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Thread: Question about SACD vs. CD

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 13hm13 View Post
    All else held equal, DSD is the best digital recording / playback format known. It should be ... it has the research and science of Soy/Philips behind it.
    But those two messed things from the get go, crippling their own superior format, that had so much potential. The biggest drawback, IMO, is encryption. Sure, now -- decades later -- there is some DSD avail for download, but the industry missed the boat. Like some of you noted, other high-rez downloads and BluRay discs are also avail., crowding the marketplace.
    Another MAJOR drawback is on the production end. One can't easily (or non-destructively) edit or filter DSD in the digital domain. Not like PCM.

    DSD is a great format for analog tape preservation or live (direct-to-disc)-like recordings.
    Of course, today it is fairly simple to rip the DSD layer of an SACD. The chip used in dozens of SACD and universal players has been “hacked” to allow for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndorFoldes View Post
    .....None of this matters if, say, the microphone placement was bad, or the mastering engineer did a lousy job. Or maybe the musicians just had an off day. There is so much more to recordings than audio resolution.
    right!! a mediocre. lackluster performance in stunning present-day hi fidelity is still a mediocre, lackluster performance....
    I've little or no interest in such recordings...

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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    right!! a mediocre. lackluster performance in stunning present-day hi fidelity is still a mediocre, lackluster performance....
    I've little or no interest in such recordings...
    Yeah but you would have to concede that it is easier to hear just how mediocre the performance may be on a clearer, higher spec recording
    Last edited by Malx; Jan-14-2022 at 17:54.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malx View Post
    Yeah but you would have to concede that it is easier to hear just how mediocre the performance may be on a clearer, higher spec recording
    That's true in many cases.
    some of the "old" recordings are pretty decent - the original tapes are not bad, in fact, quite good...
    for me, the quality of the playing, conducting, will take precedence over the "sound quality" [considered as an independent entity]
    I have some recordings from the 40s which are remarkably good....for me, they are preferable to some of the "great" sounding present-day productions of mediocre stuff.

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    In my post #13 above, I listed objective benefits of Blu-ray and SACD compared with CDs and LPs.

    My subjective opinion is that often modern (i.e., recorded in the last 15 years or so) Blu-ray and SACD deliver better audio quality compared with CDs and LPs. IMO, Blu-ray audio/video discs are capable of delivering a more enjoyable overall experience.

    If you’d like to read my long-winded rationale for my preference for Blu-ray, then read on.

    Several years ago, I conducted an assessment of the audio quality of more than a dozen recordings of Beethoven Symphony 9, including LP, CDs, SACDs, hi-res download, and Blu-rays. In general, the more modern recordings had superior audio quality. Here’s a list of the recordings I sampled:

    • CD (Archipel) of a 1942 performance by Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Berliner Philharmoniker
    • SACD (tahra) of a 1954 performance by Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Philharmonia Orchestra London
    • CD (Testament | EMI) of a 1957 performance by Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra
    • CD (Chesky) of a 1961 performance by Rene Leibowitz and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    • SACD (DG) of a 1962 performance by Herbert Von Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker
    • CD (Penguin Classics) of a 1972 performance by Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    • LP (DG) box set copyright dated 1972 of performances of all Beethoven symphonies by Karl Böhm and the Wiener Philharmoniker.
    • CD (Seraphim Classics) of a 1988 performance by Riccardo Muti and The Philadelphia Orchestra
    • DVD (Euroarts) of a 2000 performance by Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker (PCM stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks)
    • 24bit/96kHz FLAC download (DG) from HDTracks.com of a 2002 performance by Claudio Abbado (stereo only)
    • SACD (BIS) of 2006 performances by Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra (stereo and 5.1 tracks)
    • Blu-ray (DRS | Dacapo Records) box set of 2013 performances of all Beethoven symphonies by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra (DTS-HD MA 5.0/5.1 and PCM Stereo).
    • Blu-ray (Cmajor) box set of 2008 – 2010 performances of all Beethoven symphonies by Christian Thielemann and the Wiener Philharmoniker recorded at the Goldener Saal der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna (DTS-HD MA 5.0 and PCM Stereo).
    • Blu-ray (ARTHAUS MUSIK) box set of 2012 performances of all Beethoven symphonies by Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra recorded in Tokyo Suntory Hall (DTS-HD MA 5.0 and PCM Stereo).
    • Blu-ray (ARTHAUS MUSIK) box set of 2014 – 2015 performances of all Beethoven symphonies by Philippe Jordan conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera national de Paris (DTS-HD MA 5.1 and PCM Stereo).


