Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Analog Resampling

Don't throw away those silver discs just yet!  I know this is nuts, the typical audiophile nuttiness.  But it's my nuttiness, not your NOS DAC's and that sort of thing (which I denounce).

I continue to find that listening to CD's has a special magic that listening to digital files doesn't have.  And the system in which I demonstrate this takes the analog output of a CD player then uses a high end AtoD converter to produce digital for digital crossover, then back to analog through high end DtoA converters.  I continue to believe that taking the analog outputs of the CD player is crucial for preserving the music.  Piping the digital output of the players directly into the digital chain has a comparatively flat and sterile   sound, even slightly harsh at times.  Resampling the analog always sounds smooth, but also like the music has been preserved in some special way.  It has always sounded this way to me (though, still thinking this to be a bit crazy, I haven't bothered with any ABX testing).

Now that I have my two new racks set up, I have my two super special disc players hooked up to the Lavry AD10 converter also.  The current lineup has two classic players, the Denon DVD-5900 and the all time heavyweight Denon DVD-9000.  I use the 5900 for SACD's and DVD-Audio, and the 9000 for CD's.  Actually the official purpose of the DVD-9000 is for HDCD's, which must be decoded by a HDCD player to extract the decoded dynamic range and filtering, and the DVD-9000 is the best HDCD playback I have ever heard and may well be better than the more famous HDCD statement players by California Audio Labs which only used PCM-1702.  But, as I have just verified, the 9000 rocks extra hard with regular CD's too.  With regular CD's, the 5900 sounds merely OK.

It was using the 5900 in 2010 when I first made the discovery about how special analog outputs sound.  Of course it's also true that Denon uses special processing known as AL24 to give 24 bit character to all recordings.  Maybe it's just that.  But now I'm finding the 9000 to be far better than my well used 5900 for CD's.  It's too bad my 9000 won't play SACD's or even DVD-Audio's, in the latter case because the motor drive can't handle higher speeds anymore (I tried to have it repaired, but new motor didn't help, it needs some on-board refurbishing which factory repair centers don't do).

Even though it's actually my 9000 which is the more dysfunctional player, it has the Magic, and the 5900 might well be replaced by something newer, such as an Oppo BDP-105, or something older but specifically designed for SACD, such as a DVD-9000ES or SCD-1.  However right now the 5900 is the most magical player I have for SACD and DVD-Audio and it does still do it for them.

I'd been listening to the SACD version of Brothers in Arms on the 5900.  I needed some of that hard rocking again, digital files were sounding too ethereal.  Playing discs on a silver disc player and taking the analog output restores the palpability.  Then I switched to a plain CD of Pretzel Logic.  It sounded only normal on the 5900, not unlike the digital files, but magical on the 9000.

I have an explanation that objectivists aren't going to like.  Ignoring the dual differential PCM 1704's in the 9000, the dual power supplies, and other special features, the special reason why the DVD-9000 sounds special is because it has to.  It has no other reason for existing anymore other than to sound special.  The player is barely working, can't handle DVD's anymore, so this is its Swan Song.  Swan Songs are special.  It's giving its all, and it has a lot to give.

Anyway, I've thought a lot of why analog resampling might actually make things sound better.  It's obvious that it might be adding just a bit of noise, but that's not what I think is doing it.  I think expressing something in the analog domain is special somehow.  And it also gives me the ability to resample in a better digital format, 24 bit 96 kHz.  This is like opening up more space or something.

I think there's something like "grounding" going on.  By expressing the music in analog form before resampling, it's turned into something real and not something imaginary.  And that's kind of how it sounds.

Others have different nuttiness.  Mark Levinson, for example, has been recently selling his "Master Class" software for EQ which features something called A+.  Whatever A+ actually is, isn't revealed.

Now clearly this is something entirely different from analog resampling as it's an all digital process of some kind, implemented in software.  It might be something like Denon's AL24 processing--which in my experience has been good sounding.

Or not.  One interesting idea I've thought a lot about is that each time I play a disc, my resampling process creates an entirely different set of numbers.  This is because the sampling clock is running independently of the CD player clock, so it starts at a random point each time.  Plus, since the two clocks aren't connected they may slightly drift apart.

So each time I get a unique set of numbers describing the same sounds.  According to conventional audio engineering, if the resampling is done well enough (and it is) they should be indistinguishable anyway.

But I still think it's special somehow.  And, actually an entirely software-driven process could do exactly the same thing, by doing the virtual equivalent of analog resampling.

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