Remember a time when CDs ripped to a hard drive sounded better than the CD itself? Were you scratching your head like I was? How the hell can a copy sound better than the original? That just doesn’t make any sense. Right?
On the face of it, no, but then we have to look deeper. We know that bits are bits. The same bits on the original CD are identical to those coming off the hard drive copy. So, the old fashioned concept of copies being pale imitations of the original are no longer valid. We have to look elsewhere to get some clarity.
If the bits are the same then either the transmissions of those bits or the conversion to analog are somehow suspect.
Now, we’re getting somewhere. We know, for example, that the space between the bits is as important as the data themselves. Timing, called jitter, is a big factor in digital audio. Also, noise—both airborne and transmitted through wires and ground planes—affect sound quality.
So, the question of which medium sounds better is really better asked—which retrieval and playback technology is on the current forefront of digital audio reproduction?
Currently the optical transport reigns, tomorrow that might be a very different story.
I produced a short video on the subject called Optical discs vs. ripping if you want to dive a little deeper into the subject.
Bottom line is this. It isn’t the storage medium that matters. Rather it is the means by which we handle and process the data that determines how it sounds.
It is truly a new day.