Category Archives: DSD Listening

The Mobile HRA Mighty Duo (Safe for Home Use Too!)

XDP-100R and HA-2

Pioneer XDP-100R and OPPO HA-2 linked via USB (DoP). Together they comprise a mighty mobile or home studio duo.

Well I’d say in these modern days of tech not enough things work well together, at least not as expected given the decades of preparation those science/art folks have had to interoperate and optimize efficiencies for best results at lowest cost.

Do I expect too much? Maybe I don’t know. But I know I have been using two perfect examples of that kind of interrelated power with these two devices.

From Pioneer last year came the XDP-100R a High Resolution Audio (HRA) player with its own storage for audio files. The “gotcha have to try that” incentive for me was that this was one of the very first (and still one of the only) portable audio players that supported native DSD (1-bit to analog via DoP, or conversion to PCM up to 192 on the player itself and PCM to 384 via USB) as well as full res MQA decoding (up to 24/384kHz).

The OPPO HA-2 (now supplanted by the HA-2SE) is a “simple” headphone amplifier (analog circuitry) as well as a supreme native DSD DAC as well as PCM — both convert to analog and presented to either a headphone jack (with amplification) or a line out jack (for home stereo/studio use). In addition it is a lithium battery pack capable of charging other devices (like a Pioneer XDP-100R or iPhone/Android smartphone).

I’m working with DSD as a recording media for my music over 15 years now and MQA as a mastering with authentication PCM encoding for over 1 year. To me these don’t compete!  I am not surrounded by people of that same persuasion but then again, I’m not sure that matters to me either.

There’s a lot more to this story of the Mighty Duo…

Given that these 2 devices work independently of each other and the XDP-100R is a standalone player with a headphone/line out jack and 161 position volume control, it is not that obvious why I might want to pair them together.

Granted the HA-2 needs a player attached as its role is to do digital to analog conversion (DAC) and amplify the resulting signal as needed.

However in addition to the fact that the XDP-100R decodes MQA as studio authenticated masters up to the maximum resolution of masters out there today (24/384kHz), it can also upsample the resulting PCM to DSD and pass it on to the HA-2 via DoP!

The result for me (MQA decoded then upsampled to DSD at 5.6mHz Real Precision and sent to HA-2 for 1-bit conversion to analog) is absolutely some of the best sound quality I have ever heard.

I typically listen to these devices using OPPO PM-1 (open planar magnetic) though also PM-3 (closed planar magnetic) as well as earbuds (typically travel with Zipbuds Pro at about $25 on Amazon – amazing!).

If I play DSD tracks on the XDP-100R they get sent as-is to the HA-2 for 1-bit conversion and off to the headphones/stereo. Again both components doing exactly what they were made to do and doing it expertly well. This is really what I consider the best sound possible: A native DSD master played from the linked XDP + HA-2, as DSD via DoP, with no conversion except to analog out the headphone jack on the HA-2.

Well made recordings as native DSD masters (not upsampled to DSD but recorded/mastered as DSD or transferred from analog tape masters) will translate perfectly well as needed to any other media format.

To me PCM with MQA  encoding is a perfect media format for today’s media environment as it delivers hi-res up to 24/384k (19mbps) in right around 1.5 mbps streams or audio files in a lossless FLAC or ALAC format at 24/48k or 24/44.1k folded MQA. That’s smaller than 1/10th the size of the hi-res file or stream it becomes when it plays! The MQA DAC unfolds the hi-res on playback after the file or stream is downloaded or received.

Dare I say that when MQA decoding can be done from a Smartphone app, the cell network bandwidth required to stream MQA masters at 24/96 to your phone will not be a problem…even if you are not on an unlimited plan. If you are on an unlimited plan most of those get restricted around 22GB anyway.

So the differences between 1.5 mbps and say 5mbps for hi-res audio streaming have big effects on what someone might do with great quality music playing anywhere they go. Remember MQA in a FLAC format is not just smaller (about 1/5th the size of a 24/96 WAV/AIF file or DSD64 file for that matter) it is time corrected as well, so it sounds much better than the original PCM master did.

The same master images can also be delivered on standard CD discs which again on playback or when ripped can be MQA decoded to full high resolution. These are then 16-bit depth with the same excellent sound quality to my ears as others. They can play on any CD player and to be honest sound very very good with no MQA decoding or unfolding at all. Pretty nifty.  These stream at well under 1mbps!

