"Myths of DSD" on Computer Audiophile

This thread starts with opinion stated as fact, under the guise of an “application note”…and then it goes downhill from there.

I posted an objection, which I hope was more civil than most of the “DSD IS SNAKEOIL!!” posts. Sheesh! What is it about PCM that brings out the anger and contempt in its followers?

–Oh, wait–I think I know the answer. But why don’t you go there and join in the discussion?


My post:

I don’t mind a provocative discussion topic being thrown out in order to promote productive discourse, or even the occasional controversy for controversy’s sake. I do, however, find the leading nature and dismissive, dogmatic tone of this presentation to be highly disturbing. I also think–for whatever it’s worth–that presenting the initial statement as an “application note” rather than the statement of opinion that it is, to be hugely misleading.

Full disclosure, for those who don’t know me: I am the Director of Marketing at PS Audio, which for 30+ years has been at the forefront of digital consumer audio, including the first stand-alone DAC in high-end audio. PS has long propounded the benefits of DSD and will continue to do so. As you may know, our DirectStream DAC converts all inputs to DSD, and has been found by many highly-experienced listeners (including Paul McGowan, Gus Skinas, Cookie Marenco, Steve Hoffman, Richard Murison, and many more) to provide the most lifelike sound available from any digital audio system at any price.

I say this not as sales-pitch, but to indicate that our followers and others who record in DSD or develop DSDhardware (including Andreas Koch, Bruce Brown, Larry Ho, Ray Kimber, Michael Bishop, Robert Friedrich and many more) are not babes in the woods, and certainly would not be sucked in by snake oil (as one poster so charmingly labeled DSD). They use DSD, as we do, simply because it sounds better to us.

This is not to say that great recordings cannot be made in PCM (or reel-to-reel, or direct to disc). Mark Waldrep recently visited us at the PS factory, and Paul commented on how wonderful Mark’s recordings sounded. Conversely, Mark commented on how impressed he was by the sound of DSD recordings played back through DirectStream in our Sound Room One.

We believe DSD has innate advantages in linearity that result in more natural sound quality. Others may disagree–and God bless 'em.

FWIW, our digital guru Ted Smith believes that

"IMO, the root of evil is the anti-aliasing filter when PCM is recorded, and to a lesser extent, the reconstruction filter when it is played. PCM requires these filters to have very steep slopes and that implies a tradeoff between phase issues near the transition band or amplitude issues there.
“These days with sigma-delta DACs and ADCs, Sony’s original marketing about the extra conversions to and from PCM are even truer. How can extra (lossy) conversions be better?”

Richard Murison at Bit Perfect provides another interesting perspective on the whole us-vs-them divide:

BitPerfect: On DSD vs PCM … again

Richard makes the interesting point it’s easier to get a great clock than very stable voltage rails–it points to a theoretical advantage of higher rate sampling over PCM with even excellent power supply designs. But I digress.

Years ago when I worked in automotive racing engines, I encountered a similar divide: Chevy vs. Ford. Chevy racers could point to airflow graphs and dyno tests showing higher specific output per cubic inch, than comparable Ford engines. Ford racers could point to certain characteristics of their engines that they felt proved their superiority over Chevy engines.

Who was right? Objectively, at one time or another, perhaps both were. Unlike differing audio camps, the Chevy-Ford rivalry was largely good-natured.

My (perhaps elusive) point is this: my camp is convinced of the superiority of our methods, both objective and subjective. Your camp may well believe something else entirely. That’s fine: but throwing out inflammatory terms like “myths” and “snake oil” does not advance the dialogue, or allow either camp to learn from the other.

So–to quote a long-dead soul: can’t we all just get along?

I’ve been using a Naim NDS streamer since 2013 (with 555DR since 2014), which is a PCM-centric dac (but recently added DSD64 capabilities). I just purchased DS after two days’ demo at my dealer and a home demo. The first demo it was with a 1.1.7 firmware and I was not very impressed. Then I read about Yale and decided to give it a second chance. Needless to say, on this second demo I was blown away so I asked for a home audition with my (better) amps.

To me the Yale DS is in the same league as NDS, but sounded slightly sweeter, more natural, quieter (!) and gave very little listening fatigue. Considering the price of the NDS, Yale is a superb achievement for Ted and PS Audio. People can debate all day long about DSD and PCM, but for me, it is a matter of convenience if a DAC can accept both formats so I can play all my music files. Other than that, I chose DS for its SQ and couldn’t care less what it does in its FPGA.

“I chose DS for its SQ and couldn’t care less what it does in its FPGA.”

Well, cool. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the proof of an audio design should be in the listening.

Welcome to the family!

(note to self: Naim NDS, $11k; 555DR. $9k)

I got a headac trying to follow all the info . But where does this leave us with purely how dies ot sound to us non pros .???

For me as much as like the ds and d it’s firmwares I can it say no,one firmware gives me the best pcm and dsd . The why us simple it’s our choice and putting great names to a list that say it’s great dies mean much to me . I am an audio agnostic for sure .

But I do like reading about it . I do like very much how ps audio makes its products a d there price point to .

Some of fhe guys on that thread I have little regard for as there ability to what I think sounds good is not mine and some do not even own any dacs that I think are good .

I do think Ted is a very smart and honest guy . But he has shown me that what I like or most like is not real or even better by measurements .

But still it comes down to what I like .

I took a quick spin through the topic and thought that most of the comments were in opposition to Mr. Siau’s point of view. Did I miss some anti- DSD nastiness?

You did not, nor was there frothing contempt in the original cited article.

Maybe some just enjoy a good argument even if there is not one.

Notwithstanding that most of the technical details went over my head, the thread seemed to mainly be a discourse amongst people who by and large seemed to have a good understanding of the topic. The thread was mostly free of gratuitous trolling common elsewhere and my take was the key protagonists would agree to disagree on some matters.

My other thought was that the discussion was mostly irrelevant to most music lovers since recording, mastering techniques and simple implementation of either PCM or DSD has far more bearing on what us lovers of music hear than any differences in the theoretical sonic limits of the two systems. That’s why the thread on the PSA Music forum about best sounding recordings has been fun to follow as it focusses on great sounding recordings and the recommendations there come in both flavours.

By the way Bill, your post was far too reasonable and open minded for an internet forum. The moderators may have to ban you from such common sense in future.laugh