How are top designers reducing digital edge? Banished completely?

caesar

Well-Known Member
May 31, 2010
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#1
What are today's top digital designers doing to reduce the digital edge? Has it been eliminated?

Is there one design approach or many?

Is it possible to quell it and keep the transients in tact, vs. making things too smooth/ mushy?
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,677
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#2
What are today's top digital designers doing to reduce the digital edge? Has it been eliminated?

Is there one design approach or many?

Is it possible to quell it and keep the transients in tact, vs. making things too smooth/ mushy?
Nothing, I hope

Gone with audible jitter and isolation

No. Good digital simply reveals more of the recording. Sometimes that's good, sometimes bad. But if you take edge off of the bad you dull the good.

Tim
 

mep

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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#3
Edge? What edge? Digital has been 'perfect' since 1982. No improvements have been warranted or necessary. :D
 

BlueFox

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Nov 8, 2013
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#4
Some DACs, and even CD players, have filters to remove digital artifacts that are exposed with more resolving gear. For instance, I just upgraded to an Auralic Vega DAC that removes these artifacts, and allows the music to be even more clear with less glare. Definitely, one of the better upgrades for me.

Also, Shunyata has introduced a power cable, the Alpha Digital (based on the Zitron Cobra), which removes the noise created by digital components and is reflected back onto the power line. I replaced a Cobra with an Alpha on my Bryston BDP-1 digital file player and was immediately floored by the improvement. Later, I replaced a Cobra with an Alpha on my Oppo 103, and had a nice improvement in color, clarity, and detail in the picture.
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
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#6
What I want to know is what they did to stop presentation being flat as a pancake. There's a growing list of players and dacs that are doing dimensionality better and better.
 

MylesBAstor

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Apr 20, 2010
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#8
Now tomelex, you must be mistaken. Everyone, and everybody knows digital has a natural unnatural edge. It also is 2d. It takes tremendous amounts of money and extreme care with superbly handled setup to almost tame it. Almost, as it has been getting better for 30 years, but we just can't quite get it all cleaned up. To rid it of glare, and edge, and harshness and just a downright unnatural sound.

Well except as you so impertinently point out when we record LP or reel tape all of that stuff seems gone. Digital recordings of those analog sources seem to pass all the wonderfulness of purest unadulterated analogness right on through. Funny isn't it? Just having the analog in there is magic. Pretty much proof that digital isn't ever quite good enough as curious as that seems. (Seems very curious to me).
 

Elberoth

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Dec 16, 2012
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Poland
#9
What are today's top digital designers doing to reduce the digital edge? Has it been eliminated?
They use better clocks, with much less phase noise. I have heard several DACs equipped with the latest 'Femto Clocks', and they all seem to share this ultra smooth, grainless quality (without ever sounding mushy or overly soft).

Aftermentioned Auralic Vega is of the DACs that use femto clocks.
 

asiufy

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Jul 8, 2011
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San Diego, CA
almaaudio.com
#12
They use better clocks, with much less phase noise. I have heard several DACs equipped with the latest 'Femto Clocks', and they all seem to share this ultra smooth, grainless quality (without ever sounding mushy or overly soft).

Aftermentioned Auralic Vega is of the DACs that use femto clocks.
Adam,

Have you heard the Auralic Vega? What do you think of it?

Opinions, everybody?

thanks,
alexandre
 
Dec 12, 2012
243
2
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#14
Whatmore:

You'll, no doubt, get varying opinions on this definition. For me, 'digital edge' is a perceived lack of continuousness in the natural flow of the music. This isn't an overtly halting quality, but instead seems to leave me feeling increasingly anxious that something isn't quite right about the timing or coherency of the sound. Digital edge puts my nervous system on edge, not to an immediately obvious degree, but to a subtle degree which builds a sense of unease, or lack of interest/enjoyment in the music after a short while. Music should be provide pleasure, even be therapeutic, but not induce anxiety or boredom.
 
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BlueFox

Member Sponsor
Nov 8, 2013
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#15
You'll, no doubt, get varying opinions on this definition. For me, 'digital edge' is a perceived lack of continuousness in the natural flow of the music. This isn't an overtly halting quality, but instead seems to leave me feeling increasingly anxious that something isn't quite right about the timing or coherency of the sound. Digital edge puts my nervous system on edge, not to an immediately obvious degree, but to a subtle degree which builds a sense of unease, or lack of interest/enjoyment in the music after a short while. Music should be provide pleasure, even be therapeutic, but not induce anxiety or boredom.
That is reasonable for a rather ambiguous term. I will add that, for me, it is some type of a high frequency distortion in some CDs. Whether it is natural to the recording process used, or originates elsewhere is moot, but it does exist for at least some CDs.

I truly encountered it after adding a 2nd 20 amp line for my amps last December. The new line, along with a Shunyata Cyclops for the amps, removed a final layer of haze off the music that allowed this high frequency distortion to become much more apparent at high volume levels with some CDs. I have a bit of tinnitus in my left ear, and I found this glare was at the right frequency to irritate it. After adding the Auralic Vega DAC it is tamed, and I can listen at high levels with no irritation of the tinnitus.

I attributed it to the filters included with the Auralic, but another person below suggests it might be the Femo clock used by the Auralic. Maybe both together have solved this issue for me. I use the Auralic clock set to 'Exact', coupled to a Bryston BDP-1 digital file player.
 

Al M.

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Sep 10, 2013
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#16
Regarding digital 'edge' I think there is a lot of confusion.

Vinyl fans have long complained about digital harshness, proponents of digital have since the early days of CD hailed the more realistic portrayal of music, thinking it comes closer to actual live music or the master tape. I think both camps have been right -- partially.

Yes, there is a real phenomenon of artificial and unpleasant digital harshness, but I believe it is confused with other things, and some of vinyl's supposed greater strengths, as purported by vinyl fans, are actually weaknesses.

IMO there are several issues that should be more clearly acknowledged and separated on an analytical level:

1) the greater frequency linearity and the greater ability of CD over vinyl to realistically portray natural hardness of sound (to be distinguished from overlaid artificial digital harshness and grain) may put more stress on room acoustics and electronics, like power amps, and more readily may expose their weaknesses, than vinyl with its somewhat softer sound (generally speaking, there are exceptions) used to do

2) artificial and unpleasant digital harshness and grain is real, unlike what some digital proponents have claimed who denied the phenomenon even in the early days when it was still a significant issue in CD playback (I think on current high-quality CD playback of good recordings it is hardly an issue anymore)

3) I believe the greater ability of CD to portray natural hardness of sound has often been conflated by vinyl fans with the issue of artificial digital harshness, which is an analytical mistake in my view

As for point 3) I distinctly remember an interview with a chief designer of ATC loudspeakers in the early 1990s who in exasperation countered the complaint that digital sounds excessively hard with the notion, "but live music does sound hard!". He obviously had a point. Time and time again I am surprised, when I attend live concerts, how hard brass can actually sound -- and that in acoustically well designed venues. In my experience vinyl often (not always) smoothes over things and makes them more 'pleasant' sounding than they really are. This is not 'better' sound than digital, it is just 'nicer' sound, and in fact less realistic. As for myself, I prefer a more accurate portrayal of the real thing, and in that respect CD often wins. However, the fact that there is sometimes artificial digital harshness and grain overlaid on the portrayal of natural hardness muddles things up. Yet even in great venues that are acoustically stressed by high SPL, such as triple forte passages of large orchestra, brass can sound in this natural setting not just hard, but also with a slightly harsh edge (and that *should* be reproduced on recording!). I noticed this, for example, when sitting relatively close to the stage in a series of concerts with several top orchestras such as Czech Philharmonic or BBC Symphony (attended in 2012) in the large Smetana Hall of Obecni Dum (Municipal House) in Prague, one of the best sounding (and most beautiful!) venues I have ever experienced. I am afraid that audiophiles who constantly complain about 'hardness of sound' do not expose themselves sufficiently to the real thing -- live music of the unamplified kind (amplified live music sound does not count since it is artificial anyway).

As for points 1) and 2), let me relate my experiences with my own system. Two years ago I wanted to improve my system and expressed to Paul at Goodwin's High End my concern to reduce what I perceived as digital harshness; in all other respects I had been happy with my system. He gave me a Berkeley Alpha DAC 2 to try at home, but there were hardly any significant differences with my 20 year old Wadia 12 DAC. I then proposed that my room might be the culprit, since I had heard harshness vanish from a friend's system mostly by merely changing rooms. Custom acoustic treatment of my room from ASC (mediated through Goodwin's) indeed got rid of almost all of the perceived harshness, while leaving reproduction of natural hardness of sound untouched. After acoustic room treatment, the audible differences in resolution between the Berkeley DAC and the Wadia 12 were huge, while prior to that differences had been barely discernible. The Berkeley DAC also did take off some more harshness off the sound, but it was just 10-15 % of what the room treatment had done (and that remaining harshness hadn't even bothered me; I only noticed that it had been there upon removal). A recent upgrade to BorderPatrol external power suppliers for my amps (see my review linked in my signature), which removed generation of electronic noise within my amps by the internal power supplies, managed to shave off some more harshness that I had noticed after my ears had been sensitized over time to the much lower level of harshness after room treatment and switching to the Berkeley DAC.

