Monday, March 25, 2019

Comparisons: Old School 1-Bit "Pulse" DACs VS their 24-bit Counterparts.

Hello, 2019.

Disclaimer Warning - Seriously
For all you Audiophiles here.
I'm not attempting to start a "Trigger Event" w/ this post. No matter what -please keep in mind that I'm honestly just attempting to share what information I found -with the results that I discovered with my 1st test comparisons.
OK - so now, some time back - I'm reading through some old audio magazines, right? Well, during the '90s, when the 1-Bit D/A converters hit the market, US-based Consumer Reports magazine tested dozens of different CD players.
Their Conclusion was that,
"All players had an excellent frequency response, reproduced sound accurately, & we found nothing to fault when testing for signal-to-noise ratio, distortion & speed accuracy. 
All had a negligible flutter, -zero audible hiss & no spurious tones that could be heard..."
They further stated that they could not perceive any differences in sound quality or reproduction between any of the player, regardless of the manufacturer or the price-point.
Therefore ( and I'm NOT making this up,)
"Sound Quality", was NOT EVER used as a performance factor in terms of rating or recommending, in the Overall Final Score, ANY particular disc player over another!
YES- you just read that correctly.
What I just stated is FACT.
Year after year, only a unit's features, track-finding speed, bump immunity & anti-skip performance was used to rate or recommend one machine over another. I found this info to absolutely incredible and quite frankly, simply mind-blowing.
Did I "believe it"?
Was it true that it was impossible to tell the difference between players analog outputs? With all the talk in different Audio Publications (like Stereo Review & WhatHi-Fi?) & different internet audio forums by so many different "experts" over which chip is "better" - I was now totally dumbfounded.
I openly and freely admit to having my own preference for the sound of a particular DAC - the 24-bit AKM4584,(For the record - NOT the one used in the Sony PlayStation!)
So we, my brother & I, decided to test some of these older players. 1st against each other, and then against their DVD player counterparts to see if we could hear ANY differences in those DAC's vs more modern Hi-Res 20-24bit DAC's
( for 2-Channel PCM Only ) All were tested using the same analog RCA interconnect cables ( Fusion AV's) and all players were plugged into my ONEAC ConditionOne Power supply.
We used tracks ( that also included vocals) other than the sample we recorded here, which was used in order to stay under the YouTube Copyright radar.
Forgoing the 5-6db volume output dropoff produced by the PlayStation,( which you really notice) I admit I was hard pressed to tell any of the difference in ANY the 1-bit "Pulse" players, like at all, except for One - the Pioneer PDM-423.
For some strange odd reason, Pioneer used a Toshiba Delta-Sigma DAC instead of their DAC - even though the unit clearly advertised "Pulseflow" on the front faceplate. (WTF Pioneer, WTF???).
This bastard of a Player sounds slightly different from similar machines manufactured by Pioneer that utilized the PD2026 1-bit DAC ( which may(?) have been produced by Nippon Precision Circuit, possibly based off their SM5864 DAC, but I've not been able to confirm that as fact.) This TC9268.DAC sounds slightly more forward, full-on, and more bassy.
(YES- You can actually hear this in the sample)
So at the time of the publication -
based on the hand-full of those older machines we have tested so far, we can actually begin to understand why CR took the position that they did. Besides - and let's be honest, how many people at that point in time actually tried out different CD Players to see how that particular one sounded at home??
I have to report, however, that I did hear Extremely Fine differences between the older players and their DVD players counterparts. I found it interesting The Toshiba DVD player with its 192kHz/24 bit DAC sounded way more relaxed.
( Again -using the word "differences" here on purpose, as opposed to using words such as "better" or "worse", as that is not only subjective to one's personal taste -but truth be told - would also depend of how that particular player integrates with the rest of the gear ( receiver, or amp & speakers) in your personal playback system.
For the record, we conducted all of our critical listenings test via headphones. We never tested more than 3 players head-to-head at once ( or during a single day) therefore attempting to prevent listening fatigue from setting in.
Disclaimer - we are Not comparing Higher Resolution samples here, only the same PCM sample on different players. And Yes- before anyone screams - "Well, my God man, you guys didn't include the Philips / Marantz DAC, or the JVC PEM DD DAC," or the whatever, rest assure those are going to be tested next in the second round of player comparisons.
( YES- I realize YouTube compresses the PCM File down to MP3 - but you can still hear differences.)
Here is the link to the 1st round of player comparisons, which included my personal Pioneer DVL-700 DVD/CD/Laserdisc Combo. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Star Wars - The CAV Widescreen Special Collection Edition

