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Thread: Has anyone here heard SACD?

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Default MP3s sound like crap through speakers.

    .............................................
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jun-02-2019 at 22:09.

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    I have a pretty nice system. Speakers are of my own design that I used to sell in the $3000 range. Three way tri-amped. Digital XO and phase linear. Not bragging, just indicating that I might know something about sound quality.

    The majority of my library is CD ripped to FLAC or downloads in the highest FLAC available. I have done the exercise. Reformated the FLAC to MP3 at various rates using the latest LAME converter. If you listen really, really hard, you can pick up a few artifacts at 320, but indistinguishable listening to real music through real speakers in a normal home environment. Listening on headphones my be different, but I could care less. 256 MP3 can be a bit more problematical. If the performance is acceptable, I can overlook the minor artifacts. YMMV.

    My question is: Are you listening to the music, or are you listening to your equipment?

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    I'm betting you did what I did BoibBrines... When I decided to set up a music server, I did controlled listening tests of all of the available codecs and data rates to determine where the line of audible transparency was. I arrived at AAC 256 VBR as my standard encode for music I listen to critically. It works perfectly.

    There are differences between lossy formats. Fraunhofer MP3 is the bread and butter MP3 format, but LAME MP3 is even better, and AAC is even better than that. I can barely discern 320 Fraunhofer MP3 from lossless in some particularly hard to encode tracks, but not with the other two formats. AAC is the best because if you use VBR, it will encode above 320 if the track requires it. I can't imagine what would need that though.

    It's important to keep in mind that even good speakers generally have a distortion level of 1 to 2% (depending on the frequency). That's significantly higher than headphones. The reason they sound so much better than headphones is because of the balances and the effect space has on sound. Signal purity and resolution are important, but their importance is overestimated by audiophiles. Even inexpensive solid state home audio components are capable of performing beyond the specs of human ears.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jun-02-2019 at 18:49.

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    Senior Member Forsooth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forsooth View Post
    @bigshot - Could I check on something that I "think" is true? I'll tried to state it succinctly:

    On a 2-channel system (with an SACD player attached), SACDs will sound no better than regular CDs (assuming the same mastering for both). Thus, for a stereo system, there is no particular reason (sound-wise) to purchase an SACD player over a regular CD player, even if you already have several SACDs.

    Thanks for confirming or setting it straight.
    Bump................

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    Sorry Forsooth, I missed that in all the froth... I'll give you the short answer first. Yes, given the same mastering, an SACD will sound exactly the same as a CD to human ears.

    Now for the longer answer...

    High data rate audio, (like 24/96, 24/92. and DSD) have two advantages over CD (16/44.1):

    First of all 24 bits has a lower noise floor than 16. The purpose of high bitrates is for use in recording studios. A small sound element in a mix, like a flute, may have to be raised in volume a great deal to be heard over a drum kit. It's possible that the flute was recorded at a very low peak level, so bringing up the volume would raise the noise floor along with it. When you mix, you want as much leeway for boosting levels as possible.

    However commercially distributed music is normalized to peak level, so what you hear is the maximum peak level as your loudest volume level. The noise floor of a CD is down at -96dB, which would never be heard over the normal noise floor of the room. The quietest listening room has a noise floor of about 30dB and a CD has an effective noise floor of about 96dB, so if you raise the noise floor of the CD up to be heard over the room tone, you arrive at a 126dB peak level. 120dB is the threshold of pain and the point where hearing damage can occur during short exposures. (Think a jet plane taking off.)

    Normal "loud music" listening levels in the home are around 85dB, and the decibel scale is exponential, so the higher it goes, the more of a difference there is. So the difference in perceived volume between 30 and 35dB is much smaller than the difference between 85 and 90dB. You can imagine how loud 120dB is. If the noise floor is raised to an audible level, 24 bit sound is capable of bursting your eardrums, and 32 bit sound can actually kill you! It just isn't necessary for listening to Mozart in your living room.

