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Thread: Has anyone here heard SACD?

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Default Has anyone here heard SACD?

    I have SACD discs, and a player for them, and they sound clearly superior to regular 44.1/16 bit CDs. Does anyone dispute this, and why?

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    No dispute from me. SACD ROCKS!!

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    I did a direct A/B switched, line level matched comparison between a Pentatone SACD and CD and they sounded identical to both me and a sound engineer friend who was helping me conduct the test. Pentatone sells their hybrid SACDs as CDs to the normal market, so they have the same mastering on both layers. That isn't always the case with audiophile SACDs designed for sale to the SACD market.

    The difference that SACDs sound better sometimes is because of different mastering. Some albums have multiple different masterings on various releases. And many SACDs have different mastering s a level on the redbook layer than they do on the SACD layer.

    You can't just assume that an SACD will sound better. Some don't. You have to speak with knowledgeable record collectors who have compared different releases and determined which is best. Sometimes the best sounding is an SACD, sometimes a CD, sometimes an LP. It all depends on the quality of the mastering.
    Last edited by bigshot; Apr-28-2019 at 21:04.

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    Yes, I think SACD are worthwhile, particularly when delivering 5.1 surround-sound. IME multi-channel (e.g., 5.1) can be useful for classical music in an installation where the main L & R speakers must be widely spaced due to room layout. (OTOH, in a small room where the main speakers are spaced 5 feet apart, there is not much benefit IMO to a center channel and surround speakers.) Also, everything else being equal, a 5.1 system can deliver significantly more acoustic power compared to stereo. This can be useful for large-scale orchestral music, and for large listening rooms. (The “.1” part – i.e., subwoofers, are particularly helpful in delivering the full concert hall experience of large-scale orchestral music - think double bass, bass drum, pipe organ, etc.)

    FWIW, following are my preferences for consumer recording deliverables:

    1. My favorite is Blu-ray audio/video (featuring DTS-HD MA 5.0 (or 5.1) surround-sound). A few Ultra HD Blu-ray opera recordings are starting to become available. High-definition audio/video is particularly relevant for ballet and opera. Additionally, I think that high-definition audio/video is very enjoyable for classical concerts. Blu-ray Videos of Classical Concerts
    2. My second choice in formats are SACD and Pure Audio Blu-ray that feature surround-sound. (No video.)
    3. My third choice are 24bit/96kHz or 24bit/192kHz FLAC stereo downloads (e.g., HDTracks).


    In all cases provenance of the recording is critical – i.e., modern recordings that were captured and mastered as hi-res. (In a few cases high quality analog master tapes have been digitized at hi-res with fairly good results - e.g., some RCA Living Stereo. (Some of these have 3 channel masters.) However, IME, these pale in comparison with SOTA modern recordings.)

    Classical music lovers sometimes must decide which is more important: performance quality, or audio quality of a recording. I’m not a music scholar, and I’m not hyper-critical of a performance. However, I have no tolerance for poor audio quality. I therefore choose modern performances of classical music that were recorded in hi-res, and I find that Blu-ray, SACD, and 24/192 FLAC downloads of modern performances almost always have excellent audio quality. I choose hi-def video and hi-res multi-channel audio whenever possible – and that means Blu-ray or Ultra HD Blu-ray as my first choice. SACD and Pure Audio Blu-ray are my second choices.

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    Senior Member Larkenfield's Avatar
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    I’ve heard them. Overall, they are noticeably superior in their richness of sound compared to the typical CD. But if it’s a poor recording, it may not make any difference in the quality of sound. It’s just amazing the confusion over something as simple as the basic differences. The blind test studies are useless because they rarely take into consideration the reactions by those who may have a better than average hearing. Just like everything else, sometimes one can only go disc by disc to hear if the differences are worth it.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Apr-29-2019 at 00:15.
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    The differences between "hi-res" audio and regular CD are all beyond the range of human hearing. It's a noise floor far below the noise floor in your liiving room and frequencies that only bats can hear. Within the audible range, there is no difference whatsoever between "hires" and a regular CD.

    The advantage of said, dvd and blu-ray is multichannel sound. And of those three, the advantage of SACD is that it allows immediate play without having to negotiate video menus first.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    The most important consideration is how the files are played back.


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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    I did a direct A/B switched, line level matched comparison between a Pentatone SACD and CD and they sounded identical to both me and a sound engineer friend who was helping me conduct the test.
    Exactly what Pentatone title was this?

    Why bother with tests, when you can check for yourself what sounds good.

    For example get a digital recorder, and play back files at different sample rates: 44.1. 48, 192,,,even try lower sample rates like 22, 16, and 8 (like rap guys use to give an "aged"lo-rez sound to drumbeats). In this way, you will KNOW what digital resolution is, and what it sounds like. But Bigshot is stuck in the consumer world. He probably doesn't have to deal with resolution, sample rates, and multi-channel mixes, or know what it sounds like. People who do mixes, like engineers and producers, have developed their "ear/brain" to the point that they hear things others do not. This is where you can really hear things, not some unnamed Pentatone SACD. Bigshot, in this regard, is an amateur consumer listener.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Apr-30-2019 at 14:05.

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    Senior Member eljr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    The difference that SACDs sound better sometimes is because of different mastering. .

    I just said the same thing in another thread here a few seconds ago.
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
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    Senior Member apricissimus's Avatar
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    Question: If there really is a small but real difference between SACD and CD (all else being equal, like the mastering, etc.), and if that small difference is important to you and measurably affects your enjoyment of a recording, then how can you possibly tolerate things like tape hiss, LP artifacts, substandard mastering, sub-optimal miking, excess reverb, audience noises, and all the other things that can make a recording sound less than perfect? (Not to mention sub-standard performances!) Do you limit yourself only to the most pristine recordings you can find? And if not, then why bother with SACD when the difference between the two is really tiny?

