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JIMV
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More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

As I have posted, I recently bought a Benchmark DAC1 that I like a lot. I first tried a cheap Philips DVD player as a source and that sounded awful. I broke out a old and quirky Optimus portable CD player with digital out and got very good sound, but the player was in the habit of stopping without notice or reason and all the options like track selection no longer worked so it was not a long term solution. It gave me a good soundstage and very clear highs, something I really liked. I bought a used Rotel 1070 to use as a transport and that has a completey different sound. It is darker, the highs are not as clear but singers voices are more clear and sweet.

Bits may be bits but every player I have used as a transport has a different sound with its own strengths and weaknesses played through the same DAC using the same digital cable.

linden518
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

Hi, JIMV. You're totally right in discerning that the results are different from trasnport to transport. Doesn't surprise me, nor would it anyone else, as I'm sure a lot of us have all have gone through the similar experience. I think the "bits are bits" talk is really totally reductive, that 1's and 0's are all there is. It's true that "bits are bits" in the digital stage, but the fact of the matter is, that those 1's and 0's will eventually have to be converted into music via analog voltage, which is what your DAC does, as you already know. And the multitude of sheer crap that can happen in that conversion, regarding jitter, filter, etc., that get in the way of recovering the original audio samples & the timing, all get lost in the talk about 1's and 0's. Music happens when those 1's and 0's get CONVERTED, simple as that. And that conversion isn't as simple as bit-for-bit, 1's and 0's type of neat. As an analogy, let's say that you are at a friend's place in Rio de Janeiro, and he gives you the direction to the airport, which seems so crystal clear, beyond any doubt (pure digital state). You get it cognitively, and logically, and can even mentally trace your path to the airport. Then you go to some bar that night with a buddy and down a few-too-many shots of mezcal along with a casual glass or seven of caipirinha in some craphole bar in a craphole favela (enter the analog threshold ). The next morning, you may remember good bits and parts of the direction, but probably not as clearly, I'll bet.

So in a sense, I'm saying, bits aren't really bits, once it leaves the digital stage, and trust me, it's not just the digital cable issue. I think guys like Struts or Elk (where is he lately?!?) would be much better in explaining this issue than me from a technical perspective. I'm sure they'll chime in here...

Jan Vigne
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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As an analogy, let's say that you are at a friend's place in Rio de Janeiro, and he gives you the direction to the airport, which seems so crystal clear, beyond any doubt (pure digital state). You get it cognitively, and logically, and can even mentally trace your path to the airport. Then you go to some bar that night with a buddy and down a few-too-many shots of mezcal along with a casual glass or seven of caipirinha in some craphole bar in a craphole favela (enter the analog threshold ). The next morning, you may remember good bits and parts of the direction, but probably not as clearly, I'll bet.

So we should buy a Methodist CD player?

linden518
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

Praise the Lord!

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

I do find it interesting how each transport sounds different through the same post transport gear and cables. If bits was simply bits then every transport capable of accurately decoding that data stream would sound the same through the same post transport system. I can only assume that each transport I have tried is decoding that data stream differently.

As to jitter, the DAC1 simply does not allow any, per their propaganda.

It also begs the question about computers used as transports. If every piece of gear specifically designed to produce a data stream for music has a different sound, would not a computer not designed to the same end more likely have a similiar problem?

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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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I do find it interesting how each transport sounds different through the same post transport gear and cables. If bits was simply bits then every transport capable of accurately decoding that data stream would sound the same through the same post transport system. I can only assume that each transport I have tried is decoding that data stream differently.

As to jitter, the DAC1 simply does not allow any, per their propaganda.

It also begs the question about computers used as transports. If every piece of gear specifically designed to produce a data stream for music has a different sound, would not a computer not designed to the same end more likely have a similiar problem?

I have seen much computer to computer variation!

Bits is bits may be true, because what else does the transport send to the DAC? Timed bits, little bundles of ccurrent, really.

To me, it sounds like those transports are handling the bits differently in getting the signal to the DAC.

Is that controversial? A bit may be a bit, but that don't mean that every transpost delivers bits the same exact way, I figure.

