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First Impressions - Entry Level Machine For Newbies

Discussion in 'High resolution audio' started by A_Klingon, Sep 23, 2003.

  1. A_Klingon

    A_Klingon Moderator Staff Member

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    Note: I am presently going through 3 hi-res audio discs trying to discern my subjective feeling about all of them. This blurb here is just about my initial experience(s) in finding/purchasing a player, and some comments regarding the same.

    I'll try to give a detailed report of what I think sonically a little later on. (Might take a while though, because I have to admit, I [bold]am[/bold] having fun). :=)

    I hadn't really expected to buy a player so soon, and the only reason I was even in 'Future Shop', a Canadian 'Hi-Tech' store which is in danger of becoming Radio Shack #2, is that I needed a cheap 100-pack of Asian cds to offload the 44 gig's-worth of red-book images I had sitting on my hard drive.

    Of course, with all this recent talk of hi-res audio -- but fearing the worst in prices -- I reluctantly ambled over to the dvd hardware player section.

    They have a lot of players in that store - shelves'-worth, but at first I couldn't see a thing with 'DVDA' written on it. But eventually, sitting there on a lower shelf I saw a ridiculously-low priced Technics/Panasonic model for $229 Canadian. (I forget the model number), but the Technics front panel did anything but inspire confidence in me. It was pretty 'chintzy'-looking. I had to dig around for a while longer before I spotted the [bold]only[/bold] other Hi-Res model in the store: A Pioneer DV-563A, going for an almost as-low $299 Canadian.

    In the audiophile world I realize that these are not audiophile prices. But since inexpensive machines like this are available, I couldn't resist at least trying to get my feet a little wet in this brave new hi-res world.

    The Pioneer machine is a slim-line model that looks only marginally better than the Technics, but for $299, I was in no position to argue:

    [​IMG]

    If you think the player looks bare-bones enough, here is the back panel which looks equally minimalist:

    [​IMG]

    At least it seemed to have the minimum-necessary number of outputs. I should point out that this model is also SACD-compatible - which is not really why I bought it - I was not really looking for a dual-format unit, but again, at this price .......

    Cradling the new boxed player plus the 100-pack of blank cds plus a few other items under my arms, I wandered over to Future Shop's DVD software section. They have rows and rows and rows of DVD-Videos including a whole section devoted to nothing but Boxed Sets, but do you think I could find a single Hi-Res audio disc in either format? [bold]NO.[/bold]

    Not only do they not carry any, but the on-floor sales-lady didn't have a clue what I was talking about. Finally, at the checkout counter, a slightly-more knowledgeable gent admitted that they did not yet carry such titles because 'nobody seems to be asking for them'.

    Driving home, I recalled in an sacd forum I had been reading, that Walmart does at least, carry SACD titles. Not expecting any luck though, I went to a local Walmart outlet and found exactly the same thing - nothing. The sales-rep there knew as little as (which is to say, he knew nothing more) about either format than the lady at Future Shop had. [sigh.....]

    Last Resort: Halifax Shopping Center - my old-standby. At a place called 'Music World' they carried a mere handful of SACDs, but no DVDAs. About 200 yards away on the same level, there is a place called 'Radio-Land' which, conversly, carry a handful of DVDAs but no SACDs. (And you think this SACD vs DVDA format war is anywhere near it's end?) [bold]HA !!!!![/bold]

    I honestly forget what I paid for the sacd (I chucked the receipt away), but the two dvdas I bought were $39.09 Canadian each, (incl. taxes) which is just bloody awful. The two DVDAs were:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [bold]Doobie Brothers - The Captain And Me
    Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies[/bold]

    The SACD is the disc that seems to have various web-reviewers all drooling into their keyboards, [bold]Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side Of The Moon' :[/bold]

    [​IMG]

    When I got the Pioneer player home, I was initially dismayed at the 'heft' of it. This unit really [bold]IS[/bold] a flyweight box of micro-chips. (About 5 pounds). But I figured, well, a) it was cheap, and b) in this hi-tech world a lot of hi-tech chips are necessary, and who equates "Hi-Fi by the Pound" these days anyway?

    My audio system at home is just a stereo 2-channel only affair - quite outdated at that - and so I have no means to evaluate the 5.1 surround mixes that come on all 3 of the discs. But in stereo, (and with 5.1 downmixes) I was able to listen to these discs through two ancient Pro-Linear Stage 300-X floor monitors (each of which contains 6 drivers); and a pair of decidedly lo/mid-range Sony MDR-V600 headphones, now discontinued I'm sure. The integrated amp I have is an ONKYO (about 80-watts per side) model A-8150, which I bet was discontinued long before the headphones were.

