Is support for HDCD dying out? (OPPO no longer supporting)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Zafu, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. chrism1971

    chrism1971 Forum Resident

    Glos, UK
    It wasn't that niche when Rhino were rereleasing all the major WArners LPs - I have a full set of Doors, Dead and Joni on HDCD, as well as all the Beach Boys that Mark Linnett mastered with it since the early 2000s. Sadly Naim were the only UK manufacturer to take it seriously - because of the converter quality, as stated above, but with a Naim CDX2 it made a huge difference. With the Linn players it was barely if at all noticeable (?). I no longer use Naim and my HDCDs sound better with my latest gear than they did with the Naim setup. Blown away by 'American Beauty' yesterday....
  2. tmsorosk

    tmsorosk MORE MUSIC PLEASE

    Sprucegrove Canada
    I thought HDCD was great when you could find one. The sound was superior and the cost was the same as a regular CD, to me they were a better deal than SACD's, not sure why they didn't work on developing it more.
    HDCD's were few and far between around here, haven't seen one for sale in at least five years.
    MaxxMaxx4 likes this.
  3. Linger63

    Linger63 Forum Resident

  4. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    I wonder if the rep at Oppo might have mixed-up the company who is no longer providing HDCD support. It was always my understanding that it was the Mediatech chipset that Oppo used which was/is responsible for the HDCD decoding. But it is possible that the misunderstanding is entirely on my end...
  5. Bill Mac

    Bill Mac Forum Resident

    So. ME USA

    You are correct. Below is post #307 from the 205 thread that Linger63 linked a short while ago.
    patient_ot and TarnishedEars like this.
  6. afterm.ath

    afterm.ath Let It Loose

    I remember having The Bee Gees: The Record on HDCD. Now I must go and find it, I need to play it again. It sounded amazing.
  7. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    I have the six Doors albums, some Neil Young, a couple Joni albums, and one Beach Boys disc and a few others on big labels. You're right that these were fairly mainstream. You can still find some of them in big box stores now, particularly the NY and Joni titles. The Doors discs disappeared pretty quickly and were a PITA to track down when I got them. Too bad the decoding hardware wasn't that mainstream, or at least wasn't for the non-audiophile crowd. When I first started paying attention to the HDCD logo (years after its introduction) the only thing I had to fully decode them was Windows Media Player. More often than not, I'd just play them back on a non-decoding CD player.

    As long as Microsoft continues to include the HDCD.exe file with Windows Media Player there will be a way to decode them. All those CD ripping programs and digital file player programs rely on this file to do the decoding AFAIK, so if they remove it all bets are off.

    I think at this point people are better off spending energy lobbying Microsoft to keep this feature, rather than bug hardware companies that are looking to save a couple bucks on the next iteration of whatever they are making and will never listen anyway.
  8. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Here's a weird one:

    Idaho - Three Sheets to the Wind.

    Loved this album for years and never noticed it was an HDCD until yesterday.
    mds likes this.
  9. brimuchmuze

    brimuchmuze Forum Resident

    HDCD.exe only decodes peak extension, not the other HDCD fairy dust.
  10. The Windows software decoder decodes peak extend and gain. Which is everything that there is to decode. HDCD has a third parameter for "transient filter", but there is nothing there to decode. So the software decoding is decoding everything necessary.

    The transient filter happens on the AD converter. The AD converter can use a different impulse for some samples. That impulse does better at capturing transients than the regular impulse. So the AD converter briefly switches to the transient filter during transients and then switches back to the regular filter for the majority of the music. There is nothing for the DAC to do in response to the transient filter other than light up the HDCD light.

    If a HDCD title only has transient filter info encoded and no peak extend and no gain then there is nothing needed to be decoded and a regular CD player will play that CD just as well as a HDCD CD player. The DCC and Audio Fildelity HDCD discs only used the transient filter. Didn't use peak extend or gain.
    rcsrich, Sevoflurane, rbbert and 2 others like this.
  11. brimuchmuze

    brimuchmuze Forum Resident

    Thanks for that. I had read somewhere about playback filters, but apparently they were never used.
  12. Uri Cohen

    Uri Cohen Forum Resident

    Jacksonville, FL
    To be honest, why would Microsoft continue to put money into HDCD? I still don't fully understand why they went out and purchased the tech.
  13. brimuchmuze

    brimuchmuze Forum Resident

    Perhaps some patents they were interested in. Is there any reason to think they are continuing to invest in HDCD?
  14. Uri Cohen

    Uri Cohen Forum Resident

    Jacksonville, FL
    Of course not. In the age of computer audio and streaming (and HDCD IMO is a physical forgot more than digital files), there isn't a reason why Microsoft should put money into the format. It pretty much more or less dead (which will most likely what MQA will be soon enough).
  15. Microsoft wanted the patents. Likely the patents dealing with how to encode and decode data in dither. I don't know if they ever made use of those patents in a product or service. Maybe the patents were deemed necessary to have in their portfolio to protect some other product or service or research?

