Mechanical analog playback systems and signal routing are very dependent on machines with tight tolerances and signals that are protected from electrical degradation. Digital systems are fundamentally different. Think of a digital representation of an audio signal as the blueprints that can be used to recreate the sound when reproduced. When so-called authorities denigrate “bits is bits” engineers and drift into the mindset of analog properties affecting the sound of a digital playback, they are holding onto beliefs that should have been abandoned ages ago. But I guess it helps sell magazines and brings eyeballs to websites.
The author of the piece on the sonic value of $2000 glass discs wants us to believe that in spite of acknowledged fact that both the glass disc and polycarbonate versions result in exactly the same bit stream, there is an audible difference in the reproduced sound. But his rationalization goes on:
“Getting back to glass-versus-polycarbonate CDs, it’s worth noting that polycarbonate can introduce optical distortions that affect the playback laser beam. Specifically, polycarbonate can cause a phenomenon called ‘birefringence’—a double refraction of the playback beam introduced by variations in the refractive index of the material through which the beam is passing. These variations in the refractive index are caused by localized stress on the polycarbonate introduced during injection molding of the disc. That is, the liquid polycarbonate didn’t flow properly into the mold, creating areas that introduce birefringence. Obviously, a glass-substrate CD doesn’t suffer from this problem.”
Does any of this technical explanation make any difference to the transference of a series of digital data bits from a disc to the internal workings of your player? No. He already stated that the bits that come from the “perfect” glass disc are the same as the ones from the standard disc.
Think of it this way…kind of like Morse code (which I learned as a boy scout and then refined under the guidance of my HAM radio operator father WA8RSL). I encode my message into a series of dots and dashes or short and long pulses. Using a flashlight or beep tone, I deliver the Morse code stream to a recipient who writes down an equivalent stream of short and long pulses or whatever. The new received message is informationally identical to the transmitted original but could be representationally somewhat different. The receiver’s handwriting or paper or the size of the dots and dashes might be different. But somehow the transmitted message is identical.
This is how digital information is conceptually passed from one place or format to another.
We audiophiles want to believe that disc treatments, special back-coatings, expensive cables, mechanical isolators, and disc “lathes” will deliver a better set of digital ones and zeros. It’s part of the passion and the hobby. I get it.
Finally, if I played the $2000 glass disc into the memory of my computer would the “magic” sonic improvement attributed to the glass surface translate to the copied file? The only thing being stored in the memory of the computer is the raw digital data and the clock.
There is no conspiracy in all of this. Analog is analog and digital is digital…separate and not equal.