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lardog
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All audio resolutions sound the same?

I wanted to see if I can hear the differences between low and high resolution audio files. So, I uploaded the same song (Chris Rea, Indian Summer) 6 times from a CD into i-tunes each with a different format:
1) MP3 128Mbps
2) MP3 160 Mbps
3) MP3 192 Mbps
4) AAC (256 Mbps)
5) ALAC (632 Mbps)
6) Wave (1411 Mbps)

After importing into itunes, I can see that each of the 6 songs has these 6 different resolutions.

Then, I burn an ‘audio CD’ from itunes with these 6 songs and play them on my system. AND THEY ALL SOUND SIMILAR (identical?)!

I’m playing them on a very old (25years?) Sony carosel disk-player (audio out only), into my 7 year old Denon receiver, and then into my 25 year old Boston Acoustic T930 speakers. (yes I know, all very old, but soon to be replaced).

Note that when I put the CD into my computer and look at the properties, each of the 6 files is “2.00 KB (2,048 bytes)”, shown as the ‘Size on Disk’. Shouldn’t the songs show as different file sizes on the CD? Does itunes burn all songs to the same file resolution (i.e., ‘low’) irrespective of the format within itunes?

So here is my assessment:

1) Either my hearing is so bad that I can’t tell the difference (making me very lucky – since I don’t have to spend a lot of time/$ on high end equipment)

Or

2) The 25 year old DAC on my CD player is so bad that all audio resolutions sound the same

or

3) The songs wrote to the CD in the same resolution for some reason (?)

Or

4) My expectations are way too high regarding the differences in audio quality

Or

5) The CD player downsamples all the data to the same resolution when playing?

OR?

Before I schedule an audiology apt, is there something I should know about how this process went bad? Did I do something wrong?

mtymous1
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It won't matter much...

...to the untrained, naked ear if you ripped the various formats from the same CD. Just because you chose a different bit rate (128, 160, 192, etc.), the frequency remained the same. (44.1 kHz if a standard CD)

Play your burned CD, as well as the various files through VLC and look at the codec details to see that the frequency is constant. (In VLC, go to: Tools / Codec Information / Codec tab)

(Yes, your equipment, hearing, and whyTunes all have some impact - am just choosing to keep it short since I have no doubt a select number of posters will respond with their egregious manifestos as to why you didn't hear a difference.)

For grins, try using various digital formats of an album that you know have been engineered at different frequencies and bit-depths. One example would be Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" which is available on CD, SACD, and BluRay media.

If you still don't hear a difference between those three disc formats, then maybe it's time for the equipment upgrades and/or audiology appointment.

;-)

David Harper
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comparing

even comparing CD to SACD to bluray you can't be sure that they were all mastered exactly the same as far as compression,equalization,etc.
I have "Slowhand" on CD and SACD. I'm pretty sure the SACD was compressed to increase loudness,but the CD wasn't.
The CD sounds much better to me.
I think Lardog has a boatload of variables and unknowns going on in his experiment.

I drink to make other people more interesting.

mtymous1
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Agree...

...with David Harper's comment on numerous variables. However, one must first accept that only so much can be done to control the test environments -- especially at home with consumer products and media. (Hence my suggestion about the likely constant of the 44.1 kHz sample rate.)

As for the "CD vs. SACD" suggestion, it's a simple way to further refine the experiment as best you can. And for another album, it appears that David Harper concurs with the comment about a difference in SQ between CD and SACD.
;-)

"Slowhand" good for CD vs. SACD, but no 24/96 BluRay audio option, that I am aware. Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" is also available on CD, SACD, BluRay audio.

geoffkait
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Ripping CDs

Ripping CDs is a whole universe unto itself. One can obtain better rips thus better sound the more he applies himself. Better powe cord, treating the CD, demagnetizing the CD, coloring the CD, you know, all the usual suspects. Beveling the outer edge of the CD, whatever.

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica

commsysman
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Tunes Ahoy

[quote=lardog]I wanted to see if I can hear the differences between low and high resolution audio files. So, I uploaded the same song (Chris Rea, Indian Summer) 6 times from a CD into i-tunes each with a different format:
1) MP3 128Mbps
2) MP3 160 Mbps
3) MP3 192 Mbps
4) AAC (256 Mbps)
5) ALAC (632 Mbps)
6) Wave (1411 Mbps)

After importing into itunes, I can see that each of the 6 songs has these 6 different resolutions.

Then, I burn an ‘audio CD’ from itunes with these 6 songs and play them on my system. AND THEY ALL SOUND SIMILAR (identical?)!

I’m playing them on a very old (25years?) Sony carosel disk-player (audio out only), into my 7 year old Denon receiver, and then into my 25 year old Boston Acoustic T930 speakers. (yes I know, all very old, but soon to be replaced).

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I think everyone is missing two fundamental major issues here:

First of all, you should know something is crazy wrong when it says they are 2KB files. It takes thousands of times that much data to store any music file; typically from one to five Megabytes per minute of music. The 2K is no doubt just the header information, not the actual music.

Another major issue is that you probably have ITunes pre-set to rip everything into the music library using some default setting for resolution, so they all became the same as soon as they were imported and put on the hard drive. If you want different resolution, you need to change the rip resolution and file type settings before you rip each track onto the computer.

Using any 25-year-old player is ridiculous for comparing audio quality, and yours was not even a very good one when new, by the standards of that time. Anything you play through that will sound lousy compared to a decent modern player, which will sound completely different and 400% better.

CD players have gone through 5 or 6 generations of chips since then, each with better resolution than the previous one. Sound quality has steadily improved, and some players, like the OPPO BDP-95 and BDP-105, are so good that the sound quality is almost flawless.

A LOT of engineers have made a LOT of improvements in the technology in 25 years.

