In my Ears or Between my Ears - iTunes

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by ScooterMcTav, Sep 30, 2016.

  1. Alobar

    Alobar Flight of the Cosmic Hippie. Subscriber

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    So I'd start by asking yourself why you thought iTunes sounded bad on your best source in the first place. It could be that switching back and forth a/b isn't yielding the answer you want is because this is a flawed way to tell subtle differences. The brain is a complex organ and hearing simply isn't as precise as going to the ophthalmologist and saying better or worse while looking at the eye chart. I won't speak for anyone else but for me it takes time listening critically to each source, and with different music. Can't be distractions of any kind, just you listening to your system. You may in time be able to tell quite a bit of difference, particularly between 256kbps and lossless. Give it a chance. I have been chucking all my MP3's over the past few years for lossless, and am finding even more clarity in the higher 24 bit offerings. You can always rip 256 kbps for the phone and car but I think you will want better for your best system than that.
     
  2. hjames

    hjames Nabbed ... Subscriber

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    Okay - what do you mean here??
    You don't RIP an iTunes album TO CD! You rip FROM CD to a computer.

    Did you BURN some iTunes tracks from your computer onto a CD??
    Did you rip FROM a CD the same tracks you already had in an iTunes version to compare?
    If this is the case, what bitrate did you rip them at?? 256k ?

    I am not being snarky or mean spirited - its just that when we compare experiences,
    its helpful if we use terms the same way to describe specific tasks ...
     
  3. ScooterMcTav

    ScooterMcTav Active Member

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    Thanks Alobar,

    I had the same thought as well - possibly a longer term critical listening might highlight some different issues, or possibly the appearance of some very subtle distortion that would only be apparent over a longer listen. But on initial listen, I had a hard time distinguishing between the two sources. Possibly my dissatisfaction with iTunes and the iPhone is that the music I've been purchasing through it is more poorly mastered than some of my CDs I compare against it. When I made the decision to start buying via iTunes, I also made the decision to stop buying CDs, so I don't have a lot of material that crosses over between them.

    This being said, my understanding is that my main music I listen to (rock and metal) has less noticeable differences between compressed and lossless material than some other forms of music.

    And yes hjames, I used iTunes as the ripping program to rip a CD from my iTunes library to a CD on a computer. It was done at 256k. This was to compare the exact same content delivered via iPhone vs CD player to see if it was an issue with the iPhone DAC.

    Then i tested an iTunes purchase delivered via iPhone vs. a store bought CD.

    Regardless, I am tempted to start buying CDs again after reading all your posts. Even if the differences are subtle, why do I want to purchase poorer quality music if I do not need to.

    Possibly I'm just getting fussier since I how have a better quality rig. I bought a newly pressed copy of A Day to Remember's "What Separates Me From You" and I find it borderline unlistenable as it's so poorly engineered.
     
  4. Alobar

    Alobar Flight of the Cosmic Hippie. Subscriber

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    Part of why you are having a difficult time could be due to dynamic range (DR) and the loudness wars. Newer rock music has suffered quality wise because of it, but there are exceptions. I don't believe iTunes can scan music tracks and issue a DR rating but other media players such as Foobar and JRiver can. I use JRiver a lot for this, I make smartlists where I tell it to filter out any DR below 13 (which most of my stuff is) and what is left usually (but not always) is the best sounding tracks. Then I sometimes use this to compare when making changes etc. Here is a link to the DR database. Notice how some album editions (usually remasters but not always) have lower DR's than others.
    http://dr.loudness-war.info/
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
  5. ScooterMcTav

    ScooterMcTav Active Member

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    Sorry, can't find a link embedded in your post. But your thought makes sense.
     
  6. Alobar

    Alobar Flight of the Cosmic Hippie. Subscriber

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  7. ScooterMcTav

    ScooterMcTav Active Member

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    You may be on to something:

    Here's most of my iTunes purchases over the last few months:

    Ghost - Popestar (EP) 05
    Amaranthe - Massive Addictive 05-07
    Tragically Hip - Yer Favorites 06-08
    Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child 05
    Rammstein - Sehnsucht 07-08
    FOB - AB/AP 04-06
    Xandria - Neverworld's End 05-06
    Battle Beast - Battle Beast 05-07
    Battle Beast - Unholy Saviour 06-09
     
  8. Alobar

    Alobar Flight of the Cosmic Hippie. Subscriber

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    Yeah, anything under about 9 or so I consider at least a little compromised. Comparing in CD lossless and 256kbps with low DR may not be yielding much difference in your case. It is something to look at though. If most of the music you like has been made to sound louder on the FM radio (or now streaming), it may not matter so much about trying to upgrade everything you have to play lossless. This issue has caused me to shift at least somewhat my typical genre over the past couple years in search of music that I feel was produced with quality. Also it isn't that all low DR is necessarily bad sounding either, but it very often is.
    This issue of poor SQ and low DR of media (vinyl is certainly not immune either) is one of the more frustrating aspects of this hobby I would say.
     
  9. ScooterMcTav

    ScooterMcTav Active Member

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    Oddly enough, looking up CDs as well, I see that the sweet spot for me seems to start around the 07-08 range. I consider the Tragically Hip and Rammstein some of the better sounding tunes through the phone, and noticed that some CD's I like also seem to be at minimum in the 07-08 range (i.e. Led Zeppelin - Mothership DIsc 1, Boston, Dire Straits - Money for Nothing [side note, best sounding disc I own], most Chris Isaak).

