Does the CD still provide the best stereo music?

tobr24uOctober 10, 2006

With all of the new musical innovations, I am wondering if the CD still is the best way to deliver the best sound. Any knowledge in regard to new formats and their quality would be appreciated.

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There are some who would argue that either SA-CD or DVD-A offer the best sound since they offer more channels than just two for stereo and therefore more closely duplicate listening to live music. There are legions who would argue that any digital medium (CD, SA-CD, DVD-A, DAT, etc.) comes in a poor second to vinyl records or high-speed open-reel tape. It's a discussion that borders on the religious, IMHO.

That said, I'll state that I prefer the sound of my vinyl LPs to my CDs most of the time. However, neither my turntable/cartridge nor my CD player (actually a DVD player) are anywhere near state-of-the-art. And pops and clicks or cue burn on an LP, for me, pretty much destroys the illusion of a live performance no matter how good the rest of it sounds. From the perspective of being able to correct for errors, CD wins over vinyl hands-down for me.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 9:35AM
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Steve, thanks for the reply. I go way back to having a Garard Lab 80 turntable in the 60's if anybody remembers them. But I would never go back to vinyl--it is just too easy to use a remote and hit tracks perfectly on a CD. Further, some still say that tube amps produce better sound, but solid state never breaks down and is good enough for me. However, You did not mention all of this stuff being downloaded from the Internet or satellite or wherever, Is any of this sound anywhere near CD quality.?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 9:58AM
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In a word, no. Pretty much anything downloaded (legally) from the Internet is in a "lossy-compression" format, in which the files are compressed to save space and transmission time, but in a way that does not preserve every nuance of the original performance. While these files may sound good enough over an iPod or computer speakers or a boom box, they're not of the highest fidelity available.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 11:52AM
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Thanks again. I now feel comfortable with upgrading my speakers and CD collection knowing that they will not be obsolete anytime soon. I have listened to Vienna Acoustics Grand Mozarts and I am planning to listen to Paradigm 100s and B&W 800s...

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 10:21AM
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Good brands, all of them. CD became entrenched so quickly and so deeply (for both music and data) that it will take many years for it to disappear as a playback format. Look at the interest that still exists in turntables and cartridges well after the general public had written them off...

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 8:52AM
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tobr24u, I remember your Garrard! I just used my Garrard SL95B last week (with Shure V15V). And I'll take a tube unit anyday (I'm using a McIntosh 2102 power amp with a Mac c29 preamp). Oh, and as far as tape goes, I'm using an Otari MX5050BII2 half track reel machine. I wouldn't think of hooking up a CD player to my system

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 8:26AM
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Wow! You guys are true audiophiles. And speaking of the past, I remember the McIntosh as a great product when tubes were the only way one could go. I had a Scott with Wharfedale speakers. I remember Fischer and Marantz also being leading companies in those days, too. But I am too old (and lazy) to go back to vinyl or tapes, as I like to sit with my martini in one hand and my remote in the other at the end of the day. I now use an Onkyo receiver with an Onkyo six disc changer and, thus, don't have to move except for an occasional refill...

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 10:34AM
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".....Wharfedale speakers. I remember Fischer and Marantz also being leading companies in those days, too. But I am too old (and lazy) to go back to vinyl..."

Wharfedale! Yes, these used to be advertised in Stereo Review, back in the late sixties. I saw them on display at Lafayette Radio on Long Island(I believe there's a Home Depot there now). Oh, those were the days!!!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2006 at 2:58PM
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I found a pair of mid-60s Wharfedales in a Goodwill here recently. I was attracted by the beautiful real-walnut cabinets before I found out they were Wharfedales. I brought them home and hooked 'em up and, after a little playing, they sounded surprisingly good for 40-year-old speakers! They're too big for me to consider keeping, but, for the $, it was a fun ride. Now to figure out whether to sell them or just start someone on the road to he^h^h audio nirvana ... :-)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 7:33AM
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DVD format can be better, if it's available, but there's not many bands etc releasing CD and DVD format albums, but the DVD should be better in theory, but CDs are still better than the online digital formats, although I believe Itunes may offer a higher quality alternative to MP3 - I'm not sure, since I've never used the itunes store. Itunes the software will store your cd music at a higher quality than mp3 if you tell it to, but it will chew through your disk space at an alarming rate, and might result in skipping if your hard drive's having trouble keeping up.

