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ohfourohnine
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What is it with SACD imaging?

Like almost everyone's, I suspect, a large chunk of my music collection is on CD. Six months ago I needed a new CD player, and after some careful auditioning, I bought the Marantz SA11S1. It does a terrific job with Redbook CD's and it also provided me entry into the SACD environment - the format, which according to some, would probably make me give up my lifelong devotion to analog sources.

An open mind and a fair amount of curiosity led to the obvious - buying a bunch of SACD's and lots of listening hoping for that best music reproduction yet to come down the pike. As with every other format, I found I had good, better, and best recordings, and, in terms of many of the dimensions we use to measure sonics, I found SACD sound overall pretty darned good. For some reason, though, when I compare best to best, vinyl versus SACD, I'm convinced that vinyl is, by a lot, doing a better job of producing a stable precise three dimensional sound stage in my system. Why should that be? Does anyone else find that true?

The analog side of my system is a modest one consisting of a Music Hall MMF-7 turntable, Shure V15VxMR cartridge, Project speed control, Musical Fidelity XLPSv3 phono pre with outboard power supply and Kimber Silver Streak interconnects. The SACD player, after several swaps of interconnects, gets to my MF integrated amp through Kimber Heroes - the interconnects I believe do the best job with it in terms of tonality. From that point, obviously, everything in the system is the same for both - power conditioning, amp, cables, speakers, room. I've even swapped inputs to the amp with no change in the effect.

Why do I and others (without coaching, I might add) hear superior imaging from the analog side? God knows it can't be the interconnects - wires don't make a difference, right? It certainly can't be something inherent in slicing up sound and putting it back together again can it? After all, the slices are real small.

I'm not an engineer, so I'm reduced to blaming the recording processes and/or the recording engineers. I should add that some of the SACD's I find fault with in this regard are strictly stereo, so engineering for multi-channel output isn't the culprit at least in those cases.

Anyone with better technical credentials than mine got an idea?

Jan Vigne
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

I'm no expert in these matters but I have to ask whether you have simply decided that vinyl is better or whether you've done any real comparisons between like and like to make your decision. Comparing "Kind of Blue" on vinyl to "Bill Evans, Live at the Vanguard" on SACD doesn't necessary equate to a scientific study of the two formats. The problem here is that most SACD mixes are not available on vinyl. And I think that's part of the problem with SACD.

Read a few interviews of recording engineers/producers in Soundstage magazine or something similar. While most of these guys have sworn off vinyl/analog, even the few who cross over seem to treat digital as a different project than analog. And just as audiophiles are often guilty of a mindset that says this will work this way and that will do this, so do the engineers begin a SACD project with somewhat different goals in mind. Most feel digital is still "perfect" to a large extent and signal processing is not thought of as being so much of a problem with the SACD master. Even converting from the DSS format to PCM and back again is not considered a big deal as long as the systems keep the signal in the digital domain. I have no proof but I think this is part of the reason why SACD can still often be bettered by a decent analog set up. I would think someone here from Stereophile who does the masters for both formats could give more helpful information.

Secondly, and I have no proof to back up my assertion, but I am guessing the noisefloor makes a discernable difference in what you hear. The sterility of the SACD copy's silence is still a bit weird in an Art Bell sort of way. Whether you perceive the noise of the analog system the same way or not, the constant presence of the LP's noise provides a warmth that cannot be matched by the digital version. Psych-acoustics or imagination, you decide, that warmth still provides a "realness" that is slightly lacking in the digital version and therefore you hear what you believe is a more real version being presented in front of you.

This calls for a double blind test!

CECE
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

When did StereoPhile have an SACD out? JA, you have a DSD system to record in? There are DSD recordings, there are DSD remasters from aNALOG tapes, and on and on PCM to DSD. SACD has superior low noise, superior dynamic range, VINYL with it's limited dynamic range, limited freq response, superior ease of use. SACD is suposed to double up from 2.8Mghz to over 5Mgz I sorta read somewhere. the digital pieces are getting closer and closerm, you ain't gonna hear no difference or SEE between the original analog signal, and DSD..maybe it will be called Super DSD www.emmlabs.com

CECE
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

Can Vinyl signal from a Shure V15 come anywhere near DSD? I don't think so, I use a Shure V15 MR and someothers...SACD is the better of them. Less noise, better dynamics, more of what ya need. Best Direct to Disc has something, SACD has it all better. http://www.record-producer.com/learn.cfm?a=2257

ohfourohnine
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

I don't know, Jan, whether I'm just a believer that "there'll never be another dog like Spot", but I don't think so. Mind you, as I said earlier, I think that SACD is pretty darned good overall and lots more convenient for casual listening. The only fault I find with it relative to vinyl is imaging. Even the SACD's I have which are the best in that regard tend to have unstable imaging and almost always lack any hint of the third dimension.

