Dr. AIX's POSTS — 09 February 2015


I’m still trying to figure out options for the system I want to set up in Chicago at the AXPONA Show 2015. Thanks to all of the contributions that I’ve received from readers and others…I’ve got some research to do and some call to make. The goal is to assemble components that will actually achieve the kind of fidelity that high-resolution audio promises…from recording to speaker delivery this means more than just exceeding the limits of CDs. My partners and I want to blow right past the limits of Redbook and provide a room that provides a state-of-the-art listening experience.

Whenever I get a chance to roam from room to room at an audio trade show in search of great fidelity, I’m usually disappointed. There are rooms playing vinyl LPs, CD-Audio discs, analog tape, file players, music servers, and Blu-ray discs. The turntables make sense if you’re a company that makes phono preamps, record cleaning systems, or cartridges/tone arms, but I don’t get why any amplifier or speaker company would limit the fidelity of their front end by using vinyl LPs as the source…not withstanding the insistence by Michael Fremer that vinyl LPs may have wider dynamic range than CDs in his post over at Analog Planet (click here to read his piece titled, “Does Vinyl Have Wider Dynamic Range Than CDs? Here’s Some Math”).

I read the linked PDF file written by Ron Bauman (who has an EE degree) in 1996. It’s interesting but lacks the fundamental understanding that vinyl LPs are virtually all made from analog tapes. And analog tapes have less fidelity (certainly less dynamic range and usually less frequency response) than CDs. If you take an analog tape and create a new master at 96 kHz/24-bits or 192 kHz/24-bits, you’re going to be capturing a whole lot of nothing. I’m fine with having a safe margin for the filters etc…but it only needs to go so far.

Anyone in any room at any trade show that is still playing CDs should have their head examined…unless they happen to be selling CD players. An inexpensive Blu-ray player or high-resolution capable audio file player will produce better sound at far less expense. There are reasons why a vendor would play vinyl LPs but there’s no reason to show off your new speakers using CDs. Download the demo files you want from HDtracks, you’ll get better fidelity. Better yet, play some real HD-Audio.

A reader pointed me to a mod company that offers a multichannel (via S/P DIF) output modification for the Oppo BDP-103, the model that doesn’t have the fancy ESS Sabre DACs. That sounded kind of interesting to me. Imagine being able to take three S/P DIF outputs (they make an AES model as well) and route them to your favorite DACs…perhaps the HA-1 from Oppo or my personal favorites the DAC2 HGC from Benchmark. Anytime you can make a connection using digital signals, you’ll be better off. The cost of the box is over $1000 but it might get me closer to my goal.

The alternative is to assemble a HTPC consisting of a PC, Lynx 16 AES card, Blu-ray ROM drive, JRiver etc. That option is still on the table but I’ve made some progress thanks to you.

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(16) Readers Comments

  1. I agree with you that LP’s do not meet the technical definition of high resolution (or definition) audio, but, to me, they simply sound better. The sound is more relaxed and I can forget about the technicalities and just listen to the music.

    The biggest challenge in setting up a room at the Axpona show will be the room itself. That is the bugbear at all shows.

    • I have never argued that listening to vinyl LP is a bad thing or that they don’t have the potential to sound wonderful. However, I’ve gotten so enthralled by super clean, accurate, crisp high-resolution PCM digital that I’m never going back. Have you experienced the sample files on my FTP site through a good system?

  2. Im so dying to see a Home theater geeks show titled.. Analog vs Digital, Framer vs Waldrep.. Both of you on the same show duking it out…

    • Michael Fremer is a friend and loves the sound of his vinyl LP. He spends a lot of time trying to elevate it to “high-resolution” status, which is counterproductive. He should just acknowledge that he enjoys his vinyl and leave it at that.

  3. Doesn’t the Bauman article assume that the dynamic range is entirely limited by the playback electronics? i.e. the black frisbee itself is unlimited in dynamic range?

    • There’s a lot of stuff in the Bauman article that misses the real world production paths that are used to make records.

  4. How many “true HD” albums would you guess are made?

    • Maybe 1500.

  5. It is very difficult if not impossible to achieve a dynamic range of over 125dB on source components or preamplifiers. The Oppo 103 does not meet this requirement for HRA if used as an analog source. The Benchmark DAC2-HGC does. For noise reduction on the analog domain you must use high quality balanced cables, and the corresponding balanced inputs and outputs at the preamplifier and power amplifier.

    • Ron…you’re right. It’s going to prove very difficult to get to the highest level of playback.

  6. Sorry that I can’t offer a lot of information as to the setup to use at AXPONA. But I definitely will be there this year. Look forward to meeting you and hearing your setup. It sounds like you are on the right track.

    I am definitely looking for a cost effective way to listen to my collection of HiRes flac files of music. I am using an Audioengine D3 with a decent set of headphones on my computer but I do want something I can use on-the-go. I have been reading about the FIIO X1 player which has some pretty good reviews. I would like to see you address some of the units that we common folk could use in a future article.

    • I will explore some of the portable devices. I have several…

  7. Dear Mark

    Is there any sense in updating a good quality (Gamut) cdplayer’s DAC from 44,5, to an external 16 to 92 kHz, 24 bits ?

    I hear only classical music, and since 2 years have downloaded CD quality albuns from Presto Classicals and 92, 24s from Hyperion ( they call it Master, not HD Quality)

    I appreciate every day your posts about Real HD audio. Iam in Brazil.

    Thank you in advance.

    Best Regards

    Luiz Oscar Becker

    • You probably should upgrade more than just your DAC. Get an Oppo and then save up for a Benchmark DAC2

  8. “How many “true HD” albums would you guess are made?”

    “Maybe 1500.”

    Thanks for the reply.

    How many albums (digital or analog) would you guess are made that are better than CD quality sound?

    • If you’re asking better than the highest potential of CD spec sound, not very many…

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