I received notifications from a couple of sources yesterday about Chad Kassem’s new entry to the world of high-quality digital downloads. It’s got a strange name that can’t help but confuse customers in a marketplace that is already full of confusion and misinformation, but perhaps that’s what they’re going for. It called SuperHiRez. I like to think I have a pretty good handle on the concept of high-resolution or hi-res audio but to move beyond that and call something SuperHiRez seems to imply a level of fidelity that is well beyond normal high-resolution. I don’t know what that might be.
The site seems to focus extensively on the emerging push to get more DSD downloads into the high-end market. We all know that there are lots of DACs that can handle DSD files. My Benchmark DAC2 has that ability, although strangely that unit wasn’t on the “recommended hardware” list that is part of the SuperHiRez site. That’s a major oversight as the Benchmark unit has been very highly reviewed for both PCM and DSD playback. Could it be because John Siau, the designer of the Benchmark product, believes that DSD is not the equal of PCM? (Read the interview on this site).
The site features the following categories: DSD Downloads, FLAC 176 kHz /24-bit Downloads, 88 kHz /24-bit Downloads, 44 kHz /24-bit Downloads and ALAC 88 kHz /24-bit Downloads. I can’t help but be a little bugged by the use of incorrect sample rates in each of the PCM options…the correct numbers are 176.4, 88.2 and 44.1 kHz! When you click to one of the albums on the main page or following a search, you discover that there are several options associated with most recordings (See figure 1 below).
Figure 1 – Honeyboy Edwards – Shake ‘Em On Down page from SuperHiRez.com showing purchase choices.
The DSD version on most albums (you cannot purchase individual tracks) will set you back $25. The other choices are listed below:
• FLAC 176kHz/24bit Download $24.98
• FLAC 88kHz/24bit Download $24.98
• ALAC 176kHz/24bit Download $24.98
• FLAC 44kHz/24bit Download $17.98
• ALAC 44kHz/24bit Download $17.98
• ALAC 88kHz/24bit Download $17.98
• 180 Gram Vinyl Record $15.00
• Hybrid Stereo SACD $12.50
• CD $5.00
• DVD Video $2.99
The pricing is interesting. I looked but couldn’t find the audio encoding type used on the DVD-Video. If it has 96 kHz/24-bit PCM 2-channel stereo tracks on it, it would be a real bargain (and superior to most of the other flavors including the DSD). I’m very tempted to download all of these flavors and run them through a thorough analysis. I suspect what I will find is that they are virtually the same…except for the price. I just can’t justify spending a hundred dollars or more on a fantasy.
I did purchase a Counting Crows album (I have to wait for my credit card to process so I won’t be able to report on the relative merits of the DSD version vs. the CD-Audio version that I have sitting by my CD player behind (this is one of my favorite bands and I have listened to “August and Everything After” many times. I’ll keep you posted. My plan is to playback the DSD file through my DAC2 and capture it at 96 kHz/24-bits PCM. I’ll be able to analyze the file and produce spectragraphs that should show the expected HF noise for the DSD version vs. the standard CD resolution.
I tried to get the website’s audio samples to play on my Mac connected via USB to my Benchmark DAC1 but despite getting a new window to open up, there was no sound. I’m sure it’s something simple but it would be interesting to know what type of files they are and their resolution.
As you might expect, I was very intrigued by the page labeled “What is DSD?” This is the text that is found on that page:
What is DSD?
DSD is a 1-bit sigma/delta recording system running at a very high sample rate. Where a CD is sampling at 44 (sic) thousand times a second, the effective sample rate with DSD is 2.8 (sic) million. It is a significant step closer to the infinite sample rate of real analog recording. And thus, the feel you get when you listen to a pure DSD recording is a very analog feeling. It gives us back what we lost when we went to digital in the early 80’s. Even if the source for a DSD file is an analog tape master (that has not gone through a digital process), the feel you get when listening is like listening to analog tape. What you hear feels more believable. With DSD there is no such thing as digital word. It is just a one-bit stream. If you send it to a low pass filter, you can actually hear music.
This passage is followed by this graphic (see Figure 2 below):
Figure 2 – The chart taken from the SuperHiRez.com site page that explains what DSD is. PLEASE CLICK TO ENLARGE TO READ THE TEXT!
There is so much misinformation in the paragraph and chart that it astounds me. I know Chad is a consummate salesman and knows his market, but whoever put this page and graphic together is living on another planet! I’m not sure how to respond. Although here is my favorite line:
“…the infinite sample rate of real analog recording.” There is no sample rate associated with analog recording…and just what is “real” analog recording”?
I’ll have more to report tomorrow after I get my download from this new SuperHiRez site. I have to let my blood pressure get back to normal now.