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Does DSD sound better than PCM?

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Bluespower

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NOS DACs have so many inherent flaws IMHO that noise is the least of your concerns ;)



In most rooms, noise below -70dB or -80dB is completely inaudible, never mind the -120dB or better offered by any decent DS DAC. So there’s no need for anything added to the sound to “hide” the noise.

And let’s make a clear distinction between what some ppl prefer (audible distortion) and fidelity to the source :)
Then why not thinking of a test that would show the ability to be pleasant? If i buy a very hifg fidelity dac that render most of the records unpleasantly to my hear i don't see how it helps.
 

andreasmaaan

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@andreasmaaan can i ask you what is your dac amp and speakers? You seems to have knowledge to choose good stuff :)
Ha, thanks :) I’m good with speakers but with digital audio I just know what I need to know.. Anyway my main DAC is an RME Adi-2 DAC, then the rest of the system is kind of a work in progress atm as it’s really a PA system built up of prototype speakers I’ve been developing over the past year. It uses DSP modules from an OEM supplier, amps from Pascal, and drivers from B&C. The weakest link atm is the DSP (or the module’s AD/DA stages really), but the next iteration will (if all goes to plan) solve the issues I’ve had with the current units.

FWIW, I highly recommend the Adi-2 DAC, although if you don’t need all the features or high output power you can do as well for a lot less IMO.

I’m not at all against gear that measures badly if ppl like the sound of it, but think it’s important to be clear about what’s accurate and what’s not and to not misattribute taste/preference to quality/accuracy.
 

mansr

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Firstly, it’s hard to imagine a real-world case where this might actually cause a problem. Most tweeters are outputting next to nothing at 40KHz, where DSD noise is lower than -60dB (that’s for standard DSD, for higher rate DSD the noise starts to rise at even higher frequencies).
It is true that most speakers produce very little sound above 40 kHz. This does not, however, mean they are unaffected by such signals. High-frequency inputs can cause audible intermodulation distortion or even harmful heating of the voice coil. Power amps can also suffer ill effects from such noise. It is best to filter it out as soon as possible.
 

andreasmaaan

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It is true that most speakers produce very little sound above 40 kHz. This does not, however, mean they are unaffected by such signals. High-frequency inputs can cause audible intermodulation distortion or even harmful heating of the voice coil. Power amps can also suffer ill effects from such noise. It is best to filter it out as soon as possible.
I agree, although IM distortion won't be produced if there's no HF output. And as mentioned somewhere else in the thread, most DSD implementations incorporate a passive LPF above the audio band in the output stage of the DAC (IIUC).

BTW, I'm no apologist for DSD as a playback medium - I see no need for it nor any advantage. I just don't think it should be audibly inferior or different from PCM when executed correctly. You certainly know more about it than I do though :)
 

gvl

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But since we live in the DS DAC world you can't really avoid DSD you use DSD files or PCM, can you?
 

bennetng

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gvl

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Modern delta sigma converters don't work like DSD. DSD is just a representation of ancient delta sigma converters. See mansr's post to see his iFi Nano DAC (DSD1793) has much lower ultrasonic noise than DSD when decoding PCM data.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...es-dsd-sound-better-than-pcm.5700/post-128312
Funny you should say that as the PCM1793 is a chip from 2004 that can be considered ancient now. I don't know if mansr's findings extend to latest offerings from AKM and ESS.
 

bennetng

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n2it

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A few of comments after reading this thread. Just over 99% of my albums are in PCM (and > 95% of those are CD sourced). I have around 15 SACDs and there are some good reasons why I have those 15 SACDs and would buy SACDs in the future. I don't generally see a reason to convert from PCM to DSD (nor from DSD to PCM)- and whether it makes sense to have something in DSD vs PCM really depends upon the source.
  1. An analog source that was (re)mastered to DSD (e.g. Murray Head - Nigel Lived remaster, Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet remaster). While we can (subjectively) argue the merits of "high res" audio or whether these might these have sounded better to PCM 176/24, in these cases DSD was the chosen digital "high res" format.
  2. Multi-channel audio (one of my favorites is Alison Krauss & Union Station - Live). Sure - if produced today, there might be a different choice. We can't rewrite history.
  3. A number of Telarc recordings that were originally done on Soundstream PCM 50/16 format (e.g. Maazel/Cleveland Orchestra - Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5). Telarc remastered a number of them to SACD in the mid or late 2000s. The existing CDs were compressed / down converted from the original PCM and Telarc chose SACD for a number of remasters. That probably makes sense given they were doing original recordings at the same time in DSD and were release much of their stuff in SACD/CD hybrid. Is 50/16 that is compressed to 44/16 better than converted to DSD64? I really don't know but am happy with the limited Soundstream/Telarc SACDs that I have and it's not really worth my time to A/B with a CD version.
  4. Direct to DSD - Telarc did a number of these in the mid 2000s (e.g. Hiromi - Brain - which is also multi-channel), and there are some today who continue recording direct to DSD (or with very limited DXD splicing) like Blue Coast Records, etc. Doesn't really matter if we think they should or shouldn't record to DSD. If I like what they are producing, I'll buy it - it is about the music, not the format.
PCM (including DXD) is more convenient for me and while I prefer it, I wouldn't automatically throw out all SACD because of some of the limitations mentioned above - neither format is a perfect representation of what was played. We have little to no control over what formats media companies and providers will publish in (why would anyone really prefer a compressed AAC, MP3 or MQA compared to its non compressed version - yet they exist). But all things being equal (e.g. same mastering, similar cost), I want to get the highest resolution, non converted/non up-sampled source that I can - even if that happens to be DSD.
 