Then, how the DAC has to handle the way the bits arrive may make for a difference in sound from different things being done by the DAC for different transport inputs.

Even when we say bits is bits, it is still PFC!

(Pretty Complictaed.)

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

Which leads me another argument I find on audio forms. If the build quality of a transport matters (ie, for bits to be bits and all the same in the bit stream, then the transport must read and transport them to the DAC perfectly)The ability of a transport to do this reliably seems to be a matter of build quality and engineering for, as I have found, different transports make different music, then a typical computer made of bottom of the barrel mass market parts not to move music but to compute, more or less adequately, should not send as musical a signal as a good trasport, but expert folk in this forum disagree.

Bits may be bits but reading them well certainly requires more than junk build quality. I have a cheap Phillips transport, a cheap Optimus and a nice Rotel that say different.

dcstep
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

Optical/mechanical transports introduce various degrees of reading errors and jitter. Despite the hype, your DAC1 does NOT remove it all. Hence your bits are not the same from one transport to the next and you hear the difference.

The lower the error rate and the better the clock the less you'll hear the transports.

Dave

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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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I think guys like Struts or Elk (where is he lately?!?) would be much better in explaining this issue than me from a technical perspective. I'm sure they'll chime in here...


Thanks for the vote of confidence SD, but I don't really have anything to add to what I wrote in the original thread. If I didn't succeed in explaining this apparent paradox there then I am afraid more words from me are unlikely to help.

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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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Which leads me another argument I find on audio forms. If the build quality of a transport matters (ie, for bits to be bits and all the same in the bit stream, then the transport must read and transport them to the DAC perfectly)The ability of a transport to do this reliably seems to be a matter of build quality and engineering for, as I have found, different transports make different music, then a typical computer made of bottom of the barrel mass market parts not to move music but to compute, more or less adequately, should not send as musical a signal as a good trasport, but expert folk in this forum disagree.

Bits may be bits but reading them well certainly requires more than junk build quality. I have a cheap Phillips transport, a cheap Optimus and a nice Rotel that say different.

1) Bits are Bits... but there are at least 2 reasons why different transports sound different. The first is Jitter... The Benchmark according to both their own and independent measurement does a great job of mitigating this... The Second, is that the Transport has to first read the bits... so if you use a crappy dvd transport that is missing some of the bits, the end result will be inferior to a high quality transport picking up most of the bits...

2)The reason computers are regarded as being great transports is because of the the second point... reading the bits in the first place... CD Transports are inferior in the way they read bits... They read music essentially in real time... so the chance of skipping bits is very high... Computers take their own sweet time and rip all the bits (using error correction) to the hard drive... This is why computers are regarded as better transports... they will provide bit perfect output (once you ensured that you used error correction to get bit perfect rips to your hard drive in the first place)....

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

Why does build quality matter with transports but not with computers? What you are saying, or what I am hearing you say is that the crappy CD reader in a cheap computer reads bits...that trail is then screwed with by digital error correction, again using crappy parts but a perfectly good program, and that 'tinkered with' data stream is then a bit perfect copy of the CD..

I have owned too many PC's to buy the idea that they do anything 'perfect'....

I am reminded of the old CD claim of 'perfect sound forever', mostly made because no one had any idea what mattered in that data stream so 'perfect' was simply and really what they thought was good enough.

mrlowry
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

Most CD players read the data only once. If they miss some date it goes straight to error correction. The CD-ROM and and (probably)Hard Drives can read data much, much faster so if data isn't clear the first time they can try several times before having to resort to error correction. While not the whole answer to your question this helps explain why computers have the "potential" to be better transports.

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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Most CD players read the data only once. If they miss some date it goes straight to error correction. The CD-ROM and and (probably)Hard Drives can read data much, much faster so if data isn't clear the first time they can try several times before having to resort to error correction. While not the whole answer to your question this helps explain why computers have the "potential" to be better transports.

I can understand why data from a hard drive or from memory might be more accurate than from a disk drive but anything coming from such a drive is suspect as no computer drive is anywhere near audiophile quality.

