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  1. #1
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    SACD vrs Mobile Fidelity

    I just got my first SACD and compared it to my reference Mobile Fidelity CD. Both are Dark Side of the Moon, the SACD is 5.1. All I can say is wow!!! The SACD is sooo much better. Is it too much of a cliche to say I heard things I never heard before? I am even using 6 very cheap rca jacks for 5.1 analog since my processor does not have HDMI

    I plan on getting a few more SACD's. Any recommendations. How about DVD-A? I haven't listened to any of those. How will that compare to SACD?

    thanks

  2. #2
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    MUST HAVES:
    Avalon by Roxy Music because the multichannel mix is arguably the best that will ever be.
    Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits because the people that argue that Avalon isn't the best mix will tell you this one is.
    Pink Floyd DVD-A DSOTM bootleg because it is the Alan Parsons QUAD mix (4 channel, no LFE, no center channel) and it is very different from the SACD and a must have in its own right.
    Love by The Beatles is a DVD-A that is the Beatles like you ain't never heard them before.

    I recommend all of these because of their meticulous 5.1 mixes, and make no claims as to how "good" the music is. Each one is a sonic gem in the technical sense and all are outstanding to show off your system with.

    And stick with the analog outs. No need to compress/decompress/recompress/redecompress using that misbegotten HDMI cable, which is NOT about quality but is all about "Content Management."

  3. #3
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    Try the Pete Townshend-remastering of "Tommy." Talk about "things you've never heard before...."

  4. #4
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    Yeah! That's a good one too.

  5. #5
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by lomarica
    I just got my first SACD and compared it to my reference Mobile Fidelity CD. Both are Dark Side of the Moon, the SACD is 5.1. All I can say is wow!!! The SACD is sooo much better. Is it too much of a cliche to say I heard things I never heard before? I am even using 6 very cheap rca jacks for 5.1 analog since my processor does not have HDMI

    I plan on getting a few more SACD's. Any recommendations. How about DVD-A? I haven't listened to any of those. How will that compare to SACD?

    thanks

    I have several dvd-a discs, among them tigerlilly is my favorite.
    But I HAVE HEARD THAT DVDA is "dead", that no more are being made, dont know if thats true tho.
    I will tell you that even tho SACD isnt doing much better if there was a "winner"
    in the war between these two SACD was it.
    DVDA was just too gimicky, SACD is not only a new way of doing things but was more
    lean, and, to me, sounds better, although the difference between these two is slight
    as for the jacks, I use monster silver for left and right, cheaper for the other channels,
    because i listen in two channel mostly, and the surround channels arent quite as critical
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  6. #6
    Suspended markw's Avatar
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    Apples to Oranges

    You're comparing two distinctly different recordings. Both were mastered differently and that alone could account for differences, not to mention the additional multi-channel properties as opposed to two channels.

    These beg the questions as to exactly what it is that you find more appealing; the multi-channel aspect or the remastering, which can always shed new light on old recordings. Ask Steve Hoffman about this. As far as SACD vs. redbook, I've heard some pretty astoundingly good recordings on redbook CD's so it's not the media that is the limting factor.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Markw is correct. By comparing a 5.1 SACD track with a two-channel CD version, you include a lot of variables that don't line up. The better comparison would have been comparing the SACD two-channel track with the CD, since in all likelihood both of those tracks would have at least used a source based on the original two-channel mixdown.

    In order to produce a 5.1 mix, the recording engineer has to go all the way back to multitrack master tape and produce an entirely new mix. With older analog recorders, every successive mixdown would have induced some signal loss and raised the noise floor. In addition, in order to produce a phantom center effect, the stereo mixes would often require a significant amount of signal processing and/or EQ'ing.

    A 5.1 mix can sound noticeably cleaner because the mixdowns now use high resolution digital recorders and the mix can spread across five primary channels using less signal processing. On some of the Concord Jazz CD/SACDs, you can really hear how much the new 5.1 mix cleans up the sound quality. This also reveals how overprocessed the original two-channel mixes sounded given that both the CD and SACD sounded similarly overprocessed when played back in two-channel.

    And even with a two-channel mix, two different releases of the same album can sound significantly different because the mastering engineers likely used different playback equipment and settings during the mastering process. Some of this simply reflects the preferences and biases of whoever does the mastering, and the philosophy of the record company that issues these albums. Without actually hearing what the original source material sounds like, you have no way of verifying whether any differences you hear are due to the format itself or variations in the mastering process.

    With one of my albums, I compared a MoFi CD layer with a high resolution 96/24 PCM version of the same album issued by Classic Records. I preferred the MoFi version, even though the CD layer I listened was a lower resolution than the Classic Records version. The likely reason here is that Classic Records as a company tries to recreate more of a vintage sound using restored original analog tape players and tube-based playback electronics. Classic also uses a first-generation LP of the original release as a playback reference during the mastering process, because that's the sound they want to recreate.

