(after clicking play, click on lower right icon of player to see full screen)
i feel the rain come in
the smell before the wind
leaves fold down
those pale green crowns
yima yima yai
yima yima yai
i watch the river rise
both forks are snake eyes wise
set me down on higher ground
yima yima yai
yima yima yai
i’m back where i came from
the trees the old deer run
worn out trails
tucked tired tails
yima yima yai
yima yima yai
i’ll meet you up the hill
your hair it’s falling still
lay me down on higher ground
yima yima yai
yima yima yai
the nights were cold and clear
and every star hung near
reaching round for higher ground
yima yima yai
yima yima yai
– david elias
photographs from windy hill, northern california
request free 1080p download of video by contacting david at davidelias.com or use this form:
What’s New and How You Can Get Some…
I have been watching and listening to the way online music is changing further towards higher quality on almost a daily basis. One of the latest rockets here is that Sony is now opening their vault of master archives and letting the hi-rez bug put their titles online as downloads in the DSD format.
What’s that mean to you? I think it means a lot for anyone who has listened to vinyl, analog tapes (reel-to-reel), or other HD quality downloads from the ever increasing number of sources that give you something beyond the CD quality we’ve grown accustomed to, but not comfortable with.
You can watch the supposed 500 titles from Sony start appearing at http://SuperHiRez.com now through the end of the year. There are already a few hundred HD (FLAC and ALAC to 176.4k, 24-bit) and DSD64 downloads up there.
Click on the “Digital Downloads” menu in the left column to select specific formats. I’m still in their Top Seller 25 list with “Acoustic Trio DSD Sessions” and “The Window” so thank you if you helped with that.
As you must know by now, I care a lot about how things sound, mostly because there are ways to record and produce things that others can listen to (discs, downloads, videos, streaming mp3′s…) and cause them them say things like: “How did you make that sound so natural and real?”, and “How do you get the bass to sound like that?”, and “I never heard that on the CD!”, and “This is almost as good as my vinyl”, or “This is the best #**@#$(#$ thing I ever heard!”…
So listening to music gets fun again and more relaxed and more enjoyable as a pastime, and not necessarily as a background sound filler. That is something I like a lot!
If you are into Classical and Rare Audiophile Recordings, try browsing High Definition Tape Transfers…They have HD and DSD for Baroque, Chamber, Orchestral, Symphonies, Jazz…You can find my DSD albums there as well. Thanks Bob!
The new release of the “Acoustic Trio DSD Sessions” recorded by Charlie Natzke at Slipperworld.net is a set of 14 songs recorded in 3.5 hrs. by me (acoustic/vocal/harmonica), Charlie (acoustic/vocal), and Chris Kee (upright bass). We had the windows open (you can hear the redwing blackbirds on one track). We were standing about arms length from each other in a circle. We had our mics bleeding into each other…
We recorded to Sonoma DSD64 live with no overdubs. Nothing was edited. I mixed this on Sonoma in a day and a night. The Sony mixer card allowed me to do that without ever converting the source tracks from DSD to anything else, even to analog and then back to DSD. The result is 100% pure DSD.
So it is a very live acoustic natural reproduction of a studio performance of the trio. Some people feel this is my most “authentic” recording. Their impression may be so because there are only 3 instruments to pick out and spatially they are represented in stereo in just the way they were recorded. As I told a friend online, you have to stop thinking of “L/R” (left/right) and think of a performance of 3 guys standing in a circle and you sitting or standing there with them.
I now have the HD version of this album as an 24-bit, 88.2kHz FLAC download for those not using DSD playback hardware or software. In addition, you get the smaller files as MP3-320 (320kHz) to use in your Smartphone or tablet.
The HD version is now online for $14.95.
The DSD (which also includes FLAC and MP3-320 copies) is also there for $24.95.
You can find these downloads at http://www.davidelias.com
If you have any questions, just reply to this email. Hardware and software for DSD playback is getting easier and cheaper to find. If you are interested in learning more about it, I can try to answer your questions. Two good sources to search for info are Positive Feedback and DSD Guide.
Thanks for Listening!