Put another way, why do folk insist a source that does so little 'perfectly' is better than a well tweaked transport designed for audio?

Ajani
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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Why does build quality matter with transports but not with computers? What you are saying, or what I am hearing you say is that the crappy CD reader in a cheap computer reads bits...that trail is then screwed with by digital error correction, again using crappy parts but a perfectly good program, and that 'tinkered with' data stream is then a bit perfect copy of the CD..

I have owned too many PC's to buy the idea that they do anything 'perfect'....

I am reminded of the old CD claim of 'perfect sound forever', mostly made because no one had any idea what mattered in that data stream so 'perfect' was simply and really what they thought was good enough.

Look at it this way:

A CD Transport reads bits in real time, so think of it as having one chance to score a 3 point shot in a Basketball game.... If you miss, that's it.. you missed...

A computer is more like being in a training session, where you have an infinite number of chances to score a 3 pointer... eventually you are going to do it...

If a computer had to read bits in real time, then even an entry level CD Transport would totally embarrass it.

So back to Basketball, it's like Michael Jordan having 1 minute to score as many 3 pointers as possible versus me having my entire life... I guarantee you that in that scenario I'd outscore Jordan...

A computer just keeps reading the disc until it gets it right and stores the correct bits on the Hard Drive... The CD Transport only gets one chance....

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

You still have the build quality problem...you might never get that bit prefect stream but the computer might think it had.

Something like Naim's new HDX machne seems to be an answer to my worries while still getting far closer to that perfect bistream than ones $600 computer and it $50 worth of parts.

The Naim has an audiophile transport, 400GB hard drive and a supposed bit perfect ability that I could believe in a system built by folk who do music.

Now if we could only do something about the $8700 price.

Ajani
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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You still have the build quality problem...you might never get that bit prefect stream but the computer might think it had.

Other than with a very badly scratched disc, I doubt that would be a problem....


Quote:
Something like Naim's new HDX machne seems to be an answer to my worries while still getting far closer to that perfect bistream than ones $600 computer and it $50 worth of parts.

The Naim has an audiophile transport, 400GB hard drive and a supposed bit perfect ability that I could believe in a system built by folk who do music.

Now if we could only do something about the $8700 price.

Well, you could always wait for the Naim to be sold half price on Audiogon... or wait for PS Audio's new PWT (Perfect Wave Transport) which reads the entire CD to its internal storage before playing (like a computer)...

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

OOOOH...I like PS audio....any price on that thing yet?

linden518
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

I think I remember reading that it was going to be ~$2500? I could totally be wrong.

Ajani
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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OOOOH...I like PS audio....any price on that thing yet?

Supposed to be at least $2K... It's part of their upcoming Ultra Series, which will include a DAC, a wireless bridge (which you can add to the DAC or Transport), Storage drives and eventually a touch screen remote... I've been following the PS Audio newsletters for a few months... the current one gives good details on the Ultra Series...

It seems to be a modular high end music server... So you can just buy the components that are relevant to you... a very cool idea IMO....

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

The problem with stuff not on the market yet is in the wait...first for the gear and then for used stuff to hit the market as I am just a poor retiree. Still, these products address my quality concerns. I have never found a computer that even does what it is designed to do perfectly 100% of the time. Either the gear itself has quirks or the software is a mess or does not play with well with other programs or the machine. A product that is designed around computer principles but for audio only and built by audio folk is very interesting indeed. One I could afford would be a Christmas present indeed.

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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

Christ, so much bs floating around this thread, I dont even know where to begin....

ill start tommorow when I am fresh.. jeesh

JIMV, please do some reading on digital audio, bud...

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

I spent a lot of time, and bought the first digital tape unit on the market, a Sony PCM F1, and one of the first CD players ever produced, a Sony with serial number 346 based on all the reading the audio press was doing way back in the early 1980's. The whole server as source brouhaha reminds me very much of what folk and reviewers, our 'experts' of the period, were saying then, what with perfect sound forever.

