It’s the end of the holiday weekend and it was a busy one. Thanksgiving Day in Ventura, my 32nd wedding anniversary on Black Friday, a surprise birthday party for my lovely wife Mona (yes she was surprised), and today it’s my youngest son’s birthday (and Mona’s)…I’m kind of glad to be returning to the routine tomorrow.
As I checked emails and responded to the daily comments, I noticed an article and some comments on Linked In that I thought I would share. Here’s one for starters:
“I think hi-res is just taking off now with normal people, with Neil behind it, people will pay attention to it. There has never been a better time to be an audiophile than now, we finally have access to uncompressed LPCM 24/96-192K original master recordings. Neil Young hates vinyl and CDs because they both compress the dynamics but he loves Blu-ray and hi res downloading, he released his entire collection on Blu-ray and now we see Jimmy Page remastering the Led Zep albums the same way, all for downloading or Blu-ray Pure Audio discs.”
Is this the best time to be an audiophile? I’m not so sure. Recordings are getting more and more compressed! There are download sites like HDtracks that provide transfers of the original master tapes in high-resolution formats but contrary to the comment, we do not have access to “uncompressed LPCM 24/96/192K original master recordings”. No such thing exists! The downloads being provided by the high-resolution download sites are transfers of standard analog master tapes. Led Zeppelin didn’t record using 96 kHz/24-bit LPCM for their masters.
I find it interesting that the comments references Neil Young and his aversion to vinyl and CDs. Actually when I spoke to Neil, he supported vinyl LPs but he railed against the compromises inherent in CDs. So why is his Ponomusic site populated with 99.9% CD spec rips instead of real HD-Audio? I’ll have to ask him.
As for Blu-ray Pure audio discs, neither Jimmy Page nor Neil Young have released any of their albums on Blu-ray Pure Audio. It’s all about downloads not physical discs. Forget about Blu-ray Pure Audio…more hype and confusing specifications. The advocates say it has the capacity for “ultimate fidelity” but they fail to note that every single Blu-ray Pure Audio disc is a rehashed standard resolution copy of an older recording in a more expensive disc format. Just buy the CD at Walmart for $7 and rip it yourself.
Here’s another comment from a so-called expert:
“MP3 music files are dynamically compressed 10 to 1, about the same as a vinyl album, with a dynamic range of about 60 dB. On headphones, the loss of dynamic range is not as bad as it would be if you played the same music on a real full range speaker in-room.”
The writer doesn’t understand the difference between dynamic compression and data compression. MP3 files are data compressed from CD standard rates of 10.6 megabytes per minute to around 1 megabyte per minute at 128 kbps…a moderate quality MP3 file. That is about 10 to 1. But vinyl LPs aren’t dynamically compressed or data compressed. Disc cutting mastering engineers do use tools to get the audio into the grooves but I don’t know of any disc cutter compressing this 10 to 1. The dynamic range remains unaltered between the source file and the lossy MP3 compressed file. The source CD is going to sound better than the MP3 but not because of any dynamic range reduction.
There’s as much truth in the comment about headphones vs. speakers as the compression comments.
Finally, there was this by a very knowledgeable advocate for analog tape:
“In the cutting room a lacquer cut has about 90 dB S/N and a well pressed record keeps close. A true linear system.”
This might be true in the very unique circumstance of a Direct Metal Master or Direct to Disc recording but it’s definitely not true with 99% of the vinyl LPs or lacquer masters that have been cut from third generation analog tapes. Analog tape delivers far less than 90 dB SNR…more like 60-72 under perfect conditions and first generation. In the real world analog tapes deliver about 30-40 dB SNR. Lacquer masters are cut from the analog master tapes. So how is the lacquer cut going to increase the dynamic range?
Read carefully…very carefully.