    In contrast, Mobile Fidelity uses a custom-built tape player and mixing deck that is purportedly one of the best in the industry. Their mastering process involves editorially adjusting the sound so that it subjectively sounds optimal, without worrying about what the original LP or CD release sounded like. With the MoFi CD/SACD hybrids, you can better gauge the actual difference between CD and SACD by simply switching off between the CD and SACD layers.
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  8. #8
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oaqm
    And stick with the analog outs. No need to compress/decompress/recompress/redecompress using that misbegotten HDMI cable, which is NOT about quality but is all about "Content Management."
    I was with you until you got here. Actually sonically HDMI is much better than the analog outs. D/A converters are usually much better in receivers than in players. Bit streaming via HDMI is much freerer of digital errors and jitter than analog through RCA cables. HDMI interfaces do not compress the audio at all. It is bit for bit(and even reclocked to prevent jitter) the same data that is on the disc. I never knew how harsh my CD's and SACD sounded until I went HDMI. Imaging improves, overall its smoother and more detailed, the bass is tighter, and the soundfield has much better coherency through HDMI. When I finished my testing of co-axial versus analog versus HDMI, there wasn't a single parimeter that analog and co-axial output trumped the HDMI output.
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  9. #9
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    Markw is correct. By comparing a 5.1 SACD track with a two-channel CD version, you include a lot of variables that don't line up. The better comparison would have been comparing the SACD two-channel track with the CD, since in all likelihood both of those tracks would have at least used a source based on the original two-channel mixdown.
    Well, not exactly. The two channel SACD mixdown would still be of DSD or DXD stream, and is not subject to both mixdown and downconversion as well. In most cases these days the SACD two channel is 5.1 mixdown using algorythms in the SADIE or DXD processor. So the two channel streams are completely different in most cases.

    In order to produce a 5.1 mix, the recording engineer has to go all the way back to multitrack master tape and produce an entirely new mix. With older analog recorders, every successive mixdown would have induced some signal loss and raised the noise floor. In addition, in order to produce a phantom center effect, the stereo mixes would often require a significant amount of signal processing and/or EQ'ing.
    These days they do not have to go back to the multitrack master to create a 5.1 channel mix. These days you can take a high quality two channel master, and with plug ins to your DAW you can pull the out of phase information and pull it back to the surrounds for each channel so each surround only contains the difference signal from each left/right channel. Using filters you can create a LFE channel by just filtering out low bass information and using it to create a LFE channel. You can slice away any in phase information from the left/ right mains and create a discrete center channel. Its pretty effective if you use a digital recording, and only process digitally. Trying to do this with a analog master is much to dicey to get reliable(and often listenable) results.

    A 5.1 mix can sound noticeably cleaner because the mixdowns now use high resolution digital recorders and the mix can spread across five primary channels using less signal processing. On some of the Concord Jazz CD/SACDs, you can really hear how much the new 5.1 mix cleans up the sound quality. This also reveals how overprocessed the original two-channel mixes sounded given that both the CD and SACD sounded similarly overprocessed when played back in two-channel.
    Agreed!

    And even with a two-channel mix, two different releases of the same album can sound significantly different because the mastering engineers likely used different playback equipment and settings during the mastering process. Some of this simply reflects the preferences and biases of whoever does the mastering, and the philosophy of the record company that issues these albums. Without actually hearing what the original source material sounds like, you have no way of verifying whether any differences you hear are due to the format itself or variations in the mastering process.
    Double agreed!!

    With one of my albums, I compared a MoFi CD layer with a high resolution 96/24 PCM version of the same album issued by Classic Records. I preferred the MoFi version, even though the CD layer I listened was a lower resolution than the Classic Records version. The likely reason here is that Classic Records as a company tries to recreate more of a vintage sound using restored original analog tape players and tube-based playback electronics. Classic also uses a first-generation LP of the original release as a playback reference during the mastering process, because that's the sound they want to recreate.
    This seems like a waste of a 24/96khz pipeline to me. Tube based anything would erase any audio advantage that 24/96khz could bring to the mastering process.

    In contrast, Mobile Fidelity uses a custom-built tape player and mixing deck that is purportedly one of the best in the industry. Their mastering process involves editorially adjusting the sound so that it subjectively sounds optimal, without worrying about what the original LP or CD release sounded like. With the MoFi CD/SACD hybrids, you can better gauge the actual difference between CD and SACD by simply switching off between the CD and SACD layers.
    This way will pretty much always sound better than the Classic way. Tube based processing adds a "voice" to everything, and will never sound as clean and neutral as non tube based processing.
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  10. #10
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    Tube based processing adds a "voice" to everything, and will never sound as clean and neutral as non tube based processing.
    Try listening to some gear by companies like Audio Research, VTL, Nagra, and BAT among others. Some have a slight personality as do most solid state designs. They just manifest themselves differently.

