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Krakow Sonic Society

Meeting #115: BRIPHONIC
Or: crazy ride
And also – the case of music files

Briphonic/Nippon Sogo Seisaku Co., Ltd.
Sakakibara Bldg. 1-28-14 Nishi-Ochiai
Shinjuku-ku Tokyo 161-0031 Japan


udiophiles love gadgets - we know that, right? Regardless of how much we would rationalize it, try to explain this weakness, we are particularly susceptible to logotypes, descriptions of techniques, new technologies, stories. But just because it is so common phenomenon is not worth to fight it, or to pretend to be something that we are not. Let's put it plain and simple: the so-called "price tag" is just as important to us as it is for those sitting at the catwalk during the Milan Fashion Week.

And the manufacturers know our weakness and try to use it - it is also completely normal. We are therefore interested in novelties, fascinated by their uniqueness, buying, for example, say fifth edition of a CDs that we already have and know in hope that it will be THE RIGHT one and, implicitly, THE ULTIMATE edition. Often it turns out that it is worse then the ones we already have, or just as often that it's just different; real differences are rare. Of those I know, it is worth mentioning the techniques known under the acronyms XRCD, HQCD, SHM-CD and BSCD2.

In this context Briphonic appears a guest from another universe. This Japanese company records, mixes, masters and releases discs by itself and these are, one could say, model releases. I wrote about the treatments they use, their approach to the whole process and ways to get the best sound in the article titled Briphonic: the best there is in May this year (HF | No. 169). What is their secret? - Actually, there is no secret, just mere knowledge, experience and devotion to achieving results, although for most record labels they seem unattainable. It is simply that everything should be done in a correct way - from recording, through production, to the release of material. It is so simple and so difficult at the same time.

| Meeting

During Krakow Sonic Society meetings, we take a closer look at all the techniques that were mentioned, so listening to the Briphonic recordings was only a matter of time. I did not predict that it would transform into something more. And it was like this: this company releases its recordings both on CDs and on USB pendrives (files can also be downloaded from the company's store). In the aforementioned article, I presented two albums: Sentimental Reasons and MIWAKU, both played by the Mayo Nakano Piano Trio.

Although the final effect, that is the kind of release, is the same in both cases, they have been recorded in two different ways: The Sentimental Reasons is a disc recorded on an analogue multi-track recorder with 2" tape, mixed in analogue domain to the analog 1" master. From this master, digital CD copies and files were made in almost every available format: DSD 64, DSD 128, DSD 256, PCM (FLAC) 96/24, 192/24, 384/24, adding a video recording to it. In turn, the MIWAKU is available only as a CD and DSD 128 and DSD 256 files, and this is because it was a DSD recording made in the stereo DSD 256.

In the article, I described the differences between the four versions of CDs, leaving a comparison with the files for another occasion. The KTS meeting seemed to me a natural choice. Choice and execution are two different things. For a comparison to be reliable and for us to really listen to the comparison of formats and not devices - as much as it was actually possible - I had to meet several criteria. The first was to provide the same D/A converter for the CD player and for audio files transport. Secondly, I wanted the transfer of the digital audio signal from the file player to the DAC to be performed in the best possible way, preferably bypassing the USB link; I had similar requirements in relation to PCM files.

| Audio files transport – a selection

There are only a bunch of file players and transports that I know and respect, but none of these devices does meet the requirements for signal transmission mentioned above. Except for one: the Ayon Audio NW-T DSD. This device was conceived as a partner for D/A converters and CD and SACD Player made by this company. The DSD signal is sent from it using a professional 3 x BNC link in its native form, and the PCM signal can be sent via the I2S link, i.e. the transport is clocked by the DAC's clock. It just so happens that Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition that both I and Janusz, the host of KTS meetings, use, features both such inputs.

The combination of NW-T DSD and CD-35 HF seemed a natural choice. Even more so, because the transport in question has a significant advantage over others - it can be operated from both the front panel and the remote control, like a regular CD player. So we did not need to install a router and configure file transport. However, it has also disadvantages. One thing actually: it plays only DSD 64, and PCM files up to 192/24. Which means that we could not listen to the files from the MIWAKU album, and from the Sentimental Reasons we could use only DSD 64 and PCM 192/24.