    The nice thing about Microsoft buying HDCD was that it gave them an incentive to write a component for Media Player to decode and play HDCD discs. That component has been helpful to people who have reverse engineered what HDCD does. That component has also made it possible for tools like HDCD.exe and dBpoweramp and CUETools and Foobar2000 to decode HDCD. Microsoft didn't intend for it to get used that way, but it did and is an unintended benefit for those of us who want to be able to play HDCD on DACs and hardware that don't officially support HDCD.

    That component is also why I'm not too concerned about HDCD becoming rare and possibly obsolete on current CD players and DACs. As long as that component still works and can be made to work to decode HDCD to decoded FLAC files I'm OK. The people who want to spin HDCD CDs in a player are going to have some problems dealing with that, but at least there are still ways to decode and play HDCD. HDCD decoding isn't going to disappear completely. We'll still be able to decode. Hopefully for at least many decades (after that I'll be too old to care).
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
    ti-triodes, shaboo, Linger63 and 2 others like this.
  16. Litejazz53

    Litejazz53 Enjoying Sparkling Crystal Clear Digital

    I can only respond with great disappointment that HDCD was not included on the new player. I called OPPO as well and got the same response. What made the 105 and 105-D so incredibly popular is they included popular streaming options, SACD and HDCD. Oppo must realize many of us audio folks are using their player for audio purposes as much or more than video. You can bet if they had wanted to include HDCD, they could have. I would have upgraded the second this unit hit the market, but the exclusion of streaming and HDCD really changed the game plan, I was indeed disappointed to say the least, as like you, I have many HDCD discs, lots from Reference Recordings, fantastic recordings. :thumbsdow
    StakesWinner and vegafleet like this.
  17. The Reference Recordings HDCD discs are awesome. A great demonstration of HDCD and the sound qualities of the Pacific Microsonics AD converter. Unfortunately the Reference Recordings HDCD titles tend to use either peak extend and/or gain, so they need to be decoded to get them to sound the way they were intended.

    Try some of the HDCD Reference Recordings titles in high-res. HDTracks has some of them. I'm pretty sure the high-res versions of those HDCD titles are also from the Pacific Microsonics AD converter (the Pacific Microsonics can do high-res). They sound like it. But the high-res sounds better than the CD-res HDCD. The high-res versions are not HDCD and don't need decoding. Compare some of them. See if you hear a difference.
    Litejazz53 likes this.
  18. vegafleet

    vegafleet Forum Resident

    I too get nervous that my 103 might be the last HDCD player I can buy. I am in the camp that some/most decoded discs sound great.
    At worst nothing is gained or lost, but I have lots of HDCDs that sound amazing, specially when decoded.

    My first HDCD player was a Denon around 1999 and the first disc I played was CSNY's Looking Forward. Big difference! I have been a believer since. I am deep into the Garcia/Dead/CSNY world so it is a must for me.

    Ham, for everybody's benefit here, you had posted elsewhere how to use Foobar to rip and decode HDCDs into 24 bit files that you could presumably not only play on your computer but could also play (via USB stick or networking?) on one's big rig.

    Would you mind going thru the process again for us (I can't find it)? It might become very important soon. :cry:

    Also can the same be done with Windows Media Player?
  19. I use CUETools to decode HDCD. One reason is because I like that CUETools lists out in the log file what HDCD features were detected. I can copy that line from the log file and know if the CD has peak extend, and/or transient filters, and/or gain applied during HDCD encoding. The other HDCD decoding programs/methods either don't spit out that same info about what HDCD features were detected or they don't spit it out in a way that is easy to capture. So I've standardized on using CUETools to decode HDCD.

