of his performances). His version of the Firebird Suite has an ending with a tempo that is way faster than I have ever heard it; in my head, I am always saying to myself at that point, "....aaand, we're off to the races!" It's not bad, though...just different. The Rite of Spring is one I really enjoy, though. He gives that one quite a workout.
     
  7. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

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    I'm sorry I'm late to this party. I have for a number of years been enjoying the mostly HD world of 96/24 and dabbled in SACD/DSD. Since December I've spent a ton of time (when I'm not trying to light up the ionosphere) re-evaluating my existing HD collection on a new DAC that can play stuff at native rate and added DSD capability to my PC.

    For this post, I'll start off with the releases I actually marked as HD in my collection, and feel confident enough to say something about the quality. There are actually a good number of HD stuff in my collection that I've not heard except for the HD release, so I can't really compare to anything to give a subjective opinion. In this post I will only cover PCM releases.

    The Eagles - Hotel California (Original DVD-Audio Release) (192khz/24-bit)

    I don't really care for this album all that much, but I think it was the only thing I saw on a shelf at Best Buy in 2003 I felt like buying a DVD-Audio disc to try in the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 I was about to drop a large sum of money on. I never listened to the 5.1 mix; but the stereo version was quite impressive. It mostly stands out as the thing that made me want to get serious about digital. I haven't done an actual comparison, but I'm reasonably sure the same data is on HDTracks now. I have listened to an SACD of this, but I just wasn't impressed with it at all. I've always put my money on this one if I have to listen to it.

    Green Day - Dookie (HDTracks) (192khz/24-bit)

    This is not exactly an audiophile album, so it doesn't exactly seem appropriate for judging any kind of sound quality. But I've listened to this album...a lot, and I've listened to various releases; so even if the album itself was mixed to be a slightly compressed punk/alt/rock album; I basically just want an unadulterated digitization of the master tape. My previous "gold standard" for this album was a Japan SHM-CD copy, which was very close to the original retail disc from 94; but sounded like it benefited from advancements in ADC technology. This release was fantastic and was one of the best things I bought with that particular order. Again, this album is more about personal nostalgia for me...this was an album that made 12-year old me get more interested in music; I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.

    Again, not an audiophile spectacular; but it feels like a really good representation of what came out of the mixing console.

    Paul McCartney & Wings - Band On The Run [Uncompressed] (HDTracks) (96khz/24-bit)

    Remember what I said about wanting unadulterated digitization of the master tape? Well this is the review where I contradict myself.

    This is a great release that came in two flavors if I remember correctly, the original master with original compression and a newly remastered version without the compression. Since I want all that nice dynamic range I opted for the uncompressed version. But I also seem to recall that they applied some digital noise reduction to this release. That doesn't bother me none, because I'd do the exact same thing myself; and the processing they did was super subtle and gentle. All I can say is that it's a fantastic release and has easily made me ask "original what master?"

    The Association - Greatest Hits! (HDTracks) (96khz/24-bit)

    I can vouch for one thing....this release 100% accurately represents the original master of this release. All of it's horrible...lousy...effed-up...stupid glory. I mean..if I can say one thing; you're getting a good digitization of the original master.

    But this release is probably the furthest one could take as quality masters. This is the original master they used for the LP. How do I know? Because it still has that stupid HAECO-CSG encoding baked in to it that they did for the LP! It is so baked in to the master that it has existed on every official release put out by whoever owns the rights/licenses it. This is why the stereo field on this is so screwed up; the right channel is about 90 degrees out of phase with the left. It was intentional! The idea is they could make a stereo record "mono compatible" by phase-shifting a channel so the "center" audio didn't double in amplitude when summed together. So when they compiled this album back for LP release in '68 or so, they just put it on the master.

    Digitally...it's pretty simple to fix; you just apply a 90 degree phase shift to a channel. I have to give credit for the engineer out there who insisted that fixing it would ruin the integrity of the original master...but come on; the mixing sounds horrible. Then again, maybe it was just a total lack of care by whoever owns the rights.

    Ghostbusters: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (HDTracks) (96khz/24-bit)

    I was probably as surprised as you were to find out the Ghostbusters soundtrack was available in HD. I picked it up, listened to (most) of it, and loved it! Quality wise with an original CD..it just sounds "fresher"...cleaner...bigger. "Crisp and clean, no caffeine!"

