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Thread: DSD comparison to PCM.

  1. #511
    If I understand correctly, in the real world where multitrack recordings are the norm, nearly all SACD and DSD-download releases have passed through:

    (A) DSD-wide (Sonoma)
    (B) 32/352.8 PCM/DXD (Pyramix)
    (C) are converted from PCM sources varying from 20/88.2 to 24/192
    (D) are sourced from two-track analog mastertapes

    If that's so, then "pure" DSD recordings hardly exist at all, in the narrow audiophile sense of 2 microphones -> preamp -> ADC -> DSD -> DAC -> consumer playback. What we're hearing are either all-analog sources, dating from the Eighties or earlier, or more modern recordings which are sourced and mixed in studio-grade PCM, DXD/PCM, or DSD-wide.

    Bruce, you're the professional, and know the answers here. What about recordings from the mid-Eighties to the early 2000's, before Pyramix and Sonoma? The 24-track tape machines and EMT reverbs were gradually replaced by all-digital systems, at fairly low PCM resolutions (20/44.1?) at first, then 24/88.2 and 24/96 by the mid-Nineties.

    I'm guessing these recordings from this era might be partially analog, but have passed through at least one stage of PCM of varying quality. If the 24-track analog master still exists, the recording could always be re-mixed in a purist Sonoma environment, but if the multitrack master is PCM (on disk or tape), there has to be a transcoding step into the world of DSD-wide, then a reduction to DSD-narrow.

    Is this a correct picture? You have one of the few studios that specialize in DSD, so you must know more about the origins of SACD and DSD-download recordings than most of us.

  2. #512
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    Lynn, your questions would be best addressed to Andreas Koch, who I'm sure will reply. Both the EMM Labs and PD DAC's upsample to 128fs DSD for D/A conversion, regardless of the format and sample rate presented. They're both single sampling rate 128fs D/A converter back ends.

    According to Andreas, the algorithms for any signal processing are the same, whether DSD or PCM. Again, he can provide the explanation details. Sonoma was originally available with a multi-channel mixer module, and software, that performed many of the more common post production processing functions, including level changing, EQ, etc. It contained multiple E-Chips, just like the fewer E-Chips contained on a Sonoma card. These functions were performed in DSD-Wide, which are 8-bit stand alone words, like PCM, but is derived without decimation. It's the decimation (low-pass filtering to avoid the Nyquist conflict at the lower new PCM sampling rate, that does the sonic harm., as opposed to the conversion from a derivative like series of samples (DSD) to separate stand-alone discrete level words (PCM).

    Genex also made a 48 channel DSD mixer, which it sold a number of copies to Clear Channel, for their Hard Rock Cafe "instant" concert performance productions. It's also been used on several SACD pure DSD releases, and sounds stunning. The functions, particularly the track level changing performed in the E-Chip contained in Sonoma were performed in multiple FGPA's, contained on each mixer channel.

  3. #513
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    Quote Originally Posted by LynnOlson View Post
    If I understand correctly, in the real world where multitrack recordings are the norm, nearly all SACD and DSD-download releases have passed through:

    (A) DSD-wide (Sonoma)
    (B) 32/352.8 PCM/DXD (Pyramix)
    (C) are converted from PCM sources varying from 20/88.2 to 24/192
    (D) are sourced from two-track analog mastertapes
    A fifth category is Channel Classics, among possible others. That is doing an stereo analog mix at the session, setting all the individual mic balances, and archiving the analog output in DSD. The necessary edits then can be preformed with either a Pyramix, or Sonoma as Bruce explained, where only the edit interval is affected.

  4. #514
    WBF Technical Expert (Pro Audio Production)/Member Sponsor Bruce B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LynnOlson View Post
    If I understand correctly, in the real world where multitrack recordings are the norm, nearly all SACD and DSD-download releases have passed through:

    (A) DSD-wide (Sonoma)
    (B) 32/352.8 PCM/DXD (Pyramix)
    (C) are converted from PCM sources varying from 20/88.2 to 24/192
    (D) are sourced from two-track analog mastertapes
    This is correct. If you have a setup like Channel and can capture in DSD and have no edits or need no processing, then this would be the ideal situation. Remember, I said just the edits are calculated in the conversion. The rest of the material is untouched.
    When someone brings us a DSD file for mastering, I play directly from that DSD file into an analog console/processing and back into DSD. That's the purest form of DSD mastering I can think of.
    Most recording/mix studios that I know of pretty much go the same rout, hopefully. I have never head a digital plugin that I liked. The only plugins that I use are for restoration.
    There were 2 other workstations that could handle DSD. SADiE used the Sony E-chip and the other was Sonic. Don't remember how they implemented the files.