The secondary disadvantage is that the USB input on the front panel only works with pendrives formatted in FAT16 and FAT32 - the Briphonic pendrives formatted in NTFS are therefore not supported. I had to copy the files to another pendrive. It should not have had any influence – a perfect digital copy – but still ...

| Meeting, or two in one

Once again, it turned out that the listening session would be just an introduction to something else - to listening to the files themselves. To introduce us to the subject, I prepared a selection of DSD files ripped from SACD discs using the Playstation console, which were to be compared with the SACD discs from which they were copied (Part I: DSD files). It was only after a longer listening session that we started comparing the Briphonic albums and a short comparison of the two songs from the Sentimental Reasons disc (Part II: Briphonic). In the first part, we discussed freely and asked participants of the meeting to send a summary of this part. I have recorded conclusions for the Briphonic recordings listening.

| PART I: DSD files


  • Blade Runner, soundtrack, reż. Ridley Scott, Atlantic Records/Audio Fidelity AFZ 154, „Limited Numbered Edition | No. 2398”, SACD/CD (1982/2013)
  • Art Pepper, …the way it was!, Contemporary Records/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2034, SACD/CD (1972/2008)
  • Dead Can Dance, Spiritchaser, 4AD/Beggars Japan WPCB-10078, „Audiophile Edition”, SACD/CD (1994/2008)
  • Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo/Mobile Fidelity Labs UDSACD 2099, „Original Master Recording, Special Limited Edition | No. 1808”, SACD/CD (1985/2013)
  • Nat ‘King’ Cole, Love is the Thing, Capitol/Analogue Productions, CAPP 824 SA, SACD/CD (1957/2010)

Janusz | Krakow Sonic Society

Unfortunately, my memory is very limited, to say the least, so let me share two or three things I felt quite strongly during the listening session. First of all: a decisive primacy of SACDs, that was clear immediately and without a shadow of a doubt. Bigger sound, better resolution, naturalness, attack. The files in comparison appeared to be flat, dull, the presentation focused, without "breath" and - above all – without proper attack.

Secondly: in one recording, I can't remember now which one, file was better, but again not by as much as in the case of the difference between the SACD and the file in the first point. Thirdly, as I recall, I only voted once for the draw, but I do not know what the comparison was about. In summary: as for me - there is nothing to talk about. I do not recall any other case when in such a short time after the track started, I was sure about the results of comparisons. Which is worth consideration.

Bartosz | „High Fidelity”/RMF FM

Although I could not stay for the second part of the meeting (i.e., the more important one), it turned out to be extremely valuable and interesting opportunity for me. To my surprise, my heart was conquered by DSD files, which I chose each time, even when all other KTS's members looked at me in shock and disbelief (or maybe even some were disgusted) ?).

I myself was surprised by such a turn of events, because until now I didn't really even considered such a way of listening to music. I thought it was a curiosity for the most crazy audiophiles and Japanese (it's probably the same), and also a great opportunity to simply earn obscenely large money for the sale of each copy of the album (please take a look at the price of the Blue Coast Records).

Every time DSD files captured me with their holistic approach to the music. These were not sounds mixed together, but MUSIC: dense, expressive and addictive every time. The presentation built by DSD files may not have had the widest sound stage, and its dynamics could not match the top CD or SACD releases. This, however, did not matter to me, because the latter lost (in my opinion) to DSD, when I assessed the impression as a whole.

What was most surprising to me was that despite their "organic" feeling, DSD files still offered many subtleties that audiophiles love. The discovery of the meeting was for me the way in which the Blade Runner by Vangelis files sounded like. The way the ambiance of the recording was built, a phenomenal presentation of deeper layers of the stage, an extremely fleshy sound: it all beautifully combined together, offering me an unforgettable spectacle.

However, to make it clear: I am not going to buy DSD files maniacally now. These are still quite uncomfortable when it comes to playback (not every DAC supports them) or "storing" (because of their size, and external disks - though getting cheaper constantly - still cost money), are also ridiculously expensive. With DSD files, as well as with SACDs, we never quite know what we're buying: is it something really recorded in this format, or a “half-product”, almost a cheat, that started its life as PCM, to be converted at the last minute to DSD.

