Now DSDs are becoming easier to play, where exactly do you get them?

Online music vendors are waking up to the resurgence of interest in the single-bit hi-res format, but there is an alternative…

sony_ps3DSD was born as part of one of those inevitable consumer electronics format battles, as hardware and music companies sought to find the next step on from CD.

For the proponents of Super Audio CD (or SACD) and DVD-Audio, the stakes were high: not just the chance for them to sell a whole new set of hardware, but also the lucrative technology licences required by third-party manufacturers wanting to build their own players.

As it turned out, neither SACD nor DVD-Audio took the audio world by storm, as the mass-market seemed much more interested in compressing its music to cram it onto portable players, and higher-resolution audio remained a specialist interest.

However, there’s a new twist in what some may have thought a saga long ago told, finished and forgotten – the re-emergence of DSD as a format in the ‘computer audio’ arena.

In this article for Gramophone magazine, I look at sources of DSD downloads, and explain how to convert your SACDs into files you can play on the latest DACs and network audio devices…

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10 comments

  1. Gerald Bearman · · Reply

    I find it hard to believe converting mch SACD to files then play via latest DACS and network audio devices is going to sound better than just playing the SACD from a mch SACD player which is what I think you are saying , Not sure you can do this for mch which is the best way to listen to SACD .

    1. No, I’m not making any claim about improved sound quality.
      As to multichannel being the best way to listen to SACD, each to his own…

  2. Gerald Bearman · · Reply

    If mch SACD does not sound better than Stereo and clearly it does even if you say you can not hear the improvement, why on earth do the Recording Studios bother to include it on a hybrid disc at considerable extra cost.It is because the two channel so-called high end manufacturers have influenced the magazines who depend on their advertising not to promote mch, sacd , or the benefits of low cost HDMI as the makers want to sell rip-off priced equipment including very expensive cables.

    1. “If mch SACD does not sound better than Stereo and clearly it does even if you say you can not hear the improvement”

      I don’t think I said that at all – I merely said I was making no claims of sonic improvement for the ripping/streaming method.

      “It is because the two channel so-called high end manufacturers have influenced the magazines who depend on their advertising not to promote mch, sacd…”

      I’m not sure I’ve ever come under any pressure not to promote multichannel anything, whether by ‘so-called high end manufacturers’ or anyone else. Again you seem to be reading your own agenda into this – FWIW I have a set-up able to play both SACDs in multichannel and ripped DSD files in two-channel, and have previously published pieces advocating the benefits of music in multichannel.

      It’s just that not many recordings make particularly good use of the multichannel capability of SACD, and for many users a ‘proper’ multichannel system for music – ie with the same speakers on all channels, set up in the correct ITU arrangement – is hardly practical.

      “…or the benefits of low cost HDMI as the makers want to sell rip-off priced equipment including very expensive cables”

      No, not sure what that’s got to do with anything here.

  3. Gerald Bearman · · Reply

    I totally agree with you the ITU set up of five equal size floorstanding speakers is hardly practical and is only suitable for a large dedicated listening room, apart from being totally unnecessary. I agree with the comments taken from The Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical recordings.

    The back speakers can be very small, even hidden,for their purpose is only to add a subtle background ambience to the recording. With small groups of artists this can bring a subtle but tangible feeling of presence; with large -scale works, especially choral music, the result can be a very thrilling fourth dimension, and one really has the sense of sitting in the concert hall itself.

    1. “totally unnecessary”? That’s a very definitive statement, and while it may possibly have been the case once, more recent recordings – and some earlier ones – doing multichannel properly require equal speakers all round, as there’s a lot more than background ambience going on.

  4. Gerald Bearman · · Reply

    I obtain excellent mch SACD sound from front floorstanding TL speakers smaller centre channel speaker and small rear speakers mounted on stands. I have attended several events with the ITU setup by the experts Sony;s Eric Kingdom and Marantz’s Ken Ishibata and found the sound virtually unlistenable usually too much rear volume, when I complained the excuse is always the room acoustics or the speakers are new and not yet run in etc.

    1. In which case, I am happy that you are happy.

      if they are forced to make such plainly ludicrous excuses for their unlistenable demonstrations, maybe Messrs Kingdom and Ishibata have much to learn from you, Mr Beatman.

  5. Gerald Bearman · · Reply

    I am not technical, but I do have a lot of listening experience

  6. I’m listening to MCH SACD with Martin Logan’s huge CLX’s as front speakers driven by Parasound JC1 mono blocks, the “Theatre” Centre and “Scenario” surrounds are far lower cost and smaller and driven by a lower spec Parasound 3 channel amp. Despite this I much prefer the multichannel option. I can switch at the press of a button. Stereo sounds like a “stereo system” (albeit an amazing one) MCH sounds like I am at the concert. Jaw dropping is normal when guests come to visit. One female visitor said “If I had this system, I’d never leave the house”.

    With rock e.g. Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Bjork multichannel is a simply stunning immersive experience. With Classical it is much more about ambience. However I am a big fan of the Pentatone label SACD’s including their digitised Quadraphonic titles which use much more rear channel than is the fashion today.

    I have the ITU arrangement for angles though not equidistant – very difficult to achieve that. But that doesn’t mean that MCH shouldn’t be used! My SACD player has distance compensation in DSD domain (Sony). The Oppo 105 can adjust for distance – though only by converting to PCM.

    Years ago I experimented successfully with Hafler setups, but when SACD was introduced – and I heard Dark Side Of The Moon at a demo I went MCH in 2003.

    It seems ludicrous to me that people are still arguing for stereo? Particularly when there are so many good classical SACD’s around I’m up to around 1000 in my collection) Perhaps it was the same for “mono” enthusiasts when stereo was introduced.

    I always feel that there’s something missing when I listen to stereo.However I am using the Chord Hugo for playing back stereo DSD files and think this sounds better than stereo SACD’s played on an Oppo BDP105 for example, with all the usual convenience benefits of playing from a computer.

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