DIY Audio Projects Forum

High quality source music
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Author:  SatTech [ 02 Mar 2013, 04:24 ]
Post subject:  High quality source music

Hi to all,
I'm new to the forum, but firstly I should confess that I have never been a big fan of digital music sources.
I grew up in a working 16 track analog recording studio, where I learned the pleasures of recording and listening to Analog master tapes.
I'm not a die-hard analog devotee either, I have been digital sampling and editing since I was a kid.
Editing would be a nightmare with the ol' razor blade, splicing block and 3M scotchtape these days.
So both technologies sit alongside eachother in my audio rig - always have.
I use vinyl some days, FLAC files the next, but maximum harmonic content, sample rates etc. always sound best to my ear.
Having played many nice instruments over the years and having recently completed my first acoustic guitar build, I like to capture the sounds of a nice piece of timber or instrument at work. This has always been a challenge for me in the digital age.
I go to a lot of trouble with Mics, pickups, gain structures and signal path, in order to capture as much as I can.
Nice wood + Nice Mic + good gain structures/signal path = soul, to me anyway.
My new guitar!
100_0997 (2).JPG


I just finished reading Neil Young's book, where he talks about bringing back real quality audio, as I remember it - with soul.
(This is not a plug, just curious to hear what people have to say...)
Has anyone managed to get hold of Neil Young's PureTone or Pono device or media files yet?
It offers the promise of "Master tape" quality through a digital medium.
I will be pretty excited to hear it, especially through a new Tube amp, when I make one from the beautiful schematics and resources on this site!

I know the argument of digital Vs analog can get complex and go on forever ad naseum, with d/a a/d converters, nyquist rules and whatnot. :eek:
I remain cynical, but I am really enthusiastic about the promise of the return of high quality sound that some people are to young to have heard.
Adding a nice tube amp to the experience would be amazing, if indeed, Neil's device and re-mastering are what he says they will be. :up:

Cheers, "Sat".

Author:  Gio [ 06 Mar 2013, 00:43 ]
Post subject:  Re: High quality source music

Hi Sat
I've really come to enjoy digital music now that high resolution files are available. Digital gets a bad wrap because of the limitations of CD and the mass popularity of the mp3. I can hear a huge difference between a CD (44.1 kHz) and a high rez (88+ kHz) FLAC. IMO - with 192kHz digital recordings you can match the resolution, detail and emotion that only the highest end vinyl playback systems can deliver. I think the high quality digital sound is already hear and I'm hooked on them!

Welcome to the forum.

Author:  SatTech [ 11 Mar 2013, 06:20 ]
Post subject:  Re: High quality source music

Thanks Gio,

I agree, some FLAC copies of albums I have, lifted from vinyl or reel 2 reel master source are as good as vinyl to my ear, without all the design problems associated with record players.
One good clean pass into FLAC front end software off a clean record and I shelve the vinyl.
The convenience of digital certainly outweighs any romanticism in breaking out the vinyl.
Static, stylus issues, cat hair etc have often ruined a good record listening session for me.
It's also great to get hold of stuff I simply cannot get in High resolution these days, when some soul is nice enough to upload it!

I found a good resource for high resolution files, not for piracy, but to get access to those few gems you just can't get anywhere else:
New stuff shows up daily there. Make sure you have your virus software on, updated and ready to roll if you go here. No big nasties there, but it has some occasionally dodgy mirror sites/links and it always helps to be security conscious! :up:


Author:  mwhouston [ 11 Mar 2013, 16:40 ]
Post subject:  Re: High quality source music

I have always favoured vinyl over CD but lately I feed hi-rez waves into my Oppo 95 from a hub with four 64G USB sticks. There is no moving parts here and no PCs to get in the way. Where friends are just getting into file based music from PCs into external DACs then preamps etc. I jump that intermediate step. The Sabre32 DACS in the Oppo are very highly regarded.

In the past hi-rez files were burnt to DVD for DVD-A music. Now all new downloads go direct to wav on one of the USB sticks. The Oppo can handle upto eight 64G sticks. I still play a lot of vinyl but 24Bit 96 to 192K files are extremely good and easy for me to enjoy.

