What is the Best CD Mastering Format please?

I have a record shop that sells the following CD mastering formats, and I am confused. I have searched Google and still could not find all the answers I was after. I wonder if the Brain’s Trust here can do what Google can not for me.

Formats on offer are:


I ask because I have set his “New Arrivals” as my home page, though I am still missing out on CD releases of albums that I would like to purchase and, fortunately, have been able to find what I was after on Discogs later on.

I could set one of the CD format masters as my home page or possibly one mastering format is the latest and greatest, and I only have to watch one page and forget the rest. Then I will miss out on vinyl releases.

I am so lucky to have this minor issue for something to fuss about.

Over to you, my dear forum friends.

Warm regards,

Mitch in Oz.

Try wikipedia. Either they require a special CD-player (like HDCD) to fully decode or are just converted to redbook via some noise shaping dither.

None of them guarantee quality. If your playback system change volume in the digital domain I would say stay away from the noise shapers. But as always ”it depends.’

To give an idea how this is marketed to engineers and why it is so difficult to say anything useful, one of the latest is FiDef and it is sold like this:

FiDef employs a highly specialized, patented process to create a custom noise profile that is tightly correlated to the source audio. The noise layer is sub-audible, but FiDef makes use of a phenomena that exploits the brain’s ability to make use of sub-audible noise to enhance the interpretation of sound.

The first thing most engineers hear is a decongestion of the overall mix. Each element in your mix will seem to sit better alongside other elements, brining the entire mix into a more musical, balanced focus. Here are common experiences from engineers using FiDef.

Dither is a process that recovers some of the resolution that is lost when you convert from one bit depth to another. FiDef does not work on the audio data but rather is something that rides along with the audio to signal/activate the brain.

We’ve all heard of subliminal advertising. A picture of popcorn or a message that says “eat popcorn” is put into one frame of a movie film. Nobody in the audience can see the message that appears for only 1/24th of a second on the screen, but their brains pick up on it easily. Popcorn sales suddenly increase at the concession stand. Sub-audible signals work in a similar way. The listener cannot consciously hear the sub-audible signal, but the brain picks up on it clearly

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Use “cd”; the other formats are very uncommon. I don’t personally own any of those.


After a lot of experimenting with all sorts of formats, I keep coming back to the conclusion that it’s the quality of the original mastering that determines how good a release sounds, almost irrespective of the format.

To take two examples, you could take the ear-bleedingly dynamically crushed master of Californication and release it in the highest resolution possible and it would still sound awful. Equally, the Mercury Living Presence recordings from way back in the 1950s still sound pretty awesome just on ‘vanilla’ CD.

If you had a great master and were able to compare it on all the formats the OP lists, I dare say one might notice all sorts of (probably subtle) differences. But how often do we have that luxury?



I owned Sarah Maclaughin Surfacing in K2HD CD and it was really well done.

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I have found some of my best and worst SQ CDs in the standard ones. I have many nice sounding ‘audiophile’ ones - ‘Gold CDs’ , K2s, XRCDs, SHM-CDs, UHQCD etc. However some I would call average and there is a small number I didn’t care for. One would think the ‘audiophile’ ones would indicate or require more care with regard to SQ/packaging due to marketing and the usually higher price, but I have found the occasional disappointment.

I believe the differences in SQ are mostly due to the art or effort of the mastering engineer and the quality of the source. The media, pressing plant/process may have an effect. As an example I currently have the following versions of Miles’ Kind of Blue in stereo (CD 16/44.1)

  1. Sony Records International. SICP 1206, 2006 Japan
  2. Columbia Legacy Hybrid SACD M. Ch., SICP 10083. 2007 Japan
  3. Columbia Legacy 50th Anniversary 88697 33552 2. 2008 US
  4. Sony Records International, Blue-Spec SICP 20258, 2010 Japan
  5. Sony Music, K2HD 88697883272, 2011 Hong Kong
  6. Sony Music Ultra HD, 32-bit mastering 88843026042. 2014 US
  7. Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab/Columbia, Hybrid SACD, UDSACD 2085/88697943622. 2015 US

It is said by some with the access to that type of info that 1., 2., and 4., use the same mastering yet they sound slightly different to me. 1., is my most played (fav) of the lot.


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