View Full Version : SB Sound Quality

Meshoulam, Arnon
2004-10-01, 10:37
Just out of courosity, why aren't the Monkey(APE) and AAC formats in
this disucssion as well?



From: discuss-bounces (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com] On Behalf Of Danny Rego
Sent: Friday, October 01, 2004 6:32 PM
To: Slim Devices Discussion
Subject: [slim] SB Sound Quality

Thanks for the info!!!

I think should clarify what my setup is, and perhaps this can/will
narrow the discussion!?

I am using a SqueezeBox on a WIRED network. It is connected to my DENON
receiver (excellent sounding unit) using a TOSLINK (digital) cable. I
don't know how, but when I swap the TOSLINK from the Squeezebox to/from
my Pioneer CD player, I seem to hear a difference.

When doing my audible test, I have a CD in the CD player....and on my
squeezebox, I have the same CD ripped to these three formats (as I'm
trying to figure out what format to encode/store in that doesn't kill my
server, and cause hiccups in the stream, as my server is also a
home-made tivo, and gets quite busy sometimes). The three formats I
have the CD ripped to are WMA (192kb), MP3 (192kb), and WMA lossless.

In theory, the lossless format should have the same sound quality as my
cd player, but it doesn't seem to. It could be my imagination, which is
why I asked about it here...just to get the experts' opinions/knowledge.

Danny Rego

----- Original Message -----
From: Mark Jenkins <mailto:themarkjenkins (AT) hotmail (DOT) com>
To: discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 6:23 PM
Subject: [slim] SB Sound Quality

I have played around extensively with the Squeezebox to see how
to wring the best sound quality out of it.

When I first bought it I was so stunned by how the easy access
to my music (1000+ CDs) improved my musical enjoyment despite its sound
quality falling well short of my NZD 15,000 CD Player. Therefore I went
about finding out how to get the best of both worlds.

The Squeezevox does not create any miracles with its sound
quality, but it is creditable at its price and easily beats CD Players
at the same price. Through its analogue outs you will get very good
detail but the sound will have a degree of aggression and hard edge to
it that may be the reason you describe it as tinny or lacking bass. In
fact it does not lack bass, except perhaps if you are running long
lengths or poor quality interconnect cable between it and your
preamp/amp/receiver, or if your amp is proving to be a difficult load
for the SB to drive. But there is a brightness and hardness to the
sound that will cause you to perceive higher frequencies more than low
frequencies. One simple way to alleviate this is use a device like a
Musical Fidelity X10D between the SB and your amp. This will smoothen
and warm up the sound as well as improve the drive to the amp so that
more bass is perceived. There are similar devices on the m! arket to
the X10D. A further band-aid style solution is to use a warm cable such
as those sold by firms like Cardas.

Those simple solutions are band-aids. Once the analogue signal
is poor then there is nothing you can do to recover sound quality, you
can only play with its character.

The best course of action is to work with the digital stream. I
perceive that the comments that follow will take you into a more costly
area than you may feel comfortable with, but it relates to the comments
in other posts about audiophiles such as myself using a squeezebox in
preference to very costly CD Transports.

I use EAC to rip my CDs at full resolution and store them first
as wav files. I then use FLAC to get greater efficiency of disk storage
space without losing sound quality. This is far superior to using mp3
or any other lossy compression, and there is no way that any mp3 through
the SB will ever sound as good as a very basic CD transport. But the SB
will deliver mp3's fairly well. I believe that using EAC I probably end
up with better resolution than using a very expensive CD transport. An
expensive CD transport is hampered by the fact that it must read the CD
in real-time and so any error encountered must be dealt with using error
correction, where as using EAC it can take its time to get the best read
it can before using error correction.

If I take the digital stream out of the SB via the RCA socket
and feed it into a good DAC - in my case a USD2,500 Northstar M192 - the
sound is not as good as from a decent CD transport, but is better than
using say a DVD player as a CD transport. Clearly the sound suffers
from jitter, even though I am using a wired connection not a wireless
connection between PC and SB. As an aside, wired will have much lower
jitter than wireless, simply because of how the two media work. In
simple terms, the jitter error in the stream is the only real issue you
have to now deal with. Jitter is variation in the delay between when
the data sample should be processed and when it arrives. Reclocking it
to totally remove jitter is difficult but a lot can be achieved and,
unlike analogue, the damage done to the digital signal by jitter is
theoretically fully recoverable. Without the jitter removed, the sound
of the SB is the reverse of the sound from its an! alogue outs - it is
warm and fuzzy, losing all of the brightness and hardness of the
analogue outs but too softened and losing resolution. This is actually
a bit odd as jitter more commonly results in aggressive sound, but it is
not unheard of for it to result in a soft and fuzzy sound either.

To deal with the jitter, I experimented with a variety of
devices. Sure enough, depending on the device used to remove jitter, I
could change the quality of the digital signal coming out of the SB
right up to the quality of CD transports costing sevarl thousand
dollars. At the cheapest end of the spectrum I got very good results
using a Behringer Ultramatch SCR2000, which I believe you can get from
Pro Audio stores in the US for around USD100. The Behringer tightened
things up and removed the softness and fuzz. However I got a lot more
natural sound by spending a lot more on a Meridian 518 and I use that
instead of the Behringer. So the Meridian goes between the SB and the
Northstar DAC. With this configuration, I have sold my CD Player and no
longer own one!

So what I am saying is you can get whatever quality you like out
of the SB, it all depends on what you want to spend. From my
experience, if you are thinking of spending x dollars on a CD Player,
then spending x dollars on a SB plus other stuff described above, the SB
will match the standalone CD player. The added cost of a PC and storage
is another matter, and its justification is about the sheer convenience
of instant and flexible access to your music.

Mark Jenkins

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>Today's Topics:
> 1. EAC Cue sheets and WAV Cdimage,
> glitches between tracks when two squeezebxes are sync'd

> (Andrew Lucas)
> 2. Remote Stream Control (bubba)
> 3. Remote Stream Control (PAUL WILLIAMSON)
> 4. Remote Stream Control (kdf)
> 5. One album won't play (Philip Bouscarle)
> 6. SB Sound quality (Danny Rego)
> 7. SV: [slim] SB Sound quality (Tore Johnsson)
> 8. SB Sound quality (Danny Rego)
> 9. SV: [slim] SB Sound quality (Tore Johnsson)
> 10. SB Sound quality (Craig, James (IT))
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2004-10-01, 19:00
Good question. I encode all my files as FLAC for use on my home system through Squeezebox, but encode M4A (what AAC is based on) for use on my iPod. I find the M4A files to be significantly closer in sound to the source FLAC files at lower bitrates (~160 kbps) than MP3, and the files are just about the same size. For those with iPods or iTunes that are considering a lossy encoding format, it may well be worth thinking about M4A.

As for APE, I know that the Plextor drives come with ripping software that uses APE as its lossless format. I suspect that its lost some popularity with the advent of FLAC and ALE and hence the apparent lack of chatter about it.


Meshoulam, Arnon wrote:
> Just out of courosity, why aren't the Monkey(APE) and AAC formats in
> this disucssion as well?
> Arnon