What's wrong with Redbook, really?

Jul 1, 2010
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#1
Of course anyone is free to weigh in with their subjective observations, but I'd really like to hear from the technical expertise on the forum, and I know we have our share. Nyquist theory says the Redbook standard shouldn't be missing anything, Age-old knowledge of human hearing says the cut-off at 22khz cuts off nothing that matters. Yet many, many audiophiles believe, and believe they hear, that Redbook is an extremely compromised format. Meyer and Moran gave evidence that a pretty big sample of folks couldn't differentiate Redbook from high-res, but it's just not a subject that's likely to get enough repetition and peer review to make that transition from evidence to anything resembling proof.

So, is there any data that indicates what it could be that audiophiles are (not) hearing in Redbook that makes it so wrong?

Tim
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
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#2
I've seen dissertations by Amir, Gary and Don right here on the forum about how the math of the format isn't matched by the implementation on various levels and stages of writing/stamping, reading (whether SSD, HD or Disc) and playback ends (conversion and analog output). They've gone the challenges of mechanical and data jitter, filters, clocks and many more. As we see the format being chomped up in the marketplace by compressed formats on one end and nibbled at by Hi-Rez on the other, we still find the intrepid or stubborn, depending on one's point of view, trying to sort out these problems in both the home audio and professional industries. I don't know if this means there's anything wrong with it per se but it does show that there is the belief that there's more to be squeezed from the old dog. My current player reviewed by our own rblnr for example had me do an about face. For decades, I blamed the format for the lack of spatial cues that have always led to a lack of dimensionality from CD, turns out that the information was there, my old players just couldn't dig them out and pass them on as successfully including my dalliance with NOS DACs. Will it get better still? I have no idea.

Ironic that this should happen now when the brick and mortar CD stores as getting shuttered. I should have bought FEDEX and UPS stock the minute Napster came around.
 
Last edited:
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
0
0
#3
I've seen dissertations by Amir, Gary and Don right here on the forum about how the math of the format isn't matched by the implementation on various levels and stages of writing/stamping, reading (whether SSD, HD or Disc) and playback ends (conversion and analog output). They've gone the challenges of mechanical and data jitter, filters, clocks and many more. As we see the format being chomped up in the marketplace by compressed formats on one end and nibbled at by Hi-Rez on the other, we still find the intrepid or stubborn, depending on one's point of view, trying to sort out these problems in both the home audio and professional industries. I don't know if this means there's anything wrong with it per se but it does show that there is the belief that there's more to be squeezed from the old dog. My current player reviewed by our own rblnr for example had me do an about face. For decades, I blamed the format for the lack of spatial cues that have always led to a lack of dimensionality from CD, turns out that the information was there, my old players just couldn't dig them out and pass them on as successfully including my dalliance with NOS DACs. Will it get better still? I have no idea.

Ironic that this should happen now when the brick and mortar CD stores as getting shuttered. I should have bought FEDEX and UPS stock the minute Napster came around.
We've got some new folks I'm hoping will weigh in, not that it makes much difference. The nibble of high-res is that of a small earth worm nibbling the edge of a mountain. For the overwhelming majority of the music I'm interested in, redbook is the high-res format, so I'll make the most of it.

Tim
 

fas42

Addicted To Best
Jan 8, 2011
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NSW Australia
#4
For decades, I blamed the format for the lack of spatial cues that have always led to a lack of dimensionality from CD, turns out that the information was there, my old players just couldn't dig them out and pass them on as successfully including my dalliance with NOS DACs. Will it get better still? I have no idea.
I on the other hand was fortunate enough decades ago to get those "spatial cues" through, at least for short periods of time, and found it disturbing that the industry just didn't "get it": the key was always that you had to be more fussy to get Redbook to shine, and the audiophile industry wasn't really interested ... it was too busy smugly patting itself on the back with the knowledge that digital was a curse from the dark side.

I have no doubt that down the track people will find it very quaint that the anti-digital movement lasted so long; at times I've had glimpses of the soundscape that can be achieved with a totally standard stereo setup that makes the fuss about multichannel a complete irrelevance ...

