My SHM-CD results...

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by markl, Apr 28, 2009.

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  1. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    FWIW, one Member's findings. Reprinted from Head-Fi. I recognize you guys aren't as uneducated, or as clueless when it comes to different pressings of the same material, so please take as such. That said, I recognize the topic is equally controversial here as there.

    "Bits iz bits" and "all digital is the same" folks need not qualify. Go away and be miserable with your crappy CD-ROM drives and Ipods.

    What's a SHM-CD?

    It's a regular 16 bit 44.1 CD that plays on any ol' CD player. Nope, no extra data, no extra resolution, and no surround sound. It's a normally-encoded CD with all the same bits as any CD.

    In Japan, there's an explosion of SHM-CDs. These are NOT special remasters made just for SHM-CD. These are the same exact digital remasters that you will find on normally pressed good ol' USA CDs.

    Er, so what's the point? Why should I pay $30 for the exact same digital bits I can get in the USA for $15? Good question.

    Not everyone believes that all CDs are the same or sound the same, even when they press the same data. There is a reason why the early Japan and West Germany pressings of many titles are sought after by audiophiles. Yes, it's true that in the "olden days" of 83-87 all of these CDs were mastered without the absurd levels compression and LOUDNESS applied as we see today. DYNAMICS-- that's just one reason to seek out an old CD.

    If given a choice between an original Japan-pressed CD with the same data as a mid-90s version of the same thing, audiophiles will choose the original every time.

    Why? These early CDs were made to a ridiculous standard that modern CDs can't match. These old CDs are thicker, more solid, and more resistant to scratches and marks. They were made on superior equipment and held to a higher standard. They also sound better.

    Why? They are early pressings closer to the original glass master of the master tape. The stampers aren't exhausted and producing errors and mistakes that have to be corrected. When pits are clearer and more distinct, you get better sound. Yup, a claim without scientific back-up, sorry.

    OK, you caught me-- I don't know from a purely scientific standpoint why a pressing of the same data should sound better on one media than another except to say that I know it does from careful comparisons.

    SHM-CD is an attempt to make physical media matter again. It's today's best shot at making a "perfect" CD. As someone who can hear differences in physical pressings of the same data, and who has a system that is capable of revealing them, SHM-CD is a worth-while investment, so long as you are already a fan of the original mastering or re-mastering of the disc that has been turned into a SHM-CD.

    So far I've replaced about 20 of my regular CDs with their SHM-CD counterparts. Overall, I would say this investment is worth-while. The difference is not HUGE, nor does it turn a regular CD into Hi-Rez as some overly-enthusiastic reviewers have claimed.

    If you have a quality source and quality headphones, I believe SHM-CDs will be a worth-while investment for you, but only for your most treasured albums, and given you like their most recent remaster, which most SHM-CDs are based on.
  2. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    Ooops, again, I forgot where I was posting. I presume most Hoffmanites agree that 24K gold produces a better medium and thus better sound... Ergo, it is not metaphysically IMPOSSIBLE for the media on which a CD is pressed to matter.
  3. tomd

    tomd Forum Resident

    Interesting take on SHM-CDs-definately enjoyed reading your post.I have a few and while some sound noticably better than their standard counterparts and some slightly better I don't regret purchasing them-especially since many are paper sleeve editions.Also-it's especially good since the demise of DVD-A and SACD that the consumer has a choice of something better than the standard cd for those "special" albums.
  4. Maggie

    Maggie run james run

    Toronto, Canada
    Neither Audio Fidelity nor DCC have made this claim. Their argument (IIRC) is that gold CDs are longer-lasting, not that they sound better.
  5. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    Nevertheless, no matter what the claim, the important and key thing is that not all media is the same. Media matters.
  6. Gary

    Gary Nauga Gort! Staff

    Hmmm.... this makes me curious about these CDs....

    Thanks, Mark!
  7. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    Hi Gary, do an A/B and then do it over again.

    Right now, as a matter of fact, I'm listening to the SHM-CD of White Stripes Elephant. When A/B-ed against the original, it's clearer, fuller, cleaner, and more powerful. Not a radical or total re-imagining, but a clear and obvious difference.

    Wow! Fun!
  8. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Greater Vancouver
    I've heard one of these Gary, I can't recall which one right now. Let's just say my Japanese 1st pressing will not be leaving my collection for the SHM repressing.
  9. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

    Chicago, IL, USA
    I agree that media matters. I've always tried to get the Japan versions of my favorite titles ever since CDs came available, as I've always felt they were just made better. The discs themselves, to me, seemed heftier or thicker or something. They just always felt sturdier in my hand and reeked of quality. Some of the US discs I have feel thin and have pin holes, poor printing, and have those swirls in the plastic. They just look cheap.

    I don't have any SHM discs yet but I plan on getting some to see how they are.
  10. markl

    markl New Member Thread Starter

    Hi Dave, like I said, appreciation of any SHM-CD depends on whether you like the current mastering of any album that appears on SHM-CD. SHM-CDs are NOT remasterings.
  11. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid)


    This is actually not always the case.

    Most aren't, but here are some examples of some that are:

    For those that are remastered, the thread above helped to establish that it's apparently important whether Kikuo Niikuraor or Hitoshi Takiguchi did the remastering.

