RMAF 2013 The Wrap!

"Does it do double DSD?" After I heard this query for the umpteenth time I started to cringe.

The Marriott Denver Tech Center Hotel was filled with great sounds, great music, and great people. If you could harness the energy contained in the enthusiasm within those halls, you could power your hi-fi for the rest of your life. And your neighbor's, if he had a hi-fi. The largest buzz that I heard centered around three letters—D.S.D. There were DSD seminars, DSD-capable DACs in abundance, and new DSD download sites and sources announced. People played DSD, talked about DSD, and listened to DSD.

It's that last bit, the listening part, that matters most. After all, if DSD didn't sound good, no one would be talking about it. We already went through that once with digital, thank you, and while I did see some CDs spinning, the majority of rooms had some sort of file-based playback and/or vinyl. Which is as it should be.

The thing to keep in mind is something I heard Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sounds say more than once and that is—its the quality of the original recording and mastering that matters most. Formats follow after that in terms of importance so a great sounding CD will sound better than a crappy sounding DSD download. That said, with quality recordings, higher resolution PCM and DSD can and do sound better than their lessor kin. This isn't some wild and weird audiophile fantasy that scoffs at science rather its based on what we hear. And experience trumps theory especially when it comes to hobbies whose main goal is enjoyment.

"I have seen the future and its less crowded"
So my notes read. The Wadia Intuition, Lindemann musicbook, Roksan Oxygene, Blue Sound, Playback Designs IPS-3, and more. More manufacturers are rolling up more functionality into single boxes I'd imagine with the hopes that more people will become interested in them. Some manufacturers are even adding regular people technology like Bluetooth to their boxes so regular people can enjoy listening to music on the hi-fi. Once you hear it, odds are you'll want it. Again and again.

Congratulations to Marjorie Baumert and the teams of people that helped to make RMAF 2013 another success (and happy 10th anniversary)!

COMMENTS
labjr's picture

That's what I want to know. Because regular DSD seems to have an audible problem that's probably not correctable at regular DSD sample rates. 

At some sample rate both PCM and DSD will be indistinguishable from the original source and each other. Sooner we get there the better.

We know Chad (Who in the f**k said what!) Kassem wants to sell what he's got today. And that's fine. But we like to debate anyway. 

bsm's picture

Was the rumored (by iFi themselves) iDSD not being shown?

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...was showing in the 'CanJam' area and I didn't get there until late Sunday afternoon by which time iFi had packed up. I believe they were showing products from their new Micro series.

CG's picture

Ahh...  So no iPurifier observations, I guess.  indecision

iFi Audio's picture

Hi Michael,

Sorry we missed you as Canjam was a little nuts. We also had gear in a few other rooms and so ran around assisting others including the Saena loudspeaker guys as they were running DCS digital with iUSB Power, Gemini, Mercury and the iPurifier.

Anyway, we have uploaded some pics here:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.609638449071901.1073741852.460963790606035&type=3&uploaded=1

Hope you like 'em.

hotsoup's picture

So did anyone find out the backstory of the poster lady in the RMAF graphic logo? Was she the founder?? har har

..the quality of the original recording and mastering that matters most. Formats follow after that in terms of importance so a great sounding CD will sound better than a crappy sounding DSD download. ..

I've always agreed with this. When I hang out at the local hi-fi shop, there are vinyl fans that really try to impress me. The sound DOES impress me, I just don't hear the advantage over a good sounding CD, SACD, or even MP3 and vice versa. I think the big disagreement is often how far format follows in terms of importance. To some it's trivial (like me), to others it seems very important.

Wavelength's picture

Gang,

Ok sure I caved and have DSD stuff now. BUT why?

Two big problems with DSD:

1) There are no true DSD dac chips anymore. No ESS, No Wolfson, No TI/BB, No AKM, none of these support native DSD. The same way that popular software packages convert DSD to PCM for those not supporting the DoP spec is the same thing that happens in EVERY available dac chip in the industry. The last commercial DAC chip that did DSD natively was the TI/BB DSD1700. Other than that it would have to be some discrete dac and not a DAC chip.

2) The DoP spec needs to be looked at again. It requires companies to double up on the PCM to get single, double or quad DSD. It throws away 16 bits per sample in headers and does not work at all for ADC trying to break into this market.

Look the DSD files sound different than PCM, ok but it's not were it needs to be considering the level of interest in the subject.