If it sounds good, it is good…
Charlie is the studio and DSD engineer behind my “Crossing” and “Acoustic Trio” recordings. Another new DSD album release I hope to get out this year is one more project Charlie setup the studio for, recorded to DSD on Sonoma and mixed as analog. He’s da man!
My song “Silver Pen” online for download now is a single from this next DSD album release. It lets you compare different audio formats to hear the differences for yourself. It cost $4.99 for all 5 formats (DSF, FLAC 24/96, WMA Lossless 24/96, WAV 16/44.1 (CD), MP3-320).
It’s Like You Were There In The Studio…
David Elias – “Acoustic Trio DSD Sessions”Released 11/04/2013
Download these 14 original songs as both DSD (DSF) and 24/88.2 FLAC audio files for the price of $24.95.
You get both formats! FLAC files are hi-rez lossless downsamples that can be played by all popular PC/Mac media players including JRiver, Winamp, Audirvana, Windows Media and many others.
“What excellent compositions…exceptional performances…and rich, harmonic, organic sound, as natural and mellow via DSD as one could wish…10 stars…Love it, big time” - Dr. David W. Robinson, Positive Feedback
This collection of original material from the independent acoustic singer-songwriter David Elias is a special organic, natural sounding set of pure DSD recordings created at the Slipperworld Studios in La Honda, California (www.slipperworld.net). These 14 tracks feature David Elias (acoustic/vocal/harmonica), Charlie Natzke (acoustic/vocal) and Chris Kee (upright bass, Blue Coast Records).
This Acoustic Trio session release was captured in the studio on a single day as a series of live takes without any edits or overdubs. It was recorded by Charlie Natzke to no more than 8 tracks directly to a Sonoma DSD Workstation using Meitner converters.
The essence of the performance is the ambient and acoustic nature of all the instruments and vocals including natural resonance, harmonics, decay, and microphone bleed and decay using minimal micing without any artificial or digital effects.
“Acoustic Trio DSD Sessions” was recorded on a sunny day among the redwoods with the windows open. The musicians recorded standing roughly arms length from each other in a small circle with no isolation. A pair of microphones were positioned overhead to capture a stereophonic image of “the room”. This was used as the only source of natural reverb in the mix.
The songs were mixed as DSD using a Sony mixer card in the Sonoma workstation. These tracks have never left the original DSD format, even as analog conversions for mixing!
As a result, what you hear from these pure DSD master recordings are the natural live performances of the trio, as if you were standing or sitting with them in the studio during the session.
Songs: 01 – If I Had My Way, 02 – Ohlone Dream, 03 – Above The Creek, 04 – Crossing, 05 – Changing Down, 06 – Take Me Down The Road, 07 – The Riddle Song, 08 – Rodeo On A Ridge, 09 – Summer Wind, 10 – One More Savior, 11 – Good Old Days, 12 – Vision Of Her, 13 – Transcendental Deprivation Part II Straw Dream, 14 – Morning Light Western Town
David Elias began recording to DSD in 2000 using a similar minimal microphone setup directly to the prototype 2-channel Sony SACD Project DSD mastering/archiving prototype workstation. Working with Gus Skinas (www.SuperAudioCenter.com) he went on to record live studio performances with a large acoustic band to 8-tracks in 2002. This resulted in the landmark independent hybrid multichannel SACD “The Window“. The followup award-winning SACD “Crossing” was released in 2005. Both SACDs received the coveted “Brutus Award for DSD Excellence” from Dr. David W. Robinson, Positive Feedback.
A DSD Download, plus other Hi-Rez to Compare.
NEW SONG to Download as DSD – “Silver Pen”
The new release “Silver Pen” from the upcoming DSD album “Slipper DSD Sessions – And The Bit Goes On…” is now online to download. If you are interested in hearing what some of the different Hi-Rez (HD) formats sound like compared to one another, you might want to try this.
You will get a DSF download of the original DSD source mix, recorded on Sonoma at Slipperworld.net in La Honda, California. This session recording featuring me, Charlie Natzke (guitar/vocal), Scott Beynon (Fender bass), and Ken Owen (drums) was done live to less than 8-tracks and used no overdubs or edits. It is pure DSD!
