I have never owned a proper CD collection and have always been into digital playback and streaming (since Spotify). I prefer Spotify but have started using Tidal since I have my naim set and Sopra 2’s. I also have a NAS with FLAC’s. While I love the convenience of streaming I have started collecting vinyl for the fun of collecting pysical format and the ‘improved SQ’…
Now I know this is quite a debate and this thread is not intended to settle any debate on vinyl vs streaming. But after considerable research it seems that vinyl CAN have better dynamic range due to the mastering process and limitations of vinyl. So this is more about practical differences than theoretical differences between analog and digital signals.
Arguably it seems vinyl seems to suffer less from the loudness wars and have better dynamic range (depending on the recording). How can I maximize dynamic range with streaming? Are some formats of streamers better than others?
I use an Eero mesh network. If I had a wired network that would be better. I recently set up an English Electric 8 switch to separate the input from the Eero Base Station, and the output for the ND555 and the input from the NAS hard drive into separate outlets from the EE8 8. This makes a huge amount of difference in the sound at our house compared to using the ethernet outlets from the Eero Base Station. I think the EE 8 lowers the noise floor. My NAS hard drive sounds like vinyl again. The three ethernet cables on the English 8 are the red Chord Shawline, relatively inexpensive on the Chord spectrum; I might upgrade at least the outlet cable to the ND555, after the Chord Shawline breaks in further.
Ever since I shifted from analog (LINN SONDEK LP12 & NAIM AMP) to digital music (CD), I have lost the interest in music. Before I used to listen my analog system for 8 to 10 hours nonstop and I wanted to hear more and more.
With CD player (NAD) with NAIM 32.5/140, I get tired after listening to one disc. The dynamic range on CD is impratical particularly with western classical music. I have to turn volume up and down as my neighbour complains about playing too loud. So I backed up all my cds on harddisk and compress the dynamic range a little bit and I can enjoy music through pc with highend DAC.
It is in the mastering of the file, so it is as delivered by the record company to the streaming services. Nothing you can do.
You have to collect older CDs for instance to get more dynamic range for the same original recording in a lot of cases and rip those to your harddrive or NAS and play them back on a streamer. It depends from album to album, so you need to look up which versions have the best dynamic range.
There are online database (like DyRaDB) which you can consult for the dynamic range of a given recording across different available formats.
Surprised it took a few posts before the obvious was stated.
Also worth noting that the nature of vinyl means that the dynamic range on a well mastered CD can and should exceed that of vinyl by some distance and whilst there are undoubtedly many examples of mainstream music compressed to death on CD they do tend to coincide with vinyl mastering which does sound pretty much the same unless you go for a special pressing. Well mastered CDs with excellent dynamic range are by no means confined to the 1980s.
Finally, also worth noting that dynamic range is not an end in itself. I’ve several CDs with fabulous dynamic range but it simply exposes poor production technique, micro[hone placement and so on.
No, it is the mastering. Digital, as you have identified, is capable as of wider dynamic range than is vinyl. (And with vinyl the lower bass is sometimes reduced in order to maximise overall dynamic range of a piece of music.) and indeed, I think the “loudness wars” primarily, or maybe solely, applied to CD, not vinyl.
To maximise dynamic range with digital, you can go to the DR database, and look to see if there are different versions of a recording, and if you wish choose one based on DR. That of course does not necessarily get you the version that sounds best overall to your ears! The only way to do that is to listen to each. Sometimes the lower dynamic range mastering might sound better. Also, I suppose because (IIUC) the DR value in the database is assigned by algorithm, it apparently doesn’t necessarily always coincide with the dynamic range you may perceive upon listening.
The above, sadly, is due to the bastardisation of some recordings by commercial interests when mastering for digital releases, with the result they are not always as good as they could be, to the detriment of the serious listener. AFAIK the loudness wars have not been applied to vinyl, though there of course you have the limitations of the medium.
I have found that I don’t worry about it at all, though that may be because I am not interested in mainstream pop music, which is where the loudness wars mostly focused (I think).
Leaving side the fact that you haven’t mentioned your speakers, and in particular whether they remained the same when you changed to CD, I suspect it is simply that your CD player 's DAC is not particularly good. (I’m not saying anything about NAD as a brand, simply the DAC). After all, you went from one of the most renowned turntables to a relatively budget CD player.
An important point to note. In this regard, see the post from @viraf53 claiming that for him the dynamic range on classical (I presume this means orchestral) is too large, such that it bothers the neighbo[u]rs.
The problem there is the house construction having inadequate sound insulation. In my son’s house we’ve just done work to improve a similar problem, but it does lose a bit of room.
