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"Money For Nothing" - supplemental: CD v. SACD

Pluto

New member
In another thread, a short extract from Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” was used as part of Mark Hennesey's clipping demonstration.

Personally, I'm more concerned about this:

Here are two clips of the same segment, one derived from the same CD issue number quoted by Mark, the other from an SACD release of the same album. You might find this enlightening.

You must be registered for see images attach
(1)

You must be registered for see images attach
(2)

Which would you say is which?
 
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A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
You can fool all of the public .... $$$

You can fool all of the public .... $$$

In another thread, a short extract from Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” was used as part of Mark Hennesey's clipping demonstration.

Personally, I'm more concerned about this:

Here are two clips of the same segment, one derived from the same CD issue number quoted by Mark, the other from an SACD release of the same album. You might find this enlightening.

You must be registered for see images attach
(1)

You must be registered for see images attach
(2)

Which would you say is which?
Well let me guess.

Without listening to the clips, without even paying much attention to the images you show, having an impression of how the rapacious music business works, the illogicality of the consumer who will so often buy any old tosh presented as the newest, latest and greatest, must-have .... image 2 would be the wonder-SACD with its louder average level and compressed drum peaks.

'SACD sounds different, better, more revealing....'. It certrainly sounds different: it's not the same data that's embedded in the disc; it's a significantly different reworking of the music during 'mastering', which is, perhaps, a division of the marketing department. If it didn't sound different - and why should it: the technical advantages of SACD are inaudible - then it wouldn't sell, would it.
 

Matti

New member
Cd or dsd data from sacd shown?

Cd or dsd data from sacd shown?

First, it's important to know that sacd version of Brothers in Arms is a hybrid disc, which means that it has both cd and dsd data in it. Which of these data layers is shown here? It's been reported elsewhere that sound quality of cd and dsd layers differs, meaning that they have been mastered differently, cd beeing the hotter one, more compressed, of them.

As usual, I might be wrong, but my guess is that it's the cd layer is what has been ripped and shown here, since for us mere mortals it's not that trivial task to rip dsd data due to lack of compliant pc hardware.

So Pluto, would you kindly share more information on this, before killing sacd?
 

swe_p3esr

New member
Different guess

Different guess

I will do my first post in this forum and my guess is the opposite of Mr Shaw.

My guess is that image 2 is the CD, not the SACD. We often hear audiophiles saying that SACD or other high definition medias are superior to the CD. This is often true but not because of the media - the mastering of the CD is often very compressed so the SACD sounds better.

In this case it looks like (2) the cd (?) has high dynamic compression (not the worst ever - but it is there). If we should listen to them the first version would probably sound better because it is more dynamic.

/Simon
 

Pluto

New member
Squeeze the dynamics until your ears pop

Squeeze the dynamics until your ears pop

It gets even more alarming when you examine the two versions fully 'zoomed out' in order to see the entire 8 minutes in a single view.

This is the original Red Book release from the mid-eighties (it was one of the first CDs I bought) and it's interesting to note that it was one of the very first albums recorded on the, then, new Sony 24 track digital multi-track machines.

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Red Book, standard CD


This is what you get on the SACD 20th Anniversary edition. To say that it has had the life squeezed out of it is no exaggeration:

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SACD


If we 'run the numbers' on these tracks, they tell us remarkably little. What they do indicate is the extent to which the average acoustic energy has been increased on the latter disc, a fact clearly obvious from the waveforms. Most of the snare drum peaks – a stand-out feature of this song – have been destroyed in favour of increasing the average volume.

This is a seminal record in the rock/pop music world, and if you look at Amazon you will see that there are at least a dozen different editions available and the potential customer has no indication of the sound quality on any one of them. This title must be one of the best examples of the way the modern music business has shot itself in the foot and, the great shame is that its executives are probably unaware of the harm they are doing themselves.
 
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Pluto

New member
No audible advantages

No audible advantages

First, it's important to know that sacd version of Brothers in Arms is a hybrid disc, which means that it has both cd and dsd data in it. Which of these data layers is shown here?
I am dealing with the DSD layer...

As usual, I might be wrong, but my guess is that it's the cd layer is what has been ripped and shown here, since for us mere mortals it's not that trivial task to rip dsd data due to lack of compliant pc hardware.
... I extracted the SACD data using an oldish PS3. I find it a comforting irony that I can use Sony's own hardware to break into the daft copy protection that, I feel, has been largely responsible for SACD not becoming a commercially successful standard for 'better' audio.