You will also get 4 other copies of the song “Silver Pen” in different audio formats (FLAC, WMA, WAV, MP3)… I know… keep reading…
Too Many Acronyms…DSFFLACWMAALACMP3WAVAIFFDon’tKnowDon’tCare…
Hi-Rez downloads are going nuts these days. Sometimes too many choices are just that. I have been working (my ears) on getting it right about lots of audio downloads issues since the beginning in the mid-90′s when MP3 started making it possible to get music online.
The tradeoffs then were file size (due to slow dialup Internet connections) and sound quality. MP3 at 128k is just about 1/10th the size of the CD quality WAV file. So a “pretty good” sounding file that you could download in less than an hour was a “pretty good” way to go. And boy it went…by the millions of songs.
Cut to 21st century cable modem at 10mbps (million bits per second) compared to the dated dialup modem at 19.2kbps (thousand bits per second) and you can suddenly get either a lot MORE music files in the same time, or…maybe… just BETTER SOUNDING files in the same time. (BTW, Apple iTunes has given us MORE files — 25+ Billion Sold — but not BETTER SOUNDING yet.. maybe we need to ask them about that!)
“Silver Pen” is a native DSD file you can download as DSF with tags (metadata) that includes song info and the graphic (above) for the player to present to you. It is about 150MB as DSD.
Other popular formats you get with the download include the 24-bit, 96kHz sample FLAC, and WMA lossless (for Windows users) at about 80MB. I also included the CD quality (Redbook 16-bit, 44.1kHz sample) WAV for your comparison across formats at about 40MB.
I also included the highest quality MP3 (320kHz) which is just under 10MB. This is to put in your Smartphone or tablet where size does matter…
It’s a new era for audio. Sony is calling it High Resolution Audio or HRA. (I always thought “acronym” had to be pronounced as a word, but I looked it up and sure enough, it includes abbreviations.)
With the new era it is important to learn some new things about what’s out there and how it might fit your taste for quality with the tradeoff for size and cost.
I’m putting this new track out there for those who want to compare quality. There are other choices, but I made mine for this selection and hope it helps give you a reference point.
Feel free to reply to this message if you have questions about this. I don’t think it’s simple, but I do think there are differences. “Better” and “Worse” are like the weather. They change from place to place and person to person. So education helps. That’s what I believe anyway.
Music is for enjoyment. Here’s to enjoyment!
And if you just like to buy music from iTunes, here’s the link!
PS – Muchos Mahalos to the outrageous CasualTees for playing to a full house in San Gregorio General Store last Saturday. It was like we never left…Roger, KO, Scotty, Gar, Reid and Marty – you guys rock!
TOMORROW – NOVEMBER 1st — Scott and Marty and I will be back at the Store this Friday, November 1st, from 6pm to 8pm to give everyone the trio version of some of these original independent acoustic stories. Hope to see you there.
Aloha! – DE
half moon bay, calif…pumpkin festival
Lots of things to write about but I will keep it short (I hope)…
If you are not into reading today, skip to the bottom part where there is a FREE download of a NEW song release “Silver Pen”…
SHOWS IN SAN GREGORIO CALIFORNIA!
Saturday – OCTOBER 26th – General Store – 2pm
with Roger Powell, Marty Atkinson, Scott Beynon, Ken Owen, Reid Dennis, Gary McArthur…
Friday – NOVEMBER 1st – General Store – 6pm
with Marty Atkinson, Scott Beynon
DSD STILL RULES
It’s great to see and hear the new interest in DSD now in the form of downloads online. If you are into Hi-Rez, you can find my stuff online now at these two places:
If you are not into Hi-Rez but are curious about it, just reply to this message and let me know. Most people are now playing DSD along with their whole iTunes collection and other stuff through what they call media players.
Popular media players are by JRiver, Audirvana, Channel D. These are usually free to try and then cost $50 or so to buy. A free .ORG version for Windows is at http://www.foobar2000.org
If it sounds good…it is good!
Many thanks to the exhibitors at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver last weekend for demoing my DSD tracks: Positive Feedback Online, SuperHiRez.com, exaSound.com, Puget Sound Studios, Channel Classics, Lumin, Mytek…Awesome!
