Why is There a Loss of Volume with DSD Files?

I’ve been downloading various DSD files and I notice that they will not play as loudly as PCM files. I’m curious why this is.

There isn’t - in fact DSD allows for more volume than PCM in that it can go above 0dBFS (0 dB full scale) and as we know PCM is unforgiving when music tries to go above full scale.

Some DSD material is mastered with less compression than the PCM releases. Comparing multiple SACDs which have a CD layer that matches the DSD layer is a way around this (tho not all SACDs with CD layers have the CD layer derived from the DSD layers.)

There also might be something like a volume setting somewhere in your chain that’s affecting PCM but not DSD. You might try running the Bit Perfect test to see if something is affecting the PCM’s levels. (See http://www.psaudio.com/ps_how/how-to-run-a-bit-perfect-test-with-directstream/ in the Support/How To’s part of the web site.)

You also might be accidentally converting DSD to PCM in your transport/player software - in order to deal with DSD that’s louder than 0dBFS often there is a setting for how much to lower the volume level to avoid clipping as it’s converted to PCM. Verify that when you play DSD that the display on the DS indicates DSD (or DoP.)

Thank you Ted. I’ve run the 'Bit Perfect Test" and everything is good. I can also see in my JRemote U/I that I am streaming 1 bit DSD. I have only downloaded a handful of DSD files, so perhaps it’s just a coincident that the few I have sound as if they are playing with less volume. Interestingly, I compared a PCM 24/96 file (song) from Blue Coast Records to the same song from Blue Coast in a DSD 64 file. The PCM is obviously louder. On the other hand, I can understand how the Japanese PCM remaster (16/44.1) of the old “Humble Pie - Smokin” master may have been compressed so it sounds louder than the DSD-64 file of the same work from “Acoustic Sounds.” Unfortunately, that album was never mastered very well to begin with, but I must say, the Japanese PCM remaster sounds better to me than the DSD-64 file

Just double checking here, but does the display of your DAC show DSD (or DoP)? There’s still a chance that there’s a conversion from DSD to PCM going on if not.

And yes, the differences in performance, recording, mastering, etc. and even our systems can all trump format differences.

timequest said I've been downloading various DSD files and I notice that they will not play as loudly as PCM files.
Even if you turn the volume up? The usual difference is 6dB.

I usually turn up the volume when playing DSD, compared to PCM files – sometimes by quite a lot, particularly with classical music like a symphony that has a large dynamic range.

DSD is generally 6dB quieter than the same recording in native PCM. This is to prevent overload in the sigma-delta modulator. Typically you can boost the playback (or DSD to PCM conversion) by 6dB, especially with classical recordings, but there are DSD recordings mastered without 6dB of headroom.

Ahh…That makes perfect sense then. Humble Pie’s “Smokin” is just one of those ‘albums’ that must be played loud enogh to literally feel Jerry Shirley’s bass drum in your chest. I can no longer get that with the DSD file, but the Japanese 16/44.1 PCM remaster does the trick (it’s a poor quality recording anyway - unfortunately). The other DSD files I’ve recently downloaded sound excellent…I’m just not sure I can discern any difference between DSD-64 and PCM 24/192.

Cheers on this excellent Sunday morning…be it orange juice, coffee, ‘bloodies’ or any other medicinally charged breakfast drink!