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[P]
Digital vs. analog- which is better?

By mcgrew in Technology
Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 01:52:10 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)
Music

In the movie The Rock, the protagonist is a chemestry nerd who gleefully signs for a package as if he's a kid who's just gotten his box tops honored with a toy in the mail. He opens it- and it is an old, presumably pristine, Beatles LP.

His fellow chemist asks, "why would you pay $600.00 for that when you can get the CD for thirty?"

"Because," the nerd says, "these sound better."

But do they, really?


CDs and vinyl LPs both have their respective strengths, and their respective weaknesses, which makes comparison somewhat of an apples and oranges comparison.

To make matters worse, commercial recordings, both analog and digital, have not always been of the best quality possible for their respective formats. A good example is Aerosmith's first album. If you listen to the vinyl of this, you can hear the hiss of the original master tape.

You should not be able to hear this hiss. At the 28 inches per second transport speed of the high quality, professional recording equipment of the time, any hiss would only contain frequencies well above the range of human hearing. If your dog were an audiophile it might bother him, but human ears reach, at most, 20khz. Most ears top out at well under 18khz.

However, if you have an old tape that has been extensively reused, you can indeed get audible hiss at these speeds. Overuse of dubbing will also increase noise in an analog recording, because once the noise is there, there is no way to remove it without also removing signal.

A third posibility is that Aerosmith could have made a "demo" tape at 14 ips or even 7, which the record company could have "produced" the finished album from.

Their second album contained no such hiss. But someone who had only heard CDs before, listening to Aerosmith's first album through headpones or good speakers, might conclude that noise was a terrible problem in analog and digital is always better.

Noise is analog's biggest weakness. Its other great weakness is that when you make a copy, the copy degrades. With a digital recording, all you are copying is an incredibly large number from one computer to another. Each copy is identical to the copy it was copied from.

With analog, each copy of a recording is a completely new recording. It cannot have equal frequency response, nor can it have less noise, or a wider dynamic range.

The analog media most people are accustomed to are the vinyl LP, cassette, and there are actually a few eight tracks still around. Eight track should have been superior to cassette, as it has twice the transport speed of cassette.

But it wasn't. Play a cassette and an eight track side by side, and the cassette consistantly outperformed the eight track. Why? Because the record companies saw the eight track as for cars with their abysmal acoustics (much worse in the 70s than with modern cars), and the cassette for homes, with their superior acoustics and (at the time) superior speakers.

Home made eight tracks recorded from LPs often were superior to the factory produced cassettes. But with non-home made tapes, cassette ruled, despite what should have been its technical shortcomings.

Pink Floyd "fired" their first record label because the master to their third album sounded "muddy," presumably because the tape heads either had not been properly cleaned, were worn, or the studio's acoustics sucked. Certainly Dark Side of the Moon had none of these problems, and went on to be the best selling album of all time, still on the charts thirty years later!

Analog suffers greatly from lack of cash. With a digital recording, even the cheapest CD player sounds good if played through good speakers. Not so with analog. With analog, the more you pay for a piece of equipment, the better it will sound. A cheap Radio Shack turntable will have "rumble"- the rumbling of the platter's bearings. It won't sound clear, and likely will have the bass attenuated to minimize the rumble, and the treble attenuated because it will sound tinny without the bass. Likewise, a cheap cassette player may have a very severely limited frequency response and still have an annoyingly audible hiss.

In music, "dynamics" is the variation in sound volume. Probably the one piece of music with the most profound dynamics is the 1812 Overture, simply because it uses cannon as a musical instrument. Few stereos are powerful enough to reproduce the cannon accurately, and no recording medium yet devised has the dynamic range to do this piece justice. Not that it matters- if you fired a real cannon in your living room, you would not hear anything at all for quite some time. Certainly you would not hear another note of the performance, bacause of the ringing in your ears.

The fact is, even cassettes have a wide enough dynamic range that the entire range is seldom (if ever) used in a musical recording. CDs have a superior dynamic range than LPs, which have a better dynamic range than cassettes. Even so, many CDs that were remastered from analog media (like the aformentioned Beatles album) have even less dynamics than their original LP! A good example of this is Led Zepplin's Presence.

Why should this be? Presumably because you can always turn it up, or even buy a more powerful amplifier. Some studios use only half of the CDs dynamic range, or even less. I bought a CD of classical music that was so wimpy I decided to make a "corrected" copy, ripping to .wav and normalizing it.

It was so aliased I threw it away, and contented myself with the weak original. Until I could buy a better performance (and recording) of the piece (Swan Lake, IIRC).

Just beccause one technology is inherently superior to another in one way or another does not in fact ensure that an application of that technology is superior.

The CD's format has two distinct disadvantages to both cassette and LP, caused by the same shortcoming- its sample rate and to a lesser extent, using only two bytes of resolution per sample.

This was forced by the technology of the time when digital recording was first starting. In the late 1970s when digital recording was born, 44 k samples per second was the best the equipment of the time could do. It was deemed "good enough," since the labels "golden ears" (humans with hearing well above average) didn't hear any noise and the sound of aliasing was something they had never encountered. They knew what hiss sounded like. They knew what a "muddy" recording sounded like. They knew what harmonic distortion sounded like. They knew what clipping sounded like. But aliasing was new, and they didn't hear it- because they could not possibly listen for it, as they listened for the above mentioned distortions they knew.

At a CD's 44 ksps sample rate, the very highest frequency it can reproduce at all is 22 khz. This is well above human hearing- but here, the model fails. Because its 22 khz frequency response is not an undistorted response.

With a 28 ips analog reel to reel, you can record a dog whistle with no distortion, and transfer it to LP, also with no distortion. In fact, these two technologies had become so good, with a frequency response so high, that they introduced "quadrphonics," or four channel stereo, in the early 1970s. It was a complete flop, since a $300 stereo sounded much better than a $300 quadrophonics system. You needed four of everything for quadrophonics, as opposed to two with stereo.

So, with only two sides of a groove in a record, how did they get four channels?

In a stereo record, the up and down motions of the stylis (needle) translate into both channels of the stereo signal. This way an older, monophonic record player could still play a stereo record without losing half the signal.

The right channel comes from the side to side motions of the needle. To get the left channel, the right channel is mixed out of phase with the combined channels, cancelling itself out in that signal, which becomes the left channel.

With quadrophonics, the rear two channels were modulated with a 44khz tone and mixed with the other two signals, then demodulated at the turntable. This illustration is important to highlight the incredible frequency response of the 28 ips reel to reel and the vinyl record. These incredible frequency responses are completely undistorted. Were the supersonic carrier and the signal it carried distorted, when demodulated it would have sounded terrible. In fact, had you enough cash to afford a good quadrophonic setup, you would not have heard any difference in quality between the front channels and the rear channels.

By contrast, at high frequencies, CDs do very badly indeed. The best cassettes were capable of reaching 18khz without distortion, and even modest, affordable cassette players reached 16khz. If you had both the vinyl and the cassette (many people bought two copies of a piece, an LP for home and a cassette or 8-track for the car) you could hear the difference in the responses of cassette and vinyl. They were very striking, and it didn't take an audiophile to hear them.

By contrast, a CD doesn't even hit 15khz without horrible distortion. A little third grade math using graph paper explains why. A 15khz tone recorded on a CD has only three samples per cycle!

A sine wave curves up, then descends past the zero point, then curves back up to the zero point where it starts a new wave. A square wave goes straight up vertically, shoots horizontally, then straight down to its negative, where it repeats in reverse. A sawtooth wave goes up at a 45 degree angle, then back down at a 45 degree angle to the negative crest, then back up to the zero point.

A guitar player's "fuzz box" converts the complex sine waves coming out of his instrument into a sawtooth wave, or a square wave. Most fuzz boxes have a switch to select sawtooth or square.

At only three samples per crest, there is no difference whatever between a sine wave, a sawtooth wave, or a square wave. And a sine wave that sounds identical to a sawtoth wave is horribly distorted.

And here is where our action adventure nerd protagonist was right. A CD that was produced from an analog master will have the worst of both worlds, both analog media's more limited dynamic range and its noise, coupled by the CD's abysmal frequency response.

When CDs first came out, LPs had been mastered from digital tape for a few years. These CDs must be superior to their LP bretheren, since these LPs will have all the noise of analog, with none of LP's superior frequency response.

But remastered CDs made from an analog master is a completely different thing. Like the early digitally mastered LPs, they are the worst of both worlds.

But six hundred bucks difference??? Well, maybe if you are a chemist for the FBI, or your name is Larry Elison. Personally, the two dollar LPs I find in the used record shops are good enough for me.

As to the aformentioned Presence CD, it lacks presence. The original LP was recorded at the cutting edge, pushing the limits of the recording technology of the time - and analog recording was at its zenith. When it was remastered for CD, the highest frequency harmonics had to be attenuated to remove the aliasing. This made the bass sound too dynamic, so it was attenuated as well. And, puzzlingly, even the dynamics were reduced; I haven't a clue why.

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Poll
Which sounds better?
o LP 18%
o cassette 1%
o CD 45%
o MP3 9%
o Fischer-Price 16%
o other (write in) 8%

Votes: 61
Results | Other Polls

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o Also by mcgrew


Display: Sort:
Digital vs. analog- which is better? | 242 comments (175 topical, 67 editorial, 2 hidden)
Old Slashdot Audiophile story (none / 1) (#4)
by wiredog on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 02:16:52 PM EST

Insanely Audiophile.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

Interesting and informative article. (2.50 / 2) (#5)
by balsamic vinigga on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 02:19:22 PM EST

Interestingly enough though, I think I like vinyl more than CD's..  or at least how they are mixed if that makes sense?  Because I can take a vinyl i ripped onto a CD and actually think it sounds more "alive" and less sterile and flat than the original CD.  I guess technically speaking I'm subjecting myself the the worse of both worlds at this point, but for me it sounds good.  Go figure.

---
Please help fund a Filipino Horror Movie. It's been in limbo since 2007 due to lack of funding. Please donate today!
I agree... (none / 0) (#78)
by kcidx on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 12:55:08 PM EST

I only buy vinyl. Usually used, and cheap.

I record it onto CD for my car.

I think it sounds great most of the time...and haven't had a desire to buy a CD in a couple years now.

Well, except I just bought Smile by Brian Wilson because they didn't release it on vinyl the same day the CD came out.

[ Parent ]

hard-wired brain (none / 0) (#202)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:34:06 PM EST

It happens after listening to too much analog. Your brain adjusts the nerve paths to that sound. That's why you like it.

Scroll down (way down) in the comments to this story and read my detailed explanation. Executive summary: analog is dead.

[ Parent ]

Neurological aspect. (none / 1) (#6)
by Sen on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 02:20:38 PM EST

We'll be sending signals directly to our thalamus soon enough. At this level, the action potentials are digital--all or nothing.

analog... (none / 0) (#9)
by kinrowan on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 02:47:54 PM EST

I want the analog feed directly into my brain.

I want to hear the music from the shaking of my skull ;-)

--kinrowan
[ Parent ]

-1, poster misunderstands Nyquist-Shannon theory (3.00 / 4) (#14)
by sonovel on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 03:16:28 PM EST

You are posting myths about sampling. You can't just use a piece of graph paper to prove it wrong are ignoring the ant-aliasing filter. The ouput of the D/A conversion also must be filtered.

No, reat the theory again (none / 0) (#66)
by mcgrew on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 10:00:34 AM EST

It gives a mathematical upper limit to frequebce response. It says nothing of aliasing. The closer you get to the Nyquist limit, the more aliasing. The theory states (and proves mathematically) that you cannot get a frequency above half the sampling rate- in CD's case, 22khz.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#69)
by sonovel on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 10:54:24 AM EST

You get NO aliasing if the input is properly filtered. And that is a premise of sampling and is usually included as a premise to the proof of Nyquist's theory.

It may be very difficult to properly filter the input for practical reasons. But aliasing ONLY can occur if there are frequencies greater than double the sampling rate.

[ Parent ]

Oops. (none / 0) (#76)
by sonovel on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 12:32:19 PM EST

Should be "if there are frequencies greater than half the sampling rate".

[ Parent ]
"filtering" filters out frequencies (none / 0) (#140)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:43:38 PM EST

It lowers the frequency response. So you wind up with less audible aliasing, but dead sound.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

circles (none / 0) (#236)
by csimicah on Tue Oct 19, 2004 at 09:20:18 PM EST

You are going in circles. You only have to filter frequencies above 22kHz; I promise, this doesn't 'deaden' the sound.

I further promise that, ingenious graph paper explanation aside, you have in fact NOT disproved the Nyquist theorem. It may happen - the theorem may be disproved one day - but I promise it didn't happen just now on K5.

[ Parent ]

Sampling Rates (none / 0) (#195)
by RadiantMatrix on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 10:55:21 AM EST

you cannot get a frequency above half the sampling rate- in CD's case, 22khz.
It's a good thing that CDs sample at 44.1khz, providing a frequency response upper limit of 22.05khz -- above the audible range of most humans.

Now, the samples at higher frequencies may not be as accurate as those at lower frequencies -- that much is true.  But, anything below about 17khz (almost as high as most people can hear) is sampled well enough that only the most audiophile of us can hear it.  Many people think they can -- but, if you tell them it's analog and play it for them, they suddenly can't hear the distortion anymore. :P
"In any sufficiently large group of people, most are idiots" - Kaa's Law

[ Parent ]

normal audio CD is not the best digital (none / 0) (#203)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:38:49 PM EST

Just use SACD or DVD-A or a professional 96/24 digital tape. You can then forget about Nyquist.

All those analog nut cases have a point (a tiny and quite virtual one) when they're talking about how "bad" digital is. But that's just because they're talking about normal audio CD. And just because they are, after all, nuts.
All that becomes moot if by "digital" you mean 96/24 digital.