Frank
 

fas42

Addicted To Best
Jan 8, 2011
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NSW Australia
#5
For the overwhelming majority of the music I'm interested in, redbook is the high-res format, so I'll make the most of it.

Tim
Again, the real plus of hi-res is that it makes life simpler for the electronics; for the down market stuff it immediately breathes a bit easier. I've done the trivial exercise several times now of resampling standard RB material up to a 24/192 file. Bingo, standard PC DAC and speakers instantly sound better, more "analogue": the chips are more "comfortable" with this bit rate and it's obvious even on low life hardware ...

Frank
 

Vincent Kars

WBF Technical Expert: Computer Audio
Jul 1, 2010
860
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#6
Maybe the word “Redbook” is a bit confusing.
It is a standard describing how an optical disk should be used to store audio.
The audio CD is obvious on his way back and will be replaced by file based storage.

Part of the Redbook standard is the format of the audio.
It is 2 channels represented by 16 bits words and a sample rate of 44.1 kHz. So (l)PCM.
This format is very popular and I expect it to stay for a long time.
Almost all of our audio regardless of the file format (WAV, FLAC, ALC, AIF, MP3, ACC, etc) on playback is decoded into 2 ch 16 bit 44.1 lpcm.

Only ‘true’ highres files (24 bit, sample rate > 48) will offer a bigger dynamic range and allow for higher frequencies.
Is this audible?
Gentlemen, start your engines!
 

FrantzM

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#7
Hi

Let me echo some of Jack's experience. I grew more of an orthodox audiophile than I appear to have been :) ... I remember in College when =doing my master having heated dicussions with a teacher of mine about the clear audible superiority of Lp over CD.. His response in one of our discussions was :" Frantz's go home. Demonstrate the Nyquist theorem, and come back to tell me how in the world the LP can be intrinsically better than CD".. I went home and came back with the feeling that the understanding that it wasn't so much the format but that its implemntation was not yet perfected.
I got my first taste of how good CD could sound when I auditioned the Burmester 870 DAC. This is a little known Burmester product, at least in the USA, it was IMO a groundbreaking product. For the first time CD sounded good, not great, not as good as the best LP but did sound good. At that time I began to hear or thought I heard differences between transports... I then audition a Cabernet transport. Combined with the Burmester 870 DAC/preamp, the sound of CD took a new level of appreciation very, very good ...
Switched to the 979/980 combo .. I had then a good TT , Arm and cartridge and i held dear in my heart, that LP was superior but found out that I was listening to much, much more CD than LPs .. Far more ... I did continue to listen to LP as my reference but it was more a "mind" thing than something I could prove to anyone, let alone the non-audiophile who found the Cd more crisp than LP and certainly more convenient ...
Back to now... I hear from time to time the odd Hi-Rez. I do find them good to very good but haven't compared them seriously to the REDBOOK version in any fashion likely to produce valid conclusions, I seem to prefer the Hi-Rez versions but the Masterings are often different and that could amount for the perceived (or imagined) differences.
My appreciation and sensibility to music have increased .. My susceptibility to fidelity is at an all time low .. I find for the moment CD extraordinarily good... Anyway better than even the most ardent analog lover would admit. As good as LP ? Likely ... NOT as good as Hi-Rez? Likely! Not as good as R2R? To my ears at least, likely too :)
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
10,992
8
38
Manila, Philippines
#8
Thank you for that Vincent. It is overlooked that there is Yellow, Orange and others for 16/44 and that the colors correspond to the type of optical disc (CDR, CDRW, etc). I suppose they are lumped all together from a consumer stand point because nowadays it's pretty hard to find CD Players that won't read CDRs. Not too long ago this wasn't the case.