Laserdisc SF148-1196

 It' hard to believe - but it was 30 years this week when the 1st Widescreen version of "Star Wars" was released by CBS/Fox in Japan on a Standard Play CAV Laserdisc. 
It was known simply as the 
"Special Collection".
Almost three more years would come to pass before this film would finally get a widescreen release on Laserdisc in the U.S.

Using the same print master as the previous editions, as all the exact same print flaws are present, the 2.35:1 image is shifted up on the screen to make room for the subtitles below. 
The film was spread over five sides on three discs. 
Front Cover Art / Design .

Widescreen CAV version from Japan VS The Pan & Scan US release.
The same print was used, however The Special Collection featured PCM Digital sound.
  It is identical to the previous Pan & Scan  CAV Standard Play US release issued a year earlier by CBS/ Fox in 1985 in that the scene breaks on each disc occur at exactly the same points in the film. 
Different end bumpers where utilized on these releases.
Many fans of George's Original Unaltered Trilogy -to this day consider this the best available consumer home video version of the film.  This disc was bought in an attempt to verify if (?) this myth is indeed true. Please keep in mind that there are many factors to consider.
1. Resolution:
    Keep in mind w/ the black bars in place
                       this release is limited to 240 lines resolution.
2. Color saturation: 
     Both color level's and tones are truer to the original film release
                       than the other widescreen release.
3. Contrast:
     This is the BRIGHTEST overall widescreen release available.
                    However - contrast is the lowest.
                    This works best for older - darker tube TV's.
                     ( also works well for small Plasma sets.) 
                    Keep in mind- modern releases of film on DVD & Blu-ray's
                     are designed to be displayed on modern LED monitors- 
                      which are much bright & lack the black level's of older tube sets.
                      More on this later. 
4. Sharpness & "noise" level:
    Since this release lacks the DNR used in The Definitive Collection / Faces Edition and the film was never transferred to Digital Video before being transferred to LVD, so, therefore, it lacks both the video noise ( from the digital tape) & smear introduced by the DNR that was utilized in those releases. That's not to say that this release lacks noise.  
 5. Overall image results: 
TRUTH be told - STRICTLY in terms of Image Quality - 
                         this may not be a fair comparison to other releases.
                         That's because my very used copy of this release 
                         was NOT  still in the best of shape.
                          Sides 1-4 showed signs of degradation and rot.
                          Only side 5 seemed NOT to have any issues.
                          Therefore going to reserve final judgment till the opportunity to view and unopened / perfectly stored pressing.
  WARNING: Don't hold your breath. 
Then again - it's me- so you never know.

Running Time
27min 10sec
22min 06sec
22min 21sec
25min 19sec
24min 49sec
121min 49sec

 Anyhow - here's the story the chart doesn't tell.
All Images sourced from Laserdisc & DVD's
   are copyright © 1977, 1985, 1986, 1993, 2006  
   Lucasfilm Ltd. Fair Use Law applies for review purposes
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107
   Copyright Act 1976
  No copyright infringement intended.

Disc One:
As mentioned:
 The film image on this pressing has been shifted up
in order to make room for the subtitles.  
I wonder what could possibly come next? 

