back to article 'Daddy, what's a Blu-ray disc?'

Vinyl LPs aren’t the only antiquated disc format that’s enjoying a revival. So is the almost forgotten Blu-ray disc. Although little noticed, sales of the pricey movie disc have continued on an ever upward trend. But its popularity has been eclipsed by OTT streaming services which brought movies and TV on demand into the …

Anonymous Coward

quality..

"At first, the rush to digital (legal and unlicensed) saw consumers overlook a decline in quality. But as the novelty wore off, people demanded a better quality experience - hence the rise of Sonos and vinyl."

I'm not sure how someone would demand a better quality experience from digital, by embracing Sonos (which is digital).

As for Vinyl - only people with a very limited experience of audio storage mediums / playback would believe that vinyl beats out any other audio format since the cassette tape.. a very poor audio mastering on CD can still be worse than a very good audio mastering on vinyl, but as for what is possible with the formats themselves vinyl is far behind. Speaking as someone who has some pretty expensive turntables and amps.

The future of music is all digital, with some people like myself that still enjoys the odd LP or two, but lets not kid ourselves (or trick innocent people into believing that vinyl has some "mystical" and "warmer" sound - they might as well start investing in hand-braided interconnect cables and special speaker cabinet wax).

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Re: quality..

Note the word "experience" rather than "quality". Sonos is a better experience than MP3s on a computer or a hifi that does playback from a USB stick. Vinyl being a better experience is certainly a personal thing - scratches, hiss, clicks pops, flipping discs etc don't make for a better "experience" in my opinion, but some people clearly like something about vinyl (handling discs? bigger artwork?) enough to cause a revival.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: quality..

Since you mention cables and wax, I'll slide this in here.

http://marigoaudio.com/tuning-dots/

I mean who would ... how? why?

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Re: quality..

>a very poor audio mastering on CD can still be worse than a very good audio mastering on vinyl... ...lets not kid ourselves (or trick innocent people into believing that vinyl has some "mystical" and "warmer" sound - they might as well start investing in hand-braided interconnect cables and special speaker cabinet wax).

Indeed. Because of its inherent limitations, mastering on vinyl requires greater care - by a human being with ears. This can give some recordings a different sound on vinyl compared to CD, sometimes a sound that can be called 'warmer'. High fidelity? No, it is isn't. Better sounding than CD? Sometimes yes, though of course it is subjective - and largely a function of the mastering, not the medium.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: quality..

Stop pretending Sonos is a real thing, rather than a confusing array of consumer hi-fi equipment, phone app (because reasons), probably some sort of music store, and lots and lots of DRM.

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Re: quality..

I mean who would ... how? why?

The who part is easy. If you think that a £700 0.5m USB cable (http://www.russandrews.com/ks2416-ag-usb-cable/ will make a difference, you'll certainly think that some sticky felt circles will be the finishing touch to your "audio experience".

As for the why part... ... nope - no idea.

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Re: quality..

... some people clearly like something about vinyl (handling discs? bigger artwork?) enough to cause a revival.

... not to mention the fact that the analogue vinyl recording format makes no provision for DRM (not if you want to be able to play the records on existing equipment, anyway).

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Facepalm

Re: quality..

@ Anonymous Coward

"Since you mention cables and wax, I'll slide this in here. http://marigoaudio.com/tuning-dots/"

I had a look on that site - clearly I picked the wrong career:

Titanium power cable 6ft $2995

I wonder if it implicitly upgrades the copper ring main it connects to. Or the old fuse box with ceramic fuse wire carriers.

There might be a facepalm icon but this really requires a head in hands quietly weeping icon.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: quality..

"This can give some recordings a different sound on vinyl compared to CD, sometimes a sound that can be called 'warmer'."

Yup - and if you want you can record that "warmer" sound into flac format (or onto a blank CDR), and you can then listen to an exact reproduction of that "warmer LP sound" wherever you are... you can even close your eyes and pretend that there is spinning vinyl somewhere nearby :)

Of course, I still like vinyl for tactile / sentimental / ritual reasons...

To be clear - I'm agreeing with you :D

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Re: quality..

CDR? Get back to your cave, Mr Flintstone! :D

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Re: quality..

>... not to mention the fact that the analogue vinyl recording format makes no provision for DRM

Well, vinyl wouldn't provide Digital Rights Management, hehe! The idea of 'vinyl Analogue RM' may have been around, but it never worked in practice - if it was ever implemented at all:

Copy-protection for vinyl in the 1970s

http://www.currybet.net/cbet_blog/2008/01/copy-protection-for-vinyl-in-t.php

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Re: quality..

