In researching the posts of the last few days, I done a lot of reading and exchanged a bunch of emails with people who’s opinions I respect in the area of audio engineering, equipment design, and product manufacturing. Today, I’d like to share a few things that came my way in the form of emails or comments. I’m not going to reveal the authors of these statements because they were sent to me privately…I might even paraphrase here and there. But I believe the audiophile segment of the population needs to carefully consider what the get when they opt for DSD recordings.
I got the following from a customer of PS Audio, the company that recently offered upgrades to the owners of the Perfect Wave DAC. Their “upgrade” to the Perfect Stream DA forces every source recording to be converted to DSD prior to playback. I’ve written about this rather harsh design consideration. Click here to read about the new Direct Wave.
I got this note from a PS Audio customer that purchased the upgrade.
“I just recently updated my PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC to the Direct Stream. I ran it straight into the amp using the onboard volume control.
Now since I have ‘updated’ the DAC to the Direct Stream, I feel I have lost my way. Despite having been run in over 300 hours I feel the presentation has been dulled or truncated. It feels as if it has lost speed and clarity, like it needs to blow its nose. I have tried putting a preamp in the chain as well as a passive attenuator and still I am want for clarity.
I could reinstall the Perfect Wave components and sell the Direct Stream kit but wanted to get a recommendation from you on what DACs I should take a look at should I decide to break camp with PS Audio.”
I haven’t responded to this individual yet but found his “needs to blow its nose” comment compelling (I admit it brought a wide smile to my face). His comments are interesting. I don’t know if they are typical because I haven’t reached out to any other PS Audio customers that purchased the “upgrade”. I think PS Audio made a critical error by forcing everyone to adopt DSD in the Direct Stream unit. Why not augment the unit with that “feature” instead of mandating it? I’m always in favor of providing choices to my customers.
Another comment came from a long time reader. He was compelled to download a track from Channel Classics in native DSD to hear just what pure DSD can sound like. He wrote:
“Just to check things out, I downloaded an album from Channel Classics in DSD 64. The recording was captured straight from the analog mixing board in DSD. No PCM processing or I wouldn’t have bothered. MY DAC does not do DSD but Audirvanna converts it to 24/176.4 for my DAC to process. Yes, it is a warm sound but lacking in HF detail and air. I compared it to a 24/192 captured recording of similar material, which has more spatial detail and a less rolled off sound, which to these ears sounds more lifelike. I have been an audiophile kind of guy since the 80’s and I can see why some audiophiles love DSD as being older guys, their setups are too bright and the DSD sound fits right in to their systems. To me, the good PCM stuff sounds more like the live sound I experience at venues, especially small classical and jazz venues. On this one trial there is no doubt that the DSD recording (of very fine music I might add) sounds very pleasing, just not as accurate as PCM. The good news out of all of this is at least, with computer-based music, we have choices to pick the particular flavor that we enjoy. Some like warm sound. I want as accurate to the live event that I can get. But at least we have choices. Keep up the good work Mark.”
And finally, I received this from an EE guy that designs and builds world-class converters:
“Thanks for posting this often overlooked detail in the history of DSD”. He’s referring to my post from the 18th…
“By the time Sony and Philips completed the design and manufacturing of their first SA-CD machines (which were limited to stereo playback initially), the chip makers had already made advances in the design of their chips. It turned out that analog to digital converters had abandoned clocks of 64fs (64 times 44.1 kHz) and moved to 128fs. And they determined that using only a single bit wasn’t the best technology either. The state-of-the-art moved beyond 1-bit (from 1.5 to 5 bits). The imagined simplicity of the original Sony plan failed…to stay current with the new chips they needed additional processing, which was not part of the new player designs. Sony and Philips were forced to live with the older design based on the capacity of the discs (which held the same amount of data as a standard DVD…4.7 GB). The original SA-CD players and discs used DSD 64 and analog filters…and they were produced from analog and PCM masters.”
Tomorrow I’ll be writing about a study that was done to test whether subjects can perceive a sonic difference between DSD 64 and PCM at 176.4/24-bits. Check back then.