Using that old multi-disc player as a basis for quality comparisons is like taking a stock 1955 MG or Chevy out on a racetrack and expecting it to compete with a new Corvette or Porsche; or taking pictures with a cheap 10-year-old cellphone and judging quality, which you should know is going to suck.

Get any current Marantz or OPPO player and then see what you hear when playing any CD. It will be a world of difference compared to that old relic.

An old HT receiver is hardly the best ticket in town when it comes to clear accurate sound reproduction, also.

absolutepitch
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Resolutions

Commsysman is right. You have to record at those bitrates and set it to do so.

I too have done your experiment, but with a live recording of an orchestra using a recorder at "CD-quality". I then saved it to various MP3 files of varying bit rates down to as low as 64 kbps (note the units).I compared the CD-quality file to the lowest bit rate file and heard an obvious difference. Then I compared to the next higher bit rate and so forth. I suggest you do this and see how high a MP3 bit rate gets before you can't tell a difference.

geoffkait
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Flawless

Commsysman wrote,

"CD players have gone through 5 or 6 generations of chips since then, each with better resolution than the previous one. Sound quality has steadily improved, and some players, like the OPPO BDP-95 and BDP-105, are so good that the sound quality is almost flawless.

A LOT of engineers have made a LOT of improvements in the technology in 25 years."

Actually, everything is relative. Flawless compared to what? Compared to something else that's not so flawless. But flawed compared to something that's better. I'll even tell you why the Oppos are aftually no almost flawless. And why even much more expensive high end players are not "flawless." It's because all of those really great engineers in the past 25 years still have not fixed the problem with scattered laser light getting into the photodetector and distorting the sound. There is actually one Italian player that addressed this issue but that's the only one I'm aware of. The really great engineers also have not figured out that the induced magnetic field of the transformer poisons everything in proximity to the transformer, in the case of the Oppo 105 the CD transport. At least they attempted to get the transformer away from the circuit boards as much as they could. They also haven't figured out that the mechanical vibration produced by the transformer is directly coupled to the circuit boards due to the fact the transformer is BOLTED to the chassis and the circuit boards are BOLTED to the chassis. I mean, come on guys. I won't even get into the undamped CD transport compartment. Or all those undamped capacitors. Or all those little integrated chips pumping RFI/EMI into the signal. Almost flawless? I don't think so.

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica
No goats no glory

David Harper
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res

I have "Crime of the Century", by Supertramp, on bluray (24/192) and vinyl. The vinyl sounds better to me. Call me crazy, but I think digital conversion changes something very fundamental about recorded sound quality. Only my opinion.
Have you ever eaten a frozen turkey compared to a fresh one?
Not that the best digital isn't good, it is. In fact, in many ways it's better. No noise,no clicks and pops,dead silent background, all of that.
Like, in the old TV series "Star Trek", in reality,if they tried to "beam up" a live human, he would be dead on arrival, because his vital functions, the electrical signals in his brain, his heartbeat, etc,would not survive the teleportation.
Pretty good analogy, don't you think?

lardog
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mtymous1, I checked all 6

mtymous1, I checked all 6 songs within itunes using VLC (as you suggested) and checked the codec and they were what I expected (each a different resolution). Then I check the CD i burned from itunes - and every song was the same: 16/14100 Hz.

So I guess this confirms why they all sounded the same. itunes wrote them all at the same 16/44.1 format even though they were in itunes at different resolutions? Does this means itunes upsamples lower resolution files to get it to 16/44.1, and downsamples higher resolution files to get them into 16/44.1. I have no idea how to change this within itunes; maybe it's not possible since 16/44.1 is the 'redbook' standard?

I also tried dragging the files directly to the CD (outside of itunes): Success. And then tried playing them on my CD player but it didn't recognize the CD format: Failure.

At this point (with frustration sinking in), I should probably just visit a local stereo store and ask them if they can play different resolution files for me.

But in the end, i agree that i need new equipment. I'm just trying to understand what I need and why. As Commsysman implied, playing good music through my CD player is like playing a high end DAC through a clock radio!

I'm thinking of either a BDP-105 with my modest CD collection on a USB drive. OR, a BDP-103 CD player, with an Auralic Mini playing the digital output through a(used) NAD M51 DAC. The NAD seems highly rated on multiple web sites. It seems everyone likes the BDP-105 too, but one reviewer thought it was a bit bright. Any thoughts?

bierfeldt
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Thoughts

Take a step back before you start thinking about hardware as there is a LOT of flexibility in what you can get to maximize quality of your system.

Think about your total system and what features do you want or need. Do you need to be able to play CDs? It sounds like you will set up a NAS so if this is not required, why would you get a blu-ray player? What streaming services do you want and are they built into the unit you are looking at? Do you want to connect your wireless devices via bluetooth or do you want Apples Airplay. What speakers are you considering? How much power will you need to drive them? Will you add a turntable in the future? What other devices will be connecting?

Once you answer all these questions, you can begin plotting out the right equipment that will maximize quality and value while minimizing redundancy in the feature set or paying for features that you don't need.

Also, if you can find a few devices that meet your needs, you can begin hunting for used equipment, demos and floor models to save money. At full retail, my system should be about $17K. I have paid less than $10K for it because I have been patient and found deals on everything except for my speakers.

mtymous1
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lardog: Don't let the frustration get to you...

...there are many other ways to achieve your desired results. That's part of the fun in this hobby!
;-)

lardog wrote:

So I guess this confirms why they all sounded the same. itunes wrote them all at the same 16/44.1 format even though they were in itunes at different resolutions? Does this means itunes upsamples lower resolution files to get it to 16/44.1, and downsamples higher resolution files to get them into 16/44.1.

Software that converts a digital music file to CD-audio format, resamples it to 16/44.1, whether all the bits are there or not. So when you first rip from a 16/44.1 CD to various lossy compression formats, and then try to burn the compressed files to a CD in CD-audio format, the eliminated bits from those files are gone for good (or bad, depending on how you look at it), even though the CD is in 16/44.1.

lardog wrote:

I have no idea how to change this within itunes; maybe it's not possible since 16/44.1 is the 'redbook' standard?

