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DSD vs PCM for music purchases


audiovkk
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So, if you were faced with a choice to purchase an SACD (DSD 64 ) or download a 96/24 which would you choose and why? This is assuming both recordings were sourced from the same master obviously, or all bets are likely off. Where does PCM start sounding better than an SACD? Would you choose 192 over SACD? I've listened to DXD ( 358 ) and it sounds great. But I still feel that SACD sounds better than 96KHZ. Just wondering. I know math can say one thing, but obviously there other factors such as the noise characteristics of DSD vs PCM and the fact that DSD is PWM vs PCM. I'm not intending this to be a DSD vs PCM thread, but more to glean information from people who have experimented and listened on how I should target my hidef purchases.

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There are a few considerations. Many SACD purchasers are purchasing for multichannel playback. You dont say but i infer you are not interested in MC. The releasing format depends upon the music publisher. If the recording format and releasing format are the same the choice is clear. DXD has similar impulse response characteristics to DSD 64-128. DSD256 is the highest resolution format in both recording and releasing formats but not typically for popular music genres. So in short you need to reason through every release to figure out your best options. There is no hard and fast rule. Depends if you are a gearhead or music head also. Sometimes the art of the music trumps all concerns about format. My rules are to acquire physical disks where available, to prefer multichannel release formats dvd audio, blu ray, sacd. Within those bounds i will privilege DSD recordings over med rate PCM. DXD is perfectly acceptable to me.In some cases the music is so desirable then high resolution can be forfeited. Along with hi resolution music, the availability of upsampling software, higher order DSD software engines outperforming silicon chips, femto clocks and so forth are transforming older 16-20 bit recordings into quite listenable material. Likewise advanced digital encoders, new mag tap head alloys, refurbished hot rodded tape machines are providing superb hi-resolution tape transfers as well. So it depends on each albums lineage there is no simple answer.

Music Interests: http://www.onebitaudio.com

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Like pacwin stated I prefer the high-resolution physical format if available. My first choice is SACD. I listen in 2-channel though.

 

I buy high resolution downloads when the music is not available on SACD or when I don't want the entire album, just one or two selections. I prefer physical formats for many reasons. Physical formats have a booklet, program notes, most audiophile recordings have information about who produced and engineered the album and the equipment used, etc. And if I don't like a physical album or I quit liking it in the future, I can sell or trade it in, with a download I can only delete with a 100% loss.

 

To be fair some high resolution downloads do have a PDF of the booklet, however some recording information is only on the bottom inlay card of physical formats which is totally missing from downloads.

 

Finally, physical formats are usually less expensive, except for a few labels in which the download is less such as Analogue Productions and BIS. Most other labels charge more for high resolution downloads than for SACDs.

 

My Teac DAC plays up to 384kHz PCM and 5.6MHz (DSD 128) with that in mind here are my preferences.

 

  1. SACD whither from DSD, PCM or analog masters.
  2. Blu-ray if SACD is not available whither from DSD, PCM or analog masters.
  3. DVD such as Reference Recordings 24/176.4kHz HRx data discs with wav music files and 24/96 DAD DVDs if SACD is not available whither from PCM or analog masters.
  4. 5.6MHz (DSD 128) download if SACD is not available whither from DSD or analog masters.
  5. 2.8MHz (DSD 64) download if 5.6MHz (DSD 128) download or SACD is not available whither from DSD or analog masters.
  6. 24/192kHz or 176.4kHz PCM download if SACD, Blu-ray or 24 bit DVD is not available.
  7. 24/96kHz or 24/88.2kHz PCM download if 24/96kHz or 24/88.2kHz download, SACD, Blu-ray or 24 bit DVD is not available.

 

That said here are my answer to your questions:

 

So, if you were faced with a choice to purchase an SACD (DSD 64 ) or download a 96/24 which would you choose and why? This is assuming both recordings were sourced from the same master obviously, or all bets are likely off..

 

In every case I would prefer the SACD since it is a physical disc and has resale value.

 

Where does PCM start sounding better than an SACD?

 

For me, in my system no PCM sounds better than 2.8MHz (DSD 64) or SACD. The only thing I like better than SACD or 2.8MHz (DSD 64) is 5.6MHz (DSD 128).

 

Would you choose 192 over SACD?

 

SACD would still be my first choice. However, if not available on SACD, I would select the 24/192kHz PCM download over the DSD download if the original master is PCM, if the original master is DSD or analog I would prefer the DSD download.

 

I've listened to DXD ( 358 ) and it sounds great. But I still feel that SACD sounds better than 96KHZ. Just wondering. I know math can say one thing, but obviously there other factors such as the noise characteristics of DSD vs PCM and the fact that DSD is PWM vs PCM. I'm not intending this to be a DSD vs PCM thread, but more to glean information from people who have experimented and listened on how I should target my hidef purchases.

 

I agree DXD sounds great. However, I've downloaded both the DXD (24/358.2kHz) and 128 DSD (5.6MHz) of a few selections from 2L's test bench and thought the DXD (24/358.2kHz) may have slightly more details but the 5.6MHz DSD were more enjoyable as music to me. Most of 2L masters are DXD (24/358.2kHz) so logic would indicate that the DXD music file would be the closest to the sound of the master. Oh, well.

