Best formats to feed DirectStream Sr from my server?

I’ve added an Aurender ACS10 server to my system, feeding the DirectStream Senior over USB. Per the specs the directstream will support all formats I could purchase, sans 2nd MQA unfold

Trying to sort out which might be the best HiRez format for new purchases. Various sites give the nod toward 24bit claiming that DSD might be noisier. Also making claims that most recordings aren’t natively recorded in DSD, so there is typically conversions to produce a DSD file which can insert artifacts into the DSD files. Otherwise, I’m understanding the following as a guideline.

DSD64 roughly equivalent to 24-bit 96KHz
DSD128 roughly equivalent to 24-bit 192KHz

MQA with full unfolds goes roughly to 24-bit 192KHz. Since the directstream doesn’t support MQA through USB, I would only get the 1st unfold from the Aurender. Wondering what native format would be equivalent if missing the second unfold?

Really trying to understand how the handles the various formats and which tends to be the more effective within the DirectStream

Aurender specs its output as USB Audio Class 2.0 – DoP (upto 256), NativeDSD (upto 512), PCM : up to 768KHz/32-bit

Until recently I’ve just been streaming through Tidal. In many cases when I compare redbook quality to the same piece in a hi res version, I really enjoy the high rez much better. Example is Joni Mitchell’s WoodStock. Hands down better. If I’m gonna buy her album, what format should I shoot for?

The claim about DSD being mostly PCM is hype. Maybe a majority of DSD releases are from analog, but not that many are from standard PCM, and the ones that are from DXD (24/352) usually mention that they are. I think this myth really perpetuated because certain people with loud voices didn’t understand how DSD editing workstations operate.

No native format is going to be exactly like MQA because of the special filter kernel it uses, but the higher the sample rate, the better. DSD is going to be a little similar to, and superior to MQA because it uses really gentle filtering processes.

I’ve encountered DSD downloads that were mastered poorly and the 24/96 was better, and vice versa. However, this is my general rule of thumb: I first try to go for DSD at the highest rate possible where I can, and if not, then PCM at the highest sample rate that is available.

All things being equal, DSD sounds better, and the equivalency between DSD and PCM data rates is IMO not meaningful because the formats sound quite different and increase in sample rate produces different sonic effects for each.Higher sample rates for DSD increase the dynamic range, while higher sample rates for PCM increase the bandwidth.

I’m one of those who see this exactly the opposite way (independent of the fact that most native DSD recordings seem to be edited over PCM not analog, which due to e.g. Gus Skinas and Paul is the clearly better way).

In my experience from reading the liner notes of SACD’s and DSD downloads and mailing with labels, the vast majority of SACD’s and DSD downloads are not only edited over PCM but sourced from mostly 24/96 or lower, sometimes higher resolution PCM. Few like Esoteric or Analog Productions, Audio Fidelity, MFSL, Wilson Audio etc. source from analog, mainly affecting reissues of the analog era.

Especially many audiophile labels like Chesky, Reference Recordings (the better recorded K. Johnson RR albums, not the RR Fresh ones), 2xHD, 2L etc. source their. SACD/DSD Discs/Downloads from PCM, others like MA Recordings, Acousense, NAIM etc. even don’t offer SACD/DSD versions at all. However some even smaller audiophile labels as well as several bigger normal labels offer native DSD recordings.

But if you read the liner notes as frequently as I do and try to get an overview how this is spread among what’s available as SACD on the market, you will see that you quite rarely get what you expect (native DSD or sourced from analog) and even rarer you get the optimal native DSD edited analog only.

You certainly can concentrate on the native DSD stuff, but then you will notice that you are missing many of the best sounding recordings. Reason is, that the quality of the recording plays a much bigger role than the format. And surprisingly some of the best sounding labels only record PCM (and distribute those recordings by PCM downloads or converted to SACD/DSD).

That’s why I mostly ignore the format matter and enjoy that the DS DAC also handles all the PCM stuff very well.

However those few small audiophile labels like OPUS 3, Bluecoast, Yarlung, Stockfisch, Octave, Audioquest, 88’s etc. make marvelous native DSD recordings, but except the last mentioned I must say their usually special repertoire often doesn’t meet my musical taste and those labels mostly don’t record larger groups of musicians than 3.

Then there are the mentioned bigger labels like Pentatone and several more offering native DSD, but imo the quality of their recordings usually are not on the level of those above mentioned best audiophile ones who are mostly doing PCM and who are also recording large scale groups of musicians.

Unfortunately there’s close to zero audiophile label making DSD recordings who’s doing larger scale groups, while there are quite some doing this but on PCM only.

This shall not sound as if I’m just after audiophile labels, many recordings of the normal labels are exceptional…but also then, the quality is mostly not connected to a format, but mainly depending on the recording engineer’s skill imo.


There are plenty of large scale DSD issues, e.g. LSO Live, Naxos, Channel Classics, Chandos etc.
It was one such recording that made me decide against using DSD, around mid 2016.

