Beginning or end?

November 8, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Linn's Ivor Tiefenbrun famously suggested that if you can't get the information off the vinyl disc in the first place then nothing else you do afterward matters.

There's much truth in what he said (though I have never agreed with the conclusion that some make that turntables are more important than speakers).

But this thought process has deeper implications when it comes to capturing sound.

In my experience, DSD is a far better capture technology than PCM. Why this would be is something we can over time sort out (is it the format or is it the capture hardware?).

Regardless, using the finest A/D hardware available there is a clear and undeniable sonic advantage to capturing sound in DSD. Later converting that DSD capture to PCM has far less loss than either recording in PCM in the first place or converting DSD to analog for mixing and then back again.

There are plenty of folks who do not agree with me on the latter part of my statement (conversion) but let's leave that debate for another day.

Here's the main point. Like the difference between a great turntable/cartridge and a mediocre one, there's no valid argument possible when it comes to capturing the information. You either do or don't capture what's on the disc (or case in point with what is available for capture on our microphones).

If you can capture all there is available, what you do afterward is less important than putting the right effort into the initial capture.

As Ivor said, if you can't get the capture right nothing else you do down the rest of the chain matters.

When you grab a copy of an Octave Record you know the capture was done properly with DSD.

Once we have captured the data without loss, it doesn't matter as much the form you listen to it in.

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74 comments on “Beginning or end?”

  1. I fully agree (or regarding DSD…believe)

    The problem is, no consumer can experience this except if you offer two DSD files, one recorded in PCM and the other recorded in DSD. Or you offer the PCM file in its original format, too.

    It would be interesting what setups and quality of recordings it needs, that this is audible. If you’d offer the DSD files without saying first which is which, the result would be even more interesting.

    My honest guess is, maybe 10% of audiophiles (not normal music listeners) would identify the right ones. But it would be great if it’s even more.

    Finally it’s probably the same percentage that can recognize a digitally produced LP against an all analog produced one.

    As we all know, rates like those would be no argument for the mass market, we sense why DSD struggles to make it to the big studios.

    Maybe everything is easier to hear when compared to a live feed in a studio than on a final consumer media?

    1. jazznut,
      Apparently early Octave Records downloads came in a bundle of
      DSD64; PCM 44.1/16; PCM 96/24 & PCM 192/24.
      This bundled format should allow a listener to compare, I would think.

      1. No that’s not the comparison Paul meant. All those were recorded in DSD and just have a different output format. We want to compare DSD vs. PCM recorded files.

        1. From what I read, the Merging Technologies/Pyramix system is widely used because it can record 40 track DXD (24/352). I have no idea if you have to pay extra for the DSD package. It also does Dolby Atmos.

          Given the extremely high resolution PCM capture that is available from Pyramix, the only system that can do DSD above DSD64, and people choose DXD, it seems that they consider PCM sufficient.

          As Octave have Pyramix, they could do the DXD and DSD recordings you want and let the audience decide if it makes any difference.

          1. Ever consider the thought that maybe most don’t want to pay the extra expense for a market they decided wasn’t worth pursuing?

            The justification not to could easily be any of a myriad of reasons. (As you often eloquently point out) 😀

      2. I have most of the SACDs, and they all came with a second disc with all the formats.

        I later purchased Otis Taylor’s recording and found no included disc…
        I liked the packaging with the extra formats, if, for not other reasons, I could place the *.dsf files my NAS for streaming.

        I get costs as an issue, but would hope that the purchase of an SACD would allow one to download the specific extra formats as required. The download system is already in place, so no extra costs(other than administration) would be required.

        I love my SACD player, but never intend to go through the messy process of extracting DSD 64x files from them.
        Maybe a $x surcharge for the extra disc

        Maybe an SACD registration process that “adds you to the club”?

        Paul,I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and maybe Scott’s also?

        1. Thanks, John and thank you for your support and kind words.

          I wish it were as simple as giving out a download code. Perhaps at some point we can do a sort of members club where that can happen. The problem we have is paying the artists. Our contracts with them require us to pay them every time a SACD or a download are sent to someone.

          Also, the reasons we stopped adding the data disc was one of finances. As prices have gone up (especially after the only other SACD plant closed its doors - leaving only one left) we could no longer afford to offer the two-disc set for same price. So, it came down to either raise the package price to $39 or reduce the offering and keep the price at $29.

          I queried a bunch of folks who told me they never used the datadisc.

          In any case, that's the short version of what happened.

