Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
Oct 4, 2014 at 12:35 AM Post #2,941 of 72,756
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  I think Jason's position on DSD is unfortunate, for the following reasons.
 
  • It is true that there is far less "pure" DSD material out there, and that it represents an insignificant part of the musical marketplace. But the market for $2K+ or even $500+ DACs also represents an insignificant part of the musical marketplace. Why should it be valid to draw conclusions about the behavior of expensive DAC buyers using data about the behavior of all music lovers? I think it's clear that DSD support is very important to these buyers. Why else is almost every expensive DAC coming out with at least 2x DSD support? Why is there so much attention being lavished on pure DSD players like the Lampizator? In addition, don't forget that a lot of the attraction of a DSD DAC is in the ability to accept upconverted DSD from music players like JRiver, so the story is not just about the availability of DSD tracks!
  • Also, DSD is not just "another format". It's fundamentally different. It's not really digital as the term is commonly understood (as requiring computational processing), it can best be seen as an analog/digital hybrid. DSD (1-bit PDM) can theoretically be played-back simply by passing it through simple analog circuits, unlike PCM. It really is a special thing; I consider a DSD file as close to the original analog as a vinyl record. Finally, one should be aware that the raw output of almost all high-end ADCs being used by studios is DSD. Why bother decimating that to PCM when you can just distribute it in its original form and let consumers decide how to play it back?
  • Despite that fact that almost all high-end DAC manufacturers are on-board with DSD, it still needs champions to push the format over the hump into widespread acceptance. It's not fair just to sit back and say that once something becomes popular, I'll support it. If you think something is a good idea, go out and pound sand for it. (Now it's clear Jason doesn't think DSD is a good idea, so this is partly a futile request. But people do change their minds!)
 
Now before I'm flamed, I have to say that I'm not writing this because I don't like Schiit. I greatly admire Schiit products and what Schiit is doing in many ways. I'm writing this because I care about both DSD and Schiit and hope they can just learn to "get along".

 
Apologies in advance, because this is going to sound like a contentious post. However, I think there's a number of misconceptions we need to clear up here. I've probably addressed all of these points before in various chapters (including Loki,), so if this sounds like a broken record (ha ha), apologies in advance.
 
1a. I think it's clear that DSD support is very important to these buyers.
 
Not based on our sales numbers, or on any data except for a couple of anecdotal quotes. Of course, we may be crazy. We'll see how Yggy does.
 
1b. Why else is almost every expensive DAC coming out with at least 2x DSD support?
 
The same thing that powered HDCD adoption at the end of Mike's time at Theta: the fact that it's much easier to check off an item on a spec sheet than stand your ground and say, "No, this is wrong." Note that HDCD didn't appear at Theta until Mike was gone. How are your HDCDs doing these days?
 
1c. Why is there so much attention being lavished on pure DSD players like the Lampizator?
 
Because if you're going to do DSD, it's best to do it separately, so you can address its own decoding needs. Just as we did in Loki. However, nobody cares about Loki, because it costs about the same as 5 DSD albums, rather than 250.
 
2a. Also, DSD is not just "another format". It's fundamentally different. It's not really digital as the term is commonly understood (as requiring computational processing), it can best be seen as an analog/digital hybrid. 
 
Actually, DSD requires more math than PCM, as it relies on high-order noise shaping (digital feedback) to push the intrinsic noise of a one-bit PDM signal out of the audio band. It is absolutely a digital format, as the math is done in Z-domain, same as with PCM.
 
2b. DSD (1-bit PDM) can theoretically be played-back simply by passing it through simple analog circuits, unlike PCM.
 
Theoretically, all that is required is a very good switch (not easy to implement), followed by very good filtering, including high-order filtering to eliminate the huge stop band noise, and (ideally) a notch at the fundamental sampling frequency. This is not a simple circuit.
 
2c. It really is a special thing; I consider a DSD file as close to the original analog as a vinyl record.
 
Analog records actually go through quite a bit of analog signal processing, and are subject to the mechanical vagaries of the cutterhead (again, control systems here).
 
2d. Finally, one should be aware that the raw output of almost all high-end ADCs being used by studios is DSD.
 
Actually, the output of the vast majority of studio DACs is PCM. They may use an intermediary format within the D/A converter IC, typically multibit delta-sigma, but it is not PDM.
 