Either SACD or DVD-A will soon replace normal audio CD and that will put the analog die-hards in the same category as the "Elvis lives" types. They're halfway there anyway, even with 44/16 audio CD, they just don't know that yet. :-)

[ Parent ]

How high does human hearing go? (none / 0) (#15)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 03:20:56 PM EST

I'm not bragging, but I can hear a CRT when it's powered on, even with the volume muted. I can hear it with several walls between me.

Also, and this isn't true with other laptops, but the Apple iBook, with all its guts out (HD, CD, etc), I could hear when these were powered on also, and it seemed to be a much higher pitch than a CRT (but didn't travel as well, I had to be within a few feet).

I've heard other things which I assumed were in the 16-18k range, so I always assumed these noises that I heard were higher. Of course, not that it really matters, they sound pretty awful... can't imagine making music with them.

--
Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

Go "test" a signal generator at r-Shack (none / 0) (#38)
by sllort on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 07:32:35 PM EST

They're about $25 but not worth buying really. I can hear a sine wave up to about 17.5. Which is highly abnormal. You can, presumably, do the same.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
actually (none / 0) (#42)
by tzanger on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 08:16:57 PM EST

you are likely hearing beat frequencies and subharmonics -- I can easily tell if there is a 30kHz sinewave riding on audio because I hear its effects on the overall waveshape, but if you play a 30kHz sinewave alone I can't tell if it's there.

[ Parent ]
IbOOK (none / 0) (#176)
by bithead on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 12:59:20 PM EST

On the iBook, you are probably hearing something like some component of the power supply.

[ Parent ]
that's ok (none / 0) (#204)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:42:08 PM EST

Some people have unusually good ears. That might be your case. Not everyone hits a brick wall at 20kHz.

Even the average limits vary in time. A newborn can hear well above 20kHz. Children and teens kinda hover about the 20kHz limit. Old people should be happy if they can hear 10kHz at all.

I'm 35, and i can still hear the syncro buzz of a TV set when almost no one else can hear it.

[ Parent ]

If you listen to (3.00 / 3) (#16)
by mcc on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 03:37:58 PM EST

Sly and the Family Stone's seminal funk album "There's a Riot Going On", in any format, a very soft, distant high-pitched hissing noise can be heard throughout.

According to legend, the source of this sound is not actually from degradation of the tapes, but because after recording of the album was completed, sly hired two prostitutes and had sex with them on top of the master mix tapes, crushing them very slightly.

I just tried it on vinyl... (none / 0) (#75)
by kcidx on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 11:50:22 AM EST

and by god you're right.

I usually have it turned up to loud at partys to notice...

It's still an awesome album. ;)

[ Parent ]

Wow (none / 0) (#216)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 04:17:24 PM EST

...must be some party if people only notice you having loud sex with two hookers on top of your LP's.

At the sort of parties I attend, even masturbation near the speakers would cause comment.

[ Parent ]

What charts are Pink Floyd's music on? [n/t (none / 1) (#17)
by sudog on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 03:52:39 PM EST



Billboard (none / 0) (#219)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 04:34:13 PM EST

Top 20 Pop Albums. "Dark Side of the Moon" is the number 3 pop album as of this week, and one of only 4 in the top 10 that isn't a greatest hits compilation.

I was figuring that The Wall would be 99 and Dark Side would have fallen off by now. After all, it's been on the chart for 1418 weeks.

[ Parent ]

Analogue synthesis, Digital recording. (none / 0) (#23)
by gordonjcp on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 05:56:25 PM EST

I love tape. I edit video on 3/4" tape, because it looks good. I edit audio on 1/4" tape, because it sounds good. But ultimately, if I want the best quality recording, I record digitally.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


+1, made me nostalgic (none / 0) (#24)
by minerboy on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 05:56:36 PM EST

For eight tracks, and albums. I remember looking for "wow and Flutter" spec on turntables, and examining the Response plots like I knew what I was talking about. It wasn't until a had a signal processing course years later that I really understood them. In particular, I remember the Johnny Winter album with three sides, to insure better fidelity (the one with Highway 61 on it).



Three? (none / 0) (#221)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 04:54:00 PM EST

Are we talking about a triangular record, a double album with one smooth side, or a triple album?

[ Parent ]
Doesn't take reality into account (3.00 / 13) (#26)
by joto on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 06:47:10 PM EST

You are more or less comparing apples to oranges. The major reason CDs sound different (or worse) is
  1. You like the analog artifacts
  2. There is processing involved in the mastering that you may or may not agree with

You should not be able to hear this hiss. At the 28 inches per second transport speed of the high quality, professional recording equipment of the time, any hiss would only contain frequencies well above the range of human hearing. If your dog were an audiophile it might bother him, but human ears reach, at most, 20khz. Most ears top out at well under 18khz.

Yeah, well. So the producers didn't use a high-cut filter. It was simply a bad production, EQ was invented at the time.

With a digital recording, even the cheapest CD player sounds good if played through good speakers.

No, you can hear the difference between "the cheapest CD player", and a good one. This is because there are such things as filters in the DA-conversion, and an (analog) pre-amplifier. It's certainly not something only "audiophiles" can hear.

In music, "dynamics" is the variation in sound volume. Probably the one piece of music with the most profound dynamics is the 1812 Overture, simply because it uses cannon as a musical instrument. Few stereos are powerful enough to reproduce the cannon accurately, and no recording medium yet devised has the dynamic range to do this piece justice.

Actually, the CD format comes close, and the new DVD-audio standards certainly have what it takes. Most of the new digital professional studio equipment can certainly do it.

Not that it matters- if you fired a real cannon in your living room, you would not hear anything at all for quite some time. Certainly you would not hear another note of the performance, bacause of the ringing in your ears.

It's not supposed to sound like you fired a cannon in your living room. It's supposed to sound like you heard the cannon being fired in the concert hall where it was being played. Creating this sort of illusion is what recording engineers do, and it's complicated. It's not done simply by placing a stereo-mic in the middle of the concert hall.

Even so, many CDs that were remastered from analog media (like the aformentioned Beatles album) have even less dynamics than their original LP! A good example of this is Led Zepplin's Presence.

Why should this be? Presumably because you can always turn it up, or even buy a more powerful amplifier. Some studios use only half of the CDs dynamic range, or even less. I bought a CD of classical music that was so wimpy I decided to make a "corrected" copy, ripping to .wav and normalizing it.

You've got it backwards. If the sound is "louder" it's less dynamic, because there is less room for spikes in the signal. A "loud" CD-release usually means everything is compressed, a common problem with many recordings.

Why should this be? Presumably because you can always turn it up, or even buy a more powerful amplifier. Some studios use only half of the CDs dynamic range, or even less. I bought a CD of classical music that was so wimpy I decided to make a "corrected" copy, ripping to .wav and normalizing it.

It was so aliased I threw it away, and contented myself with the weak original. Until I could buy a better performance (and recording) of the piece (Swan Lake, IIRC).

Exactly, the CD was one of the few good ones. As an ignorant customer, you tried to "fix" it by normalizing it, and got aliasing, either because you chose to ignore the spikes in the signal, or because you used a shoddy normalizer. If you wanted it "louder", you should have used compression on a copy with higher bit-depth, or simply turn the volume up. The reason the record company didn't compress the master was probably because they wanted to produce a quality recording instead of simply a "loud" one.

The best cassettes were capable of reaching 18khz without distortion, and even modest, affordable cassette players reached 16khz.

Without distortion? As in making everything a smooth sine-wave? You know, that is distortion too! At 15-16kHz you can only hear a sound as a beep anyway. The highest note on the piano is about 4kHz, and even that doesn't sound too "rich". Your ear mostly care about higher frequencies as overtones.

By contrast, a CD doesn't even hit 15khz without horrible distortion. A little third grade math using graph paper explains why. A 15khz tone recorded on a CD has only three samples per cycle! [snip]

At only three samples per crest, there is no difference whatever between a sine wave, a sawtooth wave, or a square wave. And a sine wave that sounds identical to a sawtoth wave is horribly distorted.

Yeah, well, that's exactly why the filters are important in a good DA-converter. At 15kHz you can't hear the difference between a sine wave, sawtooth wave, or a square wave, and the filter should make everything smooth.

You'd have to have pretty fucking good golden ears to hear the difference between a 44.1kHz recording and a 192kHz recording, and the only reason professional studios use the latter is that they do a lot of stuff to the sound before it ends up at the customer. It's the same reason we use one or two extra digits when doing intermediate calculations. If you don't believe me, walk to a good studio, and try it yourself.

And here is where our action adventure nerd protagonist was right. A CD that was produced from an analog master will have the worst of both worlds, both analog media's more limited dynamic range and its noise, coupled by the CD's abysmal frequency response.

Your reasoning is wrong. If the CD sound worse, it's because you didn't agree with the CD mastering engineer in the choices he made in adapting the recording to the CD medium. It's not because the CD has worse frequency response, because you couldn't hear that anyway. If you were right, you wouldn't like those quadrophonic recordings on a stereo system either!

Bah, so "Radio" and sound oriented (none / 1) (#27)
by The Amazing Idiot on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 07:11:23 PM EST

Stupid eternal flamebait question..

Digital is best when you want to convey the same exact information to multiple sources.

Analog is best when you need good error correction. When you have a storm , what gets bad? Signal propigating through it, right? Sattelite under even light fog or clouds lowers a few DB from the normal, and gives the MPEG-2 nasty corruption "Seeking Signal" screen. What happens to analog TV? A bit staticy. I can still hear and see it fine.. just a bit of noise.

When it comes to analog, I can RELY on my own error correction.

Analogue transmissions have no error correction (none / 0) (#105)
by andersjm on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:06:48 AM EST

What you see is not an inherent difference between digital and analogue, it's a difference in radio spectrum allocation.

Given the the same bandwidth allocation and equally powerful transmitters: when the analogue station is distorted but viewable, the digital station would be still be crystal-clear.

The reason ... error correction! The digital format has excellent error correction. Your analogue receiver passes the signal on to you, errors and all, because there is no error correction information in the signal.

What you call error correction is what I call the human mind's fabulous ability to process incomplete information.

[ Parent ]

Where do you live? (none / 0) (#123)
by The Amazing Idiot on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 12:41:18 PM EST

---Given the the same bandwidth allocation and equally powerful transmitters:

Ok. Ill assume that youre talking about the stations being in relitavly the same place (same tower).

---when the analogue station is distorted but viewable, the digital station would be still be crystal-clear.

I live in the country, behind quite a few hills, lakes where fog comes in the morning, and a few other obstructions. Cause of this, we lose a quite a bit of signal on our incoming TV channels. There's 30% of the screen filled with static, along with the white noise sound from the speakers. We all watch it just fine..

Now, go take 30% of the signal from digital TV, or digital sattelite, or anything else "digital". It's going to catastrophically fail. The "DISH" unit we have for sattelite goes into "seeking signal" at about 80% signal on their onscreen SNR.

[ Parent ]

Clarification (none / 0) (#124)
by andersjm on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 01:54:58 PM EST

You can fit more than a handful of digital stations into the same segment of the electromagnetic spectrum that is used for just one conventional analogue station.

So my "same bandwidth, equally powerful transmitters" assertion is entirely hypothetical.  If the bandwidth gains of digital technology were  used to improve reliability instead of packing more stations into less space, then I predict you would be seeing a crystal-clear picture.

You're being screwed not by bad technology but by economics: 5 stations with 99% coverage brings in more money than 1 station with 100% coverage. Too bad for those in the last 1%.

[ Parent ]

I was trying to accept your hypothesis... (none / 0) (#126)
by The Amazing Idiot on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 02:56:11 PM EST

---You can fit more than a handful of digital stations into the same segment of the electromagnetic spectrum that is used for just one conventional analogue station.

Too true.

---So my "same bandwidth, equally powerful transmitters" assertion is entirely hypothetical.  

Yes, I know, but I was giving you the benefit of doubt, as you seem intelligent about these matters.

---If the bandwidth gains of digital technology were  used to improve reliability instead of packing more stations into less space, then I predict you would be seeing a crystal-clear picture.

From what I understand from the stations' point of view, they try to approach the best of both. They succeed perfectly at neither.

---You're being screwed not by bad technology but by economics: 5 stations with 99% coverage brings in more money than 1 station with 100% coverage. Too bad for those in the last 1%.

My issue with digital is something quite different. Ill startt from my basic assertions, so you can correct me if Im wrong on any of these steps.

1: All data, whether it be digital or analog, is propigated through an analog medium of EM.

2: The frequencies that our TV system, in the US, uses VHF and UHF. Analog and Digital would use the same frequencies.

3: The major difference between analog and digital would be a video/sound codec being put over the air waves(digital) instead of the raw NTSC data(analog).

4: My point of contention between analog and digital is this: If I take away 50% of the analog signal, and not knowing which 50%, I can still watch TV as mostly normal. To take away 50% of the digital signal would be complete loss of the channel until the interference goes away.

Now, with my basic understanding of the math behind error correction and sending data through EM, you'd have to send large extra amounts of data (I wont "make up" some figure) to provide error CORRECTION and handling. If Im right, this extra data takes away from the data "saved" by using digital.

And lastly, I still consider my brain to be the best "error correction" as can be provdided. Give me the raws with static and I can get a better image than the 16 pixel square corruptions...

[ Parent ]

Why digital would work better (none / 0) (#183)
by m50d on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 05:04:28 PM EST

My point of contention between analog and digital is this: If I take away 50% of the analog signal, and not knowing which 50%, I can still watch TV as mostly normal. To take away 50% of the digital signal would be complete loss of the channel until the interference goes away. Now, with my basic understanding of the math behind error correction and sending data through EM, you'd have to send large extra amounts of data (I wont "make up" some figure) to provide error CORRECTION and handling. If Im right, this extra data takes away from the data "saved" by using digital. This is all true. However, what you miss is the size of the savings from having it digital. The parent said 5 times, but that's already including some error correction. I'd imagine, based on my own experience of video compression, you could have about 7 times as much data. So, in the same bandwidth as your one analog station, you could send a copy of the digital one and 6 "parity" sets, using hamming code etc. So 50% would be a perfect copy. 1/7 would still be a perfect copy. Anything below 1/7 signal would be useless, yes. But IME 1/7 signal is practically useless with analog equipment. Remember this is not just 1/7 of the full signal strength, the rest has to be distorted to the point where you can't (reliably) tell a 1 from a 0, which on reasonably high power is a helluva lot of distortion. There is one place where analog is good. That is where some form of the signal must get through, no matter how distorted. e.g. if I was lost on a mountain in a blizzard, I would rather have an analog transmitter. But IMO, an analog signal so weak that a digital signal in the equivalent bandwidth would be degraded is useless for entertainment purposes.

