A=440 Hz versus A=432 Hz controversy

The question is to Ted or Paul,

Taking this controversy aside and all the politics involved, would it be possible to implement within the DS DAC a circuitry which would allow to listen to each piece of music, say, by flipping a switch, as if it was recorded with reference A note at 432 Hz, rather than A=440 Hz, current worldwide standard? I know, it can be done, question is, could a new generation (or better yet, software) of DirectStream DACs implement that?
My best regards to both of you.
happy DS DAC owner, as is, looking to be even happier… :slight_smile:

Certainly the DC firmware could be written to lower the pitch of everything by 1%. I suspect it would need to be dedicated to the purpose and one would not be able to switch from one to the other other than to reload the firmware of choice.

Regardless of how it was accomplished, it would take a good deal of resources to accomplish with limited user interest. Thus, it seems highly improbable to occur.

There are CD players which provide variable pitch, as well as software. I would look for a software player which will feed the DS with a lower pitch data stream.

Expanding on Elk’s response:

Taking your question at face value: maybe not for DSD - it requires significant resources to upsample by 54 and then downsample by 55 on a 2.8224MHz (or 5.6448MHz) signal. Doing say an upsample by, say, 6, down by 5, up by 9, down by 11 would lessen the resources but might affect the depth of soundstage - any such processing would probably hurt the sound quality a little (very likely more than any real benefit of changing the pitch.)

Another approach would be to do an “arbitrary” ratio upsampler which would require somewhat more resources but would allow a “knob” to change the pitch. If it would fit in the FPGA I’d lean toward this approach so that people can hear for themselves the true effect of raising and lowering the pitch of music.

FWIW 440 may be semi-standard, but playing with a precise A-440 turning is much less common than one might think. If you are a purist about 432, you’d better start doing a whole lot of research to figure out the true A pitch of any given recording… Another point is that resampling after the fact doesn’t give the same tonal results as retuning the orchestra before the recording (which stresses some instruments more and others less.) For example retuning the orchestra higher helps with the tone of strings, going down to 432 may likely have an unexpected negative result (at least unexpected to those that think there’s something magic about 432.)

For those that haven’t encountered some of the weirder “reasons” for not using 440 this post mentions a few: https://jakubmarian.com/the-432-hz-vs-440-hz-conspiracy-theory/

Thanks, Ted

Dear Ted and Elk,
Thank you very much for your kind, extensive and informative comments. I could not reply and thank you earlier, as I was driving my wife, a mother of three, with our children around, celebrating the Mother’s Day.
Indeed, I could have been too easily taken by a few Internet articles on the subject matter. I was particularly excited after taking some blind audio quiz on four short tracks pairs, each pair containing identical passage of music recorded with both A-440 and A-432, played back in, initially unknown, sequence. I consistently preferred segments corresponding to A-432 and the difference was audibly better to my ears, as played on my computer. I could not tell, if those tracks were not purposefully modified for a reason, albeit no indication, or link to another site with a commercial interest could be found. Nevertheless, a software allowing for the pitch adjustment, including freely downloadable implementations, can be found (e.g. https://www.432player.com/) and might allow for the experimentation.
My apology for a hasty suggestion of non-trivial modifications to the PSA Direct Stream DACs. Absolutely, feeding an appropriately modified digital stream to DS would be much more practical option. I might experiment further but, in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy music though my unit of DS DAC. On that occasion, Ted, let me thank you very much for creating such an outstanding piece of modern audio engineering gear!

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I’m very new to this topic so forgive my naive question. I understand how strong instruments can alter their tuning but how do woodwinds stay in tune if the strings go up from 440 for A?

I’d think the strings would have to tune down to 432 from 440. Lower frequency, lower pitch. Woodwind instruments have a range of tuning possible by adjusting mouthpieces, brass instruments with their adjustable tuning tubes. More challenging would be a piano (difficult) or a pipe organ (impossible?).

Both piano and organ can be brought up or down in pitch, but the range of adjustment is not great before the quality of sound suffers.

You may want to try this Pinnock recording of Handel’s Water Music… it was done on period instruments and I believe down-tuned to accommodate them. These older, period instuments were deisnged to sound a particular way with particular string tension… in other words, their timber is different tuned up or down.

Great performance anywho…

BTW, this A=440 vs 432 is right up there with the most outlandish conspiracy theories… unless you are blessed (or cursed) with perfect pitch, this is way more than a non-issue. But recordings on period instruments is very different and very interesting as the music does present itself differently… and as it was heard many years ago when written.

Keep in mind that while you may like detuned music, modern instruments are designed to be played with A=440 and the instruments resonances etc are all expecting that reference. For me, liking something slowed down would be kinda like firing your speakers at each other or covering them with a sheet… I may like it but that is not what was intended.

Bruce in Philly


If lowering the pitch is not done by extremely sophisticated software, then the rise-time of transients will be slowed, and you might find that lowering the bass range pitch causes low notes to be reduced in volume when they go below the range of your equipment.
Get a turntable with variable pitch if you want to do this properly, to do it in analog without the errors that might be caused by using digital software.