This copy of this release has many issues besides the many flaws that are present in the film itself - like dirt & scratches.
 The one major flaw  that really stands out
 is all the glue lines in the negative between scenes.
 There are many of them. Here is an example.

There is
also much
"noise" & additional
"artifacts" on disc

Here is the same frame from The Definitive Collection Disc.
for comparison:

Based upon this image - TDC looks better right?

Side 1:
Found NOT to be true in all cases.  Witness this frame.
Noticed green colored "noise"
From The Definitive Collection

The "noise" level was worse here on "The Definitive Collection" Disc !
As a matter of fact - 
notice how bad the upper left hand corner of the image looks.
Now- as everyone knows -
the scenes where the droids exit the excape pod &
 part ways is in really bad shape ( the film - that is.)
 Not even going to review it here -
cause that scene could be an article by itself.
Therefore moving to the end of the side 1.

Disc 1. Side 1 ends here: 
just after the famous Binary Sunset scene - 
after R2 has run - I mean - has rolled away -
as the image fades to black. 

If ( ?)  you own this release - and your disc doesn't suffer from
rot and video noise - please contact me.  
I therefore decided to compare the image to the Pan & Scan version -

Guess what?
The image was darker -
and the noise level ( and disc rot) 
were just as bad, or even worse as
disc one ended.

Here is the 2006 Definitive Collection Edition Bonus DVD. 

From this
 You can see how the
 Special Collection
 Image above
 is brighter.  

For shit's and giggles -
The 2004 DVD SE release made from the "restored" negative / new print - 

Even darker still.
Was this done in order
 to hide
  the low image

For reference :
Here is a scan of a printed shot of that scene - 
taken further away  @ a slightly different angle

Looks like they utilized plenty of light.....
when they filmed it. 

So- even with its low resolution -
poor film quality and poor disc condition -
this scene that ends disc one of 
The Special Collection may (?) yet still be  truer to the way
                               it was filmed than any other release. 
  DISC 1 / Side 1 Chapter titles:
1. Opening: Star Destroyer & Blockade Runner
2. The Planet Tatooine; C3PO & R2 
3. Luke Skywalker

Side 2:
Fade up from black to this image:
Like the closing image of side 1
 - there is much noise.

There seems to be a band of "green noise" right through the middle of the image. Like previously stated - maybe this is just this used copy? -
  The image may be beginning to break down due to the disc's age?
 Who knows how / or under what type of storage conditions
the previous owner kept the disc? Then again -
 maybe all of the copy's look this bad?

The scene where R2 gets shot by the Jawas on The Special Collection
Contains the bright day I remember.
Unlike the changes in  "The Special Edition" - this scene
 "occurs" when both Suns are still high in the sky -
as it is daytime,  and not sun - er, suns set. 


Side 2 ends here:
  Han : "Those guys must really be desperate.
  This could really save my neck. 
  Getback to the ship and get her ready".



DISC 1 Side 2 Chapter Titles:
1. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight
2. Death Star: Grand Moff Tarkin &
                        Lord Darth Vader
3. The Bar of Cantina ; Han Solo

Sidebegins here:
Ben: "You'll have to sell your speeder."

in the

Compare the above image to The Definitive Collection Version.
The 2006 TDC Bonus DVD
Here there is less green video noise - and better color.

Side 3
 ENDS here:
The frames leading up to the end of disc
looked better than those images at the end
Makes you wonder? 