Rysiek B. | Krakow Sonic Society

Thanks to our Host and Editor, we compared two digital sources and mediums. In my opinion it was the first and a small step to de-contruct the topic in an audiophile manner. Surely our organizer will describe the starting material and criticize it – so now let me share my impressions.

At the beginning, as usually, I was in the minority, and at the end of the listening session, the opposite was true - Janusz delegated me to "Bieszczady", and Jarek evaluated things differently. As I remember we tested the same material from five SACDs and their equivalents in the form of files. Already after the first material I had no doubt about which source I choose - "DISC, Gentlemen!"

Today, after years of listening, while assessing a recording I watch first of all for a wealth of colors and musicality. I associate musicality with swing and the "musical breath" of every instrument that pulsate, like the heart and breathe, like the body of each musician - surrounded by room's acoustics, or a studio's. It's some primary experience that can't be explained by reason.

Jarek was the first to direct my attention to it, he taught me how to listen to it - although today we sometimes differ in conclusions. Focusing on these two aspects, my verdict from the meeting is 4:0 for SACD and two draws. I still have too little data to evaluate this meeting reliably, so I put my hopes in Editor. After the first step, it's time to revisit to the topic more extensively - probably the devil audiophile is in the details ...

Wiciu | Krakow Sonic Society

In a few cases, it was difficult for me to distinguish SACD from a file, but in few other discs sounded better. Hence my conclusion: for file lovers there is good news, because already today not much separates file from the disc. The device that is capable of playing them does not feature any mechanical parts, so it is theoretically easier to control in terms of moving elements affecting the sound quality and more likely to break down.

For disc enthusiasts, the message is just as good: we're still holding on. It is still a bit better, but the opponent approaches the walls. It seems that due to other advantages, the future belongs to files, and CD lovers will come down to the reserve, as vinyl lovers have done. Panta rej - there was an era of vinyl, there was an era of the silver disc, now the era of the files is coming. If it is stored in the cloud, the entire library is available everywhere, where there is network coverage and we have a playback device at hand.

Jarek Waszczyszyn | ANCIENT AUDIO

It happened for the second time in my humble hi-end career. For the first time, almost 10 years ago, I played with a file player with SD cards reader, in SDMusA format. The files were ripped from a CDs and sounded better than from same CDs! A copy better than the original? I did try that with 20 different albums, in different systems, with different auditorium, so it was more then a suggestion.

And then nothing for a long, long time. Do you remember listening to the full dCS Vivaldi system? While listening to the CDs we tried also one track ripped to file from the disc and everyone shouted, not to torture their ears and to return to the CD.

And then we listened to Ayon. Finally, a replay! Finally, files ripped from the disc presented a better ordered space, breathing, multi-layering, independence of music events. A blow, a surprise. You know what? There is no worse art than predictable one. When I hear a piece in Ich Troje style, I know ten chords ahead. But when Coltrane plays, he surprises me every now and then. One time faster, one time slower. Once in tone, once outside it. Once a solid blow, but then silence.

OH! Silence! Music is the break between notes. Breath. Everyone probably noticed: the better the system, the darker the presentation, the less noise, more music. And now the question arises: why? Does the computer drive, used to rip discs, read something more from them, something that the player's drive is not able to transmit? Or maybe it's something completely different? And this is the beauty of high-end - more questions than answers.

Tomek | Krakow Sonic Society

In my opinion, the physical disc in most cases sounded clearly better than the file. Maybe for two albums I would be able to show the superiority of the sound from the file, which appeared either in the form of a better drive, or more beautiful colors, but the failure of the files on some of the albums was spectacular.

However, I have considerable concerns about the origin of the files we listened to. As a person who in his life personally ripped about 1.5 thousand discs to FLACs and murdered more than one CD reader in the laptop, I will say that the ripping hardware and software are of great importance. So I'm not sure if Playstation is the right ripping tool. I know that with SACD there is no other option but it would be ideal to compare the DSD file provided by the recording label to the physical SACD.

| SUMMARY – the first one

As you probably realize, I am a supporter of formats as such, because they organize the search and allow you to focus on the target, as well as a collector, focused on physical formats: CDs, LPs and SACDs. I have been listening to digitally recorded music for years, both in recording and mastering studios as well as at home. Still I'm not convinced that files are just as good as their physical counterparts. Why is it so, since the high resolution file is theoretically better than the CD and LP - I do not know. However, I must be honest with myself and my readers, so I am still looking.

