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guidof
2010-09-17, 11:10
The main reason why I bought the SBT was the promise of better sound via 96/24 files. After listening for a few days, here are my preliminary comments (all with the SBT's digital out into the Cambridge Azur DAC):

1. Wireless vs. USB Memory Stick: To my surprise, (since USB uses SBS on the Touch rather than on the computer), USB stick sounds better. More natural timbres, more detail. (Though my upstairs network is hard wired, I don't plan to run ethernet to the downstairs listening room.)

2. The same CD vs. ripped to 44/16 vs. downloaded 96/24. The CD sounds a bit more delicate than the 44/16 rip, but the latter has more "body" and presence. Not necessarily better, but different in an engaging sort of way. The downloaded 96/24 version, perhaps not surprisingly, offers more "air" and a more natural overall presentation than the other two versions; more refined; truly excellent dynamics and clarity.

Any comments from users with a longer listening experience?

Guido F.

dufferdan
2010-09-17, 23:15
I haven't played anything via USB, just hard-wired gigabit ethernet with music residing on an HP MSS (495EX),

I have two music libraries: ~1100 CD's ripped to Apple Lossless via iTunes
About 9 24/96 albums in a separate FLAC folder on the MSS.

SBS is installed on the MSS.

Touch is connected to a Beresford Caiman DAC via co-ax digital audio out. Better quality RCA interconnects from Monoprice (not high end by any means), but not the cheapos.

Cambridge Azur 640A v2 integrated amp
Royd Minstrel speakers (oldies but goodies)
Rotel 5 disk CD player

ALAC 16/44 rips to me sound as good as the CD head to head. Since the CD player isn't spinning, if you want to pull hairs, the Touch sourcing ALAC has a quieter base. I couldn't detect any material difference in sound between the two.

24/96 FLAC is something else. The improved dynamic range, immediacy, fluid highs are quite spectacular. I have played jazz (Al Dimoela, and the Chesky Demo CD v2) and was flabbergasted at the purity of the sound. Live albums like the Kinks "One More from the Road" and Peter Framptons "Frampton Comes Alive" are certainly as good as I have ever heard them, however the comparison isn't at all fair due to 30 years and really mid/low-level 1970's electronics. I couldn't compare these to CD as I don't own hard copies of the albums, just the purchased FLAC downloads.

Obviously, my system leaves a lot to be desired for the hard core audio hound, but my goal is eventually to throw in a Bryston B100SST integrated amp, possibly the outboard Bryston BDA1 DAC and swap the speakers for B&W 804's. That should do me as my hearing fades with old age. But I can't really see needing my CD player any more. Maybe replace it with a good SACD unit, IF they keep making the disks, which is dicey at the moment.

Does that opinion help? Overall the Touch is a nice piece of kit, except I can't get playlists or album art to work from the MSS.

guidof
2010-09-18, 17:25
Thanks, dufferdan, for sharing your impressions.

About the comparison between CD, rip to WAV/burn to CD, and rip to FLAC/play via the Touch, I too find the CD and its copy to be undistinguishable from one another when both are played through the Cambridge Azur. However, the FLAC played through the Touch does sound a tad more three-dimensional to me, with better defined bass. And I, too, noticed a deeper layer of silence (I thought I was imagining this). The difference is subtle, but quite noticeable. So far, I've only compared a couple of recordings this way, though.

I find the same kind of differences between 96/24 VD-Audio played through the Oppo (digital out to the second input on the Cambridge Azur DAC) and the downloaded FLAC version of the same recording played through the Touch -- only in this case the differences are more pronounced and the FLAC/SBT is definitely better sounding in all respects.

Mind you, my stereo equipment is classed in the "inexpensive" category (by audiophile standards), so it may not reveal the smallest differences and nuances. But there is no question to my ears that 96/24 through the SBT is the superior listening experience. Well worth the $300.

Wireless does not seem to be doing it for me. No problems with glitches or re-buffering, but the sound seems more flat and less involving. I may try connecting through the power lines (I'm not going to string more Ethernet wires through the house), but I think that for now I will stick with USB sticks, though I suppose that may become old fast as my library of 96/24 FLACs increases. Next, I shall try SD cards (which shouldn't be different from USB sticks).

Guido F.

RadioClash
2010-09-18, 18:19
Thanks for the reviews guys.

guidof, you should try an external USB hard drive instead of the stick. Prices have come way down. Less than $100 will easily get you a 1TB drive.

guidof
2010-09-18, 19:50
RadioClash:

Thanks for the suggestion. I may well look into an external USB drive next.