    As far as Genex.... that equipment was best used as a boat anchor. I had the 9048, AD8 and DA8 and it was a POS!
    Bruce A. Brown
    Puget Sound Studios
    Stereomojo reviewer
    Seattle, WA


    Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while!

  5. #515
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce B View Post
    As far as Genex.... that equipment was best used as a boat anchor. I had the 9048, AD8 and DA8 and it was a POS!
    When it worked The A/D Converters were pretty good though, but no Grimm by any stretch.

  6. #516
    With the indulgence of the readers of this forum. I'd like to make a few subjective comments about the sound of DSD vs PCM.

    I suspect most, or maybe all, of the edgy, flat, and tonally impaired "PCM" sound is the result of the wrong choice of electronics for the I/V converter and active lowpass filter. Nearly all opamps, and many transistor circuits (like the Marantz/Philips HDAM circuits), are too slow for PCM - by a factor of 100 or more. The slewing interval is very short, which means that it hardly shows at all in a long-duration FFT measurement. But it impairs Nyquist reconstruction of the waveform, and the departure from ideal reconstruction is greatest at high frequencies.

    DSD, by contrast, has a spread spectrum in the 1~10MHz region, which results in very different IM products down in the audio band. In effect, all it does is raise the noise floor, instead of create a myriad of sum-and-difference tones.

    What's behind this half-baked hypothesis? Well, what I hear from DACs with current-output ladder converters and non-slewing analog electronics is a sound a lot like professional-grade DSD. What underlined this was a direct comparison, of several DSD tracks, recorded at a very high quality level, played with two very different converters:

    The first was the Invicta, which is a pretty decent ESS 9018-based DAC (and designed in close collaboration with the ESS team) with direct DSD playback. It might not be in the exalted class of the Playback Designs, but it's not that far off, either.

    The second method was a lot clunkier and at first blush, most of us would expect a lot worse sound. Pure Music converted the 128fs DSD track to 24/88.2, which went to the PCM-1704-based Monarchy through the Resonessence Concero USB -> S/PDIF bridge. Based on the signal path, I expected pretty funky sound.

    But ... in practice, both sounded about equally good. Neither sounded like "PCM", and the sound quality was actually excellent from both. In some ways, the Monarchy was better ... more spacious, more open, which is a good quality for symphonic material. The Invicta was a bit more "focused" and a bit more in-your-face, but certainly not obnoxious. Both were some of the best digital I've ever heard, on any system.

    The Invicta and certainly the Monarchy are probably one or two steps below the "ultimate" DSD and PCM converters. Everyone mentions the Playback Designs as one of the best DSD machines out there. I have not heard the Phasure NOS1 or the TotalDAC, but these seem to be the pinnacle of ladder conversion technology, and both are free of the usual analog slew-limiting problems of conventional PCM DACs.

    All three are unfortunately far out of my price range, so I won't be buying a Playback Designs, Phasure NOS1, or TotalDAC any time soon. (Sigh!) But I will encourage David Robinson to audition them in his MBL-based system, and try the same comparison that I've done in my own more modest system.
    Last edited by LynnOlson; 03-13-2013 at 08:15 PM.

  7. #517
    Addicted to Best! Andre Marc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LynnOlson View Post
    With the indulgence of the readers of this forum. I'd like to make a few subjective comments about the sound of DSD vs PCM.

    I now suspect most, or maybe all, of the edgy, flat, and tonally impaired "PCM" sound is the result of the wrong choice of electronics for the I/V converter and active lowpass filter. Nearly all opamps, and many transistor circuits (like the Marantz/Philips HDAM circuits), are too slow for PCM - by a factor of 100 or more. The slewing interval is very short, which means that it hardly shows at all in a long-duration FFT measurement. But it impairs Nyquist reconstruction of the waveform, and the departure from ideal reconstruction is greatest at high frequencies.

    DSD, by contrast, has a spread spectrum in the 1~10MHz region, which results in very different IM products down in the audio band. In effect, all it does is raise the noise floor, instead of create a myriad of sum-and-difference tones.

    What's behind this half-baked hypothesis? Well, what I hear from DACs with current-output ladder converters and non-slewing analog electronics is a sound a lot like professional-grade DSD. What underlined this was a direct comparison, using the same tracks, of a DSD track, recorded at a very high quality level, played with two very different converters:

    The first was the Invicta, which is a pretty decent ESS 9018-based DAC (and designed in close collaboration with the ESS team) with direct DSD playback. It might not be in the exalted class of the Playback Designs, but it's not that far off, either.

    The second method was a lot clunkier and at first blush, most of us would expect a lot worse sound. Pure Music converted the 128fs DSD track to 24/88.2, which went to the PCM-1704-based Monarchy through the Resonessence Concero USB -> S/PDIF bridge. Based on the signal path, I expected pretty funky sound.