I think the Marigo Audio Lab tuning dots would work best when applied directly to the eardrum.

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Re: quality..

http://theadvancedaudiophile.tk/

http://www.pwbelectronics.co.uk/product/cream/cream.html

It's a cream. To make your hifi sound better. Worse still I can find no evidence it is a spoof Someone has reinvented snake oil sales for the 21st century.

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Re: quality..

... is almost always bollocks. Most of us cannot hear the difference, not when listing in a front room, kitchen, or bedroom, and almost certainly not when listening through ear buds no matter how much you got stiffed for them. I have a tiny £20 car amp power my speakers. It has fooled a sound engineer who does work for films. Quite a "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" moment for him, as he stared all weekend at it saying "but, but, it is a car amp".

The same goes for 4K video none of us live in a place where we have a big enough screen, and sit close enough to in order to see the difference.

http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/why-ultra-hd-4k-tvs-are-still-stupid/

All of this is idiots being relieved of their cash by the promise inherent in a big box.

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Re: quality..

Would still use copper for the current carrying conductors inside as Titanium is a very poor conductor of electricity, so just a pretty costly covering.

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Re: quality..

>Worse still I can find no evidence it [http://www.pwbelectronics.co.uk/product/cream/cream.html] is a spoof Someone has reinvented snake oil sales for the 21st century.

No proof of a spoof, but all evidence points that way:

Free sound improving techniques:

Plain piece of paper under one of four feet.

Pinning back one corner of a curtain.

Plain piece of Blue paper under any vase of flowers or any pot plant in the listening room.

Tying a Reef knot.

Freezing using a domestic deep freezer.

Pieces of quarter round wooden doweling in all right angles.

Aligning the slots in screw heads.

- http://www.pwbelectronics.co.uk/free-sound-improving-techniques

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Re: quality..

The best, easiest and cheapest way I improved a good system was to hang some Moroccan rugs on the walls, they were aesthetically pleasing BTW.

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Re: quality..

OMG you wernt joking!

that link didnt work too well , but same cable here:

https://www.thecableco.com/Product/KS-2436-AG-USB

$825

Surely this is just a joke listing? the Audiophiles having a laugh at us?

sort of like: " hey lets put one of our top audio cables , worth £20 , up in the shop for £800 - then those muggles will think we're really crazy , lulz ..."

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Re: quality..

http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/why-ultra-hd-4k-tvs-are-still-stupid/

Paying for a gaming video card that can do 4k , is an extra dimension of pointlessness . Unless you are playing the game in a CINEMA

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Re: quality..

I suspect part of the appeal is the ritual that goes with non-digital consumption. A fully laden (African) mp3 player or infinite play list streaming service turns music listening into a background activity, typically in relatively noisy environments (think: car, train/metro, bus) with cruddy headphones (or ear buds). As a consequence music's being produced with very narrow dynamic range to compete with background noise.

Vinyl, or even Compact Disc, has the ritual of loading the media, committing to an album, and settling in to listen attentively. Maybe the album could see a resurgence as well, instead of the hit singles releases. You cannot present richly textured/layered story-telling with a single track.

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Yes, and no. While I mostly agree on the 4K is excessive point, the recent screens introduced High Dynamic Range. This is also part of the UHD Blu-ray specification. 4K may me gimmicky, HDR most definitely makes a huge difference. It's the thing they should've gone after from the start, but pushing more pixels was easier (to make and to sell).

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Re: quality..

When I was younger, listening to LPs was an experience, a group of us would rotate around various houses and listen to an album, sometimes because someone had just bought a new one or you wanted to hear more of a band you were getting into and a friend had more of their albums. The cost was significantly higher per LP compared to earnings at the time, so lending / sharing was common.

LPs were more than just the audio on them, art work, sleeve notes, burn marks from not so carefully consumed items were all part of listening. Generally we used to listen from start to finish, too much effort to get up and skip a track, so some songs which probably wouldn't have had more than a single listen would get attention, with people debating the merits, or lack of.

I had a lot more time back then, before work and family, but still remember many a great evening just sharing music with a bunch of similarly enthused people. Although it's been many years since I've played some the the LPs, they're still good fun to get out and just look and recall, especially when a trip with hard earned cash meant at most a weekly trip to HMV.

These days everything is just so freely (or cheaply) available it's become devoid of much of it's value. Remembering where you bought your first MP3, or streamed your first spotify seems somewhat less valuable.

There's also so much more media and activity demanding people's attention, that it seems few people actually would listen to a whole album these days. I ran a studio for a while and working with one band doing an album's worth, rather than a single song or demo, it really struck me that theirs was the first album I'd sat and listened to the whole way through for many years.