  2. There is some truth in the claim of Ivor Tiefenbrun: the technology of both loudspeakers and turntables is about transforming energy (mechanical/electrical). And indeed, this transforming of energy is the biggest challenge and creates the highest degrees of distortions. Not to mention the inherent problem with motor drives - I will never understand why there are still CD-Player-aficionados (most complex control of motor-rotations). However modern CD-Player feature sophisticated data buffering and galvanic isolation.

      1. I heard there are audiophiles who permanently modify and tweak their stereo systems. And there are obviously still aficionados of model railways permanently building new model landscapes and new railway tracks. Is it finally all about “tracks”? 🙂

      2. Fat Rat I have somewhere in the vicinity of 30,000 vinyl albums collected over a period now approaching 60 years. Many of these are now available on CD or on the two streaming sites I use, Qobuz and Tidal. But many of these albums never made it to CDs. And I still listen to these. There are also many albums in my collection where I prefer the vinyl to CD.
        I will readily admit there is a secondary reason. My turntables date back to the 70s. I have a Micro Seiki SX-8000 fitted with two arms and an original Transcriptor Saturn. Both of these have performed flawlessly and reliably for nearly 50 years. I would not place the Transcriptor in the audiophile category as the record support system allows disc flexing, but the MS ranks up there. I use both regularly and am in awe of their designers. So I guess the pleasure derived is something similar to owning a high quality mechanical watch.
        You watching T20 today?

        1. WOW willem, 30,000?!!
          30,000 of anything is mind-blowing...except for dollars of course 😉
          My comment was very tongue-in-cheek, but having said that, vinyl pressings made in Australia back in the day were absolute crap & so when CDs came out in 1983, well, by 1987 my Luxman turntable & Pickering cart. got sold, along with all of my vinyl...& that, as they say, was that.
          Each to their own, I don't judge, but a warning when you read my posts...you have to be thinking, 'is he serious or is he joking?'
          60 years huh?
          I'm 62 😮

          Of course I'll be watching the Cricket...what a silly question 😉 ✌

          1. I am ten years older (but definitely not wiser) and grew up in South Africa where our record pressings ranged from attrocious to surprisingly good. Recordings of local artists had the same span. BUT, for a premium there were record stores that imported albums from the US and UK.
            I moved to the US in 1976. And living in Berkeley had fabulous record stores that sold albums for ridiculously low prices with astonishing selections. But even here I found pressings that sometimes left much to be desired. One of my favorite labels for jazz, Enja, entered the market with pressings that were near unplayable, but later improved quality substantially.
            I now live in SE Asia and the selection available is very limited...

            And as far as cricket is concerned, I thought you might be sulking and refusing to watch. Most of my UK friends think England has the best team this year. Needless to say, I will be cheering for India tomorrow. Today I am not that vested.

            1. Of course you are wiser...don't give me that crap 😀

              I was born in Barbados & immigrated to Australia in August '68...been here ever since.

              Nothing makes an England Cricket team improve out of sight than to be soundly beaten by Australia in an Ashes series, ie. last year 😉
              I can handle getting knocked out of the T20: it's only snack-sized Cricket...it's not real Cricket...Test Cricket is real Cricket.
              Of course I'll be backing India.
              It's always a Love/Hate relationship with the bloody Poms...more love than hate though ✌

              I can barely get through my 1,043 strong CD library yearly...30,000 would be impossible.

              1. So I take it you are not much of a Ben Stokes fan.......?
                And yes the T20 is definitely cricket light. How else could the Netherlands prevail over South Africa?
                Where in Australia are you? I happened to be in Melbourne during THAT rugby match. And was totally overcome by emotion to see Mandela don the jersey

          1. John thank you. I essentially stopped buying vinyl and CDs about 4 years ago as there are a substantial number of albums that have not been played by me. Most of my analog kit, except for styli and tonearms was purchased pre-owned. And as you no doubt know, after the introduction of "perfect sound forever" many people could not get rid of their vinyl fast enough.... talk about collector's heaven for a few years there.

      3. Martin, if you were just a little closer to Seattle, I would invite you to come listen.
        I love the format, but I have a good spinner and streaming setup as well.
        Both have their charm and place in my mix.
        Its all music, it’s all moving and satisfying.