Author:  SatTech [ 18 Mar 2013, 03:08 ]
Post subject:  Re: High quality source music

Hi MWHouston,

I am intrigued. Although great for recording and editing, I loathe PC interface for simple listening to audio files. I find Windows intrusive for just enjoying listening, I like a healthy separation between my audio room and all things PC based, internet etc.
I like hardware - old fashioned on/off switches, not mouse-clicking and pop-ups everywhere and I don't want a PC in my stereo rig. Onboard sound cards are usually incapable of reproducing anything of quality. :down:

Even if I use Foobar or VLC player software, with a high quality stereo PCI soundcard (with Delta-Sigma converters) in my desktop PC, I still have windows to deal with between me and my listening experience and all that gear must be 10 years old by now anyway.

I was using a USB interface through a reasonable set top box, with a small CRT colour TV as my AV monitor and a remote control, no moving parts or intrusive operating system there either. But the STB was incapable of playing FLAC files, leaving me with 44K/16bit WAV at best. Might as well use a CD player under those circumstances, which is what I did. The STB went out the window.

Tell me about this "Oppo 95", is it one of these? ... mages.aspx
It looks like a nice bit of kit! (I know very little about DVD or Blu-ray)
I would be very interested to see a pic of your setup config, even though on the link there, I can see the USB port on the back, understand the 64GB memory sticks and hub arrangement.
I know bugger all about iTunes, or finding High-res downloads online too.
How or where do you get music downloads in high-res WAV format?
Please, excuse my ignorance on this one, just trying to learn setups.

When recording, 24/96k (with some nice Mics) picks up the nuances in playing and detail in the timbers in guitars, whereas 16/44k leaves it sounding cold, clinical and flat. The audible difference between these 2 specs is the difference between failure and success of an acoustic recording, I think.

To my knowledge, I was first in Oz to take delivery of the Ensoniq EPS digital sampling keyboard in early 1988, but its sound was always fattened up by recording on Ampex 1 inch analog tape. The EPS synth was about 3 grand and had a whopping 4MB memory extension card for an extra $800. Before that, I also played around with an AKAI S3000 sampler and some Alesis stuff in the 80s. I always wanted a Fairlight CMI like I saw at the ABC once, but they were near quarter of a mil!

16/44 was incredible, back then and quite expensive too. I would love to see the back of 16/44k playback and recording, it has well and truly had its day. I am very interested in your setup ideas. Bring on the 24/96k, its about time! :up:

Any info you can offer on the Oppo setup would be greatly appreciated, indeed. :headphones:

Cheers, Sat.

Author:  mwhouston [ 18 Mar 2013, 07:04 ]
Post subject:  Re: High quality source music

SatTech: Yes that is the Oppo the BD-95. there are two new modles out the 102 and 105. I'm assuming they can be set-up the same way as mine. With the Oppo you get to USB ports (USB2.0 I think). Into one of those I plugged a 4 X USB hub (Jaycar $12), just a cheap one but one that is to the 2.0 standard. Three of the 64GB USB sticks are USB 2.0 and one USB3.0. The sicks must be formatted in NTFS. I had a few problems with two of the sticks and in the end the supplier replaced one with a 3.0. All four sticks now work. I can plug a second 4 X USB hub into the second USB port for 500GB of storage.

With the Oppo they also supply a wireless USB adapter. From here I can access the internet via my wi-fi and the Oppo has imbedded apps to support U-Tube and a few other things. There is a few things you can do on the internet, a lot of fun. When the Oppo sees the internet it upgrades its firmware automatically. There are two HDMI ports and one of mine is connected to a small HD screen. From here I can navigate the sticks and select what I want to play. Also you can be playing one track while searching another and play it.You can also make play lists. Or I can be playing music (or videos) from one stick, pullout another stick, load files on it and then play them with the playing from others.

The Oppo's ESS Sabre32 DACs do all the work of decoding and converting the files. You are not using a noisy PC with cheap DACs and sound card (not to mention noisy switch mode supply) to do the D2A conversion then having to pass that info to the player or preamp. I have no moving parts and all the music is handed by a dedicated music player (the Oppo) and not a general purpose PC. I'm tying up other equipment etc.

Often I pay purchase hi-rez music from LINN or HD Tracks in various forms. I can play them in FLAC (or anything) or convert them. I have decided to convert everything to WAV. The Oppo plays every format know to man and God except crappy Apple format. When I purchase from iTunes I use a program called Switch which will convert from every file format to every other file format. I use it to convert the Apple loss-less to WAV. Apple files are generally 16/44.1. When I use switch I tell it to convert and up-sample to 24\96. It actually sounds a lot better. Others who have tried this agree. It also drops the noise floor down quite substantially.