DISC 2 Side 3 Chapter Titles
1. The Bar of Cantina ; The Bounty Hunter
2. Millennium Falcan ; Jump to Hyperspace
3. Destroy of the Planet Alderaan
4. Monster Chess and Light Saber
5. Toward Death Star

Side 4
begins here:
Han: "This is not going to work."


and ends here:
This frame NOT taken from the Special Collection LD.
Scene was more meaning after viewing "Rogue One"

     DISC 2 Side 4: Chapter Titles
1. Rescue of Princess Leia
2. Obi-Wan Vs. Darth Vader
3. Escape: Battle against TIE Fighter

4. The Planet Yavin

Bet you the thought -
 " then the Laserdisc Player being used must just suck"
  has already crossed your mind by now - right?
 Why else would these results look so poor?
 Well, IF this was a CLV disc - ( One hour - extended play )
 you may well have a point. However -
 a modified Industrial Pioneer LD-V8000 is being used here- 
and while it's CLV performance w/ motion smear IS indeed lacking -
 it's picture quality w/ CAV Laserdisc is normally rock solid.
It certainly may not be THE Best LD player ever manufactured -
( heck - it's not even in the top five )
but if you bought this thing back in the early 90's -
 you could have done a lot worse - 
 as there were only a handful of players at that time that could top it.
More on this later.

 For now -  
  DISC 3.

DISC #3 - Side 5 Starts here:

almost w/ a "Flash" of light, as for some unknown reason
   the Death Star "glows" a little bit brighter on the 1st  couple of frames
   before it somewhat "settles" down a bit -
   ( again - THIS is the Brightest Release of all the Widescreen disc.)

The Image is somewhat darker on TDC disc.

Here is where things get interesting w/ DISC 3:
Starting @ about this point -
Still not perfect - but looking better.

The image just slowly continues to improve.

 Then IT happens !
 Before you know it - there it is:
 The Star Wars That I Used to Know.

 It doesn't even look like this image is from the same pressing.
 One could only image what it must have felt like to have this back in 1986.

       Further on into the disc - and all the green noise just about disappears
       Click on IMAGE to ENLARGE
        (Chapter Marker / Frame Index Display turned on for reference) 


This image pushed the blue color to look over bright -
        but you can still see the actor's eye through the lens in the mask.

Here is a frame from TDC.
 Again - it's a little darker w/ slightly different color tint.

Than a funny thing happens towards the. THIS:
I don't remember this scene ever containing that much green.
So again - for reference - I check the TDC.

Some Green - but mostly blue.

Then take a look at the regular SE "remastered " 2004 DVD

Even more blue tint.
Notice the matte painted soldiers of the far left & right have been replaced.

                            So - upon referencing the 1985 Pan & Scan Laserdisc -
        ( other than being cropped - this image should be absolutely identical )
The 1985 Pan & Scan Standard Play (CAV)  US release.
 But it's not identical. However - this is the way I remember it - 
which is the reason why the Widescreen version just stood out.
So it must be this disc itself - as the video itself it sourced from both
 the same print and same master tape.

   DISC 3 Side 5 Chapter Titles
1. Briefing about attack  Death Star
2. Dog Fight
3. Ending

 does the world's 1st Widescreen release of Star Wars on Home Video 
 really manage to still be the BEST version of Lucas's Original
 Unaltered Masterpiece after 30 years ? 

 Hard to judge. The 1st 4 sides of the copy used in this review have 
already starting to show signs of degrading and contained light rot -
 either due to age or  more likely than not- improper storage conditions.
So they get dismissed.

Disc 5 / Side three however makes a strong case.
Like the 1985 Pan & Scan release before it -
it's extremely bright - and contains many flaws in the print
(the way you remember it - before it was cleaned up and restored. )
IF (?)  you still happen to be using either a  CRT Projection TV and /or  
a standard or HD conventional tube set just to playback these old Laserdisc -
( like an old school Sony Trinitron Flat tube) then 
THIS may very well be THE disc for  you.
Mark Hamill & Carrie Fisher
Star Wars Image sourced  from 1985 Pan & Scan CAV Laserdisc

The brighter releases really work well with those darker monitors - 
( as they were designed to do back in their day )
and they may (?)  even do well when displayed on a small 42" Plasma. 
On a modern flat screen LED HD digital panel however - 
believe it or not - it was the somewhat hated
 2004 Bonus DVD copy of  the D-1 Mastertape
 that was previously used to produced both the "Faces" Laserdisc
 and "The Definitive Collection" Box set before that -
 which really yielded  the best overall picture performance.
 The difference in sound quality, on the other hand -
 is an altogether entirely different story.


