SHM-CDs vs. CDs

Dear Naim forum users,

I was wondering if you’ve ever bought SHM-CDs. If that’s the case, what are your thoughts about them? Did you have the chance to compare them to conventional CDs? Are they really worth the extra stretch? Also I wonder if they make sense when you rip them instead of using a CD player. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Thank you very much in advance!

Among the Led Zep fans on here, the Japanese SHM CD box set is widely seen as being the best sounding issue.

I’ve got those, together with a couple of Rolling Stones and Otis Taylor ones, all of which have been ripped for local streaming, and I’m convinced that they sound better than the CD versions.


Do you think they have a better dynamic range maybe? What are they better at?

This has been debated many many times. If you rip a cd and rip an shm cd you will have 2 identical rips. The only difference (assuming obviously that both are from the same original master) is the plastic that’s used to make the disc. Once you get a certified rip, ie confirmed by “accurate rip”, they will be the same.

I suppose what shm is trying to give you is longevity of the physical disc itself, and potentially less error correction during playback.

But after ripping, there should be zero difference.

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Unluckily I couldn’t find where this has been debated previously.

However I’m aware of what you’ve just reported, still I see comments about their superior sonic performance. If the master is the same on both supports, the audio performance should be identical (at least on paper).

By the way, if I’m not mistaken, I’ve come across comparisons of the same albums on SHM-CDs and conventional CDs on Dynamic Range DB and sometimes SHM-CDs appeared to be better (maybe because of a different algorithm used to calculate their DR). No doubt the SHM standard is a great way to preserve a disc.

Interestingly, I have two Japanese Bobbie Gentry SHM CDs – Fancy and Touch 'Em With Love – which are unique flat transfers from the two-track masters by Kenji Yoshino done in 2016. Both sound significantly different from all other digital versions I have, when played on a CD machine. Not tried ripping them though but I believe @Steve_S also has the SHMCDs in questions and HAS ripped 'em.

I agree with @dave-marshall – the Zep SHM CDs sound sensational (though again, I’ve not ripped them, only played them as discs).


Are they different from HDCDs?

HDCDs (High Definition Compact Discs) were a fairly short-lived attempt to make a CD with an extra layer with improved sonics. Microsoft didn’t like this, so bought the company, and then halted their production.

I know of this, because very occasionally the display of my CDS II would light up with an ‘hdcd’ message when a particular CD was inserted - Shakira’s ‘Laundry Service’ was (rather embarrassingly) the only one that I remember.

I rang Naim to ask about this, and was told that they chose a particular ‘chip’ (from Burr Brown, I think) in the player because of its sonics, and that the HDCD replay facility was an unintended benefit. There was no mention of it in the product literature.

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I’ve purchased a few SHM CD’s over the years and they have all sounded ‘better’ than the standard product to my ears. That said who knows what version / master is on the thing - it may be nothing to do with the medium itself. The most startling improvement was Brothers In Arms. Much more vibrant and dynamic. That was just luck though as obviously you have no way of knowing pre-purchase.

I’ve only got one SHM CD - Gong Est Mort.
I also had the CD version but the SHM CD pounded it into the ground in all areas - dynamics, sound quality, soundstage, ambient sounds (is a live album).
Sold the cd version next time I visited a second hand cd shop…
On the strength of that experience I’ll happily get more if I see what I might want at a good price.

I suppose you have to see what your own ears tell you if you get any


Can get a bit confusing, as been stated a SHM-CD benefits can only be had while playing on a cd player, if copied they don’t transfer to the rip, HDCDs are a different thing a player with that capability is needed to get the benefit, good example most Naim cd players unfortunately not the one on sale now, even if it states the cd is a HDCD not all cds make use of all the benefits of the process examples Mark Knopfler early cds do, Bee Gees cds no difference on any cd player, back to the SHM-CD, some of them are a new remaster in Japan only so are a unfair comparison, but with a good system and identical mastering there is difference on a good system, not night and day but there, possibly the Japanese cds are manufactured to higher standard, just to mention that the Otis Taylor cds are HDCDs and not SHM-CD this how easy it to get confused with all different cds, also if you see a HQCD that is the same as the SHM-CD just another companys take on it.


Here is a list of versions of Sticky Fingers submitted to the Dynamic Range database). They include an SHM version. (I actually have the SHM-SACD.) Is there any chance they’re all going to sound alike?

For some reason the link is to Page 2.

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I have a few of them.

They are generally good, sometimes excellent, but in my system sound a bit bright compared to the standard CD’s. This can be positive or negative depending on the original mastered disc.



I have the SHM-CD, John.

A fantastic sounding disc (mini LP style cover with zip :grin:).

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The SACD is single layer, but the Dynamic Range database suggests the two come from the same master.

Yes, they are the same, I believe.

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I have quite a number and with just one exception they all sound better than the original CDs. The exception is the double album of Elton John’s Blue Moves which has prompted me to give it another try this evening to see if I was having a bad day when I first made my assesment of it… I have usuallly bought these SHM-CDs and occassional Platinum SHM-CDs direct from Japan via a company called cdJapan.


I bought a “budget” reissue of the SACD, with simpler packaging.

There was a lot of hoopla on the other forum we’re both on as to whether the set of reissues used the same master. I suggested we all look at the total byte count of the original and the reissue. They were identical.


There were complaints about the SHM-SACD of Some Girls. I don’t think it’s that much better than my old CD. But it’s MUCH better than the hi-res Deluxe Issue.

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My 90’s Virgin CD sounds fine. Haven’t heard any of the more exotic releases !


The table you have linked to reports the MQA version as being lossless - not sure I’d put too much faith in their data if they do this…