Slowly, however, we are reaching the moment when it begins to be, even for me, interesting. However, many elements had to play their parts, software and hardware manufacturers had to learn a lot. The system we used at Janusz' to listen to files was really very good and the problem was only its limited compatibility with files and pendrives.

You have already read the comments of the participants of the meeting, so you know that they were split into two camps, which sometimes percolated - Rysiek, Janusz, Tomek and - to some extent - Wiciu, they were inclined to the fact that the SACD disc sounds better. In turn, Bartosz and Jarek took exactly the opposite position. Why?

These two presentations were quite different from each other. Files sounded warmer, darker, lower. They were more focused on the listening axis. But they also were less dynamics and calmer; in addition, they all sounded similar, while the SACD discs were more strongly differentiated. Both presentations, however, were really very good. The participants' assessment was therefore dependent on what they were looking for in music, not necessarily on the absolute quality of the sound.

In my opinion, in most cases SACD disc sounded better. However, these were not as big differences as in the past, and often I could only talk about what I liked more, and not what sounded better. Huge, huge progress!

| PART II: Briphonic

Mayo Nakano Piano Trio, Sentimental Reasons, Briphonic
CD | CD-R | Gold CD-R | Master Glass CD-R | PCM 192/24 | DSD 64

CD vs CD-R

Jarek | This time I agree with Janusz, that after the first bars played by the piano it was clear that the CD-R version had a much better reverb - we could hear a larger room and some pedals.

Tomek | I agree with Jarek, with the exception of information about pedals, I am not so familiar with this aspect. But the advantage of the CD-R version was clear. Maybe not huge, but worth the money.

Janusz | In my opinion, the differences were really important. The first thing that struck me was that the entire presentation of the CD-R was slightly moved away from the speakers. Better, larger space and depth were created. There was more information that made performance more friendly. It was simply more pleasant to receive.

Wiciu | These were not very big differences, although I could hear that there were different presentations. In the first version, I wondered for a moment whether it was definitely an acoustic piano, and in the second one it was clear. But again, for me the differences were minimal.


Jarek | We are moving forward - definitely there was more sound from the piano. The pianist would probably say that there is more ornaments and other elements. You can hear more of the pianist skills on the Gold CD-R.

Tomek | Unfortunately - this difference was beyond my perception, I can not say how these presentations differed from each other.

Rysiek | For me this time the difference is significant, with the Gold CD-R being much better. The richness of color, musicality, swing appeared - this CD started to play music, not sounds, it only started to draw me in emotionally. Already after the first three seconds I knew that I'd definitely choose this version.

Janusz | For the first time I agree 100% with Rysiek. The thing that struck me, after the first sound, was that the whole musical and sound event moved back behind the speakers line - it went deep. I saw that this event has a certain space, a place where it was recorded. Here I heard something that was not there before.

Besides, I heard something that my body liked. I do not know why this is happening, but when my body likes music, it means I do not want anything more and I do not want to waste time on something else. What we are fascinated with, it means tone, space and so on, it's nonsense, it has nothing to do with music. But I know that this is a way to the truth - and ultimately the music has to grab you and this is the real high-end.

Wiciu | I can not speak so beautifully, but I can say that I agree with Tomek in that - for me - these were not differences I was able to capture during one listening session. I am sitting in the best place and I have the impression that I am in Fatima, but in a group of those who can not see anything... Maybe because this album is very well produced, and for me every version is fantastic.

Gold CD-R vs Glass Master CD-R

Jarek | This time the difference was the largest. Already in the first chords one could hear the second instrument, that is, the room in which it was recorded. In certain chord sequences, it began to be equivalent to the piano. The moment when the drums came in was similar, but from the drums it was again a different performance. The sound with Master Glass was vivid, dynamic, quite different than with Gold CD-R. It is a pity that it costs so much and it is so fragile.

