DSD or PCM

Quite a few folks have moved to the new streaming platform which has potentially improved sq for pcm. What is the thinking amongst readers as to whether or not dsd or pcm is the better format on the new platform; or even the old platform, or just which is better.

For me its not that DSD sounds better, IME its dependant on too many variables. And in that regard I can only say how it is on my system & like beauty, music is in the EAR of the beholder.
I believe that in general with DSD, the recording companies (& musicians) who use it tend to be serious about producing a high quality recording all the way through to the end product & this is probably the main reason why we hear something - lets say ‘different’ with DSD.

In my system DSD sounds different to PCM. My first listen to DSD was a wow moment with David Elias “The Window”. David manages his own recordings including his own studio techniques & uses DSD all the way through the process, so its genuine native DSD.
The most noticeable difference is more of a feeling of analogue sound than anything I’ve heard from other digital. It has a level of realism with both instruments & voice that to me sound more natural, you can hear & feel the wood as well as strings, the skin in the drum & the variations of tone in instruments. … I could go on a bit with this.

I have found small group acoustic or lightly amplified music gets the best out of DSD, the best I’ve heard is single mic recording or similar that’s recorded ‘live’ (live as in all the musicians together in a studio) & with no or minimal post recording mixing & mastering. Multi-mic, multi-track requiring studio mixing & mastering, as is the case with rock & big orchestra work, is best with PCM.

2 Likes

I very much agree with that.

Their are also some labels producing high quality recordings, like 2L, that record in PCM exclusively (for acoustic music). The result is, most of the time, stunning!

Good recordings are certainly the result of the sound engineer’s good work.

2 Likes

Thanks both for replies. I have only two dsd albums one being Pink Floyd DSOTM and the other is Nat King Cole Story (2 cd). Really like both but especially the more natural sounding Nat King Cole. I do try to buy better quality recordings so maybe dsd is a better format to buy. I like light female vocal jazz as well as others like Bedouine so I guess I’ll be looking for some more dsd albums. Any other good/recommended sites, I do visit HD tracks.

And of course how DSD and PCM sounds is largely down to the DAC construction method you are listening on.
Historically quality delta sigma DACs (DSD) used to be easier to make but I believe with modern architectures that distinction is less apparent.
Many modern DAC chips can accept bit stream (DSD) or multibit (PCM) data feeds now, but I think many audio electronics manufacturers such as with Naim because of off board filtering convert to a single format before sending to the converters… with Naim they convert to multi bit; ie DSD to PCM.

The recording end of DSD is involved, and DSD mixing is involved and from what I remember most DSD mixing is undertaken using a DSD/PCM hybrid. There are very few, possibly only two globally native DSD mixer processors… but full analogue mixing and processing and then mastering to DSD is fair game and possibly the best use of DSD albeit of limited usefulness/application.

To my mind as soon as you use a hybrid method you are compromising any advantage and really just playing at alternate DAC reconstruction,

Hi Mike,

Out of interest, what type(s) of music do you usually listen to?

M

g‘mornin’ M

A mix of all sorts except pop as in TOTP & ‘hit parade’ stuff

Rock of the more serious kind, progressive, AOR, whatever you might call it; my formative years (misspent yoof) was in 1960’s, went to live gigs numbers of times per week, Hendrix, Clapton, Green, Lee, etc
Folk & light acoustic of all sorts, mostly British, Irish & US/Canada
Reggae & similar Caribbean traditional.
Traditional modern South, West & East African fusion/folk/jazz, mostly SA Mbaqanga & iSicathamiya.
Jazz of the easy listening type, funk, fusion, lounge
American songbook
Classical a representative collection of the popular classics, especially baroque.

Sure - yes Naim do convert DSD media to PCM internally.

So do Channel Classics use a complete analogue front end and produce a live mix master onto a DSD recorder. It would mean the mix is ‘frozen’, but you could get an optimum use of DSD.

Thx Mike,

I wondered as over the years I have tried DSD but generally thought that while it was smoother to my ear it lacked a small degree of bite. My own theory has been that this has appealed more to classical music listeners, a theory that you have now blown out of the water!

M

Errr … maybe we are at cross purposes, I don’t have DSD with that many of my genre mix, only folk, some jazz & one or two small ensemble classical, but no rock at all.

Yes, I scanned across the word ‘not’!

I agree with your post, that we re talking about a complex problem and that where DSD vs PCM fits into this not straightforward.

Historically I have used software to do the conversions and then listen to the result, hardly pure! But, as you point out, there is very little ‘pure’ DSD available, and my understanding is that much that claims to be will have been mastered in PCM.

As you say, it is in the ear of the beholder.

That’s right, most DSD recordings end up being mastered in DXD (PCM).

Not sure DSD has a future as an encoding format.

Many users convert and upsampling everything to DSD to feed Delta Sigma type DAC, I think this format may still exists in playback environment.

And recently some R-2R DACs claim they have discrete circuit to handle DSD, they don’t do DSD to PCM conversion. I still don’t know the detail but it is very interesting to watch the progress.

So this dsd format is not quite as simple as I first thought. Must confess I’ve also been reading a few pages on the www since posting so now understand a little better. I think I’ll revert to that trusted method of listening first before purchasing. That said the recommendation given by Mike above has piqued my interest so may just give it a buy on the off chance - did read about it on his (Elias) web page as well as listening to it on Qobuz.

I am not sure I follow, ultimately one bit DACs do operate very differently from multi bit DACs… and operate quite differently… in the physical conversion process.

http://www.dspguide.com/ch3/7.htm

https://www.stereophile.com/content/holoaudio-spring-kitsuné-tuned-edition-level-3-da-processor

FYI, there are many discussions about this DAC on other forums.

Ok that description implies there is both a discrete ladder multi bit converter and delta sigma single bit converter in the DAC module… ie two DACs in one.

1 Like

Yes, but the interesting part is it still use resistor ladders based circuit to do Delta Sigma Conversion.

BTW, many new multi bit DACs, especially R-2R come out recently. I am curious will Naim stay in multi bit or not or something new?

There would effectively be one resistor (one rung ladder or stool) for delta sigma conversion.

1 Like

Yes, that was one of my experiments using HQPlayer.