So Pluto, would you kindly share more information on this, before killing sacd?
I have no intention of 'killing' SACD, simply disabusing people of the notion that “SACD must be better”. I have converted many SACDs and high-resolution PCM files to Red Book conventional CD standards and, as yet, remain unconvinced that SACD and PCM offer any audible advantage when correctly mastered.
 

swe_p3esr

New member
Doh!

Doh!

My guess was wrong. I mostly listen to rock/pop and do my best avoiding remastered albums. The only place where I have found information about the sound quality of different editions is the loudness war database. A search for Dire Straits "Brother in arms" can give you a hint which editions to avoid. http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/index.php?search_artist=Dire+straits&search_album=Brothers&sort=year&order=desc .

The only problem with this database is that it is incomplete. It is updated by volunters.

/Simon
 

Pluto

New member
You can't beat the original

You can't beat the original

I will do my first post in this forum and my guess is the opposite of Mr Shaw.

My guess is that image 2 is the CD, not the SACD. We often hear audiophiles saying that SACD or other high definition medias are superior to the CD. This is often true but not because of the media - the mastering of the CD is often very compressed so the SACD sounds better
Hello Simon, and welcome. You have to be a brave soul to guess against Mr Shaw! You are wrong, I'm afraid, as I have now revealed in post #5.

You are entirely correct insofar as it is all in the mastering, not the physical media. I will happily convert any 'high resolution' stereo audio to Red Book format (16/44) and challenge the listener to determine, by listening alone, which is which. This particular disc could form the basis of an easy test for you to do at home, but for one small question. If you look up "Brothers In Arms" on Amazon's UK site, you can see more than a dozen different editions. You tell me which one is the basic, uncompressed version. However, you can buy one of the SACD imprints for a reasonable sum, unlike many other SACD titles that appear to command a price which is orders of magnitude above the vendor's original intention.

So if you have a copy of the un-meddled 'Brothers In Arms', acquisition of a supposedly higher resolution version is reasonably cheap, if you have the means to play it. But anyone who puts their money down, expecting something better than the original 1985 issue is likely to be sorely disappointed.

{Moderator's comment: Nicely put. Alan was greatly impressed that a member took the trouble to make a public opinion, right or wrong. Most welcome.}
 

EricW

Active member
Commercial suicide in the music business?

Commercial suicide in the music business?

This title must be one of the best examples of the way the modern music business has shot itself in the foot and, the great shame is that its executives are probably unaware of the harm they are doing themselves.
Not just that one ... I purchased the Dire Straits CD "Love over Gold" recently on Amazon: I deliberately tried to pick out an original edition, not remastered, as I had fond memories of listening to it on vinyl 25-odd years ago and remembered it as a very good-sounding album, especially the track "Private Investigations".

Well, they sent me a brand new, remastered CD anyway. It sounded bloody awful, even in the car. Everything sound exactly the same: canned, tinny, glazed, fatiguing. But very very loud. Why exactly is this supposed to be a good thing?
 

PaulN

New member
Second hand, charity & thrift stores

Second hand, charity & thrift stores

I find the best source for CD's to be second hand shops, charity shops and ebay. Many people get rid of their old 80's CD's because they are having a clear out, changed their musical taste or whatever. Some even replace them with new remastered versions because they think they are getting something better! Marketing men have got it sussed!

Lots of information and catalogue numbers here to help identify what to buy especially when used in conjunction with the above mentioned dynamic range database.
 

Pluto

New member
Why not use the technology?

Why not use the technology?

... very very loud. Why exactly is this supposed to be a good thing?
I can only guess that this is mastering for the iPod user. Designed to work in a noisy environment listening on ear-buds with poor insulation against the outside world.

What really irks me about this approach is that we have (...have had, for quite a while) the technology to take a well-mastered album and match the compression and sound signature appropriately to the kind of use at the point of playback. Furthermore, if you really are playing in a difficult environment, it is likely that your processing player could do the job (in adjusting what you hear) better than a mastering suite attempt to produce a generic sound that is 'all things to all men', and failing disastrously.
 

PhilN

New member
"High resolution" what?

"High resolution" what?

I will happily convert any 'high resolution' stereo audio to Red Book format (16/44) and challenge the listener to determine, by listening alone, which is which.
Hi Pluto (or anyone else) -
I personally need some clarification here, as I am somewhat confused.
A high resolution disc replayed on a suitable player will output a certain sound quality, when this same disc is then 'down graded' (in effect) to normal red book standard then how can you expect to hear the original high resolution sound?