    Bob Marley & The Wailers - Legend (Remastered) (HDTracks) (192khz/24-bit)

    I'm not a huge Bob Marley fan, but there was a point in my life where one of the retail copies found it's way in to my collection, as well as car rotation for a while. I always thought the CD sounded fine. This made me totally reconsider that. Again, it just sounds fresher than what I get off my CD.
     
  8. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

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    In this post of my High Definition Reviews, I will talk about some of the SACD/DSD stuff that absolutely blew me away. I will say no more than this is PC based playback in to a DSD-capable DAC, so the only change is literally the audio format I'm feeding it, and whatever black-magic the DAC is doing they don't disclose in datasheets. (How did I get my SACD's in to my computer? Who said I did that? I'm not saying another word. No, you can't play GTA:V on my PS3.)

    Patsy Cline - Greatest Hits (Analog Productions SACD)


    I cannot use enough fantastically positive adjectives to describe this release and everything it did to me...I really can't. I just can't. On my list of things that have left me in complete awe; only seeing the Grand Canyon and all the stuff I saw (or didn't see) driving across the Nevada desert on 95 are the only two things in front of it. This is not a release you sit and listen to...this is something you experience. It's not 33 minutes of seriously high-quality mastering; it's 33 minutes of "Patsy is in my listening room". You don't just hear her crisp vocals echo in your sound field; you feel every bit of emotion she's putting in to it.

    If this isn't the original masters fed directly in to DSD, I'll eat my hat. I had zero idea the originals had this amount of fidelity. I mean, yes; I do hear some of the imperfections of the tape...but it is a lot better than I ever thought it existed. This wasn't really an era where sound quality was a major concern....but this makes me question all my assumptions of what we could be hearing from the era.

    This made me cry, it sounded so good and I felt so much of her emotion I got teary.

    Norah Jones - Come Away With Me (Analog Productions SACD)

    When I first heard this SACD in 2003, it wasn't on my system, but I thought it sounded fantastic anyway. Like many, the CD copy of this quickly found a place among the items I tested systems with. It sounded OK..and it was one I was able to pick up on subtle details when testing. So when I got a SACD player in 2009 the original 2003 hybrid seemed to be a natural fit for a proper demo of the format I was too poor to afford till it was almost dead. I eagerly threw the disc in to the player and got in my listening position and hit play.

    I then got up and took it out...because it felt like a huge disappointment. It sounded way too loud and compressed for something I'd pay a premium for. It also changed how I felt about the CD release...because it didn't seem too hot anymore (for being too hot, what?).

    Then along came the Analog Productions releases back in 2012...which brought everything I expected the first time I listened to it. It's no where near as loud or compressed as the original SACD. But how does it compare to the HDTracks release? My verdict is far from being determined. There are output level differences on my DAC between DSD and PCM that make a "back and forth" between the two involve more than I feel like doing right now. The SACD "feels" like it may be less compressed. Norah's vocals felt a bit louder and "in front" on the HDTracks.

    Bread - The Best of Bread (Audio Fidelity SACD)

    I have always preferred the original LP to the later Anthology of Bread, despite the fact the latter has more tracks; even when it came to CD releases. I felt perhaps a little validated when Audio Fidelity put out a SACD of this album.

    Quality wise it sounds fantastic, as has been the trend with AudioFi discs. Seriously, I'll eat my hat if they didn't just run the original master in to a DSD machine. It's worth putting on the stack of discs to test a system out with.

    10cc - Deceptive Bends (SHM-SACD)

    So this is an album I really haven't listened to except on SACD with the exception of "Good Morning Judge" and "The Things We Do For Love". Both of those two tracks sound drastically better than they do on the Greatest Hits CD. The backing harmonies on TTWDFL really stand out and seem to be much wider in the sound stage.

    The rest of the album sounds just fantastic, I have nothing to compare it to...but the same huge soundstage seems to carry over. I can almost pick out every element of the mix. The more I listened to it, the more I like it.
     
  9. Wildcat

    Wildcat "Line and Bubble" (Pete Turner, R.I.P.) Subscriber

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    Rumor has it that the original SACD was mastered from...a CD. :rolleyes: Someone, somewhere did a spectral analysis or whatever, and discovered it was just the CD 16-bit/44.1kHz upsampled to SACD. From what I recall, most regarded it as a sonic turd.

    Glad the AP SACD is better.