Don't get me wrong, I love having effectively unlimited songs on a phone, but whilst convenient and of technical high quality (well, mp3 aside) it's just not the same. Sometimes too much choice is no choice.

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Re: quality..

I'm pretty sure Sonos is a "thing". Although you're not entirely sure, with the "probably a digital store" suggesting you've never used it. So you can say you learned something today, Sonos don't have a digital store to buy music, they let you use whichever supported service you already use.

The app? Well that's necessary as you're not streaming from your mobile device, you're instructing the speaker where to get music from. So I can start playing my Spotify tracks, leave the house, and someone else can pick up with their app and carry on. Try that on Bluetooth and you'll get 10m from the front door.

Whether it's your thing or not is down to you, but they've got a pretty good customer base so it's definitely a thing. You don't have to get all frumpy and old fashioned just because the word "app" scares you.

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Re: quality..

Head over to Stereophile for some interesting discussions on $1500 AC/kettle leads.

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Re: quality..

I was thinking rectum.

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Pint

Re: quality..

some people clearly like something about vinyl (handling discs? bigger artwork?) enough to cause a revival.

I do think this is part of the story: the rituals and practices heighten the anticipation of the moment. The fact that many of the rituals are tactile (e.g. the special way they wipe the dust, the care with which they lower the arm) is important. Regardless of what it may (or may not) objectively do to the music reproduction, it really can change some people's subjective enjoyment. (Compare: tea-making rituals).

And then behind that is the opportunity for geekery: to know more than the average person about selecting and matching components for the "best" reproduction, to read endless magazine articles about the specs of the latest equipment, agonizing over whether to upgrade now or hold out for better: for many of this type, the equipment is more important than the music.

And third, there's the lure of exclusivity and collectability: vinyl, especially older vinyl, is a physical artifact that exists in finite quantities and is found in physical locations. The search for a rare copy in good condition of a particular edition can itself be rewarding in a way that finding an MP3 online really is not.

And to be honest, I have no problem with people who enjoy vinyl in any of those ways, so long as they don't insist that their end result "must" be better than mine and that I'm doing it wrong by listening to MP3s on a tiny SanDisk through ear buds to drown out the noise of the lawn mower.

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Re: quality..

Several years ago, I mentioned to a religiously audiophile [*] individual that I could not possibly hear the difference between digital and analog recordings, simply because of the loss of high-end hearing response as one ages. He assured me that real audiophiles could. It was at that moment that I realized that I was totally satisfied with my penis size.

[*] As certified by his arising articles for audiophile magazines. (Yes, paper ones.)

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Happy

Re: quality..

One of the advantages over vinyl that CDs have is increased dynamic range. Unfortunately the loudness wars took a chunk out of that :(

Then we lost another chunk of quality when MP3 became about the only format used commercially.

Another chunk was lost when people decided they couldn't be bothered buying a proper hifi but would just attach their <insert portable music player here> to a pair of cheap speakers using bluetooth.

So I think it's entirely possible that a well engineered vinyl album played via a good hifi-system would sound better overall than a lot of what people are listening to today Personally I go with lossless music streamed from a home server played through a Squeezebox Touch and a Onkyo 507r with Q Acoustic speakers.

It'd sound even better if my ears weren't nearly fifty years old though. I suspect that makes the most difference :(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: quality..

Since I have some hearing loss and resultant tinnitus in one ear, the only benefit to me of vinyl is that I could get my old Motorhead albums out of the loft and play those "for free" rather than spending money on a CD or digital download.

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Re: quality..

@ Baldy50

"Would still use copper for the current carrying conductors inside as Titanium is a very poor conductor of electricity, so just a pretty costly covering."

It might use a length of super cooled unicorn hair to carry the current - it's irrelevant what it uses. My point is that even if the cable delivers completely all of its wild promises it would be immediately let down by the rest of the infrastructure used to deliver that current to the wall socket.

The same is true with all of this extreme Hi-Fi bunkum - it relies on people not realising 1. They will *never* notice the difference (even if they think they can) and 2. The chain is only as strong as it's weakest link - a fancy power lead won't change your house wiring or the distribution grid. In some cases the meat bag's own sensors are the limiting aspect.

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Re: quality..

"Yup - and if you want you can record that "warmer" sound into flac format (or onto a blank CDR), and you can then listen to an exact reproduction of that "warmer LP sound" wherever you are... you can even close your eyes and pretend that there is spinning vinyl somewhere nearby :)"

Isn't the problem here that you really CAN'T capture the full vinyl range even with FLAC because vinyl is an analog medium and therefore works on a continuous range (it operates over the R set, so to speak) whereas FLAC is digital and therefore has a discrete range (say in the Z set)? Now, Z ⊂ R but R ⊄ Z, meaning there's no physical way to fully duplicate the analog vinyl range on a digital FLAC; the best you can do is get a very close approximation.

