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Thread: CD question

  1. #1
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    CD question

    I thought I'd come here to ask this question.

    First off, hello. I'm Dave in Denver.

    Is it my imagination or do my CDs from the late 80's sound like crap? Is it possible for them to have lost some of their fidelity over the past 20 years (geez I can't believe I can say that...) or is it because the new discs are so much richer? In particular it seems they've lost their bass response. I REALLY don't remember them sounding this bad back then. Good clear bass is something that I really enjoy. It seems I would have noticed this back then.

    Any ideas?

    thanks

  2. #2
    _ Luvin Da Blues's Avatar
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    Hi Dave from Denver, Welcome to here

    Could it be that your system today is more revealing to the flaws? Just a thought.

    I have CDs from the eighties that still sound good and I have newer ones that sound like crapola.
    Back in my day, we had nine planets.

  3. #3
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    Hey Dave,

    First and foremost, welcome to the forums.

    There are a couple of factors that go into the very real differences that you hear between first generation discs and their newer counterparts. Modern techniques in recording and mastering are capable of delivering a truer sense of sound and dynamics...whether they are used to their fullest capacity is a source of constant debate. Older discs tended to have severely compressed dynamics and, generally, either were top-heavy on the high end leaving the impression of digital hiss, or barring that were stuck solidly with a prominent midrange to the detriment of both high and low ends of the frequency spectrum.

    Another factor is the volume at which discs are remastered, which is much louder. It's pretty common that the brain can be fooled into thinking something is better by hearing it louder. Try playing a disc from the 1980s and one from this year directly after it...there should be a noticable volume difference unless you change your amp settings.

    As a sidenote to the volume thing, it is accomplished by pushing the recordings to the limits of a cd's dynamic spectrum. This results in not only a loss in dynamics but often distortion as well. This has been the the topic of much mournful audiophile debate.

    Peace,

    sticks

  4. #4
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    I doubt it

    Quote Originally Posted by darkheath
    ...
    Is it my imagination or do my CDs from the late 80's sound like crap? Is it possible for them to have lost some of their fidelity over the past 20 years (geez I can't believe I can say that...) or is it because the new discs are so much richer?
    ...
    Assuming your CDs aren't scratched, dirty, or the surfaces dulled by wear, then no. I have quite a few late '80s CDs and they sound the same as ever.

    On the other hand I do believe that the typical sound quality of more recent CDs is better. (I'm a classical music listener so I'm not quite sure about other genres.) However I notice the difference in the highs which are less irritating and grainly and more transparent. I would say this due to better recording practice, not changes in the CD medium.

  5. #5
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    I read an article once that explained first gen CD's sounded so bright because they used the masters that were equalized for LP's. The LP curves were a lot different from what is needed for CD. Also it depends on the original recording. I've got some older CD's like Clapton's, Slow Hand and Fleetwood Mac's, Rumors, that I think sound pretty good. Then again, I've got some 80's "Big Hair" Metal bands that on a good system will run you out of the room they sound so bad. I think also for several years all the companies were in such a race to get most everything on CD that no one stopped to ask, "are we doing a good job at transferring this"?

  6. #6
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by darkheath
    I thought I'd come here to ask this question.

    First off, hello. I'm Dave in Denver.

    Is it my imagination or do my CDs from the late 80's sound like crap? Is it possible for them to have lost some of their fidelity over the past 20 years (geez I can't believe I can say that...) or is it because the new discs are so much richer? In particular it seems they've lost their bass response. I REALLY don't remember them sounding this bad back then. Good clear bass is something that I really enjoy. It seems I would have noticed this back then.

    Any ideas?

    thanks


    the reason is that masters originally used for records were used for CD's
    The dynamic range is the difference between the highest and lowest volume levels.
    CD has a dynamic range of over 90 decibels, records 50 or so.
    So on masters used for records recording engineers had to cut the dynamic range as much as 50% sometimes in order to fit the album on an LP.
    This makes the sound a bit "flat" but you didnt notice when listening to a record.
    But on a CD its very noticable.
    Please don't tell this to an "audiophile" who has spent thousands on a turntable, convinced that its "better" than a CD.
    These types tend to have fragil egos and a tenuous grip on reality
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  7. #7
    Forum Regular audio amateur's Avatar
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    Discs hardly deterioate with age, unlike tapes and other supports. Digital media stays pretty much the same, so no worries. Perhaps your stereo has changed. That could explain why it may sound different now.
    Last edited by audio amateur; 01-31-2008 at 05:16 AM.

  8. #8
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    Hey guys

    thanks for the responses. I knew it had to be something. The thing is, I just don't remember the same discs sounding so bad before. Perhaps my own ears have "matured" (my mind certainly hasn't! heh...). I do work with a lot of audio now in my job as a video editor.

    But this question came about from my listening in my car. I have a Jeep with a decent Infinity sound system in it. I rarely listen to anything at home anymore other than movies and TV shows.

