It’s the time of year for saving money!
Sitting in a comfy chair in Gus Skinnas’ mastering room,
listening to Elephant Revival in DSD 5.1, my first thought was “this sounds
great!” My second was, “This would sound good through almost ANYTHING!,” because
in this universe, software trumps hardware, every time.
What do I mean by that? Program material, the stuff we listen
FOR is by far the most important element in the signal chain. Every time you
improve the quality of the source you affect everything else down the line.
Also, the only reason anyone buys a shiny box or new speakers is so they can
enjoy the software that is supported by that hardware. Example – 3D without Avatar
is just an idea, not an enticing format.
But sitting in Gus’ studio, listening to a board mix recording
from the Rockygrass festival, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the lack of
electronic artifacts and essential “liveness” of the Sonoma DSD recording
transcended the legibility of any studio recording, regardless of format, I’ve
heard. Gus gave me a couple of sample recordings to play on my systems at home
and DANG! I said DANG! Using Korg’s Audiogate playback software I listened to
Gus’ DSD recordings down-sampled to 192/24 and they had the same pristine “lack
of extraneous stuff” sound in my system as I had heard at his studio. In point
of fact, I think you could play back this recording through virtually any
system and it would sound good. That’s what a high quality source can do.
My holiday wish, for every audiophile in the world, is that
they could have some playback material that was of the same quality as the
recordings I heard at Gus Skinnas’ mastering suite. Vinylphiles can hear an
approximation on the LPs that Skinnas masters for Analogue Productions. But the
LP’s inherently limited dynamic range and resolution (compared to the master
files) makes the LPs far less useful as a reference than the digital files.
Long live great software, which will always, always, trump
Great point Steven. Is the Korg software commonly available? Just got my Macmini going into Micromega MyDAC and am now eager and ready to try some Hi-Res music.
Hello Jeff, The Korg software is now “open.” They do require an email address to send the unlocking code, however.
So far the easiest way to play back DSD 2.8 files on the Mac is via Audirvana Plus software – drag and drop and then play, once you’ve set the audio preferences for DSD…
Great article Steve. I am a HUGE DSD proponent, and own 2 DSD DACs. From my minimalist (important IMHO) music server to my Meitner (or Mytek) DACs, DSD offers amazing realism. And the leading DSD folks, like Gus, Cookie Marenco, Jared Sacks, etc are all trying their darndest to revive this once-only-SACD format.
Anyway, yes, regardless of format…recording quality always wins!!
Almost any system except in my 2012 Mercedes premium Harmon Kardon sound system.
Every low bass note would thump. There is no way to control the sub-woofer.
Just spreading the word.
@Dennis: there are (quite unfortunately) very few high-end automobile systems that are any good. Harmon and Bose being some of the most costly, most prevalent in classy rides, and some of the worst. Been there…done that!
In previous cars I could remove the stock radio and replace it with something good Ken. No way to do that now.
All Mercedes offers is bass and treble. If you turn down the bass to get rid of the thumping, you lose the warmth.
I suspect the sound system was designed by young adults who have no idea what flat/realistic sound means. Or they listened to the boom, boom, boom so much they have lost their low frequency hearing.
OK, Steven, so you’re now the Ivor Tiefenbrun of digital!
But I submit that your enthusiasm for DSD – a variant of the single-bit Delta/Sigma format – goes just a smidge too far. Good software makes a real difference, no doubt about that. But there’s a balance there. Great software played through crap will sound like squishy brown stuff regardless of how much you might wish otherwise. And merely good software will sound very acceptable is played through a quality system.
Or at least that’s what more than 40 years of careful listening tells me.
Oh, please pass my greetings on to Gus. He was a star in my first video production for Sony more years ago than any of us care to remember!