Digital sources (flac and DSD) vs CD

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by travellersol, Nov 16, 2017.

  1. travellersol

    travellersol Active Member

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    Hi all. I have a Marantz CD63SE player that I used to play CDs on it twenty years ago. After moving to a new city I left my system in their boxes for many years untouched, practically left the hobby. Just beginning last year I felt the itch to listen to my stuff again, and found the Marantz's mechanism stuck (well after all those years), for a temporary solution I just plug in my (then) newly-bought Fiio X3 digital player into my amp and play some flac and ape files, and, the result was good at least to my ears. I have bought Fiio X5iii after losing the X3 and have been using it ever since.

    My question to all here is:

    "Would digital sources like flac and DSD sound as good as on CDs, or better?"

    I know some "audiophiles" scoff at the idea of using any source other than CDs and vinyls. But I wonder, if CDs and flac and DSD are all carrying nothing but streams of 1s and 0s, why would flacs and DSDs be inferior to CDs? In fact, CDs is not a purely digital medium as it needs a mechanical spinning device to read it, thereby bringing in jitter and other unwanted errors. To my limited knowledge, wouldn't DAPs playing lossless tracks be more accurate than playing CDs? Since I don't have a functional CD player to do an AB test with my DAP, I'd like to hear from people who have done it and illuminate me on this matter.

    In the future, I plan to buy a good DAC and feed it with my PC or DAP playing high res material. Would this setup totally eliminate the role of CD players in the future?
     
  2. KevinJS

    KevinJS Super Member

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    I'm not going to pretend to be an authority on the subject. I prefer the CDs over digital files, simply because my digital playback method involves wireless, which seems to make the playback suffer somewhat.

    As far a I understand, there should not be any difference between a CD and a FLAC or an SACD and a DSD, assuming the rip was done accurately.
     
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  3. Alobar

    Alobar Pulling out of the Last Chance Texaco.. Subscriber

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    Flac files are considered lossless in that they uncompress on the fly and then identical information wise to the uncompressed version. Like a Zip file completely gets restored identically when unpacked, a flac is the audio version of a zip file.

    Now an mp3 file does lose data, and is more akin to a jpeg file, and depending on how much compression is applied, quality suffers accordingly.

    IMO, you shouldn't be able to tell the difference between a flac file created from a CD and the CD itself, all other things being equal.
     
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  4. Bob

    Bob AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    depends. I read into this as some music on (FLAC/DSD) vs CD. if the source was not CD
    and then delivered in FLAC/DSD then it will depend on the source's resolution. it could
    be higher than standard CD. therefore, it may sound better.

    if the CD was ripped to FLAC or DSD (this second method I find troublesome) then
    it will depend on downstream DAC - CD through one DAC, does not sound the
    same through a different DAC or through a DSD processor.

    and if your DAP is outputting directly into an amp via AUX, then the DAC conversion
    has already been done. your SQ is dependent on the DAC in the DAP.

    I will say, that some of those new DACs (ESS9038, AKM4490) are very, very good.
    if your DAP has one in it then use that as the source player. EG rip your CDs into
    DAP storage.

    enjoy the music
     
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  5. rwartner

    rwartner Super Member

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    Basic difference in your equation is the DAC. CD player, computer etc. have one, which is best? Yes get a good DAC for your PC. Then investigate music player software. Windows Media Player comes with the PC. To me the difference there is the functionality/features.
     
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  6. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Well, it is NOT easy to rip SACD files. You need to use one of 2 known methods - the PS3 method/ or the Oppo/Pioneer universal player method.
     
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  7. W9TR

    W9TR Active Member

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    Great question! Short answer YES!! I've moved from spinning CD's to computer file based playback. I can hear no difference in disks spinning in my McIntosh MCD 1100 and the same file played back through the D/A converter in the MCD 1100. So the only difference is file vs. spinning disc. The rest of the digital chain is JRiver MC 21 on a SurfacePro3 tablet running USB into the MCD 1100.

    Yes, apart from SACD, there is no need to spin a disc. Even SACD files can be ripped, but it is hard to do as botrytis noted above.

    Also, once you get a DAC you can use Tidal streaming and get CD or better quality. I do this now almost exclusively. It sounds fantastic.

    These are the good old days. If you have a PC, any flavor, all you need now for great sound is an inexpensive DAC and a good pair of headphones and you will have high end sound for not a lot of money.
     
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  8. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Tidal STILL does not sound as good as stream from my PC. Why, simple - Tidal and all streaming services use compression to keep the music above the background noise.

    Also, if using Windows, Windows 10 is better sounding than 7 or 8. It is a small difference but it is there. Also WASAPI works better in Win 10.
     
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  9. W9TR

    W9TR Active Member

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    Interesting - do you know anything about the compression they use from their PC app based streaming? Reason I ask is that I'm sniffing some pretty high downstream data rates, like 2 MBPS, coming into the PC when I use this app. MQA rates are a little higher still. Just curious. They claim not to compress HIFI from their native app. They also hint that their web interface does compress.
     