    IMO, the newer Blu-ray and SACD recordings have superior audio quality, and the difference with vintage recordings is not subtle.

    My benchmark for the audio quality of classical music reproduced in my home is how classical music sounds when performed live in its intended venue, with no sound reinforcement system – i.e., 100% natural sound. IME, my modern Blu-rays (and SACDs) of large-scale classical music excel at creating the illusion that I’m in the symphony hall or opera house.

    Following are my current hi-fi systems that were used during my listening tests, and form the basis of my opinions.

    TV room: Main front left & right speakers are Klipsch Palladium P-37F. Center: Klipsch RC-64III. Single rear: Klipsch RP-502S. Subwoofer: Klipsch P-312W. The source is an Oppo UDP-205 for playing Blu-ray and SACDs, and a USB hard drive containing high-res FLAC recordings. I generally use vintage tube amps for music: Scott 399, Fisher X-1000, Scott 299C, McIntosh MX110Z / McIntosh MC240 or McIntosh MC225. I use solid-state amps for movies (and summertime): NAD C375BEE, and an NAD D 3045. A patch panel (banana plugs) allows me to connect the speakers to whichever amp I want, and Niles AXP-1 RCA selector switches connect the Oppo to the amp. HDTV is connected via TOSLINK to the UDP-205 to play audio from broadcast TV via the hi-fi. Chromecast connected to the HDMI input of my UDP-205 for streaming video. Chromecast Audio is connected via analog audio to the NAD C375BEE for internet radio.

    Basement: Front, center, and left speakers are Klipsch RF-7 II. A single rear speaker is a Klipsch RF-7. Subwoofers: SVS SB16-Ultra and Klipsch R-115SW (connected via Y-adaptor). Source: Oppo UDP-205 for playing Blu-ray and SACDs, and a USB hard drive containing high-res FLAC recordings. Amps: Scott 272, Inspire “Fire Bottle” SE Stereo Tube Amplifier HO, Scott 222C, Fisher KX-200, Scott 296, Pilot SA-260, Scott LK150, Altec 353A, Kenwood KR-9050. (This system also has a Schiit Loki tone-control. I can connect the power amps direct to the Oppo, or insert the Loki.) A patch panel allows me to connect the speakers to whichever amp I want, and F/F RCA cables enable me to connect an amp to the Oppo, and a power amp to the Loki if I choose to do so. Chromecast Audio is connected via TOSLINK to the UDP-205 for internet radio.

    Living room: Stereo speakers are Snell Type CV. Center: Klipsch RC-64III. Single rear: RP-502S. Subwoofer: Klipsch P-312W. The source components are Oppo BDP-105 for playing Blu-ray and SACDs (and a USB hard drive containing high-res FLAC recordings), and Dual 1249 with Stanton 681EE equipped with a new Shibata stylus. Amps include a pair of McIntosh MC30s, Scott 296, McIntosh MX110Z / McIntosh MC275, a pair of Pilot HF-56 mono receivers, an NAD pre-amp and Acurus A250 power-amp for movies, and a McIntosh 2155 that can drive the center channel and single rear speaker or JBL L830s in the kitchen / dining room. A patch panel (banana plugs) allows me to connect the speakers to whichever amp I want, and a F/F RCA cables enable me to connect an amp to the Oppo. Chromecast Audio is connected via analog audio to the NAD pre-amp for internet radio.

    Bedroom: Front, center, and left speakers are Klipsch WF-35. SVS SB-2000 Pro subwoofer. Source is an Oppo BDP-95 for playing Pure Audio Blu-ray and SACDs, and a USB hard drive containing high-res FLAC recordings. (No TV.) Fisher 500C drives the left & right speakers. Fisher TA 500 (AM/FM mono receiver) drives the center speaker. Chromecast Audio for internet radio.

    Office: Stereo speakers are JBL L880. Source: Windows 10 laptop with Music Streamer II DAC. Amps: Fisher 800B, Scott 299B, and an NAD D 3020 for general internet use (and summertime).

