Capacitor Snakeoil: Can you hear a difference?

Discussion in 'Tonefreaks' started by 22Frets, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. p90fool

    p90fool Senior Member

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    Yes, but that's at peak levels. When you have quiet passages, fades, or just natural note decays you lose roughly one bit for every 6dB, giving a noticeably "grainy" quality to some musical passages.

    That said, CD-quality audio is vastly superior to most real-world vinyl experience, and I personally would never look back.

    I was merely stating that the differences between vinyl and CD audio, whether positive or negative, are very real and nothing whatever to do with a placebo effect.
     
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  2. gtr-tek

    gtr-tek Fumble Fingers

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    Hmm. On the subject of CD vs vinyl, I will weigh in on a recording engineering level as I used to do analog recording to tape. Mastering is done on several levels, mixdown to a master and adjusting the master to the next medium of distribution, which was either CD or vinyl at that time (mid '80s). Most CDs of older recordings are remastered from the either the original master or the source tracks, depending on the levels and any deficiencies in the original master.

    Keep in mind that digital recording is a noise reduction method first and foremost. If an original analog master doesn't translate well to digital, it is preferred to go back to the original tracks, digitize them and remix. Digital copies from an analog source might not sound as good as the original for various reasons. Digital recording has greater headroom but sounds butt ugly when it reaches saturation and clips. Analog tapes were routinely pushed to near saturation and levels had to be monitored when digitizing to prevent clipping. Quantizing noise is the other digital issue. If you look at a digital signal, it is a stairstep wave as opposed to a sine wave. If a digital recording is too soft, pushing up the level also increases the quantizing floor, or base noise and sounds grainy. CDs are 16 bit which is not the cleanest sound available. 24 bit recording is much smoother and has better resolution, finer steps, which equals clarity.

    All of that said, vinyl has lower headroom but no quantizing noise and sine wave resolution, albeit a little fuzzy. Some instruments, like guitar, sound better in the analog realm. This is one big reason a number of people prefer vinyl as it is less harsh. One of my favorite analogies is like comparing solid state amps to tube amps for guitar or stereo. The differences are similar and many find tubes more pleasing to the ear.

    You can probably guess my preferences from this. :cool:
     
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  3. Jakeislove

    Jakeislove Senior Member

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    You're working under the assumption that we can measure what people hear.

    We should get some true nerds involved and do an experiment!! :)
     
  4. Armitage

    Armitage Senior Member

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    We can accurately measure from zero hz way into beyond the gamma-rays...

    What do you think people can hear?

    We may still not completely understand how the brain interprets what it hears, but if A\Sound=B\Sound... it doesn't matter, it's the same.
     
  5. Stinky Kitty

    Stinky Kitty Senior Member

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    Amen.
     
  6. Jakeislove

    Jakeislove Senior Member

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    Aren't those measurements/values we (Man) made up to help us make better sense of the world around us?

    I believe we can measure much that is associated with sound but not too much of the listener's actual listening experience. I'd love to see some uber-nerds run music through different set-ups to people undergoing PET Scans. There might be no difference, whatsoever, but it would be interesting.

    The above being said. There was a time when any talk of sub-atomic particles would have sounded like religion to any educated person. Simply saying "if A\Sound=B\Sound... it doesn't matter,"
    implies that our knowledge is complete on a topic.
     
  7. Triangle Going Sick

    Triangle Going Sick Senior Member

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    More on the CD's or LP's in general, I heard a discussion a while back that modern mastering (or whatever you wish to call it) is aimed at achieving best results to match current listening devices. This is heading away from large sound systems to small docks and ear phones. Probably not directed at all music types, anyone else know more about it?
     
  8. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    I'm not really sure what you mean by this. To say that vinyl has more dynamic range is simply false. If you recorded an instrument or voice and printed it to vinyl as loud as it could possibly be done and mastered the same instrument/ voice recording to CD at a level 30dB lower, chances are that listening to the CD you'd still hear the note decay better before it disappears in the noisefloor/dither. I don't see how the term grainy enters this equation at all.
     
  9. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    I don't understand what this is supposed to mean. Noise reduction historically has been employed to expand the signal-to-noise ratio of analog mediums. Digital audio does not need noise reduction, it actually needs noise added for it to sound best.