Now I am older and wiser. I have owned a score of computers and worked for 12 years as a purchaser for a computer reseller and repair service, a fairly large one. I know computers only work as well as necessary. There is no such a thing as a perfect functioning PC or software package on commercial product. It is always failing, having quirks, or having software compatibility problems.

Put another way, the server as source idea is in its infancy and audio nirvana is not here yet. That said, there are a lot of products from real audio folk on the horizon that take the computer concept and remove noise sources like fans, moving parts like the drive. They use part quality nor found in the PC's from Best Buy and they do what the idea promises. The Naim and PS Audio devices interest me a lot more than something some computer geek has cobbled together.

I have a 12 year old CD player that plays exactly the same as it did over a decade ago. It has never crashed, never had a program interface error, not needed any sort of virus flush or adware sponging, has not developed a loud fan noise, opens and closes every time, etc. Can anyone honestly say their PC of the same age has done the same...honesty?

Nope.

BillB
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

Yeh, although the potential is great, current computer-based music systems have a long ways to go. In one way or another, seems like all the ones available have some major handicaps (can't handle aac/drm, or require a ton of hours/dollars of ripping and tagging, etc). The thing that gets me most, though, is the fragility and lifespan. As said above, our old cd players, turntables, etc are still working but not our computers...

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

I own 3 computers...the oldest has less than 3 years and the newest under one. I am typing on a 14 month old Sony. My oldest machine, a PC, has, on boot-up, a pop up telling me I need to reboot. If I reboot I get the same pop up, over and over forever. (associated with Adobe CS3. When I call their tech support on the issue, they want more money to make it go away). I also get a pop up telling me I need to order ink for my HP printer. I have no HP printer. I uninstalled the HP printer drivers long ago. I did a search for HP and individually deleted all files with HP or Hewlet Packard yet I still have the pop up. THAT is the state of computers today. After a matter of a few weeks or months the silly things all develop some sort of problem, some program no longer works right or the entire machine is obsolete.

A lot of audio folk are also computer geeks who love playing with the things, fiddling with programs, and speaking techno-geek. Then there are folk who want to listen to music each and every time we turn on our systems.

I am sure those computer folk are convinced their tweak laden computer based systems are the be all and end all of cutting edge audio. They may be right, if one is a computer geek. For the rest of us, I suspect the fun is not in debugging ones source but in playing music.

When one does not have to be a computer geek or spend hours on the phone to tech support in Bangladesh to get that music out of the machine, then I will believe the day of the computer as source is here.

Till then I see the future in stuff like PS Audio or Naim are cranking out. Eventually those things will be under a grand and the average non computer geek with a life will be able to hear what all the applause is about.

Bits may be bits but every front end sounds different on every system I have ever heard.

Jan Vigne
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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Bits may be bits but every front end sounds different on every system I have ever heard.

Excellent answer!

Ajani
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

1) Get a Mac... That's what a lot of "computer audio geeks" use... since it is far far less prone to nonsense behavior than a PC...

2) Before you knock computer audio as being unreliable, etc etc... I honestly suggest you try it... probably not on your computer, since it seems like it's a piece of sh!t (like too many computers)...

3) I find computer audio to be very easy to use, I've used both a MAC Mini and a HP Laptop as music servers with no problems... And I don't like to tweak and mess around with computers...

If I had the experiences you've had with your machines, I'd probably be anti-computer audio as well... thankfully my experiences were much better... or else I'd never have gotten into the whole media server experience, which really would have been a shame (considering how much more I enjoy listening to my music since I ditched my CD player)...

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

My third computer is an IMAC...newest operating system. Still a computer and still anything but a perfect device, just better than a PC. When someone makes a computer that works 100% of the time in exactly the same way, then I'll be impressed.

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My third computer is an IMAC...newest operating system. Still a computer and still anything but a perfect device, just better than a PC. When someone makes a computer that works 100% of the time in exactly the same way, then I'll be impressed.

I suggest you give the IMAC a try as your music server... it may change your mind... If not, then you can always buy a NAIM or PS Audio as an upgrade later on...

