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DSD, to support or not

post #1 of 87
Thread Starter 

OK, I hate being verbose, but!!!!!!!!
 

Lately we have a distraction in the audio technology desert. It seems there is much buzz on a new a new “hot topic” - DSD!  Here is another technological development (or should we refer to it a modification of prior technology) which in a given set of circumstances causes extraordinary listener reverie and pleasure.  If you have a DSD decoder, it's great.  But to take advantage of it all, you must have a DSD encoded recording, of which there may be a few, few dozen or few hundred available.

 

Great!  Let's be an early adopter!  We could be like one of those early nineties toaster sized and temperature cell phone users that had 10 minutes battery time.  That technology at least stuck because all of the hardware makers and telecom infrastructure guys were all on the page. They were lucky.   Anybody have a Palm Pilot?  Original Microsoft Tablet?  Anybody still have My Space accounts?  HD-DVD player?  

Well, for the thirty five years or so I have been in the audio reproduction biz, there has been very little in the way of new technology.  At least technology of any relevance.  When I started, we had vinyl records, which are still around today.  Compact Discs reared their head in the early 80s.  This was software as we acquired it in the pre-downloading era.  I had yards and yards of LPs and feet and feet of CDs.  Oh, I forgot about reel to reel tape, two different forms of quadrophonic records, DAT (digital audio tape – It had 48KHz instead of 44.1KHz sampling rate!  Huge improvement!), and HDCD!  SACD still kinda hangs on, and it smells really bad; it seems nobody has bothered to tell it that it is dead.  What do all of the dead or dying formats (tape, quadrophonic, DAT, SACD, HDCD) have in common??  Hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of recordings NOT available.  Funny how most people want to buy equipment to listen to lots of popular music, not necessarily the Flat Tire Wyoming String Quartet plays Alban Berg on original Appalachian handcrafted instruments.

Fast forward to the current era:  iTunes, thousands of recordings living on anything from a palm sized case to a lap or desktop.  Everybody now either steals or buys way more recordings than I ever had in my yards of lps or feet of cds.  Cool!  Decades of music mastered or remastered from or in analog, PCM 192/24, 44.1/16, mp3, aiff, flac, etc. etc. etc.  Now we have DSD!  If I read much of the press, I will be in audio paradise as soon as I get it!  How about some Stones, Dire Straights, or Stan Getz........Oh, well – What about the iTunes store?  Also no.  Geez, I could go to some specialty guys to buy DSD converted mainstream stuff, but then I lose my DSD native recording advantage. There are a few specialty DSD guys offering a few special recordings.  I hope no one who buys DSD hardware thinks the major musical content providers are all chanting and holding hands in their board meetings wondering how to provide nothing but the highest quality DSD recordings for the listening pleasure of their customers.

What's the point?  D/A converters are part of system involved in the reproduction of music.  If I am going to build them, that is ALL I have any control over.  If there is to be a variety of software available, I have to adhere to existing standards of software and hardware connectivity, so to speak.  Even if God appeared to me to tell me how to build the best sounding D/A converter ever, if it required all of the major content providers to gear up to my protocols and standards, the venture is doomed.  A fairy tale.

So what is my experience?  I have built a lot of D/A converters since 1985, not just for myself or my companies, but as a hired gun for other companies.  I have no DSD axe to grind.  It does have advantages and disadvantages compared to PCM, in my opinion.  (See below)   It is just that I believe the best of all possible worlds for current musical content results from new D/A converter technology combined with that which has not been offered in over a decade; this technology accepts content which is commonly available.  Years ago I was labeled a heretic because I refused to incorporate HDCD technology into my DACs.  I would (and will) do so when either HDCD or DSD content is made available for major releases.  I don't build stuff anymore support the guy with tens of thousands worth of cans and amps and four recordings, all of which he hates.  I do this because it is fun.

So for the record, and not to branded as an anti-DSD bigot, below are some brief technological comments re DSD vs. PCM.

DSD Advantages:  jitter less relevant, anti-imaging, anti-aliasing filter artifact shifts to noise shaping filter artifacts.  Far cheaper.