A new single is going to be out on October 25th. It’s called “Silver Pen” recorded to DSD by Charlie Natzke at Slipperworld.net in La Honda, Calif.
“Silver Pen” will then be online as a download from CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, Sonify, Rhapsody…
Thanks for reading my blog!
This is a track from a complete album to be released later this year as a DSD Download. The album is all previously unreleased songs recorded at Slipperworld featuring these musicians: Charlie Natzke, Chris Kee, Scott Beynon, Ken Owen.
These are all live studio (ala “Crossing” and “The Window”) recorded with minimum mics, less than 8-tracks including natural room reverb. They are without edits and overdubs. It is what it was…
The sound is not always entirely acoustic, but echos the sound of many shows with the CasualTees and XING before that (like the shows coming up in San G!). These were the essence of the years performing on the West Coast in the frequent trio and quartet arrangements. Upright and electric bass, electric and acoustic guitars and drums all got recorded live in the studio. So it sounds live. Like listening from a very good seat in the house…
THANKS FOR LISTENING!
When Sony introduced Super Audio CD (SACD or SA-CD) in the early part of the 21st century, the media platform was rolled out with two main ingredients:
1) Superior sound quality in the form of DSD (Direct Stream Digital) sampling at 2.8MHz, 1-bit
2) Digital Rights Management (DRM) in the case of SACD was provided using digital watermarking where the disc’s physical pits are used to create a signature that prevents copying to another physical media
Now over a decade later, Sony announced their High Resolution Audio (HRA) platform that again embraces DSD mastered recordings but this time in the form of downloads.
These DSD downloads are already appearing from titles bearing some of the big names out there like Shelby Lynne, Norah Jones, Counting Crowes, Rickie Lee Jones, as well as classic and classical names including Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Bille Holiday, Charles Mingus and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
There are many more from the Sony vaults and other vaults to follow.
Guess what’s missing from this High Fidelity (HRA, Hi-Rez) campaign?
DRM! Copy protection! It’s out the window!!
Of course the whole world has already gone through this a few times starting with Napster which was forced to shut down (kind of like our recent government) in July, 2001 as a contributor, not a perpetrator, of copyright infringement. It had been operating for a couple years as the shared storage for P2P music downloads (they didn’t call it a Cloud then). In 2001 they had around 25 million subscribers.
I have been online with free downloads as MP3s since 1995. I still have free downloads online. Napster has been closed, bankrupt, reemerged, then bought and sold to Rhapsody. Regardless, the music is still getting moved around into players and then people’s ears…
There have been many other companies and initiatives in this free distribution direction. Somehow Apple’s iTunes thinks there is a “safe” limit of around 5 or 6 “authorized” PCs/Macs to allow receipt and hosting of their downloads.
What I’m asking is, will anyone *always* download something that’s free and *never* download something that costs money?
So what is DRM to anyone? Music is shared. Music is bought. As Gillian Welch sings in her 2002 ‘Time (The Revelator)’ song: “Everything is free now”. She goes on to sing “That’s what they say…everything i ever done…gonna give it away…”
A record industry that has been obsessed with making it difficult if not impossible to copy a good recording is now being led by a company that embraces digital file downloads which are highly likely to live (be copied) in more than one location at one time.
Jane Siberry began offering her music online many years ago (already) based on the premise that the artist (and the Sheeba Records label in her case) should not be in a position to decide for the listener what the recording is worth. Rather the listener should decide what it’s worth! She still runs the web store that way. You can set the price. It’s up to you.
I sold CDs at shows that way for many years – you pay (or not pay) what you want. Self-service all the way. I was also opening some shows for Jane Siberry at that time.
What I found over the years, was that it never mattered what price I set or didn’t set on selling music. I sold about the same amounts no matter what it cost the buyer! My free downloads are not especially popular because they are free. They follow the same cycles as the stuff getting paid for. It’s more about the music…
Sure music is a business and an industry and everyone should get paid. But who is everyone? I think the recent official DRM ladder removal may be a precursor to the removal of some business layers that maybe shouldn’t be there or are at least are not necessary.