[ Parent ]
Dynamics of CD vs. vinyl (3.00 / 10) (#41)
by Blarney on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 08:03:38 PM EST

I bought a CD of classical music that was so wimpy I decided to make a "corrected" copy, ripping to .wav and normalizing it.

And yet you wonder why:

Even so, many CDs that were remastered from analog media (like the aformentioned Beatles album) have even less dynamics than their original LP!

Ok. There is a tradeoff between dynamic range - the amplitude ratio between loudest and quietest sounds in a recording, basically - and having the loudest CD/LP possible. People who think that a certain CD sounds "wimpy" are, indirectly, part of the problem here. Couldn't you have turned up your stereo? But I guess your stereo doesn't have enough gain to bring the level up, or your stereo has too much hiss - in other words, the signal-to-noise ratio of your stereo is inadequate to handle the recording. Obviously it must be made louder, for you and for customers like you! Hey, just because the recording is made with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment doesn't mean it shouldn't be listened to on a $40 boombox.... or, god forbid, "computer speakers".

Classical music is the last holdout. A whole CD might be "wimpy" except for one loud passage - and that loud passage REALLY stands out. But the customer MUST have a stereo capable of handling it! Most customers don't. And if they did, they'd STILL want volume volume volume. Every other genre of music recording pushes the volume to the loudest possible limit. This involves compression - deliberate reduction of the dynamic range of the recording in order to bring the levels up closer to the 0dB maximum of the medium.

And now the mystery - why do LPs have more dynamics than CDs, when the LP medium actually has MUCH LESS (about 60 dB) signal-to-noise ratio than the CD (about 92 dB)? The answer is that, should someone take an LP master and transfer it to CD such that it's as loud as possible without clipping, it'll sound "wimpy" compared to other CDs. On an LP, there is no fixed loudest-possible signal! A mastering engineer might be able to get away with a really loud excursion on one groove, and a really loud excursion on the next groove, provided that they do not, by malign circumstance, line up enough to allow the grooves to approach too closely and the needle to jump or skip. On an LP, the occasional "red-line" signal is okay, although keeping the signal too hot continuously will render the record untrackable.

The loudest-possible LP has the occasional loud sound, a few times per revolution, but cannot be full-loud constantly. Too much compression on an LP master will result in a record that is NOT as loud as it could be.

Now, the loudest possible CD can be so heavily compressed that it's up there against the 0dB line nearly all the time. And everyone wants the loudest possible CD. Therefore, engineers will tend to use heavy compression when mastering CDs, to the point that the typical CD has much less dynamic range than the typical LP!

So the goal is the same in both cases. It's just that the loudest possible LP has some dynamics and sounds decent, whereas the loudest possible CD is basically a pulse-width modulated square wave that sounds cool at first but speedily tires out the listener.

Perhaps the new SACD format will help - its sigma-delta modulation scheme might perhaps model the dynamics limitations of the LP more closely. But perhaps not. It is too early to tell.

In the meantime, rather than being upset with "wimpy" CDs, maybe consider investing in a higher-quality stereo and lower-noise cabling.

I would agree except... (none / 0) (#139)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:37:03 PM EST

the loud passages in that CD were quiet. It was just a bad job, I've since found a much better one.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

SACD will kick ass (none / 0) (#205)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:48:27 PM EST

SACD, DVD-A and in general all 96kHz 24bit professional records are light-years better on all accounts than present-day audio CD. We're talking 144dB dynamics here, vs. 96dB for audio CD, vs. 60...70dB for analog.

There's really no comparison. Analog is a relic of the past.

[ Parent ]

Headroom characteristics.... (none / 0) (#222)
by Blarney on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 07:32:24 PM EST

It's still interesting to find out how consumer SACD records will be mastered. Right now it's an esoteric hi-fi item, so there's really no compelling drive to make the loudest SACD in the player.

But if it catches on, things could change.

SACD doesn't really have a hard-and-fast 0dB limit like the regular CD does, so perhaps heavy compression won't be the loudness-maximization technique of choice. I'd guess that mastering engineers would run into the SACD slew-rate limit (which is a hard limit) before they hit an amplitude limit.... but could this be tweaked somehow? How will the loudest possible SACD sound? We'll find out. And will it have some dynamics, like the loudest possible LP, or will it be as grungy as the loudest possible CD? That's going to be an interesting issue. More dynamic range isn't anything if it's not going to be used.... and more frequency response might just allow harsher clipping without aliasing... how will these features end up being used?

[ Parent ]

$600 vs $30 (none / 1) (#45)
by RandomLiegh on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 08:45:46 PM EST

Ok, let me ask you folks -- is there any music which you would be willing to shell out $570 for? At all?

If so, what and why? (for me, nothing unless I won the lottery -at which point it wouldn't matter).

---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---

Not me (none / 0) (#61)
by mcgrew on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 09:37:51 AM EST

and I said so in the article. However, I wouldn't pay $200 for a pair of tickets to a concert, but lots do.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Not personally...but they do exist... (none / 0) (#73)
by kcidx on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 11:34:53 AM EST

I saw a first pressing of Kniteforce 001 go for $500 on ebay...and that is just late 80's rave music.

Audophiles and vinyl nerds are a rare breed.

[ Parent ]

Mother Earth / The Hump (none / 0) (#96)
by Zerotime on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 10:51:28 PM EST

Underworld's first release with Darren Emerson. Copies of it go for more than £500 on eBay, on the extremely rare occasions that someone wants to sell one.

Not that I'd pay that much personally, but they seem to be highly desirable to cashed-up Underworld fans.

---
"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]

heh. I assume you mean 'recorded music' (none / 0) (#175)
by Battle Troll on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 12:54:07 PM EST

There's plenty of live music I would pay far more to own on disc.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Hey, McGrew... (3.00 / 6) (#47)
by ktakki on Fri Oct 08, 2004 at 10:35:50 PM EST

I didn't get a chance to comment on your last article (about ripping vinyl to MP3) and I wish I had. Like that one, this one contains a few glaring inaccuracies.

First of all, the most common analog tape speeds in professional recording were 30 inches-per-second and 15 ips (not 14 and 28). Practically all analog mother tapes (the big 1" and 2" wide reels) recorded since 1975 were run at 30 ips. Practically all analog master tapes (stereo mixes on 1/2" and 1" tape) were run at 30 ips. The advantages were lower noise and better frequency response.

Second, you can remove hiss without removing signal. Professional-grade solutions like Dolby C (not the same as the Dolby A/B you'd get on your cassette player) and dbx have been available for close to 30 years. Also, using noise gates for dynamic noise reduction is pretty much standard procedure even in small demo studios.

Third, as I recall from the distant past of my teenage years, there were three competing formats for quadrophonic sound, CD-4, SQ, and discrete. CD-4 and SQ were vinyl-based, the former needing a special decoder (it was a sum-and-difference thing, not phase), the latter using Peter Schreiber's matrix research as its basis (and remaining backwards-compatible with stereo turntables).

Discrete quad used four-channel reel-to-reel recorders, arguably the purest form of quad. Incidentally, this technology indirectly spurred the DIY recording boom in the late '70s: bands found that using a 4-track Sony or Teac instead of an stereo open reel deck meant that you could do a stereo rhythm track and overdub vocals, etc, on the remaining two tracks.

Finally, on the whole analog vs. digital issue: I've worked in studios from the late '70s to the late '90s (and owned and ran my own studio for 12 years), so I straddle both eras. Early digital did sound harsher than analog, mostly because engineers trained on analog gear treated digital decks like their old equipment.

Analog tape can take a certain amount of signal overload before it distorts. Running certain tracks "in the red" is even desirable in some cases (e.g., snare, bass drum). The effect here is called "tape compression", where one hits the limit of signal the tape can hold. Digital, on the other hand, does not degrade gracefully when pushed to the limits. It produces a harsh distortion that can, in some cases, be mistaken for the aliasing one gets when one exceeds the Nyquist point.

Another feature of analog tape is "head bump", a subtle emphasis of lower midrange frequencies. This effect is part of the percieved "warmth" of analog recordings.

This is almost like that rec.audio.pro warhorse: the Tubes vs. Transistors debate. Transistor amps are more "accurate" (linear frequency response, less distortion), but tube amps are percieved as "warmer" because of the nature of their distortion (2nd vs. 3rd harmonics).

The bottom line here is that old farts like you and me, McGrew, are just nostalgic for Ye Olde Analogue Days. I grew up with tubes and vinyl, but the day I swapped my Tascam 2-track mixdown deck for a digital PCM recorder (with its 96dB dynamic range) was a happy day in my studio. The only thing I missed was the ability to physically splice tape, but a few years later a Mac Quadra 700 running Sound Designer II (and later ProTools) made me hang up my razor blades for good (except for those times when I wanted to show someone how tape loops were done old school style). Were I to build a studio today, I'd still have an analog deck or two around, just because some tracks (like overdriven guitar and snare drum) still sound better that way. But it would be synced to a digital deck that would do 95% of the work.


k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

Tube vs. Transistor (none / 0) (#71)
by kcidx on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 11:31:38 AM EST

Depends utterly on the usage.

Tube bass amps for instance, don't make as much difference.

But no one will ever convince me a transistor amp sounds as good as my tube amp for my guitar. I've played a few that sound *almost* as good...but they still fail.

[ Parent ]

Tube amps (none / 0) (#138)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:35:17 PM EST

Tubes' clipping distortion is different than transistors' clipping distortion.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Yeah...I know...Different, and better. [n/t] (none / 0) (#172)
by kcidx on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 11:41:36 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Tube Bass Amps... (none / 0) (#182)
by guinsu on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 04:43:56 PM EST

Tube bass amps for instance, don't make as much difference.

I find that people who say this usually don't play bass. Usually they are the same ones trying to get me to DI my bass guitar. You'd never DI a guitar, why a bass? Not to be too picky, but try to check out an old Ampeg B-15 sometime. That to me is the holy grail of tube bass. I've also got an SVT and V-4. I've tried a bunch of none-tube amps and hybrids (SWR, Hartke, Eden, Ampeg Solid state), none come close to those amps.

[ Parent ]
I played bass... (none / 0) (#189)
by ktakki on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 12:45:22 AM EST

...and in the studio I prefered to do both: run a DI from the bass into the board and mic the output of whatever amp I was using. Then I'd mix the two feeds into one track.

I'd get the best of both worlds: the unmunged high harmonics of the direct sound and the "body" of the speaker output. In practical terms, I'd usually end up with a 70:30 (amp:direct) mix.


k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

[ Parent ]

I believe it. (none / 0) (#194)
by kcidx on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 09:36:08 AM EST

I don't play bass, except the odd time when I pick one up for fun.

However, in talking with people I've gained the impression from several people that tube bass vs. transistor bass wasn't as distinct as tube guitar vs. transistor guitar.

It seemed weird to me, and still does. Because I always imagine tubes will sound better. So I stand corrected I guess. I've never had the opportunity to play tube bass and transistor bass side by side to really compare...and not being a bass player, don't stress myself over the "bass tone" as long the I can hear it, and the bass player seems happy.

[ Parent ]

Apples and oranges... (none / 0) (#190)
by ktakki on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 12:57:14 AM EST

Tube bass amps for instance, don't make as much difference.

Nah. I think there's a world of difference between bass through an Ampeg SVT and bass through a G-K or Trace Elliot solid-state amp.

But no one will ever convince me a transistor amp sounds as good as my tube amp for my guitar. I've played a few that sound *almost* as good...but they still fail.

Like you said, it depends on the usage. For most guitar tracks, I preferred a tube amp, especially if distortion was involved. But I've used transistor amps for clean tracks (and even went direct into the board on more than one occasion).

In one band, when playing live keyboards, I used an Ampeg V4B and an 18" speaker (since most of my parts were bass-heavy). In another, I went direct to the board and used a small Roland amp for a stage monitor (mostly string pads and sampled piano parts). In still another, I used a Leslie.

Horses for courses, and all that.


k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

[ Parent ]

Clean Tone = Fender Twin. ;) [n/t] (none / 0) (#193)
by kcidx on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 09:32:45 AM EST



[ Parent ]
apples and oranges (none / 0) (#206)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:51:45 PM EST

You're saying tube _distorts_ the sound in a way that you like.

The discussion was about which one _reproduces_ the sound more _accurately_.

[ Parent ]

Well....yes... (none / 0) (#215)
by kcidx on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 03:58:48 PM EST

But if you want to reproduce the sound of an electric guitar, anytime up until recently, you need a tube amp. ;)

[ Parent ]
vinyl sounds better (none / 0) (#52)
by the77x42 on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 05:44:41 AM EST

because scratching on cds really sucks.


"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

Just because it's twisted... (none / 0) (#98)
by jd on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 01:56:50 AM EST

Some companies have released "digital scratching" technology for CDs. Sickos.