    rw

  11. #11
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    Well, not exactly. The two channel SACD mixdown would still be of DSD or DXD stream, and is not subject to both mixdown and downconversion as well. In most cases these days the SACD two channel is 5.1 mixdown using algorythms in the SADIE or DXD processor. So the two channel streams are completely different in most cases.
    Not sure though if DSOTM created a brand new two-channel mixdown for that CD/SACD hybrid release. I'm very familiar with the channel placement on that album (given the hundreds of hours I spent listening to that album in my younger daze!), and the two-channel SACD track doesn't seem to deviate from what I'm familiar with. The Concord Jazz releases also sound very much like the original two-channel mixes -- I can't imagine that a brand new two-channel mixdown would want to replicate the heavy-handed signal processing used, for example, on Tania Maria's Come With Me album. That stereo mix doesn't sound bad, but the much cleaner sounding 5.1 mix reveals how heavily processed it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    These days they do not have to go back to the multitrack master to create a 5.1 channel mix. These days you can take a high quality two channel master, and with plug ins to your DAW you can pull the out of phase information and pull it back to the surrounds for each channel so each surround only contains the difference signal from each left/right channel. Using filters you can create a LFE channel by just filtering out low bass information and using it to create a LFE channel. You can slice away any in phase information from the left/ right mains and create a discrete center channel. Its pretty effective if you use a digital recording, and only process digitally. Trying to do this with a analog master is much to dicey to get reliable(and often listenable) results.
    Again, in the case of DSOTM, I know that James Guthrie went to the original multitrack tapes. That album has too many discrete sound effects channeled into the surrounds to simply have come from a phase information extraction. I know that Alan Parsons produced a quad mix years ago that uses the surrounds more for ambient cues. A bootleg of that mix has circulated, and some people prefer the Parsons mix over the more recent Guthrie mix. I also read that all of Eliot Scheiner's 5.1 mixes also go all the way back to the multitrack masters.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    This seems like a waste of a 24/96khz pipeline to me. Tube based anything would erase any audio advantage that 24/96khz could bring to the mastering process.
    I bought several of Classic's 96/24 discs because they uniformly sound great and have a decent selection of quality titles. Classic primarily produces LP reissues, but they take a lot of time during the mastering process to make sure that their releases match the sound of the original LP release, including the 96/24 releases. One might quibble with that philosophy, but there's no question that they put out high quality releases and care a lot more about the results than a typical record company. The Gershwin release that I used in my example was personally transferred by Marc Aubort, who also did the original recording and mixing. And their Alan Parsons reissues were done with Alan Parsons and Bernie Grundman supervising the transfers. Of course, with this much attention to detail taken during the transfer, no doubt that lower res CDs also would have sounded pretty good.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Terrence the Terrible
    This way will pretty much always sound better than the Classic way. Tube based processing adds a "voice" to everything, and will never sound as clean and neutral as non tube based processing.
    MoFi's analog tape player can supposedly go all the way up to 120kHz, and everything else in that playback chain is either custom built or heavily upgraded. MoFi has never brought the original engineers into the process or used previous releases as reference. They simply obtain the original master tape, and rely more of their own editorial interpretation in creating their releases -- very different approach from how Classic brings in the original session engineers, uses restored vintage playback equipment, and uses the first generation LP pressing as a playback reference. No denying though in this case, I thought the MoFi transfer outclassed Classic's version whether I was listening to the CD or SACD layer, and the Classic release already had stellar sound quality.
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  12. #12
    Forum Regular hermanv's Avatar
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    I owned 3 Redbook copies of Dark Side of the Moon, the Musical Fidelity was not the best. A British release (I've forgotten the Co.) was.

    Markw is right, the effort put into the recording/mastering mastering process usually has more to do with sound quality than the format.
    Herman;

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  13. #13
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Something I've been saying ...

    Quote Originally Posted by hermanv
    I owned 3 Redbook copies of Dark Side of the Moon, the Musical Fidelity was not the best. A British release (I've forgotten the Co.) was.

    Markw is right, the effort put into the recording/mastering mastering process usually has more to do with sound quality than the format.
    ... for 30 years. Huh?? Thirty years? Yep, even before CD was even introduced it was clear to me that the production process decided the sound quality.

    The big complication is multi-channel. Apparently it's hard enough to make consistently good 2-channel. Yet M/C has the potential to bring us much closer to the "live" sound.

  14. #14
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    ... for 30 years. Huh?? Thirty years? Yep, even before CD was even introduced it was clear to me that the production process decided the sound quality.

    The big complication is multi-channel. Apparently it's hard enough to make consistently good 2-channel. Yet M/C has the potential to bring us much closer to the "live" sound.
    WASTED POTENTIAL.
    After listening to several "multichannel" discs I went back to two channel.
    Multichannel has stuff floating around, stuff where it isnt supposed to be, etc.
    Thats all you can do with older, already produced albums.
    but multichannels true promise is ambience, reflections coming the back that normaly would in a live setting, etc.
    But no, you get a bunch if instruments and singers dancing around in space.\Its like teh early days of stereo, when nothing was in the "middle".
    Early recordings in stereo had something
    over here and something else over here
    nothing here

    Will a nongimmick recording ever be made? I heard about a choir or something like that...
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