Monday, March 8, 2010

Rip and burn

This post was inspired by this thread in hifi4sale - http://www.hifi4sale.net/general-non-equipment-discussions-f11/cd-sound-vs-usb-sound-t5866.htm

One forumer said he could not get his burnt CD-Rs to sound like the original CDs while another said there could be errors when ripping the CD.

I was of the opinion that with today's hardware and software, ripping is bit perfect. Just google around and you will find that with "Secure Rip" and "AccurateRip", ripping softwares can make perfect clones of CDs.

Most computer audiophiles recommend using Exact Audio Copy (EAC) freeware to rip. Some recommend dbPoweramp while Mac users use Apple iTunes.

I was curious to find out if the forumer was right and the burnt CD-R would sound inferior - in the words of the forumer, it could sound brighter or bassier or 'harder' or 'softer' than the original CD. If that is true, then the ripping software is not extracting a bit perfect clone of the original CD and it is either adding or subtracting something from the data.

Starting off with an xrcd version of Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms, I used EAC (version V0.99 prebeta 5) to rip the songs to FLAC files to my Compaq Presario SR5790D PC with Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E7300 (2.66GHz ).
Then I used MediaMonkey (version 3.1.1.1261) to burn the CD-R with "level volume" unchecked. I have a feeling that this feature messes things up - by ensuring that the songs are played at the same volume, I think it reduces the dynamics and some data goes haywire. It is best to leave this feature unchecked. Burning speed was set at the lowest - 2X.

Using a CD-R that I have in stock at home, an Imation Platinum Disc, I burnt a copy of the Dire Straits' album.

Then I recalled reading about how different types of CD-Rs can affect sound quality due to the quality and type of dye used.

So I made a trip to Plaza Low Yat in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, on Friday where to kill two birds with one stone, I picked up a Benchmark DAC Pre from Tong Lee for review as well as look around the IT mall for good-quality CD-Rs.

On the second floor, I walked into a shop that sold only CD-R/RWs and DVD-R/RWs. The shopkeeper advised me to go for audio-quality CD-Rs. He had in stock TDK, Mitsubishi and That's CD-R by Taiyo Yuden, said to be the best around for burning music files. I asked about Verbatim because I know some music producers use this brand, but the shopkeeper insisted that I should buy either the Mitsubishi or Taiyo Yuden. That's CD-R for Audio by Taiyo Yuden was the most expensive in his shop - RM50 for 10 disks.

I remembered reading in some forum that Taiyo Yuden is the best for audio and so I left the shop with a box of That's CD-R.

Back home, I burnt the Brothers In Arms album to the Taiyo Yuden CD-R from FLAC files.

Then I read the hifi4sale thread again and found out that the forumer had complained about not getting the right sound from WAV files and I also recalled some debate going on about differences in sound quality between FLAC (a lossless compressed file) and WAV (lossless uncompressed) files So I thought that to ensure that all the bases were covered, I ripped the Dire Straits CD using EAC into WAV files and burnt them to an Imation Platinum CD-R.

Thus I had four CDs to compare - the original CD, the Imation burnt from FLAC files, the Imation burnt from WAV files and the Taiyo Yuden burnt from FLAC files.

And so I spent the weekend listening to the four CDs through the resident system comprising CEC3300 CD player, a Sugden C28 preamp, a Bryston 4B SST power amp and a pair of ATC SCM40s. On Saturday evening, the Benchmark DAC Pre was used instead of the Sugden. I also listened using a pair of Sennheiser HD600s plugged into the headphone jacks of the CEC CD player and the Benchmark DAC Pre which was also fed digital data from the CD player used as transport. Interconnects were Rega's Couple, the coax was an MIT Terminator 3 and all power cords were connected to a Furutech e-TP60/20 Power Distributor.

And the conclusion? Frankly I heard no difference - they did not sound brighter, bassier, harder or softer than the original xrcd CD. This means the tonal balance was not changed by the ripping and burning and the copies are bit-perfect clones of the original but, admittedly, this is a very subjective and totally unscientific method.

I found the Taiyo Yuden CD-R to sound a bit cleaner and clearer than the Imation, but it took many rounds of listening of the same track with the Sennheiser headphones plugged to the Benchmark DAC Pre using the Benchmark's DAC to pick out the differences.

Bear in mind, these cloned CD-Rs were only days old and what they would sound like years from now is another story. What I can confirm is that photo files (JPEG) that I burnt to the Imation CD-Rs four to five years ago can no longer be opened. I presume the Taiyo Yuden would be better for archiving purposes. The Plaza Low Yat shopkeeper told me that Mitsubishi CD-Rs (Japanese-made) that he burnt about 10 years ago can still be used today.

Will the cloned CD-Rs sound similar to the original CD years from now? Only time will tell...

Related posts:
http://hi-fi-avenue.blogspot.com/2009/09/learning-curve.html
http://hi-fi-avenue.blogspot.com/2009/09/not-so-eac-y.html
http://hi-fi-avenue.blogspot.com/2009/09/my-first-hires-download.html

3 comments:

  1. Surely you are not encouraging illegal copying, ripping or downloading, right? This is something that should not be allowed to happen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. the wise one,

    no i am not encouraging illegal copying. ripping for personal use is ok. i don't encourage ripping and burning for commercial purposes.
    as for downloads, if the music company offers free downloads - why not? many of them offer one or two songs for free but u hv to buy the rest.
    i hv paid for a download from linn which cost me more than RM100.
    as for comments, i moderate them cos someone left a msg with a four-letter word plus two others left links to sex sites.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lam,

    If the record offer free downloading, then that's absolutely alright but I don't agree with you about it being OK for personal use. If you have bought the cd and then ripped it to your ipod, that should be OK provided you don't resell the cd and keep the songs in your ipod, computer or mp3. I would also say that it is illegal to rip the cd for your own use if the cd is a borrowed one.

    ReplyDelete