DSD volume levels

Why do DSD files require double the ‘volume’?

have experienced this across amps, pre-amps, dacs, and speakers

ie, for PCM files and a pre-amp volume of in-30 ballpark, I need 60 for DSD files. (in high 70s db)

Some PCM files, too, require ‘higher’ volume. Eg, a Lyle Lovett album requires 45 or so. Some PCM files are plenty loud at 25.

It’s complicated:

The full scale level of PCM is 0dBFS, the full scale level of SACD’s DSD is +6dBFS (tho they should never be above approx. +4dBFS. Most hardware SACD players get this right and the CD and DSD layers of a SACD play at the same level.

But many software players were originally built for PCM and 0dBFS is the maximum they can represent internally. So many have an option to lower DSD by 6dB when converting to PCM so the DSD doesn’t overflow when being processed. Some let you pick the difference between the maximum DSD and PCM levels, but most default to 6dB.

If your player doesn’t need to convert DSD to PCM then the levels should be the same with DSD and PCM tracks from the same SACD. But not all players get this right.


my setups do not convert DSD to PCM, they play DSD natively…DSD files are indicated as such in the streamer and dac

my references to db refers to iPhone decibel meter

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What about the volume level setting of your preamp. Is that different?

Pre-amp volume numbers per original post

Never the less: it’s not that DSD is quieter. In fact it can be louder than PCM and often the peaks are higher than PCM can be. What you are seeing a function of your player or that the DSD and PCM are recorded at different levels. From the same SACD the PCM and DSD should be at identical levels and is for almost all of my SACDs in all of my players.


Yes, not DSD per se

My DSD files are primarily Octave

One thing I’ve noticed is that the greater the dynamic range of a recording the quieter it can sound. It’s pretty rare for a regular CD to have been recorded with wide dynamic range. Where you might notice it more is with audiophile labels which strive for the maximum dynamic range. Reference Recordings comes to mind as the one I notice it most on, especially classical which the music can start off very quiet but before the piece is over hits some serious high levels, Stravinsky’s Firebird or Rite of Spring are good examples of this. Octave Records follows this approach but I don’t feel the music has quite the dynamic range as an orchestral piece so I don’t notice the need to raise the volume as much. This is all just my perception so don’t take it as gospel …


What he said.

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I agree with Al

Compression is not our friend.

Sure isn’t, but it is always lurking close by …