Guido F.

asia3s
2010-09-21, 08:26
hi, Guidof, thanks for your sharing. it interested me as I am seeking to have a standalone DAC or a CD player who is able to be fed with external digi input, 840C is an option, how did you evaluate this machine's performance? have you ever compared the sound quality between Touch analogue output and digi output to 840C?

I am a newbie with very few listening experience, I have a very simple system, just plug the Touch analogue output to a Naim AMP. I hope adding a DAC or 840C can bring the system with a noticable improvement in sound quality. CD playing is not must-to-have but nice-to-have since I do not plan to collect thoustands of discs like what I do in age of DVD.

appreciate your kindly comments.

asia3s

iPhone
2010-09-21, 09:43
Wireless does not seem to be doing it for me. No problems with glitches or re-buffering, but the sound seems more flat and less involving. I may try connecting through the power lines (I'm not going to string more Ethernet wires through the house), but I think that for now I will stick with USB sticks, though I suppose that may become old fast as my library of 96/24 FLACs increases. Next, I shall try SD cards (which shouldn't be different from USB sticks).

Guido F.

Would you mind explaining how you can remotely even think this? There is absolutely no Audio difference between streaming using the Touch whether it has a wireless or Ethernet connection!

Analog Audio is NOT involved or send over the connection. It is completely digital data from a digital data source IE starts as Digital, is sent Digital, is received Digital, and then is either sent to an external DAC again in digital or sent to the the Touch's internal DAC in digital form. There is absolutely no place or part where anything can be affected with how it arrives from the Server to the Squeezebox. Both WiFi and Ethernet use digital transfer methods that verify that what is received is exactly what was sent.

So since the exact same One and Zeros reach the Touch no matter if WiFI or Ethernet is used, the only answer is that ones brain has overridden ones ears based on bad assumptions formed on misconceptions, misunderstanding technology, or improper comparisons to analog.

Phil Leigh
2010-09-21, 10:00
Dear iPhone, you are arguing logically. This is a doomed approach. Obviously the wi-fi card generates extra "noise" that messes with the DAC. C'mon - get with the programme :-)

guidof
2010-09-21, 11:12
Would you mind explaining how you can remotely even think this? There is absolutely no Audio difference between streaming using the Touch whether it has a wireless or Ethernet connection!



iPhone:

I'm not sure that I can, or even wish to try to, explain the reasons for what I hear. However, I was not hearing differences between wireless and Ethernet but between wireless and USB stick. The USB stick seemed to be better.

Since then, I have been listening to a greater variety of recordings and have actually (but provisionally) reached the opposite conclusion. Over a range of recordings, the USB stick seems more three-dimensional, but the wireless seems more natural, with more "air." Overall I prefer the wireless setup, and of course sleep better knowing I depend on the full SBS and not on TinySBS. But the differences are indeed very small and today is Tuesday. Ask me on Wednesday and I may have a different opinion. (We're talking about Audiophilia Nervosa, aren't we? -- not ones and zeros).

However, on either wireless or USB stick, 44.1/16s sound as good as (and, sorry, I think sometimes better than) CDs played on my Cambridge Azur 840C, and 96/24s sound way better than CDs. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9 (Linn download), for example, seems to be playing "live" in my listening room. Absolutely awesome! Dynamics galore, accurate timbres, low level detail, the works! Was never able to get this sound with CD.

Guido F.

guidof
2010-09-21, 11:36
hi, Guidof, thanks for your sharing. it interested me as I am seeking to have a standalone DAC or a CD player who is able to be fed with external digi input, 840C is an option, how did you evaluate this machine's performance? have you ever compared the sound quality between Touch analogue output and digi output to 840C?


asia3s:

I had several CD players and DACs in my system prior to the Cambridge Azur 840C, including Adcom, Meridian, and Musical Fidelity. In my opinion the 840C easily outperforms all of them while being still relatively "affordable." It has two digital inputs, so I can feed both my Oppo player and SBTouch into it. It upsamples what it gets to 24/383. And it can output both single-ended and balanced, important to me since my whole system (except for the turntable and phono amp) runs balanced.

I did not compare the Touch's digital and analog outputs. Those who have seem to think that the DAC in the Touch has, as Stereophile puts it, "Class D sound." I don't find this surprising in a $300 device that on the other hand does so many other things quite well -- quite "Class B" at least, maybe even "Class A" in some respects, IMO.

Guido F.

asia3s
2010-09-21, 17:04
Sounds good!
actually on my short list, there used to be Lavry DA11, Benchmark DAC1 w/USB, and 840C, it will be perfect if 840C has a USB interface, but it is not so critical for a SBT user. Now 840C become preferable.

Many thanks!

asia3s