Small group imaging is generally the most dramatic on my system - jazz or chamber stuff. I don't have any vinyl duplicates in those genres. I do have both formats of the Mercury Living Presence Dvorak Cello Concerto with Starker and the London Symphony and they are pretty much a standoff.

If I wasn't such a cheapskate, I'd drop $80 on the Pure Pleasure vinyl versions of Jim Hall Concerto and Louis and the All Stars Play W C Handy both of which I have only on SACD. Maybe I'll do that to set my mind at ease, but I thought first to see what some of you guys might have encountered.

Incidentally, since no one touches my turntable but me, you're suggestion of DBT isn't likely to happen.

Buddha
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?


Quote:

Incidentally, since no one touches my turntable but me...

Wow, that's pretty restrictive.

I've settled on the "weiner" model of turntable handling.

If I let a person handle my weiner, then she is trustworthy enough to work my tonearm.

I think that's a fair and balanced tonearm rule.

(Get it? fair and "balanced?")

But, if my wife ever catches anyone else handling my tonearm, I'm a dead man.

So, I guess there is some downside.

I guess that also means that when the time comes, I'm gonna hafta get an audiophile urologist.

What were we talking about?

Oh, yeah, SACD imaging.

Anybody notice imaging differentials based on when a recording was made?

Maybe part of this phenomenon is recording techniques from the analog days. No matter what the remix/remaster, the great analog masters just don't translate to digital as well as they do to vinyl.

Kind of a "recording system with a built-in vinyl bias" thing?

Anyway, I also prefer vinyl.

Jan Vigne
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

I'd have to say I haven't had the same experience with SACD. Most of the few SACD's that I own have soundstaging that is quite good with performers appearing beyond the boudaries of my room in many cases. They lack the last bit of 3-D effect that some of my best vinyl can produce, but just to muddy the waters, some of my best vinyl for solidity of images is early stereo. The Mercury discs are exceptional and should indicate the problem isn't so much in the format. Listening to them on my much lower performance multichannel system, the three channel mixes beat all other formats played on that system, but three channel isn't an option on the main audio system without major problems to overcome.

Cheapskate, have you tried any tweaks on the SACD player other than cables to get better performance? Maybe you need to invest in some type of isolation feet or blocks/cones to drain off the internal vibrations of the p.s. transformer. Did the player have this sort of lackluster soundstaging when you auditioned it?

ohfourohnine
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

I auditioned the player as a CD player. As I hadn't, previously had an SACD player I didn't have any SACD's nor did I buy any prior to buying the player. I bought it because of the comparative CD playback. My previous player, Musical Fidelity, sounded best through the MF X-10 tube buffer. This one brings more to the music without the buffer and offers what has proved to be rock solid mechanicals - a weakness in the MF player. Though its isolation components seem more than adequate, you may be right - I'll give that a shot. In the meantime, vinyl still rules - at my house at least. Maybe it's just that we old dogs have a tough time learning new tricks, or maybe todays producers have lost the art or miking a performance as well as the best of yesterday's guys did it. (JA excepted)

Forgot to mention it earlier, but your use of Art Bell as a modifier for wierdness got good laughs here from both my wife and me. How about Richard C. Hoagland as a synonym for delusional?

Jan Vigne
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?


Quote:
How about Richard C. Hoagland as a synonym for delusional?

Sorry, my delusional quotient is presently filled with in-office politicians.

commsysman
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

I find that the Audioquest Diamondback interconnects are superior to the ones you are using in several applications I have experimented with; they are definitely much better for connecting my Sony SCD-777ES to my AR LS-26 preamp.

Regular CDs sound even better using the Sony as a transport and feeding the digital signal through a Theta PRO BASIC 3 D/A converter with balanced outputs to the preamp, but of course that is not an option for SACD!

But, anyway, I highly recommend that you try the diamondbacks; I will be interested what result you have.

gkc
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

DUP, there is a Stereophile SACD recording of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, which I purchased (along with the vinyl version, for comparison purposes). The vinyl is slightly better, especially in its spatial presentation, but the SACD is almost as good. Once again, to, ahem, "prove" your point, you mention a bunch of abstract numbers. If you want numbers to validate your system's excellence, you can do a lot better than the Wurlitzers and the Van Alstines of this world -- for less money than you spent. Be consistent. Is it the numbers or the sound?

commsysman
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

A Shure V15?? ROFL....

With that 3rd-rate cartridge you are not going to have much of an analog signal to compare to SACD or anything else!

At least move up to something that rates a Class C rating; the Shure isn't fit to play Bozo the Clown records on.

Even a Grado that you can get for under $100 will sound MUCH better than that whiny Shure; for $200 you can get a Clearaudio Classic and actually have a chance of hearing what your vinyl has on it!