    At the AD/DA stages Digital recording has zero headroom by definition. we choose a reference level, expressed as a negative number that lets us pretend that there is such a thing (-18dBfs for example). There also is no such thing as saturation in digital audio. As long as the converters' analog electronics are up to the job there will be no problem until you reach 0dBfs. I wouldn't recommend such levels due to the shortcomings of analog components and inter-sample peaks but if your true-peak meter says it's below zero then you're good to go.

    That stairstep wave does not exist outside of the virtual realm of zero and ones captured on screenshots. For every good AD/DA converter it's
    sinewave in=sinewave out across the defined bandwidth.
    A CD will not be mastered too soft, therefore there is no way that quantization noise will be audible, thanks to noiseshaping/ dither. Hopefully the individual tracks were recorded at 24 bit so they too should contain no such artifacts even if they were recorded way too low.
     
  10. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    You are correct, making sure the recording "plays well" across all these different platforms and listening situations is becoming more and more important. in adition to going from hi quality playback to low quality playback as mobile devices are being used more and more for, codecs can have detrimental effects on audio quality and introduce nasty artifacts. the mastering engineer needs to be aware of these issues and check his master for compatibility and desired results.
     
  11. Armitage

    Armitage Senior Member

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    Sound is a very basic transmission of low frequency energy and is very well understood. How we hear it and interpret it is still a bit fuzzy. So like I said, if there's no measurable difference, there is no difference.
     
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  12. xSinner13x

    xSinner13x Senior Member

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    [​IMG]
     
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  13. MiniB

    MiniB Senior Member

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    The only issue is that what we perceive in guitar sounds coming through pickups and amps isn't the same as sine waves and sweeps through oscilloscopes and what not. So maybe we haven't quite yet defined what's immeasurable.

    For example, you can eq for a room and get an even 'curve' when testing a sweep or series of individual frequencies. But then you can still get peaks/modes and phasing issues when actual musical material is played back because of the combinations of sounds that the testing procedure doesn't simulate (room treatment aside). So even though the math and measurements say that you shouldn't be getting a peak or what have you at say 80Hz any more, the mid bass still sounds a bit boomy and smeared when listening to music. Forget crossovers and all that, just an example.

    I think in guitar playing, we may also have to take into account the interactivity and reactivity to what we may find pleasing or displeasing. I.e...we tend to play and feel better the more that we like what we hear from our playing....whether the differences are real or 'reinterpreted'. Maybe there's something in differing materials that becomes more evident when playing guitar and that we respond to, even though the specs measure and 'test' the same. Pick attack, bloom with overdrive, all sorts of things. I think it's at least rational to think it possible...albeit slimly, perhaps.

    It very well end up the same and more conclusive (and I would guess that it essentially is), but we would need to somehow test specifically and consistently to know for sure. So the measured science, although sound, might not be equally applicable to both conditions and implementations. It's not the science so far is wrong, it just might not be quite complete yet.
     
  14. Arzachel

    Arzachel Senior Member

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    you didn't learn to read too good though did you I said the same thing, sorry if your comprehension is impaired you might want to go back to school. an educational pissing contest was your real reason for posting it seems, very Sheldon Cooper do you like trains and flags?

    just call me a liar at least that would be honest

    and yet we are expected to take your "expertise" which has no other basis than lining your pocket, why would we do that?
     
  15. gtr-tek

    gtr-tek Fumble Fingers

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    According to the book Modern Recording Techniques published in the early to mid '80s it is. It doesn't need it because it IS it. You are taking an analog source and digitizing it, either on the fly or post recording. This also eliminates generation loss by merely copying.

    In the early days of digital, many studios were still using their $100,000.00+ analog mixing boards and analog tape with either Dolby or DBX and didn't convert to digital until the mastering phase (AAD recordings). It is and was implemented to get around the hiss inherent in the analog tape environment. Also, early digital was a tape medium. Direct to disk wasn't prevalent until the late '80s early '90s. By digital mastering, the added layer of hiss was avoided by digitizing the mixed down tracks. Mixing in pure digital was not prevalent until the advent of digital multitrack recorders, which either used tape or disk and digital mixers. Most studios at that time used digital half track recorders for the masters (AAD). Some artists insisted on recording the tracks on analog tape to get the sound they were after, even though multitrack digital was readily available. Some still do. Heart recorded Barracuda on an analog system using a tube mixing board even though digital and "superior" solid state mixers were available.

    You contradict yourself in the above statement. If you cross true peak (0db), you clip or saturate.