I also tried dragging the files directly to the CD (outside of itunes): Success. And then tried playing them on my CD player but it didn't recognize the CD format: Failure.

Sorry - I do not use iTunes, but I believe others have posted the settings to be checked. You can also use your favorite search engine for How To specifics. I will caution you that Apple's proprietary approach to everything limits (sometimes cripples) the audio enthusiast -- if you want to try something else for ripping, I highly recommend Exact Audio Copy (http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/). You could also use Kodi (http://kodi.wiki/view/Ripping_CDs) to rip.

The file-drag method is used to write the files directly to the CD as-is -- just as you would with virtually any USB drive. Given the "seasoned nature" of your CD player, I wouldn't expect success in using it to play a computer-burned CD.

lardog wrote:

I'm thinking of either a BDP-105 with my modest CD collection on a USB drive. OR, a BDP-103 CD player, with an Auralic Mini playing the digital output through a(used) NAD M51 DAC. The NAD seems highly rated on multiple web sites. It seems everyone likes the BDP-105 too, but one reviewer thought it was a bit bright. Any thoughts?

WRT the Auralic's mini, I generally won't give a recommendation on a product that I've not personally tested. (Side note: I think other posters should do the same!) WRT the Oppo BDP-105D (Darbee Edition), I *will* say that it is next on my purchase list (after an in-store demo). (Recall from another thread, you could use the BDP-105D today for double-duty as a DAC and as a media renderer to breathe new life in to your current Denon. After you wade through the vast sea of amps and get your upgrade, you should have an even greater appreciation for said Oppo once connected to the new amp.)

Am curious though... What are you trying to accomplish with the combination of "...a BDP-103 CD player, with an Auralic Mini playing the digital output through a(used) NAD M51 DAC"?

Which segues to one last note... I agree with bierfeldt's assessment and recommend considering your use cases before making any purchases. (That's another part of the fun in this hobby.) In other words, the better you define your desired results, the better the system design to meet those needs/wants. (Tip: When it comes to hifi, just remember that marketing is about creating a need that you might not already have, and that sales are about pushing inventory out of the door.)

(Check out this thread if you are curious about a usage example for the Oppo BDP-105D:
http://www.stereophile.com/content/best-way-listen-digital-music-oppo-bdp-105d.)

P.S. The Oppo would be a nice component to establish a more controlled environment in the CD/SACD/BluRay experiment I mentioned previously!

Happy Listening!

lardog
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"What are you trying to

"What are you trying to accomplish with the combination of "...a BDP-103 CD player, with an Auralic Mini playing the digital output through a(used) NAD M51 DAC"?"

I was thinking that the combination of the Auralic Mini and NAD DAC would be higher fidelity, especially considering the good reviews of the NAD. Plus this get's me a stand-alone DAC which is probably a good idea if I ever want to replace it in the future. The BDP-103 would be just for playing CDs (I still want that capability).

I do agree that the BDP-105 is a great machine on paper - so much capability and for only $1200. It might be the way to go.

I'll post general thoughts on my potential system in the next post. Would be nice to get your comments - keep me rationale!

lardog
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My virtual system

My virtual system (virtual because it doesn’t exist yet) will be in 3 areas of the house:

Living Room: Hi-Fidelity system, either 2.0 or 2.1. High quality components and speakers. Not interested in surround sound. No need for a turntable. I do want a CD player because I’ll still be purchasing these for a while, and the $300-500 cost for a CD player (whether stand-alone or integrated into another ‘box’) is reasonable and not significant relative to the cost of the entire system. I don’t have a blue-ray player so this could add that capability as well. Also, I would like to stream Spotify, itunes (I like podcasts), and Tidal to this ‘Living Room Hi-Fi’ system.

Family Room + Den: Medium fidelity system. I’ve considered Sonos & similar type of streaming solutions, and the problem is that they all sound like speakers-in-a-box to me (despite good reviews). So I would like something higher fidelity than that. Possibly a low cost receiver in other rooms fed by Air Play using an Apple Express, and some relatively inexpensive bookshelf speakers (ELAC?). I don’t mind walking into a room, turning on the receiver, then using my phone to stream music through Air Play. I could even get one receiver with 2-speaker outputs and wire both sets of speakers in each of the two rooms to the one receiver (requires some attic work).

Garage: Lowest fidelity. I like listening while tinkering in the garage, so a single powered Sonos or Airplay speaker or similar system would be fine. I don’t want wired because I’ve tried it, and I get lots of interference from my florescent lights in the garage. I’m hoping a wireless system would eliminate that.

Getting back to the Hi-Fi (Living room) system (really where the fun is):
I think of this system as two distinct sections:
1) BACK END: everything that is wired into the pre-amp (or integrated amp) including the sources (CD player, music player for my modest library) and DAC (if stand–alone). All else being equal, I would prefer a stand-alone DAC because I’ve been told the technology is moving quickly, and I may want to upgrade at some point in the near future. The music player could be wired (like an Auralic Mini, or BDP105 with a USB thumb drive), or wireless (like a BDP105 + NAS).

2) FRONT END: pre-amp/amp (or integrated amp) and the speakers. I figure it would be smart to buy all of these at once since my speaker choice may drive the requirements on my amplifier (Magnapan speakers for example). I’ve listened to a few speakers ($2000-3000 range) – none of them ‘blew me away’ but were probably a little better than what I have. I’m going to drop by a dealer next month and listen to the Revel F206 – I’m hoping either they or the Magnapan will overly impress me.

I’m breaking it down into these two sections because it allows me to purchase the ‘back end’ separately from the ‘front end’. Besides connector compatibility, these two sections seem independent of each other. IOW – I can concentrate now on my requirements for the back end system and worry about the ‘front end’ later (or vice-versa). It’s too overwhelming thinking about everything at the same time (it’s driving me crazy). And this also allows me to buy more gradually over time (purchasing used even as suggested by Bierfeldt).