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Re: quality..

"Paying for a gaming video card that can do 4k , is an extra dimension of pointlessness . Unless you are playing the game in a CINEMA"

Or are using a very large screen in the traditional position of a computer monitor (just a foot or two away) meaning you can actually see the pixels that close up and being able to discern detail from a longer distance can make a difference in say an FPS where you're in a sniper duel.

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Re: quality..

"... is almost always bollocks. Most of us cannot hear the difference, not when listing in a front room..."

The difference between what and what, exactly? Are you saying all hifi systems sound the same? Or that most people can't tell the difference between a stereo and a live concert?

I agree with you regarding 4K TVs though.

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Re: quality..

What originally helped to kill the "album" were the filler tracks, plus recycling songs so the same thing turned up on multiple albums. When downloads and such came along, we could choose to buy only the songs we want to listen to (1) and not the "other rubbish".

1 - mostly. I say mostly as some services (hello Deezer) have taken to replacing original copies of older tracks (mastered the old way) with shiny new "remastered" versions. I've yet to hear one remastered anything that improves upon the original.

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Re: quality..

Last week I installed after 20 years the record player to show to kids what vinyl is, and the fascinating movement of the turntable.

Although all the components involved are mid range 80's vintage, the quality of sound is fascinating, it made me realize we lost a lot with all the A/D conversion. It noticed it before at a friend using McIntosh components from the 60's, featuring soup can sized condensers, how great sound can be when no chips are involved in signal processing.

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Re: quality..

"The best, easiest and cheapest way I improved a good system was to hang some Moroccan rugs on the walls, they were aesthetically pleasing BTW."

Yes, improving the listening room pays dividends. There are also commercial products sold for these purposes. Most are extremely effective but are, IMO overpriced for what they are, and generally have a poor WAF.

*WAF = Wife Acceptance Factor.

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Re: quality..

"The chain is only as strong as it's weakest link - a fancy power lead won't change your house wiring or the distribution grid. In some cases the meat bag's own sensors are the limiting aspect."

Actually, many "fancy power leads" are shielded...which does two things:

It prevents the magnetic/electrical field that is around the power lead (when actually providing voltage and current) from having an effect on OTHER speaker, power and interconnect cables in/around the back panels of the hi-fi system...esp if higher currents are being drawn, which leads to higher levels of induced signals in other nearby cables...and esp those that are not well shielded (if at all).

And it prevents other cables from inducing "noise" into the "fancy power lead" too...

Of course, there are all manner of ways in which interference can be induced into other nearby products...but there are ways of reducing/minimising this by careful product design.

The trouble is that some brands do seem to have marketing depts who have Ph.D's in snake oil theories...which then makes it look like EVERY "upgrade" solution is "suspect", when in fact some very simple (and not expensive) products can bring about noticeable improvements.

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Re: quality..

Quote: "http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/why-ultra-hd-4k-tvs-are-still-stupid/

Paying for a gaming video card that can do 4k , is an extra dimension of pointlessness . Unless you are playing the game in a CINEMA"

You did read the article you linked to, right? Where they explained patiently that *viewing distance matters*?

I haven't yet updated to a 4k capable PC, so I've got no skin in this game, but I tend to be playing about 50cm from the screen rather than a more normal TV viewing distance of 2+ metres.

My next PC will have a 4k display because extra resolution is incredibly useful for work (my current PC has 3 monitors, a single large 4k screen will replace them all). Will gaming look any better? Probably, but I'll be using VR goggles instead (viewing distance: 5cm) :)

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Facepalm

Re: quality..

Does this make you cry a bit more?

"* High-grade optical fiber for distortion-free sound

* Gold-plated connectors provide precise contact for the best sound quality"

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Re: quality..

"He assured me that real audiophiles could."

Oh I had one that told me how good CDs were that the difference was amazing, eventually he gave me the old CD player he was replacing. A few weeks later he came around and said "See how much better the CD is." I replayed, "that is vinyl you are listening to mate".

Think about all the audiophile fads there have been over the years, linear arm tracking, three point speakers, tube amps, etc, etc. I've known people spend fortunes on that stuff, only to replace it all when the next best thing came along.

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Re: quality..

PS: By coincidence, I found a link on Facebook to this article...

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-gift-for-music-lovers-who-have-it-all-a-personal-utility-pole-1471189463

Pricey idea but not totally daft !!

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Re: quality..