        “Keep Listening”

        1. Hey JW,
          Since I live in Sydney, I guess Fiji would be a little closer to your listening room 😉
          I'm guessing that you read my replies to 'willem'..."I don't judge".
          And thanks for keeping Hawk's memory alive here..."Keep Listening" ✌

  3. I think it is relevant because Linn Records (whether ultimately it was Ivor, Gilad or Phillip Hobbs' decision I have no idea) chose to use DSD capture for about 10 years, because it was better than lower resolution PCM available at the time. Linn Records was formed because Ivor wanted reference vinyl recordings to test his analogue equipment, rather than rely on recordings of unknown quality.

    For an independent label it is substantial, with a large roster of artists, many in the upper echelons of the classical world. They also do a lot of jazz. When in 2007 they started making streaming DACs that could process 24/192 PCM, they came to the view that 24/192 PCM was the best option both for capture and playback.

    Paul may not agree with that, but listeners did. They won Gramophone Label of the Year, around 2010, and were cited as follows:

    "Gramophone describes the Glasgow-based label Linn Records, founded in 1983, as “a label that has managed to balance sound A&R, first-class production values and a forward-looking approach to distribution. It has demonstrated that small can be both beautiful and profitable, and also have great artistic integrity.” Linn Records is an off-shoot of Linn, the producer of audio equipment. The high standard of Linn’s sound – steered by producer/engineer is Philip Hobbs – showcases the label’s diverse and prestigious roster of artists ..."

    Being rather single minded, Linn then largely refused to make their audio systems DSD-capable. I don't think their $100,000+ Exakt system can play a DSD file. I bought a Linn streaming system in 2009. The Digital side was superb (the Class D amplification not so good, but apparently it is now a lot better) and one great consequence has been that I have never used a PC or MAC based digital source.

    Where like Linn you record using 24/192, although 24/96 seems more prevalent elsewhere, and play back with the same rate, there is no loss. Even downsampling to 16/44 is still not considered lossy. The implication in the final sentence that capturing data in PCM is lossy compared to DSD is clearly incorrect. Don't ask me, ask Ivor Tiefenbrun, as they made that call years ago.

    1. Steven, It is all about sampling rates. PCM sampling rates ( even at the DXD sampling rate which is 8X that of the CD ) are simply to low. The goal is to approximate analog. Low sampling rates leave to much information behind. If we could do equations and graphs here I could show you the difference. Only when we get to sampling rates of 64 times that of the CD do we come close to analog.

      Only dCS comes close with high sampling rates and low bit PCM to what you get with DSD.

  4. The whole basis of this argument is that recording in PCM is lossy. Paul says that twice. ("far less loss than either recording in PCM" and "Once we have captured the data without loss")

    That's news to me. PCM can capture far more than we can hear. I've never heard 24/192 PCM referred to as lossy.

    Can some explain why recording in PCM is lossy.

  5. I’m with Jazznut on todays’s comment.

    The 1st argument was that “on the fly” conversion to DSD when done the TS way for playback was superior. There’s very little talk about that now. For many that’s now a fact.

    Then the talk was about studio monitors and how the industry stalwarts in that market suck, and may be the reason most recordings suck.

    Now the talk is the capture (when done correctly) is better in a 4x DSD format.

    Those who bought into the playback argument had the ability to compare themselves. If we’re expected to buy into the 4x recording format as vastly superior then it would make sense to allow a direct comparison. If it’s a logistics issue to do so, for example only being able to capture one live session in one format at a time then the variance of the performance will have to be taken into consideration, or come up with some other way of leveling the field.

    Not to sound crass or dismissive, but when it comes down to any individuals subjective opinion, that opinion has to be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, Hard factual information isn’t typically questioned.

    I don’t disbelieve Paul’s audio impressions…. But from where I sit, (so far anyway) I’m convinced that it’s the whole recording process, and every person involved in it until the release, that has the biggest impact on the sound, not so much the format.

    1. The problem it's not one or the other, it's a bit of both and a choice as to how much DSD or DXD to use, or whether to use DSD at all.

      If you read the guide for the Pyramix software Octave uses, their advice is different to what Paul says.
      https://www.merging.com/uploads/assets/Merging_pdfs/Merging_Technologies_DSD-DXD_Production_Guide.pdf

      It's on page 17. I've copied it below. The final sentence is the complete opposite of what Paul says ("Later converting that DSD capture to PCM has far less loss than either recording in PCM in the first place or converting DSD to analog for mixing and then back again"). Pyramix say consider using DXD to avoid this, not because it's lossy, but because DSD/DXD/DSD conversions generate noise.