    The second advantage of SACD over CD involves frequency response. The Nyquist Theory (the basis of digital audio technology) states that two samples can perfectly reproduce a frequency's waveform as well as all frequencies below it. So 10,000 samples can perfectly reproduce 5kHz. 20,000 samples can perfectly reproduce 10kHz. The top range of human hearing is 20kHz which can be perfectly reproduced with 40kHz. There is a little bit of analog error involved in band limiting filters, so the CD format has built in a little extra beyond human hearing to allow for that... That's where 44.1 comes in.

    Most music does not contain much sound above 12-15kHz, and the little it does contain is down at -60dB or so... way too low to be audible over the peak levels of the frequencies you can hear. Tests have shown that super audible frequencies (above 20kHz) are totally irrelevant to the perceived sound quality of recorded music. The only way you can hear a frequency that high is to raise the volume to the threshold of pain. That would still be inaudible, but you would have a piercing headache and your hearing would be permanently damaged. Even if the level of super audible frequencies are up in the normal (not extreme) volume levels, that can be a problem. Most home audio components are not designed to deal with super high frequencies and if they encounter them, the result is harmonic distortion in the audible range. Not good.

    Again, the frequency scale is exponential. We generally divide it into octaves (just like do re me fa so la ti do). The lowest octave we can hear is 20Hz to 40Hz. The next one is 40 to 80, then 80 to 160, 160 to 320, 320 to 640, 1280 to 2560, 2560 to 5120, 5120 to 10.24kHz and 10.24kHz to 20kHz (the top octave we can hear). That is nine octaves altogether. High sampling rate audio is either 96 or 192, SACD is 282. So therefore, the theoretical top frequency of 96 would be 48kHz, the top frequency for 192 would be 86kHz, and SACD would be 141kHz. Do the math on the octaves and you'll find that 96 only provides one more octave of sound, 192 gives you two octaves and SACD gives you 2 1/2. When you consider that your range of hearing is 9 octaves, an extra octave or two just doesn't matter... especially when it's beyond your ability to hear anyway!

    Is this clear? I'm happy to explain if anything flew by you.

    I work in the film business, but not as an electrical engineer. I'm a producer, so I needed to understand how all this works so I would be able to supervise the engineers recording and mixing my projects. I googled and talked to people who worked in the business, and I listened and asked questions. I didn't listen to high end audio salesmen and I didn't take my info from people who were trying to sell me something. You don't have to work in the business to be informed about how this stuff works. It just takes a little bit of research. I would think that anyone willing to lay down thousands of dollars on audio equipment would make an effort to understand this stuff, but there are a lot of people who just want to let someone else tell them what to think. That would work fine if they chose the right people to listen to!
    Last edited by bigshot; Jun-02-2019 at 22:19.

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    One quick addendum... I tested the difference between SACD and CD myself, and one of the interesting things I found out is that it isn't always easy to do an "apples to apples" comparison of formats. Even on hybrid SACDs, I found that the mastering was sometimes different on the SACD layer than it was on the CD layer. I suspect that this is done to skew comparisons, because whenever I stumbled across this, the redbook layer wass more compressed and had a higher noise level. In one case the two layers on the same disc had two completely different mixes! Thankfully, I found this was only true of 70s and 80s rock albums. Classical music generally has the same mastering on the SACD layer as the CD layer.

    So if you like Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, it might be worth getting an SACD player just for two channel playback.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jun-02-2019 at 22:28.

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  11. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    Sorry Forsooth, I missed that in all the froth... I'll give you the short answer first. Yes, given the same mastering, an SACD will sound exactly the same as a CD to human ears.

    <...SNIP...>

    Is this clear? I'm happy to explain if anything flew by you.
    Thanks very much for your detailed explanation. It helps me a lot. I am in the market for a compact disc player to go with my 2-channel system and I was hung up on whether I would be foregoing any significant audible advantages if I did not purchase an SACD player.

    I think I understood most parts of your excellent explanation. The main parts to me include:

    1. “...so the CD format has built in a little extra beyond human hearing... That's where 44.1 comes in.”