    But ... in practice, both sounded about equally good. Neither sounded like "PCM", and the sound quality was actually excellent from both. In some ways, the Monarchy was better ... more spacious, more open, which is a good quality for symphonic material. The Invicta was a bit more "focused" and a bit more in-your-face, but certainly not obnoxious. Both were some of the best digital I've ever heard, from any system.

    The Invicta and certainly the Monarchy are probably one or two steps below the "ultimate" DSD and PCM converters. Everyone mentions the Playback Designs as one of the best DSD machines out there. I have not heard the Phasure NOS1 or the TotalDAC, but these seem to be the pinnacle of ladder conversion technology, and both are free of the usual analog slew-limiting problems of conventional PCM DACs.

    All three are unfortunately far out of my price range, so I won't be buying a Playback Designs, Phasure NOS1, or TotalDAC any time soon. (Sigh!) But I will encourage David Robinson to audition them in his MBL-based system, and try the same comparison that I've done in my own more modest system.
    I've reviewed a bunch of Marantz digital and found them to be nothing short of excellent.

    The new SA-11S3 SACD player and PCM DAC I just reviewed was absolutely stellar both as a disc player and DAC.

    http://www.avrev.com/home-theater-au...layer-dac.html

  8. #518
    What was your experience when you compared DSD to high-res PCM on the Marantz SA-11S3? Did SACD or DSD-download sound "smoother" and more analog-like than high-res PCM, or did they sound fairly similar?

    If Marantz has improved the HDAM modules, that's good news all around. I'm also curious what converter the SA-11S3 is using ... does Marantz disclose this?

    P.S. My prejudice against delta-sigma (or sigma-delta) converters seems to be a minority thing amongst most audiophiles, just like preferences for different kinds of power amplifiers.

    P.P.S. I know that Marantz uses delta-sigma converters in the AV-8003 pre-pro that I use for my HT setup; of course, the AV-8003, aimed at the HT market, is a long way from Marantz's premium two-channel products.

    (Back when I was shopping for a half-decent HT setup, the Marantz products were the only ones I could tolerate for more than 5 minutes. Most of the HT receivers were really gruesome sounding, worse than Pioneer, Sansui, and Kenwood receivers from the Seventies. To their credit, the AV-8003 and MM-8003 combo can actually play music, as well as the usual movie sound tracks with lots of explosions and SFX.)
    Last edited by LynnOlson; 03-13-2013 at 08:43 PM.

  9. #519
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    Quote Originally Posted by LynnOlson View Post
    What was your experience when you compared DSD to high-res PCM on the Marantz SA-11S3? Did SACD or DSD-download sound "smoother" and more analog-like than high-res PCM, or did they sound fairly similar?

    If Marantz has improved the HDAM modules, that's good news all around. I'm also curious what converter the SA-11S3 is using ... does Marantz disclose this?
    The SA-11S3 has USB, Toslink, and Coax digital inputs. All do 192/24.

    I am a big fan of SACD, and when done correctly, I believe it is the best digital there is. No way to compare DSD
    downloads to PCM on the unit.

    Disclosure. I have zero interest in DSD downloads. I actually have a few since I am reviewing the MyTek DAc with Andy Schaub for PFO.

    Yes, there is a certain "smoothness" to DSD/SACD, but the organic ease and analog like quality are worth the trade off in most cases.

    Technical info here:
    http://us.marantz.com/us/products/pa...oductId=SA11S3

    BTW, Ken Ishiwata, who designs much of the reference series is in my book brilliant.

  10. #520
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    Quote Originally Posted by LynnOlson View Post
    ...
    P.P.S. I know that Marantz uses delta-sigma converters in the AV-8003 pre-pro that I use for my HT setup; of course, the AV-8003, aimed at the HT market, is a long way from Marantz's premium two-channel products.

    (Back when I was shopping for a half-decent HT setup, the Marantz products were the only ones I could tolerate for more than 5 minutes. Most of the HT receivers were really gruesome sounding, worse than Pioneer, Sansui, and Kenwood receivers from the Seventies. To their credit, the AV-8003 and MM-8003 combo can actually play music, as well as the usual movie sound tracks with lots of explosions and SFX.)
    ---- Hi Lynn; are those Marantz components still in your possession? ...And playing?
    Are they kind of a Reference to you?

    * The AV8003 uses indeed a delta-sigma Cirrus Logic CS4382A 192-kilohertz/24-bit DAC, which is an eight-channel DAC on a single chip. ...And the Cirrus Logic CS5361 ADCs.
    It also has HDCD decoding; the 'Microsoft' Pacific Microsonics PMD-200 decoder/digital filter. ...And XLR balanced inputs and outputs.

    As for Audyssey; only Audyssey MultEQ, and with some restrictions, because of limited DSP horsepower. ...Totally inadequate IMO.

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