Frank, I used to get short durations too. Not anymore. I don't think I have a single CD that is dry as a bone and devoid of actual or artificial hall space. While it differs from recording to recording, the presentation is no longer as shallow as has been the case in the past. Instruments now have much more shape regardless of amount of reverb.
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
10,992
8
38
Manila, Philippines
#9
Hi

Let me echo some of Jack's experience. I grew more of an orthodox audiophile than I appear to have been :) ... I remember in College when =doing my master having heated dicussions with a teacher of mine about the clear audible superiority of Lp over CD.. His response in one of our discussions was :" Frantz's go home. Demonstrate the Nyquist theorem, and come back to tell me how in the world the LP can be intrinsically better than CD".. I went home and came back with the feeling that the understanding that it wasn't so much the format but that its implemntation was not yet perfected.
I got my first taste of how good CD could sound when I auditioned the Burmester 870 DAC. This is a little known Burmester product, at least in the USA, it was IMO a groundbreaking product. For the first time CD sounded good, not great, not as good as the best LP but did sound good. At that time I began to hear or thought I heard differences between transports... I then audition a Cabernet transport. Combined with the Burmester 870 DAC/preamp, the sound of CD took a new level of appreciation very, very good ...
Switched to the 979/980 combo .. I had then a good TT , Arm and cartridge and i held dear in my heart, that LP was superior but found out that I was listening to much, much more CD than LPs .. Far more ... I did continue to listen to LP as my reference but it was more a "mind" thing than something I could prove to anyone, let alone the non-audiophile who found the Cd more crisp than LP and certainly more convenient ...
Back to now... I hear from time to time the odd Hi-Rez. I do find them good to very good but haven't compared them seriously to the REDBOOK version in any fashion likely to produce valid conclusions, I seem to prefer the Hi-Rez versions but the Masterings are often different and that could amount for the perceived (or imagined) differences.
My appreciation and sensibility to music have increased .. My susceptibility to fidelity is at an all time low .. I find for the moment CD extraordinarily good... Anyway better than even the most ardent analog lover would admit. As good as LP ? Likely ... NOT as good as Hi-Rez? Likely! Not as good as R2R? To my ears at least, likely too :)
A very similar experience indeed Frantz. My player came as I was just moving in to the new house. I found the sound so satisfying that I procrastinated for three months to set up my analog rig. In the past I used my CD/SACD combo as second fiddle. I couldn't go back and forth between LP and CD because when I went to CD everything seemed so flattened out and mechanical. If I wanted to listen to CDs I had to listen to them first, eventually fatigue set in and I went to LPs. Because I have been analog centric for so many years, my titles on formats rarely overlap. I think I have less than 10 titles I have in both formats. Since content is king and there was a bunch of LPs I wanted to listen to, I set up my analog rig. Horror of horrors, the CDP was actually sounding better. Again, since content is king and I have no desire of hunting down CDs of wonderful LPs I already own (it wasn't THAT much better). It took a lot of work fine tuning the newly relocated analog rig, re-leveling the racks and table, meticulous alignment of all carts, finding the best average parameters for the carts and their arms, to get it to edge past CD again, hardest still was hunting down the sources of hum that wasn't there in the old place. It took reworking the gain structures too to have it ahead comfortably again in areas I personally find of great importance. I am at a point where I can switch between formats without having to make too many mental adjustments. I guess most people would have switched over at that point where the CDP got ahead of the Turntable. Analog does require a heck of a lot more commitment. I for one have no regrets. I think I'm getting the best of both worlds right now.
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,562
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Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#11
Redbook is fine.... as long as you maintain signal integrity throughout the process. It is way harder to create a good musical CD than it is for a hi-rez file. So many things you need to take in consideration. Everything is cumulative with no margin for error (pun intended).
This is why it takes so long to produce an album on the FIM label. FIM is regarded as one of the industry's leaders in producing the best audiophile CD's. Every step along the way gets scrutinized and double checked. Unfortunately of late, Winston hasn't been satisfied with the stampers that have come out of production and has a warehouse full of rejects. He'd rather lose money than put out something sub-par.
I feel this is why most CD's produced today, sound like crap. No one is taking time through the process to make sure signal integrity is maintained. It is too easy now for someone to put their shingle out and say "I'm an engineer".