    That is actually the first time I have comprehended the 44.1kHz figure. Paraphrasing your response, the CD format contains all frequencies (20-20K Hz) that can be heard by humans (though most of us hear only a portion of that range). Thus, all else being equal, SACDs do not bring us higher highs or lower lows. Any additional frequencies SACDs may contain are beyond our hearing threshold.

    This also came from your response: the 9 octaves of human hearing. All 9 octaves are captured by the CD sampling rate of 44.1kHz
    1. 20 to 40Hz
    2. 40 to 80Hz
    3. 80 to 160Hz
    4. 160 to 320Hz
    5. 320 to 640Hz
    6. 1280 to 2560Hz
    7. 2560 to 5120Hz
    8. 5120 to 10.24kHz
    9. 10.24kHz to 20kHz

    In addition, 2½ (two and one-half approx.) octaves beyond human hearing but useful for recording studios:
    20Hz to 48kHz (additional) is captured by 96kHz sampling rate
    48kHz to 86kHz (additional) is captured by 192kHz sampling rate
    86kHz to 141kHz (additional) is captured by SACD (282kHz) sampling rate

    2. High sampling rates only bring advantages for studios who have to manipulate elements in the recorded program (i.e., your flute and drums example).

    My conclusion: for my 2-channel system, I will stick with a good CD player.

    Thanks very much again!
    Last edited by Forsooth; Jun-02-2019 at 23:05.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    One quick addendum... I tested the difference between SACD and CD myself, and one of the interesting things I found out is that it isn't always easy to do an "apples to apples" comparison of formats. Even on hybrid SACDs, I found that the mastering was sometimes different on the SACD layer than it was on the CD layer. I suspect that this is done to skew comparisons, because whenever I stumbled across this, the redbook layer wass more compressed and had a higher noise level. In one case the two layers on the same disc had two completely different mixes! Thankfully, I found this was only true of 70s and 80s rock albums. Classical music generally has the same mastering on the SACD layer as the CD layer.

    So if you like Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, it might be worth getting an SACD player just for two channel playback.
    Thanks for the update. Very interesting. Thankfully (in this case), I only listen to classical, so I'll stick with the CD player and hope that I'll be getting, generally speaking, the same mastering. Thanks!

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    There aren't really a lot of CD players to choose from any more. You might want to consider a blu-ray player. There are some Sony models that are swiss army knives and play any format you would ever want. The only drawback is that some formats, like blu-ray audio require a tv screen to navigate menus, but if your stereo is connected to your TV you already can do that. If you put a CD in a blu-ray player, it plays the same as in a CD player right away with no menu navigation, so if all you play are CDs it's no different. The advantage to a blu-ray player is that they are likely cheaper, sound just as good and are more future proofed as far as formats go than CD players.

    Here is one that does just about everything for cheap... https://www.consumerreports.org/prod...6139/overview/

    And one that does even more than that if you want 4K... https://www.audioadvice.com/sony-ubp...iABEgKSe_D_BwE

    The only format that is tough to do now is DVD-A, but there isn't much content for that any more. My player can do it, and it's region free for video too. https://www.220-electronics.com/oppo...ay-player.html
    Last edited by bigshot; Jun-03-2019 at 00:09.

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    I'm just going to wait until they come out with SSACD (super super audio CDs). Crank the bit rate to 11, and capture frequencies only measurable by the most advanced scientific equipment. Then I'll finally be able to enjoy my favorite music!

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    There aren't really a lot of CD players to choose from any more. You might want to consider a blu-ray player. There are some Sony models that are swiss army knives and play any format you would ever want. The only drawback is that some formats, like blu-ray audio require a tv screen to navigate menus, but if your stereo is connected to your TV you already can do that. If you put a CD in a blu-ray player, it plays the same as in a CD player right away with no menu navigation, so if all you play are CDs it's no different. The advantage to a blu-ray player is that they are likely cheaper, sound just as good and are more future proofed as far as formats go than CD players.

    Here is one that does just about everything for cheap... https://www.consumerreports.org/prod...6139/overview/

    And one that does even more than that if you want 4K... https://www.audioadvice.com/sony-ubp...iABEgKSe_D_BwE

    The only format that is tough to do now is DVD-A, but there isn't much content for that any more. My player can do it, and it's region free for video too. https://www.220-electronics.com/oppo...ay-player.html
    I had a 103 and have a 105. I was not gonna buy the 203 knowing they were going out of audio.