From my listening chair I can read my small HD (1080p) screen and select files or whole albums (and never get up) across hundreds of hours of hi-rez music. No CDs, no moving parts, nothing to wear-out and braked down (external or internal hard drives), no noisy PCs or laptops, minimum analogue inter-connects, dead quiet operation and all the music is handled by dedicated music equipment. And if you think 24\96 sounds good it all gets better when the Oppo is pumping-out 24\192!

Author:  SatTech [ 18 Mar 2013, 19:28 ]
Post subject:  Re: High quality source music

WOW! Thanks for such a comprehensive reply MWHouston.
Can't thank you enough.
After I posted I checked out some of the gear needed for a similar setup.
Thanks for the info on sourcing files and converting them, very useful.

I was concerned about how data was compressed on memory sticks.
Excuse my outdated knowledge, but I wanted to avoid FAT32 compression (if that is what USB still uses), so NTFS it is then. I don't really need optical playback, so I looked for a stand-alone Audio/media player, but came up short on the quality side. Some of the file types are limited and the specs lacking the oppos flexibility. Other's audio boards are junk, as are their converters.
That was before I even got to the PSU/transformer side of things.

There are SMPS units that can be made silent, but these are very high quality, sit in very complex circuits and sit in Satellite Comms "Solid State Power Amps" (SSPAs) and "Frequency Up Converters" (FUCs or BUCs - Block Up Converters we renamed them, for obvious acronym purposes... ;) ) that have so much spurious noise compensation and filtering designed into them, that a 120W version cost more than a house.
These amps ramp up output through a series of gold Toshiba FETs, some worth $6000 each (Not much pressure, soldering those suckers in...) These particular SMPS are no use to us regular audio guys at all, but I don't like noise! Toroidal transformers and some good filtering is sufficient for my ear.

I had a look at the Oppos online and any reasonable alternatives, of which there are very few to compare. I note the oppos admirable construction and converters, it seems they have no reasonable opposition. I know they are probably worth every cent, but a bit out of my price range at the moment. I saw an oppo 95 on Ebay with low start price, but the idea of 2nd hand DVD fills me with dread. In my experience, repairing electronics for many years and despite being an SMT/SMC rework and repair specialist, most Chinese domestic electronics, especially DVD is cost prohibitive to attempt repair. The first question any good tech should ask of broken down domestic electronics is "Can someone else fix this? under warranty?" so these days I dodge a lot of tedious and at times frustrating repair jobs by buying new quality gear, from a reputable retailer with warranty. So new with warranty is the only way to go.

I did see a few threads where people lamented the absence of features in the new oppos, going back to the 95 for various reasons. I will have to start saving my bucks then.
Looks like it might become a collector's item, we will see...

Thanks again.


Author:  mwhouston [ 18 Mar 2013, 19:46 ]
Post subject:  Re: High quality source music

SatTech: Where in Australia are you? I'm in Southern Vic. I paid $1275 for my Oppo 95 about a year ago and bought it from Australian sellers- Major Music I think. The 95 is a huge jump from the 93 Audiophile which I also have. The 95 is in my main music area the 93 in the TV end of the house with 2.5W 6EM7 tube amp and Fostex FE206s. Blue Ray with two channel sound!!

Author:  SatTech [ 20 Mar 2013, 23:22 ]
Post subject:  Re: High quality source music

In Adelaide mate. (yeah, I know...) :smoking:
I will have to take your word for it on the sound quality, it's a bit of a long drive just for a listen!
This oppo was a $1 starter, when I saw it a few days ago, at $560 at present, with 6 days to go. ... 460da98fe6
These bidders are like seagulls over a chip! Though I'm not much of an Ebayer myself...
I presume by the price hike and designs I saw, that even if the optical drive is stuffed, that they are good candidates for repair.
The boards look workable, if not easily interchangeable, with some of the available mods/boards I saw for oppos.
Still, I would not pay half of $1200, for a 2nd hand one, still better off new with a "decent" warranty, me thinks. :up:
You just never know whether the previous owner dropped it on it's 'ed.

Saving me bucks mate, this oppo idea looks like the future centre of my audio universe.
I can lose the dreaded PC, bypass the preamp and go straight to the NAD
or Rotel
I like my oldies here, they are dead quiet and crisp.
Surprisingly, the NAD is the sweeter of the two, through the mids, but the Rotel has the grunt and the input flexibility.
My own self-built 100W stereo 2XLM3886IC amp seems a bit flat by comparison and it still needs a good case...
But it has potential, those ICs are pretty nice for the price! ($40 cost for whole build)

Cheers, Sat.

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