      RECORDING DSD
      Before talking about the settings within the recording workflow, it is time to bring up the discussion again about something that could be considered to have two distinct opinions. The question of how to capture a sound when knowing what your deliverable format(s) will be and how you are going to achieve that goal is a very important one to ask before making any choices.
      The most important thing to think about is: Am I going to be mixing-in-the-box during the work for this project?
      If the answer is yes, then Merging recommends that you think of recording your multitracks in DXD instead. The simple reason is that if you recorded your material in DSD, you would have to go through a conversion stage over to DXD in order to do your mixing, to then have to convert again at the end to get back to DSD. So, by capturing in DXD, you will save yourself a conversion stage.

      It is extremely important to keep the number of re-modulation steps to an absolute minimum. A re-modulation occurs every time a DSD file is processed in Pyramix, this causes additional ultrasonic noise to be generated. If you know you will be applying multiple processes to a DSD file, we suggest that you use Pyramix to keep these files in DXD.

      The next part in the manual, which I have not copied, sets out the main reasons for using DSD, which are for analogue transfers (why DSD was invented) and for live recordings. Channel Classics, perhaps the most successful user of DSD, effectively record in the studio as live recordings with no post-production.

      What is unknown is how much mixing Octave do, and it will depend on the music, and whether if they followed the manual the capture should be in DXD or DSD.

      1. The other thing that the manual may not have addressed is after market plugins that purportedly help to overcome that. Paul touched on some different editing software. I suspect that info wouldn’t be in a manufacturers manual.

        So once again with out knowing all the facts or without judging for ourselves the skepticism creeps in.

        Like I said above I suspect the people factor is the biggest variable.

        1. As far as I understood, Paul’s strategy evolved in the following way:

          1. analog mixing/editing is best

          2. PCM mixing/editing with the different editing SW you mentioned (by Bitperfect) is best

          3. PCM mixing with native Pyramix is best (because it improved)

          So Paul prefers the way, Pyramix themselves don’t recommend as Steven found out, while others like Cookie prefer the analog mixing/editing way.

          What all (except Pyramix) say is: recording in DSD is most important. What happens after that isn’t that relevant in comparison to the shortcomings of recording in PCM.

          1. Read on the liner notes of one of the Octave albums that the tracks were recorded in one take, suggesting no post, which is where DSD is recommended. Plus Zuill Bailey was a live recording.
            The recordings Octave make are in a pretty limited musical range and by Pyramix's guide probably suited to DSD as the capture format.

            "What all (except Pyramix) say is: recording in DSD is most important."
            The evidence suggests you are wrong on this. Look at NativeDSD and there are twice as many albums captured in DXD compared to DSD128 or DSD256.

            Of those 552 DXD captures, they are all sold in DSD, but somewhat to my surprise a lot of them are not sold in PCM at all. Strange given they started in PCM. This is part of the DSD conspiracy (smiley face emoji!)

            You "All" are the DSD zealots. It seems that most other people are using Pyramix as intended by the manufacturer, and it is almost entirely limited to acoustic music.

            1. I don’t think the use of DSD vs PCM is or should be genre related and I don’t think the spread of use of a technology is an indicator of its quality. Rather the opposite.

              1. It is genre-related because different genres require different amounts of post-production. This is what Pyramix explain.

                1. Okay I understand.
                  Yet hardly anyone uses DSD without additional mixing, mastering, editing. Not even the small labels, which mostly just produce solo, duo or trio albums.

                  I think the only real scenario, where no post production is necessary, is the DSD capture of analog tapes, which probably is, what DSD initially was meant for.

                  1. I've read that Channel do recordings with little of no post-production.

                    In honour of DSD, I'm going to buy this download. There is no messing with these recordings, they are done in concert venues.
                    https://www.nativedsd.com/product/myr019-transcendental-etudes/
                    In addition to good reviews:
                    https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/liszt-etudes-d’exécution-transcendante-0
                    he is playing the full set at Wigmore Hall in 2 weeks' time and I'll be there.

        2. I agree 100%, meh music doesn't get better, rather you may get to hear with more clarity how bad it is!

          The manual explains that the high frequency noise issue is the main argument against PCM, so if you do re-modulations of DSD (as Paul suggests) you are recreating the same problem, which is probably why Pyramix suggest using DXD in the first place.

          The manual explains that you get the most DSD if you mix on-the-fly, as I understand Channel Classics do, rather than post-production. This must require huge amounts of skill from the producer (usually jared Sachs), recording technicians and the performers. They just perform repeatedly until they get it right. I listen to these recordings in PCM and they still sound fantastic.

