A great-sounding recording will sound its best only when it's properly mastered to LP, SACD, DVD-Audio, or a high-resolution file. Those formats will reveal the full glory of the music in ways that lower-resolution formats like MP3 or analog cassette always miss. But if you didn't have access to the high-resolution file to compare it with, a great recording will still sound pretty terrific as an AAC, M4A, or 320kbps MP3 file, because the recording's innate quality would shine through. On the other hand, a heavily compressed, processed and crude recording will always sound heavily compressed, processed … Read more
High-resolution formats like Blu-ray, DVD-Audio, SACD, and LP are all capable of delivering superb sound quality, but having music in those formats doesn't automatically guarantee great sound. The recording itself would first have to sound great, or to put it another way, a great sounding MP3 would sound better than a heavily compressed and studio processed 192-kHz/24-bit Master Audio Blu-ray.
Worrying about what sounds better--FLAC, WAV, or AIFF files--is a total waste of time if you're listening to an Adele or Black Keys album: the music's processing levels are so extreme, there's nothing for … Read more
The analog vs. digital debate has been raging for nearly three decades, and there's still no clear winner, because it's really just a matter of personal preference. I'm fine with that, but there's a lot of sniping in the analog/digital wars, and each side never misses an opportunity to put down the other side as misguided, deaf, just plain stupid, or worse. Each side claims its chosen format is superior and the opposite's is garbage.
I'm an analog guy, but I'd admit that analog's distortions, speed variations, and noise/hiss make … Read more
Why did home theater buyers readily accept surround sound, but consistently reject multichannel music formats? From Thomas Edison's very first phonograph in 1877 through the late 1950s, monophonic sound was the only way people heard music at home.
Stereo arrived in the late 1950s on LP and analog reel-to-reel tape, and stereo has remained the most popular music format to this day. Quadraphonic (four-channel surround) debuted in the early 1970s, but didn't survive the end of the decade. People didn't want to plant four speakers in their living rooms, and the Quadraphonic Wars ensured the format's … Read more
The CD is fast approaching its 30th anniversary, and it's looking a bit tired. Funny, the LP is more than twice as old and its resurgence is ongoing. Not just among oldsters playing records they bought decades ago; a fair percentage of young bands are releasing new vinyl pressings.
CD box sets and remastered CDs, like the Beatles catalog that came out in 2009, still sell in big numbers. I remember when the CD was introduced, the media predicted the LP would be gone in just a few years. Now it's starting to look like the LP will … Read more
Amadis DVD Audio Ripper SE provides all the tools you need for pulling sound from DVDs and video files. It works well, but legalities keep things slightly muddled and limit your choices.
The program's interface is sleek and professional-looking, with a series of intuitive commands that never left us feeling lost. You simply choose a video file from your computer or an entire DVD to pull audio from, and Amadis does the rest. You have the option to save audio tracks as a WMA, MP3, or AAC file. However, Amadis wouldn't let us rip copyrighted material, such as … Read more
Oppo's new BDP-83 player spins just about every type of "silver" disc under the sun: CD, SACD, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and Blu-ray. Cool!
I brought a stack of SACDs and DVD-A discs to the CNET listening room to check out the BDP-83 with our Denon AVR-3808CI receiver and Aperion Intimus 4T Hybrid SD 5.1 speaker/subwoofer system. I'll cover the high-resolution audio performance of the Oppo here, read Matthew Moskovciak's full CNET review for the rest of the story.
"The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East," recorded on March 12 and 13, 1971, was a trip. Sure, the original mix was stereo, but I loved the way the SACD's 5.1 mix opened up and clarified the sound, especially the band's two drummers, Jai Johanny Johanson and Butch Trucks. The entire rhythm section's dynamics and pulse came alive on SACD, it's more in the background on CD.
On one hand the 5.1 mix is fairly subtle, but the sound's open quality and spaciousness was remarkable. The sense of being in the 2,000 seat concert hall was a thrill that you can't get with stereo. And no, you can't get there by playing stereo in Dolby Pro Logic II, a discrete 5.1 channel mix, if it's any good, will always sound better.
