DSD vs Directstream DAC PCM to DSD Conversion

I just purchased my first copy of DSD music “The Nat King Cole Story”. The sonics were absolutely amazing and it was by far the best sounding music I’ve ever heard. The DSD64 tracks were streamed to my DSD from my NAS via Roon. Out of curiosity I streamed the same Album from Tidal via Roon and in my opinion there was a large difference. The DSD tracks seemed to be a lot smoother or I guess richer might be a better term. This made me think, if the DSD DAC converts all music to DSD then why am I hearing a difference between playing DSD tracks compared to PCM 16/44 tracks, which the DSD DAC converts to DSD? My interpretation of the Roon metadata makes me believe both albums are the same release. Just curious what all your thoughts were. Do you notice a difference between hearing DSD music on the Directstream compared to the same release or album in PCM, which the Direct converts to DSD.

Because analog tapes -> PCM converted to DSD is not the same as analog tapes -> DSD.

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Redbook PCM 44.1/16 is lower resolution than DSD.

Converting a Redbook format recording to DSD does not recreate the information contained in higher resolution native DSD.

It is analogous to standard resolution television compared to high definition. You do not get a high resolution picture merely by upscaling a standard definition signal.


DSD upsampling of 16/44.1 can help you get the most out of that format, but an actual DSD recording is pretty far superior IMO.


I’d still be interested if a DSD-PCM comparison on a DS DAC makes any sense…I guess not.

I have not compared DSD and high resolution PCM on the DSD, but I would expect them to sound different.

Even though the DSD upsamples to DSD it maintains the sound of PCM streams sent to it. Thus, if the DSD file and the PCM file sound different to begin with, I expect them to continue to sound different as played back by the DSD.

Keep in mind editing of DSD files is often performed after transcoding to DXD (high resolution PCM). I have yet to see someone complain they can hear the edits when listening to the final DSD file.

I think the reason why no one complains or has a meaningful opinion is, because no one except maybe some audio engineers or Ted can compare PCM and DSD in a comparable, pure PCM and DSD chain.

I think what you say is right, that the initial difference of a PCM vs. DSD recording stays more or less audible when comparing on a DS DAC, but the DSD upsampling quite sure betters something that would sound different in a pure PCM chain.

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At the factory we have certainly compared high resolution PCM files to DSD64 files. While many of the high rez PCM files sound fantastic I still find that a well recorded DSD64 file sounds smoother and more analog like. This is largely attributed with how DSD works as a format, which is more analog like than PCM is. So for us at PS Audio we always pick a great DSD file is we have the choice but PCM files can also sound fantastic and I wouldn’t rule them out just because of the format type.


May I jump in on this thread to ask if there is still a plan to update the bridge (bridge3?) to accommodate higher rate DSD playback (DSD 128, 256, 512, etc.)? I’m sure this topic is covered elsewhere but it’s easiest to ask here . . . . . perhaps someone can provide a link to the most recent thread on this topic

We are currently looking into options around upgrading the streaming abilities for the DSD DAC. This may end up being something like a Bridge III or it could be a standalone device strictly meant for streaming. We are still discussing how this will all work out and what will be best for our customers. So standby on a firm answer but it’s something we are most certainly working through


Thanks Kevin . . . . I do recall reading about this a while back. I know the DSDsr will accommodate playback of higher rate DSD via USB, but I haven’t been motivated enough to go that route since I am “Bridge-based!” I can’t help but wonder, though, whether there are any significant audible improvements between DSD128, 256, 512, etc.
and DSD64 . . . .

I think we are in the same boat. Certainly high resolution PCM files sound better than traditional CD files I don’t know that we’ve heard a significant difference moving up from DSD64 to DSD128 or even DSD512. But there may be a point when that becomes more evident.

Cookie Morenco edits DSD—>Analog—>DSD. There is no editing via PCM conversion. I imagine most other do the same as Blue Coast Records.

Thanks everyone for responding. I’m happy to hear that I’m not crazy hearing such a difference of how the DSD outputs such different results from either from using DSD as an input compared to PCM. I had it in my head that since the DSD DAC converts everything to DSD, I shouldn’t hear such a difference between the two.

I didn’t know that. So the DSD allows DSD128 via USB?

No, most edit DSD on a workstation. For example, Gus Skinas, (of Octave Records) works on the Sonoma System DSD workstation.

Yes the DSD DAC can handle DSD128 over USB but it will need to be in DoP format, so this may require some adjustments to take place in your playback software.

Gus uses an analog console when he can. He hears the difference between editing with DXD and the Sonoma (as I believe I used to.) But analog is better. He even cringes when he hears the single edit that he did in 352.8k PCM on Tubular Bells.

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Very interesting. Everything I have read of his work, including on the PS Audio site, refers to the Sonoma.

Thanks! Great tidbit.

He always uses a Sonoma for “editing”, but he prefers to also use analog for bouncing tracks (changing volume, mixing and or fading.) I.e. He prefers to use the Sonoma and DSD like an old school tape deck and mixes the analog signal like people did before digital came along. In that way his DSD is never manipulated digitally (PCM or otherwise.)