Back to the Mighty Duo…

What is unusual about this combo of devices  is that the XDP-100R as a audio player, is able to play and decode the MQA audio file and then upsample and convert it to DSD and pass it on (DoP) to a DSD DAC to be played as an analog signal.

This dual function is not possible with the typical MQA/DSD DAC such as the very capable Mytek Brooklyn.  It (the typical MQA/DSD DAC) is not an audio player, it only can decode MQA and convert to analog or it can convert DSD to analog to play. It can’t do both functions (decode MQA and then convert to DSD) in series as the XDP-100R does before handing it to a DAC to play as an audio signal.

Nor can any other strict DAC that I’m aware of (though I’m sure they could if minds were put to it).

So what I’ve found is 2 devices of very similar dimensions and weight that can inter-operate such that the resulting sound is as good or better than most pro setups out there.

By maxing out the storage support for media on the XDP-100R by buying and inserting 2 SD Micro chips at 200GB each, I arrived at a full 432GB storage that I can carry around on a device as big as a slightly fat smartphone. If I wanted to add 200GB, 400GB, … etc. I could just buy other SD Micros to swap as needed. Unlimited storage in other words with no USB drives to carry around, and certainly not a laptop.

The total package (XDP-100R and HA-2) with extra RAM, water resistant case for both devices ($10) and all cables and still easily fits with notepad in my day pack all cost me well under $1000 US, closer to $800 really. That also includes about $150 of the extra memory (400GB) which is of course optional. The XDP comes with 32GB and you could add any additional amount of storage via SD Micro chips as you wished.

Hard to believe but I found the XDP-100R for a very low price special. It was last year’s model, as the newer XDP-300R has 2 Sabre chips (left and right channel) as well as a separate balanced headphone jack. Not sure what retail prices and specials are today but suggested retail is probably somewhere in the $500-600 range which means you can find it for less.

I think the OPPO HA-2SE followup to my HA-2 is still retailing at $199. I didn’t check.

I shouldn’t go into some of the other enormous capabilities of the XDP-100R but suffice to say it is a full blown Android palm computer. It hosts and runs any Google Play app. I regularly use email (BlueMail), Dropbox, Skype, some internet browsing and a few other apps. The only thing it isn’t is a cell phone and a camera. It stores and plays (on a very nice display) pretty much any video format as well.

There is a TIDAL app for streaming MQA if you buy the account. The number of MQA (Warner and perhaps UMG now) masters released on TIDAL for streaming at this point is in the thousands including Zeppelin, Doors, Petty, Talking Heads, Costello, Black Sabbath, CSNY, Neil Young and many many other pop/rock legends.

Playing DSD and having it sound par excellence is easily achieved here.

Playing Studio Authenticated MQA on audio files or streaming is easily achieved here.

What I’ve found and written about elsewhere is that there are some huge gains to my ears in sound quality improvements when MQA Masters at the CD Red Book resolution (16/44.1) are upsampled to 2.8 or 5.6mHz DSD and played via a DSD DAC like the OPPO HA-2.  Other DACs supporting DoP (DSD over PCM) should work with the XDP’s in the same way.

The reason I think the MQA gains in reducing edgy, compressed CD-like sounding masters are greatest at this low resolution are due to the steepness of the brickwall filters used to cutoff frequencies above 20kHz. The backlash of this industry common way of filtering PCM is that it introduces large pre- and post-ringing echos on the digital signal.

This ringing also referred to as time smearing or blurring effect lessens with the increased resolution of the master recording (88.2k or 96k, 176.4k or 192k, 352.8 or 384k). DSD also measures very low in this ringing effect right out of the box.

MQA practically removes these echoes in its careful PCM technology and so the image you hear as a result is much more natural sounding and easier to listen to for longer periods of time.  Instruments and voices are much more naturally located in space (left to right, up and down) as well as less confusion in our brain as to what is going on with these echos we’re hearing before the note or pulse actually gets to us. The ear is much more sensitive to location than it is to pitch! Thank you Darwin.

What’s commonly referred to as ear fatigue then gets reduced greatly and you can continue to hear the music without having to give your ears breaks.