Of all of this, the music library & streaming hardware/software is the most uncertain in my mind. I’m trying to absorb all this new technology, but this area is being absorbed by my head at a slower rate than the other components. And there seems to be a lot of different options in this area, not just different brands but completely different technologies. Yikes!

bierfeldt
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You are thinking about this the right way

You are spot on, start with the speakers and that will dictate what hardware you buy. I own the Revel Performa3 M105s and driven properly, I think deliver a wow, particularly paired with my Sunfire Tru Sub. I am using a Rogue Audio Hydra Hybrid Tube amp to drive them. Other speakers to consider, I would check out the Monitor Audio Gold 200s, the PSB Imagine T2s and the Dynaudio Excite X34s. You might also consider looking at the Kef LS50s and getting a really sweet subwoofer to pair with them.

If you are getting a high end, external DAC, then you want a simple Blu-Ray player the the BDP 103 because you will connect the audio output via digital coax or toslink to your DAC. You are really just looking for a quality transport. I have my PS3 connected to my Marantz Reference NA-11s1 via Toslink.

Regarding DACs and Network Streamers, a big factor in deciding what you want is going to be whether you want a streamer/DAC or streamer & DAC in separate boxes. For instance, you could look at a unit like the Cambridge Azur 851N which is a preamp, DAC & streamer in one box. It has built in Spotify and supports Airplay. You could pair it with a separate power amp and an Oppo 103 and literally be done with your system. DAC chips have made a lot of progress but these things are not becoming obsolete all that quickly. If you buy a $2K or $3K DAC, odds are you won't be replacing it that soon.

For your family room, check out the Marantz M-CR611. I have a prior model - the M-CR510 - and love it. Built in streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, a CD player, AirPlay support, completely wireless and a great DAC for $699. Paired with an efficient speaker like the Monitor Audio Silver 2, you would have a pretty sweet sounding system.

mooster1223
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bierfeldt wrote:
bierfeldt wrote:

You are spot on, start with the speakers and that will dictate what hardware you buy... You might also consider looking at the Kef LS50s and getting a really sweet subwoofer to pair with them.

If you are getting a high end, external DAC, then you want a simple Blu-Ray player the the BDP 103 because you will connect the audio output via digital coax or toslink to your DAC. You are really just looking for a quality transport.

Regarding DACs and Network Streamers... you could look at a unit like the Cambridge Azur 851N which is a preamp, DAC & streamer in one box. It has built in Spotify and supports Airplay. You could pair it with a separate power amp and an Oppo 103 and literally be done with your system.

I pulled some of the recommendations from the above post and that is pretty much the system I have/had.

A pair of LS50's, Azur 851N, Vincent amp, JVC hooked up with a toslink and a SVS SB13 Ultra sub. VERY, very nice system. The KEF's don't lack anything once paired with a sub.

8 months later and I am still over the moon with the sound and function of the 851N. I also have a NAS hooked up to the 851N. The only nit I have to pick with the 851 is that I would like a finer volume adjustment. However, it is a minor issue for the value.

lardog
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High End External DAC

Bierfeldt, when you wrote "If you are getting a high end, external DAC, then you want a simple Blu-Ray player the the BDP 103 "

did you mean a simple Blu-Ray player 'LIKE' the BDP-103, or 'not the BDP-103'

If you meant 'not the BDP-103', you probably meant that there is no point to having the DAC internal to the CD player (like the BDP-103 has), if I'm just going to bypass it. And I get that. But the BDP-103 does have coax and optical audio out. It doesn't have a balanced out though - which from my understanding is optimum. But it does have a lot of other nice features such as being able to read a lot of formats, pandora/spotify, an iOS App (remote), etc... And it is only $600. But I am paying for a CD DAC that I wouldn't be using. Who makes just transports and what would i be saving ($) by just getting a transport? And do transports have all the features of non-transports (like the BDP)? I just looked at the Marantz website and didn't find any. Oppo has a transport but doesn't offer it to the public (installers only) - and the features look toned down from the BDP-103/105.

mtymous1
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Digital Library and Streaming
lardog wrote:

Of all of this, the music library & streaming hardware/software is the most uncertain in my mind.

For brevity's sake, I'll focus on the library and Tidal-streaming part, and forgo Spotify or iTunes since they are more integrated than Tidal is today.

Since personal, digital library content can be managed in various ways, I’ll stick with only 3 different ones. (Certainly not an exhaustive list by any means.):

1. USB drive: You already mentioned it. You can certainly “take your music with you.” Pretty obvious what the plusses and minuses would be.
2. NAS: After MUCH research and testing, I went with the Synology DS214play. There is a plethora of other NAS options out there, but I went with the DS214play because of all its features. (Can read about it here: https://www.synology.com/en-global/products/DS214play.)
3. Computer: More powerful and flexible than the previous two choices. (I personally have a custom-built HTPC with an audiophile-quality sound card, but there are many options from which to choose. Just don’t get a Mac mini! Wanna know some of the reasons why? Check out this thread: http://www.soundandvision.com/content/can-i-use-mac-mini-music-server)

RE: Tidal.
I am guessing that you want the AURALiC Aries MINI because you want Tidal integration? Don't forget that Tidal supports Oppo integration via Android and whyOS:
https://support.tidal.com/hc/en-us/articles/203131191-Oppo

lardog
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Tidal/Auralic

Yes, I like the tidal access with the auralic Mini. But I wish it had more streaming options (just for versatility). The other nice thing is that I wouldn't need to 'mess around' with a NAS. Just shove a hard drive into the slot, copy your music over, and your done.

