Irinikus wrote:Nowadays, the high resolution format used by audiophiles who make use of music servers and very expensive "and I mean, very expensive" discreet DAC's is the DSD file, but good recordings in this format are not that easy to come by yet, and a really good recording on normal Red Book CD can really give this format a run for it's money, even though there is an extreme difference in the resolution of the two formats.
There is very little 'pure' DSD material out there. Quoting wikipedia
Because it has been extremely difficult to carry out DSP operations (for example performing EQ, balance, panning and other changes in the digital domain) in a one-bit environment, and because of the prevalence of solely PCM studio equipment such as Pro Tools, the vast majority of SACDs—especially rock and contemporary music, which rely on multitrack techniques—are in fact mixed in PCM (or mixed analog and recorded on PCM recorders) and then converted to DSD for SACD mastering.
Now, why would you want PCM @ 24/96 or 24/192 source material, converted to DSD, converted to analogue? It's not like the extra conversion step improves the audio quality.
I always lusted after the old Studer open reel master recorders. I used to have a Revox in the late 80's, but the problem is again the source material. Unless you use it to make your own live recordings, all you can do with it is record from vinyl or CDs. In that case it's nothing but the 'wow' factor, because that analogue copy isn't going to improve the source.
As for audio CDs: the first CDs were mostly straight transfers from existing analogue master tapes (mastered for vinyl, not CD). The A/D converters weren't exactly audiophile; the first Philips studio converters couldn't even do 16bits. The steep analogue filters caused phase changes. Digital mixing and mastering equipment was rare so often done analogue resulting in more D->A and A->D conversions. The resulting sound is often 'brittle', 'bright'.
The quality of converters and digital studio equipment greatly improved over the years. But the end product didn't necessarily improve due to this obsession with loudness. I ran the numbers on some old Led Zeppelin because the differences were so audible:
('gain' = ReplayGain, DR = Dynamic Range)
As you can see, it gets louder over the years. But DR and gain numbers don't tell the whole story. Personally I think I like the 1994 version best, but that's maybe also because I've owned that issue the longest. The 1990 version sounds 'thin' in comparison. The 2008 version is just loud at the cost of detail. The most interesting is maybe the 2014 version. It's roughly as loud as the 2008 version, but there's a lot more 'punch' to it (which IMHO goes well with this type of music), and I keep hearing details in it I never heard before. It's almost like the album was re-invented. Probably because it's a new mix from the multi track, not just a remaster. I have no illusion it has anything to do with the higher sample rate, especially not with a 1969 recording... Anyway, I like to listen to that one too. And really, that's all that matters in the end.
NB: The gain levels on all of these are still relatively conservative. If you look at these numbers from a Top40 track you can see Replay Gain corrections of -13dB and a DR number of 3 or 4 and even lower for Drum 'n' Base. They literally crank up the volume to the point where there's only a couple of dB of dynamic range left. You can *hear* the limiters trying to do the impossible. It's just plain awful.