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johnny p.
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Is optical playback better ?

In this month's HiFi+, Alan Sircom stated that optical playback "outperforms" computer-based systems. Does it really ? I thought that hardisk and memory playback - free of jitter and error-correction - sounded superior (these days) to silver disc. It certainly does in my system....

Demondog
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I don't think we can say.

A blanket statement isn't possible in my opinion. There are too many variables to claim one source is superior to the other. First we would have to define what "better" means. Good luck.

For what it's worth, I don't hear any difference between the CD player, and the computer in my system. I run them both through the same DAC.
 

jazzfan
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When Squeezeboxes attack!!

In a very nonscientific survey (but after all nonscientific is what high end audio is all about) based solely on my participation in the Squeezebox forums I would say that the Logitech music streaming devices or Squeezeboxes are much more popular in Europe and England than they are in the US. Mr. Sircom is just doing what any high end reviewer worth his salt would do: namely going out of his to protect the status quo, the status quo which is made up of high end manufacturers who buy advertising in HiFi+ and who also treat him very nicely.

Let me put it bluntly: at best optical playback can sometimes be the equal of computer-based playback BUT optical playback can never outperform computer-based playback.

The kicker is that a lowly $300 Squeezebox Touch can perform as well as, if not better than, any and all megabuck CD transports and that fact scares the hell out everyone involved in high end audio.

vid1900
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There is no way that an

There is no way that an optical system, needing to constantly correct for errors caused by dust, fingerprints and yes sometimes scratches, is going to be superior to computer playback.

If, and this is a big if, the disc was completely clean of any dust then it might be close - but I'd still put my money on the computer.

Mayfield 4
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Perhaps you more experienced folks can help...

Hi, I new here and new to the idea of using digital media to replace my cd collection. 

I have a luxman cd player, Cambrige Audio DACmagicplus, and NAD amp,  I have been unable so far to get my computer or Sony Google Media box to sound as good as the Luxman (they of course go through the same channels, just one is a CD in a CD player, the other is an digital file through the box.

Some questions (please be gentle as some may be stupid - I am new to using computers to generate high end audio)

- Is the Vaio laptop I have sufficient, or do I need a specific computer or soundcard?

-Same for  the Sony Google media box  - is it just too low end? (I am hoping that the box would be sufficient with a few tweaks because that way I could just have one device for video streaming and my music collection. I have a digital optical going from the box to the DACmagic.

-WOuld I be better off to buy a device specifically made to stream music at high quality?

-Do the files have to be lossless? ***I know its a dangerous question! *** But from much of what I have read human ears can't tell the difference between lossless and 320kbs compression. To that end I have done some comparisons for myself:

I used the Vaio laptop connected to the DAC and listened on my pair of Sennheiser HD595 headphones to do the comparison.

I used a CD in windows media player, and a couple tracks each ripped at WMApro 256kbs, MP3 320kbs, WMA Lossless, and .WAV I compared each of them to the CD and to each other and found the CD sounded better than even the lossless, and the lossless and MP3 320kbs were pretty well identical.

Similar result when I listen to my main system (mentioned above using either headphones or my towers) and found a similar result - the CD just sounded better. If lossless is identical to my ears (and scientific waveform studies) as MP3 32kbs, then I should be able to stream a 320kbs MP3 from my media device and have it sound the same as the CD, but it doesn't. CD is noticeably better. This leads me to the conclusion that the CD player is just a better device than my laptop or the Sony box and that I need a better media device (or sound card)

Thoughts or opinions? I appreciate any advice!

struts
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Most DACs now have such good jitter rejection...

....that it can be quite difficult to hear the difference between digital sources.  However my listening experience suggests:

- Both optical and magnetic disc can give excellent sound.  When it comes to ultimate sound quality I don't think one technology is superior.

- Magneitc replay systems certainly have a much easier time of it, and good sound quality can be achieved at much lower price-points than with optical systems.  For instance a $300 Sonos Connect or Squeezebox Touch will outperform any $300 CD transport, although they will in turn be comfortably outperformed by a $15,000 mbl 1621 CD transport - go figure!