About how these images were captured
(without getting technical.)
Unlike most DVD players today -
 a Laserdisc player itself can adversely effect image quality. 
While  the best way to transfer the Laserdisc to video -
is just to import the signal directly to a computer -
currently we lack both the capture card &
 the software needed in order to do so. 
Besides, that's a lot of space on the hard drive to use.
Therefore a Pioneer Elite DVD Recorder
 was utilized in order to capture the
 frames displayed on this page. 

Back to back results:
 Pioneer LVD Player video out via direct connect

plugged into an

Conditioner One
Power Supply
and Tripp Lite

A Special Thank You to Kevin Kobos
 @ The Good Squid in Japan for
    The Star Wars "Special Collection" Laserdisc reviewed here. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Original Star Wars film reels

Where to begin?                                               
That's the question I find myself asking 
as I was preparing to do a retro review of George's Unaltered Original Widescreen release of Star Wars on the big old shiny Laserdisc - 
( remember them?)
 on the very weekend
 Rogue One is debuting
 in theatres worldwide.

So here I am  thinking about  how
 I'm going to tackle this project -
 What angle am I going to take ?
 How shall I  approach this-  
and what will my review reveal to my average reader 
that hasn't already been discussed  many times before?
 What it is it about this release of the movie,
  that they may not already know? 
Well, as it happens,
 as I reviewed the Laserdisc chapter's menu's -  
   a question came to mind.

When George and company decided to release the now 
infamous "Star Wars Trilogy - The Definitive Collection" -why for the love of Money didn't they correct a major flaw in the previous 10 year old Standard Play CAV LaserVideo Disc release? 
No- I'm not referring to anything that has to do with 
color timing and / or "special effects".
I'm referring to how many disc were used to
transfer the print to Laserdisc.
I mean--
Star Wars was a six reel print, 
and there are two sides to each disc- six total sides
on the three discs - right?
So why not release the film true it's theatrical version - 
and only transfer 1 reel to each side? That way -
 the Home Video release matches the original film - 
the way it was distributed & shown in theatres? 

Granted - a reel change could(?)
 end in the middle of a scene - 
 and that does occur at one point in this print -
 during the Trash Compactor scene -
 but then again I've experience worse scene breaks
 with other films between side changes on Laserdisc 
than what occurs in the 35mm film version of Star Wars.  
 I wonder why the didn't leave the timing cues in place 
on the home video releases? 
Today  "prints" are a thing of the past - 
but in 1993 -  this was still all SOP in the film distribution &exhibition industry.

  I guess I can kind of forgive the original 
1983 CAV release for only using 5 sides for the film -
  leaving the sixth side blank
 ( as Insane as that sounds ), cause you know, really, 
how many people had a Laserdisc player in 1983?
Maybe someone @ Fox or Pioneer didn't want you to
have to get up and flip the damn disc over yet one more time? 
However, by 1993 -
there was a explosion ( pun intended)  of
 LD player's onto the market
 - featuring LPCM Digital sound & some - 
such as the Pioneer CLD-D702 
even had Jog & Shuffle and both side play ! 
    Unlike the 1983 pressing -
 which Pioneer / Fox had control over -
 the 1993 version was spearheaded by Lucasfilm itself,
 through it's newly developed THX Laserdisc Program -
 designed to "elevate the home video & audio experience....
  to an unprecedented level!"  
 So now - it begs the question: 
  Why the hell not?
   Now- I know someone out there, as they read this, 
   is thinking they know the answer, 
cause bet you a buck
 you are thinking it's all Cost related - right? 
Well - in this huge 9 disc set -
 which retailed for $249- 
( & that's in 1993 dollars !!!) 
mainly due to it's shipping weight -
 cause someone thought it was a great idea to included
 that large, heavy, hard-bound "All about George" book
  in this release. Now That ! was the real cost.
 An addition disc would have only added about another 
$10 bucks to the cost, so I'm not buying it.
 And I didn't - 
      at least not till years later- and used, not @ retail.  
Had they simply left out the book- 
I bet it would have save us $50 bucks.

