Another Source for DSD Downloads (Coming Very Soon)

High Definition Tape Transfers (HDTT), purveyors of "rare classical recordings in audiophile sound" mainly sourced from analog tape will begin releasing DSD64 and DSD128 downloads from their catalog starting this week. Expect between 4 and 6 titles for the initial release and more to follow. If you're not familiar with HDTT, I would recommend a trip to their website but their name provides a nice summary.

Pricing for the DSD releases will be between $18 and $25 depending on the length of the release and the short story about the conversion process goes like this: Master Tape > Antelope Audio Eclipse > DXD 24/352.8 > Weiss Saracon Software > DSD (here's a complete list of the HDTT hardware). I had an exchange with Bob Witrak of HDTT and he said the main reason for going from tape to DXD first is for editing purposes, "I would classify my work as archival and many of my tapes (I occasional use vinyl) are over 50 years old and DSD editing for archival [material] is very limited." and, "...if I was to master in pure DSD I would more than likely have to convert to DXD/PCM to do my editing then go back to DSD [and] I feel this would just add extra steps and degrade the sound more than it has too. This way I only convert in one step PCM/DSD."

What does this conversion to DXD prior to DSD do to the associated sound quality? According to Bob, " you might ask, why don't you just offer the DXD files and I do but recently I purchased a DSD DAC and have found that DSD, even with the conversion, sounds much more analog than the PCM. I believe this is because there's less filtering in the DAC for DSD. I have also confirmed this with people in the industry that heard my DSD files in beta testing."

Whether or not we agree that native DSD playback's analog filter is the reason for its sonic qualities is open for debate. It's worth noting that some designers actually prefer converting DSD to PCM in their DACs and filtering in the digital domain which is how Weiss handles DSD playback in their MAN301 Music Server that's here for review. We'll certainly be talking more about this very interesting topic in the future but we're here to talk about music.

Bob Witrak sent me a few sample DSD128 tracks including Stravinsky's L'histoire Du Soldat Conducted by Robert Mandell - Ars Nova (Westminster Sonotape 2-Track. Recording Info: Recorded in Carnegie Recital Hall on May 25, 1956), an expert from Prokofiev's Chout Suite conducted by Claudio Abbado with the London Symphony Orchestra (Transferred from a 15ips 2-track tape. Venue of Recording: Kingsway Hall, London 14,16 Feb & 28 Oct 1966), and the Shostakovich Cello Sonata in D minor op.40 with Daniel Shafran on cello (15ips 2-track tape. Recording Info: Recorded by RCA 1961).

I listened to all of this music through the Auralic Vega DAC which can handle DSD128 playback and to sum up, it all sounds glorious. There's a natural ease to dynamic swings and an overall relaxed quality that makes listening pure pleasure. The presentations, especially the Shostakovich, put your front row center (or closer) which we can attribute to the original recording and in all of these recordings instruments retain a very nice sense of their natural voice and there's a solidity to musical images as well as a grand sense of scale that draws you into the performance. Bravo!

Since these DSD versions will cost the same as their DXD kin, you can buy whichever you believe will deliver more musical enjoyment. For those with DSD-capable DACs who are interested in this music and these performances of it, I would recommend them all. The HDTT DSD downloads are a welcome addition to the DSD catalog and another source of high quality music.

High Definition Tape Transfers website.

firedog55's picture

I have the HDTT 24/;96 of this same recording and it sounds great. If the DXD or DSD sound better, they will be REALLY good. Too bad my DAC won't play DXD, I'd like to compare the DXD and DSD versions of the same file and see if I agree with HDTT that DSD sounds better, even after an extra conversion step.