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Computer Harddrive recording or Streaming lossless audio, which is best?

Discussion in 'Multimedia' started by Compumess, May 4, 2015.

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  1. Compumess

    Compumess Thread Starter

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    Greetings all, it has been awhile since I last posted, aside from my computers of which I have 4, I am also a long time audiophile, and have quite the collection of high end vintage stereo equipment. I have a friend who is more hard core about his sounds than I am.


    I am fishing for opinions, I have bought a new ASUS lap top that I have a really good sound card and Graphics HDMI card installed. I also am an avid user of ITunes, and have found that their Lossless recordings are better than most of my CDs. I am also rather tired of playing one CD after another, so I recorded all my music, a little over 100gigs on 3 of my computers one being my new lap top. I also use ITunes Icloud service for storing my entire library including all my settings, and have used it to load up my laptop with all their lossless versions of all my music including what I bought from them.


    I find the quality to be better than CDs, and better than what I hear on my tube CD player, while playing it from my computer files. My friend says that recorded music on a computer will degrade over time, and that a hard drive will not keep all files in one place, therefore the degrading of the information. He says that the new streaming services along with the new streaming players are far better. Herein lies the information I seek; Which is better, what are the opinions that the rest of you have, is computer recorded music better, or is streaming music on these new (very expensive) players better..., or is there no real difference. I await your opinions. Thanks in advance.


    Rick
     
  2. Oddba11

    Oddba11

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    Which is better depends on the source and the quality settings of the capture. A lossless copy of a CD and the actual CD should sound the SAME. If they do not, you have a player, configuration, or hardware issue. It doesn't matter if you are comparing CD's, ripped files from a CD, or streaming files (assuming all files are from the same source CD version).

    Files stored on a computer do not "degrade over time". They will never change unless of course the HDD fails. So you either misunderstood what you friend was telling you, or he doesn't understand computers.
     
  3. Compumess

    Compumess Thread Starter

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    Thanks for the reply, and no I did not misunderstand my friend, he reads those highly esoteric stereo magazines and believes everything that they tell him, for example. The January 2015 copy of Stereophile contained an article in their Audio Streams section pg.43, by Michael Lavorgna, titled "Computer Audio without Computers. They were comparing NAS device's and network players from Simaudio which I am not familiar with, to Auralic which I am. To the right of the page under the paragraph heading NAS I quote;
    "Storing a music library is step one of computer audio. While you can store your music on your computer, it's not recommended for many reasons, including sound quality. Basically, the more you ask your computer to do in addition to playing music, the worse your music will sound. So it's common practice to store your music on an external hard drive or network attached storage (NAS) device". He goes on to wax philosophic, and highly technical as to why an NAS/network player is light years better than recording music directly to your computer hard drive. Of course he believes that using an external hard drive is a better solution, overall the jest of the article is doing away with the computer all together.


    As for there being a difference in recordings between lossless and standard CDs, my opinion is that there is a difference in overall quality, it's clearer and cleaner, especially when listening to Fusion Jazz, New Age or Classical. Now a streamed lossless copy that is recorded on a hard drive, should sound the same as the actual cd, and you are right they do..., at least to me. Often though (some) standard computer cd burning recorders do not have the same overall quality and can't reproduce and exact lossless copy because of DAC issues or Laser quality, but they sound pretty darned close to satisfy me, but would not a high end listener, if he knew what he was listening too! LOL.


    What I am looking for here are opinions as to which is either best, or are they just as good. From my chair I can't tell a difference. The Lossless recordings I have on the hard drives, at least to me sound wonderful and crystal clear. I can't see the need for buying these net streamers and NAS devices, for many reasons, cost, portability, and overall expense.


    Not being a high end computer tech, there are things about computer recording abilities I may not know; personally I don't think the new Solid State drives sound as good as a good standard hard drive, maybe that is just me, I do not know. But since Apple discontinued the large Ipod classic, I thought a nice quality small sized laptop would work just as good, so far I am hooked, I love the sound. I have a couple of questions, are there better soundcards I can install in my ASUS 14incher, and what about Graphics cards, when hooked up to HDMI, I believe that the audio is coming from the sound card? If so, are there better ones out there with really good DACs. JUst wondering. Thanks for the input. Rick
     
  4. Oddba11

    Oddba11

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    How data is stored, whether on your computer, or an external drive, or a NAS is the same. What they are saying (not very clearly) is that if you are using your computer for other activities while playing the music, the music "quality" can suffer. This isn't a product of the files losing quality, but a byproduct of the OS (ie: Windows) places a low priority on audio. So if you are multitasking and taxing the cpu, audio quality will suffer. Depending on what exactly you are doing, it won't likely matter where the music is stored.

    You do understand the terms lossless and lossy right? Lossless, by definition, means the file is IDENTICAL to the source. So a CD and a lossless file created from the SAME CD are identical.

