I have never really read up on why, how and all of the other crap that goes on with a CD and its "lossless" counterpart. Why? Because I trust my ears and I do not rely on technical data, spec's and what other so called reviewers have to say about things. My ears tell me that they are not the same, so why bother reading up on it and learning about it until I literally hear otherwise?
I have on the other hand read about, here and there, certain things about how a CD is compressed and somehow magically brought back to life as "lossless". Here are some observations I have always kept in the back of my head that might just explain not what I am hearing, but maybe why I am hearing what I do when it comes to lossless. Hear me out.
One's are One's and zero's are zero's, right? OK, I can concede to that. However, when you take those one's and zero's and arrange them into groups of 1's and 0's to represent "samples" of music [that may not altogether represent the original sound and locational cues, as you will read on about later] and add that to the fact that original CD's are pressed and not ripped?
You somehow change the overall outcome of the end result as to what hits your ears.
BillD has mentioned this….
Because masters are stamped, whereas CD-Rs are burned and can produce different shapes of the pits in the CD (the burnt CD-Rs being sharper). This can modulate the laser differently in a player
That right there may cause why I hear what I hear but folks still seem to want to argue that 1’s are 1’s and 0’s are 0’s and that now, it all boils down to the DAC. Here's where I'm confused. If the laser is reading the information differently between the burnt copy and the original, how does the DAC magically correct the misreading or representation and bring you back a perfect bit-by-bit snapshot?
Never mind, don't answer that. I'm just thinking out loud.
OK. so far we have established that there already is a difference [due to the reading of the laser] between lossless and the original. I can concede to that as well. It only makes sense.
Now, on to my other thoughts on the matter. Let's talk about these "samples" that are turned into these 1's and 0's, shall we?
From what I have always understood, a sample is exactly that. Take, for example a simple chime. You have a chime that is recorded from the drum set that runs R to L on the sound stage. It is located 6' above the floor of the sound stage and located 17' back from the microphone. In analog, you get the full waveform and you should be able to hear it as intended**. In digital, you get samples. How many samples are taken, depend on the format used. We all know that.
Now this chime has to be broken down into samples and translated into 1's and 0's to be recreated, using other samples [or 1 sample from the recording itself] that match as closely as possible the original sample taken. That, from what I understand is what saves space and makes compression possible in the first place.
Who’s to say that the sample is still located 6' above the floor of the sound stage and located 17' back from the microphone? If the sample was taken off of another microphone or some of that sample was picking off reflections of the wall from another microphone location, as opposed to the original, that will smear the image. It may be small and not discernable to some….but to me; it’s audible enough to notice.
Thinking logically about the samples, let's go back to the chime. The sample taken and repeatedly used to represent the first chime sound [out of the 25 individual chimes as they are going off individually]. It may have also been sampled by a different [or many] microphones, other than the one used in a particular passage within a song using only one microphone. Who’s to say that the sample was hit with the same impact and resonance as the sample used either? When a drummer hits the chime(s), they do not always resonate the same every time, nor do they have the same impact. Just a thought, but that may explain why the imaging differs on the ripped CD.
Let's now look at the drum. How about the kick drum? A drummer can hit the drum at varying speeds and forces. This will produce different reverbs and fade out levels until the next kick. It can also produce different Db levels, weight and impact….many times at incredible speed but on the same token, many times at a minutely different tempo or varying force. When you take samples of drum kicks that do not sound exactly the same, your sampling and approximation thereof makes it more as if they were the same. The samples "round out" the original, if you will.
In talking with one of the editors of Stereophile magazine last year, he had relayed to me that more modern bands are not even playing live at a recording session anymore to help alleviate that very thing. They are sat down and told to play a riff 20 or 30 times until the engineers are satisfied that they have one that they can sample over and over throughout the song. Then they move on to the next sample. This makes error correction and recordings sound better. Uh-huh. The reason that they are doing this is due to the fact that they can use less “samples” and that the given samples are more “accurate” than the live recorded samples that are taken and spliced together. While that may be true [for BS recordings and Hip-Hop] , it makes for a rather bland recording to audiophiles because the same drum beat is exactly that. The same fucking drum beat, over and over and over again. No variation, no change in impact. No change in reverb or weight...just the same fuckin' drum beat.
It has been said by Bob Katz concerning compression…
One sure way to destroy the depth in a recording is to compress it too much. Compression brings up the inner voices in musical material. Instruments that were in the back of the ensemble are brought forward and the ambience, depth, width and space are degraded.
Y’all have a good evening. Love ya’, mean it, bye.
**unless the LP has already been compressed and heavily sampled prior to the final stamping.
The best way to enjoy digital music reproduction is to never listen to a good analogue reproduction.