I hope you understand my query. Thank you.

{Moderator's comment: Are you sure that "High Resolution" is a technical fact rather than marketing BD pretending to be a technical fact?"}
 

Matti

New member
'High resolution' = noise shaping = waste of data (and money)

'High resolution' = noise shaping = waste of data (and money)

I am dealing with the DSD layer...
... I extracted the SACD data using an oldish PS3. I find it a comforting irony that I can use Sony's own hardware to break into the daft copy protection that, I feel, has been largely responsible for SACD not becoming a commercially successful standard for 'better' audio.

I have no intention of 'killing' SACD, simply disabusing people of the notion that “SACD must be better”. I have converted many SACDs and high-resolution PCM files to Red Book conventional CD standards and, as yet, remain unconvinced that SACD and PCM offer any audible advantage when correctly mastered.
Thanks for this additional information. I know a forum where quite a lot of people think that sacd is always the better option. As you, I have my doubts, too.

Correct me if I'm wrong with this, but my guess is that one of the main incentives behind sacd, alongside selling us SOS once again, was copy protection (alongside with archival aspects in professional world), and not necessaly sq improvement . And for many of us the sound quality part of things has to be shown and proven by mastering...not necessarily trying to get the best out of the master tape, because that at least to the untrained ear is hard to find out.

Better for marketing reasons to boost low and high frequencies and give the false impression of more detail by making the soft parts louder, which means added compression... and listening fatique in the long run.

Even though dsd is considered hi-rez, personally I do not like the idea of wasting considerable amounts of valuable data storage space for high frequency noise because of the noise shaping required in the 1-bit system.

Best,

Matti
 

PhilN

New member
Marketing fantasy?

Marketing fantasy?

Hi Pluto (or anyone else) -

{Moderator's comment: Are you sure that "High Resolution" is a technical fact rather than marketing BD pretending to be a technical fact?"}
Good point, and I think I know where you are coming from, i.e. the HUG's stance that 16/44 is completely capable with no need for any improvement?
 

mhennessy

Member
The lowest common denominator (always)

The lowest common denominator (always)

The problems with the remaster are well-known. It's a real shame. I find it hard to believe that Mark Knopfler approved, knowing that he feels strongly about sound quality - of course, it's likely that this version was produced by the record company without the involvement of the artists. Who knows?

The benefits or otherwise of DSD are clearly debatable, but as so few (if any) recordings take full advantage of standard, conventional 16bit/44.1kHz, it's hard to see how DSD can help. It's like putting an DSLR lens on a camera-phone! When comparing CD to DSD, how can you ever be sure that you're comparing apples with apples? It's the same with vinyl verses CD, or high-res downloads vs CD, or even Dolby Digital verses DTS. How can you be sure they were mastered identically? I'm simply not convinced the CD medium has ever been the weak link in hi-fi. For me, the only selling point of SACD was the potential for surround-sound.


What really irks me about this approach is that we have (...have had, for quite a while) the technology to take a well-mastered album and match the compression and sound signature appropriately to the kind of use at the point of playback. Furthermore, if you really are playing in a difficult environment, it is likely that your processing player could do the job (in adjusting what you hear) better than a mastering suite attempt to produce a generic sound that is 'all things to all men', and failing disastrously.
This is something that I have long believed. At work, I hear a lot of people use the word "context". They say "it must sound good in the context", meaning that a TV programme has to sound OK on a modern flat screen TV set with 1.5" loudspeakers, or an iPad. My reply is always "why reduce our output to the lowest common denominator? We should broadcast full-bandwidth, full dynamic range audio, and let filters and compressors in the replay equipment adjust the signal in a way that is appropriate to the loudspeakers or earphones". Even Bob Orban (of Optimod fame) agrees - he is on record saying that his compressors will always produce a better sounding output when fed with full-range material, not the "brickwalled" content that is so common today.

Anyway, back to Dire Straits, I've made two more audio clips:

  1. The same 21 second excerpt that I used on the clipping thread, followed by the same section from the remastered version. Clearly, you'll hear a large level shift when you compare the two.
  2. The same as 1, only with the level of the remastered version reduced by 12dB to give the same subjective loudness (to me, at least).