          Live mixing is a production process that just doesn't work for most music produced these days. I mean, can you even do a basic overdub?

          1. Dub No! Can you?

            The way the majority of recordings are done doesn’t mean it’s the best way sonically. In many ways it’s just another step to make the techniques overcome the limitations (expense) of doing it another way. We all have heard great one take no processing recordings. IMO that’s what’s trying to be achieved through some other means. Just like the playback side trying to emulate you are there. The level of that success is subjective.

            1. I agree with Paul's point that capturing everything should be the goal of recording. And it is indeed possible that DSD may at present be the best process for pursuing this goal. But the reality is I listen to music and whilst recording quality is sometimes an impediment, I would rather listen to a great piece of inspired music on a reasonably good recording than another ok piece of music on a perfect recording

            2. Overdubs make music sound more natural. A good acoustic has a certain amount of reverberation. Some modern concert halls can control the reverberation, but it comes at the expense of building a double enclosure. That's why so many classical recordings are done in performance venues. You don't get that in a small heavily damped studio.

              DSD capture is no doubt the best for the limited types of music (and transfers) that it is suited to, the vast majority of which is acoustic classical. The DSD catalogue of contemporary music is minuscule, I assume because so much requires mixing and post-production.

      2. Thanks, Steven. I am always shocked and delighted to find the extent to which you study up on subjects. You're amazing.

        I have, of course, read much of the 800 something pages of the manual (God help me). There's even a funny story about going to the local Kinkos to have the PDF printed and asked to pay something close to $1K because of all the pages....

        Here's the thing. Pyramix is run by engineers (obviously). Claude (the head of it all) and "the boys" are very much into pro audio and very much into deciding what is and should be based on engineering evidence. We have had some rousing conversations about DSD and DXD and let's just say we are not in agreement.

        While their engineering evidence of more noise and staying away from conversions makes perfect sense it doesn't fit what we hear.

        I could write reams on this subject. (Come to think of it, I have).

        Indeed, some of the best engineering minds in the world don't agree with me on this subject. And you'll note that of the audiophile labels that use DSD as the capture technology, they either convert to analog or DXD for mixing. They have to. Indeed, one could capture a two channel live event in DSD (we will be doing some of that in the future) and analog mixing the microphones instead.

        I use my ears as my guide. Heresy!

        1. I do my research and pick up on prejudice. I was teasing BillK yesterday for rubbishing streaming, even though he never uses it. I'm not prejudiced against DSD, I've owned a DSD DAC, I can still play DSD64, I just can't hear the difference.

          The manual makes it clear that Pyramix are great advocates for DSD for pure scientific reasons, but - as you say - they are engineers and advise as engineers what is the likely best route for the best outcome.

          You've explained the mixing on-the-fly before, where it's pure DSD except for the bits you attenuate during the live capture, and if they are minimised you are as close to your pure DSD goal as you will ever get - and that may be very close indeed. As I said, that is how I understand Jared Sachs does it.

          Devialet convert DSD to 40/384 PCM and paid a lot of attention to the re-modulation. Through my audible band the noise is below about -180db, but the high frequency noise is quite apparent, as illustrated in their white paper. They may have improved on it since 2015, but it makes the same point as Pyramix.
          https://www.devialet.com/media/wysiwyg/docs/whitepaperfirmwarev8.pdf

          As I pointed out to Jazznut, a lot of people seem to follow Pyramix's advice and capture DXD.

          I listen to Linn's PCM captures and Channel's DSD captures, played back at HD PCM. They are equally superb.

          1. Steven, I did not want to be reading about Devialet, but I clicked on your link. The high frequency noise ( which is actually quantization error ) is typical in DSD after noise shaping is used to push the noise out beyond 20 kHz. In the graph the noise starting at 10 kHz is at -180 dB. No one will hear that. However, this graph does help you understand why people use DSD256 instead of DSD64. That peak of the noise around 55 kHz would be out at 200 kHz with DSD256. The range between 20 kHz and 120 kHz has high frequency information that keeps impulse signals very sharp in the time domain. Thus pushing the an quantization error noise out of this frequency range is beneficial.

            1. Normal service will resume tomorrow. Listening to the real stuff. Three hours in, one hour to go. You get real value from Baroque.