    Really? Once digitized, a track's resolution is fixed. It's analogous to a digital photo, which is made up of pixels. If a track is recorded too soft, it turns to crap if boosted. The quantizing noise can be raised to an audible level. There were mastering engineers that were stuck with existing tracks and no access to the artist during post production that had to deal with this issue when making their masters for production.

    This is true by and large. In the early days, not all of this was considered as the artists weren't familiar with the recording techniques involved past the tracking an mixdown phases. 24 bit audio is a product of the '90s and wasn't available in the time period I'm referring to. You can downgrade to 16 bit (CD quality) with little to no loss, but you can't upscale the bits so easily.

    You kids have it so easy with non-linear editing available on any PC. You probably never have had to cut and splice tape with an analog reel-to-reel and razor blade. ;-) :D

    I've watched and marveled at the wonderful advances in recording engineering and it's mind boggling that I can build a studio in my basement that blows away my old one from the mid '80s for less than 1/10 the cost and is easier to use. :cool:
     
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  16. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    We could argue about stairstepping, noise reduction and quantization noise forever in the appropriate section of the this forum and maybe some of our differences are merely semantics (saturation isn't the same as clipping, etc.) but in this thread I wanted to point out that the "Vinyl equals more measurable dynamic range" statement made earlier is false.
    I wish i was still a kid but I'm turning 49 in a few days. I've been around this stuff professionally for decades, razorblades included. I don't miss them. :thumb:
     
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  17. freefrog

    freefrog Senior Member

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    Yes, xSinner13x, we are all beating a dead horse and for a long time: no post will modify hardened certitudes, whatever is the interest of the knowledge disclosed in many answers above (no irony here: just a salute from someone who appreciates knowledge to other members who share it).

    As the link posted in my previous post(s) haven't brought much comments and as I've a few minutes of free time while my family sleeps, I'll share something that I've said to myself.

    It's about this link:

    Capacitor Sound

    The second page (P.13) includes a screenshot with this comment:

    “Some capacitors distort even a pure 1khz sinewave test signal. […] Measurable distortion exists at all voltages down to 0.5 volt”.


    1khz is roughly the frequency of a high E string fretted at the 19th fret.



    0.5 v is the output voltage of a typical PAF bridge pickup (the pickups that I've here on my own instruments give 110mv to 1150mv of max output power).



    The distorting capacitor evoked by Bateman is a 10nf one: not far from the 15nf or 22nf often used with humbuckers.


    A guitar pickup doesn't always spit 500mv but produces much more than a pure sinewave and this complexity could multiply the occasions of distortion.


    This question of distortion keeps exciting my perplexity. Maybe I'll post a pair of other experiments that I've done about it.

    In the meantime, I'll just say that to me, the mystery is not solved. I understand that the weak signal produced by a guitar pickup shouldn't really excite a 400V or 600V cap grounded through several hundreds of kOhm.

    I wonder if in fact, it's not precisely the weakness of the guitar signal which makes caps behave differently as "gates" that a faint signal has a hard time to open.

    My tests through various soft- and harware devices often show me the same thing: harmonic peaks which don't change much according to the tone caps used but harmonic "floors" whose height sometimes varies drastically, whatever is the source of the signal (plucked string or low impedance exciter coil).

    This post is not supposed to communicate a revelation. I'm humbly thinking out loud between two sequences of "real life".

    More later if time permits...

    Have a nice day!
     
  18. gtr-tek

    gtr-tek Fumble Fingers

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    I'll be 55 in several months. You're as young as you feel.

    We probably are dissecting semantics by and large. Even though I have a fair bit of experience, I don"t consider myself an expert. I totally agree that vinyl has a much lower dynamic range. We had to compress our recordings in order to have any perceived dynamics and not hear a bunch of noise, even with Dolby and DBX, knowing the ultimate destination of the recordings were to vinyl or cassette (ugh!). The vinyl mastering process introduced even more compression in order to squeeze the sound onto the disc. I do agree that there is a pleasing sound to it though. :hmm:
     
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  19. Armitage

    Armitage Senior Member

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    You're missing the point, we're not talking better or worse... we're talking identical. If there is any change it "may" arguably make a difference... If there is no change, it's identical, an cannot make a difference.
     
  20. Jakeislove

    Jakeislove Senior Member

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    Can't hear any difference between mylar and PIO?
     

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