The issue with dynamic range of classical music is the music not the digital medium. In my view it would be wrong to compress the sound to suit people living in such situations, just as I think it is wrong to compress for better sound on crummy radios etc - though I can see an argument for releasing two versions of everything, clearly identified as full range and compressed, to meet different needs, but I doubt that will happen.
A possible alternative to your approach might be to buy a compressor to put between source and amp - I don’t recall seeing anything advertised for the hi-fi market though a DSP box probably could do, otherwise they’re readily available for use by guitarists. I have never looked into this idea, but just a thought if the neighbour problem is affecting your enjoyment of music and better sound isolation not an option.
Keep in mind that the louder parts of orchestral music are often 20dB greater than the ‘normal’ passages. That means that you could be listening to a passage at ‘normal’ volume our of your (for example) 85 dB sensitivity speakers of 8 Ohms at 85 dB (quite loud in fact). That means you would be using 1 Watt (all numbers invented but typical) as you listened at 85 dB. Then when you hit a high intensity passage the volume would jump by 20 dB to 105 dB requiring the amp to put out 100 Watts while it lasted. CDs and streamers are quite capable of all this, but who knows about the neighbors?
Modern recordings and loudness wars don’t help. I now listen to vinyl, CD and streaming and my LP12/Armageddon/ARO/Troika still draws me into the music in a way that digital formats do not. So much for technological progress
The loudness wars are really a thing of the past… from the days of radio air play where a producer wanted their record to standout from the others.
These days compression is far more advanced, and it’s not just about dynamic range, it’s about the relationship of frequency layers in the track and compression. If a contemporary track has PRaT and groove almost certainly it will have been processed when mixed and mastered with dynamic frequency adaptive compression and side changing … it brings a track alive and makes it sound dynamic even though the LUFS is relatively consistent … perhaps paradoxically.
When it comes to broadcast and streamed media (TV, music, films and radio) there are however various standards and regulations and LUFS is the key one.
This is the loudness unit level over a specific period of time… it’s actually 3 seconds… and mastering or streaming service providers require specific LUFS levels… which is why radio, TV and music streaming can sound more at a consistent level compared to some old CDs and Vinyl. Dance club tracks tend to use media with a tight LUFS mastering level, that is a tight constant loudness, but because of the dynamic frequency adaptive compression and techniques like side chaining, they can sound super dynamic and energetic… where as in fact they can be heavily compression processed.
So you see dynamic range is kind of meaningless these in terms of dynamic compression and the loudness and feel of a track.
On Qobuz I can quite often hear the effects of LUFS processing of an original master… it’s not always desirable.
On quality CDs or quality vinyl I don’t notice it… but at the same time I have some early CDs and albums from the 80s that used basic legacy compression techniques and they can sound comparatively thin and flat.
Of course there are some production styles that deliberately tightly dynamically compress a track, but for it not to sound awful, it is carefully multi band frequency adaptively compressed… however in my experience such tracks on some Hi-Fi systems can sound awful… but on other systems sound great. Oasis Morning Glory album production is I believe a good example of this.
I don’t understand a lot of the technical explanation in your post, but am I understanding correctly that Qobuz and other streaming services do something to the file that may make it sound different than if I bought the exact same mastering on CD?
And also, is it just the Qobuz Streaming files that Simon feels may be being processed (to whatever extent) or the purchased Download files also i.e are they one and the same anyway…??
The streaming files I wouldn’t be so concerned about personally as, in my head, I still consider streaming as a ‘casual’ form of listening….but purchased files, especially at 24Bit etc, I would be more bothered about………
Are we headed back to the silver discs then….or of course, the black stuff….!
LUFS are a way to equalize the average volume across songs and limit the dynamic swings. It is a more advanced calculation system and penalises too flat a dynamic. It takes into account how we perceive loudness, not the absolute measurement. Fletcher-Munson curves are the base for this. (A way to describe perceived loudness).
Each streaming service has their own “template” or required parameters, which is applied or required when uploading music. Most mastering engineers or companies output a variety of masters for the different streaming services when delivering a master.
This is used by a lot of radio stations too.
So yes, the master is slightly different from the one you buy on CD. In some cases, significantly different, but most record companies stay within the same parameters (for popular music). Classical music is a different beast though.
i’ve bought a ton of used CDs over the last few months after realising that the CD streaming sounds noticeably better than the Tidal streams of the same masters - whether it’s compression or something else. The CDs just seem to have that bit of ‘sparkle’ and musicality by comparison
They may impose some compression techniques if your master doesn’t comply with their requirements… so I understand. I have aligned my masters for streaming so I believe no additional processing is applied.