[ Parent ]
the old debate continues (3.00 / 2) (#53)
by pyramid termite on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 07:41:24 AM EST

the one thing that i find most annoying about analog recordings ... especially records ... is the noise ... scratches, rumbles etc. ... for loud rock and roll it's not too bad ... but any music with soft passages is just unlistenable to me ... and that's not because i've been spoiled in the cd era, i found it annoying in the mid-70s ... and i don't currently have cheap equipment

a lot of the early digital recordings were thin ... perhaps some were distorted by engineers who didn't realize that digital redlining was much uglier, but more were marred by an extremely timid approach ... in any case, there are such significant differences between the music and techniques of the analog era vs the digital era that it's not often fair to make comparisons

a lot of people make their comparisons by the remastering jobs that have been done on cd reissues ... i feel this is a bad way to do it, as i've heard superb remasters ... the beatles white album, the albums in the grateful dead box set ... and truly wretched ones ... jimi hendrix's albums until recently were reissued by putting 2nd or 3rd generation tapes onto the cd instead of the masters and it showed ... others were ruined by plopping the original mixes onto the cd without any consideration of the difference in the amps of modern equipment vs what was used at the time ... or by remixes performed by people who didn't know what they were doing or didn't understand 60s recording techniques ... a LOT of 60s top 40 reissues were ruined by this, although things have improved

it all boils down to whether the record company just wanted to put some units out there or actually make the cd sound good on modern stereos

as far as tape hiss on the masters are concerned, this is not always a result of age ... i have vinyl records where one can actually hear this ... it's not a good idea to assume that everyone in the analog era knew what they were doing because they didn't ... also, as was briefly mentioned in the article, vinyl mastering was a different art ... there were limitations on how punchy or loud certain things could be that cds don't have and sometimes this can be used to make an old mix different

one thing i have noticed is that a lot of older recordings have a better kick drum sound than today's do ... and analog equipment gives them a warmth and presence that's hard to match on cd ... but i think that might be due to miking techniques and amps, also

in short, it's a lot more complicated subject than simple analog vs digital ... there's a lot of engineers who refuse to use digital ... and a lot who won't do analog ... and they both can make good arguments ... but i think that digital wins, simply because that's the way most of the audience is going to have it ... in digital format


On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.

-1, who cares (none / 1) (#55)
by MrHanky on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 09:01:42 AM EST

No loudspeakers can beat the accuracy of even the cheapest CD players. No loudspeakers can beat the accuracy of a good turntable*. Bad turntables are far worse than bad CD players, but bad loudspeakers may make bad turntables sound better than good CD players. Loudspeakers costing less than US$1500 a pair are always crap in one way or another. -- *Depending on how you measure 'accuracy'.


"This was great, because it was a bunch of mature players who were able to express themselves and talk politics." Lettuce B-Free, on being a total fucking moron for Ron Paul.
But headphones can :) (nt) (none / 0) (#83)
by Psychopath on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 03:01:55 PM EST


--
The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. -- Karl Marx
[ Parent ]
Actually, they can (none / 0) (#114)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:15:46 AM EST

However, they ain't cheap.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

which is better... (none / 0) (#56)
by dimaq on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 09:23:22 AM EST

it's better not to spam k5 with random alt.flamewars topics

Noise in classical music (2.00 / 5) (#84)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 03:18:02 PM EST

The most annoying aspect of listening to a lot of classical stuff isn't the noise from analog, or the lack of definition from digital, or whatever. But either the clowns in the audience or the idiots who set the whole thing up.

In quite a few recordings, I can hear the whisper, or blurb of a voice, people coughing. Then there's the creaking of chairs, rustling of papers, musicians breathing heavily out through their nose every few notes (seems to be common with the violin), etc. I'm surprised I haven't heard some farting yet.

One CD I have, you can hear what must be the pianist's tuxedo rustling about as he stretches his arms out. And you can also occasionally hear what sounds like someone clicking on a mouse repeatedly. I figure this must be the little buttons at the end of his sleeves hitting the keys.

You just don't get this kind of crap in other forms of music. And it ends up making the whole digital or analog thing meaningless in comparison.

Give me a break.. (2.75 / 4) (#85)
by The Amazing Idiot on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 04:22:45 PM EST

Im a lead clarinettist in a local symphony, and we all expect this sort of stuff. It's a "performance art". The instrument stand will fall over, the music will slip, the creeky door's opened, entrance mistakes, audience sounds, the taunting cellphone, mic problems...

There's all sorts of things that COULD go wrong.. But considering that it is live, problems and interesting things do occur, and are accepted.

It's just like my Jazz CD's taken from recordings in bars. You hear the chitter, the sounds, the people talking.. but it adds to the atmosphere to the music. Only recently do we have the "Steel Box" room sound where sound is perfectly pure. I'd much rather hear people enjoyiong and playing for other people directly.

[ Parent ]

I have nothing against noise in at real concert (none / 1) (#93)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 08:28:35 PM EST

I've just never been a fan of live recordings. If I want atmosphere, I'd prefer to go to real concert. I simply don't find listening to the exact same noise each time to be very atmospheric.

[ Parent ]
Shut up. (1.75 / 4) (#86)
by kcidx on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 06:10:28 PM EST

You are an idiot.

If you don't want to hear a live performance, don't listen to one.

[ Parent ]

It's to find studio stuff. (none / 1) (#92)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 08:15:55 PM EST

...For symphonies in my experience.

[ Parent ]
It's HARD to find... [nt] (none / 0) (#148)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:08:19 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Your listening to PDQ Bach - that noise should be (none / 1) (#88)
by lukme on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 06:41:08 PM EST

It's in the score.


-----------------------------------
It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
Glenn Gould (3.00 / 3) (#89)
by GenerationY on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 06:45:32 PM EST

is kind of supposed to sound like that.
I quite like the tuneful humming on the original recording of the Goldberg Variations. Was quite disappointed when I heard someone else playing it without all the noise.

[ Parent ]
Then again (none / 0) (#95)
by GenerationY on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 09:12:19 PM EST

Technology to the rescue!

[ Parent ]
Know of a good sample? (none / 0) (#101)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 04:06:17 AM EST

My Glenn Gould recoring is pretty noise free. I'd be interested to know what it sounds like since humming is obviously a bit different to random coughing.

[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 0) (#122)
by GenerationY on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 11:24:28 AM EST

Are you sure you have the 1955 and not the 1981 recording? Its more marked in the former than the latter. Sometimes it is humming, sometimes it is more like grunting or even mumbling...the noise of a man working something out in his head I guess.

I'm told its most marked in his recordings of Mozart, but I've only really bought his recordings of Bach so I don't know.

[ Parent ]

Mine is the 1981 one. (none / 0) (#149)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:11:30 PM EST

I've heard that the 1955 one is better in general.

[ Parent ]
nope (none / 1) (#150)
by jnana on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 11:23:23 PM EST

Which is better is a matter of opinion. They are very different recordings, and which I prefer depends on my mood. '55 is more brilliant, as you would expect of a 23 year old virtuoso making his first recording, and '81 is more pensive, almost spiritual, but profoundly moving--it's hard for me not to impose the whole 'life coming to a close' feeling. There are a couple of other recordings around too (a live one that I used to have, and I think at least one more), but I prefer '55 and '81. Do yourself a favor and buy both.

[ Parent ]
the humming is there (none / 0) (#151)
by jnana on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 11:26:23 PM EST

If you listen very carefully, you'll hear the humming. It is much more noticeable in the '55 recording, and all of his other early recordings. His engineers worked hard on keeping the humming out of the recordings, as it bothered many people, but Gould hummed to the end.

[ Parent ]
Called "clueless sound engineer" (none / 1) (#113)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:12:58 AM EST

High Fidelity attempte to recreate the original performance in a recording. If a recording is 100% true to the original, you should not be able to tell the difference between a live performanca and recorded.

You don't hear the violinist breathing in a live concert, you should not hear in in a recording. As to coughing, unless it's a recording of a live performance with an audience, the coughing and other audience noises are, like the real McCoy, unavoidable.

In a studio recording, noise is an enemy to be utterly destroyed (by avoidance). In a recording of a live performance before an audience, the noise can't be defeated, so it must be embraced and utilized.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

A bit of both (none / 1) (#121)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:42:32 AM EST

Some of my annoyances are simply just the audience, I can usualy deal with that, it's not that bad.
Others, of course, are the clueless sound engineers, who I refered to as "the idiots who set the whole thing up". These are usually much more annoying.

[ Parent ]
+1 FP, Flamebait (none / 1) (#94)
by DLWormwood on Sat Oct 09, 2004 at 08:30:25 PM EST

This is the most "rational" and well though out piece I've read to date over the whole analog/digital audio issue.

Sadly, at this point, rationality no longer matters. This is going to reignite a holy war here, and there nothing that can be done about it. Pity.
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled

but holy wars are hilarious! nt (none / 0) (#137)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:24:27 PM EST


"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

just wait 10 more years... (none / 0) (#207)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:56:31 PM EST

...and it ain't going to be a religious war anymore.

There might be some debate on analog vs digital if by "digital" you mean 44kHz 16bit records (present-day audio CD). There can be no such discussion (not on rational terms anyway) if by "digital" you mean the upcoming SACD or DVD-A standards (one of them will win and take over audio CD pretty soon) or professional 96kHz 24bit records.

[ Parent ]

Excellent piece (3.00 / 2) (#97)
by jd on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 01:54:23 AM EST

The only criticism I'll make is that 44.1 KHz was not the best that the technology of the time could do. It was the best that cheap technology could do, so was the best that the companies could expect to have sold, but certainly much better ADCs and DACs existed.

The other problem was with the number of bits. As you correctly noted, CDs used (and still use) 16 bit technology. In 1990, 20 bit converters were regularly in use in the music industry for synthesizers and digital recordings. They were a little pricey, but they certainly existed.

When you record at 20 bits and then reduce to 16 for producing CDs, you (obviously!) eliminate some of the quality. Depending on the scheme used to do the reduction (rounding, best-fit, truncation, etc) you're going to introduce different types of distortion to the sound.

These days, 24 bit converters are increasingly common in the home and 26 bit converters are used in "professional" systems. At this level of precision, the distortion should really not be audible at all. That would be fine, except that CDs still use that old 16 bit format. By now, with multi-layering on digital media, it should be very easy to have "high quality" CDs which have the extra resolution, but which would still play perfectly well on non-layered low-res equiptment.

For vinyl, this happened multiple times. You had "low fidelity" and "high fidelity" recordings, for example. There were 78s, 45s and 33.5s. Recordings were mono or stereo. Different types of needle produced different levels of response. There were many, many generations of improvements and refinements.

With digital media, this hasn't happened. The emphasis on getting more and more onto a disc has subsumed the need for higher and higher quality, to the point where music DVDs exist but fail to offer the kind of improvement that the technological shift would imply that they should.

These days, your home computer is probably capable of playing 192 KHz at 24 bits resolution. The quality should be vastly superior to live performances of even five or six years ago. It hasn't happened. Partly through inertia (most consumers don't change their CD player often enough to make the format upgrades profitable) and partly through the fact that quality doesn't sell the way it used to.

I don't blame you for voting it up. (3.00 / 3) (#99)
by The Fifth Column on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 02:35:30 AM EST

Actually, I do. I blame the stupid for being stupid. Look, "hi-res" 24-bit or whatever media is an asinine idea, because, as it stands, nearly all music (pretty much everything except classical recordings) has the everloving shit compressed out of it so that it is at maximum volume at all times. Making higher resolution pointless, since nobody uses even the 16-bit res available on CDs today. Also, 192Khz?? Do you know what the upper limits of human hearing are? Do you understand Nyquist theory? The answer to at least one of those questions is "no".

A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.
[ Parent ]

Compression systems (none / 0) (#100)
by jd on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 02:57:08 AM EST

Well, I have to agree with you that (lossy) compression is over-used. (Lossless compression, precisely because it is lossless, has no impact on a recording.) If lossy techniques have to be used, then a high-quality MP-4 + AAC recording is probably the best bet - at least, at the moment.

I'd also agree that modern equiptment and recordings don't even make use of the paltry specifications that do exist. There is so much out there that is amazingly sub-standard. I am horrified that so many people buy trashy technology that is only out there because the industry knows that there are enough rich idiots to keep the market going.

However, that's as far as the agreement goes. I also don't like being patronized or insulted. It is neither a requirement nor a necessity. All it does is show that those who could make things better are too busy being childish to be progressive.

The human ear can discern sounds up to 20-30 KHz (the exact maximum varies between individuals) but the maximum is only one aspect to consider. Consider how many points you need to draw an accurate wave-form. One point obviously isn't going to cut it, which is what you'd get with a 30 KHz recording. At 44.1 KHz, you have 2 points at best (those with 20 KHz upper limits on hearing). 2 points is enough to define a straight line, but not enough to define a complex wave form.

192 KHz gives you almost 10 points to play with. That's actually pretty decent. 10 points for defining a wave-form is probably quite reasonable. I really wouldn't want anything much below that, though.

But that only gives you a wave-form. Sound has many attributes and complexities. There has been considerable research into the "texture" of sound, especially when adding things like surroundsound effects. The human ear is also extremely sensitive to harmonics, and the interference pattern formed between them. Far more so than the KHz specification would imply.

[ Parent ]

DYNAMIC RANGE compression, not DATA compression nt (none / 0) (#102)
by Polverone on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 04:48:06 AM EST


--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
Dude.. (none / 1) (#104)
by Magnetic North on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:05:13 AM EST

you have absolutely no idea what you're on about, have you? He's talking about the compression done by audio engineers to get a "hot mix". If you want your song to be heard on radio (ie. be as loud as everything else) you've got to make a "hot mix".. thus losing dynamic range and audio resolution.

--
<33333
[ Parent ]
The radio stations compress the range further (none / 0) (#111)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:05:45 AM EST

Especially songs with mre range, like soome Led Zepplin songs. Listen to "Over the Hills and Far Away" on LP or CD and a passage towards the end fades nearly completely out, then quickly fades back in. On radio, the fade is very minimal.

Or the last song on "Dark Side of the Moon" where, at the end, the fellow says "There is no dark side of the moon..." On LP or CD you have to have the volume cranked to even hear it (LP more than CD, surprisingly), while on the radio it's nearly as loud as the rest of the album.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Dude, *NYQUIST FREQUENCY* (none / 0) (#120)
by The Fifth Column on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:33:37 AM EST

Read and be amazed.