Upsampling to DSD is now also a common feature on audio players both software and hardware. Doing this with a decoded MQA digital signal is something I’ve found to be nothing short of magical in terms of what you end up hearing from the DSD DAC as an analog signal (ie, music).

So Mobile and Home HRA has made some mighty gains in what it can do for all listeners at prices that really most if not all listeners can afford if they are looking for audio gear to feed their music habits.

– DE

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Hi-Res DSD MQA Integration To The Max…

I’ve been integrating audio components since…. …. …. never mind….. I’ve been integrating hi-res (HRA, hi-rez, high resolution) audio into my different playback systems since 2000….

I’ve never seen or heard a more advanced integrated Digital Audio Playback (DAP) device than the Pioneer XDP-100R I recently (finally) ordered.

IMG_0026.JPG

On the lower left is the Pioneer XDP-100R, last year’s model. There is now an XDP-300R. When the 100R came on market sometime over a year ago it listed and retailed for right around $699. Since then I found one for $299 new and have it with me pretty much all the time. 

I was very interested in it from the start because it was the only device I knew that play both MQA and DSD masters in a seamless fashion. 

The other device in the photo to the right is my trusted and beloved OPPO HA-2 (since replaced by the HA-2SE at OPPO, still retails for $299). The HA-2 provides the hefty headphone amp, native DSD conversion to analog playback as delivered from XDP, and lots of extra battery to run or charge the XDP from.

I can travel anywhere with *just* the XDP but there are sound reproduction results with the combination of those 2 devices that are very very very hard to beat especially (and almost exclusively today) if you want to hear and travel and hook your home system up to play both native DSD and MQA up to 384k unfolded. 

It delivers native or upsampled 5.6mHz DSD (for PCM tracks including decided MQA) with a quality of sound reproduction I believe is very hard to beat no matter what you use.

~~~~~ THE SHORT VERSION ~~~~~

I’ve written some audiophile friends about the new setup I have. It is portable, it is long term with battery twice over (really more). It perfectly delivers MQA as well as native DSD analog to any output recipient gear you have (headphones, Bluetooth, Line Out to stereo/studio). It has aeons (days, months, years?) of storage onboard for music or video.  

It doesn’t need a computer to play anything. It *is* a computer.

How does it do this? Here’s my answer:

– It’s an Android PDA (personal digital assistant) and digital player running Android 5.1.1 from Google.  This makes it a very usable and convenient multipurpose tablet that fits in your palm and can host all the Google Play apps you might throw at it. 

I’m using Bluemail and Skype mostly cause I don’t want to burden or clutter it (yet). What I’m saying is it can be your browser, email box, music (and video, hint hint), YouTube player, any media streaming or stored onboard all in one. 

It can’t be your cell phone though you can Skype with calls in and out for $6.99/mo. I’ve used Skype to call out to any cell or Skype or landline number for $2.99/mo. for a very long time when I don’t have cell service (which happens a lot on The Big Island).

By relieving my iPhone of the responsibility of being my portable music player (using the same HA-2 via DoP and the Onkyo HF player app) it freed up all the iPhone  storage (a very conservative 32GB total in comparison to XDP’s whopping 432GB) for photos and videos I take with the phone.  Good trade!

– It is an exceptional MQA decoder providing full resolution unfolding Other popular lower cost MQA DACs I’ve had and used like the Meridian Explorer2 are limited to 192k. None of these support DSD either. 

The TIDAL software player alone with no external DAC just gets you to 96K (one unfold) as will presumably other software MQA players.

– It is 100% DoP (DSD over PCM) compatible that allows it to deliver native DSD to an upstream device (in my case the OPPO HA-2) via a short USB wire (see photo).

– It upsamples PCM to DSD up to 5.6 (11.2mbps stereo) with real precision (no rounding errors) and sends this as DoP to the HA-2 as well….

– It hosts the TIDAL app for streaming MQA etc…

– It has a lot of battery depending what resolution you are playing and how much Android app you use concurrently — but — I back this up with the HA-2 which is also a battery charger good for at least 1x XDP charges.

– It has up to 432GB of storage (!) using 2 SD micro flash slots up to 200GB each on top of its internal 32GB memory for the OS, apps, and music etc.  The SD micro flash cards are of course unlimited in number if that’s not enough for you.  They fit on a thumbnail literally to carry.

– It weights about 7oz.  The HA-2 is a bit heavier (battery!).  All fit in the add-on XDP hard zippered case I got that fits anywhere with cables, Zipbuds PRO (check those out online Amazon for around $25 — and their  brand new “26” AptX wireless creation I got through Kickstarter) and other various audio detritus.

