Recording With DSD

Robert Katz Leave a Comment

Hello Bob (may I call you Bob?),

I recently picked-up your mastering book from Amazon, and am so E X C I T E D! I am a budding drummer/home recording enthusiast, and cannot sing enough praises about your book and website. Both are impressive to the extreme, and I will be spending massive amounts of time with each…thank you so much! What you have to offer is truly invaluable. The coolest part, perhaps, is that I discovered I live approximately 2 miles from Digital Domain! I have an excellent musician friend that has enough original material for me to record his first solo piano album…he is truly gifted…and we have already decided that we want you to master it…more on that later! I know that you are busy, so on to my question:

I would very much appreciate your opinion of the following recording set-up:

Rhode NT1-A mics (2), into Presonus Bluetube mic pre (2 channel), into Korg MR-1000 recorder (2 channel) @ 1 bit/5.6 MHz, convert to wav via (Korg Audiogate) software to 24/96Hz, load to ProTools for mixing/mastering, send via main line-outs from interface to analogue summing mixer (for color), then back into Korg for 2-track final print, again @ 1bit/5.6MHz (which would be down-converted to another SR, depending on the need/destination). If more than 2 orginal tracks, I would either skip the mixer in the mixdown from PT, and go (2 track) main outs from the interface directly to the Korg, or, not skip the mixer, but send each track out individually to a mixer line-in (might have to group some), convert to 24/96 again, master in PT, then add/not add the mixer before final print back into the Korg. I’m not sure if adding the analogue “color” twice is necessary. Maybe just during the final step is best, or would it be better to do them individually in the mixdown to 2 tracks, and skip it in the final print step? I have not tried this yet, as it will be several more months before I attain the rest of my gear. I realize that this equipment (hopefully with the exception of the Korg) is consumer level, but I am attempting to achieve good/excellent results at the front end, if for archiving purposes at the minimum. Does the signal chain look solid to you?

Thanks Bob,

Scot Collins

Dear Scot: Welcome to the world of recording. Yes, this is Bob, and I ony respond to “Bob” anyway  :-). Thanks for your nice comments on my book. SACD fans and DSD fans might differ with what I have to say below, so what you are reading below is just my opinion!

I’m not a personal fan of DSD because first of all I think that 192 kHz (or even 96 kHz) PCM is much easier to deal with. And secondly, above 96 kHz, or certainly from 192 kHz up, compared with the high rate DSD, I feel that the two formats are equivalent sonically. In listening tests with high sample rate PCM and comparing it with even the “fast” DSD, I found that there was a parity above 192 kHz, and an insignificant difference at 96 kHz, with the right converters. I think originating in standard speed DSD (like the Korg) could soften your presentation, but if you like the sweeter sound that method provides for you, I’m not going to stop you. It is a way of softening the transients in a very euphonic manner. I just think that committing to that in the origination (recording) stage is not necessarily the way to go. Then again, engineers decided to orginate (or not) on analog tape for many years without thinking twice, so there is an alternative position, it’s just not mine. However, if you do not use the VERY BEST converters and electronics, your accurate recording may sound harsh or inappropriate, especially if teamed with bright microphones. So a holistic approach is always required. 

I urge you to carefully compare the 192 kHz Blu-Rays from 2L recordings versus their consumer SACDs of the identical material. Both are sourced from their 8X DXD sources (which is really very high rate PCM) so they have identical sources and are just reductions. To my ears, the Blu Ray has more depth and transient clarity, while the SACD is not bad at all, just seems a little softer on the edges. Unless you have access to the original console output, you’re not going to know which is more accurate, but I’m betting on the one with better apparent transient response and clarity.

As for analog color, I suggest you start with an accurate recording rendition via an excellent PCM-based converter, or the Digital Audio Denmark DXD approach that 2L recordings is taking. At that point, you can add as much analog color as you’d like, but at least you will have originated in an unquestionably accurate format. That’s my two cents.

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