 So I guess now I have my angle -
 not just for this article,
but also for the addition review I'm going to write
 about the other CAV Widescreen release - 
The Special Collection Edition from Japan. 

  This is for those of you whom -
 as many times as you have seen the original Star Wars, 
 either on Laser, Beta, VHS, or via DVD, 
missed seeing the original film during it's many theatrical runs - 
and would like to know where each reel of film ends
 & where the next one begins. 

For reference - I'm going to compare where each real ends - and the next one begins - with where they can be found on the Definitive Collection LD, and it's DVD counterpart - the Bonus Disc from the 2006 Limited Edition - which was sourced from the same D-1 Master tape. yes- the FACES Edition was also sourced from the same Master- however- it's CLV & contains fewer Chapter Markers ( only 38 Vs. the DVD's 50 Vs. TDC's  82 !)  If all you own is a VHS copy, I'm sorry. I'll note running times.  Keep in mind that this is not technically the last frame on the reel - as the second timing cue ( which last 4 frames ) is placed @ about one second ,  at 22 frames, before the end of the reel.

                                 NOW - to it's credit, The Def. collection did manage
                                    to get at least one disc correct. Disc Five.
                                           ( Disc 4 ends @ the end of film reel 5.)         
Disc 5 contains only the Sixth reel of film. 

REEL 1 :
The award winning reel one comes to end just as R2 & 3PO
 follow Luke down into the garage as the image  Fades to black.
This is the one timing cue in which I had to used the 16mm frame for a reference,
  & this is the 1st timing cue of the two - which appears 8 seconds
      ( or 174frames ) before the reel's end.

TDC Disc 1. Ch. 14
REEL 2 Begins.
Disc 1. Ch. 15

This reel change occurs @ 18:35 seconds -
                                            end of Chapter 8/ Beginning Ch. 9. on the DVD.
REEL 2 ends here: 
Tarkin: ... "We will then crush
        the Rebellion with one swift stroke"

TDC Disc 2 Ch. 23.

 REEL 3 begins here:
                   Disc 2 - Ch.24                         

                                                           This reel change occurs @ 36:01 seconds -
                                                              end of Chapter 16 & exactly @ Ch. 17.


     REEL 3 ends

on Disc 3, Ch. 1


        REEL 4 begins:   

Disc 3, Ch. 2

                                           This reel change occurs @55:52 in Chapter 27

REEL 4 ends :

Disc 3 Ch. 14

Reel 5 begins:
   Disc 3. Ch. 14

                                               This reel change occurs @ 1:16:08 @ the end of
                                                      Chapter 34 / Beginnings of Chapter 35
                                                         "I've got a bad feeling about this."

Reel 5 ends :

Disc 4. Ch. 27

Reel 6 begins

Start Disc 5 Ch. 1


                                               This final reel change occurs @ 1:38:34
                                           @ the end of Ch. 43 & exactly @ Ch. 44 mark
                                                     just after Han says to Luke
                                                   " May the force be with you."                                                                                    

   The 1st image for the reel one wasn't taken directly from film - 
            it's sourced from The 2006 Bonus DVD of the Definitive Collection.
           ( Along with the 1st frame of each following reel.)  
    The timing cue was digitally added to the 1st frame.
     The frames displayed showing all other timing cues were sourced 
             from the  Star Wars: 35mm Silver Screen Theatrical  print restored
             by  Team Negative1.
     The frame used to represent chapter 17 on the 2006 BONUS DVD
      has been changed from the image used in the official release. 
     The image used here to represent chapters 27 & 28 in the 2006 Bonus DVD
      menu has been digitally edited together.