    A few years ago, all 5 of my hi-fi systems were stereo. I assembled a proof-of-concept surround-sound system and listened to modern SACDs and Blu-ray. Based on my satisfaction with that proof-of-concept trial, I converted one of my systems to surround-sound. After living with that surround-sound system for 6 months, I upgraded 3 more of my systems to surround-sound. IMO, that’s how much better modern state-of-the-art Blu-ray and SACD are compared with CDs.

    I employ my Oppo UDP-205 (x2), BDP-105, and BDP-95 universal players’ internal audiophile grade DACS and 5.1 analog audio outputs. Because the rear channels in classical recordings have little content (mostly audience applause), I combine them via a Y-cable. (Oppo has verified that this is OK.) Typically, one vintage stereo tube amp drives the main left & right speakers. Another vintage stereo tube amp drives the center and single rear speaker. My approach may be unorthodox, but it works great in 4 of my 5 hi-fi systems. And – most important – it sounds fabulous for the classical music and opera that I love. (For me, the evolution of recorded music involves Blu-ray, but not AVRs.)

    My Oppo universal players can play all types of digital recordings:

    • CD (stereo only)
    • DVD (stereo and 5.1)
    • DVD-Audio (stereo and 5.1)
    • SACD (stereo and 5.1)
    • Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA 5.1, plus stereo track, and sometimes additional audio tracks)
    • Pure Audio Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA 5.1, plus stereo track, and sometimes additional audio tracks)
    • Ultra HD Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA 5.1, plus stereo track, and sometimes additional audio tracks)
    • Hi-res downloads: 24bit/192kHz PCM (stereo and 5.1), hi-res DSD (stereo and 5.1)


    Additionally, I can play streaming services (e.g., Spotify Premium) and internet radio (e.g., kusc.org) via Chromecast Audio connected via TOSLINK into my Oppo UDP-205. (And I can play streaming services in my office via my PC.)

    Based on listening to examples of all of the digital recording formats listed above (except DVD-Audio), and LPs, on a wide variety of equipment, my subjective opinion is that modern Blu-ray delivers the best audio (and video) quality. For example, in my basement system, four tower speakers plus two subwoofers collectively provide plenty of “acoustical power” in this average size listening room. (I sit approximately 10 feet from the speakers.) Collectively, they total four 1 ¾” titanium compression drivers mated to Tractrix horns, eight 10” woofers, one 15” powered subwoofer, and one 16” powered subwoofer. The dynamic range and frequency range of modern Blu-ray played on this system comes close to what I remember hearing in the concert hall. Playing a modern Blu-ray on my basement system (or living room, or TV room system) is a different experience from playing an LP on a stereo system.

    Even listening at low volume late at night on my bedroom system, my multi-channel SACD of Charles Bruffy conducting Rachmaninoff’s “All Night Vigil” sounds fabulous. The matching left, center, and right speakers deliver a beautiful presentation of the music.

    Moreover, Blu-ray (and Ultra HD Blu-ray) classical music recordings include high-definition video. High-definition video is particularly relevant for ballet and opera (i.e., seeing the singers, dancers and scenery). Another major benefit of Blu-ray audio/video discs (Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray) is the ability to see the libretto of an opera on the HDTV screen. (For example, providing an on-screen English translation of an opera sung in Italian.) Additionally, I think that high-definition video is usually enjoyable for classical symphonic concerts (i.e., seeing the conductor, musicians, and concert hall). Blu-ray has enabled me to see concert halls all over the world that I otherwise would never have seen, and enables me to see many different conductors in action.

    Blu-ray audio/video is my favorite format. Pure Audio Blu-ray and SACD are my next choices.

    I’m not saying that vintage recordings can’t be enjoyable. I’m not saying that CDs and LPs can’t be enjoyable. And I’m not saying that music can’t be enjoyed via a modest stereo (or mono) hi-fi system.

    I’m saying that based on my significant experience with a wide variety of recordings and equipment, Blu-ray is much more enjoyable for me, because it comes closest to the live concert hall experience.

    I recognize that other music lovers may have different goals for their hi-fi system, and different constraints for their hi-fi system. To each their own.

    P.S.