    Can a lossless file sound better than a CD? Yes. The lossless file could be obtained from a different source (ie: NOT the CD to which you are comparing it). Or it's being processed differently. CD playback and file playback on a computer can be processed differently. It's also possible you simply believe it sounds better, when in fact it does not.

    In the end, audio is subjective. It boils down to what you believe sounds better. It won't/shouldn't matter what anyone tells you is "best". You should test and decide for yourself.

    For a laptop, you don't have much, if any upgrade options for most models. For audio, you will be limited to external sound cards. There are several options, but I have no experience with any to make any recommendations. Creative products would be a good place to start. As for HDMI, the audio is untouched and is processed by the destination device.
     
  5. Compumess

    Compumess Thread Starter

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    I can't disagree with you Oddball concerning how Lossless files are created; However there are those who will argue that a true lossless file is one that has been restored and made better that the original recording. Most music can be had from several various recording sources, and some are certainly better than others. I have read online until my eyes cross, that Apples lossless sources have been digitally cleaned up. For example, I am an avid ITunes user, and have subscribed to their I tunes cloud storage service. It's a small once a year fee, and it stores my entire computer hard drive library, including all my settings and playlists. The claim is that when you download from the cloud, the files are returned in "a" Lossless format, which is supposed to be digitally enhanced and cleaned up, as I know some of my original recordings were not as good (CDs from the early 80s) compared to what there is today. I have some high end CD players, and what came back from ITunes sounds better than my original CDs. So I am not disagreeing with you, only explaining what is advertised, and what other Apple junkies hype. But so far I am quite happy with it. And frankly they could just be sending back better quality recordings from a different CD source.


    There are several analogue to digital and digital to digital audio recording programs that one can use to clean up a recording to better than original specs, people do it with vinyl all the time. Adobe has a real slick one, but it takes an enormous amount of time, all of which I do not have. And there are people who will classify this as a lossless file.


    But your description is certainly accurate, but in the audiophile world, there are gimmicks galore, which is why I am here asking questions.


    As for the computer audio quality suffering, your explanation is a real help, I kind of figured it must be something like that. As for me, when I listen to music only, that is all I do, no other programs are running.


    As for believing what you think you hear is "really excellent", in the stereophile world, it's all about perception, and what you perceive as sounding really good. People are so gullible where this is concerned, and my friend is no different that the rest who are certain and the mega expensive systems all sound better than systems costing half. I personally know this is a farce, as I have listened to speakers that cost 40k a pair, when compared to others that cost 4k a pair....often times there is no difference that the human ear can hear. I remember watching some double blind studies done one this very thing, not only was it eye opening, it was very humorous. This can be said about most things pertaining to stereo equipment, but if one is willing to spend 100k on an outrageous stereo system, and live in a shack.....it's a personal choice; not one I would make.


    The word subjective says it all; thanks for your help, it will be very useful.
     
  6. Oddba11

    Oddba11

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    You mention a distinct point to keep in mind. The files are "lossless" AND they have been altered. Which means they are not true to the source. Thus when comparing them to the source, they should be different. Hence why I keep stressing "identical to the source".

    Lossless in general terms (as is often thrown about), simply means the audio is not compressed (ie: mp3, wma, etc.). But it does have a specific definition as noted above.

    And yes, I agree with people and their perceptions. This is how "Monster" is able to sell "quality" cables and other hardware that cost 4 to 10 times more than other brands. When at the end of the day, the cables and hardware provide no benefit to audio or video quality.

    In any case, it sounds like we are on the same page.
     
  7. Compumess

    Compumess Thread Starter

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    Being a "shade-tree" audiophile, I have to snicker, if not laugh out loud at those people who claim that their ears can hear what only very sensitive equipment can barely pick up. It's like this "braided" speaker cable thing, and the claims made that is cancels out stray magnetic signals or stray RF. And those who claim it makes a huge difference, I tried the stuff, and found no difference. Now shielded cable does work, especially on patch RCA cables where RF interference is a problem, but that's all I have ever noticed.


    If people could make a speaker system out of dried elephant crap, and charged 10k a pair, it would be hailed and the new breakthrough in speaker sound. Some times I don't know why I allow myself to get in these discussions with high end minded stereo eq. folk; I guess for the same reason I enjoy certain no ending round robin political discussions with sound bite folk who never read. Sorry I digress....


    Thanks for your input, It will be very helpful, and has pointed me in a couple of directions I had not considered. And thanks for mentioning external sound cards, I had never considered one before. But Xonar has some dandy ones for ASUS laptops that are award winning audiophile grade for a reasonable price, I will be looking into one of those. Keep up the good work.
     
  8. Oddba11

    Oddba11

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    I prefer Asus over Creative, but I've only used their internal hardware. I didn't know they had any external models.
     
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