DSD, where and why do we use it?

DSD is a simple format but not very popular even in pro-circles as it is very impractical to edit or eq etc. To do any of these operations it is normally converted to PCM and then back to DSD again.

The other bad news is that it is a noisy format as used with SACD-disks (DSD64). This is handled with noise shaping, moving the noise mostly up above 20kHz (which may or may not be well handled by your amps). I fact SACD/DSD64 are said to be worse than CD:s at high frequencies.

This means you cannot brickwall-compress the music as you can with a CD which I think most see as an advantage. On the other hand this noise is also often subjectively heard as brightness. My personal take is I rather have upper frequency noise than over-compressed music so I still buy SACD:s and rip.

As an aside, in the old analog days adding signal dependent noise was used as a mixing trick to make your mix sound brighter and stand-out on the radio (escpecially AM). As an example I have been told Abba used this trick in radio-mixes.

If you want to hear how good DSD actually can sound - go for DSD128 or even better DSD256 and music that can be handled without edits.

I use DSD, but as SACDs. These I play on a player that has two ‘processors’; one for PCM and a separate true 1 bit processor for DSD. Naim use DoP as far as I can tell and therein is the problem. If you want to hear what DSD can do then you need to use a dedicated 1 bit DAC.


Ah! My Holo DAC has a separate DSD dac built in. Somehow utilising an R2R network

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I’m using a Holo Audio DAC and play DSD files natively - not DOP - from an external SSD via USB. I have ripped all my SACDs and buy DSD downloads from High Definition Tape Transfers, Native DSD and Blue Coast Music. Played natively DSD is imho the best sound source available and the Holo Audio’s DSD DAC is superb.

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I have also enjoyed the latest DSD256 files from HD Tape Transfers. Their explanation on why it sound so good was that DSD is easier on the DAC (if it handles DSD natively) causing less electronic noise.

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Perhaps a silly question, what do you plug the USB into? Surely not directly to the DAC

You need a device with an app to locate and ‘play’ the DSD in it’s native format. I have been using a Pro-Ject Stream Box ultra RS - which has a USB input and USB output. It can handle up to DSD 256 in native mode. I connect my external SSD drive containing my collection of DSD files to it. Connect it’s USB output to the Holo DAC’s USB input and all is controlled by the Pro-Ject Play app from my iPad/iPhone. I am just upgrading to a Lumin U2 mini to replace the Pro-Ject - which sounds excellent by the way and streams Qobuz/Tidal/Spotify etc too plus upsampling and buffering.

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I use DSD via SACDs, which I absolutely love – bar far and away my favourite digital format.

SACDs are played on an Oppo 205 universal player via the analogue outlets. Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Dylan, Goldfrapp, Can, plus a host of jazz and classical titles all get heavy play in these parts, and the SACDs sound wonderful: detailed, meaty and rich, with a high boogie factor.


I understand. Looks like my naim streamer, used as a transport, converts the signal to DOP despite having it set to native output. So after all of that i still havent heard the DSD DAC in the Holo!

I was suspicious when the sample rate shown on the Holo didn’t match the DSD rate, in fact it corresponds with conversion to PCM…

If you really want to hear native DSD - and it is the best imho - you must have a streamer/app the has USB input and USB output that allows native DSD passage and the ability to choose the music played with an app. I also have a Korg MR2000S DSD recorder - similar machine to that still being used in recording studios making DSD masters. Recording from an audio cassette at DSD 128 from a good Nakamichi cassette deck is amazingly good - people wouldn’t believe that by the way. HDTT sometimes record from old consumer reel to reel tapes from the 60s and the results are great.

I do nit think that Naim streamers convert DSD to PCM. I have native DSD as well as SACD rip files played on NDX2 as DSD.

Naim uses DOP. It doesn’t play native DSD. It’s converted. For me DSD on Naim is poor.