      3. Steven, You seem to be arguing with yourself. To quote you

        "The next part in the manual, which I have not copied, sets out the main reasons for using DSD, which are for analogue transfers (why DSD was invented) and for live recordings. Channel Classics, perhaps the most successful user of DSD, effectively record in the studio as live recordings with no post-production. The next part in the manual, which I have not copied, sets out the main reasons for using DSD, which are for analogue transfers (why DSD was invented) and for live recordings. Channel Classics, perhaps the most successful user of DSD, effectively record in the studio as live recordings with no post-production."

        This is what Octave Records is doing as well as what MoFi is doing with respect to analogue transfers. MoFi goes back to analogue to do any EQ and then cuts record lacquers using and analogue system.

        Octave Records is trying to develop the best possible mixing operations that stay as true to the original analogue sound as possible.

  6. please, worry not Fat Rat as I have it on very good authority that neither Donald or Valdimir like vinyl........ but both love a little Redbook.

  7. I have to say I totally agree (I should properly say 'agreed') with Ivor Tiefenbrun's assertion that turntables were far more important than speakers. The key, though, is to put that statement in the proper context. Ivor made it in the late 1970's. Back then, pretty much all turntables were to a greater or lesser extent crap, when compared to the Linn Sondek. And pretty much all loudspeakers were dreadful compared to what is available today. In 1979, unless you bought a Linn Sondek, you were arguably wasting whatever money you spent on your speakers, because most of the music wasn't even getting to them in the first place. It's hard for today's 'young' audiophiles to truly appreciate how radical Ivor's claims were at the time. People really believed that the thing that spins the record made no sonic contributions beyond pitch, wow/flutter, and rumble.

    In 1979, musically speaking, upgrading any turntable to a Linn Sondek was the biggest upgrade you could make to a system, regardless of the speakers you had.

    In 2022 the same is no longer true. The quality of components across the board, from sources to speakers, is massively improved. The differences between the very best at any price, and the very best budget gear are surprisingly small. So Ivor's truism no longer holds up so well. But that doesn't invalidate its importance - and his importance - at the time.

    1. Richard Murison I am nearly in complete agreement, but I do not think the Linn Sondek was the only game in town in the 70s. In fact, I do not even think it was the best turntable available at the time. Just think, for example, about the top of the line Micro Seikis. There were others as well, such as the Thorens 125, which like a Micro Seiki SX-8000, is still highly desirable today

        1. Paulsquirrel the list of tables that I preferred to the Linn Sondek is long.
          There was the Garard 301, the Thorens 125, the top direct drive units from Technics and Denon, The Revox, multiple belt drive and a direct drive model from Micro Seiki, Roksan and I am sure more that I am simply forgetting.
          I think the Mitchell which was, and is still, excellent came to us only in the 1980s. The Transcriptor is probably the single component that set me on a life-long audiophile journey. I still own and use a Transcriptor Saturn because I love the way it looks. But because of the disc support system I would not describe it as superior or even equal to the Linn Sondek.
          I am also not convinced that speakers of the time left that much to be desired. We had the Quads, the Mark Levinson stacked Quads, the Tympani T-1c and T-1d, the Dahlquist DQ-10, the Kef 105s and late in the 70s the highly accurate and revealing Kef Reference 101s

          1. I fully agree here, Willem. But isn’t it also nice and absolutely entertaining to see here how audio myths are created and cultivated? 🙂 By the way, my hifi journey started with magnetostatic headphones and a pair of Spendor BC2 - not so bad at all, too.

    2. Indeed! I attended a typical Linn LP demo in 1988 and the dealer and Linn specialist was proud to reveal the sonic differences of the five decks with different tonearms, cartridges, etc. I wasn’t convinced at all and put my old ReVox B790/Shure V15/III into the game, a set and forget design. A most embarrassing moment for the dealer who then argued that a Linn TT is most sensitive to changes in room temperature and humidity. Maybe he was right when I see the endless number or upgrade kits that followed the coming years until now.

    3. I like your perspective on the Linn philosophy and where we are now. These days synergy is key. And with budget gear, the key for me is how well it stands up to live music.

      For example, I went to see the Bill Frisell Trio in Berkeley a couple of months ago. The sound at The Freight and Salvage is superb. When I put Frisell's _Valentine_ cd on my system the next day, I was immediately reliving the feeling I had at the live show. My system sounded musical. The differences were many, especially with Frisell's 40-minute long mashup of tunes transitioning via his incredible fractal-esque fragments expanding into new melodies (I wasn't the only one exclaiming "holy shit!"). The clarity of the drum heads and cymbal strikes was more impactful, the bass was richer, and the guitar sound was larger, of course, but my system represented these qualities close enough for me to not just enjoy the tunes on my little home stereo, but to be impressed that it represented the music well.