Tomek | In my opinion, the amount of information, audiophile subtleties you are talking about, there was too much of all of it on the "glass" version. The “swing”, that Rysiek spoke earlier about, and which was present on the Gold CD-R version, now got lost somewhere. It's just a very good recording, similar to the ones we listened to on the previous three versions, and that's why even the basic one was impressive. On the medium itself, apart from its collector's value or the form of capital investment, I would not allocate so much money.

It was different with the second song - this time the Glass Master sounded absolutely fantastic, just unbelievably good. I have to take back what I said earlier. Perhaps the "glass" disc requires a prolonged listening, but after the next song I have to say that the quality of this sound knocked me down. Damn, maybe it is even worth the 3500 zlotys in order to listen to something so good on a system of this class.

Rysiek B. | Another version and yet another progress. The first noticeable impression is the length of the piano's decay, the acoustic environment, which Jarek mentioned - I heard it as a "bigger" and more spectacular piano - all this clearly speaks in favor of the Master Glass CD-R version. Ultimately it was a gentler presentation and even more musical than the Gold CD-R version, and therefore pleasant to listen to. The music has lost some of its focus, but it has not lost its emotions. I choose the "glass" version.

Janusz | I have my own release on this medium - the Gould disc - but it's just one instrument. Here there are three and you can hear even better what is the advantage of the Glass Disc - that's what nobody talked about and nobody would, because these people do not know what they are talking about! They have good systems, phenomenal really, but their systems are not able to show it – namely a good system should not present space, details, subtleties, because it is – no offense - for children from the first grade.

Firstly and lastly it should convey the attack, the sound that comes out at a given moment and we should hear it at that moment. It's a sound attack. And Glass Disc shows it, and no previous version did.

Rysiek B. | It was just more enjoyable, somehow it sounded better physically, right?

Wiciu | Yes, that's exactly what it's all about. What Ryszard said was true. In my opinion, the overall improvement after switching from Gold CD-R to Glass Master CD-R was not big, but the "glass" version was more enjoyable, more pleasant, even though there was more information. It is finally a version with which the piano was just a big acoustic piano, I immediately felt that it was a big instrument. It sounded colder than before, but the whole presentation was more expressive, more accurate and therefore more natural. Like at a concert, where we can hear and see instruments – that's what I had with Glass Master.

Glass Master CD-R vs PCM 192/24 vs DSD 64

Jarek | Interesting, but there were not big differences between the two versions, although if I had to choose, I would choose a DSD file. I can not say exactly why - whether it's a matter of attack or a differentiation of the piano, I do not know.

Tomek | I wondered for a while about this and at first it seemed to me that the PCM version sounded better. Ultimately, after listening to all three versions and comparing them to the Glass Master version, I would point to the DSD version as the better one. From what we heard so far it was the best performance.

It was different with the second track - this time the Glass Master sounded absolutely fantastic, just unbelievably good. Again, I have to take back what I've said before. Perhaps the "glass" album requires a longer listening time, but after the next track I have to say that the quality of this sound knocked me down. Damn, maybe even 3500 zlotys would be worth spending to listen to something so good on a system of this class. After switching to DSD, I stopped having any pleasure in listening to this album, it was a less pleasant experience for me. Everything just became dull. I am very surprised and I have to give it up for the Glass Master CD-R and I wonder why the DSD file sounded so much worse - I will not even mention the PCM.

Rysiek B. | After listening to PCM vs. DSD comparisons, I had the impression that I like PCM more, but then I changed my mind and eventually I would choose DSD.

Ryszard B. | For the first time, I agree with Tomek so clearly. There was a significant difference between these presentations, in favor of the disc. The disc was full of colors, dynamics, diversity, emotions, it was addictive. DSD was bland, boring, dull and it was unacceptable. I emphasize the consistency of my choices, it can not be a coincidence that the disc was better than the file each time - for six comparisons in four cases disc was clearly better sounding, and in the two they would be equal, but provisionally. Now it was the last straw in this discussion and the Glass Disc finally exposed the problems of playing music from the file in favor of the superiority of the disc.