A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.
[ Parent ]

Nyquist and information loss (none / 1) (#223)
by pyro9 on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 07:42:18 PM EST

The human ear can discern sounds up to 20-30 KHz (the exact maximum varies between individuals) but the maximum is only one aspect to consider. Consider how many points you need to draw an accurate wave-form.

Actually, 2 points IS enough to correctly reproduce whatb your ears will hear. I understand where you're coming from, but you're missing a few important pieces to the puzzle.

The simplest waveform is the sine wave. Any other waveform is actually a the summation of a sinewave at the fundamental frequency plus it's harmonics at varying amplitudes. Fourrier came up with a transform for that, that is a way to determine what sinewaves will add up to an arbitrary sampled waveform.

So, the real difference between a square wave and a sine wave is all in the higher harmonics of the fundamental. A simple sine will have no higher componants. In a square wave, all of the harmonics will be there. On an O-scope, you can see the effects of high frequency cutoff on a square wave. The corners get rounded off and the vertical lines start to slope, that is, it starts to become more sine-like.

Meanwhile, your inner ear is set up to perform the same fourier transform (that's why it has the shape it does). The 'highest sound you can hear' is simply the highest frequency sine wave you can percieve at all.

Because of all of that, it's OK that the CD player cannot distinguish a square wave, triangle wave, or sine wave at 20KHz, because your ear can't do it either. In all cases, you'll just hear the fundamental sine wave. The higher harmonics are all beyond your range of hearing.

Even if you hacked together a digital recording sampled at 190KHz, your stereo would never reproduce the sounds. In fact, to avoid horrible distortion, you'd have to use a low-pass filter on the amplifier input.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
YHBT. [nt] (none / 0) (#108)
by levsen on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:58:26 AM EST


This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]
A good point (none / 0) (#109)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:59:27 AM EST

By "compression" I assume you are talking od dynamic compression as opposed to compressing a file (say, to MP3).

I'd really like to see digital's dynamic range used effecively, but they didn't even use cassette's dynamic range effectively.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

"Best at the time" (none / 0) (#118)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:25:26 AM EST

I was referring to the digital tapes they used before the advent of the CD. This was the late 1970s, before CDs or PCs (and around the time they were coming up with VCRs). Primitive times maybe, but they made better shoelaces!

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

PCM (none / 0) (#191)
by ktakki on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 01:16:27 AM EST

I was referring to the digital tapes they used before the advent of the CD. This was the late 1970s, before CDs or PCs (and around the time they were coming up with VCRs). Primitive times maybe, but they made better shoelaces!

Digital audio, whether on CD, PC, professional quality studio recorders, or whatever, is based on pulse-code modulation.

PCM was patented in 1937 (by Bell Labs, IIRC). That patent expired in the '50s. Everyone used it. Before the CD. After the CD. Before the PC. After the PC. It's all PCM.

Better shoelaces, indeed.


k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

[ Parent ]

Two things (3.00 / 3) (#128)
by trhurler on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 04:06:00 PM EST

First, while theoretically you do lose something going from 20 bit samples to 16 bit samples, guess what percentage of people can tell a difference in double blind trials for most music(and admittedly, only for MOST music?) (Hint: not enough to be worth setting up a product line for.)

Second, the first item in my post illustrates WHY quality doesn't sell anymore, or rather, WHERE it doesn't sell. You can still sell quality amplifiers and speakers, and quite a few companies do just that(and often sell overpriced CD players that are in fact no better than average components found at Best Buy as well, just to sucker people.) On the other hand, you cannot sell people an improved digital audio format, because almost every single one of your potential customers can't tell the difference. Certainly can't tell it on THEIR stereo systems, and probably couldn't even if you put them in a custom built room with the best gear on the planet(assuming the test to be double blind, of course.)

It is technically possible to improve upon the wooden pencil. Mechanical pencils have NUMEROUS advantages. Yet, wooden pencils still vastly outsell their mechanical counterparts and the lead refills that go with them, and are far more widely used. Why? Because they're good enough. That's all that matters.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
The key argument of this article (none / 1) (#103)
by levsen on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:03:30 AM EST

seems to me that "analog is better than digital because high frequency signals are distorted".

Now, I thought the way the human ear works, is that the incoming signal is decomposed into sine waves because each of the sensitive hairs in the cochlea is resonates with one particular sine frequency.

Now, a triangular or whatever non-sine signal of, say, 18kHz would be "decomposed" into an 18kHz sine signal and several sine signals of higher frequencies to which the ear does not respond. In other words, if you send an 18kHz triangular signal into the ear, what we will hear is an 18kHz sine.

For that reason it should not matter that the triangular signal is "deformed" into a sine, square or whatever the CD player does, all we hear is a sine.

Something I'm not getting here?

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.

Nits. (none / 1) (#106)
by Meshigene Ferd on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:32:46 AM EST

The CD player does not play a 18 kHz square or triangle or whatever non-sine shape people are capable to come up with. It is physically incapable of doing so. That's because each CD player has, in effect, a high-order low-pass filter that strips everything above 22 kHz or thereabout. It is called "reconstruction filter". What's coming out of this filter is a pure non-distorted 18 kHz sine wave, just like good old Harry Nyquist predicts. Well, not so pure as there's no such thing as an ideal reconstruction filter, but pretty close.
--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

Reconstruction filter? (none / 0) (#107)
by levsen on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:37:42 AM EST

I am not sure though how that is relevant to my point. Since the ear cannot hear the frequencies that the filter filters out anyway, why bother putting in this filter?

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]
Because if you don't filter these frequencies (3.00 / 2) (#115)
by Meshigene Ferd on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:16:09 AM EST

  • they will upset the following stages (the amplifier, basically) due to their less-than-perfect linearity
  • they will promptly destroy your tweeters
  • your dog will go mad

--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

You must be kidding (none / 0) (#130)
by levsen on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 04:26:55 PM EST

Don't tell me every CD player has this thing because they are worried about dog and tweeters. I suspect more like some "hi-end" CD players have it to make the signal look nice on audiophile nutcase's oscilloscopes ...

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]
Wow! You're suspect! (3.00 / 3) (#131)
by Meshigene Ferd on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 05:03:20 PM EST

That's it, we must have a vast hi-fi conspiracy at hand. There's no reason whatsoever to have a reconstruction filter! Let's build a CD player without one and see how it sells!
--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

Conspiracy (none / 0) (#157)
by levsen on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 04:55:16 AM EST

That's it, we must have a vast hi-fi conspiracy at hand.

Doesn't sound so far-fetched to me.

This comment is printed on 100% recycled electrons.
[ Parent ]

OK. (none / 0) (#158)
by Meshigene Ferd on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 06:11:43 AM EST

So uncover it. Become famous. Here's how.

Remove the filter from your CD player, or build one afresh. It's not difficult, there's a lot of info on the web. You don't even need a transport, just hook a raw DAC chip, sans filter, to your existing digital source. See what happens. Hint: acoustic power is proportional to frequency squared. You have been warned.
--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

The filter strips out lower freqs than that (none / 0) (#117)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:21:35 AM EST

A CD's Nyquist frequency is 22khz, making it physically incapable o fplaying a tone higher than 22khz. The filters cut off everything above about 15k, which eliminates much of the worst aliasing but makes the recording sound "dead".

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Where do you get this weird idea? (none / 1) (#119)
by Meshigene Ferd on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:27:59 AM EST

Oh, I know. From Teh IntarWeb.
--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

From my ears nt (none / 0) (#136)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:21:57 PM EST


"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Stop the press. (3.00 / 3) (#143)
by Meshigene Ferd on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 08:05:51 PM EST

Equipment manufacturers lie! CD players can't play above 15 KHz! Some guy on teh intarweb with golden ears told me so!

I like facts. To establish some facts, I've listened to test CDs on different systems. One established fact is that I can hear a CD playing 18 kHz tone no problem, and 19.5 barely on a good day.

Given that every single CD manufacturer lists frequency response range of 20-20000 Hz or so, and I'm able to hear most of it, I must conclude that there are two possibilities:

  1. All CD manufacturers in existence are lying bastards, and my experiments are faulty just in the right way to mask their lies.
  2. Your experiments are faulty.
Guess which one I'd rather believe?

Oh, there's another possibility or two, but let's skip them for the common good.
--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

Actually it's more... (none / 0) (#116)
by mcgrew on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 10:19:15 AM EST

Digital beats analog except for frequency response. If you mix the two, you get the worst of both worlds.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

idiot (2.25 / 4) (#129)
by trhurler on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 04:21:48 PM EST

Obviously you don't understand what "Nyquist frequency" means. You also don't understand the actual processing a CD player does before sending out a signal, OR the effects of frequency on human hearing.

First of all, with a 44Khz stream, you can accurately and COMPLETELY reconstruct any signal at 22Khz or less. I realize you don't understand how, and I don't care about that; people a whole lot smarter than you(one of them named Nyquist, if you can believe that,) figured it out, and they're right.

Second, as human hearing reaches its upper frequency limits, ability to distinguish frequency goes up, but ability to distinguish tonal differences goes to absolute shit. To most people, ANY instrument in the range of a piccolo sounds very much like a piccolo, but nobody would say this of a tuba. The result is that even if you were right about CD reproduction of high frequencies(and I stress that you are not,) it would not matter NEARLY as much as you claim.

Third, aliasing has been well understood since the earliest days of digital signal processing. The idea that 44Khz was chosen because they were too stupid to know any better by the LATE SEVENTIES is completely ridiculous.

A CD player is always going to put out a mixture of sine waves. There will never be anything else in it. Further, although a buzz box does indeed use square and sawtooth transforms, the signal reaching the speakers is entirely sine waves again. Why? Because if it weren't, it'd destroy any post-box linear amp AND the speakers in short order. The distortion you hear is from the loss involved in converting the waveform, sure, but it gets converted into a (new) sine representation nevertheless. A CD player does the same thing.

I could go on all day about inaccuracies in your claims, but the most important one is this: CDs DO NOT HAVE a frequency response problem with respect to normal human hearing. Period. Your lack of understanding of the mathematics of signal processing notwithstanding, this fact is irrefutable.

It is true that most recordings are of abysmal quality. This, however, is nothing new. In the 70s, most recordings were of abysmal quality, and there weren't even any CDs then, so you can hardly blame CDs for that.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

as a person who's familiar with ... (none / 1) (#133)
by pyramid termite on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:00:07 PM EST

... computer recording and has a professional sound engineer as a best bud, i can tell you that they don't consider 16 bit 44khz to be enough ... higher resolutions/frequencies sound warmer and fuller ... i can hear the difference and so can they ... it's a pity they've got to be mixed down to cd quality

a higher grade format will come along and it will make a difference ... a subtle one, but it can be heard

of course, with a lot of today's over-compressed crap music, it won't make a bit of difference


On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]

Ah, the last result of an audiophile (2.00 / 3) (#141)
by The Fifth Column on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:51:46 PM EST

"warmer and fuller". What a bunch of bullshit.

A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.
[ Parent ]

*resort (none / 0) (#147)
by The Fifth Column on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 09:05:35 PM EST


A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.
[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#142)
by trhurler on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:52:49 PM EST

Sample size makes SOME difference, but most people can't tell; if you can, fine, but understand that the mass market cannot, so the products marketed to them will not provide it. 44Khz is just fine. Going higher is completely gratuitous. Combining increases in sample size AND sample frequency and then pretending that this proves that both of them are too low is absurd.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Worst evar CD version (2.66 / 3) (#132)
by GenerationY on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 05:03:30 PM EST

The Best Of Free (1991), remixed by Bob Clearmountain! WTF!? Years later and I'm still angry at being burned on this. You can barely hear Paul Kossov...whats the point? A shining example of how to take a great body of work and utterly nerf it. Free's whole aesthetic was that they were a traditional balls-to-the-wall four piece playing straight with no messing about (guitar and bass straight into the amps, drummer has the smallest kit you've ever seen...something special in the overblown 'gongs and all' 70s). They sound like U2 or something on this disc, steer well clear.

Sometimes AAD is not the worst of all possible world, ADD is.

the cd version of jethro tull's aqualung ... (none / 1) (#134)
by pyramid termite on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 07:03:08 PM EST

... doesn't sound right to me, either ... although they may have remastered it lately

but the worst job i ever heard was on martha reeves and the vandella's "heatwave" ... the damn sax was louder than martha was ... how the hell did that happen?


On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]

SO right (none / 0) (#165)
by nsayer on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 09:13:44 AM EST

Word.

If your metric is the ratio of musical/artistic quality to technical quality, then Aqualung was the Worst. CD. Ever.

Listen to the start of "My God" - Which is louder? The guitar or the )@(#$(^*&@&^$# WHITE NOISE!!! ARGH!!!


[ Parent ]

I would have thought better of the Tull (none / 0) (#171)
by GenerationY on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 11:09:28 AM EST

I heard Ian Anderson (is that his name? flute playing loon anyway) had retained control of his publishing and the masters. He is allegedly one of the richest musicians around despite relatively modest success over the time frame he has been around. I saw him once with Fairport Convention (<-- I realise I have just outed myself to some extent there...well, shoot me kids).

I think there is a whole slew of bad late 80s and early 90s CDs. Either they slapped them straight across with scant regard (I'm not that up on the technical side, I just mean really without care to source the best master tapes etc.) or else panicked with regard to that and got someone in to completely remix the material up to "modern standards". Neither solution is favourable when what fans really want is an 'authentic' rendering of their favourite material.

Additionally, the enduring problem with 60s stuff is that the artists spent all their time on the mono mixing for popular release and went to the pub whilst the work experience kid did the niche market stereo mix (Sgt Pepper's is apparently like this according to George Harrison; I think the Beatles + George Martin did the mono, Geoff Emerick did the stereo on his own, although he nails the 'chicken squark'-->guitar transition at the beginning of the Reprise and they miss by a mile).