    I'll try to explain what I thought of the disc's sonics ASAP. Just briefly though, upon early listening, I find the SACD to be the least desireable of all, sonically. Of the two DVDA Warner Brother's releases, the Doobies clearly outperform Alice Cooper. If pure numbers mean anything, this may (or may not) be too surprising, as the Doobie's disc, in stereo mode is 192kHz 24 bit, while Alice Cooper's output is registering 96kHz 24 bit in both stereo and surround. I'll have more 'numbers' later, but the only thing that really matters to me is the sound. The numbers are incidental.

    Later ......... -- Klingy --
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2003
  2. wilkes

    wilkes Regular member

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    Good job, Klingy!
    Question for you - what of these discs (DVDA) have downmix only, and what have specific stereo mixes? at 24/192 the Doobs must be a separate mix, which if the AC one is downmix only would explain the difference. I'll email you a whole bunch of tech papers about downmixes if you like, plus there is an article i need to send for posting. It's from the AES in 2001, and it goes into enormous detail about how dodgy DSD is (that's SACD to those who haven't been following these threads).
    Apparently the converters are in permanent overload, and only some heroic noise reduction algo's stop it becoming a mess.
     
  3. Oriphus

    Oriphus Senior member

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    Yeah Klingon, thats the machine im lookin at getting. I noticed it and its big brother some time back for around £213. However, i cant really see nay features the big brother version (656K) offers over the 565K except its twice as thick in size lol
     
  4. listen

    listen Member

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    Details about how dodgy DSD is?? I would like to read this... will it be on the main page or something?

    p.s. Are there any albums released on both DVD-A and SACD? It's not really ideal comparing completely different sounds / mastering etc.
     
  5. wilkes

    wilkes Regular member

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    go to www.discwelder.com, and check out the info section.
    There is an AES paper on why DSD is unsuitable for High Res Audio there.
    I am compiling another list of all the arguments against both DSD and PCM, and will be posting this on my website so you can read all about the pros and cons of Both formats. As everyone knows, I prefer PCM, but on our website we are trying to remain "neutral" as far as possible, with pointers as to our preferences. This seems like the fairest approach to me.
     
  6. A_Klingon

    A_Klingon Moderator Staff Member

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    WoW. Late response.......

    Only now, because of Hurricane Juan, which slammed into Halifax last Sunday night, has power been restored, and my online service, hosted by Dalhousie University --- had [bold] it's [/bold]power restored in this blacked-out city of ours. One of our maple trees has been split in half and is now sitting on a neighbour's front patio, and another huge maple was ripped right out of the ground, destroying part of our steel fence and winding up in another neighbour's yard. Our roof shingles are scattered everywhere - one bedroom leaking. City has called in the military to help clean up streets. Cars demolished. Lamp posts/Power lines down everywhere. Flooding. Some buildings' roofs were blown clean off and are lying in the streets. One of our city parks has an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 trees flattened. Some businesses are ruined. We are in SOME ROYAL MESS here in Halifax !!!! Ahhhrrgghhhhhhh !!!!!! :=(

    =================

    Hi Wilkes! Some random info: The 2 DVDAs are very different. The Alice Cooper disc is a single-sided dual-layer affair, carrying both stereo and surround Hi-Res mixes. You choose which mix you wish to listen to via an on-screen menu which pops up right away. ("Surround Playlist" or "Stereo Playlist"). Both playlists have exactly the same (musical) content. (The disc has several other, non-related 'extras'.)

    The Doobie disc is a "flipper". Dual-sided, single-layers. One side is Hi-Res 5.1 surround; the other, Stereo Hi-Res.

    I may have "downmixed music" a bit confused. I am not referring to any DTS or DD 5.1 downmixing. Thankfully, there [bold]are no[/bold] DD or DTS soundtracks. The Doobie disc, in standard stereo mode, is closer to the original vinyl LP to anything I have heard in the last 30 years!!!!

    Note: All three of these albums were released in 1973, and I am old enough that I bought the original vinyl pressings of these when they first came out. My source of remembered reference (the ideal to which I am trying to match), was the fidelity of these as played back through a genuine, audiophile-grade Denon DP-790 manual direct-drive turntable and Shure V-15 Type V cartridge combination, with Monster interconnects. I am attempting to recoup the same audio-quality which I experienced at that time. It is utterly sinful that only now, 30 YEARS later that I am picking up where red-book left us stranded.