It may end up being an unintended consequence of pointing to the essence of “free”, which to me means “independent”.
Start your own label, see what happens…
“but i’m gonna do it anyway
even if it doesn’t pay….”
- gillian welch
the story of aspen rose is a complete sequence of life in four verses starting with the innocence and beauty of youth, the connections between all of us and all things on the planet back to nature itself and the planet we are all in and part of (not on and owners of), the powers of the romantic in all of us and the quest for communication and connection to and comfort with the essential beauty in ourselves through others, and finally our depature from our present incarnation with some better love and understanding of the universe that lies ahead in our imagination…
aspen rose your toes remind me of a summer lost
beauty in the wilderness unspoiled and untamed
aspen rose your ruby nose reminds me of another frost
straight down from the north comes forth
we’re boiling tea again
aspen rose your blonde hair glows as sunrise
easing up the mountains
you’re wandering through the pines
aspen rose your youth shows
silent as the twilight
settling through the window
calming down my inner mind
aspen rose recall those nights when we were strangers
unknowing to the dangers
that surrounded us like thieves
aspen rose nobody knows
how things could not change
we flowed like a river
right beneath october trees
aspen rose i’ll go i’m sorry that i’m weary
afraid that i have come too far
in far too short a time
aspen rose your heart’s
the slowest burning fire
i’ll ever know
it’s time to go
i love you more than i
recorded off grid at kitchen table to a korg mr-1
on battery as dsd64 in hamakua, east hawaii
windows open, chimes ringing, gecko chirping,
$89 nylon string guitar from hilo guitars
used the korg 2m-cm stereo mic that came
with the mr-1 offloaded directly from
mr-1without edits or eq of any kind
** this is an HD video – please set youtube to 720p
(change video res thru the little gear icon on the
lower right of the video player **
early photos in the video taken in the san mateo hills
(way up on skyline) on the peninsula in the sf bay area
the later photos in the video are reverse shots from all the way
down near the bay at the leo j. ryan memorial park in foster city looking
out and back up at the san mateo hills where the inital photos came from
She caught a long train gone
There wasn’t nothin to it
In the red red dawn
She just had to do it
Heard that lonesome song
And she could sing
Right through it
She caught a long train gone
She found a change of heart
In the changing light
Whatever made her start
Could not have been more right
She took her namesake’s part
In the dead of night
She found a change of heart
She found a new home town
And she moved right in
And the freeway sound
It didn’t come again
And in some drawer she found
Another silver pen
In her new home town
In her new home town
She’s in her new home town
The great news is that hi-rez (aka hi-res, HRA, or HD) audio is getting lots of renewed attention these days, by the likes of Sony and all kinds of audio loving creators and consumers.
I think that’s a great thing because if we would all just remember to slow down a little and maybe sit down and just listen to some nice music more often (like many of us used to do every day!) then we might all feel just a little better about the rest of what’s going on around us.
At 80 years old, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. wrote that without music our civilization would have ended long ago. I’d have to agree with that. Pursuing a certain quality to whatever kind of music we might listen to is worthwhile. Music isn’t a distraction to many. It’s an essential part of our civilization and our lives.
DSD (Direct Stream Digital) is the High Resoluation Audio (HRA in Sony’s acronymous world) that has been around as the media format behind SACD (Super Audio CD) which came out a little over 10 years ago. SACD kind of went invisible for awhile due to lack of the music industry’s support, but now is coming back around for big press and lots of attention and ears (new and renewed).
It has been reborn in the form of DSD Downloads, with the same audio quality of any equivalent SACD.
My question is: How many people out there think they are listening to DSD and are actually not hearing DSD but a PCM conversion of their DSD source track?
DSD DISTILLED CORRECTLY…
Frequently DSD is being changed (converted) by hardware and software alike into the more ubiquitous PCM format before it reaches your ears.
What’s confusing, or worse is completely unknown to many listeners and audiophiles, are the proper steps required to actually play DSD in its native format. While SACD has been around a good 10 years at this point, the proper direct DSD playback from both SACD discs as well as DSD Download audio files (DSF or DFF) is still elusive to many.
Surprisingly, both SACD’s and DSD Downloads often have similar problems getting played correctly in their intended DSD hi-rez format.
