DSD vs PCM


#1

http://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/KB/DSD.htm

“I can’t help but wonder if what’s happening here is like tube amps and analogue playback (eg. vinyl). Objectively the DSD conversion adds distortion but the anomalies are not perceived as objectionable and in some material, the added noise and imprecision actually makes it sound less “sterile”, “clinical”, more “real” (conversely being in an anechoic chamber is disturbingly unreal due to the profound silence). It would make sense to me that some people could prefer DSD64 over DSD128 upconversion since DSD64 will give you more of that distortion. Even though the noise is ultrasonic in nature as measured off the DAC, nonlinearities in the playback system like your headphones and speakers (perhaps certain amps as well) could create audible intermodulation. Maybe for certain music, this could be especially beneficial.”

But, what are we actually listening to?

http://archimago.blogspot.ca/

Steve Guttenberg’s “As We See It” article titled Communication Breakdown touches on the supposed ills of dynamic range compression (see Loudness War). He starts off with a provocative statement: “Classical and jazz notwithstanding, an awful lot of new music is highly compressed, processed, and harsh, and it’s about time we got used to it.” He then talks about some “superstar producer” not liking his suggestion to have 2 mixes (crushed & non-crushed). Then he reminisces about childhood tinkerings with AM radio and how he likes the background noise slightly mistuned (hey I liked it slightly higher pitched when mistuned but can’t say I liked the noise, just more as “tone control”). Then there’s a little history lesson on distortion in rock & roll. Then a little something about analogue distortion vs. digital distortion. Then he basically says he has learned to enjoy the music “through the grit”. So… I guess it’s okay then to accept compressed and distorted music (including many jazz and soundtracks these days).”


#2

Great reading

I for one do read specs in audio. Every time I do it misleads my own brain in its likes. As tubes are not as linear and add distortion there is no doubt they add something I want. So this is a prime example of specs and likes being different.

I have asked ted S to add some color of need be to improve the firmware for some. Of course that’s really not good or possible from feeds reply. But there still is the better or more real it might add for some.

Yesterday elk was kind enough to do a really good detail of words used in audio and what they mean. As good as it was it drive me further from what real really is. And it’s clear to me my real is perception of my own and not most Nor correct. Sad in some ways really. But I do now have a better view of others and why I differ from them.

For me dsd if pure from analog or dsd direct it does have more pleasing factors to my brain. And dsd 128 is not always better over 64. But I can hear the difference between them. For me 128 is smoother more of the analog sound but of course it is also better. As analog is nice it lacks the attack of good dsd

both in speed and dynamics and thus gives me a rush vinyl or even open reels do not have.

But taking analog tape and converting to dsd is still the best way for me.


#3

One of my audio buddies, retired engineer, got me investigating when he said:

“and (truth be told), you actually can’t tell the difference between 16/44.1 and 24/96! i have not heard any 192/24 files yet, but even on my system, i cannot tell the difference between a well-recorded cd at 16/44.1 and a high-res version (in my case 24/96) purchased from hdtracks.com, or another source (bandcamp.com, spottedpecary.com, etc.).”

I’ve had my DirectStream DAC now for a little over a year, with the latest version of firmware, and I find that the detail I hear on 44.1kHz/16bit AIFF files is just astounding! Just for grins, I purchased from HDTracks.com, the Mozart Violin Concerto #3 96/24 files and did a substantial “A/B” with 44.1/16 FLAC files and could not discern any difference.

I found this great article: http://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html and one of the points that makes sense to me is that, the process of mastering the DSD (SACD) might be different than the PCM master, so that might explain how the DSD might sound better, but not because it has higher resolution.

PS Audio P10 Power Plant, PS Audio DirectStream DAC, McIntosh C50 Pre-Amp, McIntosh MC452 Power Amp, Autonomic MMS-5A Media Server, Focal Sopra No2 Speakers, JL Audio F113V2 Sub Woofers (2), Wireworld Cabling


#4

DirectStream is somewhat unique in its ability to wrangle all that is present on a CD and narrow the sonic gap between higher resolution audio than just about any other DAC I have heard. And what’s cool, the greater resolving power of your system, the more apparent this is and the smaller the differences - sort of the opposite of what one might imagine to be true.