~~~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~~~

What I get from these two devices working together is unlimited headroom for amplification (HA-2 provides necessary oompff even though XDP supports up to 16-300oHm headphones) with the most sophisticated PCM sound ever experienced in my humble opinion. It plays native DSD beautifully as well!

The synergy of MQA decoding with DSD upsampling delivered through an analog 1-bit perfect conversion by OPPO’s HA-2 is a level of Sound Quality on the otherwise edgy compressed qualities of PCM I’ve never come close to experiencing. 

I’m saying MQA sounds great but MQA upsampled to DSD sounds better.

The 2 together fit in my jean jack inside pocket.

The XDP can play everything on its on however the DSD in that case is its PCM converted counterpart, the same as all non-native DSD media players and DACs including Korg’s AudioGate, JRiver and the like. These all also support DoP to connect a “real” DSD DAC to like OPPO, Mytek and many many more.

If you are asking: How can I play the full studio authenticated MQA as well as Native DSD from one setup both in my home and on the go and have all the battery and power for rock n’ roll that I need as well as the convenience of a full Android/Google tablet in my hand traveling around, then look no further…..

Onkyo has very a very similar nearly identical product in collaboration called the DP-X1.  There is also an Onkyo Music app that allows you to buy MQA and other downloads online.

Good stuff. Low Price (I got 2 x 200GB San Disk SD flashes for a total of $150 online btw). Very Amazing Sound.

Did I say it plays your videos stored as well in all the popular formats with 720p resolution. I really like its video quality too.

Aloha!

– DE

….integration….the secret sauce for MQA and all PCM is hi-res DSD upsampling. XDP can do this with HA-2 attached and the result is not like any CD you ever heard.

IMG_0027.JPG

DSD on DVD Discs – Same Masters as SACD – Plays in your SACD player

DSD Made Easy…

To avoid the 6GB+ download for multichannel DSD64 and 2GB+ for stereo, that still is a problem for many worldwide, not to mention a hassle, I now ship a DVD (Data Disc) with the same album tracks on it.

This disc plays directly from the OPPO or any other SACD/DSD disc player (which is usually the DVD/Blu-ray player too) by just selecting the “Music” option (2nd menu choice on OPPO) instead of “CD” option.

Then you just press Play and it plays the album track by track as native DSD. Exactly the same DSD masters as on the SACDs.

“The Window” SACD has been out of print for many years now and is known to sell as used copies online by others for hundreds of dollars. In addition, I have some of my best-selling DSD albums that have never been printed as SACD, only available as DSD Downloads.

All of these are now available as discs for sale. Not CDs, just DSD on a data disc. They won’t play in a CD player. Only in your SACD player.

Back to the problem for some…DSD Downloads. Not only is downloading sometimes tedious depending on your Internet speed and data limit per month (I only get 10GB/mo here for what I can afford), but you then also need the right computer media player like JRiver or Audirvana or others.  Then you also need the right DSD DAC like OPPO HA-2, or Mytek or AURALiC or others and you need to have all that feed your stereo.  Playing multichannel in this fashion can be more challenging.

Not everyone’s idea of fun in music.  Instead they like to pop a disc into their DVD/SACD player and press play.

You can do it by ordering a DSD DVD Disc here:

http://davidelias.com/dsd_on_dvd_data_discs

No one else has done this that I know of, but that shouldn’t scare you. It’s usually cheaper than buying the SACD but doesn’t come in a fancy package.

Just the highest quality DVD (verified) with a white label, hand made, hand written, signed by me and mailed to you in a solid case within a day or two.  You pay shipping which is added at PayPal checkout, depending on where you are in the world.

So far these have gone as far as from Hawaii to Ireland!

Here are the native DSD albums available as DVD Data discs:

  •  Coffeehouse Playlist #1 (sampler of other DSD albums) – Stereo ($24.95 + shipping)
  •  The Window – Stereo or Multichannel ($24.95 + shipping)
  •  Crossing – Stereo or Multichannel ($24.95 + shipping)
  •  Acoustic Trio DSD Sessions – Stereo ($24.95 + shipping)
  •  Slipper DSD Sessions – Stereo ($19.95 + shipping)

Most of these have a PDF with notes, lyrics and photos you can download from the web page where you buy it.

