I Saw the Future of SACD at CES – it’s DSD files !

LUXMAN DA-06, DSD compatible DAC
LUXMAN DA-06, DSD compatible DAC

I started buying SACDs shortly after their introduction in 1999 and recently discovered as we started transcribing the discs to digital music files (with a SONY Playstation 3) that I had accumulated over 1200 albums in the intervening twelve years. We started the tedious process of ripping the discs to an ISO file, then to a DSD (DFF or DSF; the latter is more meta data friendly) almost a year ago and expect to complete the transcription this summer.

I have been buying & configuring music servers for the past eight years and have never before demonstrated a digital music file in public, until – LUXMAN Corp. of Yokohama, Japan were kind enough to make a prototype DA-06 DSD compatible DAC available to us for use during CES 2013. It was my first time hearing DSD files played on a computer (MAC mini with SSD) and boy was it a treat ! All of the acoustic space ambient information was immediately apparent. The music rose from an inky black background; a simple, single note could hang in space, while in the complex passages, any instrument could be easily followed, even through competing melodies. To describe me as thrilled was the understatement of the year !  Admittedly, we only played the DSD files at CES in DXD mode (PCM 352.8kHz) with the DA-06. We have yet to play the files with a Windows PC where an ASAIO driver is available so that the DSD files can be played in their native 1 bit 2.8MHz or 5.6MHz (double DSD) format.  I can’t wait to hear the improvement.

Bill Parish of GTT Audio, Long Valley, NJ was kind enough to share some of his vinyl drops, captured from a Brinkmann Balance turntable in double DSD using a KORG DSD recorder. We played in our Mirage penthouse suite:

Eva Cassidy  – Fields Of Gold,
Jimi Hendrix – Born Under A Bad Sign
Chico Freeman  – Autumn In New York
Jheena Lodwick – Do That To Me One More Time

Jason Kennedy who writes for HiFi+ (UK) commented: “Yes, its beautiful sounding,  but why not just play the record, Philip ?” – to which I quickly showed him how much music was at my disposal on a 3 TB Hard Drive in comparison to a small flight case of records on the floor that contained 50 LPs.  Even moving 500 records is a case of logistics, not to mention, that to keep the records in prime condition, they do need to be cleaned regularly.

So what do the DSD files sound like ?  They do sound like a really good SACD player is spinning its magic, in fact the Editor of a high end print magazine dropped in for a drink on Tuesday night, we listened to Prokofiev’s Scenes from Lieutenant Kije (EXTON) as well as French Piano Trios (Hyperion) …  He later commented on Thursday when he returned to formally listen to the system that the Florestan Trio playing Debussy’s Piano Trio on SACD  ” I own the same SACD  myself for over ten years and have listened to this disc many times on many different SACD players – that was the best reproduction I have ever heard”.

Pete Roth (SoundStage) commented: “DSD captures all of the real world music presentation, in a non-fatiguing fashion, does not have the digital signature that we associate with CD playback”.

Is the DSD playback of vinyl as good as the same analog playback straight from the record player ?  So far, I still prefer the analogue record playback, but this is a fast moving technology and I hope to return to this subject shortly with an update. Besides the KORG DSD recorder, I also bought a Metric Halo Lio 8 for 24/192 PCM recording and am about to borrow an Ayre QA-9 ADC as well as the M2Tech Joplin ADC.

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by Philip O'Hanlon

Music Evangelist and Master of Musical Enjoyment—Philip spends his time looking for fine music, tuning up synergistic electronic components to get the best sound, and making music compilations so he can share his listening journey and experiences with friends and acquaintances.

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