    I can also play the Doobies' 5.1-side, (the flipper disc) but unless I adjust my player's menu for "downmix", I only hear the front left and front right channels through my stereo. If I specify "downmix", the 5.1 mix will sound natural. (A red 'DMX' lights up on the front panel's display). The correct solution for me, of course, however, is to simply play the two-channel side which has been properly balanced at the production studio.

    The Pioneer's 'downmix' (to two-channel) feature must be, I presume, to play back (in stereo) those discs which come only in multi-channel sound -- i.e. -- when there is no two-channel mix available. Confusing? (not really).

    With the Alice Cooper disc, you simply choose whatever mix you want according to the playback equipment you own.

    Boy oh boy Wilkes, was I ever surprised at the difference between 96/24 and 192/24. Even on my OLD equipment! Maybe my surprise at the better sonics of 192/24 stems from the fact that I was listening to two diferent albums, BUT, did I not hear you once mention that.... you <sorta> thought anything above 96/24 was a bit of overkill? Well, at least based on just these two samples, I prefer the 192/24.

    The Doobies at 192/24 blows Alice Cooper at 96/24 out of the water! (Which is not to say that the Cooper disc sounds 'bad' in any way - it simply lacks the same overall musicality of the Doobie's disc.)

    Comparing the two discs, the stats I see are confusing to me:

    Alice Cooper Stereo Mix = 96 kHz/24 bit audio. Transfer Rate averages 3.2 Mbps (meagabits per second)

    Doobie Brothers Stereo Mix = 192 kHz/24 bit audio. Transfer Rate averages about 4.7 Mbps. In surround the Doobies disc is outputting at 7.7 Mbps (!!!) I have to assume that MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) is coming into play here.

    Anyway, my subjective findings:

    You know how, with red-book audio, a sustained bass-note and (perhaps) cymbal crash can all congeal into a mishmash of undefinable mess? Well, how about that same bass note and cymbal-crash [bold]plus[/bold] a sustained, searing lead-guitar chord ALL coming together in perfect harmony; three separate, disparate elements all clearly-defined and reproduced SO easily and naturally wihout the merest hint of confusion? With no strain, and a refreshing sense of naturalness and ease?

    That is what the Doobie disc sounds like to me, and it is the closest to that which I remember 30 years ago.

    The Cooper disc, weakens in comparison. I don't know if that's because of the 96/24 reproduction, or because, simply, the album wasn't recorded as well to begin with, or, less care was taken in the new Hi-Res mastering, OR some combination of all three, BUT I find the disc quite a bit less "musical". (Mind you, I love the music. The disc does not strike me as sounding as 'good' as my original vinyl pressing.

    And about that 'Dark Side Of The Moon' SACD. All I can say is...... I'm some damned glad I listened to your earlier posts. (!!)

    I don't mean to be unkind to EMI records, or to Pink Floyd - at least a genuine effort is being made toward genuine high-resolution audio, so sorely overdue. But...... I just don't know how 'those' web-reviewers can be so enthusiastic in their praise! Undoubtedly they have better equipment than I do, but (perhaps) they were spending a bit too much time in being 'wowed' by the nifty 5.1 surround effects rather than just listening in stereo. (I dunno). I really tried to enjoy this disc. I'm sorry, but I couldn't. Even the Cooper disc left this one lacking terribly, and with the Doobies - there was no contest.

    The sound - to me - was more redbook than anything, (and no, I was not listening to the red-book layer on this hybrid disc). Words like 'dull' and 'undefined' came to mind, and I suppose there will be all kinds of Pink Floyd fans who will tell me I am completely NUTS for saying that. [sigh....] It does sound 'OK'. I really do love Pink Floyd, and this album is so familiar to me it is practically written into my DNA structure.

    But I was dissapointed overall. If this is DSD at work, I want no part of it, and shame on YOU, Sony!

    Lots of other comments later if you want. The "new" oversized Jewel Box that Warner Brothers/Rhino is using is an absolute, utter, disaster. A shambles, poorly designed from the ground up. Both my new jewel boxes have cracked plastic. One was cracked before I even tooked the shrink wrap off. They are very difficult to open without breaking. Everything you hated about the original jewel-box is here, only threefold worse. The artwork is nice, but the packaging is pure trash. (The sacd uses the normal jewel-box).