I wasn't sure what a Sonos was either so had a look on the internet. I am still not sure but I have learnt that its prices are in the intergalactic range. For that sort of money I would want something more than "something which can play Spotify without bluetooth" because a 15 quid Chromecast Audio can easily manage that.

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Re: quality..

Exactly the reason why my house wiring, circa 1910, still uses ceramic fuse wire holders which renders the sound superb, naturally using special copper wire fuses to ensure purity of electricity throughout.

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Re: quality..

The problem is, 80% of people just want 'something to throw in the hifi for music' and and do not care a bleep bleep bleep about 'quality'... this is why CD and DVDs and of course USB etc are still being used... (of course many of these do not even know what USB means... )

the above do not want to spend money on the stuff, they would much rather save it for a decent fun car, or other proper luxuries...

and of course, there are those who think nothing of spending upward of £10,000 on a hifi system, and lovingly care for their vinyl to get the 'real sound'...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: quality..

@naive

"The quality of sound is simply an artefact of the RIAA equalisation curve".

FTFY

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bri

Re: quality.. (@AC)

Warmer sound through digital? You can't be... You can't be ... You can't be ... You can't be serious!

BTW vinyl itself has a physical DRM in place, built-in (or pressed-in?). It has practical limits on number of replays.

Stimulates the imagination though. You have to imagine the original sound when listening to well-worn favourite LP. It sounds so warm that it is completely unintelligible for someone who doesn't know it from heart. It follows that vinyl is best for music you hate :D

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Joke

Re: quality..

@ Frenchie Lad

"Exactly the reason why my house wiring, circa 1910, still uses ceramic fuse wire holders which renders the sound superb, naturally using special copper wire fuses to ensure purity of electricity throughout."

That's all well and good but if you haven't upgraded to the properly shielded Titanium fuses (£1000 each) you just won't be able to fully appreciate the purity of the music. Make sure you upgrade all of your fuses otherwise some impurities can echo back along the wires from your light bulbs.

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Re: quality..

Well, it would not be useful to compare vinyl and CD. Also, being an owner of expensive turntables and amps does not entitle one to use phrases like "only people with a very limited experience of audio storage mediums". Vinyls are analog media and good vinyls played through a good system would give very good reproductions. CDs, as well as other digital media, require sound to be chopped up and stored, and on playback they are re-assembled into little rectangular bits, then smoothed over to resemble analog. In theory, therefore, there must be differences in their sounds. Furthermore, vinyls requires a magnetic pickup that sits in a groove. Like it or not there is no such thing as a perfect vinyl on a perfect turntable such that the pickup does not pick up some wobble. As such, the overall sound differs from CD. Some love it and some, based strictly on technicalities, find it hard to embrace. But it certainly is not due to a lack of experience in any area for one to prefer vinyl sounds.

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MJI
Silver badge

Re: quality.. - some real answers.

Some real answers are.

Decent interconnects for analogue, well shielded. Mechanically reliable, do not allow signals to leak in. Avoid crosstalk.

Decent interconnects for digital, basically is it tough enough not to break, cause drop outs, fall out of sockets.

Decent stand for players with moving parts, make sure the turntable has a secure base. This can make a huge difference with SOME equipment.

Thick speaker cable of reasonable quality. again a case of making sure it doesn't colour the signal with high resistance.

Wall rugs is a good one, carpets is another.

Avoid signal cable adaptors, use a BNC plug rather than a phono BNC adaptor.

Uncompressed, lossless, or high bitrates.

All of these are a case of decent quality rather than expensive. Most important things are to not fall apart and to get the information from one place to another as well as possible. The most obvious places for different quality of cables are SCART leads, you can tell between a cheap and a well made. Any really poor interconnects can act as aerials.

Real jokes are gold plated optical cables, Monster, £40 HDMI cables (unless long). Bose.

Decent components do not have to be expensive, amps, about £100 a channel, speakers around £100 a box is a good starting point for a really good system.

Also do not be afraid of trying alternative sources, been cases of DVD players beating CD players at playing CDs.

For information my HDMI cables were given to me with TV but were £10 each. Analogue interconnects a couple of quid, (under £5 a set - but bought YEARS ago), speaker cable, can't remember how much I paid but nice and chunky. My most expensive cable is still a SCART lead.

Diminishing returns cuts in a lot lower than a lot of people think.

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MJI
Silver badge

Re: quality..

"The chain is only as strong as it's weakest link - a fancy power lead won't change your house wiring or the distribution grid. In some cases the meat bag's own sensors are the limiting aspect."

"Actually, many "fancy power leads" are shielded...which does two things:"

Shielded interconnects, and keep your speaker cables away from the the mains leads.

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