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    For example get a digital recorder, and play back files at different sample rates
    I've worked as a recording supervisor and sound editor using a ProTools workstation. It's standard practice after every mix is approved to bounce down to 16/44.1 (or 48 for TV) and do a direct comparison with the 24/96 mix itself. In hundreds and hundreds of mixes, making comparisons using professional equipment, I have never heard any difference. There isn't supposed to be an audible difference. If there was, a red flag would go up.

    Higher data rates are used in mixing to provide more bandwidth for level corrections and filters. That extra latitude isn't necessary for playback of music in the home. CD sound exceeds our ears' ability to hear on every aspect of sound reproduction... dynamics, distortion, frequency response, noise, timing, etc. CD sound was designed as a format to be perfect sound. At first there were problems with the analog filters required to do the lowpass filtering, but oversampling DACs were introduced in the mid-1980s and totally corrected that problem. Today, there's no reason to worry about formats. Even high rate lossy can be audibly transparent to human ears.

    Formats aren't responsible for sound quality. Good engineering is.

    The Pentatone SACD I used to do the direct comparison with redbook was Paavo Jarvi's Stravinsky disc. I used it because it was recorded in native DSD. No audible difference between SACD and CD layers other than a small difference in volume level.
    Last edited by bigshot; Apr-30-2019 at 16:59.

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    Senior Member Simon Moon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I have SACD discs, and a player for them, and they sound clearly superior to regular 44.1/16 bit CDs. Does anyone dispute this, and why?

    Yep, SACD is slightly better than Red Book CD.

    Better yet, are DSD files. With DSD files, you can get higher rates, than single rate DSD (SACD). Single rate DSD has some problems (rising noise above 20K which while not audible, can cause problems for tweeters with bandwidths above 20K. It allows the noise shaper to be moved to around 40K. It also allows gentler and simpler filters to be used.

    The main differences I hear between 16/44.1 and DSD, are in ambiance retrieval, imaging and soundstage reproduction.

    Yes, DSD doesn't really perform better than 16/44.1 in dynamic range, distortion, noise floor, so, if that is all that is being listened for, one will be hard pressed to hear a difference.

    But, on a system capable of good imaging and soundstage, the differences are obvious. Greater soundstage depth, width, instrument placement within the soundstage, hall ambience, etc are better with DSD than 16/44.1.

    About 3 years ago, I took part in a pretty good double blind comparison between 16/44.1, quad rate DSD, and 24/192 PCM files. All the same recordings were used, level matched. I was consistently (substantially better than chance) able to pick out the DSD file over the Redbook. The differences were harder to pick out on studio rock or pop recordings, but on recordings with natural ambience, like most classical recordings, it was quite easy. All I had to do was listen for soundstage depth and width.

    There was a woman there, a violinist for the Pacific Symphony, (who couldn't care less about audio), who was amazing on how consistent she was. She said that string instruments were so much more natural sounding on DSD.
    Last edited by Simon Moon; Apr-30-2019 at 19:34.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Moon View Post
    The main differences I hear between 16/44.1 and DSD, are in ambiance retrieval, imaging and soundstage reproduction.
    What technical advantage of SACD produces those effects? It sounds like you're talking about secondary depth cues, which are part of the mix, not the playback.

    Can you please link me to the report on the listening test you were part of? I'd be interested to see that.
    Last edited by bigshot; Apr-30-2019 at 21:00.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    I've worked as a recording supervisor and sound editor using a ProTools workstation. It's standard practice after every mix is approved to bounce down to 16/44.1 (or 48 for TV) and do a direct comparison with the 24/96 mix itself. In hundreds and hundreds of mixes, making comparisons using professional equipment, I have never heard any difference. There isn't supposed to be an audible difference. If there was, a red flag would go up.
    Yes, but I'm saying you need to also listen to even lower sample rates, like 24 and 12, even 8, to train your ears what to listen for with "resolution."

    Also, you failed to mention that lower sample rates become more apparent when a multichannel mix is involved, rather than a sparsely recorded solo instrument by itself. This is when resolution REALLY becomes audible, because with a more dense mix, instrument placement becomes imprecise, unnoticable, and the overall mix becomes "grainier" and less distinct.
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Originally Posted by Simon Moon
    The main differences I hear between 16/44.1 and DSD, are in ambiance retrieval, imaging and soundstage reproduction.

    Bigshot reply: What technical advantage of SACD produces those effects? It sounds like you're talking about secondary depth cues, which are part of the mix, not the playback.
    -------------------------------------------------------
    I just presented a good example of resolution, and how lower sample rates can effect sound staging and "directionality" of elements in the mix.

    This tells me, Bigshot, that you do not know what "resolution" really is, because you never heard its effects at lower sample rates.

    Why don't you test yourself? Find someone with an old Roland 8-ch digital recorder, and listen to the different sample rates and their effects.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; May-01-2019 at 17:39.

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    The reason multichannel mixes show up artifacts at low data rates is because the data rate is divided up between more channels. It isn't the sample rate that is the problem... it's the overall data rate. That isn't a problem with formats like SACD or Blu-ray that allow for a sufficient data rate to cleanly render the sound. Recent DVDs can render multichannel sound with extremely high fidelity too.

    Yes, I have done controlled tests with lossy as well to determine the threshold of transparency there as well.
    Last edited by bigshot; May-01-2019 at 18:35.

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