Author Topic: In God's Country  (Read 4717 times)


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In God's Country
« on: November 01, 2019, 10:01:57 AM »
In God’s Country

With all the hoopla surrounding the JT30 tour and the usual concern about sound quality issues, I searched around an old drive and found a piece I'd written a few years ago after I had geeked out with my stereo system at home trying to get various rips from my PC to sound at their best through my stereo system. I've edited this old piece of literature to bring it up to date without losing any of its old world charm.

This was at a time back when I had just purchased a tube/solid state integrated amp with a built in hi res D/A converter. I believe the time was shortly after the release of the Joshua Tree remastered deluxe package. I shuffled furniture around and had a 30 foot long digital wire dangling threateningly from living room to dining room. This made it difficult (and treacherous) to walk from the living room (in my palatial living quarters) to the servant's quarters. I had to give the servants the day off.

I don't remember exactly what the name of the wire was that I used but it ran from my laptop digital out to my amp/converter therefore bypassing the standard PC D/A converter, using instead its own hi-res converter.  This was supposedly going to get me cleaner sound so I could better ascertain which rips sounded better. I would be listening through my new speakers.

slaneman justifies new speakers

Sound easy?

First, some disclaimers. I don’t listen to very much studio U2 unless I must. I’ve always preferred live, no matter if poorly recorded or performed. Yet I’ve had to listen to many studio tracks for transcription purposes on the U2songs site. After all, I had to justify the high salary Aaron paid me. Unfortunately that salary was not enough to support my flamboyant lifestyle hitting the clubs in Ibiza every night.

Since this following listening procedure (probably a total waste of time) seemed like it would require many listenings, I needed a short but catchy U2 track, one I could live with. I chose one of my favorites, 'In God's Country'. I knew from experience I was facing several days or weeks of ohrwurm. Medicare doesn’t cover that malady.

So voila...

In God’s Country album versions from iTunes, CD, vinyl, cassette, and DVD. Which sounds the best?

These are all the same studio version. Only the formats are different. There should be clearly audible differences or the electronics industry has been lying to us.

I tossed the following rips in a folder and used Foobar and Itunes as players. Some could argue that one has to use a CD player, cassette deck, and turntable to get a real test. What is this, the 20th century?

Here's what I used:

128 kbs from the Complete U2 iTunes Album version
AAC Mastered for iTunes Album version
Flac rip of US Cassette Album version
Flac rip of CA Cassette Single version
Flac US CD (1990) Studio version
Flac US CD Re-mastered (2007) Studio version
Flac rip of US Vinyl 7-inch Single version
Flac rip of US Vinyl 12-inch Single version
Flac rip of CA Vinyl 12-inch Single version
Video version straight from DVD in deluxe remastered (2007) set

I’m not a collector. This is probably just a small sample from the possible recordings.

U2 collector discussing life

Initial Results

First off the video version is faster than all the others and was quickly eliminated. I enjoy a fast tempo live version but not a studio one when all the others are normal speed. It also sounded a touch muddy.

Top 2 versions for me were the rips of the vinyl versions and the 1990 CD. The re-mastered CD from 2007 was just louder. Basically I don't care for remastering unless it is very tastefully done. The 128KBS from the iTunes first release of the Complete U2 was weak sounding. The “mastered for Itunes” was better than the 128K but just not up to the vinyl rips.

If I had to choose one it would be the rip of the US 12-inch because I liked the sound of Adam's bass line best. That bass line makes the song for me.

By the way, listening on headphones can be entirely different. One just has to assume that to the ears of an audiophile any little thing can make an audible difference that may prove life changing.

Later I tried a different set up-

Listening with $150 Sennheiser headphones straight from my PC using Foobar as a player. This should approximate a standard listening system, depending on headphone setup. This should be better than earbuds from your iPhone. I’m not a fan of earbuds. I have 5 different brands of headphones lying around besides the Sennheisers.

Headphone Results

Most listeners realize that listening thru headphones is not the same experience, pro or con, as listening thru speakers. Most likely the average listener (whoever that is) couldn't tell the difference between any of these except the sped up video rip. I had a hard time myself despite many listens to each. I tried 5 different types of headphone and a pair of those lousy earbuds that used to come with the old iPod Classics.

I wouldn't bet a dime on identifying any version by headphones. Only by speakers.

slaneman discusses test results with friend

By the way, I had Blue tooth cans when they first came out hooked into my iPod Classic back in the day when I rode Metro rail and bus to work every day. I was quite the hipster sporting headphones with no wires to my iPod. With all the outside noise it didn't matter what you had.

More Yak

A friend once lent me some of his headphone gear for a week. He was suffering from audiophilia (made up word) at that time. It consisted of a tube headphone amp and a pair of 1000 dollar headphones. I'm not naming brand names because I just don't remember. The headphone amp weighed 30 pounds and it took 2 of my servants to help me set it up next to my laptop. I don't remember what it cost but my friend was a regular on the forum so it was probably very expensive.

I was pretty disappointed at the time. Sure, those phones from a dedicated tube amp sounded nice but not for that money. The difference over my cheap phones from my PC was minimal.

Guess I need new ears. In fact, new advances in beaming...not streaming...may bypass ears and go directly into our brains...

Here's a peek into the future of high end audio enjoyment

A peek into the future of high end audio
« Last Edit: November 01, 2019, 10:29:34 AM by slaneman »