This seems to stem from the ways that audio hardware and software have evolved. They have both followed a PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) dominanted path that was based on most of the digital music being recorded and played as PCM since the early 80′s.
That’s a long, long, time and a whole lotta CDs and iTunes downloads ago… We’ve all been listening to PCM since vinyl LPs, cassettes and 8-tracks went out the window…
So the DACs (Digital to Analog Converters) that were first developed catered to PCM, the same format as CDs (WAV/AIFF). As far as I know, the DACs to this day still require different circuitry to support both PCM and DSD.
The bottom line is that it is neither simple nor cheap to support both standards (DSD and PCM) in the same product. Yet they both exist. In September, Sony announced they felt the CD audio quality consumers were being fed for the past 30 years was not nearly good enough. As a result, they decided to back their own HRA format: DSD!
When software media players such as Winamp and QuickTime came out in the 90′s, they were meant to play the popular PCM formats (WAV and AIFF) as well as the ubiquitous compressed MP3 (lossy – meaning audio quality is lost), AAC (Apple lossy) and then the more efficiently compressed lossless (meaning quality is not lost) formats such as FLAC for the PC and ALAC for the Mac.
There are many more audio formats and what are called containers for video and/or audio playback. I can show you a list of audio/video encoding formats and containers that is a long as your arm! They all have different approaches to compression vs quality and player compatibility.
By the way, notice any pattern here? The PC and the Mac never really support the same encoded audio files! The Mac will now even run Windows (under a Lion OS X dual boot), but it won’t play a PC FLAC file…Give me a break! Things are not better on the PC Windows side playing the Mac ALAC files…Give me 2 breaks! Even the mighty “cloud” won’t help you with this one…
A similar discrepancy has occurred in the HRA world of playing DSD through software media players including Winamp, QuickTime, JRiver, Audirvana, AudioGate, Pure Music, and all the rest. The circuitry does not exist inside the PC or Mac to decode the 1-bit DSD to analog! This is pervasive, but perhaps not that well understood.
There is insufficient hardware (specialized chips) in the typical PC and Mac to play DSD as DSD. Instead it must get converted (via software) to PCM to then be played directly through its speaker or headphone audio out jack. (For historical reference, the Sound Reality chip in older Sony Vaio computers could in fact play DSD as DSD but that chip no longer exists in the newer Vaio computers.)
If you are using any of the popular media players such as Audirvana Plus, JRiver, Pure Music, AudioGate, Foobar2000, and if you are listening to DSD without an External DSD DAC (see below), then you are not listening to DSD, you are listening to PCM. Here’s a list of media players from HighDefTapeTransfers.com…
IMPORTANT NOTE: Korg’s AudioGate software does not support an external DSD DAC! There’s no way to hear DSD from the Korg software. You can only hear DSD directly output from one of its MR-series recorders (MR-1 or 2, MR-1000, MR-2000). AudioGate software always plays DSD files (DSF, DFF) as PCM!
AudioGate is a great tool for mastering and converting between many hi-rez audio formats including DSF/DFF (I use it a lot), but it does not offer any DSD playback without converting to PCM, nor does it integrate with USB DSD DACs.
THE DSD DAC SOLUTION
Fortunately, there is a way to listen to native DSD from a PC/Mac without converting it to PCM first.
The solution is to add an external DSD DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) to decode the DSD stream to analog and feed it from there to your amplifier, etc. The DAC connects to your PC/Mac via a USB cable. Other interfaces for popular DACs (old and new) include Firewire, S/PDIF, AES/EBU and Toslink. DSD DACs usually support PCM as well.
In addition to the original Meitner (EMM Labs) DAC products, DSD DACs now are becoming a beautiful audio bouquet of selection from companies such as Mytek, exaSound, TEAC and others. Some good DSD DAC lists exist at Positive Feedback… and AudioStream…
There are differences in the sample rates supported by all of these things so that’s one more thing to pay attention to as a futureproof type of purchasing if that’s important to you. The original DSD 1-bit sample rate was at 2.8 MHz. This is referred to as DSD64 or 64fs or 64x because it is 64 times the sample rate of the CD (aka Red Book CD) standard of 44.1 KHz (44100 x 64 = 2,822,400).