    For anyone who wants to “dip their toe” into Blu-ray, IMO the following is a good example of a box set:



    Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting the Danish NSO

    • Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1–9
    • Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez
    • Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
    • Richard Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony), Op. 64, TrV 233


    Excellent DTS-HD MA 5.0/5.1 audio, and 1080p video. This box set is currently listed on amazon.com for $44.28 with free shipping. IMO this box set is an excellent value – i.e., a lot of music for the money.

    Here’s just a few of my other Blu-rays that I enjoy:










    For some composers, I own more than one box set of Blu-rays of all symphonies, featuring different conductors and orchestras.

    I also own and enjoy many opera and ballet Blu-rays.

    YouTube has excerpts from many classical Blu-rays, which provides a no-risk way to get an idea of what a recording is like, recognizing that YouTube’s audio and video quality isn’t as good as Blu-ray.
    Last edited by RobertKC; Jan-15-2022 at 05:08.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    right!! a mediocre. lackluster performance in stunning present-day hi fidelity is still a mediocre, lackluster performance....
    I've little or no interest in such recordings...
    I’m not a music scholar, so I’m probably easier to satisfy regarding the performance. I enjoy many modern conductors and orchestras.

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    Be that as it may, I am recently beginning to discover that I actually prefer mp3 audio sound more so then my standard CDs when played in the car. It may be that I have a superior MP3 player connected via Bluetooth compared to my standard Car CD player. But I find I find so much more detail in the lossy MP3 then lossless CD. Anyone else sensed this, or is it Memorex?

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    Senior Member 13hm13's Avatar
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    This is getting off-topic ... but on the topic of old recordings and fidelity .... one's imagination might be forced into an "overactive" state to "extract" more from, say, 1940s mono recording. MAYBE, then, that "handicap" brings the music and performance more in the forefront.
    Lately, I've been deliberately seeking out older recordings ... playing them back on my high-end system. Some of those war-time recordings have so much passion and violence that they may indeed be best served on acetate

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    Quote Originally Posted by 13hm13 View Post
    This is getting off-topic ... but on the topic of old recordings and fidelity .... one's imagination might be forced into an "overactive" state to "extract" more from, say, 1940s mono recording. MAYBE, then, that "handicap" brings the music and performance more in the forefront.
    Lately, I've been deliberately seeking out older recordings ... playing them back on my high-end system. Some of those war-time recordings have so much passion and violence that they may indeed be best served on acetate
    My understanding is that many people regard the 1942 Furtwängler recording of Beethoven 9 that I listed earlier as historically significant. Per the liner notes, this recording was made from a radio broadcast onto seven 12-inch “Decelith” discs, and the audio quality is very poor.

    OTOH, I prefer the 1954 performance by Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Philharmonia Orchestra London that was remastered and delivered on SACD.



    I own approximately 20 SACDs that are RCA Living Stereo or Mercury Living Presence remastered vintage recordings.

    For those who aren’t familiar with the history, some RCA Living Stereo recordings from the 1950s were originally recorded in 3 channels (left, center, right) on magnetic tape. Some of these recordings have been remastered from the original analog tapes and delivered as 3 channel recordings on SACD. Similarly, some Mercury Living Presence vintage recordings (e.g., Janos Starker) were recorded on 35mm magnetic film, and some of these recordings have been remastered and delivered on SACD in the original 3 channel format.

    For example, I own the following SACD (and the 1950s era LP pressing) of Beethoven and Mendelssohn Violin Concertos and find them enjoyable.



    The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto performed by Heifetz was recorded by RCA in 1959 in 3 channels (left, center, right) on analog tape, and the SACD delivers the original 3 channels. The SACD’s Technical Notes state: “In remastering these tapes, we kept the signal path as short as possible. No signal processing was necessary to ‘improve’ these extraordinary tapes.” This SACD sounds surprisingly good for a 1959 recording. (The Beethoven Violin Concerto was recorded in 1955 on 2 tracks.)

    As I said earlier, IMO recorded music can be enjoyed with less than state-of-the-art recordings and hi-fi systems.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoCoPilot View Post
    Define "immediate" and "open." Try to be objective, not subjective, when you translate these terms.
    I would add "transparent" to "open." By opening up the mix, the sound of every instrument and effect has more room to expand, making each and everyone more individually audible. Reverb in particular sounds lighter, airier, and more free flowing throughout the mix. Because it has more space in which to flow. Background instruments and effects have less tendency to get lost in the clutter.