Similarly done with the OPPO BD-105 where I could put my music onto a USB thumb drive - pretty easy as well. But for some reason I like the idea of the NAD M51 - it seems like a very high end piece of equipment that i can pick up used for a good deal. So I'm researching options consistent with using the NAD DAC too. Not yet sure how thing will work out in the end.

Auralic also claims we will be able to stream from 1 mini to another in the near future, which is an interesting feature. But when you buy a mini, you buy (like it or not) a year's subscription to Tidal, which means I would be paying for 2 subscriptions if I buy 2 minis, which makes no sense.

mtymous1
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Priorities?

Might be a good idea to prioritize the features/functions of your virtual system. I seem to recall:

- Streaming
- Library
- Physical Media (CDs)
- DAC
- whyOS app control

Am sure there are and will be others as you think about them. Also a good idea to further classify the "must haves" from the "nice to haves," should budget be a factor.

P.S. 103 vs. 105: https://www.oppodigital.com/KnowledgeBase.aspx?KBID=37

michael green
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the room

Hi lardog

The finer resolution your room produces the easier it is to hear the differences.

michael green
MGA/RoomTune
http://tuneland.techno-zone.net/

mtymous1
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lardog: Interesting gizmo...

...over on Lavorgna's (Apple-Flavored) AudioStream:
http://www.audiostream.com/content/bluesound-vault-2

(For the record, this is NOT a recommendation - just an awareness comment.)

lardog
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Bluesound

I have heard of the Bluesound products but I hadn’t really looked into them. But due to your post mtymous1, I did a little research. I went down to a local store yesterday to hear some speakers (Revel F206, Imagine T2, and Dynaudio X34), but also talked to them about Bluesound and Auralic mini (they sell both). They didn’t outright say it, but I think they liked Bluesound over Auralic. They mentioned returning a DAC a few years ago to Auralic, and it took 3 months to get it fixed (had to ship it to China).

Bluesound just came out with 2nd generation equipment. They have a lot of interesting products, and I think I could build a complete system for the house that I’m looking for. They have a lot of streaming content, a good DAC for my high fidelity equipment, play all kinds of music formats, and you can actually download high fidelity music from online sources right into the Vault2. Also, Bluesound will be updating their software this year to support MQA – which will possibly make their DAC even better than the NAD M51 that I was considering (the store I went to had an MQA demo last week and they said it was great – better than CD quality with very small file sizes).

On the downside, the Vault 2 isn’t wireless and so needs an Ethernet cable, there is no phone support (buying from Cruthfield will solve this problem), and reviewers have said it is cumbersome to rip CDs (takes a long time and you don’t have control over which songs to rip). Also, the idle power is 22 watts – which seems ridiculously high to me (‘green’ people won’t like that) – my huge home theater system burns .5 watt in standby mode.

But overall this system may work for me. This afternoon I started surgery - punching holes in my wall in preparation for the Ethernet cable. Sound serious doesn’t it?

mtymous1
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Update from lardog

Curious about your progress on three fronts:

- How'd the Ethernet installation go? How many runs did you put in, and from/to where? (CAT6, I hope?)
- What equipment did you decide to purchase?
- And of course, back the original post: did you ever make any conclusions about the sonic differences between the ripped file formats (and associated compression methods)? Ever resolve the size issue on your rips?

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Comment on the BDP 103

Lardog, I just saw this question.

I did mean a simple blu-ray player like the BDP-103. You don't need balanced outputs if you aren't using the internal DAC on the CD player. If you are going to run a digital cable from the CD/bluray player to a DAC like the NAD M51, then you would connect the disc player via digital coax or tosklink to the DAC. Now, getting a fully balanced DAC or at least a DAC with balanced outputs would be very beneficial assuming your preamp or integrated amp has balanced inputs.

The only time you would look for a transport only is if you aren't looking for a bluray player. If you want both, I am unaware of a bluray player that lacks an internal DAC. If you don't need video support and are just looking to play CDs, something like the Cambridge CXC is a superb transport only and will only have digital outputs and it must be paired with an external DAC. Musical Fidelity also used to make an M1 transport.

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mtymous1 wrote:
mtymous1 wrote:

Curious about your progress on three fronts:

- How'd the Ethernet installation go? How many runs did you put in, and from/to where? (CAT6, I hope?)
- What equipment did you decide to purchase?
- And of course, back the original post: did you ever make any conclusions about the sonic differences between the ripped file formats (and associated compression methods)? Ever resolve the size issue on your rips?

Funny you ask. I just now (as in an hour ago) finished spending some quality time in the attic, and did some hole drilling also, in the internal and external walls. I'm ready for the cable now. I just looked online and cat6 is pretty cheap - about $20 for 100 ft. I think i'll go to Fry's after I wash the fiberglass out of my hair. I'm routing it from my router in my den, out the wall into the garage, up to and across the attic, out the eves, down a stucco wall, and through the wall right next to my main stereo system. I figure about 85 feet.

I never did complete my file format listening competition. Instead of worrying about the format I'm concentrating on the equipment instead. I figure I'll get equip. that is compatible with all the formats so I don't rule anything out. Stay flexible.

I went to a local stereo store yesterday and found some demo KEF R100 speakers that I can get for a decent price (very similar to LS-50: same drivers I think, but a wood cabinet). What I'm worried about is that with an SPL rating of 86, the bluesound powernode at 60 watt/channel isn't enough to power them (has a NAD DAC and amplifier built-in). I would be listening no farther than 15ft away, and our normal listening is 75 db (80 when I'm feeling frisky?). LS-50 has a sensitivity of 85, and the R100 is 86. Do you think 60 watts is enough for a pair of R100s with an SPL of 86, with ample 'headroom'?

The above speakers are for my good (but not high end) living room. I'll probably add a sub to that as well. Bierfeldt, you recommended the SVS SB-1000 and both you and commsysman recommended the NHT B-10D previously. The B-10 isn't made any more so I'll probably pick up the SVS - which 2 stores also recommended.