(stepping down from soapbox)
 

FrantzM

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#12
Bruce

WHile to me content is king I wil agree with you that most CD sound like crap. It is not IMO a CD problem, rather of tha of technology in the wrong hands or in this case ears. Modern technology does allow almost anyone to record and ...record they do record with the results you describe. The results would have been the same if analog was used and likely worse.
I am for advancement in Recording not necessarily "audiophile" recordings which to me tend to be great sound poor msic aside from some exceptions ... Music reproduction is to me important because it has because the main outlet for music. Most people including many here don't listen to live music despite claims to the contrary. So recordings are what we have, a way (very convenient) to listen to music, past and present. The better the recordings are the better the music reaches us. It is not an audiophile thing for me... really.
As for CD its days are gone and as Vincent so brilliantly remind us, we are in the day of LPCM and the CD version of it, REDBOOK, is IME better than we thought and likely even better than we have experienced it thus far..
 

puroagave

Member Sponsor
Sep 30, 2011
1,297
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#13
We've got some new folks I'm hoping will weigh in, not that it makes much difference. The nibble of high-res is that of a small earth worm nibbling the edge of a mountain. For the overwhelming majority of the music I'm interested in, redbook is the high-res format, so I'll make the most of it.

Tim
Tim, im in your camp. I have higher res Cd formats and files but 95% of my digital collection is 16/44.1 and i can live happily ever after with it.
 
May 30, 2010
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#14
Being also a firm believer in Nyquist I embraced CD with the second generation of CD players. Although very enthusiastic at start, I soon get tired of having to change too often, as players improved very fast. And once it settled, I was disappointed that I preferred a lot my LPs, with their ticks and distortions. My first positive experience with CD was listening to the great Mark Levinson ML31.5 -30.5 in an all ML system driving Martin Logan's Monoliths. Some "difficult"classical CDs sounded as good as I reminded from the best LP. Unhappily, most small jazz and rock music did not sound as good as the LPs. The ML combo was too expensive for me, but later I could buy for a good price a Forsell strange CD transport and DAC that could make CDs enjoyable. It had limitations of frequency extremes, but strings sounded like strings, and music had "life". I owned the Forsell's for a long time, with some short time excursions with more detailed players. Only more recently, with the appearance of the ARC tubed players the Forsell was definitely dropped . Surprisingly buying an high quality tube preamplifier also made the CD more enjoyable by a significant margin.

However the acquisition of the matching ARC phono unit increased the gap again. :(

As Jack referred, you have to tune your system to get good sound from both sources. IMHO, if you do fine optimization using only excellent analog sources, you will not get a good CD sound.

Recent exposition to a top CD system costing more than usd 100000 in a top system make me vacillate. Although I could bring my well known CD recordings, it was to a too short time to make a systematic valid appreciation. But how can Nyquist depend on USD? I have to say that as soon as it is possible I intend to record its output with a Korg MR2000s in DSD 128fx. Unhappily the good friend who is now the happy owner of the Kalista's leaves far from me.

Disclaimer - my CD time quota is around 70% . And I enjoy it for some music. But I never risk switching from an LP immediately to a CD. Would a top player change the situation?
 
May 30, 2010
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Portugal
#15
(...) As for CD its days are gone and as Vincent so brilliantly remind us, we are in the day of LPCM and the CD version of it, REDBOOK, is IME better than we thought and likely even better than we have experienced it thus far..
Frantz,
As far as I read 99% of REDBOOK files are obtained ripping CDs. Any reason why they would sound better?
 

FrantzM

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
6,469
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#16
Frantz,
As far as I read 99% of REDBOOK files are obtained ripping CDs. Any reason why they would sound better?
Re-reading what I wrote I can see why you could form that impression.

Let me rephrase so that it doesn't get lost in translation ;)

CD/Digital/LPCM 16/44.1 is better than we thought .
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
10,992
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38
Manila, Philippines
#17
Jack are you still using your EMM Labs transport and DAC
The combo is now in my HT Steve. They're the much older CDSD and DCC2 SEs, which I've been told are a far cry from Ed's new stuff. I'm using a dedicated CD player and an Accuphase DP-78 for SACD which doubles as the DAC for the iMac/Puremusic. I needed the rack space and since my SACD collection is tiny, I'm ok with the Accuphase.
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
10,992
8
38
Manila, Philippines
#19
It was the EERA Tentation. I picked up distribution so I don't really want to talk about it too much. Mullard88 and Jim both bought units. Best they be the ones to talk about it. Both use the Tentation for CD playback now as I do.
 

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