DSD vs PCM aka Ted Smith vs Rob Watts


I’ve watched a couple of talks given by Ted Smith and Rob Watts and both argue that one format is superior over the other if implemented correctly. I even spotted Ted once in one of Rob’s talks.
Unfortunately I’m no expert on the subject and understand only a third of what they’re saying so the question keeps bugging me, who is right? They both sound pretty convincing to me.

In short, PS Audio says DSD is supperior, so what do they think about the point Rob is making when it comes to PCM vs DSD?

Thanks a lot

i belive dsd is better, because is more a analogue wave;

but in the same way the pcm dac convert the numbers to analogue (wave?)

ps. I had compare the kind of blue hdtracks to sacd version and the sacd is better(but then it may be because is a different remastering?) another history then!

ps.2 do you have a youtube link of the Ted vs Rob disscution?

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I usually try to say that there are different tradeoffs for various technologies and that a designer should work with the technology he believes in and is passionate about. For my skill set (a software guy) I obviously prefer DSD, it’s inherently linear so there’s no need for expensive and problematic precision component matching (like various resistor based DACs.) Matching their specs with DSD for me is easy. Other designers make great products based on their strengths.

I like Rod and respect his ears and his work. On the other hand I don’t agree with his view of DSD. We’ve obviously had different experiences in the past with various technologies so that’s not too surprising.

I don’t think I ever said he was wrong. But as with most things in life there’s more than one right answer.


When people are arguing about PCM vs. DSD, they mean PCM played by a non DSD converting DAC vs. DSD, right? So not comparing PCM vs. DSD, both played on the DS…

Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to identify differences worth the arguing.

I think this is a good illustration:


They are both wrong; it is a broken eight with a piece missing.

PCM/DSD/Vinyl can all be superb. The quality of the recording is vastly superior to any format.


Amen to that.

any i belive reel to reel remastered direct from a master tape, beat both dsd and pcm :leaves:

Has anyone compared the Dave to a Snowmass firmware loaded Directstream?

I’m not sold on that one. There’s a big difference between using tape or DSD to record mix and master (and DSD wins). But there’s also a big difference between the disc’s we get and the final masters. Tape can lose less than we apparently lose building shiny discs.

Perhaps I misunderstood the original poster’s intent: I took it as using PCM based or DSD based technology to build a DAC. When it comes to fidelity to the original source DSD recording and playback wins every time I’ve had a chance to hear it (and multiple times I’ve been able to hear the original performance and a DSD recording of it…) That’s where DSD really shines, when being used as a tape recorder.

At one time I thought that DSD beat PCM hands down always, but excellent DACs sound amazingly similar given the same inputs. Getting those inputs is a little more complicated.


If I understand it right, the takeaway here is, that PCM based DACs can sound as good as DSD based DACs, it’s only a lot harder to accomplish.

PCM is harder for someone that understands DSD (because DSD is so simple.) Those that don’t understand DSD would consider the DSD path harder and prefer PCM.

I don’t like most really good PCM based DACs nearly as well as I do most good DSD based DACs. I chose DSD because I felt that the sound was more natural and involving.

But remember most DAC chips out there aren’t PCM or DSD, they are sigma delta based (like DSD) but generate 4, 5, 6, … bit noise shaped PCM. Since the components required to do great PCM DACs aren’t practical on a chip, they typically use, say 32 separate 5 bit PCM dacs and pick which one to use for the next sample randomly to average out their errors…

I think it’s easy to get hung up on particular implementations. Looking for a good listening session is also a good use of time.


thank you Ted for answer and your time😊
i was thinking from master tape direct to reel to reel whitout mixing just direct, but hey maybe you right dsd direct from master tape could be better, but i still think a reel to reel master tape to a normal costumer reel to reel is more autentic because both are reels and tape, same format :grinning:any way these new remastered master tape are to exoensive for me so i stick to dsd , sacd or cassette for now :laughing:

Boy have I learned that lesson…lol

First: I now understood what’s meant with the PCM-DSD comparison…when used to record. Didn’t ever make a comparison of the same mastering PCM and DAD recorded.

This is similar to what Grundman said in the PSA interview. He explained the superiority (in his eyes) of analog masterings put on vinyl with what he guessed as losses (or maybe better: disruptions) of digital processing’s and manufacturing processes for discs.

I didn’t expect that most of those engineers who are into digital AND vinyl high end mastering estimate the losses and quirks of analog recording or vinyl production less harmful than those producing digital media.

And I didn’t expect PCM and DSD recordings seem to be so different (for other reasons). Are there any recommended examples to make a listening test with the DS or doesn’t this make sense?