To achieve even better sonic results, DSD sample rates have increased by factors of 2x (DSD128 at 5.6 MHz) and 4x (DSD256 at 11.2 / 12.2 MHz). Different software and different hardware have different capabilities in this regard. exaSound’s e20 and e28 DSD DACs are some of the early adopters supporting DSD256 in stereo and 8-channels! Pyramix and Horus from Merging Technologies also support DSD256.
DSD – NO PROBLEM……PCM – NO PROBLEM…
IF IT SOUNDS GOOD…IT IS GOOD!
I have no dispute to settle. I like good sound. I like to make good sounding recordings. It can be on a cassette in a boom box or DSF file being played and sent analog to that same boom box. It can be an iPhone sitting on a pallet out in the yard turned up like an AM radio from the 70′s. And no, not everything sounds good to me…
In many ways, listening carefully to DSD since 1999 has taught me to appreciate a good recording no matter what device or media it is playing through. I have come to call this the Art of Listening.
Roger Powell gave me the confidence back in the early 90′s to accept the fact that “if it sounds good, it is good.“ Thank you Roger! I was trying to make the first “really good” recordings of my life at that point, having done lots of messing around for the previous 20 years. The digital DIY revolution was breaking and I was hooked…
I was hoping not to screw up. A lot of things that I used and did for those 90′s recordings were dirt simple at the time, yet still just sounded good (honest, accurate, clean, natural) compared to most of what I was listening to on home recordings and many pro recordings. My sound was nearly all acoustic so that made it easier to evaluate for these attributes of clean, natural, etc.
Roger’s answer to my “is this good quality?” questions gave me the courage to stay on my track. Before too long I would be introduced to DSD by Gus Skinas. I’ve never had to look back or look anywhere else for a truly excellent audo quality resource. I’m not alone. If it sounds good, it is good! DSD has been all of that for me from the very start.
BARTENDER, GIVE ME A SANDWICH!
Say you walk into a bar famous for their home infused jalapeno margaritas. In fact they specialize in all kinds of infused drinks with deep colored bottles lining their shelves.
You sit at the bar and say “Bartender, give me a sandwich!”
He looks at you and shrugs and then goes somewhere and scrounges up a ham and cheese sandwich (maybe from the take out next door) and gives it to you, (Give the customer what they want!). You eat the sandwich and are not too impressed.
Then you go back home to your “Famous Bar Review” webzine work and write something about the poor quality you experienced at what you thought was supposed to be a very high quality establishment.
I’m afraid that this is what too often happens to DSD in its evaluations and comparisons to any other format (analog tape, vinyl, PCM, etc.).
A lot of people are listening to DSD as PCM. This happens if you don’t use the external DSD DAC as described above. This is also likely to happen if you play the DSD from an SACD player that is using HDMI to connect to an amplifier/receiver or to even a video monitor to display its menus. The transport over HDMI (at least prior to HDMI v1.2) in the mainstream pro and consumer world is always for PCM encoded audio, not DSD.
This is only recently overcome and not usually implemented on the HDMI side of things. Prior to HDMI v1.2 DSD gets converted to PCM for transport to the amp/receiver. With newer HDMI versions, BDP players such as OPPO are now supporting the improved integration with some A/V receivers (some Onkyo, Integra and Yamaha models) where the DSD is preserved over the HDMI transport. There are apparently licensing issues here so DSD support is not guaranteed. You have to check with the manufacturer and spec for each model at both ends.
They have also gotten around this on the software USB side (PC/Mac media player to DSD DAC) using what’s referred to as DoP (DSD over PCM). DoP manages to keep the DSD intact and uncoverted when it leaves the software player and arrives at the DAC. Other software drivers called ASIO and WASAPI also exist for similar USB DSD DAC integrations.
So….The hardware and software both cater to the PCM market — no problem…unless you want to hear native DSD and you don’t carefully setup and configure the hardware and software you are using for direct DSD.
The default settings for all these products are to convert the DSD to PCM before it is output.
I’ve seen this so many times now that I had to write this post.