Led Zeppelin's "How the West Was Won" double DVD-A set was very different. How? The band's dynamic energy was even more present and the front three speakers soundstage depth and dimensionality were better than the Allman Brothers' disc. Too bad the bass was thicker and muddier, which was probably the way it sounded at the 1972 Zep shows. I didn't like the surround mix much, mostly because I couldn't understand why Jimmy Page's guitar was sometimes coming out of the surround speakers. Strange. But it's still the best sounding Zeppelin disc I own.… Read more
Ever since standalone Blu-ray players hit the market, there's been a great deal of anticipation for an Oppo Blu-ray player, mainly because of the company's reputation for making excellent upconverting DVD players. Oppo held out for quite some time, and in retrospect it was a smart move; almost all the early Blu-ray players were plagued with usability problems and hardware limitations. After a long beta-testing period, the Oppo BDP-83 is finally here and it lives up to the hype. The player feels fast and reliable, and has outstanding image quality on Blu-rays and DVDs. It's a true … Read more
It's interesting. Tens of millions of homes are equipped with multichannel home theater systems, but multichannel music is a dead issue. Stereo rules the roost, for going on 50 years.
Ten years ago it looked like stereo's days were numbered--the two new multichannel formats, SACD and DVD-Audio, were on track to be the next big things. Funny, it didn't work out that way. I cover the subject in detail in my "Whatever happened to 5.1-channel music?" article that appeared in the July issue of Stereophile magazine.
Obviously, 5.1-channel sound makes sense for movies and home theater, mostly because 5.1 was an outgrowth of theatrical film-sound technologies stretching all the way back to the 1950s.
Every attempt to bring surround music into the home without video has flopped, big time. Are you old enough to remember the rise and fall of quadraphonic in the 1970s? What was needed was a surround format that didn't require music lovers to invest in new playback gear. Surely such a format would prove the viability of music surround...wouldn't it?… Read more
Let's face it, setting up a home theater with five speakers and a subwoofer is a hassle.
Home-theater-in-a-box systems ease the pain somewhat, but you still have to run wires to five speakers and a subwoofer. Single-speaker sound bar systems? Sure, they eliminate the tangle of wires, but they're just glorified stereo bars and never really sound all that good. You can get much better sound from a decent set of stereo speakers.
You could put together a much better sounding system with Integra's DSR-4.8 DVD/AV receiver ($600) and a nice pair of speakers and possibly a subwoofer. It's a stereo receiver with 50 watts per channel with a built-in DVD/DVD-Audio/SACD player; video connectivity includes a 1080p HDMI output, one HDMI input, and two composite inputs. (You can multiply the usefulness of that single HDMI input by adding an inexpensive HDMI switcher that multiplies the number of available outputs.)
Let's compare and contrast an Integra DSR-4.8 based system with Yamaha's YSP-4000 single-speaker surround system ($1,800). The Yamaha is self-powered so it doesn't need an AV receiver, but it doesn't make much bass. So, you'll need to add a subwoofer, like Yamaha's YST-FSW150 ($280) and a DVD or Blu-ray player.
Fifty watts may not seem like much, but Integra components sound pretty good; pair the DSR-4.8 with efficient speakers you'd get a big sound. Klipsch's RB-61 bookshelf speakers ($499/pair) would be ideal and make better and more powerful bass than the YSP-4000, so some of you won't have to get a sub. But if you're thinking about going whole hog, I like Klipsch's Sub-12 subwoofer ($500). That's all together a $1,600 MSRP system, so it's at least $500 less expensive than the Yamaha system.
The Integra/Klipsch system would be way, way more dynamic, with vastly greater clarity for movies and music (single-speaker systems never quite sound right for music). To be fair, the Yamaha big claim to fame is its ability to produce a facsimile of surround sound from the single speaker, and it's the best of its type (I've reviewed a ton of single-speaker surround systems for CNET--both units with built-in video connectivity and those without--so I should know). The Integra/Klipsch is strictly stereo, but it'll be really good stereo. Big and wide, with a great sense of depth and spatiality.… Read more