I agree that you can’t beat good PCM - because it is used by the best engineers with the best artists with the best recording quality available. Overall best for me is Linn Records, an audio manufacturer that evaluated both MQA and DSD for both recording and audio reproduction and rejected them both. They’ve stuck to doing PCM and do it as well as anyone.

“Audiophile label” and “audiophile recording” is just total 100% marketing b/s for premium pricing, something Octave Records have taken to a new level. A good recording is a good recording - end of story.

Yes sure the big labels do large scale on DSD, but rarely the „audiophile“ labels.

I guess a caveat would be the genre of music. 80% of my SACDs and DSF files are pop, rock, or jazz recordings sourced from analog, maybe 10% are native DSD recordings like David Elias, a few are DXD (although I usually just buy the DXD file) and I have 6 SACDs and 3 classical DSD downloads that are sourced from actual PCM recordings of 24/174 and lower (a couple as low as 20 bit 44.1khz).

And yes, sorry to be contentious, you can easily beat good PCM with good DSD. If the recording is equally good, you will get a much more accurate and realistic reproduction with DSD128 than any PCM format. I know because I have done this often. Every single PCM format changes the sound for the negative from what comes in off the microphones or off the tape machine, but with DSD you can barely tell the difference.

The entire reason DSD upsampling DACs exist is as a way to partially correct or make palatable the PCM artifacts.

You have apparently entirely missed the reason for Octave Records existence, and its active support of musicians. And the recordings themselves are superb.

I am not privy to Octave Records’ financial records, but I expect PS Audio is losing money by offering these recordings. This enterprise is far from “100% marketing b/s.”

I understand your long-standing enjoyment of taking gratuitous shots at PS Audio, but I expected you would have at least a modicum of appreciation for any attempt to support performing musicians. SMH

1 Like

I agree with what you say about DSD superiority to PCM of equal recordings.

My point just was, that there are way too few superior recorded native DSD releases in comparison to what’s published in sum, to make this really relevant.

I didn’t have your experience with so many less-than-true DSD releases, however you are correct: Any way you slice it there are very few DSD recordings, and the numbers increase at a snail’s pace. I think Jazz At The Pawnshop was the last “new” release I purchased and most major DSD recordings were done between 2000-2006. I love the sound, but even as a typical high res consumer, 95% of what I get is PCM.

I didn’t want to put a focus on less than true DSD experience, just that there are less of them than PCM. Not because PCM would sound better than DSD (it’s the opposite), but because there’s a higher percentage of different great PCM than DSD releases on the market. It’s simply a matter of the overall amount of releases as you also mentioned.

1 Like

“100% marketing b/s” was aimed at the terms “audiophile label” and “audiophile recording”, not Octave Records. They are terms that have been used since the 1970s, and they are often used in commanding higher prices.

Ironically, I’m listening to an “audiophile” type release at the moment, a half-speed master of Ryo Fukui : Mellow Dream, which was only released on vinyl. I also bought the New York album, which I prefer. There was no price premium from my suppler, other stores are selling it at twice the price.

Octave Records is of no interest to me because it’s just started out with artists that may be big in Boulder, but that’s as far as it goes, and the material is of no interest to me. I sampled Grusin and to me the music was interminably dull. The DSD side is of no interest to me as I tried that 5 years ago and have passed on it, my streamer converts any DSD files to PCM. If Octave Records came up with class musicians playing class music, I might be interested, at the right price. That may happen in time, but I’m just not interested in format wars. The Fukui vinyl cost me $30 each delivered, the Grusin SACD would have cost me $40.

When Octave first arose I mentioned The Takacs Quartet, who are based in Boulder, they are world class, but they record with Hyperion in London and Hyperion tend to be exclusive with their artists and don’t put their library on streaming services.

Octave may attract better material in time. Linn Records started simply to provide the best possible pressings to test and demonstrate the LP12 turntable, before the days of CD, and it took some years to attract good artists, let alone the world class roster they now have.

The idea of an artist-led label is not new either. Onyx Records was set up 15 years ago to enable established artists to do what they want to do, not what they are told to do. It worked because they had top industry executives who could attract the talent. This explains what it does and why it worked:

10 days ago I went to a live performance of this Onyx release - Victoria Mullova and her son Mishka Mullov-Abbado performing mostly jazz, much of it composed by Mishka. It was a fabulous evening. If it wasn’t for a independent label, it would not have been distributed.

This release on CD was $20, the Fukui vinyl cost me $30 each delivered, the Grusin SACD would have cost me $44 delivered. The premium is self-evident.

By the way, a new recording of my beloved percussion artist Kuniko is out on Linn…it’s done in 24/192…would have loved to see her recordings all out on DSD, but Linn just seems to record partly on DSD. search results:

DSD64: 538
DSD128: 18
DXD: 7

FLAC 96: 12,087
FLAC 48: 3,882
FLAC 192: 1,881

MQA: 1,773 is not much better:

Original Recording Quality

Qobuz has something like 200,000 albums in high resolution PCM.