[A] (Original > remastered)

(Original > remastered @ -12dB)

When listening to the second audio file B, you may note differences between the two versions. Some of these differences could have been caused by the limiting that took place during remastering, but be aware that other effects could have been applied as well. Have a good listen! And hopefully, you can see why Alan is constantly reminding us to do comparisons at matched loudness levels - it's a very powerful technique for separating the real differences from the imagined.

The above clips [A] and have been spaced apart by a gap of one second; you can see the waveform and listen here:



Cheers,

Mark
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Never, ever believe anything in the music business ...

Never, ever believe anything in the music business ...

It's very important to keep at the forefront of your mind three truths ...

1. The music business is a business. Everything it thinks and does is about revenue. It's primary, all consuming motive is to make money, as much and as quickly as possible, regardless of the human cost. It ties artists in complex, penny pinching contracts with the sole aim of minimising the artist's receipts and maximising the record company earnings. You would be amazed at the extent of 'deductibles' that the company knock-off any reward to the artist.

2. The audiophile, that is, the serious music listener, is a complete and utter irrelevance to the music industry. The audiophile is invisible to the industry, as are his needs. He is simply another marketing possibility.

3. To sell the same old stuff over and over and over again, it must sound different. It must be capable of winning critical reviews from journalists whose technical understanding of what goes on in a recording industry, especially in mastering, is as close to zero as possible.

  • "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."
Source here.
 

Pharos

Member
The dumbing down of marketing

The dumbing down of marketing

I think that many will perhaps sigh at this, but isn't it the case that business in general sees what the public wants, and then creates a profit making machine which only 'seems' to provide what is wanted.

But, alas, it changes what it provides in numerous ways which end up losing the original ethos of what is wanted. This is true of dynamic range as described here, and also of remastering which loses the original feel and ethos of the artistic aim, similar to what occurs in numerous other areas of life.

I pay a great deal of attention to my food intake, and receive reports every day about the corruption of what was originally thought of, and probably was, a healthy food, which has been doctored for profit, and lost much of the original healthy ingredient.

The diet industry is a prime example of the public being 'sold a pup'; products that do not in reality fulfil the stated aims.

I am also sick of the overuse by broadcasting organisations, of music which once had a really vital and profound meaning to it, and originally had great impact as a feel and perhaps a revolutionary discovery, being thrust down our throats as a backing to some mundane and banal TV programme.

As I walk around the supermarket I am offended by beautiful music not being valued as a precious entity, but being 'force fed' to us all the time.

These examples have much in common; they illustrate corruption of an ethos, and exploitation of the result purely for commercial profit.
 

EricW

Active member
Cause and effect?

Cause and effect?

It's very important to keep at the forefront of your mind three truths ...

1. The music business is a business. Everything it thinks and does is about revenue. It's primary, all consuming motive is to make money, as much and as quickly as possible....
Yes, they're greedy and venal. Of course. But is that really the problem? Or is it that they just make stupid decisions? I mean, if making money were truly the major and overriding motive, you'd think, judging by the current financial state of the industry, that they actually haven't done all that well.

What if the idea that over-compressed, "hot" recordings sell more units is a complete fallacy? Could it be just that simple, i.e., could they just be wrong? I suspect that if one were to plot album sales over time and superimpose a plot of the reduction of dynamic range in commercial releases, the plots would probably superimpose nicely. Cause and effect? Maybe not.

But why do we - why does anyone - simply assume that compressed, loud, undynamic recordings necessary sell more? Does the evidence really bear that out?
 

Don Leman

Member
Comparing like with like?

Comparing like with like?

Are all remasters the same? My copy is a Super Bit Mapping version done in 1996 by Bob Ludwig of Masterdisk. I looked at the stats for the whole of track 2 "Money for nothing" and the left channel peaks at - 8.52 and the average RMS is -17.92. The right channel peak is -9.1 with the average RMS - 18.22.

I would be curious to know the equivalent numbers for the original CD and SACD.
 

Pluto

New member
Gimme more loudness, man!

Gimme more loudness, man!

But why do we - why does anyone - simply assume that compressed, loud, undynamic recordings necessary sell more? Does the evidence really bear that out?
I very much doubt that there is any evidence. I wonder if the industry has ever done any market research, playing properly mastered alternatives to focus groups, with appropriate adjustments in volume to keep the ‘playing field’ level.

But isn't it totally OBVIOUS to EVERYBODY that LOUDER must be BETTER?

After all, loudness is free, so why not have more of it?
 
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