It’s like asking that bartender for a sandwich instead of a jalapeno margarita. The finest most exotic and delicious specialty of the house is skipped for what the customer is most used to…
I’ve been on an education type track with hi-rez since well before 2009. I started recording with DSD in 2000 and self-produced “The Window” in 2003. I was taking my SACD disc around to the hi-rez audio retailers in the SF Bay Area asking about all the gear that could play it and testing it out their audition rooms.
Similar issues always existed with the HDMI integration of amplifiers and receivers to SACD players. There can be other default player settings that just convert DSD to PCM for no apparent reason unless you turn it off in the setup configuration. I’ve seen this on Sony BDP players as well as others. Software will always convert to PCM unless you have the right path for it not to (to an external DAC) and set it up (with the right DSD drivers) properly.
People often want to hear my DSD recordings. If they end up listening to my DSD recordings as PCM conversions, they may be nonplussed with the results, especially as sonic comparisons to other (PCM) recordings they have. I want to help them configure their systems to actually hear the DSD recordings in their native formats. Since they were recorded as DSD, they should be played as DSD.
Usually the response to a changed DSD playback configuration starts with: “Wow!“. The same benefits apply to any other SACD disc or DSD Download audio file played on the same system.
WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO…
So I recently created my own checklist for setting up DSD playback. This is so anyone can hear the DSD directly, and not as PCM masquerading as DSD. It is a pretty confusing product world from one standpoint, but the checklist I came up with is pretty simple.
It is the mental list I’ve used when helping others listen to DSD recordings in their intended way. This list has changed as the whole thing continues to evolve.
So here’s my current Checklist to try to help others listen to native DSD if at all possible. There may be exceptions! In fact, I can think of a few. No matter. It is written for the general and common systems out there.
DE’s DSD PLAYBACK CHECKLIST
1. BEWARE: If you are using a computer’s analog audio jack (headphones/audio or line output), then software as a PC/Mac Media Player ALWAYS plays DSD as converted to PCM, not native DSD.
2. So….An External DSD DAC connected to a PC/Mac via USB is required in order to play the native DSD from a Media Player. This also includes a requirement for proper hardware (DAC) driver configuration on the computer. (The “driver” is software!).
Popular External DSD DACs are available from companies such as exaSound, Mytek, TEAC, Meitner and many others. A good list is here from AudioStream…
3, BEWARE: HDMI (v1.1) converts DSD to PCM before playback and therefore should be avoided when critiquing or trying to fully enjoy DSD audio quality. You can investigate HDMI (v1.2 and later) to see if DSD playback is being supported by your specific BDP (player) and A/V Receiver or Pre/Pro products.
CAUTION: Enabling HDMI Output on your SACD/DSD player may cause DSD to automatically be converted to PCM on any direct output. This is currently true on OPPO 103/105 models. Check with the manufacturer for your player.
4. The best and simplest audio quality solution from a DSD/SACD player is usually to seek the configuration/setup that sends DSD directly to the analog RCA outputs (L/R stereo or 5.1 Mch). You also need to enable DSD (instead of PCM) on SACD Output!
5. Finally, most DSD players (hardware and software) give some indication on a screen somewhere of what they are really playing based on their configuration.
Read the screen!
This can be the media player (software) screen, or the SACD/Blu-ray player (hardware) display. If it doesn’t say “DSD” or “SACD” and says “PCM”, or AIFF or ALAC, or WAV or FLAC or anything else, then it’s probably converting the DSD to PCM before it sends it to your amplifier or elsewhere. You may need to disable HDMI Output and/or enable DSD on SACD Output.
ONE MORE SIDE NOTE…… If you are using an OPPO BDP (103/105) and are playing DSD Downloads that you have on a USB stick, the OPPO and HDMI video screen displays do not tell you whether you are listening to PCM or DSD!
This is true for the latest firmware dated July 2013.
I was told by OPPO that the player will follow the SACD setup when playing USB DSD file (DSF/DFF). So if you see “PCM” in the display when an SACD disc is playing, then you need to fix your setup as described above (HDMI Output = Disabled, SACD Output = DSD).
Then go get a good margarita and enjoy yourself!