MP3s (the usual format for portable or computer based music) are, as somebody said, a 'lossy' format but not bad, in most of the applications they're found in. DVD audio in some cases isn't actually any better than CD, in fact the compression used for the sound as part of MPEG-2 (which is the DVD video format) is essentially the same as MP3- so in fact, your CDs may be of a higher quality, I'll argue. However, DVDs support a number of different audio formats, from 44.1 - most likely if it's surround sound, to 96khz and as high as 192khz, so DVD may offer the edge at times.

The sample rate is where it's at - the reason why analogue - reel to reel audio tape or vinyl- is arguably superior is it isn't sampled, you get the whole, continuous sound wave, rather than bits of it or 'samples'

CD's sample rate is 44.1 khz or kilohertz - good
Pro audio such as DAT works at 48khz- better
Some DVDs and pro disk recorders can do 96khz and sometimes higher - best (although the current pro standard is mostly 96khz)

Unfortunately, even the CD could have been much better had they designed the standards a little higher, it was musical and physiological ignorance that made the frequency response a little limited. However, there are now 'super cds' that use higher rates, although it's more a question of too little too late, and DVDs will seamlessly replace them. I doubt you can even easily buy a cd-only burner for your computer now, and dvd burners are now less than $50.

Having said that, for most people the robustness of cds and their quite-good quality means it's a no-brainer over vinyl.

Buying cds is still your best bet even if you use iTunes and ipods etc all the time, for one, if your computer craps out and you haven't backed up your music, you lose it all and would have to buy it again.... and tunes from the itunes shop can't be played in anything but an ipod, which frankly sucks and is I'd consider, a restriction of trade- but that Norweigian guy who cracked the DVD code has cracked the itune format code. I think that's a good thing and doubt it will increase piracy but will be better for end users.

Itunes is so easy to use, having to 'rip' your cds is not really much of a hardship.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 4:25AM
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tunes from the itunes shop can't be played in anything but an ipod, which frankly sucks and is I'd consider, a restriction of trade

Not technically true, though Apple has made it difficult. You can burn a CD from your iTunes Music Store (iTMS) selections and then reimport them as MP3 or some other format. MP3s can be played on just about anything.

The digital rights management on iTunes -- er -- tunes is one reason Steve Jobs could persuade so many record companies to put their catalogs on the iTMS. It's not a free-for-all like Napster was and torrents are now.

And, frankly, it's strange how many people decide to go with iPods and iTMS when other companies keep bringing out cheaper players and digital music services which claim to play on more products. So many very big, very rich companies have tried -- and failed. Not to say that iTunes will never be toppled. It's just curious that so many have tried and the public has said, "No, thanks."

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 9:21AM
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As long as the CD stays better or competitive I will be happy as I use computers as the local library rather than owning one, and, thus, do not use the computer related formats. My main interest is to keep good sounds coming out of my B&W 570s from the eighties until I can replace them with something better, and I am auditioning speakers now...

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 9:31AM
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I'll resurrect this, interesting reading, I have an old 7" tape player - probably needs new rubber..and several turntables - old and older stuff..
Anyway, I am looking at a Crosley CR248 and a Teak 350, both of which burn CDs from LPs - I have 800 plus !
This Crosley machine is at $400 and on backorder ...from the company.
There is also a businessman who burns CDs from ones vinyl records,$5 per CD - this is all that I know other than the man's address..

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 6:04PM
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