2e. Why bother decimating that to PCM when you can just distribute it in its original form and let consumers decide how to play it back?
 
DSD is actually only a mathematically approximated, noise-shaped representation of the original signal. 
 
3a. Despite that fact that almost all high-end DAC manufacturers are on-board with DSD, it still needs champions to push the format over the hump into widespread acceptance.
 
Actually, the only thing that will push it to widespread acceptance is a deep (and inexpensive) music catalog. The lack of software is what has killed every other alternative format to date.
 
3b. It's not fair just to sit back and say that once something becomes popular, I'll support it. If you think something is a good idea, go out and pound sand for it. (Now it's clear Jason doesn't think DSD is a good idea, so this is partly a futile request. But people do change their minds!)
 
Actually, I was the guy who argued for DSD, as you probably read in the Loki chapter. As I mentioned, it's much easier, from a marketing perspective, to check off a feature set, than to argue against it. And, I was successful in getting Mike excited enough to come up with an inexpensive DSD add-on DAC, so that people could try DSD and see if they like it. However, the promised flood of DSD content has not materialized, and prospective customers, by and large, appear to have lost interest in it, based on our inquiries and based on our sales. So, for the foreseeable future, I'm afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree. 
 
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Oct 4, 2014 at 1:09 AM Post #2,943 of 72,756

Silent One

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   Yes it is a bit more of a fuss, but honestly that is part of the charm. 

 
Definitely. I still prefer to listen to entire albums. To this day, I maintain no playlists.
 
Also, having a vinyl setup available opens a lot of new avenues to better mastered recordings. It's not uncommon for a CD album to be dynamically brick-walled compressed while the vinyl version album is not. Would be nice to have a decent TT setup to rip stuff to digital.
 
I don't see why initiates need to get an MC cart from the get go. A $500 Pro-Ject Debut Carbon + $100MM cart would be quite capable. I think it would be great way for the younger generation to at least get a taste of how vinyl sounds like and the patience necessary to deal with it. In some ways, it's meditational and would probably go a long way toward reducing ADD, short attention spans, addiction to iPhones, etc.

Additionally, that preparing vinyl playback is much more ceremonial, may actually aid the heart and the mind for one to emotionally connect to the music. 
 
 
  I think Jason's position on DSD is unfortunate, for the following reasons.
 
  • It is true that there is far less "pure" DSD material out there, and that it represents an insignificant part of the musical marketplace. But the market for $2K+ or even $500+ DACs also represents an insignificant part of the musical marketplace. Why should it be valid to draw conclusions about the behavior of expensive DAC buyers using data about the behavior of all music lovers? I think it's clear that DSD support is very important to these buyers. Why else is almost every expensive DAC coming out with at least 2x DSD support? Why is there so much attention being lavished on pure DSD players like the Lampizator? In addition, don't forget that a lot of the attraction of a DSD DAC is in the ability to accept upconverted DSD from music players like JRiver, so the story is not just about the availability of DSD tracks!
  • Also, DSD is not just "another format". It's fundamentally different. It's not really digital as the term is commonly understood (as requiring computational processing), it can best be seen as an analog/digital hybrid. DSD (1-bit PDM) can theoretically be played-back simply by passing it through simple analog circuits, unlike PCM. It really is a special thing; I consider a DSD file as close to the original analog as a vinyl record. Finally, one should be aware that the raw output of almost all high-end ADCs being used by studios is DSD. Why bother decimating that to PCM when you can just distribute it in its original form and let consumers decide how to play it back?
  • Despite that fact that almost all high-end DAC manufacturers are on-board with DSD, it still needs champions to push the format over the hump into widespread acceptance. It's not fair just to sit back and say that once something becomes popular, I'll support it. If you think something is a good idea, go out and pound sand for it. (Now it's clear Jason doesn't think DSD is a good idea, so this is partly a futile request. But people do change their minds!)
 
Now before I'm flamed, I have to say that I'm not writing this because I don't like Schiit. I greatly admire Schiit products and what Schiit is doing in many ways. I'm writing this because I care about both DSD and Schiit and hope they can just learn to "get along".

This reminds me of the romantic story of "The Guardian (Music industry) & The Goose (Masters inside the vault) & The Golden Eggs (Formats)." With DSD, Sony is in a really tight spot. While they may be proud of their engineering effort to archive back in the day, they've also got a lot of blood runnin' through the streets. And Sony is in both the Music Industry and a huge Consumer Electronic manufacturer. 
 