Another nice thing about DVD Data discs with DSD Masters is that you can back them up!  Just copy the DSD (DSF) files off the disc and save them on your computer. No can do with SACDs.

Yes and you can play those same files through your JRiver or Audirvana or whatever you have on computer to play DSD as well.  No DRM in other words.

Hope that didn’t scare you. It’s supposed to make playing “downloadable” DSD easy. You just put in a disc and press Play.

http://davidelias.com/dsd_on_dvd_data_discs

Aloha to All,

– DE

PS – if you followed all this and you have DSD Downloads already, you probably figured out you can burn your own DVD and play any of them in your SACD player if you want as well.  You don’t need me to do that!

DVD Data Discs to the Hi-Res Audio Download Rescue

More for some less for others…

If you don’t want to read this and just want to check it out:

http://davidelias.com/dsd_on_dvd_data_discs/


Many of us including me started downloading MP3 music online in the mid 90’s. It sucked then. We used 33k or then advanced 56k modems over telephone dialup lines. This means we were getting our audio file data at the rates of 4.2KB, or 7.2KB per second.

Everything about download or transfer speed today is measured in either MB/s or even GB/s.  An MB/s is 1000 times faster than a KB/s.  A GB/s is 1,000,000 times faster than a KB/s.  I feel old.

Songs in MP3 format were then and are still often 1MB data per minute of music. So a 4 minute song (4MB data) took anywhere from say 16 minutes to maybe 10 minutes top speed to download…. zzzz …. zzzz ….. zzzz ……  one song, not one album.

A CD version of that same song as a WAV or AIF off the disc took about 10 times as long to download!  Now you see why MP3 was so popular even though it didn’t sound great, and why iTunes took advantage of that when they opened their store for downloads in 2004.

(Oops I forgot to mention that by 2004 there was plenty of Cable Modem and DSL and other much much faster internet to the home, but Apple and everyone else was used to MP3 crappy lossy quality by then….so no one adapted to the fact that good quality was also pretty easy to download. Then FLAC format came along and compressed the WAV file size by around half without loss of any music info. Still no one disrupted the money machine called iTunes, even when they made their own FLAC and called it ALAC and could have delivered CD quality back then no problem and no cost.)

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Fast Forward to 2009. I started offering DSD downloads of my SACDs to mostly the owners of Sony Playstation3’s since most of the SACD players of that day could not play what was called a DSD Disc (data disc with DSD files) as defined by Sony then.

The DSD Disc was literally a DVD data disc burned with the DSD song files (as DSF types with tags or DFF without tags) in a specific folder hierarchy that allowed players of the day to read the data files and play the music.  It broke the mold Sony had created for watermarked copy protection on SACD. You still couldn’t rip SACDs (one can today with the right gear and software).

No one came…

Well a few did, but even though Internet was overall speedy by then (cable modem download speed in Hilo in 2009 was about 650KB/s) it still was not mainstream or always easy to download the large ISO image (to burn the DVD with) for many out there.

My download then was a single 2GB image (zipped ISO file) to burn a DVD disc with to play the audio files on something, either on your computer or on the DVD Disc playing in your Playstation3 or  special Sony or Onkyo SACD players that handled DSD Disc as well as SACD.

zzzz..zzz.zzz.zzzzzz

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rapid Forward to 2017 when Hilo’s Time Warner Cable Modem in some people’s homes breaks the speed meter on speedtest.net at 20MB/s and above as high as maybe 26MB/s.

So while it is easy for some to download hi-res audio, it’s not easy for others. Lots of others. Worldwide. In fact 5 miles up the road from Hilo here in East Hawaii many people may not even be able to get cable modems from Time Warner and so use a much slower and costlier satellite confiugration. If they are in the forest blocking the satellite option and more than a few miles from the nearest telephone wire center (for DSL), forget about it.

By 2011 I moved away from the DSD Disc (ISO) format and just started offering to download the DSF files from my website. Then in 2013 a number of retailers came online to offer DSD downloads and that was great.