Thanks,

Gordon

Michael Lavorgna's picture

"Look the DSD files sound different than PCM"

This would make an interesting topic for further discussion.

Wavelength's picture

Michael,

Yes it would, but even more so would be how can we make the sound better.

Think of it this way, right now when you stream PCM you basically turn on DMA (Direct Memory Access is a hardware tool to move data into or out of memory and to a hardware peripheral like USB or I2S) at the computer and go off and do something else and on the DAC you take the data in DMA, send it out DMA which means, very little is done.

When we do DoP the application is double buffering the data with inserting the header and then doubling the sample rate and adding 33% overhead to the stream (16 bits per sample x2 for 64 bits of DSD). Then the receiving side has to unpack those samples via software then insert these into the DMA buffer for I2S output.

All this makes the experience less than acceptable in both sonics and engineering.

Thanks,
Gordon

CG's picture

The world is over buffered.  This has become a significant problem for Internet traffic.  At some point, the buffering actually reduces performance, often by a lot.  Same problem here, but obviously on a different scale.  

One of many possible solutions is to up the transfer speeds dramatically, but only for short periods of time.  For example, imagine less than a second at 10 Gbps.  A problem with this then becomes the memory needed at the receive end and the high speed processing needed for loading the memory.  All of a sudden, you have a small PC in your DAC, or whatever it would be called then.  

labjr's picture

"1) There are no true DSD dac chips anymore. No ESS, No Wolfson, No TI/BB, No AKM, none of these support native DSD. The same way that popular software packages convert DSD to PCM for those not supporting the DoP spec is the same thing that happens in EVERY available dac chip in the industry. The last commercial DAC chip that did DSD natively was the TI/BB DSD1700. Other than that it would have to be some discrete dac and not a DAC chip."

 

You lost me there. I thought there were no native PCM DAC chips anymore? Thus the reason native DSD is supposed to be so good?

Maybe there are no DACs from any manufacturer which are native DSD or PCM? Does this leave only discrete DACs?  I'd like to hear other opinions, as I don't feel qualified to be in this debate.

PhilipAC's picture

Hi

I have a question for Gordon-whose views and knowledge I respect greatly.

I have a DSD Lampizator (which I love). As far as I am aware, this does not use chips, but filters out the carrier wave.

Is this not native DSD?

Cheers

Philip

tnargs's picture

The only reason DSD is so wrongly hyped is because it is seen as yet another way to avoid PCM. Oh, and yet another way to on-sell, up-sell and re-sell.

"I'm anti-digital, all that harshness and glare etc, and I read somewhere that DSD is more analog than PCM, so I want DSD for when I'm forced away from my turntable."

Never mind that 99% of DSD material is converted to PCM (or originates as PCM) at some stage in the production process, then converted to DSD for sale. Surely just leaving it as PCM could be no worse?

Never mind that DXD is PCM, they just changed the name because "I hate PCM and DSD is more analog".

Never mind that DSD is subject to more DSP than PCM due to its inherent 1-bit nature requiring substantial noise-shifting to be usable.

No, no, never mind all that, let's all get in a tizzy of excitement and slap one another's backs as we jump on the bandwagon. If this is industry-driven I can accept it as self-interest, but if it is driven by audiophiles, I implore the audio press to embark on a proper eduction campaign here, before it gets out of hand. [Or, are 'audio press' and 'audio industry' actually the same thing, and no one represents the audiophile's best interests?]

Michael Lavorgna's picture

The reason DSD is getting attention around here is because of how it sounds.

I'd suggest you get off your soap box concerning your whole 'audio press' and 'audio industry' kick. Just because we may not represent your point of view, that does not automatically mean we are corrupt and it certainly doesn't mean I have to put up with nonsensical allegations endlessly. You are now 2 for 2.

To be clear, if you keep up with these false dichotomies of yours, I'll block your account (and sleep better for it).

Airfla's picture

For a designer and builder of DACs like Gordon, the technical shortcomings of DSD may be relevant and important. He expresses his concern about the additional burden that DoP imposes. However, a number of DSD DACs offer "native" DSD in that they don't use the DoP protocol, e.g. Luxman DA-06. They may not be "native" by Grodon's definition because they do not employ true one bit DSD chips. Charles Hansen of Ayre laments that the only reason DSD sounds better than PCM is because of the poor filters that PCM uses.

Who cares why DSD sounds better than PCM? As an end user, I am interested in the best digital sound currently available. And, all other things being equal, that is provided by DSD.

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