    Good machines but slow, lots of freezes.
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
    Voltaire

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    Quote Originally Posted by Forsooth View Post
    Thanks very much for your detailed explanation. It helps me a lot. I am in the market for a compact disc player to go with my 2-channel system and I was hung up on whether I would be foregoing any significant audible advantages if I did not purchase an SACD player.

    I think I understood most parts of your excellent explanation. The main parts to me include:

    1. “...so the CD format has built in a little extra beyond human hearing... That's where 44.1 comes in.”

    That is actually the first time I have comprehended the 44.1kHz figure. Paraphrasing your response, the CD format contains all frequencies (20-20K Hz) that can be heard by humans (though most of us hear only a portion of that range). Thus, all else being equal, SACDs do not bring us higher highs or lower lows. Any additional frequencies SACDs may contain are beyond our hearing threshold.

    This also came from your response: the 9 octaves of human hearing. All 9 octaves are captured by the CD sampling rate of 44.1kHz
    1. 20 to 40Hz
    2. 40 to 80Hz
    3. 80 to 160Hz
    4. 160 to 320Hz
    5. 320 to 640Hz
    6. 1280 to 2560Hz
    7. 2560 to 5120Hz
    8. 5120 to 10.24kHz
    9. 10.24kHz to 20kHz

    In addition, 2½ (two and one-half approx.) octaves beyond human hearing but useful for recording studios:
    20Hz to 48kHz (additional) is captured by 96kHz sampling rate
    48kHz to 86kHz (additional) is captured by 192kHz sampling rate
    86kHz to 141kHz (additional) is captured by SACD (282kHz) sampling rate

    2. High sampling rates only bring advantages for studios who have to manipulate elements in the recorded program (i.e., your flute and drums example).

    My conclusion: for my 2-channel system, I will stick with a good CD player.

    Thanks very much again!

    Classical music is currently available in many consumer deliverable formats, including Blu-ray (multi-channel and stereo tracks), Pure Audio Blu-ray (multi-channel and stereo), Ultra HD Blu-ray (multi-channel and stereo), SACD (multi-channel and stereo), hi-res DSD download (multi-channel and stereo), and 24bit/96kHz and 24bit/192kHz PCM download, plus various streaming options, and … the 30+ year-old Redbook CD.

    In light of this range of formats that are relevant to classical music, I think that any classical music lover who needs to buy a disc player would be foolish to buy a player that plays only CDs, unless you’re planning to spend $10 for a used unit at a thrift store. Why would you spend a significant amount of money on a player that will play only 30+ year-old CDs – i.e., no multi-channel, no video, no hi-res? Why not buy a unit that provides the maximum flexibility regarding the recordings you can enjoy? As one example of a modern classical recording format, consider Blu-ray: Blu-ray Videos of Classical Concerts

    Do you want to connect to an amp via analog line-level RCA inputs, or HDMI? FWIW, I suggest that you not limit yourself to playing classical music via an AVR. (No, IME all amps don’t sound the same …)

    If you choose HDMI, there are many “universal players” that have an HDMI connection, but no internal DAC and no analog audio outputs. Such players can only connect to an AVR (whether a multi-channel AVR, or stereo AVR). For example, Sony UBP-X700. (This isn’t my “cup of tea”, so I don’t know if Sony offers a newer model.)

    OTOH, if you want to use a hi-fi amp that has analog stereo line-level RCA inputs, and you don’t need a subwoofer crossover and associated line-level connection, there are currently a few universal players that offer stereo analog line-level outputs. For example: Sony ES UBP-X1000ES (apparently Sony is coming out with the newer UBP-X1100ES), and Pioneer Elite UDP-LX500. (I have no experience with these units.)

    If you need multichannel, with analog audio outputs, the Oppo UDP-205 is IME an excellent universal player, but the Oppo UDP-205 is no longer manufactured, and used units are commanding a premium price.