    One AP SACD I ripped was the Elvis 24 Karat Hits. The 45RPM vinyl is probably the best you'll hear these tracks (I can vouch for its excellent sound), but the DSD version is no slouch either--it makes for a good digital demo. Play this disc for anyone who thinks that "old music" doesn't sound good. I typically don't care for Elvis, but this is enough of a good sampler and is a fun listen nonetheless.
     
  10. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

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    So I wish I had screenshots organized for this...maybe I'll do a later post where I dig in to this in detail. But I did a quick comparison and...you may be right...but there's something more interesting going on.

    The 2003 SACD does in fact look like it's just upsampled PCM...there is a definite lack of information above 22khz audio wise.

    But so is the 2012 SACD, and the HDTracks.

    The 2003 SACD appears to have a very hard frequency limit...probably due to the fact it has a bit of dynamic compression on it. But I don't actually see *anything* except the occasional transient causing FFT smearing.

    But when I looked at the 2012...there was no super wide spectrum here. It STILL stopped at around 22khz...but it doesn't look like an extremely hard limit and I saw what looks like analog/extra noise above it. Analog Productions likely wouldn't upsample.....based on Patsy I do take their word these are new DSD transfers from the original tape. But apparently the album was mixed and limited somewhere. I'm wondering if it was mixed in low-rate digital and then spit out to tape.

    The HDTracks version looks much like the 2003 SACD...except it's obvious there's not a direct hard limit at 22khz. A few transients and sounds make it up there...but there's no extra response.

    On the note of dynamic range: The 2003 SACD and HDTracks versions look to be about the same...both have sections that come just below clipping. The 2012 AP release seems to stay well away from clipping..and parts on the CD/HDTracks/03 SACD that are super loud...are not as loud on the HDTracks. Parts that are a bit softer on the CD/HD/03 are a tad louder. That looks like to me like some form of dynamic compression.

    So...the 22khz limit appears to be in the master tape. It's inconclusive to say if the 03 SACD was in fact directly mastered from the audio CD format because the conversion process does things to the audio that can make it hard to tell. It's like I told someone, you can usually tell a DSD to PCM conversion; but you can't tell if someone's gone the other way.
     
  11. Wildcat

    Wildcat "Line and Bubble" (Pete Turner, R.I.P.) Subscriber

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    That's true--it very well could have been recorded at 44.1kHz, although the bit depth could have been 24 bit as opposed to 16 bit (of CD). Although most studios these days producing new recordings seem to use 24/96 (and perhaps some use 24/88.2 as well). All we can do is guess at it, since we were not there during the recording sessions.

    It's not really a huge deal, but I recall the general feeling of some buyers of the original SACD that they felt ripped off...
     
  12. 2channel*

    2channel* Well-Known Member

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    I have the Blue Note hybrid, which is probably the 2003 release you refer to. I play it through an Oppo BDP-95 configured to downmix 5.1 to stereo and convert DSD to analog without a PCM conversion and connected via XLR from the dedicated analog stereo out terminals. I am not hearing any compression to speak of. I've compared this SACD favorably to Chesky's test SACDs. I also compared the CD to the SACD using a NAD C546BEE, which I think does a better job with redbook than the BDP-95. The SACD presented more detail and a more 3 dimensional soundstage, as well as tighter bass IMHO. I do have SACDs that don't sound better than their CD layer or version; but Come Away With Me is not one.
     
  13. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

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    That's because you're effectively not listening to the stereo mix; you're listening to a downmix....which I won't get in to the number of issues wrong with doing a simple 5.1 downmix to stereo... but you are not listening to the same thing everyone else is.

    Do not compare a 5.1 downmix that your system is doing to a traditional 2.0 stereo mix. That's like comparing FM stereo to traditional AM...it's not valid. The 5.1 mix won't be the same...and it won't downmix the same.

    2003 Blue Note Hybrid 2.0 channel:

    [​IMG]


    2012 AP Release:

    [​IMG]

    But, again; if you're listening to a 5.1 mix....then you're not hearing the same thing those of us who listen to the 2.0 mix. Far from it.
     
  14. 2channel*

    2channel* Well-Known Member

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    That's not the way it works. If you choose the downmix option on the Oppo; it doesn't play the 5.1 layer if there is a stereo layer. I probably shouldn't have clouded the issue by mentioning it.
     
  15. dewdude

    dewdude I fix stuff.

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    Not owning a BDP-95...I wasn't aware of that. I hear "configured to downmix 5.1" and I think it's literally downmixing 5.1.
     

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