Nothing against large file downloads (I guess averages of my stereo DSD files are somewhere around 200MB per song and multichannel maybe 500 per song) but a lot of people around the world and in the US still have trouble with this today. Those files can be hard to retrieve and they take up a lot of space if you have a lot of music. (And they are hard to fit more than a small number into your smartphone.)

Problems often come from slow or interrupted Internet links, confusion on what to even do with files once they are downloaded, or combinations of other things like Safari browsers that insert .TXT file extensions on downloaded files because the server they got the (DSD) file from (like Dropbox) does not properly identify the MIME type for .DSF and .DFF music files.

Aren’t you sorry you asked?

It’s enough to … … … …. ………

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A few years ago I thought I’d offer to make downloads and their problems go away for those not interested in the challenge but who wanted the music. So I provided a way to purchase the music as a little USB stick I would then mail to you. You get the USB stick, put it in your computer or BDP player and get right to it.

No one came….

Today I am offering a similar thing but this time using DVD discs as data.

http://davidelias.com/dsd_on_dvd_data_discs/

These are just the same kind of good quality DVD discs anyone could burn files to off their PC/Mac for either video or just data. A blank single layer (SL), single sided disc has a 4.7 GB capacity. A double layer (DL) has twice that or 8.5GB. My multichannel SACDs require either 2 SL DVDs or 1 DL DVD.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why would I do that you ask?

If you don’t like downloading large files but want to listen to the excellent qualities of DSD as the native source format for the hi-res recordings I have released, you might try buying the DVD version and just getting it in the mail.

The sound files are 100% identical to what is online for download. They are the same as what is/was on the SACDs for that matter. Many of my DSD titles were never SACD. These are now all available on DVD disc as well, not just as downloads.

You just pop the DVD into your OPPO or Sony or other Blu-ray/SACD/DVD/CD player (aka BDP for Blu-ray Disc Player) and select Music from from the menu.  On my OPPO 103 this is the first icon after the disc (audio CD/video DVD) icon and is called “Music”.

The DVD will then show up on your screen as a “Data Disc” choice (as opposed to, say “USB”).  Selecting the Data Disc media then shows the album song list just as it would from a CD or SACD.

Click on a song, play and enjoy. It continues to play songs from there to the end of the list like any CD/SACD.

If you like (and highly suggested by me), just copy the original DVD data to your computer or any backup media you use. In other words, back it up when it’s brand new. No DRM – if you don’t know what that means, good on you.

You can also play the files on your computer from your software media player through your DAC as DoP like any other DSD download. Just put the disc in the computer CD/DVD drive (just a CD drive won’t work) and select those files from your media player software (JRiver, Amarra, Audirvana….).  They then play DSD through your external DSD DAC (Mytek, iFi Audio, OPPO….).

DSD on DVD Data Discs. Hope this helps.

Questions about DVD Data Discs? Post a reply and I’ll answer you best I can.

Aloha!

~ DE
http://facebook.com/davideliasmusic
http://youtube.com/davideliasvideo
http://davidelias-mqa.com


 

ONE – a year in the making

ONE – a year in the making

“Bought and listened to the album “One”. Have about 40 albums with hi-res stores (from 96 kHz to DSD128), but this sound never met. It’s incredibly clean, the background is blacker than black. Musical instruments are precise, clear, but not sharp, no porridge, no noise, no haste, no bloated confusing scenes and confusion. This album has a special, unique atmosphere. This amazing adventure. Bravo!”Online music lover

Finally, after nearly a year in the works, the limited edition PS Audio Sonoma Master Series release is shipping. A project to help musicians and further the state of the art in musical reproduction, this collection of pure DSD recorded music is nothing short of stunning, both musically and sonically.

http://www.psaudio.com/products/one-sonoma-master-series/

Hand mastered and curated by Gus Skinas, each of the 10 tracks is a sonic masterpiece you have to have in your collection. This two-disc set includes a dual-layer SACD with pure DSD as well as a uniquely mastered CD layer, playable in any CD transport (more on this in the further description), and a DVD data disc with high resolution 176kHz 24 PCM as well as DSD.

Also included is a beautiful 20 page color booklet. A true collector’s item. Get one in your hands before they’re gone. Ships worldwide.

Buy Here…

Thanks for Listening!