      And ultimately, for me, live music is the best; the rest is approximation. And we have so much good sound to choose from now, it's simply a great time to enjoy recorded music. (And the sound quality of live music has gotten so much better in my lifetime, too!)

  8. As my grandfather used to say, there are many ways to skin a cat. In the end, to me, what matters most is that the music sounds good through the modest system that I own.
    I just purchased and played three of Paul’s Octave Recordings through my cheap Denon DVD/SACD player. The first SACD discs I have ever played through this system. The resulting playback was stunning to my ears. Some of the best realistic recordings that I have heard through my present system. I am not agonizing over PCM or DSD or Analogue. I am simply enjoying the sounds coming over my system. Results matter, and I am believing that Paul is certainly doing something right here.

  9. Both are equally important i.e. the turntable and the speakers. Belt driven tables sound different from direct drive tables which sound different from idler wheel driven tables, the latter sound best. Belts slip even if microscopically resulting in homogenization of the sound comparatively speaking which can sound pleasant. Direct drives suffer from cogging which effects the sound. Idler driven tables are the best compromise. How DSD and PCM jumped into the subject is hard to understand and they too have their distortions to deal with anyway. As for the sound turntables are much more involving to the point that one can easily be fooled into believing that one is listening to the real thing than digital which constantly reminds one that one is listening to a recording and never totally involving even if measurements are near perfect. Regards.

    1. The audio industry still largely hasn't learnt how to eliminate interference and noise factors from degrading the SQ in digital playback chains - most importantly, if these factors are got fully under control then the presentation ticks all the boxes. All the boxes.

      Trickle down of the ideas from the very best of the current digital components, and time will eventually get the audio enthusiast there. Unless one is prepared right now to DIY workarounds to the lack of adequate engineering in nearly all the current products, then one just has to be patient, and wait for value for money gear that gets everything right to appear ...

        1. Noise is unwanted electrical activity disturbing the correct operation of whatever, which here is audio replay chains. Interference is usually taken to mean noise generated by the operation of electrical devices in the vicinity, which could be other components in the playback rig, and also other parts of, inside the same unit being affected.

          Galvanic isolation is just one method of many which can or may have to be used to slay the dragon - the undermining of SQ by the electronics not working as well they're meant to.

  10. I'm not convinced that the statement Paul cited, "if you can’t get the capture right nothing else you do down the rest of the chain matters" will always be true. A consequence of Moore's law is that the power available in a single processor chip today equals the power of all the processors in the world 26 years earlier. Imagine what the processing power 26 years from now might mean for audio reproduction. Subpar (and better) recordings will be dissected, their components will be improved to sound better and those components will be reassembled to sound more realistic. (An article in The Guardian just last week discusses this sort of thing being done to the remaster of Revolver: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2022/nov/02/make-it-pop-do-we-really-need-the-beatles-to-sound-new.) Today, with upsampling, we can connect a smaller-than-desired number of sampling 'dots' with more interstitial dots, but in the future this will be far more sophisticated. Algorithms will work on a voice-by-voice basis (where a voice might be an instrument) and we won't be restricted to interpolating those added 'dots' using straight lines. Instead, we'll be able to examine the 'flow' of each voice to lay those connecting 'dots' down along splines or whatever best serves the music. Computer technology - maybe AI - will allow us to reimagine information lost during compression, allowing us to present more natural approximations of individual voices . I hold out hope that future technology will enable us to enjoy highly satisfying remasters of albums whose master tapes were lost in the Universal Studios fire in 2008, for example - remasterings that will sound better than earlier versions of the albums ever did.

  11. I love this statement about how it all starts with the initial recording. What gets to me is how many audiophiles rave on and on about the Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" album. From a musical standpoint, it is an important recording mostly for the ***liner notes***, not the music.

    The liner notes compare jazz improvisation to the Japanese art form which demands spontaneity. That one sentence is what made KoB the revered album it is today, not the musical performance. Nothing against the music, but it was an innovation which did NOT influence anyone else. How many other modal jazz recordings are there besides this one? How many other modal jazz recordings did Miles do? Answer: None.