  10. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    While a CD will rip to FLAC at 16 bit depth/44.1kHz bit rate (standard CD resolution) the other key difference in sound between the CD and a FLAC file is the DAC it is played through.

    All CD players have an internal DAC which converts those zeros and ones into an analog signal to feed your pre-amp or receiver. A stand alone DAC does the same thing. One big difference in the sound of the playback is the chipset as Bob mentioned earlier.

    There are lots of chipsets out there to choose from. I've listened to DACs and CD players with Texas Instruments, Burr Brown, ESS, AKM, Cirrus and other brand chipsets. For me, the ESS units sound the best. Your ears will tell you what sounds best to you.

    DSD is another file format that requires a chipset that will decode the digital signal. I don't use DSD but have contemplated it after hearing some at an audio store. I've not heard it in my system.

    Here are a few other things to be aware of as you consider file differences:

    1. You could send your digital out signal from your CD player to a stand alone DAC, bypassing the CD player internal DAC, and see how that sounds to you.
    2. You can't upconvert a bad source file, like a low resolution mp3 file, to FLAC and make it sound better. It's missing data that upconverting won't restore.
    3. You could start small as far a DAC goes. Get a USB In DAC, like an Audioquest Dragonfly, and hook it up to your PC's USB output. Run the DAC's analog to an RCA input on your pre-amp and receiver.
    4. Another key area of improving sound quality are using higher resolution FLAC files that you can purchase on the interwebs. The CD quality files sound great in my system but I also purchase 24/96 & 24/192 files. I can hear a difference between them and the standard CD resolution of 16/44.1, with the higher resolution files being quite a bit more detailed in the high and mid range frequencies. It's just another example of sound quality being realized by a high quality source.

    Having a digital solution has been one of the more effective upgrades in the quality of music reproduction in my system. I went from manhandling CD's in and out of various players, including stacking 200 or 300 CD's in one of those huge jukebox CD players, to managing digital files from my laptop while sitting comfortably in my listening chair.
     
  11. Raynald

    Raynald AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Here is a twist: when comparing CDs I have ripped, if I hear a difference I prefer the file over the CD it was originally ripped from. I have compared battleship CD players used as drives only into the same DAC as my Squeezebox Touch, using the same type of digital cables. Others who have compared with me agree.

    Say what, how is that possible? If there is a difference, this might be why: CD optical drives are an older technology which reads the disc fairly accurately but relies on error correction/interpolation for the final output. Since high end CD transports were ranked on sound quality back in the day when they were king, there must be a differences. If there are difference they are not all the same. If they are not all the same, they cannot all be perfect and maybe none are.

    Computer drives are more recent and the ripping process involved the drive going over and over the disc until it is sure every 1 and 0 is accurate. The software I use verifies this against other rips. So it would make sense that my computer could be feeding a slightly more accurate version of the CD than the player that is doing it in real time and sort of making it up as it goes along.

    The wireless angle should make no difference. Wifi should transmit the 1s and 0s perfectly as it is a 2 way communication that checks to make sure everything is perfect. You don't get math errors on your spreadsheets when you transmit them via wifi to your printer and if you do that with pictures you don't end up with the wrong faces on the wrong bodies in your family pictures. Many audio hobbyists think in audio terms when dealing with computers but we are talking a different world where different rules apply. I am not saying everything is perfect, but it is different and in some ways, can actually be better.

    Just my opinion based on my experience.
     
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  12. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Well your squeezebox touch is an older DAC, I bet.

    I have compared my Pioneer DV-79AVi internal DAC to my SMSL M8 - the SMSL-M8 sounds better with the Pioneer linked using optical to the external DAC. Crisper, more soundstage and depth and the Pioneer was no slouch, just a better DAC in the SMSL.
     
  13. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    It is the same basic software that radio stations use. It is done on their end not yours. They can say that because it is already done. When I mean compress I mean the Dynamic range, so soft passages are louder.
     
  14. W9TR

    W9TR Active Member

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    Thanks - got it.
     
  15. Alobar

    Alobar Pulling out of the Last Chance Texaco.. Subscriber

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    I hadn't made that connection before.. I knew there was something that wasn't right but hadn't realized it was them messing with the DR of the files themselves. I have found some streaming to sound just terrible, something obviously wrong, where most is just okay. It will likely never replace my own music..
     
  16. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Even Netflix and Amazon use compression on both audio and video signals.
     
  17. ben_

    ben_ Active Member

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    Comparing EAC/FLAC copies of your CD is just comparing the DAC in you cd player with the DAC on your computer
     
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  18. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Exactly - use the same DAC and then compare, if you can.
     
  19. Raynald

    Raynald AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    As I said, I used the same DAC for the CD transport and the Touch, same type of digital cable. The DAC of the CD player was not used nor was the DAC of the Touch used. The digital out of both were used into the same DAC.
     
  20. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    The squeezebox is MP3 or FLAC made from the actual CD? Also, many CD players do upsample and they have that built in. I turned that off on my player - that can give the sound a little more of everything.
     

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