    Speaking of that... and taking this off-topic a bit... does anyone remember a company called RTR that made speakers? I'm still using a pair of 4-way RTRs that I bought in 1980 that still sound pretty darn good. So good in fact that I seem to get get a nice "pseudo-surround" sound with just those two speakers when I angle them in my small room. These are the first speakers I ever bought at age 14 and can see keeping them forever.

  9. #9
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pixelthis
    CD has a dynamic range of over 90 decibels...
    Yet is rarely, if ever exploited for commercial recordings.

    Quote Originally Posted by pixelthis
    So on masters used for records recording engineers had to cut the dynamic range as much as 50% sometimes in order to fit the album on an LP.
    Partially true with extremely long pieces, but then the lowest common denominator that really determined the quality of the mix was the most popular format of that day - the cassette. I have quite a few 12" 45 RPM records with deliberately restricted playing times having extraordinary dynamic range and punch.

    Quote Originally Posted by pixelthis
    Please don't tell this to an "audiophile" who has spent thousands on a turntable, convinced that its "better" than a CD.
    Apparently, you've never heard recordings from Telarc, Reference Recordings, Classic Records, Sheffield, Mobile Sound Fidelity Labs, etc.

    Finding a wide dynamic range recording on any format is a real treat.

    rw
    Last edited by E-Stat; 02-01-2008 at 12:44 PM.

  10. #10
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio amateur
    Discs hardly deterioate with age, unlike tapes and other supports. Digital media stays pretty much the same, so no worries. Perhaps your stereo has changed. That could explain why it may sound different now.
    That has not been my experience. Scratch a CD and you might as well throw it away. You get the same ticks and pops, albeit more explosive, than a record. I ended up damaging a few of mine simply by playing them in my car CD changer.

    Now I burn CDRs of new music for use in any system other than the main one. When they wear out, I throw them away and burn another copy.

    rw

  11. #11
    Forum Regular audio amateur's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    That has not been my experience. Scratch a CD and you might as well throw it away. You get the same ticks and pops, albeit more explosive, than a record. I ended up damaging a few of mine simply by playing them in my car CD changer.

    Now I burn CDRs of new music for use in any system other than the main one. When they wear out, I throw them away and burn another copy.

    rw
    Stat, scratches indeed affect cd sound, but that was not the subject of what I was trying to get across. If you leave a cd in its case for 20 years, there shouldn't be any issues when poping it back in. Now obviously this is an extreme case but you get the drift, if you take care of it there should be no alteration of sound.

  12. #12
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio amateur
    Stat, scratches indeed affect cd sound, but that was not the subject of what I was trying to get across. If you leave a cd in its case for 20 years, there shouldn't be any issues when poping it back in. Now obviously this is an extreme case but you get the drift, if you take care of it there should be no alteration of sound.
    Sorry. At the expense of sounding like an old fart (and I'm not quite there yet!), I have records older than you that still sound pristine (I regularly use a RCM).

    Back to the original question, I would agree that the bits don't degrade if not damaged. There were many poor transfers back then. Many of the earliest CDs (except for companies like Telarc) barely made 14 bits as well.

    rw

    BTW and OT, I don't think you look like SVI's friend either.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    Sorry. At the expense of sounding like an old fart (and I'm not quite there yet!), I have records older than you that still sound pristine (I regularly use a RCM).
    No problem, and you don't sound like an old fart
    Back to the original question, I would agree that the bits don't degrade if not damaged.
    There we go

    BTW and OT, I don't think you look like SVI's friend either.
    Haha, thanks

  14. #14
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Yet is rarely, if ever exploited for commercial recordings.

    Which is why one of the cheif complaints about CD was the sudden high vollume
    peaks and low valleys.
    This is a result of high dynamic range, and even led to dynamic range limiting
    circuits, usually called "night" mode to lower the dynamic range and produce a more
    level vollume


    Partially true with extremely long pieces, but then the lowest common denominator that really determined the quality of the mix was the most popular format of that day - the cassette. I have quite a few 12" 45 RPM records with deliberately restricted playing times having extraordinary dynamic range and punch.

    True with just about everything put on a record, nature of the beast


    Apparently, you've never heard recordings from Telarc, Reference Recordings, Classic Records, Sheffield, Mobile Sound Fidelity Labs, etc.

    naw, and I dont have two sheffield recordings in my collection , THE USUAL SUSPECTS
    and PAT COIL, STEPS, and a SACD from telarc (all CD)

    And a half speed mastered "suite for flute and jazz piano" bought new in 1980 or so
    (album)
    And a Natilus SUPER DISC of fleetwood mac (album)
    And a natilus half speed spyro gyro (album)
    And a master recording of rickie lee jones (album)
    AND SO ON AND SO ON...
    All sound quite good, but none have the dynamic range of a cheap jazz CD from the walmart bargain bin


    Finding a wide dynamic range recording on any format is a real treat.

    Not that hard, just look in the CD section instead of the record section
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