The Music Industry aims to protect the goose and make as much money possible distributing music onto a variety of golden eggs. So, where should Sony's focus be, opening the vaults and give DSD a true push or focus on getting many devices and music into the hands of consumers with a variety of formats? 
 
smiley_thumb.gif
 Just another viewpoint from a fellow audio and music loving member.
  You should realize that Sony created DSD for their own internal use , not for distribution , back when memory was expensive .  
  Today , as Sony are releasing their Walkman A17 Digital Audio Player ( $300 ) to the Waiting Public who already pine for all things Sony , they omitted DSD capability from it's extensive and dominant feature set .   
  The handwriting is on the Wall , in large lettering ;  DSD is a dead format .   
  Cry if you will but another format War is over .  
  Sorry if you already spent 2k on the Benchmark DSD DAC , too late , it's time to move on to the next Format War : the death and resurrection of Vinyl .  
  After that , they'll think of something else , maybe high dynamic range Bluetooth .  
 I've been in this Industry for over 4 Decades , things like DSD are not new , can you recall 4 phase stereo records ? or Beta Video Recorders ? 
 
  Tony in Michigan 

Yup, this was no accident or oversight. 
biggrin.gif
 Sony needs to get paid! 
 
Oct 4, 2014 at 1:29 AM Post #2,944 of 72,756

tonykaz

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I suspect that we are seeing Buyer's disappointment here , somebody sold them on an idea , they bought into it and are left holding an empty Box .  
  Our Press are mostly to blame for publishing extravagant nonsense to sell Copy .
  This happens time and time again .  Glitzy new delivers long awaited super performance , must have , get yours now , can't live without it .
 Vinyl is the next great thing , almost free , plenty of Vinyl out there for cheap , plenty of players for cheap , plenty of press coverage , plenty of Knowledgeable Veterans doing Seminars on TT set-up , learn how to set your VTA in just a few steps and with just a few simple tools .   Vinyl sounds great !! , better than … 
  Nice try Mr.Stoddard but the neurotic/psychotic Analog refuseniks ( that's what the Guardian called them in todays Pono coverage ) seem to need an impossible something to chase .  We will never please them for very long .  
 
Tony in Michigan 
 
Oct 4, 2014 at 2:26 AM Post #2,945 of 72,756

Stereolab42

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Apologies in advance, because this is going to sound like a contentious post. However, I think there's a number of misconceptions we need to clear up here. I've probably addressed all of these points before in various chapters (including Loki,), so if this sounds like a broken record (ha ha), apologies in advance.
 
1a. I think it's clear that DSD support is very important to these buyers.
 
Not based on our sales numbers, or on any data except for a couple of anecdotal quotes. Of course, we may be crazy. We'll see how Yggy does.
 
1b. Why else is almost every expensive DAC coming out with at least 2x DSD support?
 
The same thing that powered HDCD adoption at the end of Mike's time at Theta: the fact that it's much easier to check off an item on a spec sheet than stand your ground and say, "No, this is wrong." Note that HDCD didn't appear at Theta until Mike was gone. How are your HDCDs doing these days?
 
1c. Why is there so much attention being lavished on pure DSD players like the Lampizator?
 
Because if you're going to do DSD, it's best to do it separately, so you can address its own decoding needs. Just as we did in Loki. However, nobody cares about Loki, because it costs about the same as 5 DSD albums, rather than 250.
 
2a. Also, DSD is not just "another format". It's fundamentally different. It's not really digital as the term is commonly understood (as requiring computational processing), it can best be seen as an analog/digital hybrid. 
 
Actually, DSD requires more math than PCM, as it relies on high-order noise shaping (digital feedback) to push the intrinsic noise of a one-bit PDM signal out of the audio band. It is absolutely a digital format, as the math is done in Z-domain, same as with PCM.
 
2b. DSD (1-bit PDM) can theoretically be played-back simply by passing it through simple analog circuits, unlike PCM.
 
Theoretically, all that is required is a very good switch (not easy to implement), followed by very good filtering, including high-order filtering to eliminate the huge stop band noise, and (ideally) a notch at the fundamental sampling frequency. This is not a simple circuit.
 
2c. It really is a special thing; I consider a DSD file as close to the original analog as a vinyl record.
 