Janusz | It is not even about one presentation adding something and other missing something else. It's about what your body is perceiving - and for me, the presentation delivered by the Glass Disc is something that my body says "yes!" to. I just sort of turn off and stop thinking about presentation - higher, farther, wider, faster, and just listen. Because only music counts. Therefore, for me, there was a huge gap between the disc and the DSD file, I could not listen to the file.

| An overtime:
Mayo Nakano Piano Trio MIWAKU, Briphonic
Gold CD-R | Glass Master CD-R

Jarek | I do not know how you will do it Wojtek but try to catch the goose bumps on my hands with your camera. The Glass Master with this recording is phenomenal. For the first time today during this meeting I was simply shocked. I understand that the previous recording was recorded and mixed in analogue domain, but this one sounds much better - in the Glass version simply phenomenally. Both in terms of music and sound this version was better for me.

Wiciu | No, I liked the music on the first one too, and the sound was also very good - although the noise was much higher - but I agree - MIWAKU is fantastic. Anyway, with Gold CD-R MIWAKU it seemed to me that there also was some noise, and with Glass version it wasn't there anymore.

Jarek | You see – this gentle noise underneath are just brushes before they play harder - on Gold CD-R they were not particularly clear, and on the Glass Master they sounded like brushes, not like noise.

Rysiek B. | I liked the Glass Master version better. It is warmer, more musical, gentle, although I find less resolution in the sound of the piano. The previous version was more resolving. The Glass version, on the other hand, is warm, pleasant, physiological and make me want to listen to it.

Tomek | I also liked the "glass" version very much. I listened to this song and for the second time I have to apologize for everything bad I said earlier about Glass Master – ultimately it is worth every penny. Well, musically this album is much better. On this medium you can hear how it really sounds like.

Wiciu | Come on Tomek, there are some holes in your musical education - all you need to do is to remember the Penderecki's Polimorfia, Lutosławski's Quartet- that's what is there in the second track on the Sentimental Reasons album.

Tomek | No, thank you, I don't want to do that :)

Janusz | I will not agree with what my beloved friend Wiciu said - everyone has the right to express opinions. No offense - what are you talking about? After all, the Glass Master is something you listen to music with. You do not think about crap, you should just listen to music. You do not have to wonder what could be improved, but simply absorb the experience.

Rysiek B. | Actually, you're right, but the quality is necessary to achieve what you're talking about, what Tomek has proved when talking about an avant-garde piece that he could not listen to when played from the DSD file, and with the Glass Master he could, right? Poor quality simply makes you turn off the music.

Janusz | By the way, I will tell you something about the system. Ever since I have a Shunyata conditioner, I'm listening to a completely different sound - the difference is huge. Guys! - you should understand that for me music is the most important thing in life. I now experience something that can not be described. This is something I did not realize before. In 1973, my parents bought me the first system and for the second time I experienced something like this only after replacing the conditioner.

Thanks to Jarek from Audiofast, actually by accident, because we listened to the Vivaldi One Player back then, the conditioner stayed with me. I did not listen to anything for two days because I was so tired. I plugged it in and, after I heard it, for me, to be honest, it was a complete madness. I really tested many components in my system. Without this particular component you will never hear the sound you've heard here today in your system, believe me...

| SUMMARY – the second one

A comparison of different releases of Briphonic recordings showed the absolute superiority of the Glass Master version. Interestingly, to understand what it brings and to accept it took longer than in case of other "inventions". Not because the differences were small, and because it's such a different sound. So good that even the same file listened from DSD 64 or PCM 24/192 files did not move anyone anymore. The price is crazy, but it is the peak achievement of the Compact Disc technique.

Interestingly, once again it turned out that the MIWAKU album, although digitally recorded, sounds better than the Sentimental Reasons. Is it a shorter recording chain - a mix right away to a stereo DSD 256 file - or a different approach, I do not know. Everyone after the first bars of the piano from MIWAKU looked at each other, and then just listened, in silence.

So it turns out that this limited, old digital format offers the highest-quality sound, if the disc was properly prepared. Paradoxically – this comparison made files look better – they still do not offer an absolute sound – but their advantage is ease of access, lower prices than specialist SHM-SACD and Glass Master releases, as well as ease of use. However, for them to make sense, we have to meet several conditions, among which the connection with the D/A converter seems to be the key one.

The most important information, probably for all participants of the meeting, is that one can finally compare files and CDs seriously, looking for the best performance. And who knows, maybe after the next meeting it will turn out that we will start looking at devices such as Ayon Audio NW-T DSD with envy.