#5

Paul, your response begs the question (to me at least) on what your thoughts are on the level of improvement in sound from high resolution recordings. You certainly have a high resolution system, and I’m sure you can hear an improvement with high resolution sources, but do you feel compelled to purchase a higher resolution source when you already own a CD copy?


#6

I certainly hear the difference but they are not mind blowing anymore - truth is, since DirectStream - I rarely listen specifically to high rez - and most of my listening is CD. In fact, I’d say 80% of my library is CD. I do have high rez, and on some pieces I listen specifically - but it’s getting rarer.

If there is a DSD version, however, I usually gravitate to that - or, if the CD has been poorly mastered, and I have a high res copy… but recently I have collected a number of amazing sounding CDs - my friend Gus Skinnas brings them over sometimes - and what an amazing sound!


#7

To me it’s been apparent for years that with a great system CD, hirez PCM, DSD, etc. can all sound quite similar, the same sound stage positioning, the same apparent frequency response, the same musicality, etc. To me the differences have always been the amount of air on the top end and, perhaps more importantly, the air/separation around each performer. With DSD thing’s have always been just a little more “there”, a little more well defined and separated from other things. After hearing the DSD the CD often sounds just a little more “ghostly”, but both can be very enjoyable.

You wouldn’t conclude that Fords are better than, say, Toyotas after just driving, say, their midsized offering. You would really need to experience many more items of each format.

The conclusions of all of the CD to hi-rez comparison experiments I’ve read about aren’t that there are no differences, but at best that the average test subject doesn’t consistently notice the differences. If you look at the details there are almost always some test subjects who can consistently hear the differences. Most of the experiments aren’t conducted on audiophile populations and some don’t even provide much chance for training (getting used to the experimental conditions and the typical test material.)

FWIW: I try to buy the format of a release that it was mastered in when possible and when I can’t find that information I prefer buying DSD (or double rate DSD.) I almost always enjoy hi-res and or DSD releases over the CD releases, but those difference are usually minor compared to things like how good the performances are, how well things are records, mixed, mastered, etc.


#8

Thanks Paul and Ted! My limited experience is the high res recordings are usually only slightly better, a few are much better and slightly larger few are are essentially indistinguishable from the CD. I think the key here is are the high res versions in their native format or been transcoded or upsampled. I’m hesitant to spend extra for something that may not be any better. I’m also concerned with the storage space requirements for high res recordings. I have a 3TB drive that is full of high res PCM and DSD recordings, but the actual number of recordings would pale compared to how many CD quality recordings would fit on that same drive (I have about 3000 CD’s, only about 100 have been ripped). While some folks say storage is cheap, there is a definte cost to it and planning for future needs can be a big guessing game. I’ve been contemplating a NAS (how else would you store 6+ TB?) and have been trying to decide on how many bays (thinking four) and how big a drive (6 TB is the current upper end) to get. While somewhat off topic this is a consideration when deciding which copy of a recording to get. Also, biasing me towards CD (feel free to call me old fashioned) is the ability to hold a “disc” in my hand which is a good thing, unlike selecting it from a list on my iPad.


#9

If you are comfortable with computers and on Windows 8 or later, consider Microsoft’s Storage Spaces along with the ReFS file system. Then you don’t need enterprise drives, a raid controller, a NAS, etc. Instead Storage Spaces can work with a pool of random drives or varying sizes and it takes care of the requested redundancy at a file level instead of a block level so you can take a drive out of the pool of storage and use it like a normal drive, i.e. each drive stands on it’s own… ([Edit: oops, I may be wrong about this one.]) You can also add drives of varying sizes on the fly as your needs grow. Also you don’t have a big raid rebuild time when you add or replace a drive. You are alive and running at basically full capacity right when you add a new drive… ReFS also has behind the scenes scrubbing for bit rot and will interact with storage spaces to find and duplicate a good copy if a file goes bad… Also there is never a need for a check disk. On paper it’s a much better system than Raid for storing precious photos, video and music…

Tho I just got a quality NAS/RAID box, I would rather have a storage computer with lots of random drives. Right now I’m backing up my NAS to a pool of portable USB 3 drives and to the cloud, but I’ll probably go over to storage spaces/ReFS the next time I need to add any storage.