And now a shower, and I'm off to Frys. Hoping to finish the wire routing by the end of today.

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Just to complicate things on formats...
lardog wrote:

I wanted to see if I can hear the differences between low and high resolution audio files. So, I uploaded the same song (Chris Rea, Indian Summer) 6 times from a CD into i-tunes each with a different format:
1) MP3 128Mbps
2) MP3 160 Mbps
3) MP3 192 Mbps
4) AAC (256 Mbps)
5) ALAC (632 Mbps)
6) Wave (1411 Mbps)

..to which I responded

mtymous1 wrote:

For grins, try using various digital formats of an album that you know have been engineered at different frequencies and bit-depths. One example would be Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" which is available on CD, SACD, and BluRay media.

lardog: I intentionally omitted DSD in my original response way-back-when, simply because I couldn't think of any album/work that was available in every single digital format. (If anyone knows of any, please share.)

If you want more madness prior to making your purchase, add DSD to your list of sonic trials. (I last recall Bluesound vs. Oppo??)

Interesting read on "Why would anyone be interested in a Direct Stream Digital (DSD) music format?":
http://www.ap-linux.com/articles/dsd-jewels-concealed-behind-the-scarlet-book/

FWIW, DSD files truly sound remarkable to me on my equipment - especially with planar magnetic cans (specifically, HiFiMan HE400S). If MQA's promise can deliver this type of SQ with a much greater library, then perhaps I could be swayed to jump on the MQA bandwagon.

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Update?
lardog wrote:

Funny you ask. I just now (as in an hour ago) finished spending some quality time in the attic, and did some hole drilling also, in the internal and external walls. I'm ready for the cable now. I just looked online and cat6 is pretty cheap - about $20 for 100 ft. I think i'll go to Fry's after I wash the fiberglass out of my hair. I'm routing it from my router in my den, out the wall into the garage, up to and across the attic, out the eves, down a stucco wall, and through the wall right next to my main stereo system. I figure about 85 feet.

I never did complete my file format listening competition. Instead of worrying about the format I'm concentrating on the equipment instead. I figure I'll get equip. that is compatible with all the formats so I don't rule anything out. Stay flexible.

I went to a local stereo store yesterday and found some demo KEF R100 speakers that I can get for a decent price (very similar to LS-50: same drivers I think, but a wood cabinet). What I'm worried about is that with an SPL rating of 86, the bluesound powernode at 60 watt/channel isn't enough to power them (has a NAD DAC and amplifier built-in). I would be listening no farther than 15ft away, and our normal listening is 75 db (80 when I'm feeling frisky?). LS-50 has a sensitivity of 85, and the R100 is 86. Do you think 60 watts is enough for a pair of R100s with an SPL of 86, with ample 'headroom'?

The above speakers are for my good (but not high end) living room. I'll probably add a sub to that as well. Bierfeldt, you recommended the SVS SB-1000 and both you and commsysman recommended the NHT B-10D previously. The B-10 isn't made any more so I'll probably pick up the SVS - which 2 stores also recommended.

And now a shower, and I'm off to Frys. Hoping to finish the wire routing by the end of today.

What equipment did you end up purchasing?
Did you ever conduct your file format tests?
Did you achieve your desired SQ and functionality?

lardog
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Hi Mtymous1,

Hi Mtymous1,

Funny you ask, I'm about to go to bed, after harassing my wife by making her listen to a couple amps that I just purchased.

Here are the two setups I have so far.

Setup1: CD player (analog out) --> Emotiva Stealth DAC (analog in) --> Red Dragon S500 Amp --> Spatial Audio M3 (open baffle) speakers

Setup2: CD Player (analog out) --> Emotiva Stealth DAC --> Marantz PM5005 Int. Amp (no DAC) --> Spatial Audio M3 speakers

So any difference that would be heard, would be due to either the Marantz amp, or the S500 amp.

Results: Red Dragon won. I'm sending the Marantz back to Crutchfield. The difference was small, but enough to be heard. In 3 blind tests, my wife picked the S500 3 times. I was in back of the speakers switching the connections around and could even hear the benefit of the S500 on the last song I played. If I were on a budget, the Marantz would be just fine. But in terms of SQ, the $2000 Red Dragon S500 wins over the $500 Marantz integrated.

Tomorrow my NAD M51 DAC arrives, after which I can compare the $500 Emotiva vs $2000 NAD DACs vs the bluesound DAC. The best one stays in my house, the other gets shipped back. At that point I will have a system I like A LOT. I say that because I already like everything I've heard - a lot. The speakers made a huge difference - very very happy with them (I just broke them in - 3 days of continuous use).

The one thing that still bugs me is how my 25 year old Sony carousel CD player can sound the same as the bluesound DAC. One would think the modern equipment would trounce that old Sony. It didn't. But when I get the NAD DAC, the final story will be in. If the NAD doesn't sound better than the Bluesound, I'll know where NOT to spend my $ (not in the DAC).

Not that I don't like the Emotiva Stealth DAC - I'm just trying to find out what $1500 additional buys me in terms of SQ. And by-the-way, the Emotiva DAC has the best build quality of any electronic equipment I have ever bought. The remote is metal, not plastic. The Software is really easy to use. The knobs are metal and turn like they are zero friction. The screen is very bright and readable. It's really an amazing piece of equipment. Direct from Emotiva, it's $500. If they sold this DAC in stereo stores it would easily be double the price.

I'll let you know how the DACs work out (I should be comparing them over the next few days).

I never did get back to comparing music formats, but once I have my new system I'll get back at it. I think at that point any differences (if any) should be audible with the much better system setup.

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the nad M51 was shipped back

the nad M51 was shipped back today. The difference between it and the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 was minute - if there was one at all. Both my wife and I couldn't tell a substantial difference between the two: I would even say no difference. Considering the high build-quality of the Emotiva, the fact that it has an analog input, and it is 1/4 the cost of the NAD M51, I'm keeping the Emotiva. My system is pretty well set up at this point. I may want to try some Anticables but other than that I'm good.

