I’m running low on time today…one of my former students, longtime friend and senior engineer at AIX for over 10 years came by to help sort out some wiring questions for our new studio tenant. Dominic was my associate for all of the production and engineering of our line of almost 100 HD-Audio recordings. He was also the man behind the building of our state-of-the-art studio and soldered hundreds of Elco and other connectors to make this place sing.
About 15 months ago, he was very seriously injured in a freak traffic accident (he was hit by a motorcycle as he tried to help another rider on the freeway) that left him comatose and badly injured for many, many months. It’s a miracle but he’s making his way back from a shattered pelvis, broken shoulder and trauma to his head (they took sizeable piece of his skull off to allow for swelling and then put it back 3 months later). It’s been a challenge but he’s doing great these days and it was great to see him, have lunch and get some valuable information about the way the various panels are wired in the studios. I had no clue how things were wired…although I figured out enough to keep on working.
I got an email from a reader that wanted me to know about the portable high-resolution recorder/player made by Korg. It’s called the MR-2 and features built in microphones, preamps and the ability to capture audio in PCM up to 192 kHz/24-bits and “SACD ultra-high quality 1-bit DSD at 2.8224 MHz”. The unit fits in the palm of your hand, includes an analog limiter, low-cut filter and bass equalizer. The sound is stored on SD or SDHC data cards, which can then be transferred to your DAW. Pretty amazing little unit…lots of flexibility and highly portable.
However, the opening line of the promo blurb on the product page says, “Experience the difference of DSD fidelity.” Why couldn’t the marketing types at Korg simply promote their machine as a high-resolution, 2.0-channel stereo recording device and leave the spin about DSD’s “alleged superiority” for users to judge. I really don’t get it and I seriously doubt that any of the copywriters really know anything about the professional world of audio engineering. I guess strictly speaking I should encourage people to “experience the difference”…if they hear what I hear…PCM is the only way to go.
The web page about DSD Audio on the Korg site says defines DSD as the following:
DSD – astounding audio quality
DSD is the highest quality audio format available today, using Direct Stream Digital technology to faithfully reproduce the original sound. Today, DSD is used by recording and mastering studios around the world as the preferred audio format for recording and mastering. We encourage you to try out the MR-2 so that you can experience DSD audio for yourself. When recording DSD audio, the signal is recorded without further conversion, and can then be played back in its original format, ensuring that every sparkling nuance of the sound is reproduced. This means that a DSD recording is able to preserve the sound in a form that is closest to the original sound, making it suitable as a future proof archive that can support changes in formats through the years. Top engineers and mastering experts proclaim that DSD offers the closest representation of analog warmth and the presence of the original recording than any other format.
I know it’s part of my regular rant but just how much of the preceding paragraph is actually true? None!
• DSD is NOT the highest quality audio format available today! It is one flavor of encoding technology among many but it suffers from HF noise as I repeatedly stated. Some people like the sound of DSD but that doesn’t elevate it to the “highest quality” tier.
• DSD is NOT even known let alone popular or preferred by most recording and mastering studios around the world. The professional world is virtually 100% PCM based. The only studios I’m aware of are specialty houses that cater to audiophile labels or Sony’s own archiving facility or associates. The reason is there are no tools to work with DSD in its native format…you have to stay in the analog domain or switch to PCM to do most standard studio processes.
• “When recording DSD audio, the signal is recorded without further conversion, and can then be played back in its original format, ensuring that every sparkling nuance of the sound is reproduced.” — DSD has to be converted just like PCM does…although it does avoid some of the filtering required by PCM. The representation of the information is different but DSD is no closer to the analog sound than any other digital format. You can’t plug it into an amplifier and simply turn it up to hear a playback. And just how “sparkling” can a recording be that has the DSD HF noise covering it up?
• “Top engineers and mastering experts proclaim that DSD offers the closest representation of analog warmth and the presence of the original recording than any other format.” — This is not what the engineers that I know are saying…in fact, most of them have never heard or worked on a DSD project.
I’m OK with individuals liking DSD as a format for recording or delivering audio or music but the hyperbole (I’m being polite, here) is just unnecessary and not helpful. Providing the users of this piece of equipment the choice to record in DSD or HD PCM is the right thing to do. But just leave it at that. Or at least let a real professional have equal time extolling the virtues of HD PCM as the “highest quality audio format available today”.