This is a continuation of yesterday’s post. Here’s a link to Part I.
However, the overarching theme of the piece is that “PCM and DSD are different and I believe complementary recording methodologies. Smart audio engineers and producers must consider both before choosing one or the other for a recording project.” I guess I’m not one of the “smart engineers” because I cannot justify using a technology that limits the sonic quality of a native recording. Why not start with something that delivers fantastic fidelity, has decades of refinements behind it, an endless list of creative and useful tools that can be used with it and a seamless delivery path to consumers.
I teach audio engineering. Next semester my students will learn about PCM AND DSD. It’s important for them to know that there are lots of formats available to them. This past semester I took my analog tape machine to the class and spent a couple of weeks on analog tape recording. If a client of theirs wants to produce using DSD, then they will need to know about it. Would I recommend they use DSD for their own projects…certainly not.
I completely agree with Steven’s statement “no media is perfect”. But I would hope that he would agree that they are not all equivalent in their ability to record and reproduce audio accurately. He argues that DSD and PCM are just two different “tool sets” that engineers and producers can use as the job dictates. I would allow analog tape in this group as it is still widely used and offers yet another popular “sonic signature” than DSD and PCM.
Last summer, I used high-resolution PCM AND analog tape to capture a live solo pianist. Contrary to Steven’s stated preference for DSD in this case…”DSD is best for live recordings of acoustic concerts”…I would never consider using DSD to capture a live concert. I simply want the most accurate recording of the performed music without the limited bandwidth and ultrasonic noise of DSD. The shortcomings of PCM are far less problematic. If a particular producer wants me to apply a LPF (low pass filter to remove the HFs) or otherwise “color” the sound that can always be done during the post production stage of the project.
Figure 1 – A spectragram showing high-resolution digital (96 kHz/24-bits) vs. analog tape. [Click to enlarge]
Current audio engineers are very fortunate to have a variety of formats to choose from when producing new recordings. Cookie Marenco prefers to record on analog tape and then transfer to DSD after all of the processing (recall there are no tools to do the things that she wants to do in the recording, editing and mixing of the audio), Morten Lynberg records to DXD (PCM) and then transcodes to a variety of DSD AND PCM flavors and I prefer to capture my projects live without overdubs to 96 kHz/24-bit PCM as multitrack projects. I would never fault anyone for making his or her own choices.
But they should be making those choices from an intelligent and informed perspective. If you know what the problems are with a particular format AND then want to employ that format for a new project then I say go for it.
Steven believes that I view DSD as a “competitor to DSD”. I couldn’t disagree more. For something to a serious competitor, it has to measure up to the best qualities of that which it is trying replace. Would you bet on a Mini Cooper to triumph over a Ferrari in a road race. They are both viable ways of getting around…but I’d take the Ferrari any day.