    Anyone want to talk about backing-up these dvda's? (No?) Why not? At $40 a pop, on my limited budget, I won't be buying many of them and I somehow feel I have a right to try to protect these damned expensive discs. (No, I have not been able to successfully back-up the discs <yet>, but .......) Evil Mr. [bold]DRM[/bold] is rearing his ugly head up here boys and girls.

    Chat later !!!! :=) -- Klingy --
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2003
  7. listen

    listen Member

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    Hmm, I really like the new cases... at the risk of sounding cheeky, are you sure you're pressing on the bit that says 'press' when you open them? I find them very easy and a big improvement over the old ones. Or are these different from other DVD-A cases?

    Are you sure there is no Dolby Digital? Does it not work at all in a DVD-V player? I might have to order a copy...
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2003
  8. A_Klingon

    A_Klingon Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi, listen. :)

    No, you're not being cheeky at all. That's a good question.

    Yep, after much fumbling, I have learned to press down (hard) on the spot where it says 'Press' (duhhhh), but the case is still a Royal Bitch to open. Opening the new jewel case is the least of my problems though.

    The case _is_ attractive for in-store-display purposes, but it SUCKS in every other aspect. The case is of clear plastic, which allows the internal artwork to show through clearly, but the plastic is [bold]hard and brittle[/bold]. If you glance at the case sideways, it will split before your very eyes. Do yourself a favour: DON'T ever drop the case on the floor. It will shatter. The hinges, while a minimal improvement over the original jewel case, will fusk up (break) if you inadvertently scratch your bum.

    The case is an unqualified disaster, listen. To make matters worse......

    You can't buy "replacement" cases. At least, I can't. (Can you?) I wouldn't want to. The cases are 'proprietary' in nature. So far as I can see, only Warner Brothers makes 'em. And there are NO storage cases, racks, cabinets, or whatever, that can house them. I bet your dvda's are all stacked up on some shelf, right?

    And boys-oh-boys, are War. Bros. paranoid or [bold]what[/bold]?

    Did you see that little magenetic ribbon glued to the internal artwork underneat the clear plastic case? You know.....the kind of magnetic stripe that [bold]Walmart[/bold] loves to stick on everything they sell, so that you don't try to steal their stuff?

    Warner Brothers is SO paranoid that you're going to try to steal their high-resolution discs, that they stick this magnetic strip on all their releases, in addition to whatever strip(s) the store wants to stick on.

    Other than the fact that these noo-&-improoved jewel cases are an undeniable abomination, listen, I am [bold]delighted[/bold] to see you are a 'Hi-Res' kinda guy too (!!!!) Do you enjoy the discs? Do you find them a worthwhile replacement for standard music cd's.?

    We really need, (and I would love to hear) your opinion of them.

    Where do you live, (USA?), and how much did you pay for 'em? Do you have a DVD-burner, and if I can figure out a way to economically transfer (rip/burn) them to standard DVD blanks, would you like to know?

    Any (all) input from my friend, Lasse, would be highly treasured. (Hi Lasse!). <cd-rw-org>.

    Lasse, I absolutely love DVD-Video. No one could enjoy a good movie more than I. I have spent at least two full (most enjoyable) years here at AfterDawn learning the intricate, internal workings of DVD-Video - and suffered the growing pains of all those attempting to back-up their expensive purchases to Divx; VCD; SVCD; XVCD; DVD; and god only knows what else.

    But as a lover of AUDIO, a "condition" (for which I salute you), how do you feel about all that is happening in the audio world as of late?

    Lasse, there was, and is, an entire *world* out there that supercedes DVD-Video as we know it. No one knows which came first - (the chicken or the egg), but I assure you, AUDIO was kicking butt long before VHS was even thought of, let alone DVD.

    Music, *real* music, has the power to envoke virtual (delightful) paralysis. That is to say, it can stop you dead in your tracks. No, that doesn't mean it will necessarily bring you to your knees. (But if it did, I wouldn't make fun of you by any means).

    I'm not really certain if you could have guessed what an ("audiophile") you have on your hands with me, Klingy, (or even if you ever wanted to), but I'll tell you this......

    [Speech]: Nothing in the DVD-Video world has ever approached the magic, the majesty, the emotion, the enjoyment, the pain & joy, that honest, bullshit-free music can envoke in human beings. Red-book audio was a hideous
    step backwards. It nullified all genuine attempts at furthering the advancement of that which mattered most, all in the name of corporate greed and profits.