[ Parent ]

if u buy a Free record (none / 1) (#159)
by Black Belt Jones on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 06:48:06 AM EST

u are an idiot no matter what

[ Parent ]
No, yuo! <nt> (none / 0) (#170)
by GenerationY on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 10:58:31 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Errr... (3.00 / 2) (#146)
by Pseudonym on Sun Oct 10, 2004 at 08:59:35 PM EST

In video processing (which I'm more familiar with), 16 bits per channel is plenty. Indeed, for film, you can get away with 10 bits per channel... in logarithmic space. Log space, as we know, optimises use of the dynamic range for most (all?) kinds of human perception.

One of the problems that I've noticed with CDs is that very quiet sounds are clipped, presumably due to insufficient resolution (I'm thinking especially of King Crimson albums). My question to the audio nuts is: is 16 bits per channel enough if you assume that the samples are in log space?


sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
Audio is different (none / 1) (#160)
by mcgrew on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 08:31:18 AM EST

Unlike video, which has a separate color for each value in the 16 bit number, audio for CDs records the signal strength 44k times per second. Sound is logarithmic (sp). In order to double the volume you must increase the wattage ten times. Because of this, a sample at half volume has little more than eight bits of resulution. Get even quieter, and your resolution drops even more.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

You are dumb. Really really dumb. (2.00 / 2) (#168)
by The Fifth Column on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 10:56:40 AM EST

Please stop posting.

A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.
[ Parent ]

Isn't that what I asked? (none / 0) (#199)
by Pseudonym on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 07:40:25 PM EST

Maybe I wasn't clear.

If you stored log-space samples instead of linear-space samples, would 16 bits per channel be sufficient?


sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Couple of Links (none / 0) (#156)
by brain in a jar on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 04:00:19 AM EST

This site shows a couple of examples of distortion due to insufficiently high sampling rate. It shows aliasing distortion (signal frequencies above the nyquist frequency being falsely represented as lower frequency signals), and what it refers to as "beat wave" distortion. As far as I can see this occurs at frequencies close to but not exceeding the nyquist frequency. It takes the form of a distored signal which has the correct frequency but has an amplitude that varies periodically. They show an example of this at a signal to sampling rate ratio fsig/fsamp of 2.1 i.e. at the equivalent of 21khz for cd sampling, so even this is probably more of a problem for dogs, though if this signal then interfered with something in the audible range, maybe this is still a problem.

All this said, it still looks like cutting all frequencies above 20Khz should leave you with a good recording, but hey, I'm no expert.

Also, on DACs this is an explanation of how a 1-bit DAC works. I found it pretty interesting, as until you have it explained it sounds like a pretty odd concept.

For me, I think that there are good and bad recordings, and that good recordings can occur on both CD and Vinyl. I'm not a mad audiophile, but I play all my music through a respectable Rotel separates system, with infinity speakers. Recordings I've been impressed with lately include the recent Jhonny cash "American" series of CDs, the more recent Manic street preachers stuff, and on Vinyl "Hail to the Thief" by Radiohead.

A record with fairly poor recording (that I still like a lot is the first album by Ash, they had no money when they made it, and it shows, but it also shows that they had fun making it.

Here endeth my 2c.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

'beat distortion' = crap (none / 0) (#164)
by UnConeD on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 09:04:35 AM EST

Your 'beat distortion' idea is not right. Your digital signal consists of /only/ the samples. The area in between is not defined. By connecting the points with lines like in your graph, you're doing a very crude form of digital to analog conversion. Of course that result will have lots of distortion. But then, linear interpolation is a pretty poor technique for audio.

A better DA convertor would do a zero-order hold followed by low-pass filtering. Great DA convertors will digitally oversample the digital signal, convert to analog with a zero-order hold (at the higher sample rate), and then do a lowpass filter in the analog domain too.

Because of the oversampling, the analog filter doesn't need a steep falloff near the original nyquist frequency, and its effect on audible frequencies will be virtually zero.


[ Parent ]

Your argument is flawed (none / 1) (#161)
by maroberts on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 08:49:38 AM EST

A square or sawtooth 20khz wave is not a pure 20kHz signal; it's basically a 20KHz sine signal with highr frequency components to convert it into the square/sawtooth wave you know and love. Just put a square or sawtooth wave into a spectrum analyser if you don't believe me.

