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Data CD vs Audio CD

By Choppit ·
I was recently engaged in a conversation with an audiophile who claimed that he could hear the difference between audio tracks recorded on CDs specifically designated for Audio and those designated for Data.Putting aside the fact that hearing accuity declines with age (this guy is 50) and that I have a reasonable amount of respect for him technically, my point is as follows. A digital copy is bit for bit perfect (i.e. identical) yet his argument seems to suggest that audio CDs are of a higher quality and therefore less prone to errors. If this is the case then surely the data CDs should be of higher quality, as the integrity of audio data is less critical that of data. Does anyone have an explanation to back his claims?

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by TheChas In reply to Data CD vs Audio CD

There are a number of myths and superstitions within the audiophile community.

Some do have a basis in fact, and can be scientifically explained.
Others, while potentially valid, cannot be scientifically explained with present methods.

Among the valid beliefs are:

Tube amplifiers sound better than transistor amps.
True if the amps are driven into an overload condition.

LPs, (records) sound better than CDs.
True with a quality LP, and expensive playback equipment.
The audio CD standard makes far too many compromises for proper audio reproduction.

Different interconnect cables sound different.
True because the high end audio cables create a complex filter network with the devices they are connected to.

Now, back to the audio versus data CD.

Audio CDs sell at a premium price as compared to data CDs. This automatically makes them "better" in the eyes of the audiophile community.

On the technical side, there are a few potential issues using data CDs for digital audio.

Many stereo component CD players are much more sensitive to the color of the CD reflective layer than a CD-ROM drive.
Further, many players have problems with the tighter track spacing of 700MB CDs versus 650MB CDs.
A data CD may indeed generate more read errors on an audio CD player and cause the error correction to work harder which can result in "sonic irregularities" in the audio.

Then there is "jitter". Jitter is a defined difference in digital audio. Basically, jitter is a catch all term for any timing irregularity in the data stream.
After techniques were developed to measure jitter, the sonic differences between some CD players could now be identified and measured.

I would not be surprised if a CD recorded at say 52X had more "jitter" than a CD recorded at 8X.

Assuming that there are audible differences between an audio CD and a data CD blank, I suspect that they are less related to the quality of the media, and more relate to differences in how the media is written to, and how the playback device reads the media.


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