I'm going to WA for a vacation for a while, and when I get back I'm going to set up a system in another room consisting of a Bluesound powernode and a pair of KEF 100s. Other than that I'm going to start enjoying the music, now that the hardware is sorted out.

Thanks everyone for the help over the past months, either responding to my posts or other posts, of which I spent a lot of time reading.

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Another experiment

I found this at:
www.soundliaison.com/all-categories/6-compare-formats

...where they give you "...a zip file containing samples of 2 tracks in 4 different formats.

A: 96/24 WAV
B: 96/24 FLAC
C: 16/44 WAV (CD)
D: 320kbps MP3

All the different formats have the same source file 96/24 WAV (Studio Master)."

They also go on to say:
"When you compare the files start with the lowest resolution: D (MP3 320 kbps) and move on up through example C and B ending with A.

Be careful: If you start with A, and move down through B and C ending with D, your mind will remember the ''Blueprint'' of the higher resolution file, making it difficult to hear the difference even when finally listening to the MP3 file. Don't be frustrated if you can't hear a difference at first. Hearing is as individual as taste but hearing is also something which can be acquired, like the taste of good wine."

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Where does the original recording come from?

There is no such thing as flawless, whichever way you look at it. If the recording is in a studio, all the instruments rely on microphones. A mic reproduces the vibrations that it is fed via a membrane. This membrane responds to pressurewaves delivered by an instrument or signer's voice. Everything in nature obeys physical laws. A pressure is exerted on the mic's membrane and the membrane moves accordingly. this membrane is affixed to a voicecoil that creates a magnetic induction sending an electric current to an electronic device that interprets this signal. As the mic's membrane moves in one direction, it tends to overshoot before it returns. If it must treat high frequencies, the overshoot tends to be further in the cycle 30, 50, 70, 90 degrees, and some times more. As for the lower frequencies, the mic cannot reproduce them as is; a circuitry that boosts low frequencies and less and less as the frequencies get higher and higher. This is sort of the same as the RIAA circuitry for a turntable cartridge. The phase distortions are less for low frequencies and increase as the frequencies gets higher. Now this is just the beginning.

If the recording is live, the reproduction depends on the mics' positions and the acoustics of the venue. The distortions are endless.

For those of you who think that a vinyl is better than digital, here is some food for thought. Yop a cartridge had a mass; and so does the cartridge arm, as well as the arm's balance weight. There are two movements to a cartridge: sideways and up and down (right and left channels). If the vinyl had a wow, that channel will reproduce it. If it flutters eccentric, the other channel will reproduce it as well. When the needle is displaced, the entire cartridge, arm, and balance weight resists being displaced' but does nonetheless (Newton's action reaction). As the needle is displaced in different direction thereafter, the small displacement engendered upon the cartridge, arm, and balance weight by the previous displacement of the cartridge tends to continue its course in that direction creating an over current to the now displacement of the needle. Now the needle is displacement in another different direction while the momentum of the cartridge, arm, and balance weight continue their compound momentums from the previous motions of the needle. This mismatch sends ever expanding signal distortions to the phono preamp. Obviously, this distortion reaches a ceiling where the needle is constantly fighting the mass of the cartridge, arm, and balance weight which are always resisting being displaced in ever changing directions. This is without even putting into perspective that any volume of sound (vibration) will feed into the cartridge via the needle creating a reverberation echo. This is what many listeners misperceive as "fuller sound". If you listen at low volume, and a vehicle drives by your place, its vibration also feeds into the cartridge. Whenever I would buy a new vinyl, I would record it in a special acoustic room, the floor floating on air cushions, with earphones, at night. I would record it to a 1/2 inch tape deck two tracks. Yet, I always heard the flaws. At one session, my neighbor, who lived some 1/4 mile away, was talking on his CB. Through the cartridge I could hear all of his conversation. So, if you think that the old school (vinyl) is the more audiophile way, think again. Thank god for the digital era.

In order to answer the question: YES, most definitely there is a huge difference between a 192 and a 320 MP3 recording; especially in the higher frequencies. There is another huge step between 16-44.1 and 24-96 flac formats. The difference becomes less apparent between the 24-96 and 24-192, where very few audiophile equipment can deliver a seemingly noticeable difference, and the ear of the listener is trained to capt the subtle differences in the high notes' harmonics. The hype about 36-384, that is more in the listener's mind; he may convince himself that he will not miss anything, for the difference is between hearing 27khz and 33khz. Only the short hairs on your body can sense these; and only if the system's tweeters can reach those ultra high frequencies with authority.

If you think that you can judge audio format performance with an ipod and a 25 year old, almost dead system, maybe you are using the wrong equipment. My grand daughter comes to me with her cell phone and tells me: hey pepe, listen to this song; tell me if you like it. I simply cannot see how anyone can listen to such garbage. Yet nowadays people do. There is no difference between ultra annoying and worst. It's unlistenable no matter how you slice it. To really be able to listen to music detail, you need quiet. Try at 2oclock in the morning when everyone is asleep and it is dead quiet. I would be surprised if you do not see a difference.

Benphysics

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res

I have compared 16/44.1 to 24/192 on a relatively good system. I hear no difference in SQ whatsoever. Could be there is a very subtle difference that might be perceived by an experienced listener over a state of the art system. I don't know. In any case the difference could never be described as "huge". A huge difference,IMO,is the one going on in the listeners head.

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In medical studies, the drug

In medical studies, the drug under study has to provide a significant benefit to beat the placebo. What this means is that a drug that provides a small but measurable benefit will not be considered effective. The mind is a powerful thing.