When they say the limit of human hearing is 20KHz, they mean a 20KHz sine wave; a human cannot detect any higher frequency components of a square/sawtooth signal.
~~~
The greatest trick the Devil pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist -- Verbil Kint, The Usual Suspects

# of bits vs sample rate (none / 0) (#162)
by mcgrew on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 08:50:42 AM EST

There is a discussion or two here about whether 16 bits is sufficient or not. For most contemporary music with its lack of dynamics, 16 bits is plenty. However, if you listen to classical, with its loud parts and very quiet passages, more bits per sample would be a benefit.

However, I think a higher sampling rate is necessary. All tones audible to the human ear should be accurately reproduced. We're not just concerned with pure tones here- pure tones are a rarity in music. The harmonics matter. Middle C may only be 440 hz, but that single 440 hz piano note has harmonics that stretch well beyond your hearing range.

To me, the question isn't whether it sounds good. The question is whether it sounds real. When I hear your recording of an acoustic guitar, if I close my eyes I should not be able to tell whether you are playing a recording or a real guitar.

I have heard a (very) few vinyl LPs this good (e.g. Van Halen 1), but never a CD that I would confuse with a live performance. I believe it's CD's lack of undistorted frequency response.

Now that we have higher storage spaces, I'd like to see the standard sample rate raised to 440k rather than 44k. That would give you thirty samples for a single cycle of a 15khz tone, which should sound sweet.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

OK, you had us for a while (none / 0) (#177)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 01:00:22 PM EST

Your comments have turned into something surreal. It seems this is now a localroger-style "omg I'm a legit user but I'm trolling everyone" technical proposal. As many said to localroger when he proposed his assembly language search, I'll say it to you: You can't possibly be serious.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Must all such articles be written by art majors ? (1.00 / 3) (#163)
by chbm on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 08:57:29 AM EST

> This was forced by the technology of the time when digital recording was first starting. In the late 1970s when digital recording was born, 44 k samples per second was the best the equipment of the time could do.

No. This is false.

> It was deemed "good enough," since the labels "golden ears" (humans with hearing well above average) didn't hear any noise and the sound of aliasing was something they had never encountered.

This is wrong again. You said it yourself, most people can only hear up to 18kHz. After you determine that the 44.1kHz sample rate comes pretty straightforward, give or take a few Hz for fun margin.

> At a CD's 44 ksps sample rate, the very highest frequency it can reproduce at all is 22 khz. This is well above human hearing- but here, the model fails. Because its 22 khz frequency response is not an undistorted response.

First, "ksps" doesn't exist, Second "khz" doesn't exist either. After, when people say 18kHz (19 actually) is all you can hear it really is all you can hear. Finito, kaput, no frequencies above that. No higher time resolution. 19kHz is all you got, if you're hearing a 19kHz square wave you actually hear a *badly* distorted square wave and in fact you can't tell it apart from a 18kHz sin or saw wave. In fact, above 16kHz or so everything sounds about the same to most people and you can't actually tell apart the pitch, only the volume, but since the perceived volume depends on the pitch it's really easy to get you fooled.

> By contrast, a CD doesn't even hit 15khz without horrible distortion. A little third grade math using graph paper explains why.

If all you reached is third grade this might impress you.

> A 15khz tone recorded on a CD has only three samples per cycle!

This sentence makes no sense.

> A sawtooth wave goes up at a 45 degree angle, then back down at a 45 degree angle to the negative crest, then back up to the zero point.

No, that's a triangular wave. A saw wave looks like a wood saw.

> A guitar player's "fuzz box" converts the complex sine waves coming out of his instrument

Actually, a guitar output is quite simple, not complex at all. You just made that up to make the sentence look more impressive.

> At only three samples per crest, there is no difference whatever between a sine wave, a sawtooth wave, or a square wave. And a sine wave that sounds identical to a sawtoth wave is horribly distorted.

I've explained why you're wrong. Now I'll change the way you look at your turntable: you never actually hear a square wave, a pure square wave doesn't exist for you. The pre and post masquing efects of the hear totally destroy the wave form even if it's quite inside the earing range.

> Like the early digitally mastered LPs, they are the worst of both worlds.

Are you insane ? You actually believe digital studio equipment are CD quality ?

I'll won't talk about dinamic range as that depends greatly on the stuff used to create the analogue media. I'll point you don't have any numbers for analogue media dinamic range, maybe because most analogue media dinamic range is actually crap, and not highend audio kit isn't much better.

-- if you don't agree reply don't moderate --

"A guitar's output is quite simple" (none / 0) (#174)
by ghjm on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 12:27:51 PM EST

Sure, it's just a sine wave per string, which is why 6-op FM synthesizers like the Yamaha DX7 were capable of reproducing a completely accurate guitar sound, back in the early 80s.

Right?

If not, then you're an idiot. If a guitar's output were "quite simple" then guitarists would not collectivley spend millions of hours and dollars searching for the ultimate, perfect sound.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Yes it is. (none / 0) (#238)
by chbm on Wed Oct 27, 2004 at 11:55:30 AM EST

Compared to the crap digital synths can churn out ? Simple simple simple.

Save one year of salary and go buy an osciloscope.

-- if you don't agree reply don't moderate --
[ Parent ]

analog vs digital (none / 0) (#166)
by pelliott on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 09:38:36 AM EST

Of course the practice of compressing sound to make it sound loader is excretable. That is what volume controls are for. However this is not really a criticism of digital, it is a criticism of modern editing practices! You can not run a direct double blind test of analog vs digital because analog introduces changes of its own. Rumble, tape hiss, and less dynamic range. People who have grown accustomed to analog may grow to LIKE these changes! Yet there are people who insist that digital introduces subtile negative changes and there are people who debunk this claim. I believe the solution would be double blind test of analog vs a properly done digital recording of the same analog signal. That is, compare the sound of your vinyl record vs a digital recording OF THE SAME VINYL RECORD. In this way, the effects of the analog will appear in both signals equally and the differences should be solely due to digital. The volume should be carefully made equal. If the audiophile can not tell the difference then the debunkers are right! If the audiophiles can tell the difference then maybe the audiophiles are right!
---- There is no Religion Higher than Truth.
Regarding the whole sample bits/sample rate bit. (none / 0) (#167)
by Silh on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 09:57:12 AM EST

I don't remember where I was reading this, but given the choice of of changing any of the two, you would taker the higher sample rate. I vaguely remember reading a comment that given a high enough sample rate and some good dithering, you could reproduce the original signal with just a single bit. Think about the process old games used to send digital audio to the 1-bit PC speaker, though the sampling rate you could use there was quite limited (as was the dynamic range of a typical PC piezoelectric beeper).

Is 16 bits enough? It probably can be for most people's listening purposes, if the recording and mastering is well done and dithered down to the final 16 bits product. Whether all final recordings are done this way is, of course, another question...

(Obviously when recording/mixing you're going to want the highest bit and sampling rates that you can, since you don't want to dither until the final mixdown, and you only dither downwards anyhow.)


Doesn't matter. (none / 0) (#233)
by mindstrm on Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 01:13:13 PM EST

Most devices nowadays use 1-bit sampling at higher rates, and then convert anyway. Chances are your CD player, alhtough it reads 44/16 samples, actually feeds 1-bit samples to the dac at a much higher rate.

The whole oversampling/upsampling thing is about pushing quantization noise way up in the spectrum so it can be filtered out gently.

[ Parent ]

The 1812 overture (3.00 / 6) (#173)
by ghjm on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 12:15:34 PM EST

When performed with cannon, one would not usually expect the cannon to be located in the orchestra pit. It would be offstage but nearby. For example, were you to stage a performance (with cannon) in the Citadel, you would seat the audience in the rotunda and fire the cannon from the palisades. (Timing is everything, as you want the crash of the cannon to arrive at the rotunda in time with the music, which means firing the cannon several seconds before the fusiliers hear the "right" spot in the music.)

As a result, it is inaccurate to compare the dynamic range of the 1812 overture to firing a cannon in your living room, with the ringing ears and deafness that would result. Even if your sound reinforcement gear could handle the dynamic range, you would not be reproducing any sort of accurate performance.

-Graham

Yeah, (none / 0) (#220)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 04:46:55 PM EST

but it's a cool idea. I keep trying to tell my wife that it should sound like the Who are playing in the back seat, but I'll have to try the 1812 argument. Compared to artillery, even Bargain sounds like a lullaby.

[ Parent ]
Quantization Noise (none / 1) (#179)
by frankwork on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 01:27:26 PM EST

The only really technically solid argument I've heard for analog being a more faithful reproduction (in an audible way) is quantization noise in passages with a large dynamic range.

CD audio is a 16-bit linear representation of the audio signal. But human ears (and hence the things they tend to like to listen to) are logarithmic. That is, it takes something like a tenfold louder sound (in terms of signal amplitude) to be perceived as twice as loud.

So while you have the full 16 bits of resolution for a loud passage, you might only have 4 or 5 bits to work with during the quiet passages. Dithering can minimize this to some degree, but it's likely still audible to someone who knows what to listen for.

On Nyquist and hearing limits (none / 1) (#181)
by gidds on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 04:13:56 PM EST

Okay, so everyone's posting all the same stuff as always... Boiling down to 'analogue can store much higher frequencies' vs 'CD can store everything you can hear'.

But there's one point I haven't seen anyone post yet, and I think it's relevant. (I'm no sound engineer, just a reasonably-well-informed muso. With A-Level Physics, if that matters. But I read about this on a web site that seemed to know what it was talking about, and it makes sense to me.)

It's true that CDs can't store frequencies above 22.1kHz, but that shouldn't be a problem. The problem is that eliminating all frequencies above that also affects lower frequencies too. You need to make sure that your signal has absolutely nothing above that cut-off point, otherwise digitising it will result in aliasing. But there's no filter which can do that and not affect the rest as well. A sharp, 'brick-wall' filter will change the phase of lower frequencies; a gentler filter must roll off lots of the lower frequencies too. Maybe it's these effects that people don't like in CD sound?

A related point is that sound travels about 7mm in the time between CD samples. So the 'spatial resolution' is quite coarse. This relates to the loss of phase information at frequencies approaching the cut-off. Maybe this produces audible artefacts too?

As I said, I'm no expert, so I don't know how large these effects may be in practice. But they're worth considering.

Andy/

Filters. (none / 1) (#185)
by Meshigene Ferd on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 06:27:03 PM EST

It's hard, although not impossible, to make a good (and expensive) analogue anti-alias filter. But today most everybody (except a few woodooaudiophile-oriented companies) do the filtering in digital domain.

That is, the signal is sampled at much higher frequency that CDs can store, which allows for a very gentle filter, or none at all. Then it's digitally filtered and downsampled to the CD sample rate. A DSP can approximate the ideal anti-aliasing filter much better than a bunch of analog components.

I'm not quite sure what to make of your spatial resolution talk. Learn what our good friend Nyquist has to say: we can sample the input, and then reconstruct it precisely (not over half sampling frequency blah blah). The output bears no evidence or signature or fingerprint of the sampling process (other than quantisation noise, which is a separate issue).
--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

LP's --> CD -->SA-CD forgot about that? (none / 0) (#184)
by smurf975 on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 05:32:48 PM EST

I agree with many of the article submitters comments.

But being of the CD age, I never really saw and LP in my life time it was all cassetes and CD's for me and now MP3's, I'm not sure if I'm the best source to agree.

But what the author says about CD's vs LP's makes me think about MP3's vs CD's. Sciencetists say that you shouldn't hear a difference between a 128k MP3 (today depending on the format 96k,64k) and a CD. Well I do. Even if I rip my CD's at 320K I hear the difference. Please keep in mind I'm using pretty good headphones to establish this. As I agree that on a $5 headphone you will hear no difference.

I have no word for the difference that I hear between a quality mp3 and a CD. Personally I call the difference boombastic. As thats the only word that comes to mind to me. So MP3's miss the boombastic sounds of an CD.

I'll bet that it will be worse I have had LP's and a class A amplifier.
---

But to be honest, the author seems to have forgotten the new and upcoming cd format SA-CD. Super Audio CD, that samples music at 96Khz. Isn't that a good in between?

Read about SA-CD here:http://www.timefordvd.com/tutorial/SACDOverview.shtml

320 kbit/s (none / 1) (#187)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 07:38:38 PM EST

No, you don't hear a difference between CD and 320 kbit/s MP3. You're either using a bad encoder or you're lying. Most people cannot distinguish 192 kbit/s MP3 from uncompressed audio, and pretty much nobody can distinguish 256kbit/s or 320kbit/s. Don't take my word for it, rip your favorite CD, download ABCHR and do some testing yourself. Just make sure to encode with a good version of LAME such as 3.90.3 or 3.96.1.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
disk space (none / 0) (#192)
by gizzlon on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 04:49:42 AM EST

Or you can realize that disk space is cheap, (0.5$ a GB?)

Lets say you have 200 cds, thats maybe 60$ worth of disk space .. or 30-40 if you compress to something lossless like flac (http://flac.sf.net/)

For me, MP3s are not worth the cpu time :)
g
[ Parent ]

You misunderstand (none / 0) (#217)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 04:19:33 PM EST

I'm not arguing that people should use MP3 at any given bitrate, merely pointing out a very annoying misconception about MP3 quality. Draw whatever conclusions you like. By all means, use FLAC if you want to. Although if you do want to talk about disk space, remember that portable players, as well as backup devices, don't have the luxury of cheap storage. I play MP3 CD's in my car, mostly around 192kbit/s, now I use VBR ~128 kbit/s with LAME 3.96.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Sorry 'bout the late post, but... (none / 0) (#237)
by Lord Snott on Wed Oct 20, 2004 at 01:16:02 AM EST

I just have to ask - What the hell kind of scientist says 128kbps MP3 sounds like CD audio? Where does this scientist work? ACME Labs?

128k MP3's sound like crap. I've heard very good quality MP3's encoded at 192k, but even then, you can tell it's not CD quality.

Slightly off-topic, but speaking as a sinesthete, MP3's have a bluey/green tinge to them. AT teh same bitrate, Ogg Vorbis sounds better, they have a pale yellow tinge. When I hear either type, I can clearly see the compression.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]

Yes! "The Dark Side" LP sounded better (none / 1) (#186)
by BaldBass on Mon Oct 11, 2004 at 07:05:35 PM EST

...because it was 30 years ago and I was 30 years yonger...

The rest is mostly crap.

Your ears were better (none / 0) (#226)
by mcgrew on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 08:22:48 PM EST

Grampa!

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

analog is dead (3.00 / 2) (#196)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 12:38:47 PM EST

...and what you witness nowadays are the last spasms of the beheaded body.

There might be some discussions about "analog vs digital" if by "digital" you mean "audio CD", which is sampled at 44.1kHz and has 16bit depth, which is typically known as the 44/16 format.
There can be no discussion if by "digital" you mean the upcoming standards such as SACD (Super Audio CD) or DVD-A (DVD Audio), etc. which are generally sampled at 96kHz and have 24bit depth. 96/24 is essentially the quality of many studio master records nowadays (some studios are migrating to 192kHz). There can be no perceivable distortion, artifacts or quality loss (not by the human ear anyway) at 96/24.
Once the new digital standards will take over, there will be no rational way to argue in favour of analog.

Even currently, when "digital" means 44/16, even if the 44/16 format might have, under certain conditions, some distortions perceivable by the human ear, i still think digital is better than analog, i still think the best analog records are not as good as digital.
What happens is that the current analog fans have their ears trained to forgive the analog artifacts, because that's what they used for years. Their brains are simply biased towards the "analog sound".
44/16 may have some artifacts perceivable by experts, but unfortunately even the best analog records modify the sound a lot more. Vinyl has a lot more distortion than pretty much any other media, and tape is not too linear either. 44/16 may distort very high frequencies, but analog distorts everything. 44/16 may have a "stepping effect" that experts may perceive (because, as some argue, only 16 bits are not enough for smooth reproduction) but vinyl transforms all dust bits into pops and clicks perceivable by everyone but the deaf.

In any case, analog is dead. It's clunky, it decays in time, it loses quality at every processing step, it's fragile, it's big, non-portable, etc.
The current digital standards may have their own shortcomings, but for "fresh ears", not biased by decades of listening to hissy and poppy vinyl, it sounds at least as good if not better than analog. The emerging digital standars are even better.

I disagree (none / 1) (#198)
by nicka on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 01:39:48 PM EST

I'm sorry but you're mostly wrong on this. For one thing analog is not dead, it's just been surpassed by way more convenience. But convenience is not what this article is about, it's about which is *better*. Obviously, that's totally subjective but I dare you to try it for yourself on comparably priced equipment! Up to about $700 (source only) CD is going to sound better but from that point up, a turntable will play music better, I guarantee it. Just be prepared to put more effort into it. Sound is analog, it makes sense to hear it that way as well.

[ Parent ]
typical (3.00 / 2) (#200)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:19:53 PM EST

That's a typical opinion from an analog fan. You're not alone. Unfortunately, both subjective (unbiased subjective!) and, more important, objective tests (numbers) are not on your side.

And yes, i was speaking about which one is better.

If analog was better, all music studios would record on analog. Unfortunately, _all_of_them_, no exceptions, record on 96/24 digital, some of them on 192/24.
If analog was better, there would be a market for analog records and gear which would be stable, albeit small. Unfortunately, that marked is stable only in the sense that it's steadily decreasing.
If analog was better, there will be a uniform distribution of people which would consider analog... well... better. Unfortunately, pretty much all analog fans are rather old types which spent years if not decades listening to analog.

What happens to the (dwindling) numbers of analog die-hards is that, after years and maybe decades of listening exclusively to analog records, their brains got hard-wired to the "analog sound".
The so-called "warmth" of the analog sound is just the way the brain perceives a sound that's distorted in a certain way - the tape, especially, being non-linear, creates low-order harmonics that are perceived as "warm sound"; that effect is quite easily achievable through electronic means in a (yes) digital environment. There are boxes that you can buy and insert in the digital stream that will add "warmth" to the sound through means of adding low-order harmonics (i.e. distorting the sound).
The sound of an expensive turntable that you mention is not "better", it's just more pleasant (familiar) to the brain that got used to it after a long time of usage.
There is no doubt that unbiased, "fresh" ears will choose digital records over analog in any sound quality test.

Again, i am willing to discuss analog vs digital strictly when by "digital" we mean 44/16. Even then analog doesn't stand a chance, but it's not like 44/16 is perfect, so yeah, let's have a nice rational argument.
But a point of view that questions the sound of the 96/24 digital can be summarily dismissed as purely dogmatic, religious-nut-speak type of thing. Here's why:

1. The dynamic range of a 24bit system is orders of magnitude bigger than that of the human ears (144dB vs 120dB) and well beyond the noise limit imposed by quantum physics to most HiFi gear. Even the human ears are pretty damn close to all kinds of physical limits: the quietest sound that can be perceived by the normal ear implies a movement of the eardrum that's not bigger than 1/4 the size of the hydrogen molecule! Yes, that is accurate. And 96/24 digital is 24dB better than that (approx 16x in absolute terms).
Compare that to 70dB of the typical "good" tapes or similar values for vinyl.
Even 16bit digital (normal audio CD) has a "puny" 96dB dynamics, which is way better than anything analog.
Mind you, every 6dB increase means 2x in absolute values. 20dB means an order of magnitude. That brings 24bit digital more than 3 orders of magnitude above the best analog sources.
144dB means 1.6x10^7 (16 million). 96dB means 65k. 70dB means 3000.

Bottom line:
Analog source, the most intense sound can only be 3000 times bigger than the inherent noise of the source. Compare that to 16 million of the 96/24 digital.

2. Distortions, the favourite scapegoat of the analog die-hards.
It is often quoted that 44/16 digital (audio CD) has "distortions", especially in the high frequencies. That is true, however:
- distortion means higher harmonics are added to the sound; in the case of high frequencies, those harmonics are ultrasonic, therefore cannot be perceived. Yes, the shape of the wave is dented, but those dents are not perceived by humans. Cats and dogs on the other hand... :-)
- unfortunately, analog sources are much more distorted than digital _at_any_frequency_. That is true regardless of how you define and measure distortions. And it's an orders-of-magnitude difference. Just look at the wave on the osciloscope. Just look at the in/out response of the typical magnetic tape, it's not even a straight line, it's an S-shaped _curve_ ferchrissake! Just think of all the variables involved in the movement of a vinyl reader coil (turntable).
Yes, i am aware of the Shannon limit and all the damage that is does to >10kHz sounds on 44/16 digital. But i'm willing to take that in consideration just because the wave shape looks bad on oscilloscope; in fact, all the "damage" is in the ultrasonic domain and therefore not audible. If you filter out the "Shannon damage" (which is what the ear/brain complex does), the result is a perfect shape.
The 96/24 digital has no distortion to speak of in the >10kHz range. And let's not even mention 192/24 digital.
Meanwhile, analog tortures the sound so bad it's unrecognizable on the screen - have you looked at an analog source with an oscilloscope? I did, and i am not making up, the wave is beyond recognition. It's just because the brain is a pretty smart computer that you recognize the sound.

As for the subjective tests... Well, they're subjective. I can talk all day about how clean the digital records sound to my ears, you can talk all day about how much you like the sound of your analog rig that costs as much as an elegant car. But we won't reach any conclusion.
However, there is one objectifiable test even here. Noise. You can hear the noise of an analog source pretty clear. Even a tape has a fairly distinct hiss. You must be deaf to not hear it at strong listening levels.
By comparison, even a 44/16 digital source does not have any hiss to speak of. In order to hear the hiss of a 44/16 digital record, you have to:
- have an excellent power amp w.r.t. sound-to-noise ratio (so the amp does not have more noise than the CD itself, which is pretty rare)
- turn the volume up so much that the most powerful sounds will sound louder than a jackhammer (this is not just a way of speaking, the jackhammer is at 90dB, while the CD noise is 96dB below, so there's a 6dB difference) and most likely will blow off your speakers. Can your rig be louder than a jackhammer, honestly? If not, you won't hear any CD noise regardless of what you do. OTOH, you know you can hear the noise of all your analog sources pretty well.
As for vinyl, a few bits of dust are enough to transform it into a horrible mess. Let's not even discuss it.
The 96/24 digital, by comparison, i don't think you can measure the noise even in a lab. You can compute it, that's true, but you won't pick it up in an actual measurement - it will get drowned in the noise of any analog stage that happens to get in the way.

Analog _is_dead_. It served its purpose, but now it's time to move on. Just for the sake of politeness, i would engage in an argument with an analog nut if the discussion questions the 44/16 digital (although that's just to make the poor old guy feel good), but i wouldn't bother to do so if it's about 96/24 digital. That would amount to arguing with the Flat Earth nut cases. Just say no. :-)

[ Parent ]

Thanks, that's a lot of info! (none / 1) (#208)
by nicka on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 12:52:55 AM EST

Florin, thanks for your reply -- very interesting stuff.  I was all along comparing CD to vinyl and not DVD-Audio or SACD at all. I have a low-end SACD player and just a few discs but it just doesn't as sound as my CD player so I can't really comment.

I won't bother to counter your argument -- it is a fair one, lots of rational physics and figures and stuff.  Maybe it is about the ears and how they get accustomed to the analog sound over time but maybe the combination of better dynamics and even-order harmonics  make up for all the measurements.  Or maybe it's because the music sounds more "natural", whatever that means.  Somehow, my vinyl recordings sound better than my CD ones, to my ears.  That's what counts right?

I fully expect SACD or DVD-A to surpass maybe everything in audio including vinyl...if either format ever catches on enough.  It doesn't look too good right now.  MP3 and "lifestyle" oriented systems seem to be the way of the future.

Oh, and btw, I am not an old geezer -- I am 34 years old.  I've been living with CD sound for 16 years now on steadily improving gear -- I only very recently (this year) got into analog (vinyl, turntable and tubed amps).  Music has never been more satisfying, what can I say?!

[ Parent ]

i can see that (none / 0) (#210)
by florin on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 01:54:10 AM EST

Somehow, my vinyl recordings sound better than my CD ones, to my ears. That's what counts right?

Actually, i can relate to that.
And, you may be surprised but i'm too into tubes and hifi; the only headphones that i use nowadays are Sennheiser HD600 plus a pair of Grado that i keep as "sound microscopes". Cool stuff.
It's just that all my sources are digital (that's where we probably differ). Most of them audio CD, that's true, but i look forward to the emergence of the SACD and DVD-A standards.

[ Parent ]

nope (none / 1) (#211)
by huzzam on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 03:16:03 AM EST

There are actually a fair number of recording studios that offer analog recording. It's more expensive, since you're paying for big fat premium tapes, and less flexible in the realm of unlimited overdubbing and lossless effects. But many people still demand and use analog recording. I've done some small projects where I used BOTH, going to computer 24/96 and also 15ips 24 track tape in parallel, and for some things I did prefer the sound of the analog tape. This was particularly true of close miked winds and vocals, especially solo stuff. For both formats there was little to no effect processing, only a bit of compression/limiting in recording (so it was the same for both digital & analog) & some EQ in mastering.

Analog still has its place, as really good equipment can sound amazing, and yes, less "brittle" than even 24/96 digital gear (I have no experience with 24/192 or higher). The drawbacks are media costs and more limited editability compared to hard drive systems.

[ Parent ]

don't feed the trolls [nt] (none / 0) (#209)
by emmons on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 01:49:48 AM EST



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[ Parent ]
Answer: it's subjective (none / 1) (#197)
by nicka on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 01:27:04 PM EST

Comparing the technologies alone tell me that CD is inferior to vinyl but that's not enough. You really need to hear it for yourself to be able to answer the question; if you don't have access to a decent CD player and turntable and a decent preamp, amp and speakers you're not really in a position to know one way or the other. Put it this way: spend $700 on a CD player (say the Arcam CD73) and compare it to a $700 turntable (say the Music Hall MMF-5) -- both are considered really good value. With the turntable properly set up and the records cleaned you *should* get a lot more enjoyment out of the turntable -- you will be able to hear more depth, better timing, cleaner highs, probably better bass and more sense of realism in the music. You won't hear hiss if the records are clean. In all, more enjoyment. It's the musical enjoyment that matters and to your ears *only*. If you prefer the CD, that's fine too. One thing to note: CDs and CD players are very convenient, records and turntables a lot less so. They are hard to set up, require maintenance, love and care to keep them sounding good. But all that's part of the fun if you love music and love hearing it reproduced well. One thing that bugs me: people are perfectly willing to spend multiple thousands of dollars on plasma screens but not on the audio in a home theatre system. Ask anyone: audio is way more significant in the overall enjoyment of a home movie.

Not Quite True (none / 0) (#235)
by MyrddinE on Sun Oct 17, 2004 at 01:17:37 PM EST

Part of the point made in this article is that CDs are mixed differently to compensate for their shortcomings... such as his example where they weaken the treble and bass of a recording, so the vinyl and CDs can no longer be compared side to side by someone not aware of their individual shortcomings.

I think this article gave a rather fair comparison of the technologies... CDs sound great with nearly any equipment, but Vinyl has a higher 'top end' for quality. And he discusses the trade offs made with both technologies.

And I disagree about your assessment of audio needs for movies. A $500 set of speakers is enough quality for me with regards to audio (in my case, I own two sets of Klipsch ProMedia 5.1s, with two DD5.1s... purchased earlier this year, one set for PC, one for TV). I really gain only marginal enjoyment from hearing more expensive audio setups (such as my neighbors). But the difference between a $500 and a $5000 TV? Oh yeah, that matters.

[ Parent ]

SACD, DVD-A, any studio-grade 96/24 digital record (none / 0) (#201)
by florin on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 11:30:35 PM EST

96kHz 24bit digital is beyond the physical limits imposed to the human ear. Nyquist limits are not a problem (they are in the case of 44kHz 16bit audio which is the typical audio CD).

And i'm not talking about 192kHz 24bit digital yet. ;-)

How? (none / 0) (#212)
by The Fifth Column on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 12:58:42 PM EST

How could Nyquist limits be a problem with 44kHz sampling? That assumes a hearing range that goes to 22kHz. Do you know anyone who can hear tones that high? I don't.

A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.
[ Parent ]

How? (none / 0) (#213)
by flithm on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 01:58:00 PM EST

I think, based on what I read in TFA, that since CD's distort high frequencies, not due to their limited frequency range, but their limited sampling rate you don't really get to use all of that frequency range as complete non-distorted noise.

So from what he said even sounds at 15kHz range are distorted. Also as we all know the sampling rate in most PCM formats (WAV and CD audio included) go from -22kHz to +22kHz. This would indicate that the top and bottom 7kHz ranges aren't really worth while, and thus we can eliminate a total of 14kHz from the spectrum of CD audio as being usable.

This leaves us with 30kHz of true undistorted frequency range, and by nyquist we can see that 15kHz is significantly less than the theoretical 22kHz max range of human ears. Or even less than the 17-18kHz norm.

[ Parent ]
Yes, but you're assume TFA is right (none / 0) (#214)
by The Fifth Column on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 03:03:44 PM EST

It's not. Mcgrew is an idiot - did you miss the part where he tries to disprove the Nyquist theorem with some graph paper and "a little 3rd grade math"?

A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.
[ Parent ]

Disprove the Nyquist theorem??? (none / 0) (#225)
by mcgrew on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 08:18:03 PM EST

Are you blind, or just illiterate? I did no such thing! The Nyquist limit is the very upper limit of a sample's ability to resolve. In CD's case, the Nyquist rate is 22khz, making any higher frequencies impossible. What I said was that the Nyquist rate does not speak of distortion, and indeed, at the Nyquist rate, distortion is 100%.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

rooooooooooooor (none / 1) (#227)
by Esspets on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 10:28:58 PM EST

hahahahahahahahaha hahah ah ha hah ah ah aha ha ha hahahah ah ah ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hah ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hhaha ha ha ha ha hah a ha ha h ha

Boy you just don't learn that in the army.


Desperation.
[ Parent ]

Damn, you're dumb. (3.00 / 2) (#228)
by The Fifth Column on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 10:37:17 PM EST

I'm afraid you will not be disproving the Nyquist theorem with any third grade math today. The Nyquist frequency is the frequency below which and at which any sampled frequency will be perfectly reproduced. I'm not sure where you're getting this distortion idea, but I would take a look at the Nyquist frequency for further reference, as it may have what you're looking for.

By the way, Mathworld has this interesting article on the Nyquist Frequency, perhaps you should take a look.

A man shall not lay down with another man and ravage his reeking, unshaven cornhole.
[ Parent ]

Nyquist (none / 0) (#232)
by mindstrm on Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 01:06:57 PM EST

I believe the confusion here is that nyquist refers to SINE waves.. not other types (a square or sawtoth or anyhting else can be broken down into a bunch of sine waves all added up... ) 44Khz samplerate can produce a perfect SINE wave at 22Khz.. that is what the equipment is built to do. A 22Khz square wave is actually made up of much higher freuency sine waves...

[ Parent ]
22 kHz SINE waves. Exactly! (none / 0) (#240)
by bwcbwc on Sun Dec 05, 2004 at 11:13:27 PM EST

On a CD, a triangular or square wave above 15 kHz will be rounded off to a more sinusoidal wave form, as the sine wave components above 22kHz that are used to make up the wave are lost. But analog is not immune to rounding either. In analog the wave form distortion occurs because of mechanical intertia in the recording and playback equipment. For LPs, both the recording needle on an analog master and a playback needle on a turntable can only reach a certain velocity in any given direction.

For analog tape, the limit was the frequency response of the magnetic heads. Magnetic heads have continued to advance as a result of new hard disk technologies, to the point where they can sample in the millions of bits/second range in digital. I can see some really spectacular analog recordings if the new magnetic heads were applied there

As an aside, the type of distortion that occurs at upper frequencies also depends on the type of D/A converter that is used in the playback equipment. As a practical matter, all D/A converters convert to sine waves as they decode, since other waveforms are easier to represent as superpositions of sine waves. But at the Nyquist limit, you could theoretically interpret your two sample points as the peaks of a triangular wave and construct your D/A converter to convert your wave components as triangular waves. However this would produce "interesting" distortion effects (static pops?) at lower frequencies.

The irony is that classical music instruments are more likely to produces sinusoidal waves than distorted electronic instruments. So modern music suffers more from CD sampling limitations than classical. But it's often the classical music purists who complain about CDs

Another irony is that any new/improved digital recording format with a greater sampling rate is likely to have so much IP-protection encoding on it that it won't be acceptable for other reasons.

[ Parent ]

Not sensible though (none / 0) (#241)
by mindstrm on Sun Jan 16, 2005 at 02:31:27 PM EST

"But at the Nyquist limit, you could theoretically interpret your two sample points as the peaks of a triangular wave and construct your D/A converter to convert your wave components as triangular waves."

Yes, you could.. you could design a DAC for sampling  triangle waves, very accurately.  But that would limit you to triangel waves, and be largely useless for audio.

Talking about all the higher frequencies is silly, they don't come through in either medium. Further, the human ear loses the ability to differentiate between waveforms at higher frequencies.  A 22khz triangel wave and a 22khz sine wave sound virtually identical.

[ Parent ]

Mcgrew is making shit up (none / 0) (#218)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 04:22:01 PM EST

But even if he wasn't, 15kHz is at the upper end of our hearing range. As we hear it, it's basically a very high pitched bleep.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
You're not paying attention (none / 0) (#224)
by mcgrew on Wed Oct 13, 2004 at 08:14:31 PM EST

The closer you get to the Nyquist limit, the greater the aliasing distortion. At th enyquist limit, the distortion is 100%.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Bollocks. (none / 0) (#229)
by Meshigene Ferd on Thu Oct 14, 2004 at 07:01:30 AM EST

Only above-Nyquist components cause aliasing distortion. Do you know what Nyquist theorem says, precisely?
--
‮‫אַ גויישע קאָפּ!‮


[ Parent ]

good (none / 1) (#231)
by fxsw on Fri Oct 15, 2004 at 03:34:14 PM EST

Laptop in back panier connects via serial port to a GPS unit mounted on handlebar. A Lucent range extender gaffer taped to backrack leads back to wireless card in laptop. Headphones lead out of laptop to head!
blog cnebook
A bit too pro-analog. (1.75 / 4) (#234)
by mindstrm on Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 01:23:41 PM EST

This is one of the better writeups I've read on the issue.. however, in the digital area there are some big inaccuracies.

- Nyquist limit applies to sine waves. You can produce a perfect 22Khz sine wave with a 44Khz sample.   You do not "lose" resolution as you approach the nyquist limit.  To put it another way, a 44Khz "square" wave is a whole bunch of sine waves added and subtracted, many out of your hearing range.

- Aliasing... this only happens in bad recordings, and is analogous to "tape hiss".  IF you record properly, it's not an issue.

- A much larger factor in most modern recordings in ANY ofrmat is simply the quality of the recording.  On most people's equipment, even on rather good home equipment, a well mastered CD and  well mastered analog sound indistinguishable.

Can you "hear" above 20kHz (none / 0) (#239)
by salmon or trout on Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 12:34:25 PM EST

The original experiments that limit what the ear
can distinguish were done by putting head phones on people and playing tones at various frequencies at them.

No-one could hear abouve about 20kHz so that was the end of that.

The problems with this experiment are many.
Firstly the ear ain't linear. It's more sensitive to certain areas than others. The bit resolution the ear can hear changes depedening on frequency.

Then there is the small matter of beat frequencies. Play several different sine waves and they interact at frequencies the ear can here.

Next you don't just use your ears to hear. The sensation of hearing comes from different parts of the body including resonants in the chest cavity and hairs on your body.

The distortion figures for CD are always at maximum ouput. This is where CD excels and LP is poor. Back at more realistic levels and quiet passages LP has better figures than CD. Once you get down to low levels it's only using a single bit to represent the wave and you end up with a square wave. Not so good.

Now 24 bit DVD has a better chance here since nothing can actually record to that level of resolution. The final 3 bits or so become useful random dither.

As others have pointed out, a perfect brick wall filter doesn't exist. You get filter ripple so if you can push the filter upto 90KHz plus then you've got a good chance of leaving the signal in a better state for the frequencies you actually care about. We also ignore the affects of the filter on the time domain using this argument.

Digital jitter is harsh on ears compared to LP surface noise. We are used to hearing things through background noise but we are not used to bits being placed in the wrong order. It's a very odd form of distortion that can lead to fatigue.  

In the end we have to digitize stuff in order to keep it forever. With the appropriate error correction and checksums digital music can be copied forever whereas an analogue copy will never be as good as the original.

CD sucks, I just hope the industry can settle on SACD or DVD-audio.

I will admit that I love the euphonic sound of vinyl.

analog is better than digital, but it depends! (none / 0) (#242)
by soundproofing on Fri Jan 28, 2005 at 03:36:30 PM EST

there are so many variables involved good analog is better than poor digital. a really good 1/2 tape recorder should beat a audio CD recorder an LP from the 1970's will beat an LP from the 60's which will beat a 33 or a 78 which will beat an edison wax cylinder..... mp3 is lossy poor to O.K. minidisk ATRAC is lossy but O.K. a CD is reasonable DVDA is better SACD is better still Price wise digital will beat analog for equivalent quality. but analog recording technology is not being developed so much as digital so digital is now ahead and will probably remain so.
soundproofing, noise control, vibration damping, and acoustics consultant and engineer. http://soundproof.mine.nu/
Digital vs. analog- which is better? | 242 comments (175 topical, 67 editorial, 2 hidden)
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