(of course, God knows what junk you are playing the SACD on, come to think of it...[DUP: quote..."they all sound the same"] )

Buddha
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?


Quote:
A Shure V15?? ROFL....

With that 3rd-rate cartridge you are not going to have much of an analog signal to compare to SACD or anything else!

At least move up to something that rates a Class C rating; the Shure isn't fit to play Bozo the Clown records on.

Even a Grado that you can get for under $100 will sound MUCH better than that whiny Shure; for $200 you can get a Clearaudio Classic and actually have a chance of hearing what your vinyl has on it!

(of course, God knows what junk you are playing the SACD on, come to think of it...[DUP: quote..."they all sound the same"] )

Wow, now I've seen it all, a Bozo the Clown record collector!

Maybe the Shure isn't your cup of meet because it's not the best at 78's or wide groove mono Bozo-delity.

I have a Michell Gyrodec with a Zeta arm and Van Den Hul wiring....and a Shure V-15 VMR and I kinda like it.

I find it "polite sounding." Not too much of this, not too much of that, with rather nice imaging, thank you.

I'm using a Lyra Argo on my main table, with a Triplanar arm...and I like it better than the Shure, for sure, but, geez, Commsysman, aren't you letting your disdain for DUP cast a pall over the Shure?

I like having lots of turntables in my life, and I do use a Grado on another table, and I like it, too; but on the Zeta arm, the Shure sounds better. More of the iron fist in a velvet glove sort of thing. The Grado is a bit on the loose end of the sound spectrum. Maybe a little more "euphonic?"

I have a vintage Monster Cable Alpha 2 cartridge in the drydock...you've motivated me to go search for it and do a three way comparo.

Cheers, bud. Don't go hatin' on the Shure, it tries its best.

We can save for later discussing the kind of thinking that blindly tells people to buy cartridges based on their Stereophile letter grade.

ohfourohnine
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

If only I'd had some wise guidance long ago. Maybe you too, for that matter, Buddha. I don't own a single Bozo recording, nor have I strayed far from the Shure V15 through its several refinements since its introduction back in the dark ages. Hell, I wasn't even aware of its Stereophile rating. The only mention of the V15MxVR I can recall in the mag was Mike Fremer lamenting the passing of that cartridge when Shure discontinued manufacturing it. I think he referred to it as the standard by which all MM cartridges were measured and talked about true tonality over the full range. Gees, you'd think a guy who has listened to as many TT/arm/cart combinations as Mike has would have recognized a truly "whiny" third rate cartridge.

I, on the other hand have excuses: I'm admittedly a cheapskate and my ears are getting pretty old. I can only be sorry that guys like you and Mike have fallen prey to the same bad judgment I did. Where were those true "golden ears" when we needed their sound advice?

PS: Now this one is really shocking! Here's the list of associated equipment posted by a reviewer for another mag at the conclusion of his review of Sonus Faber Concerto Domus Speakers, " Sota Cosmos Series III Turntable, SME V pickup arm, Shure V15VxMR cartridge.....". It's bad enough to mount that third rate cartridge on my rig, but this guy really didn't get the message from the mountain. Perhaps now that I know how bad it is, I can sell him my replacement stylus and use what I get for that to buy a couple of really good cartridges.

Jeff Wong
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

Buddha - I'd loooove to hear more on your thoughts on the Argo. I've currently got a Shure V15-MR on the VPI, and it's not giving me all that I crave and expect of analogue. I've been very curious about the Argo. I must admit, the structural shape of the Titan and Helikon with their curves makes a lot more sense to me than the sharp 90 degree undersides of the lower priced models. I imagine the curve would be better for controlling resonances.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: What is it with SACD imaging?

As you know the stability of images is usually an issue with phasing. Analogue tape has it, cassettes really have it. Vinyl also has it as most of their recordings came from mylar masters.

My problem with vinyl which I still love and play every day is the higher noise floor even with vacuum cleaning and the fact that you must spend considerable money on a good TT, Cart, especially a very good phono preamp, and with the mv of signals I do believe that good cables here are very important.

To me the one thing that PCM has is stable images and if something is wrong then it is probably the recording engineer not dealing with room issues, or caring. That is the one thing that the Iso-Mic technique tries to improve upon is keeping the omni mics line of sight more left and right than you would normally hear due to the isolation seperator between them.

I just got a recording from Ray Kimber of 88 Keys using his Iso Mic techinque and it is very nice and was only $10. Quite a steal I believe. I think that JA's last recording with RS is better, but this is still a very nice CD.

I still think that SACD for me is the difinitive recording format and I hope it survives. With a nice player like your Marantz it has got to be pretty special experience.

I hope in 2007 to get the Tascam DVRA 1000 and do recordings with it and use it has my main player of CDs. Until I can afford an Ayre C5 there is no reason for incremental jumps for me. I just have to live in my world of "less" for the time being.

Regards,

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