Digital Recording of LPs: DSD or PCM

Streaming my ripped CDs to the recently acquired DirectStream DAC / Bridge II sounds so good that I’m going to buy a Tascam DA-3000. It records directly to SD cards making it possible to get perfect hi-res bit perfect DSD and double DSD recordings of LPs. Using an SD card reader attached to the computer where my music is stored, hopefully I can get my entire LP collection digitized and streaming.

Since the DirecStream converts PCM to DSD internally on the fly for playback, would these files sound better recorded as DSD or PCM? I’m thinking DSD would be better since higher resolution and more information in the file.

I wondering because will probably want to use Vinyl Studio to to break the file into tracks and name them and also to eliminate the gaps between tracks. For DSD files you cannot do any correction (click removal, hum or hiss removal) without changing to PCM. Some of my LPs will probably require this so they will need to be PCM files.

The DA-3000 is superb.

You probably know this, but Tascam offers free editing software that provides the ability to divide and concatenate DSD and PCM files, as well as conversion. It supports up to 11.2MHz DSD and 384kHz PCM.

DSD is not necessarily higher resolution than PCM. It depends on the rate and bit-depth of the PCM file with which you are comparing, as well as how you interpret DSD’s noise profile. Regardless, the formats do sound a tad different. Try them out and use whatever sounds best to you.

I have transferred the bulk of my vinyl collection to DSD using the nuwave phono converter. The sound is outstanding through the DS. No need for PCM conversion for me, ticks and pops are not a concern.

Radioclash, what software are you using to record your vinyl? The description of the Nuwave says “Using appropriate software on a PC, NPC owners can RIP their entire vinyl collections to their computers at 192/24 PCM or DSD.”

The Nuwave probably is a better option than the Tascam. It costs about $1,000 more but includes a great analog phono stage. I could sell the phono stage I have for maybe $700 and it would be close to a wash.

Whether you need/want a built in phone stage is a factor. A DA-3000 is more capable as an ADDA. As always, the decision depends on one’s needs, wants and preferences.

Yes I agree and I’m really happy with the phono stage I have.

I’ve been participating in a discussion of the Tascam on the Audiogon forums, and someone who uses the Tascam asked me to post this question to you Elk:

“The DA-3000 does seem to convert PCM to DSD and vice versa. And, it appears to convert between different DSD sample rates. I cannot figure out from the documentation if it does so by converting to PCM or not. Perhaps someone of the PS Audio forum knows if DSD to DSD conversion goes through PCM. If not, that would be a nice addition to know about.”

An interesting question. I do not know. Tascam is pretty responsive so perhaps emailing them will provide an answer.

If you are comfortable with pro solutions, Benchmark makes a nice ADC, as do others.

Jeff I use vinyl studio, an outstanding program. Splitting DSD recordings into tracks is a breeze.

I also use Vinyl Studio with my NPC and highly recommend that combo. Jeff, you could sell your current phono stage and get an NPC and not end up with an additional box. That Tascam is pretty big. I don’t know about you, but real estate is at a premium in my listening room now with all the extra digital boxes, linear power supplies, power regenerator and such things that I’ve been buying. Ah for the old days when an audio system consisted of a turntable, a preamp, maybe a tuner, and an amp.

While space can be an issue, the DA-3000 is not big. It is only one rack unit high (1.75", ~ one-half the height of the DirectStream), the width is the same as the DirectStream, but but the DA-3000 is not quite as deep.

I think of it as small, particularly given all it can do and the raft of connectors on the rear (including word clock and BNC SDIF-3 inputs and outputs for DSD). laugh

By the way, Michael Fremer used the DA-3000’s predecessor for digitizing vinyl and raved over it.

radioclash said I have transferred the bulk of my vinyl collection to DSD using the nuwave phono converter. The sound is outstanding through the DS. No need for PCM conversion for me, ticks and pops are not a concern.

how did you capture and record the I2S DSD stream?