All in all, while the Wadia DAC did contribute some artificial digital harshness (or 'edge' if you will), the harshness that it contributed to the sound was much less than the harshness that the combination of reflections within the untreated room and electronic noise from the amps had caused -- harshness and grain that initially I had blamed the digital medium for as well, but which had nothing to do with it. This clearly suggests to me that, while point 2) above is true, the potential importance of point 1) cannot be overstated.

But yes, while that problem is long gone, I would say that early digital (way before my 1993 Wadia 12 DAC, modified in 1997 with a Wadia 860 opamp) indeed carried a far more substantial amount of artificial digital harshness. Someone who thinks that, for example, the Marantz CD-80, popular around 1990, did not sound harsh and abrasive needs to get their ears cleaned out.

Yet despite its, in timbral terms, 'lousy' sound it was the machine that several analog fans bought in the old store in The Netherlands where I also got a good part of my system, because it was the only CD player that in terms of "rhythm and timing" was at least not hopelessly far off their Linn Sondek turntables. But rhythm & timing problems are a thing of the past for CD playback as well. My Berkeley DAC rocks and swings with the best of turntables.
 
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Al M.

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Sep 10, 2013
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#17
record an LP to a disc, play it back, and then tell me where that "edge" is! I have done this with my digital recorder, and no, it does not produce an edge. Edges nowadays are due to the mix/mastering and playing IMO, all aspects of digital to its extremes, and plain old stereo dont sound good pushed to its extremes, it wants some mono, some fr aberrations, some hf splash, etc. Thats just me, my experience, my gear, my ears. Perfect sound forever meant that once recorded, it would be the same forever no matter how many times it was played, compared to the never the same song twice LP system or the same with the never the same sound twice tape. CD is a storage system, and yes, it will not last forever, but to confuse what we perfer to in sound vs the storage medium is becoming a bit worn, but thats just an old carmagruden like me who has perhaps blabbed a few thousand times too many about my hobby. aha ahah.
Well except as you so impertinently point out when we record LP or reel tape all of that stuff seems gone. Digital recordings of those analog sources seem to pass all the wonderfulness of purest unadulterated analogness right on through. Funny isn't it? Just having the analog in there is magic. Pretty much proof that digital isn't ever quite good enough as curious as that seems. (Seems very curious to me).
This experiment of recording LP to CD, where all the analog character is retained without introducing an 'edge' is interesting. It also seems to point in the direction that, when it comes to production of harsh sound from CD, weaknesses in acoustic noise (room) and electronic noise of systems exposed by the greater frequency linearity of CD and its greater ability to portray natural hardness of sound are the most important, weaknesses possibly more concealed upon the (mostly) somewhat softer and 'kinder' sounding vinyl playback. Some introduction of artificial digital harshness, which undeniably can be real as well, may also play a role, but with the current art of CD playback to a lesser degree.
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,677
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#18
This experiment of recording LP to CD, where all the analog character is retained without introducing an 'edge' is interesting. It also seems to point in the direction that, when it comes to production of harsh sound from CD, weaknesses in acoustic noise (room) and electronic noise of systems exposed by the greater frequency linearity of CD and its greater ability to portray natural hardness of sound are the most important, weaknesses possibly more concealed upon the (mostly) somewhat softer and 'kinder' sounding vinyl playback. Some introduction of artificial digital harshness, which undeniably can be real as well, may also play a role, but with the current art of CD playback to a lesser degree.
I would say this experiment, if it is consistently successful in making any difference between the vinyl and the digital recording of the vinyl indistinguishable, indicates that the "digital harshness" is reduced to such a degree that it is no longer audible and that, at this point, what many people are hearing is not harshness at all, but the lack of softness that they are accustomed to. Or they are simply hearing what the expect to hear.

Tim
 

mep

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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#19
This experiment of recording LP to CD, where all the analog character is retained without introducing an 'edge' is interesting. It also seems to point in the direction that, when it comes to production of harsh sound from CD, weaknesses in acoustic noise (room) and electronic noise of systems exposed by the greater frequency linearity of CD and its greater ability to portray natural hardness of sound are the most important, weaknesses possibly more concealed upon the (mostly) somewhat softer and 'kinder' sounding vinyl playback. Some introduction of artificial digital harshness, which undeniably can be real as well, may also play a role, but with the current art of CD playback to a lesser degree.

Whose experiment?
 

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