Computer Audio Takes Aim at CDs

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by Josh Ray on December 02 '05

 Issue22 Images Jitter
Here's a great article on why computer audio potentially gives the sonic "who's your daddy" to CDs. Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio, maker of the Off-Ramp and Freeway USB transports we covered earlier, explains why jitter (the little picture) makes CDs ultimately inferior. If you've ever wondered why a medium based on 1s and 0s has so many problems then this article is for you.

Simply, CDs not only contain the music information, but also the way the music should be played back. Jitter messes with the timing of the playback, causing all kinds of smearing and other nastiness. Jitter happens when the laser reads the CD as well as in the various digital to analog conversion processes that happen along the way.

Computer ripper programs like iTunes take the music off the CDs and bypass the jitter issues, extracting the information in multiple passes to make sure it all matches up correctly. Hard drives access the information in a much cleaner fashion and computer handling of the music is potentially vastly superior over traditional CD transports.

A must read, this article tackles most all questions surrounding the digital future and the death of the silver disc. Also check out our coverage of 6Moons Srajan's digi courtship, three hard drive servers, the stunning VRS Server room at VTV and the priced-to-move Firestone Fubar USB DAC.


Josh, First of all - very great site - on the top of my rss reader. Mr Nugent does go into very detail not just as a comparison of the type of storage - this article is a great technical source of understanding digital music. As you have said it is a must read for those who care. Even "iPod-wielding masses" might benefit. Thanks for covering. Cheers, Mike TheaterAtHome