So focusing on DSD is reducing your musical choices to something under 1% of what is available on HD PCM alone, before including 16/44. To me that’s just an impossible proposition, plus the economics of having to buy rather than stream on a fixed monthly contract.

Interesting numbers. Not sure if the relation also represents the contribution of all the big label’s native DSD recordings, but they for sure reflect the tendency.

Interesting how audiophiles tend to focus on niche markets without being very aware of that,

Interesting that the ones favoring digital generally and propagating DSD (for good reason) are argumenting how much worse PCM or even PCM edited DSD sounds compared to native, analog edited DSD, given the fact that over 90% of digital releases use this worse technology. Vinyl listeners are aware of that :wink:

So everything right with those supporting native DSD in the digital world…it’s just quite insignificant unfortunately.

It would be interesting to know real absolute numbers of PCM vs. native DSD releases and what percentage of nativeDSD releases reflects.

I have purchased that recording, along with all the others over the years.

I think Linn did record in DSD for a while, until about 10 or more years ago. By then they had stopped making disc spinners and SACD/DSD was already in commercial decline. I bought a Linn streaming system in 2009 and DSD was never even mentioned. Since then they have recorded in 32/384 (I think) and issued in PCM formats up to 24/192.

As far as the music-consuming public is concerned, HD PCM is barely on the radar and DSD really is just an audiophile plaything. Studios need special equipment, engineers need different skills, that makes the product more expensive, consumers need extremely expensive audio systems to have a chance of noticing the difference to PCM, it’s not mobile and can’t be streamed, so it just seems to me as a potential mainstream, product to be a complete commercial waste of time.

Whether DSD can actually sound better seems to me completely irrelevant if you can’t get people to buy it.

I appreciate that there will be niche markets like Blue Coast Records, but they don’t make it a mainstream product.

SACD was actually never intended for 2-channel audio, it’s real use was for multi-channel, and Alia Vox is one label that has been issuing multi-channel hybrid discs for years, and they can be streamed from Qobuz as multi-channel as well.

But the figures tell it all - DSD is an EXTREMELY niche product for those audiophiles who chose music by format rather than by the music itself.

Incidentally, having dropped DSD for recording, Linn also didn’t bother implementing it on their streamers and even today only a few of their products can play DSD files, which does not include their top Exakt range.

I think the Sibelius/Sondergard from 2014 and the Kuniko/Xenakis from 2015 are my latest DSD Line releases, although I’m not sure they were recorded in DSD.

I think this is quite overstated. Any analog (or even PCM) master can be easily transferred to DSD, and DSD performs quite well in budget systems, being IMO more cost effective than polishing a PCM source.* You can play a DSD file from any number of portable players, software players and DACs. But yes, you can’t currently stream it.

*I find that 24/96 to 16/44.1 is a considerably more subtle difference that does require better playback equipment.

The reason you don’t see many DSD recordings is because if you want to eschew analog mixing and mastering, require lots of complex editing and DSP, and want to do it all within the computer, then DSD doesn’t work. You could totally record mix and master Hotel California exactly the same way with a DSD workstation at DSD256, but the industry is in a different paradigm now.

My other main point is that there is actually no reason to try and commit to one format or the other unless you are dead set on a particular incompatible piece of hardware or software. Just about every player, server, DAC, now supports DSD, so unless you are streaming only, I see no reason why records shouldn’t be recorded, sold and purchased in that format when possible.

Once something is recorded in PCM, there is no point in converting it to DSD. It just doesn’t add anything.

I did say that DSD requires different engineering skills, you explain quite how extensive those are working with DSD.

The first DSD download I bought was a Bill Evans tape transfer as it was the easiest means of making a true DSD file and there was little if any chance it would have been mixed as PCM.

My Devialet Expert will convert a DSD file to PCM 24/192, but will not play native DSD. I was not dead set on that unit, I’d tried DSD before I bought it and decided I didn’t want to use native DSD, so the fact the unit did not play native DSD did not bother me.

As mentioned earlier, Linn, a significant and pioneering streaming manufacturer who own a record label that recorded in DSD, still decided largely not to adopt native DSD and some players cannot play a DSD file at all.

There is almost no need for anyone issuing DSD releases to release it in PCM as well. Most streamers can convert a DSD file to PCM, Linn is probably a rare exception and it may be possible to do it at the server.

I’ve been on Qobuz for years and I’ve mentioned before that they announced that they were working on streaming DSD, and even gave a potential start date, which I think was 1 October 2016. It never happened and they never said any more about it. That may have given it some traction, maybe not.

Whereas market forces have not been kind to DSD files, in my experience of various dCS players upsampling and DSD processing of PCM files can have great results, but I’ve not heard the PSA DSD DAC at any length.

@doitwithlife: As I think you can gather from the discussion, the answer to the question you pose with the thread is: Music. Really. Don’t worry about formats. But don’t try to play videos on the DS :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: