Today is DSD day. Sometimes the stars align and a topic appears magically from thin air. My friend Ray Kimber (yes, the guy behind the Kimber Kable company) posted an item on my FB feed announcing, “TASCAM Releases FREE HI-RES Audio Editor”. You can read the piece at ASKAudio.com by clicking here. Written by Rounik Sethi, it’s basically a press release about their “Hi-Res Editor”, which is described as, “a free application that supports up to 11.2MHz DSD files or 384k WAV. The software allows playback and export of DSD files without intermediate conversion to PCM audio.”
It’s a simple editor that will split an/or combine native DSD files. While it works on PCM WAV files up to 384/32-bit (there they are again…the stupid big spec numbers), the thing that makes this piece of free software worthy is that it “is one of the only ways to edit native DSD master recordings.” The other methods…Merging Technologies’ Pyramix and Sony’ Sonoma systems are hugely expensive. Lots of companies like TASCAM, KORG, and SONY make DSD recorders, there’s not a lot of editing systems around that will let you do any post production on the DSD native recordings.
Figure 1 – The simple interface for the “Hi-Res Editor” freeware from TASCAM. You IN and OUT and you slice.
The other catalyst for revisiting DSD was an email from Jeffrey Barish of 3Beez, a Colorado company that makes “WAX” a very highly regarded music management system. He wrote me about a piece he authored on their website called, “DSD support in WAX”. I guess he was inspired by the 530 comments posted on the Computer Audiophile site recently after I wrote that 96 kHz/24-bit PCM is better than DSD. He asked if I feel like a “voice in the wilderness”. The answer is yes I do…but only sometimes. Some of the smartest people I know are out here in the wilderness with me including the inventors of the MQA system and the programmer behind Amarra and the designer of the Benchmark gear…and Jeffrey.
His article provides another take on the myth of DSD. You should read it to understand that I’m not the only one pushing against the magazines, CE companies, blog sites, online publications, and audiophile organizations that continue to advocate for something that they really don’t understand. Here’s the link to Jeff’s piece, DSD support in WAX.
Here are some of the points he makes:
1. “It is not possible to control the volume of a DSD recording in the digital domain.” – Imagine your collection of PCM and DSD files playing in shuffle mode using the WAX box. Without having converted the DSD files to PCM, you would have to constantly be turning up and down the analog volume of your system. This is obviously less than ideal.
2. “It is not possible to perform any signal processing on a DSD signal” – His paragraph under the “trouble with DSD” does some basic math in a 1-bit DSD digital world…and shows that things get rather difficult if you can’t move over to another column. His example, in binary 1+1 = 10. What are you supposed to do if you don’t have the second column? What do you think DSD systems do? They convert to analog, multibit PCM, “DXD” or multibit DSD called “DSD wide”. I love his statement, “The high sample rate of DXD is antithetical to high fidelity. Faster may be better to a point, but the exceedingly high sample rate of DXD makes it hard to control noise and distortion.”
3. “Converting an audio signal to DSD more than once is bad” – Real world audio production requires lots of flexibility, which means the DSD streams (which were supposed to be used for archiving not production) have to be converted several times. Bad.
You can read the article and see the rest of his argument. But his conclusion is worth quoting:
“DSD is a strange choice for a distribution format. Your readings might lead you to believe that it is a recent innovation with significant sonic advantages. It was actually invented two decades ago, and it was not originally meant for the applications to which it is being put today. As for sound quality, the good sound of some DSD recordings is more likely attributable to the expertise and care of recording engineers. Feel free to indulge your inclination to purchase a DSD recording if it satisfies you, but don’t be seduced by the hype.”
So I posted a link to his article under Ray Kimber’s FB item (Ray is a major believer in DSD). There was also a comment by Dr. David Robinson, the editor of Positive Feedback Online and a long time supporter of the format that said, “All such developments are encouraging.”
After reading the piece by Jeffrey, Dr. David Robinson’s comment was, “Meh”. I took it as a good sign.