DSD, converting to: Yea or nay?

Bob Katz Leave a Comment

From: Dale Bryant

Is there anything to gain by converting my CD’s to DSD using Korg’s Audiogate software?

Dear Dale,

This depends on whether the reproduction equipment you use for DSD is as good as or better than the reproduction equipment for cd. Starting with CD (1644) material, I found that using a $20,000 system consisting of a cd player equipped with a proprietary FireWire output into a DAC which has many choices of upsaming including to dsd, there was a mysterious increase in depth with dsd compared to 192 kHz linear PCM. This could be unique to the brand that I tested, or something freaky about the dsd format. So it sounds different, even with the same source! After “upsampling” to DSD. So your mileage may vary. Use your ears and decide. It’s all in the architecture of the DAC as far as I’m concerned because if you start with 1644 you can’t create new information unless the “new” information is a false reality.

Then again, you may REVEAL more information with different reproduction methods and filters. Which is exactly what DSD is compared to PCM.  It is possible that the apparent increase in depth could be something psychoacoustic due to the out of band noise doing something with your tweeters. Is it biasing them into a more linear region? Or is it adding distortion in the audible which the ear interprets as more depth? More questions than answers. In the end you’re doing it to tickle the ears, and your ears are the judges. I just hope you are not fooling yourself. My standard is PCM, 2496 and above, and that is what I consider the source. I always hear a loss when I reduce it to the CD rate, and I work my butt off trying to minimize that loss during my mastering. But you can’t fit 24 pounds into a 16 pound bag. And PCM is the standard, so DSD is something you and I can play with and enjoy, but it’s not what typical consumers are going to buy.

Also, will recording with DSD and converting to 24/88.2 sound better than recording to 24/88.2 initially. I’m using the Lynx L22 card with a PC and considering a Korg mr-1000 or Tascam DVRA 1000 recorder.

Some people think so. How do you know it isn’t the euphonic character of the initial DSD conversion. To my experience, dsd (the low speed version) softens the sound slightly, a bit like magnetic tape. This produces a more pleasant sound with some types of music. But what if the converters you are using for 88.2 are more accurate but less flattering — in that case you might choose the more flattering route. If you’re getting into these kinds of subtleties, my approach would be to record at 192 kHz, which I find to be the most transparent and accurate, and by choice of preamps, mikes and outboard gear and recording technique, to get the sound I want. Given the limitations of current hardware in track count, make your own choice by careful listening and comparison. And realize that the type of music you are recording, your tastes and your mike techniques will dictate your choices. Anything over 44.1/24 bit will sound bett tha 1644, and slightly different as you go up. 48 kHz/24 bit really doesn’t sound that bad! So I’m not going to dictate your choices for you past 2448 without actually being there and able to audition a shootout with your recording techniques and material.

Personally I prefer to record and master using an accurate format (2496 in most cases around here) and use my outboard processing gear if I need a more euphonic presentation. It suits my philosophy.

Hope this helps


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