Disadvantages:  Non closed form math solution noise shaping makes no missing code encode/decode theoretical at best, read nearly impossible.  Also makes time domain optimization difficult/impossible.  Couldn't reliably guide a missile with this technology, for example, without killing non-targets or innocents.  It would seem this would not bode well for accurately encoding/decoding music.  Recordings converted to DSD lose claimed DSD advantages when decoded on DSD machines.

 

Believe it or not, I hope that I am wrong.  I would love to build a DSD converter and promise to do so when a significant amount of DSD natively encoded mainstream recordings are available.  We shall see if I am still waiting when the next super whiz-bang notion hits the press......................................................MM
 

post #2 of 87

So where does this leave the statement DAC? 

post #3 of 87

Schiit needs to include DSD on their forthcoming DAC.  Otherwise it will no longer be buzzword compliant.

 

Also, as many audiophiles are sound lovers rather than music lovers, they would enjoy the Flat Tire group in DSD more than some lowly low rez PCM file.  I picture some of these people listening to Chesky test CD's over and over in their listening rooms, just waiting for the new album to come out that can show off their setup.

post #4 of 87
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by paradoxper View Post

So where does this leave the statement DAC? 

 

It is just that I believe the best of all possible worlds for current musical content results from new D/A converter technology combined with that which has not been offered in over a decade; this technology accepts content which is commonly available.

post #5 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baldr View Post

 

It is just that I believe the best of all possible worlds for current musical content results from new D/A converter technology combined with that which has not been offered in over a decade; this technology accepts content which is commonly available.

But, but, but statement DAC production is expected to be sometime in 2013. 

 

That reads nothing but ambiguity. Haha. It has to be a DSD DAC, right?


Edited by paradoxper - 1/24/13 at 10:04pm
post #6 of 87
DSD over coaxial, optical, and USB doesn't really do anything for me and I'm assuming many others. I do not have a capable PS3 and have no intention of buying a 5 year old piece of electronics to rip my SACDs. If implemented over HDMI, a Schiit DSD DAC would be an instant purchase for me.

I don't agree with you saying there are not many DSD recordings out there, unless you mean only ones available for download. There are thousands of SACDs that have been released (among them almost the entire Stones and Dire Straits discographies). Many more are getting released every year thanks to the likes of MFSL, Analogue Productions, and SHM-SACDs from Japan.
Edited by Radioking59 - 1/25/13 at 1:24am
post #7 of 87

I'm sure i'm in the extreme minority on this, as i have over 1600 SACD's

and i'm acquiring more and more every week.

 

DSD is very important to me. A statement dac that can do dsd from

any number of hdmi based sacd players is something i am very

interested in.

post #8 of 87

I like the whole novel approach of DSD to audio much more than simply bumping up the PCM data quantity. If I were ever to invest in anything beyond the 44.1/16bit PCM standard, for the sake of higher quality despite higher quantity, it would be DSD, even if I have to pay for the patent value. I can't see SACD disappearing anytime soon, it has a small but solid core of appreciation, not only that it comes in dual layer for the lesser types like me who still thrive on 44.1/16 PCM. Why are people always on about military spec? I couldn't care less about military spec.

 

EDIT: ...I appreciate Fostex putting in effort with DSD on their HP-A8C.


Edited by AJHeadfi - 1/25/13 at 3:44am
post #9 of 87

I agree with RadioKing59 and kevin gilmore that DSD over HDMI will be an important feature for decoding SACD

 

I also think that DSD files from SACD masters will become more readily available as HD downloads


Edited by jtinto - 1/25/13 at 7:45am
post #10 of 87

Hey all,

 

You can blame both Mike Moffat (baldr) and I for this one, since it reflects an ongoing set of conversations we have had about DSD.

 

With DSD furore in full force following CES, you could be excused for thinking this is the Next Big Thing. But, in fact, if you look at online metrics, the dsd-guide.com site has 8x less traffic than our own (tiny) schiit.com site, according to Alexa. And yes, we know these numbers are only approximations--we use alexa, compete.com, and quantcast.com all the time compared to real site metrics, so we know about their variance. But they do provide an interesting comparison.

 

(Now, if we're missing some huge site where all the DSD aficionados hang out, please let me know--this will have bearing on our future products.)