And since you brought up records (an archaic but fascinating technology), I found a good website to show how the stereo effect works.

http://www.vinylrecorder.com/stereo.html

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FYI - I also found another

FYI - I also found another website that you may find interesting. This guy is very photographic-centric, but also seems very knowledgeable with audio gear. His reviews appear very unbiased - he says it like it is (read his review of the Rotel amp).

Here is his audio page:
http://kenrockwell.com/audio/index.htm

Here is an example of an amp review (very detailed):
http://www.kenrockwell.com/audio/audiosource/amp-100.htm

have fun reading...

mtymous1
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Curious about your test variables
David Harper wrote:

I have compared 16/44.1 to 24/192 on a relatively good system. I hear no difference in SQ whatsoever. Could be there is a very subtle difference that might be perceived by an experienced listener over a state of the art system. I don't know. In any case the difference could never be described as "huge". A huge difference,IMO,is the one going on in the listeners head.

What exactly comprises this "relatively good system?"
Also very curious to hear about the files you compared on the relatively good system.

Actually, I take that back - I encourage you to use the files from here www.soundliaison.com/all-categories/6-compare-formats, and use some good cans. (This means ANYTHING other than the Chinese, mass-produced, white, plastic earbuds that came with the iPod you always rave about.)

;-)

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system

you're already familiar with my system. I tossed the earbuds that came with the pod. Don't use headphones at all, I don't like them. I compared a CD to an audio blu-ray of the same album.Supertramp's "Crime of the Century". I realize that this probably involves variables in the recordings of each, but the musical detail sounded the same to me.
If hearing a difference between the two resolutions requires a twenty thousand dollar system, then that difference is unimportant.

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You're not alone on "Crime of the Century"
David Harper wrote:

I compared a CD to an audio blu-ray of the same album.Supertramp's "Crime of the Century". I realize that this probably involves variables in the recordings of each, but the musical detail sounded the same to me.
If hearing a difference between the two resolutions requires a twenty thousand dollar system, then that difference is unimportant.

Some mixed, yet interesting reviews here:
www.sa-cd.net/showreviews/10280
(You may find the review by Audio Ed of interest.)

I still encourage you to use the files from here www.soundliaison.com/all-categories/6-compare-formats, and conduct the tests as directed. It wouldn't cost you anything but a few minutes of your time.

Only reason I suggested cans was because I consistently hear SQ diffs with even just my desktop DAC (Sony UDA-1) and cans (HiFiMan HE400s). (Total list price for the two is $1200, which is nowhere near $20K.)

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cans

I'm sure you're right about cans revealing SQ differences much better than speakers. For one, they eliminate most of the variables like room and all that. Also I'm sure you could get electrostat headphones that would be the SQ equal of speakers costing ten times as much (maybe even a hundred times). I've also compared the CD layer to the SACD layer of a few discs which would seem to eliminate the variable of recording quality(I think,although I'm not sure about that either).
I have a pair of Polk rtia5 speakers that cost about a thousand and a pair of ELAC B6 speakers which cost 229.00 and the ELACS sound better than the Polks. So I use them to listen for SQ. They actually sound unbelievable for a speaker in that price range. Look up some reviews of them when you get a chance. TAS raved about them, said nothing else even comes close for the money. Most of the rest of the audiophile press said the same.

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[quote=lardog]Hi Mtymous1,

[quote=lardog]Hi Mtymous1,

Here are the two setups I have so far.

Setup1: CD player (analog out) --> Emotiva Stealth DAC (analog in) --> Red Dragon S500 Amp --> Spatial Audio M3 (open baffle) speakers

Setup2: CD Player (analog out) --> Emotiva Stealth DAC --> Marantz PM5005 Int. Amp (no DAC) --> Spatial Audio M3 speakers

Why on earth are you putting a DAC in an analogue chain?

lardog
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The Emotiva DC-1 a DAC/Preamp

The Emotiva DC-1 a DAC/Preamp. I'm really using it as a preamp (lots of connections to hook up other gear). Right now I'm using the NODE2 DAC, and pumping the analog through the analog pass-thru in the Emotiva. I could hook up my Node2 directly to my Amp - it probably would work but I'm worried about damaging my speakers with a errant swipe of my finger. The Node2 volume is controlled by a software slider, and I think it would be very easy to accidently drive it to max volume (oops). The amp manufacturer told me that this mistake would be very likely to damage the speakers. I might try this just for fun - to see if I can hear a difference (doubt I will tho).

BTW: I cannot tell the difference between any of my DACs (I have 3 of them), so it really doesn't matter which DAC I use. I even bought (and returned) a 4th DAC; a nad M51. They all sound the same to me and my wife. This is also consistent with someone else I know who listened to many DACS. I'm becoming very suspicious of reviewers who say they can hear a huge difference.

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Chips & Isolation
lardog wrote:

BTW: I cannot tell the difference between any of my DACs (I have 3 of them), so it really doesn't matter which DAC I use. I even bought (and returned) a 4th DAC; a nad M51. They all sound the same to me and my wife. This is also consistent with someone else I know who listened to many DACS. I'm becoming very suspicious of reviewers who say they can hear a huge difference.

Well, if the chips are identical/similar, then it certainly would be difficult to notice a difference.

Back to the earlier part of the thread about comparing rips/formats, I will say that after implementing this suggested tweak:
http://www.audiostream.com/content/electrically-isolate-your-networked-audio

...the difference between an MP3 and a CD-quality FLAC became more easily noticeable on my equipment.

It's a $100'ish tweak and I highly recommend implementing the suggested isolation solution. Perhaps the difference will become more noticeable with this tweak and all of your recent upgrades.

Happy listening!

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audiology test

Hey Lardog, I don't know if u are still around, but get a hearing test. Until you know what you CAN physically hear, in the spectrum, your tests at home don't tell u much. All of us, over 40 or 50 years on earth, should get a hearing test. And if you can't hear over 10khz, well, that's life. Not much music up there, luckily, but, that's life.

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