With the NPC, you can digitize the analog coming out of its phono stage and digitize it in PCM (up to 192/24) or DSD (single or double rate). You just choose what you want on the NPC’s front panel or in the software (I use Vinyl Studio) and the NPC sends that to your computer over USB, where the software captures it.

Linvincible said Radioclash,

how did you capture and record the I2S DSD stream?

Yes, steve is correct, the nuwave will record to DSD. I used a laptop connected to the nuwave with a high end usb cable to capture the recording with vinyl studio.

thanks for the info,

the documentation seemed to indicate the DSD stream is only available from I2S output and not from USB output, so that’s why I was asking.

No, sorry if that’s not clear. The USB output will carry DSD so the computer programs, like Vinyl Studio, will record it for you.

Linvincible, I think you may be talking about two different pieces of equipment. The DS will only accept pure DSD (i.e., not encoded as DoP) over the I2S input (although I thought the plan was to add that to USB at some point). Was it in the DS manual that you saw the reference to DSD only streaming over I2S? On the other hand, the Nuwave Phono Converter takes an analog input (usually a turntable) and converts it to PCM or DSD and then outputs the files to the computer over USB to be recorded, as Paul said.

Linvincible, we might be talking about different things, but The nuwave can output DSD to the DS through an I2s. Allows you to listen to LPs through the DS in either PCM or DSD.

Paul McGowan said No, sorry if that's not clear. The USB output will carry DSD so the computer programs, like Vinyl Studio, will record it for you.
My reading skills need improvement then ;o)

went through the doc again and can’t find why I had this impression

maybe there was a thread or FAQ somewhere about recording the stream, anyway you are right the doc is clear.

My Tascam DA-3000 just arrived and I’m anxious to start recording my LPs. There are two settings I’m not sure about. Reference Level and Input Volume. To anyone who has recorded with it, where do you set those? For the time being I’ll use trial and error. I’m not sure of the purpose of the reference level setting.

More than you probably want to know follows.

Reference level is a little tricky to understand if you are not familiar with studio equipment. When setting the reference level, you are calibrating your digital inputs and digital output level to equal, for example, -18dbFS when being fed 0dBVU. 0dBVU is the “0” midpoint level on a traditional analog VU meter.

The confusing part results because 0 on a dBVU meter is not the highest signal level a system can handle, it is just a reference. There is a lot of headroom available above 0dBVU. On the other hand, 0dBFS on a digital system is 0dBFullScale, the highest level a digital system can handle before distortion.

Thus, you need to calibrate a digital system to a reference level that makes sense. -18dBFS is common. That is, calibrating the system so that a digital dBFS meter reads 18dB below full scale when it receives a signal which a dBVU meter reads as 0dBVU.

On the DA-3000, the inpout and output reference levels can be set to -9dBFS, -14dBFS, -16dBFS, -18dBFS, or -20dBFS. The default is -16dBFS.

Now that you are thoroughly confused, you can enjoy knowing none of this will matter to you.

Feed the DA-3000 an analog signal where the peaks do not reach over 0dBFS indicated. Aim for peaks of perhaps -6dBFS on the DA-3000’s meter. You can later increase the overall volume in your recording software in production (after the recording is done and ready to be processed). When recording live concerts, I aim for peaks at roughly -12dBFS. This allows of lots of headroom for the unexpected burst in the excitement of performance. I can always later raise the level later in software.

Typically you will not use the input level control on the DA-3000. The preferred method is to control the output level of your source feeding the DA-3000. This can be a microphone preamp, board console/mixer, or ADC. Only use the input level control if your source does not have a level control and then only if you must use it to get a clean recording that is not compromised by a low S/N. Remember, you can always increase the level in software later.

Keep in mind you cannot hurt anything. The worst thing that will happen is that you make a recording that stinks. And this will teach you something. Start by recording an LP track at a time and get a sense of how everything works before starting to work on full albums. And remember you can record a CD, or any other digital sound. This can be great practice. Also, remember the DA-3000 is a good DAC as well and the headphone out is decent. You can setup how everything works together in many different ways. Be sure to play with DSD as well .