Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rip and burn: Part II

A forumer called 'watchdog' in a Singapore hi-fi forum commented that his ripped songs have consistently sounded better than the original CDs.

"FWIW, my rips using EAC with Verbatim / Mitsubishi Metal AZO blue discs burnt at 1X on my Yamaha external SCSI drive consistently sound better than the original disc. Doubting audiophile claimed it was impossible and was surprised when I demo-ed the difference."

This comment inspired me to delve deeper into the mysteries of digital data.

After I used MediaMonkey to burn the Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms xrcd CD to the Taiyo Yuden That's CD-R For Audio (see previous post), there was unused space which I filled up with some Frank Sinatra songs from his The Heart of the Matter CD that I had ripped earlier to FLAC files using Exact Audio Copy (EAC).

When I compared the ripped-and-burnt Frank Sinatra songs using the Benchmark DAC Pre through the Sennheiser HD600 headphones and through the Bryston 4BSST/ATC SCM40 sound system, I could hear that the ripped versions sounded cleaner and clearer than the original CD. The ripped songs had better separation with more space around individual instruments and voices and the high notes had more clarity and detail. The tonal balance was not changed, but the clarity was improved.

This improvement was not detected when I compared the ripped Dire Straits songs to the original, but with the Frank Sinatra songs, the improvement in quality was quite discernible.

What's going on? How can a cloned copy of a CD sound better than the original? How can a bit perfect copy sound different compared with the source?

I have a hypothesis and if any reader out there thinks he/she can slice it to pieces, please feel free to do so. Like many others, I am still on the road of discovery as far as this hobby is concerned.

My hypothesis is this: With ripping software like EAC and dbPowerAmp having "Secure Ripping" which has the programme re-reading the tracks several times to ensure there are no errors when ripping and "AccurateRip" which has the programme comparing your rip with an online database of rips of the same album done by other people around the world, the errors in the ripped file are drastically reduced to none or just a few.

It is well known that quality-control during the process of pressing a CD greatly influences the sound quality. For example, many audiophiles claim that Germany makes the best CDs while locally-pressed ones are lousy.

So if you rip a low-quality CD, AccurateRip compares the file with the Internet database which may contain rips from better quality CDs from other parts of the world and corrects the errors.

Also, modern DVD drives have the 'AccurateStream' feature which ensures that the bit stream is jitter free.

All these will add up to a ripped file that contains no error or fewer errors than the original CD. Thus when this file is burnt to a high-quality CD-R (at slow speed to ensure fewer errors when burning), the cloned CD-R can have music files with no error or fewer errors than the original CD.

Audio-grade CD-Rs like those made by Taiyo Yuden and Mitsubishi have high-quality dyes which could form better defined pits and the plastic used is also of higher quality enabling the laser to read the data with fewer errors when played.

The end result of no error or fewer errors? Better sound quality.

When I compared the Dire Straits rips with the original CD, I could not detect any differences because the original CD is an xrcd version which already has very few errors. Thus I was comparing a cloned copy containing few errors with an original with few errors.

But when I compared the Frank Sinatra tracks, I was comparing rips with few errors with a commercial-grade CD that has more errors. Thus the burnt CD-R sounded better.

Anyone out there with other views?

Related post:


  1. Interesting topic, Please keep update. Too may question in my mind!

    IF Normal CD Burner no error, Why People invest expensive Yamaha external SCSI drive?

    IF Normal grade CDR no error, Why people invest audio grade CDR?

    IF CD copy is bit perfect, why local press CD sound different from imported version. Why first press CD is sound better than Reissued version?Why some first press original CD sound better than XRCD?

    IF Cd material issued, if I burn local press CD into CDR will sound better than imported original CD?

    This topic sound like debate of HDMI Cable. Some says no different between of High end & cheap one. Why Some can tell different??

  2. kkthen,

    this hobby can often be confusing, mystifying and illogical...but that's what makes it interesting.

  3. Hi,

    This is Watchdog. I recall researching the topic before and the theory then was that certain CD-Rs had potential for better physical pit definition compared to normal pressed CDs.

    The digital bit perfect argument has been flogged to death. If really things were simple, all CD transports should sound the same, maybe with jitter being another factor. But then again, wouldn't then any cheap CD player with decent jitter measurements through its digital outputs sound decent ?

  4. thanks for taking all the troubles to test it out. I am one who hv been searching high & low for the answers but most of them will ended like almost impossible to even get it closed to ori cd sounds not to mentioned 'better than ori cd' !! But imo, it think it is not very accurate to test it with your headphone, there are things that a speaker will be able to hear which even a highend headphone could not produce, like depth, micro details....but that is just my experience la. Anyway, I must really thank you, now i hv another chance to test it out...hopefully if really works, god bless, cheers