graz_lag

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@n2it Thank you for expressing so well my point of views !!! :cool:
 

bennetng

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I have no problem if people prefer a format due to any potential differences in the production process, or due to availability and historical reasons, but it is not a discussion about the inherent capability of the formats themselves.

BTW, here is Archimago's measurement of SMSL iDEA (ES9018Q2C) measured by Focusrite Forte.
http://archimago.blogspot.com/2017/05/measurements-smsl-idea-usb-dac.html



Even a signal chain involving a cheap DAC and a discontinued mid-tier ADC can detect the rise of noise in DSD64 and 128, which means the format itself is a bottleneck of modern delta sigma converters.

16/44 PCM has a bitrate of 1411.2kbps. If DSD is better, it should be able to achieve better or same quality by using a lower bitrate instead of higher.
 
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Roen

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As for the bitrate argument, the PCM equivalent bitrate is 24 bit, so by going 16-bit (and under the 20-bit noise floor), PCM is gaining a 33% reduction in overall bitrate. Whether that's appropriate is up in the air.

I generally try to find my files in 24/44.1 or 24/48, so still a sizeable difference compared to DSD64 (which is approximately 24/88.2, but with more noise due to noise shaping)
 

bravomail

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Excellent big writeup, n2it!
And we are here to tell you that if u have choice between PCM and DSD - always get PCM :)
DSD is Sony's marketing gimmick to thwart pirates!
But all things being equal (e.g. same mastering, similar cost), I want to get the highest resolution, non converted/non up-sampled source that I can - even if that happens to be DSD.
 

bennetng

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As for the bitrate argument, the PCM equivalent bitrate is 24 bit, so by going 16-bit (and under the 20-bit noise floor), PCM is gaining a 33% reduction in overall bitrate. Whether that's appropriate is up in the air.

I generally try to find my files in 24/44.1 or 24/48, so still a sizeable difference compared to DSD64 (which is approximately 24/88.2, but with more noise due to noise shaping)
It's obvious that DSD128's noise rises an octave later than DSD64. To achieve the same bitrate as 16/44 PCM means DSD16 (1-bit 705.6kHz). Noise will rise two octaves earlier than DSD64, which means about 5kHz.
 

Frank Dernie

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As for the bitrate argument, the PCM equivalent bitrate is 24 bit, so by going 16-bit (and under the 20-bit noise floor), PCM is gaining a 33% reduction in overall bitrate. Whether that's appropriate is up in the air.

I generally try to find my files in 24/44.1 or 24/48, so still a sizeable difference compared to DSD64 (which is approximately 24/88.2, but with more noise due to noise shaping)
I stick to 16-bit. The files are smaller and the dynamic range is still more than I can exploit in my room with a background level of 30dB at its quietest. 24 bits can be handy for recording, any duffer can get the levels OK with a 24 bit recorder, but is a waste for playback IMO. The very finest low level analogue circuits are rarely better than 20-bit equivalent and power amps pretty well all worse than this, so 24 bit gives no benefit and increases file sizes by 50% - I know storage is cheap but I prefer efficiency on principle.
 

Roen

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I stick to 16-bit. The files are smaller and the dynamic range is still more than I can exploit in my room with a background level of 30dB at its quietest. 24 bits can be handy for recording, any duffer can get the levels OK with a 24 bit recorder, but is a waste for playback IMO. The very finest low level analogue circuits are rarely better than 20-bit equivalent and power amps pretty well all worse than this, so 24 bit gives no benefit and increases file sizes by 50% - I know storage is cheap but I prefer efficiency on principle.
I mean, 16 is still less than 20, so you can't say there's no benefit, only a very small one in some cases.
 

Roen

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It's obvious that DSD128's noise rises an octave later than DSD64. To achieve the same bitrate as 16/44 PCM means DSD16 (1-bit 705.6kHz). Noise will rise two octaves earlier than DSD64, which means about 5kHz.
Hence why it's spec'ed for 24/88.2. No point in running a format outside of its spec.

Honda Civics make ****** airplanes.
 
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