this is blasphemy that may bring on chastising commentary, I realize, but…
I fully embrace the technology of DSD and am intellectually convinced of its superiority. Octave’s The Art of Hifi (Bass) is superb for presenting bass, my primary instrument; non bass is far away, though sometimes this is intentional.
In general, my ears have a different view of DSD. They hear better blackness and purity of some of the sounds, as intended (vocals and piano do quite well). However, well-produced regular streamed content sounds significantly better in most other ways beyond fine/powerful vocals/bass. I have listened to hundreds of songs the past two months.
I have purchased several DSD files from Octave, NativeDSD, and HDTT.
The dynamic range of DSD is staggeringly large, presumably due to less compression, but so much so that to hear the ‘soft’ passages, the volume level becomes too great for the ‘loud’ passages. (Straus’ Also Sprach is my best example) I have to keep my finger at the ready for the remote’s volume buttons.
I was particularly disappointed today by Octave’s Temporary Circumstances. The singer is wonderful and penetratingly clear but overpowering of everything else but most of the robust bass playing. Piano, drums, etc were far away in terms of volume. I dared not turn up the volume to better hear them, the vocal would have blasted me out of the house (likewise for Also Sprach). Under normal circumstances, I would request refunds for my DSD purchases.
In contrast, streamed content like Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth (CD quality) and many other performances are wonderful. I find substantial content that sounds good and more satisfying that just about all the DSD I have listened too (my post is already too long to list dozens of great non-DSD performances). My vinyl is always fantastic. Some notable streamed content includes Marcus Miller, Bob Dylan, and many audiophile playlists I found in this forum. All this is great…until I play DSD, which serves in my case as content to study for its benefits (eg, blackness) but wince at its incomplete plate and feeling of being shortchanged.
I generally find that the well-produced stream content plays quite nicely at my amp volume of 25-35, sometimes 40, but that DSD requires volume of 55-65, and even higher for the soft passages (to hear the beginning of Also Sprach, I need a volume of at least 70, but it is still faint, barely audible).
Amp, McIntosh. iFi NeoStream is set to full volume (its DAC performance exceeds that in my McIntosh pre-amp and the newest Bluesound Node. I would never listen to non-DSD content at the required DSD volume levels. For clarity, I am not trying to spare neighbors; they live hundreds of feet away. I don’t particularly mind loud music, though do not need or desire to peg the meter.
Frankly, my system reminds me of what I hear from the best of leading edge high-end equipment since the 1970s. I am gifted with great staging, depth, resolution, presence, and subtlety. Thus, I cannot at this point blame my setup. I presume an Aurender, dCS, or MSB would do better, but I am not convinced the difference would totally explain what I don’t hear in my system with DSD.