    Here's a post where I explain the steps: Ripping HDCD/SACD

    Unfortunately these tools are Windows only because they rely on a Windows system component DLL to do the HDCD decoding. Some of the tools may be able to work on Linux using WINE (I haven't tried). I don't know if anyone has gotten them to work on Macs unless you install a VM (virtual machine) running Windows and run the HDCD tools within that Windows virtual machine.
    shaboo likes this.
  20. shaboo

    shaboo Forum Resident

    Bonn, Germany
    I have some CDs that are marked by foobar's HDCD component as "HDCD", although Peak Extension and Transient Filter are disabled and Minimum Gain = Maximum Gain = 0 dB.

    What exactly happens when decoding such a CD with CUETools into 24bit? Will the result be completely identical to the original 16bit rip or better or worse sounding? Does it hurt SQ in any way to perform such decoding or is it just a waste of space?
  21. I don't know. I don't use Foobar much so haven't run into a case like that. What's an example of some CDs that have that?

    Here's a post where I list most of the HDCD titles I have and what CUETools lists as their HDCD features
    HDCDs with Peak Extend

    Do you have any CDs in that list that have that "no PE, no Trasient, and Minimum Gain = Maximum Gain = 0 dB"
  22. shaboo

    shaboo Forum Resident

    Bonn, Germany
    Yes, all CDs with HDCD: peak extend: none, transient filter: none, gain: None, for example

    Tracy Chapman - Telling Stories
    Elektra / 62478-2 / 2000 [HDCD]
    HDCD: peak extend: none, transient filter: none, gain: None

    Such CDs are treated by WMP (or by any HDCD-capable CD Player or by foobar's HDCD component) like HDCDs, and it would be interesting to see what exactly happens with these.

    foobar, for example, will decode such discs into 24bit format during playback, even though there's neither PE nor TF nor gain. Does a CD Player convert such discs into 20/24 bit, too, and is there any difference between the result and the playback in some non-HDCD capable player?
  23. My take on what it means to be an HDCD compatible DAC is does the DAC or CD player sound really good when playing an HDCD? Does the DAC let you hear the special qualities that are part of the HDCD style of sound (imaging depth, imaging within the soundstage, focus, coherence, tone, transients, etc.)?

    It doesn't matter if the DAC or CD player explicitly supports HDCD decoding. What matters is does the DAC make HDCD recordings sound good and does the DAC let you hear the characteristics of what HDCD (and the Pacific Microsonics AD converter) does.

    If the DAC or doesn't decode in hardware then I'll decode manually using software. All that matters to me is does the DAC sound good and deliver what I expect from the HDCD sound. What benefit is a DAC or CD player that decodes HDCD but I ultimately don't like its sound or don't find its sound to demonstrate the benefits of HDCD and the special sound qualities of the Pacific Microsonics AD converter?

    I haven't tried listening to HDCD on any of the Oppo players. I don't know if the Oppo players have the style of sound I want and a sound that demonstrates what I want to hear with an HDCD title. I do know that the Schiit multibit DACs do it, even though those DACs do not decode HDCD. The PonoPlayer also does well with HDCD titles even though it doesn't decode. My other DACs aren't high on my list of good HDCD DACs.
  24. A HDCD title like that should sound the same played as a regular 16-bit CD as it does when played as a 20-bit or 24-bit decoded file. Comparisons get to be tricky because decoding the HDCD and converting to 24-bit will change the volume level of the file and you'll need to adjust the volume when doing A/B comparisons. Plus some software decoders may invert the absolute phase (incorrectly, they shouldn't do that) and if they do that the effect of flipping the absolute phase may or may not be audible. So if you do an A/B comparison yourself be careful about volume leveling adjustments and make sure the absolute phase hasn't been flipped.

    It's tricky. When I've done A/B comparisons with files like that I have come to the conclusion that while they seem to sound the same I'd rather listen to the undecoded 16-bit version rather than the decoded 24-bit version. The 24-bit decoded version somehow ends up feeling softened compared to the 16-bit version even though I can't A/B the difference. That could be due to my DAC. A different DAC could possibly give different results. Anyways, for CDs that don't have peak extend, or gain I don't decode and listen to them as regular 16-bit files because that's what I've determined to sound best (or equal) with my gear. If/when I do the comparison again and find that the 24-bit decoded version sounds better then I'll change and listen to the decoded version of those HDCD titles instead. Right now for me it's a coin flip as to whether one is better than the other.
    shaboo likes this.
  25. seed_drill

    seed_drill Forum Resident

    Tryon, NC, USA
    Somewhere in the archives Steve goes into detail as to why AF abandoned the format.

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