Analog records actually go through quite a bit of analog signal processing, and are subject to the mechanical vagaries of the cutterhead (again, control systems here).
 
2d. Finally, one should be aware that the raw output of almost all high-end ADCs being used by studios is DSD.
 
Actually, the output of the vast majority of studio DACs is PCM. They may use an intermediary format within the D/A converter IC, typically multibit delta-sigma, but it is not PDM.
 
2e. Why bother decimating that to PCM when you can just distribute it in its original form and let consumers decide how to play it back?
 
DSD is actually only a mathematically approximated, noise-shaped representation of the original signal. 
 
3a. Despite that fact that almost all high-end DAC manufacturers are on-board with DSD, it still needs champions to push the format over the hump into widespread acceptance.
 
Actually, the only thing that will push it to widespread acceptance is a deep (and inexpensive) music catalog. The lack of software is what has killed every other alternative format to date.
 
3b. It's not fair just to sit back and say that once something becomes popular, I'll support it. If you think something is a good idea, go out and pound sand for it. (Now it's clear Jason doesn't think DSD is a good idea, so this is partly a futile request. But people do change their minds!)
 
Actually, I was the guy who argued for DSD, as you probably read in the Loki chapter. As I mentioned, it's much easier, from a marketing perspective, to check off a feature set, than to argue against it. And, I was successful in getting Mike excited enough to come up with an inexpensive DSD add-on DAC, so that people could try DSD and see if they like it. However, the promised flood of DSD content has not materialized, and prospective customers, by and large, appear to have lost interest in it, based on our inquiries and based on our sales. So, for the foreseeable future, I'm afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree. 

 
Thanks for responding. Regarding ADCs, I'm referring to this post and the posts surrounding it. It seems like the only ADC with a native PCM front-end has been discontinued, so they are all at least multi-bit PDM, and many single-bit PDM. (I don't understand the distinction between multibit delta-sigma and PDM, I've always seen the terms used interchangeably.) So it seems to me the purest audio chain is had by taking a 1-bit PDM ADC and directly sending the output to a DSD file, which appears to be what many of the audiophile DSD labels are doing (either using live music or analog tape masters as sources).
 
And I guess one can argue about the algorithmic complexity of the noise-shaping/feedback loop in the ADC, but when considering playback, DSD surely is substantially more "analog" than PCM. Here is a quote from Paul McGowen of PS Audio.
 
"Here’s the interesting part of this: if you take a DSD stream and run it through a simple analog lowpass filter to smooth out the on/off transitions, you get music!  This is amazing considering that if you do the same with PCM you get only noise...
DSD is a lot closer to analog than PCM ever thought to be."

Of course as you point out, to get the best music the playback circuit isn't quite that simple. But it does produce music. To me, that's very special and even a bit magical, for a file that can be stored as a stream of bits on a hard drive, just like PCM.

And I don't think the DSD to HDCD comparison is fair. HDCD had a strong corporate-pushed beginning, a brief peak and then a quick death. Apparently it was just a variation of PCM, in some proprietary format, nothing really exciting about it. DSD, in the form of SACD, also had a strong corporate-pushed beginning, a brief peak and then appeared to die... but with the birth of high-end computer audio was resurrected, and has been gathering lots of momentum in the few brief years that affordable USB DSD DACs have been around. And as discussed above I think it's so fundamentally different a format that there are plenty of reasons for people to get truly excited over it. We will see if the train keeps gathering steam.

 
Oct 4, 2014 at 9:19 AM Post #2,946 of 72,756

514077

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If one wants to play around with HDCD for any obscure reason, DBPowerAmp has an HDCD decoder available.  A few Mark Knopfler solo albums and the re-released Brothers In Arms hibrid had it encoded on the discs.  I think I noticed a diference though slight.  With computer software, it could still be used if there were only more titles.
I may just order a Loki soon just to try DSD to see if it's worth it.
 
Oct 4, 2014 at 11:19 AM Post #2,947 of 72,756

forkliftHIFI

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Enough DSD bickering the man promised to build you a high end DSD DAC if the format ever takes off.  For what inconceivable reason you believe that Schiit releasing a top of the line DSD box will be the harbinger of the DSD utopia?  Have you seen the market lately?  There is no shortage of boutique companies that will gladly lighten your wallet.  
        