    If Takiguchi, run the other way.
  12. LeeS

    LeeS Audio Research Fan

  13. That's were I left it with the 12 SHMs I listened to as well.

    I leave the possibility open that the material / production method of SHMs could have a positive impact but as long as the mastering is not top notch it is a mute point for me, I'd rather chase down a Japanese 1st pressing for the same price.

    As I mentioned as well in the other SHM thread, the packaging and level of detail on many of the mini sleeve SHMs is amazing, I'm a real sucker for it.
  14. PoeRaider

    PoeRaider Well-Known Member

    Personally, I'll stick with standard old cds and rip to FLAC if Im concerned that Im not hearing all of what's there on my cd player. These SHM cds might indeed sound better than the old ones when in an optical player, but once ripped, they're going to sound the same as a rip of a standard CD. I think that's been established.

    I cant personally justify paying double for the same "bits". Not putting down the format for those who enjoy them, just my opinion. From a packaging and collecting standpoint I can see them being enticing, but that's not really my thing.
  15. The SHM's may, indeed, be superior when using the original mastering (as noted in a previous thread "Out of the Blu" sounded richer if I recall correctly compared to a regular CD pressing--interestingly it sounded best on a cheaper CD player if I recall that correctly as well--but it will always come down to the mastering itself as we all know.

    Until it's clear which masterings are being used on the packaging I'll be holding off. It would be nice if it was stated on the packaging giving us some insight.
  16. I would second that.
  17. Andreas

    Andreas Forum Resident

    Frankfurt, Germany

    Our 24 Karat Gold discs reproduce the ultimate sound of a classic recorded performance withouth the digital harshness and irregular plated surfaces of standard aluminum discs.
  18. foobar2000

    foobar2000 New Member

    Are you certain these two examples are, in fact, bit-identical?
  19. strat95

    strat95 Active Member

    Hi Mark,

    Can you rip both via EAC and perform a compare to see if they are in fact the same mastering?

    I tend to agree with PoeRaider on this. If you rip the data from Blu-Spec and from original and it's identical, then playing the digital files off a hard drive you won't hear the difference. Therefore if you are hearing differences via playback on CD, the issues are with how the data is read by a CD player. Could the method of CD oversampling come into play?

  20. peter

    peter Forum Resident

    I only have 2 SHM cd's, the Deluxe Sell Out and the re-issue of the Derek & the Dominos Layla 20th Anniversary 3-CD set. I think they both sound very nice. In particular, I think the Layla (I have only played disc 1 -the regular Layla album) sounds appreciably better in that it ameliorates some of the harshness of the orig. CD version of this CD. I have to add that I have always liked this remix, not as a substitute, but as a complement to the orig. album. FWIW. YMMV.
  21. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    Here is the thread you are thinking of.

  22. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    It was "John Barleycorn Must Die". I also like the U.S. pressing. IIRC my pressing has the yellow circle with the palm tree and the Japan pressing has the U.S. disc with the "blue laser" logo. I like the tracks from the "palm tree" more than the tracks from the two CD "Smiling Phases". IMO naturally.

    I was looking at four different pressings of Bill Evan and Philly Joe Jones' "Green Dolphin Street" today. One was the SHM-CD. I don't know which masterings were used for any of these and left them on the shelf for now.

    FWIW, I like the "Kind Of Blue" Blu-spec more than the Hybrid SACD's redbook layer which, I assume, uses the same mastering. I also like the other mastering on the original SACD from '97 (you need tohear it on a good system to really hear it cook 'n simmer) and the 35DP for the original mix.
  23. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Forum Resident

    Greater St. Louis
    SHMs do sound different, but it is not always positive. They make some CDs sound too digital and perfect. I like most non-SHM versions, but some are good.
  24. DragonQ

    DragonQ Well-Known Member

    The Moon
    This just isn't true. It doesn't matter how many listening tests you do (even if they are double-blind), media does not make any noticable difference to sound quality. The only thing that could be affected is error rate. Hearing more clicks or whatever would be believable, hearing "better bass response" or "clearer mid-range" is just nonsense. People talking about off-centre pits on the CD changing the sound is also fairly unbelievable - this is digital media. If it did change the sound, you'd simply hear a load of clicks from where it couldn't read the data properly. It wouldn't alter the sound quality of the recording. Because this is a buzzing, great music forum with largely audiophile members, I am often surprised at the lack of technical knowledge displayed. I've already made a few posts about this in a similar thread so I suggest you have a read.

    Oh, so I see you've already disregarded any opposition by poking fun at those whose views oppose yours. And then you continue to say that your claims do not have scientific backup. All in all, this makes your thoughts look rather tenuous.

    Older CDs being thicker, more solid and resistant to scratches is a perfectly valid reason to choose them over a modern one with the same mastering. It's questionable if there's a significant price difference but they certainly do not sound different.

    Yes, media does matter, but not in terms of sound quality.

    Have you checked that they are the same mastering? If they are then either you have a really bad CD player or you have a vivid imagination.
  25. ShowsOn

    ShowsOn Well-Known Member

    I don't presume this. I think the quality of the mastering is far more important.

    I rarely even play CDs anymore. Everything I listen to is securely ripped, and is played back from a hard disc. So even if 24K gold or SHM made a difference, it wouldn't apply to me anyway.

    I think SHM is just another marketing trick to get people to buy the same albums with the same mastering all over again.
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