    Maybe time for me to listen to more classical.
     
  10. uofmtiger

    uofmtiger Super Member

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    Just be aware that if the albums are Mastered For iTunes, those charts won't apply because they are referring to the disc ( which often has loudness wars dynamic compression).
     
  11. ScooterMcTav

    ScooterMcTav Active Member

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    Just as one final note here, a member in the solid state forum also suggested I may be introducing unwanted distortion into my system, as the iPhone (via headphone jack to RCA) is putting out a signal in the 1V range, whereas the inputs on my gear are designed for 130mV to 300mV, depending on the unit.

    This may be why I believe the phone generated better sound when hooked up via USB (car and previous Onkyo TX-8050).
     
  12. Alobar

    Alobar Flight of the Cosmic Hippie. Subscriber

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    If I understand you, you are talking about two completely different outputs. The head jack is analog whereas the USB is digital and requires a DAC further down the line to get analog to the amp/speakers. It could be that the incredibly small DAC's crammed into a smartphone and wired to the jack isn't quite a match for better DACs. This has most definitely been my experience.
     
  13. ScooterMcTav

    ScooterMcTav Active Member

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    My understanding is the iPhone 6+ has a pretty good DAC, even lab tested to very good tolerances.

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/iphone-6-plus.htm#measurements

    It also seemed comparable to the DAC in my Yamaha CD player with the exact same content.

    However, having the volume pinned on my headphone jack output may be introducing unwanted distortion, especially if the pinned output is pushing 1V, while the input voltages on my receivers are fractions of this. It makes sense that if the output is too hot it could cause distortion to creep in. Regardless, I'll test this out at home later tonight to see if the phone at 50% volume has a smoother sound.

    This makes logical sense vs. going via USB, as the built in DAC should convert the digital phone signal to the correct level for the preamp.
     
  14. ScooterMcTav

    ScooterMcTav Active Member

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    Well, I "think" going reduced volume sounded better - at least it sounded "fuller" using more amp and less iPhone. Over a three hour non-critical listening session last night, I did not suffer from listening fatigue.

    However, totally subjective observation, and I may be totally off my rocker.

    And I think that when I spot a Teac CDP-650 for a good price, I may bring one home, just to use its DAC via USB.
     
  15. uofmtiger

    uofmtiger Super Member

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    Just wanted to mention that someone claiming to be from Burson Audio contacted me today to review a device that is supposed to solve this voltage issue:

    https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/cable-plus-a2r/

    I am not going to get the device, but it might supply a more reasonable explanation of why the aux out on the phone/tablet could be the issue.

    (changed my mind.. the geek in me was just too curious. Will post impressions when I actually get my hands on the thing)
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
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  16. Braunbear66

    Braunbear66 Active Member

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    Hello curios if you have the Burson audio + cable. I recently purchased one and received email tracking number. I do have the echo and the portable echo speaker but not the dot yet. But it would be nice for one of my inputs on my amp to hook it up too. I was also curios about the Burson cable + for my Mac Air or Astell & Kern Ak-70 or any other 3.5 mm low output device. To give a go. I did already spend the $150 for it so I'll just see how it sounds. It does need a micro USB to the unit to power it up.
     
  17. uofmtiger

    uofmtiger Super Member

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    I ended up telling them not to send it.

    They kept coming back with more questions about how I would review it and what I would review it with and the process went on and on. I ended up telling them to not send it to me. I get very busy over the holidays (at home and work), so I just didn't have time to test it with everything I owned after we got to November and I decided to bail out of the process. I was mainly interested in using it with an Echo Dot, but they wanted me to test it with my iPad and iPhone for the Macrumors Forum, so it just got to be too much extra work at the wrong time of the year. If it had been over the summer, I would have just tested it with everything...which I actually would enjoy doing if I have time.

    I am curious to hear what you think of it after you run it through the paces. It is an interesting concept.
     
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  18. Braunbear66

    Braunbear66 Active Member

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    Okay I will keep you posted and see how well it works mean while I will order the echo dot so I can also test that. Thank you for your reply back
     
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  19. uofmtiger

    uofmtiger Super Member

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    No problem. I look forward to seeing your impressions.
     
  20. Drsnaut

    Drsnaut New Member

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    First of all be sure that when you change the volume, you don't do this within iTunes but on your amplifier. Changing the volume in iTunes itself severely deteriorates sound/playback quality. Having the sound output over a DAC will kill the function of altering the sound in iTunes, which is a good thing. There are also plugins like Audirvana and Pure Music. They will change playback a little bit, but won't solve your problem.

    I have experienced sound problems with my laptop as well (computer as source); I changed from a fairly cheap compaq laptop to a MacBook and this resulted in an increase in sound quality, which means that the sound card in the MacBook was better than the one used in the compaq. I bet that the iPhone has a pretty decent sound processor. Still, a dedicated DAC will (in a proper system) definitely sound better. Mind that also the DAC on your Yamaha can be of decent, but not great quality. Just because it is a dedicated source doesn't mean guaranteed quality (neither does a bad quality dedicated DAC in that sense..).

    I am now building my own DAC, but I have experienced fairly good results with a Musical Fidelity V-dac, which is actually quite cheap now (I bet you can fetch them for 100 dollars at this moment).
     

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