- Traditional audiophile considerations such as power, grounding, clock stability etc. apply equally to both.  This is IMO where the real sound quality differences lie.  It is quite easy to improve the sound of the aforementioned streamers, even as "digital transports" (S/PDIF out) with simple modifications in these areas, which of course it wouldn't be possible to do if they were "perfect" to start with!

I use a modified streamer purely for convenience.  Having been optical disc-free for 7 years now and had my entire music collection a couple of clicks away there is no going back for me!  If I want ritual I can always play vinyl :)

jazzfan
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Much better
struts wrote:

....that it can be quite difficult to hear the difference between digital sources.  However my listening experience suggests:

- Both optical and magnetic disc can give excellent sound.  When it comes to ultimate sound quality I don't think one technology is superior.

- Magneitc replay systems certainly have a much easier time of it, and good sound quality can be achieved at much lower price-points than with optical systems.  For instance a $300 Sonos Connect or Squeezebox Touch will outperform any $300 CD transport, although they will in turn be comfortably outperformed by a $15,000 mbl 1621 CD transport - go figure!

- Traditional audiophile considerations such as power, grounding, clock stability etc. apply equally to both.  This is IMO where the real sound quality differences lie.  It is quite easy to improve the sound of the aforementioned streamers, even as "digital transports" (S/PDIF out) with simple modifications in these areas, which of course it wouldn't be possible to do if they were "perfect" to start with!

I use a modified streamer purely for convenience.  Having been optical disc-free for 7 years now and had my entire music collection a couple of clicks away there is no going back for me!  If I want ritual I can always play vinyl :)

Now that's more like it Struts. A much better post than your latest post on the "Sound Cards" thread. And I love the line about vinyl playback and ritual - a Struts classic!

struts
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Thanks jf!

How are you? Been a while!

Any jazz recommendations while we're on?  I tried Conference of the Birds and Napoli's Walls but didn't get on with either unfortunately.  I just don't think my ear is edcated enough for anything but very mainstream jazz.  Still searching for discs that transport me to Nirvana the way Kind of Blue does..

jazzfan
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Off topic
struts wrote:

How are you? Been a while!

Any jazz recommendations while we're on?  I tried Conference of the Birds and Napoli's Walls but didn't get on with either unfortunately.  I just don't think my ear is edcated enough for anything but very mainstream jazz.  Still searching for discs that transport me to Nirvana the way Kind of Blue does..

I know this is off topic but this area of the forum is so close to death that any post is a good post so here goes.

Of course I have lots of recommendations for good jazz. In fact here's a link to a thread I had going over on the Squeezebox forums:

http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?97491-Jazz-Recommendations

Check it out, there are plenty of excellent suggestions in that thread.

LyleHughes
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If optical were better, the

If optical were better, the best studios in the world would be using a system that instead of recording to DAW for mixing and mastering, records to CDs...

They're not :) If you want to move from discs to a music library, go for it!

struts
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It's funny..

It's funny, considering how many CDs I own, that I never reflected on how little data they can actually store.  

Recently I was going to give copies of some great recordings done by a friend to another friend.  I burned the files, 24/96 and 24/192 WAV files, onto some DVDs as FLAC, there were about five different performances which for simplicity I wanted to keep separate, I think it took 7 discs in total*.  Hearing these, another friend wanted copies.  However he mostly uses a CD player for replay.  He has a computer, although he isn't the most computer literate kind of guy, and his hard disk was full at the time.  "No problem" I said, "I'll burn some CDs for you".  Me and my big mouth.  16 discs later I was done (and that was of course after reducing to 16/44.1).  Count em!  16!!!  Jeez, it was like looking at a boxed set of Parsifal on shellac.

So while I can readily admit that, for the most part at least, computer audio is still along way from attaining "consumer device" simplicity, for those with the requisite skills it offers the potential for such a dramatically improved user experience over optical disc that there is just no going back.

* I have now bought a USB "thumb drive" about the size of a postage stamp that holds 32GB, or about 50 CDs worth.  Cost $30.

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