    Right now, Mr. Wilkes of England, whether he knows it or not, is, with his efforts, helping to define critical future opinion of what (current) technology will provide in the short term, and what DVD-Audio is capable of giving to us in the long term. We (en masse) are SO ignorant of what true High-Fidelity is all about that it's frightening. And that's NO ONE'S FAULT. We have been lied to for years. We have suffered red book for years. We are only now desperatlely scrambling for that which ALL of us old-timers took for granted 30 years ago. The audio/music industry has one [bold]HELL[/bold] of a lot of apologies to make (RIAA), and one [bold]HELL[/bold] of a lot of catching up to do.

    [End Of Speech]

    Lasse, if I should ever find myself in the AfterDawn doghouse again, I pray you will give me some decent music to listen to while I ponder my fate. <gg>

    Listen, those new oversized jewel-cases suck.

    Regards.......


     
  9. A_Klingon

    A_Klingon Moderator Staff Member

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    OOps......'listen'......

    I forgot to mention....

    Yes, there IS a bit of DD 5.1 audio on the 'Alice Cooper-Billion Dollar Babies' DVD-A. But that is *only* for the "Extras" material included on the disc. The Extras material has nothing to do with the High-Resolution section of the disc. The DD 5.1 (lossy) audio is only for the included "Elected" music-video bonus thingee.

    In fact, there are also some extra audio tracks not included on the original 1973 L.P. But all of this "stuff" is just 'frills', and detracts people's attention from the crucial matter at hand. (Hi-Res).

    And yes, ........ I wouldn't wipe my bum with those awful new jewel-cases. <gg>

    Peace -- Mike --

     
  10. listen

    listen Member

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    Gosh, if everyone was as enthusiastic and friendly as you, the world would be a better place!.... well, a different place, at least.....

    anway... it's fair enough what you say about the jewel cases, but the CD ones break when you drop them too! what more can you expect from plastic cases, without going the way of DVD-V cases, which are completely horrible in my opinion. i guess you must be a fan of record sleeves.

    to open them, you don't have to press hard, just push only on the press bit, not the overhang of the case (maybe use your thumb nail). this presumably is to stop it from being accidentally opened.

    well, considering this is a hi-def forum, maybe i shouldn't just go on and on about the cases, but i really think they are a good job.

    i'm not lucky enough to have a DVD-A player yet, so i really don't have any opinions on the sound. I don't feel like i've suffered at all by red book, although some cds are much worse than others. I suffer badly under mp3 and other codecs which is what got me into this I guess, and of course, if you can get a DVD-A for the same price as a CD, why not? I live in NZ and they are not at all expensive, although i've yet to see an actual player in the shops.. funny that.

    I don't want to start a battle or anything, but if you run the Alice Cooper disc through a more 'liberal' sounding amp, and maybe get a bit of crosstalk and warming up of the sound going on, does it sound as good as the vinyl then? hehehe, ignore that if you want... i'm not a vinyl hater, i just completely don't see how 96/24 can be insufficient in any way at all. But of course perhaps, like you say, it's just bad mastering...
     
  11. A_Klingon

    A_Klingon Moderator Staff Member

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    'Insufficient' may be in the ears of the beholder. I would have to hear more 96/24 titles first, but at least, for me the Cooper disc didn't match the fidelity of the Doobies disc at 192/24. And no, I don't (think) the Cooper disc actually matches the original vinyl LP in terms of overall musicality, but it does sound good nonetheless. Better than the CD -- oh yeah.

    Since DVD-A prices really are almost $40 each here in Halifax (Canada), it will be expensive (and slow) for me to test out new 96/24 releases. Another point -- the 3 discs I have were made from 30-year old analogue tape masters. It could be that any modern recording using today's equipment, recorded directly to digital, would sound much much better at 96/24. It could be that 192/24 reproduction brings out all the best these old masters have to offer. The difference between the two discs I have is quite noticeable.

    (I could probably live with those jewel boxes) if replacement cases were available (hell, we're lucky enough to find the original discs), and if some sort of storage case, designed specifically for this case size, were available.

    The other day, I handed one of the discs to a buddy of mine without saying anything, and watched as he silently cursed under his breath, and fumbled with the damned thing -- so I [bold]know[/bold] it's not 'just me'. <gg>
     

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