– DE

PS – “The Blue Planet” $1 EP download sale is good thru Friday 4/22 (Earth Day!)… If you have 3 minutes, the soundtrack to this video I created from film I shot of a partial lunar eclipse from the Big Island is “Inverness” from same EP. The synth I played is mixed with the night crickets during the eclipse…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFiXzSniF8M

How to Cure the DSD/HRA Download Blues

 

A Cure for the DSD/HRA Download Blues…

Have you had some not so Aloha experiences trying to download some of the big DSD files? 24/192 PCM files are even bigger.

Maybe your Internet connection is not-so-quick.  Maybe your provider dings you for the amount of data you download above 2GB or 4GB each month. Maybe you want more than one album worth of files and don’t have the time to babysit the downloads. Maybe you are into 5.0 surround and know how big those audio files can be (average about 400MB per song as DSD64)…

Whatever the reason you can now purchase a single USB stick with the combo of my DSD albums and mixes (2.0 stereo and 5.0 multichannel) that you want.

You can purchase this option through my web page at
http://www.davidelias.com

The DSD USB Stick offer is good ONLY in the United States!

All my online purchases go through secure PayPal which I’ve used as a merchant online since 1999. They have been a great service to rely on.

If you would like the USB stick shipped to you and do not see the album(s) or mixes combined that you prefer, please reply to this email and let me know what you are interested in.

I ship the USB Stick USPS Priority Mail with tracking and can let you know when it goes out and the tracking number.

You can copy the DSF files from the USB Stick to your PC or Mac or simply plug the stick into your media player like an OPPO and play the songs. Pretty darn simple.


One More Cup of Coffee…

With the launch of Revelation9 at the T.H.E. audio fest in Newport Beach, Calif this weekend, I created my first “curated” playlist of my native DSD songs. The curated idea is not exactly new to me though the term is. It means (to me) that some thought and expression are put into making the playlist for some focused intentions by the curator.

In this case, the curator is me. So my intentions were to create a coffeehouse playlist that reflects some of the power of recording in Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and delivering those mixes to people interested in high resolution audio. All the songs in this playlist are mine ranging in recording sessions from over 10 years ago in Boulder, CO to fairly recently in an offgrid cabin here in Hawaii.

I started my rekindled approach to Independent Acoustic in coffeehouses in the SF Bay Area in the early 90’s. I think coffee and acoustic and DSD for that matter all go together very well.

I wrote about each of the 9 songs in the playlist and more about coffeehouse karma online. You can read about that here…

The Playlist is online for download as well for $15.95. It contains selected tracks from all 3 DSD albums as well as the “Aspen Rose” single. These are stereo mixes.

 David Elias - Coffeehouse Playlist #1

Hope you are having a great weekend.

Aloha!

– DE

Go Get Some…Hi-Rez…

What’s New and How You Can Get Some…

David Elias - Independent Acoustic

David Elias – Independent Acoustic


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…


If you are interested in creating a DSD multitrack recording of your own, contact Charlie Natzke via email – He’s in La Honda, CA at Slipperworld.net.

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).

Aloha!

– DE

DSD Bartender — Give Me A PCM Sandwich!

Direct Stream Digital (DSD)

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 Resolution Audio (HRA in Sony’s acronymous world) that has been around as the media format behind SACD (Super Audio CD) which came out nearly 15 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. Despite the years that SACD has been around 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 or misunderstood by 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) dominated path that was based on most of the digital music being recorded and played as CD (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 2013, 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! This approach removes the edgy and compressed feeling to the sound you are listening to and instead provides a much more natural and ambient analog-like sound your ears are more comfortable hearing.

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 accurately compressed lossless (meaning quality is not lost) formats such as FLAC for the PC and ALAC for the Mac.

There are many more audio encoding 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 directly 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 without PCM conversion. Instead it must first 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 typically connects to your PC/Mac via a USB cable. More recent DSD DACs are USB sticks that connect to the PC/Mac directly and also act as headphone amplifiers…this approach (like in a product called GEEK) just might blow the roof off the cost/value proposition in the market! 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, PSAudio, and others. Some good DSD DAC lists exist at Positive Feedbackand AudioStream…

SAMPLE THIS….

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 unconverted 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.

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I’ve seen this so many times now that I had to write this post.

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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 recorded the self-produced “The Window” in 2002. 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, PSAudio 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!

dsd

dsd