 
Oct 4, 2014 at 11:55 AM Post #2,948 of 72,756

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And I guess one can argue about the algorithmic complexity of the noise-shaping/feedback loop in the ADC, but when considering playback, DSD surely is substantially more "analog" than PCM. Here is a quote from Paul McGowen of PS Audio.
 
"Here’s the interesting part of this: if you take a DSD stream and run it through a simple analog lowpass filter to smooth out the on/off transitions, you get music!  This is amazing considering that if you do the same with PCM you get only noise...
DSD is a lot closer to analog than PCM ever thought to be.

 
I actually feel my vintage PCM R2R DAC sounds way more "analog", like way way way way way more analog than Paul's latest DSD one-bit x one zillion megaHz DAC. This is playing either PCM or DSD source material on either DAC (real-time conversion of PCM to DSD or DSD to 24/44 in JRiver on PSA DSD or SFD-1 respectively.) 
 
I guess Paul happened to forget to mention that a certain kind of noise is added in the delta-sigma modular to the one-bit DSD stream to lower the noise floor of the audible region. Where Paul gets credit is that his DAC internals are running DSDx640 or something that like so a very simple filter can be used on the ultrasonic junk which is pushed much further in frequency. For DSDx1, this noise starts to rise shortly after 20kHz and starts to peak around 40-50kHz. So much for DSD as "hires" because for DSDx1, 30kHz to 90kHz is dominated by such a high noise floor where there is little dynamic range, at best a few bits. This is compounded by the fact that if there is signal past 20kHz, it tends to be of successively lower magnitude and thus gets buried by the noise; and also, we as humans may not be able to hear it (maybe we can sense it, who knows - I'm not going there.) On the real positives side, the dynamic range of DSD is substantial in the audible region, but nothing better than 20-bit PCM if we take noise limitations of the analog circuitry of DACs, amps, and the external environment into account.
 
Someone should make an audio version of FactCheck.org
 
Technology for the sake of technology is dumb anyways. How a recording was made, processed, and mastered matters more than the equipment. The quality of the equipment matters more than the format of the recording. Technology such as audio players that can convert DSD to PCM or vice versa in real time is awesome.
 
P.S. I own a decent amount of DSD of SACD stuff. For years now I haven't had an issue playing either format on either my PCM or DSD DACs. Some of DSD material sounds better than their CD equivalents because of better mastering. Some of the SACDs sound different. Some of it sounds worse, e.g. all of the Michael Jackson SACDs.
 
Oct 4, 2014 at 12:47 PM Post #2,949 of 72,756

sludgeogre

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I think it is silly to say that DSD is gaining any momentum when there are less than 500 albums in DSD on most music stores. DAC manufacturers providing support is just as Jason said, they're just adding another buzz word to their spec sheet. I would try DSD if there was any music that I liked in DSD, but I'm a metal head. There is no way for me to enter the space even if I wanted to, so as far as I'm concerned, its already a dead format. Going to some DSD stores to check their numbers, one of the first albums I see is "18th Century Flemish Harpsichord Music", OH BOY! MY FAV!
 
Oct 4, 2014 at 12:56 PM Post #2,950 of 72,756

BWAS1000

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I think it is silly to say that DSD is gaining any momentum when there are less than 500 albums in DSD on most music stores. DAC manufacturers providing support is just as Jason said, they're just adding another buzz word to their spec sheet. I would try DSD if there was any music that I liked in DSD, but I'm a metal head. There is no way for me to enter the space even if I wanted to, so as far as I'm concerned, its already a dead format. Going to some DSD stores to check their numbers, one of the first albums I see is "18th Century Flemish Harpsichord Music", OH BOY! MY FAV!


the whole I have DSD thing gives me a vibe similar to those with TOTL stuff. Its a bit of a bad view but it kinda feels like its a thing for people to buy the best stuff to show off. Like when I went to this store Audio Connection to listen to some Grado SR80is, it was a bunch of dudes with some pretty epic speakers and apparently ~20,000USD amps listening to classical music. And there I was with my iPod mini and E1, 15 years of age listening to some Yellowcard on the Grados. To compare, besides the Loki, DSD gear is pretty expensive, and not a lot of music is available on it, and most likely none of mine is available. Again, aside from the Loki, you don't have budget DSD stuff, and its apparently a pain to rip SACD.
 

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