    KoB is a terrible recording and was engineered badly at the studio. Forget that it was all mixed live to a two track open reel machine. The miking was just done badly. The bass player sounds like he's in the studio next door. It's AWFUL. And don't tell me that this is because it was recorded in 1959. I have a 1958 recording of Victor Feldman, Scott LaFaro and Stan Levy that sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Great clarity, detail and imaging.

    KoB is certainly worth listening to and quite enjoyable. But it suffers from poor engineering at the recording and there's nothing anyone can do about that now.

    Paul is right. The most important engineering is what is done at the recording session.

      1. It's a nice recording and certainly worthy of inclusion in any jazz collection. But when you have guys going on about ultra processed pressings costing Large Cash and how this is the Greatest Jazz Record of all time, then it gets a little silly.

        I've seen guys going on about various pressings or releases and owning several different versions. That's goofy.

        But from a musical and artistic standpoint, there are many other recordings which are more important from the standpoint of the evolution of music and their influence on the next generation of players. Talk to any jazz trumpet player and there's probably no more influential trumpet player in history for them than Clifford Brown, and he tragically died very young. The recording he did with Max Roach of "Joy Spring" has inspired trumpet players for decades. You can't say the same of "So What". Heck. Miles' recording of "Sketches of Spain" is much more musically adventurous and inventive than KoB. Get a copy of his autobiography and read what he had to say about it.

        That aside, the main point I was trying to get across is that the most important aspect of any recording is the engineering being done in the recording session. How are they miked? What mikes did they use? How were they mixed? And to Paul's point, what mastering technology did they use?

        Look for a copy of "The Arrival of Victor Feldman". Now there is a crazy swinging recording by master musicians that is very well engineered.

        1. Daahoud is indeed also one of my favorite albums for a few tracks and by the way sounds great. I don’t say you’re wrong with most you say, but I think you also have to recognize, that the reason why a congenial but less influential session of a trumpeter who otherwise influenced everyone on his way is appreciated so much, is, because it’s simply great music to listen to, unrivaled in its way and very accessible. A lot of influential music is musicians or critics music only. The sophisticated and educated jazz fan sometimes tends to wallow in his pretensions, to differentiate himself by disliking what the mass likes and to strictly care not to value anything that is not backed up by musicians or critics opinion.

          I think the most typical statement of KOB is not, that it’s the most influential or best sounding recording of all times, but a masterpiece and one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. And I think this appreciation is mostly based on simple common taste and here and there certainly marketed and sometimes fitted with less appropriate merits. But therefore it is what it is, one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.

          In the AcousticSounds marketing text they say “one of the most transcendent pieces of music ever recorded”. I think that’s a perfect description and mirrors the perception of a majority of jazz listeners rather than a ranking in what historically galvanized or disrupted musicians and their playing most.

        2. Russ I was a teenager in the 60s, so most of my early listening was rock. I really only started listening to jazz in the late 70s and today it probably makes up about a third of my collection and about the same portion of my listening. And I do probably own 5 or 6 copies of KoB (two on vinyl, 3 on CD) and I never rave about the relative merits of the various copies (or even talk about it).
          When friends who do not listen to jazz ask about my passion for the genre, there are two albums I turn to for introductory listening, one being Brubeck's Take Five, the other KoB. And I have to tell you these two albums have successfully induced many "oh, wow, now I get it" moments. And some of these friends have become serious jazz listeners. That alone, from my perspective, makes these albums worthy of being in great album listings

          1. You are correct about both of those albums as *great* introductory choices. They are both very listenable and good jazz.

            What I consider to be important musically is when a piece of music influences other musicians to be inspired by it. KOB is modal jazz - which is essentially where the rhythm section plays one chord for an extended time and the improviser noodles on it. There's no harmonic movement and as such, very limited melodic invention. It's easy to listen to but really says little.

            I don't think you get the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique (1830) without Beethoven's 9th (1824). You don't get Fats Navarro, Sonny Stitt, or even Clifford Brown without Dizzy and Bird first showing people the way. Bix Biederbecke was influenced by Maruice Ravel, who in turn was inspired by his mentor, Debussey. Without Billie Holiday you don't get Betty Carter.

            I agree that KOB is a nice record and everyone should have a copy. No question. But as I mentioned in my first comment, you're not going to find another modal jazz recording by anyone anywhere and that really says it all.

  12. I’m gonna say beginning. The initial source really matters! After that you can truly evaluate your system sound chain, but the starting point (source) is really important. I always encourage people to use good recordings testing out new gear. 🙂

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