    Quote Originally Posted by 13hm13 View Post
    All else held equal, DSD is the best digital recording / playback format known. It should be ... it has the research and science of Soy/Philips behind it.
    But those two messed things from the get go, crippling their own superior format, that had so much potential. The biggest drawback, IMO, is encryption. Sure, now -- decades later -- there is some DSD avail for download, but the industry missed the boat. Like some of you noted, other high-rez downloads and BluRay discs are also avail., crowding the marketplace.
    Another MAJOR drawback is on the production end. One can't easily (or non-destructively) edit or filter DSD in the digital domain. Not like PCM.

    DSD is a great format for analog tape preservation or live (direct-to-disc)-like recordings.
    DSD recording and editing is out of reach for most. Back in the 80s, a 16/44.1 digital recorder was expensive enough. A 20bit, 96KHz recorder was on a whole nother level. Same with DSD vs PCM today. The USB audio interfaces, along with the ProTools, Logic, Cubase, et cetera, et cetera one buys from Guitar Center ain't gonna cut it. The hardware and software required to work with DSD is very high-end.
    Last edited by progmatist; Jan-14-2022 at 20:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertKC View Post
    I’m not a music scholar, so I’m probably easier to satisfy regarding the performance. I enjoy many modern conductors and orchestras.
    I do too, "new" certainly isn't bad, per se....but there is a magic, a real unity of ensemble and purpose in some of the past recordings...some of the conductor/orchestra combinations were really quite special.

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    Senior Member eljr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    I do too, "new" certainly isn't bad, per se....but there is a magic, a real unity of ensemble and purpose in some of the past recordings...some of the conductor/orchestra combinations were really quite special.
    Did they become better through nostalgia? That is what I have found.
    There was no cowardice in the decision. I am not fearful, I am resolved, pragmatic and disciplined.

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    I didn’t listen to the video, perhaps later. I will say that I have many Karajan/BPO releases on Blu Ray Audio, and they always are a huge improvement over the red book CDs

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    Quote Originally Posted by eljr View Post
    Did they become better through nostalgia? That is what I have found.
    I don't think so....it's more by head to head comparison....

    truth told, I don't hear many orchestras these days that can match some of the great ensembles of the past - there are fine orchestras today, no doubt, and the best of course stack up well with those of any period....but you listen to some of those Chicago, NYPO, Cleveland, LeningradPO, VPO, Philadelphia, LondonSO, CzechPO, etc from past decades....they set a very, very high standard....sections were really "settled in" with longtime principals, with preservation of the tone and style of performance...led by great conductors who devoted long years building the ensembles towards an ideal goal....
    We are fortunate that so many of these performances are preserved in decent, sometimes excellent sound...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    I don't think so....it's more by head to head comparison....

    truth told, I don't hear many orchestras these days that can match some of the great ensembles of the past - there are fine orchestras today, no doubt, and the best of course stack up well with those of any period....but you listen to some of those Chicago, NYPO, Cleveland, LeningradPO, VPO, Philadelphia, LondonSO, CzechPO, etc from past decades....they set a very, very high standard....sections were really "settled in" with longtime principals, with preservation of the tone and style of performance...led by great conductors who devoted long years building the ensembles towards an ideal goal....
    We are fortunate that so many of these performances are preserved in decent, sometimes excellent sound...
    and how do you eliminate the bias in nostalgia during your tests?

    I have an interesting perspective on this. Knowing how bias affects what we hear, I say go with it. If, to you (or me or anyone) something sounds better, so be it. It is of little consequence if the "better" though better sound or bias.
    What I do think important is that people don't represent their preference as fact.

    Now don't get me wrong, I don't disagree with you, just shooting the **** as it were. Seems to me most things improves as time wears on. Things are perfected that were good. Things that were serviceable become good. It's pretty much the nature of man to not stumble backward in endeavor. To always move the needle forward.

    Certainly I have no quibbles with orchestras of the past. The ones you mention, IMO are as good as it gets.
    There was no cowardice in the decision. I am not fearful, I am resolved, pragmatic and disciplined.

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