I have dementia. I save all my posts in a text file I call Forums.  I do a search in that file to find out what I said or did in the past.

 

I still love music.

 

Teresa

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I'm the opposite of the others - I prefer downloads to discs, given a choice.

 

Is this a master from tape converted to digital? Then I'd probably like a conversion to DSD better if it is a first generation conversion (i.e., not a conversion from PCM). IME, tape to DSD conversions are the best way to digitize tape, as a rule.

 

Digital master? How are they from the same master - were two masters recorded simultaneously?

 

In general, I'd always pick the original conversion or source format, and not a secondary one. That is, many SACDs are based on a PCM master. In that situation I'd go for the PCM.

If there are actually two original digital masters, one PCM and one DSD (almost never happens), then I guess my choice would depend on the type of music and recording: small acoustic group recorded live or live orchestral recording - I'd prefer DSD. Rock and popular music - I'd probably prefer PCM.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Like firedog, I would prefer the original format of the recording or the mastering (in case of analogue recordings).

 

... all other things being equal (same source material and mastering).

 

For some vintage Columbia albums, there are now downloads being available in DSD and in PCM in different download stores. But these are actually different masterings. The DSD files usually come from an early 2000's SACD reissue, and the PCM is a newer transfer. So in these cases, the question is not so much, is DSD or PCM better, but which is the better mastering. Because the sound difference due to mastering choices is almost always bigger than the difference between DSD and hi-rez PCM.

Claude

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If from the same mastering, the answer is reasonably simple.

 

For most DACs, SACD ripped to DSD or DSD download should sound a little better if there is any difference you can hear. This is because it won't go through a PCM to DSD conversion step in computer software or internally in most DACs.

 

One possible exception is DACs with ESS chips, which convert everything to ~44.1*M*Hz, so conversion takes place regardless. However, many people feel the initial conversion from PCM is the most important step, so DSD could still have a slight audible advantage.

 

The other exception is of course DACs that accept only PCM input.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Like firedog, I would prefer the original format of the recording or the mastering (in case of analogue recordings).

 

... all other things being equal (same source material and mastering).

 

For some vintage Columbia albums, there are now downloads being available in DSD and in PCM in different download stores. But these are actually different masterings. The DSD files usually come from an early 2000's SACD reissue, and the PCM is a newer transfer. So in these cases, the question is not so much, is DSD or PCM better, but which is the better mastering. Because the sound difference due to mastering choices is almost always bigger than the difference between DSD and hi-rez PCM.

 

I think a good example of this is Kind of Blue. There's the older SACD DSD release, and the more recent PCM. I think the more recent PCM 192 sounds a bit better; but I only think that when I compare them. When I hear the DSD on its own it sounds great.

Which one to get - probably depends on your personal taste and your system.

 

I seem to remember hearing about a newer DSD remaster, but I'm not sure about that. I'm sure someone will chime in with the info.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Thanks to everyone for the food for thought.

 

Kind of Blue is special. I have the Mobile Fidelity SACD's of a bunch of stuff including KOB and I think they sound great and are treasures to own ( I guess I'm like Teresa here ). Not even Roon can replicate the feeling of the jacket and the liner notes etc. I did see that people love the 192khz version and it's one of the background thoughts that propelled this query. The Mofi version is much better than the original columbia SACD ( with multichannel ) which I also own to CatManDo's point about the mastering quality, not just the source being important. Firedog - do you have the Columbia or the Mofi SACD?

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Thanks to everyone for the food for thought.

 

Kind of Blue is special. I have the Mobile Fidelity SACD's of a bunch of stuff including KOB and I think they sound great and are treasures to own ( I guess I'm like Teresa here ). Not even Roon can replicate the feeling of the jacket and the liner notes etc. I did see that people love the 192khz version and it's one of the background thoughts that propelled this query. The Mofi version is much better than the original columbia SACD ( with multichannel ) which I also own to CatManDo's point about the mastering quality, not just the source being important. Firedog - do you have the Columbia or the Mofi SACD?

 

I have the Columbia ripped. When I obtain a way to rip my own SACDs I will probably buy the Mofi, as there seems to be broad agreement that it is fantastic. The 192 stereo and mono are very good. It would be interesting to compare them to the Mofi.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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As for DSD vs PCM in most cases DSD sounds better to me (I've done probably 150-200 listening comparisons, usually not knowing the master format or whether it's the same remaster or not). I use the same DAC for both.

 

As for 'Kind of Blue' I said it before - I'm slightly addicted. I have 3 CD versions and 4 hi-res ones. One version to rule them all :)

 

The 2007 SACD Japanese remix. Remixed from the original 3 channel tape.

 

kind-of-blue-2007-japan-sacd-remaster-hr.jpg

 

 

As a rule I'm not a fan of a remix idea. This one sounds fabulous - it retains the atmosphere and ambience of the original recording (maybe even enhances it a little!) and at the same time gives the recording a modern 'feel' (maybe saying that it sounds as if recorded yesterday would be a slight exaggeration but just a slight one..). Its minor disadvantage is the lack of the alternate take of 'Flamenco Sketches'.

 

Check this one if you don't know it!

kind-of-blue-2007-japan-sacd-remaster-hr.jpg

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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