What is DSD au­dio?

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Dacs Continued -

What is DSD? How is it dif­fer­ent from other mu­sic files and how can you lis­ten to it?


DSD (Di­rect Stream Dig­i­tal) was orig­i­nally con­ceived as a way of ar­chiv­ing old ana­logue record­ings. It was de­signed to be a sim­pler, more space-ef­fi­cient way of stor­ing dig­i­tal mu­sic data.

How does DSD work?

DSD uses a single bit of in­for­ma­tion that tells us whether the cur­rent sam­ple of the ana­logue wave­form is higher or lower than in the pre­vi­ous one. Com­pared with over 65,000 dif­fer­ent val­ues that 16-bit PCM has, the two val­ues (0 if the new sam­ple of the sig­nal is lower or 1 if it’s higher) of DSD ap­pear lim­it­ing.

That res­o­lu­tion short­fall is made up by the very high sam­pling rate of over 2.8 mil­lion times a sec­ond – that’s 64 times the speed of CD. Stan­dard DSD is some­times called DSD64 for this rea­son, with dou­ble and quadru­ple speed ver­sions called DSD128 and DSD256 re­spec­tively.

What are the down­sides to DSD?

It’s not very prac­ti­cal to ma­nip­u­late a DSD record­ing. All the things that are re­quired post-record­ing such as equal­i­sa­tion, edit­ing, dy­namic range con­trol and ad­ding re­verb usu­ally in­volve the DSD stream be­ing con­verted to PCM to do the pro­cess­ing and then switched back. It’s down to a lack of suit­able equip­ment and pro­cess­ing soft­ware.

How do you play DSD?

DSD play­back has be­come far more com­mon and that’s down to the greater avail­abil­ity of down­load­able mu­sic files.

Most re­cent mid-to-high end dig­i­tal play­back equip­ment tends to be com­pat­i­ble, so if you have some­thing suit­able there’s no rea­son to treat it any dif­fer­ently from FLAC or WAV files.

Where can you buy DSD au­dio files?

Most of the ma­jor au­dio­phile mu­sic sites sell DSD down­loads. The likes of Hd­tracks and Highre­saudio are good places to start. SACDS are still fairly widely avail­able, too.

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