Further thoughts on DSD

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by Danny Kaey on April 26 '13

Page 01

So the past few months I have been pondering my own thoughts about this whole push for DSD. Unless you have nothing to do with high performance audio, one can't help notice the increased demand for DSD (and double-DSD) from both the consumer and manufacturers side.  Case in point, Nagra will be announcing their very own DSD capable DAC at this year's Munich Hi-Fi show.  Such is life.  Having had the mighty fine Playback Designs MPS-5 for the better part of two years, and, most recently the addition of the USB-X interface, I can say that this is in fact the finest digital playback system I have ever heard in a controlled environment, ie. casa K.

Courtesy of Jonathan Tinn and Andreas Koch, I have been given the appropriate DSD files to playback - in this case, via my 13" MacBook Air (of late 2011 vintage).  To say that I can now consider digital to be good is somewhat of an understatement; permit me to explain:  for years now, my reference rig has in fact been Brinkmann's LaGrange 'table with dual 12" Brinkmann arms and an A90 and XV-1 riding in each arm, respectively (a Zu-DL103 and Brinkmann EMT-ti further add aural enhancements at various times).  Conversion, nay, amplification of said minuscule phono signals has been handled by the equally astounding EINSTEIN phono pre, run via the EINSTEIN pre and EINSTEIN hybrid power combo.  That my friends, has been audio heaven for me.  Additionally, when I feel the need to switch things up, the equally stunning - in a different way - darTZeel integrated avec built in MC phono module, has also handled playback duties.

Cueing up just about any record, even the crappy ones that sound like shyte, I always feel that I hear the music not the signal.  In other words, all the gear makes music appear via the Marten Djangos and Zu Definition MK IVs in a way that is easy on the heart, whilst stimulating your soul.  Well, said experience has been missing from digital.  Sure, at times it comes close: I have had digital in my system capable of delivering the context and content of music, alas, never quite to the level of the analog rig.  Then came the Playback Designs MPS-5.  I formally reviewed the unit for PFO a while back and proclaimed it to be the best digital I have ever had in my system.  The MPS-5 was the first decoding computer that removed much of the digital grain and smog that was covering up my musical signals.

Better yet, playing back native DSD files, the MPS-5 took things to a whole new level, allowing me for the first time to feel as cozy listening to DSD as I am listening to vinyl.  The digital experience has been transformed to analog.  Many more critical listener, music aficionados, whatever you may wish to call us, feel the same: simply put, there is something to be said about DSD.  Quite a bit oversimplifying this incredibly complex process, but by removing the harsh and abrupt PCM cutoff points and limited sample size and moving the entire frame of work way out there into no man's land, music simply flows better, making it sound more analog.  Even though most people would say I'm techie, I leave the real tech stuff, ie. explanations to the experts.  Suffice is to say that most experts agree that indeed DSD is in fact quite different sounding from PCM.

Mind you, I don't shy away from hi-res PCM either - the MPS-5 does a terrific job of transcoding PCM (that, by the way would also include mp3, AAC, WAVE, etc. files as well) into DSD thereby offering some of the benefits via the conversion process as well.  I have terrific sounding Reference Recordings hi-res files that sound utterly amazing; likewise for the latest batch of Warner music's Van Halen 24/192 reissues (review forthcoming).  Alas, make the playback file native DSD and a whole new experience comes along.  Proven.  Moral of the story?  Listen to more music, in which ever format that may be: analog, digital - it is in fact soothing for the soul whilst giving you instant therapy from whatever's on your mind.  DSD baby… all the way to the bank.  Ciao!