 

Mike has mentioned the problems with adopting new technologies early on. That's one of the problems with DSD. There's both 64x and 128x DSD. Does the USB receiver support both? Some do not. Does the D/A IC convert them both natively? We don't really know what goes on, say, inside a AKM4399. And the reality is, nobody really knows what the "best DSD decoder" is yet.
 
Until now, the solution has been to pick a D/A IC that "does" DSD, and take what comes out. Well, except in some very high-end cases. Fact is, the best DSD decoder is probably nothing more than a very good switch, and a real, adaptive anti-imaging filter with deep notches at the fundamental carrier frequencies. But that "nothing more" is completely different than, well, pretty much every D/A IC out there. And note the adaptive part. If you're doing 2.8MHz or 5.6MHz DSD, you'll need different filters. Or at least want different filters. So you're dynamically reconfiguring the analog stage. Not a huge deal, but again, it's not something you deal with when using PCM. This leads to the idea that the best DSD decoder is probably a standalone box, or at least completely different analog boards in a decoder that would do both PCM and DSD. Which means, $$$. Sorry. Went into engineeringland there for a moment. 

 

Here's how I see it, probably oversimplified:

 

Audiophiles have always had their holy grail of "superior" audio formats, all with limited software:

In the 1970s, it was reel to reel. Dead.
In the 1980s, it was DAT. Dead.
In the 1990s, it was HDCD. Dead.
In the 2000s, it was SACD. Let's say, dead.
In the 2010s, it's now DSD.

Do we think that the result will be any different this time around?

 

Please convince me that I'm wrong. We are open-minded, and willing to change.

 

All the best,

Jason


Edited by Jason Stoddard - 1/25/13 at 7:54am
post #11 of 87

Correct me if I'm wrong.  If using a USB converter to access DSD DAC.  The USB converter has to support DSD as well - correct?

post #12 of 87

How can this be the future? Again, DSD is only for a niche audience. Trying to playback DSD on a Mac with only 4GB cripples it, so it's already limiting

from a hardware point. I think most of us have the sufficient numbers to avoid these problems. But it's something else to consider.

 

Do we really think that modern (mainstream) music will become readily available DSD? 

 

And lastly, has anyone done a check for the number of total available content? 

 

As much as many of us want this, it's already dead, before it even got started.

post #13 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by paradoxper View Post

How can this be the future? Again, DSD is only for a niche audience. Trying to playback DSD on a Mac with only 4GB cripples it, so it's already limiting

from a hardware point. I think most of us have the sufficient numbers to avoid these problems. But it's something else to consider.

 

Do we really think that modern (mainstream) music will become readily available DSD? 

 

And lastly, has anyone done a check for the number of total available content? 

 

DSD and SACD being conflated are confusing the numbers a bit--after all, $80 Blu-ray players can play SACDs, and there are a reasonable number of SACDs (though still a tiny percentage of the full spectrum of music out there.) 

 

The problem is, take a look at the output of many popular-music SACDs on an audio analyzer--and see how many of them are converted straight from 16/44.1 PCM. Short answer: lots of them.

 

So, is that "Fake DSD?" "Kinda DSD?"

post #14 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Stoddard View Post

 

DSD and SACD being conflated are confusing the numbers a bit--after all, $80 Blu-ray players can play SACDs, and there are a reasonable number of SACDs (though still a tiny percentage of the full spectrum of music out there.) 

 

The problem is, take a look at the output of many popular-music SACDs on an audio analyzer--and see how many of them are converted straight from 16/44.1 PCM. Short answer: lots of them.

 

So, is that "Fake DSD?" "Kinda DSD?

Is a tiny percentage of the music spectrum worth it to invest in? Even if the growth is at a very slow rate? Or if growth ultimately becomes stagnant...

 

I guess the question is does it sound different, worse, detectable?..


Edited by paradoxper - 1/25/13 at 8:43am
post #15 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by paradoxper View Post

Is a tiny percentage of the music spectrum worth it to invest in? Even if the growth is at a very slow rate? Or if growth ultimately becomes stagnant...

 

I guess the question is does it sound different, worse, detectable?..

Good point paradoxper

In the end, it all comes down to what the market perceives and/or wants

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