    P.S. Regarding whether or not hi-res recordings sound better, I suggest that you form your own opinion after listening to modern hi-res recordings via a high-quality hi-fi system, vs. “letting someone else tell you what to hear and think”. FWIW, I think that multichannel hi-res/hi-def audio/video classical recordings played via a state-of-the-art universal player, and vintage tube amps, and large high-end Klipsch speakers are the “cat’s pajamas” for classical music.
    Last edited by RobertKC; Jun-03-2019 at 03:07.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertKC View Post
    Classical music is currently available in many consumer deliverable formats, including Blu-ray (multi-channel and stereo tracks), Pure Audio Blu-ray (multi-channel and stereo), Ultra HD Blu-ray (multi-channel and stereo), SACD (multi-channel and stereo), hi-res DSD download (multi-channel and stereo), and 24bit/96kHz and 24bit/192kHz PCM download, plus various streaming options, and … the 30+ year-old Redbook CD.
    Since high bitrate sounds the same as a CD to human ears, there isn't any reason for the HD 2 channel formats. SACDs have redbook layers so they play fine. It seems to me that a CD player can play 90% of what's out there. But I agree that blu-ray players are probably less expensive than standalone CD players at this point, so even if you never play a high data rate format, you are at least saving money.

    I think he's looking for something straightforward and inexpensive to just play his music. He isn't looking to split atoms. You're making it hella complicated.

    Quote Originally Posted by RobertKC View Post
    Regarding whether or not hi-res recordings sound better, I suggest that you form your own opinion after listening to modern hi-res recordings via a high-quality hi-fi system
    And I suggest a level matched, direct A/B switched, blind listening test. They are easy to do and you know for sure if a difference exists or not. Anything else is just a guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by eljr View Post
    Good machines but slow, lots of freezes.
    They pack more and more into players and they freeze up because they're doing so much. If you want something that plays quick, a simple Walmart DVD player would do the trick. It costs a fraction of the price of an Oppo and it is fast and straightforward. Sounds just as good too. I have one in my bedroom. Maybe that would be better than a blu-ray player now that I think of it.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jun-03-2019 at 02:50.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    Since high bitrate sounds the same as a CD to human ears, there isn't any reason for the HD 2 channel formats. SACDs have redbook layers so they play fine. It seems to me that a CD player can play 90% of what's out there. But I agree that blu-ray players are probably less expensive than standalone CD players at this point, so even if you never play a high data rate format, you are at least saving money.

    I think he's looking for something straightforward and inexpensive to just play his music. He isn't looking to split atoms. You're making it hella complicated.



    And I suggest a level matched, direct A/B switched, blind listening test. They are easy to do and you know for sure if a difference exists or not. Anything else is just a guess.



    They pack more and more into players and they freeze up because they're doing so much. If you want something that plays quick, a simple Walmart DVD player would do the trick. It costs a fraction of the price of an Oppo and it is fast and straightforward. Sounds just as good too. I have one in my bedroom. Maybe that would be better than a blu-ray player now that I think of it.
    Of course, the assertion that "high bitrate sounds the same as a CD to human ears" is hotly contested.

    As I suggested to Forsooth in my previous post, I suggest that each classical music lover form their own opinion after listening to modern hi-res recordings via a high-quality hi-fi system, vs. “letting someone else tell them what to hear and think”.
    Last edited by RobertKC; Jun-03-2019 at 02:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertKC View Post
    Of course, the assertion that "high bitrate sounds the same as a CD to human ears" is hotly contested.
    Not by professional audio engineers. I've never found any who said high data rate audio sounded any different than 16/44.1. In fact the last step in any sound mix is to bump down the 24/96 sound out of the mixing board to a 16/44.1 file for back up. They always compare the two to make sure they are identical.

    The only people who say the inaudible is audible are high end consumer audio salesmen. It's good for business. More formats and bigger numbers mean that you have to buy more equipment and you have to buy albums like Dark Side of the Moon for the umpteenth time. There's no question why it is the biggest selling album of all time. It comes out in every format and people buy another copy.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jun-03-2019 at 04:05.

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