Don't get me wrong... While I think computer media servers are better than CD Players, I don't think they're perfect either... Computer based audio has disadvantages.. Once funds permit, I'd be willing to upgrade to something from Naim, PS Audio etc...

I just think that right now it costs a hell of a lot of money to beat a Squeezebox and a good DAC...

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

I have a good DAC, Benchmark

BillB
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

I also switched from PC to iMac last year. Definitely better, with less time spent nursing the machine.
But if my cd player poops out after a decade or two, I plug a new one into the wall, and play music for another decade. When a computer quits, it will take more money, and way more trouble. Anyone using a 10-12 year old computer? Not many, and if so, they are probably itching to replace it.
I expect that current Squeezeboxes, Soolooses, etc, will be prodding their owners for replacement before long.

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

I figure today's computer based systems are a lot like my old Sony PCM F1....for those who do not know, that is a system where a videocassette player is used in conjunction with the Sony professional recorder to record a digital signal onto the tape. It was state of the art in about 1980 and cost me 2 months pay. It was obsolete in 2 years and was replaced by CD players and then DAT machines and today is a footnote in digital history.

I suspect today's devices like squeezbox, sooloose and computer based systems will be in the same category when audio makers develop real audio gear that does what those systems do but to audiophile standards and without all the computer problems...something one can simply add to a system and not need to learn a new language and procedures to use. You know...like a CD player, not like a new computer operating system.

Ajani
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


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I have a good DAC, Benchmark

Which is why I've suggested trying computer audio.... Anyway, you are clearly not interesting in trying it, so you can always wait on PS Audio or some other audiophile brand to produce an 'Affordable' music server....

Ajani
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I figure today's computer based systems are a lot like my old Sony PCM F1....for those who do not know, that is a system where a videocassette player is used in conjunction with the Sony professional recorder to record a digital signal onto the tape. It was state of the art in about 1980 and cost me 2 months pay. It was obsolete in 2 years and was replaced by CD players and then DAT machines and today is a footnote in digital history.

I suspect today's devices like squeezbox, sooloose and computer based systems will be in the same category when audio makers develop real audio gear that does what those systems do but to audiophile standards and without all the computer problems...something one can simply add to a system and not need to learn a new language and procedures to use. You know...like a CD player, not like a new computer operating system.

Yes and No... Most wealthy audiophiles ignore computer based music servers already and look to the more expensive alternatives from Naim, Arcam and Soolos etc... This trend will continue...

The reason why devices like the Squeezebox will take a long time to die is simply because they are cheap... No audiophile brand is likely to produce a full music server (no computer required) for $300... Until Audiophile Brands produce affordable alternatives (not likely to happen) or more likely Apple etc produce stand alone servers (AppleTV doesn't count as it requires a computer if you already have a CD collection), Squeezeboxes will continue to sell...

The goal for many is to eventually separate the computer from the music server...

JIMV
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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness

That's true...I NEED folk who believe in computer based systems as that IS the wave of the future...just not for me.

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... When someone makes a computer that works 100% of the time in exactly the same way, then I'll be impressed.

Well, we could say the same thing about cars, appliances or even ourselves. Why do you expect perfection? I think you will be forever disappointed.

Bob

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Yeh, although the potential is great, current computer-based music systems have a long ways to go. In one way or another, seems like all the ones available have some major handicaps (can't handle aac/drm,...

Can't blame that one on the vendors. All Apple or Microsoft has to do is make the code available and that issue goes away. Viva la open source.

Bob

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Re: More 'Bits is Bits' wierdness


Quote:

Quote:
... When someone makes a computer that works 100% of the time in exactly the same way, then I'll be impressed.

Well, we could say the same thing about cars, appliances or even ourselves. Why do you expect perfection? I think you will be forever disappointed.

Bob

Simple...computer servers promise bit perfect data stream. If a computer does not do anything perfectly, why should I believe their data stream is 'perfect'?

Audiophile CD players do not make such claims, just that they try to make the most musical use of the data they extract possible. Note the emphasis on 'musical'. Bit perfect data streams from imperfect machines v musical results from gear designed for music.

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