#10

I’m not sure these are the best resources to get started, but they’ll give the general idea:

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/11382.storage-spaces-frequently-asked-questions-faq.aspx

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831724.aspx (ReFS)


#11

Whoever‘s interested…in this thread Steve Hoffman points out his opinion about hires/DSD, tape vs. PCM/CD a few times in his own unique style :wink:

From what I read, the summary is, he doesn’t give much on hires PCM improvement vs. CD quality or on CD/PCM quality vs. analog tape, but he’s much convinced of DSD and points out what a big improvement it is over PCM. He’s still a PWT/DS DAC user afaik.

It was discussed here in the forum a few times that digital can easily capture/playback analog on the same level…according to Hoffman’s experience, if valid, this seems to hold for DSD only in his opinion as far as I understood.

For me it’s always interesting what those mastering gurus think.

http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/do-you-think-high-res-audio-is-an-audible-improvement-over-cd-quality-sound.724264/page-19

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#12

Steve Hoffman on PCM vs DSD resolution…

in the thread referenced by @jazznut there isn’t much written by SH but this was his major contribution (which was originally posted in a different thread)

SH is known for his love of vinyl and DSD. He also states earlier in the thread he hasn’t worked with “hi-res” PCM or other formats. He is very comfortable with DSD.

SH :

Are you sure you want to know how to spot a reverb trail? Might ruin it for you.

I’ve used this example many of times.

The SACD/CD of Creedence WILLY & THE POOR BOYS that I did with Kevin a few years ago for Acoustic Sounds/Analogue Productions has a great example that you can try at home.

If one put on FORTUNATE SON in the SACD/DSD layer and just listen to the intro of the song, concentrating on the echo trail after each drum thwack you will hear how far “back” into the mix the echo of each distinct drum hit goes. Memorize that sound. If you don’t trust the resolving power of your speakers, use your headphones…

Now, switch to the CD layer, cut by Kevin and I on the same day with the same mastering. Listen to FORTUNATE SONagain, concentrating on the each drum thwack in the intro. Notice how the reverb vanishes much faster and is not as intense? Loss of resolution.

I once told this to a guy and he thought I was totally full of ****. He actually went out and bought the disk. He listened and said that I purposely ADDED echo on the SACD layer to make this so (like Kevin and I dug an echo chamber at RTI that matched Wally Heider Studio just to do this…) :laugh:

Really, resolution loss is true. Not much we can do about it!"


#13

Indeed what he writes about hires PCM sounds a little ignorant while still as strong opinion…I assumed he has experience with it, too. As you say possibly not as much as with DSD.

Well at the end he’s one of the few discussing, who made or has the chance to make certain valuable comparisons on a certain quality level at all, exceeding some hobby engineering :wink:

I think it’s quite interesting when he has a strong opinion, as he seems to be no one jumping on every high end theory, as it’s visible by him ignoring the one or other at all (as hires PCM). But I think the superiority of DSD is quite unquestioned anyway…So the special in his opinion is maybe just how limited he sees PCM to capture analog tape.


#14

I do think it’s a bit like the vinyl/digital debate. If you have a really good DAC that excels at high res PCM (this would be leaving the DS DACs out of it for the moment), and your system is set up for it, it’s going to sound pretty close to DSD done equally well. Having said that, I haven’t heard any PCM sound as good and natural to me as DSD has from Day One.

People got really bent about it, but typically they didn’t have a good SACD player in their systems. The big ongoing argument I recall was SACD vs. DVD-A, where you could have higher-than-Redbook res files. But it really was dependent on both the recording and the player. I thought the DVD-A folks were totally dizzy until I played the DVD-A surround demo disc that came with the Acura TL on an Oppo player. It can sound great.

I still prefer DSD. And PCM upsampled by the DS Dacs to 20x DSD : )