Converting DSD to analog

August 11, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

11 comments on “Converting DSD to analog”

  1. This was the essence of the confusion with the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL)…
    The analog purist was outraged to find that digital was used in the chain… even if they loved the sound.

    With modern and clean ADCs and DACs. It’s just such a small issue.

    Since that did not satisfy many, the outrage was shifted to “disclosure” with multiple discussions.

    I think PSA is on a good track here.
    I have Don Grusin’s “Out Of Thin Air” on all formats – the vinyl is glorious, but the DSD/SACD and the high-res PCMs are all exquisite.

  2. Ah, I think you hinted at the missing piece of the puzzle that had me perplexed. I’m assuming that you are recording several tracks all at the same time in DSD (say the vocals, the piano, the guitar, the bass, etc) and THEN you can convert them to analog on playback, then using your analog mixing board you can “master” the result to sound as you wish, then record that stereo mix back into DSD to use to create everything subsequent in various formats to your heart’s desire. Is that how you do it?

    I mean, recording “live” to two channel DSD and then “letting it be” would be great for some recordings, but obviously not for others, so is this how you fine tune the mixes? Thanks!

    1. Well formed question, MW. I hope Paul answers it.
      In my perspective, the issue you raise is the corollary of the MoFi controversy for “DSD Nuts” like me — there is no such thing as an “all-DSD process” through the entire recording/production process; (1) That all DSD recordings must pass through an analog step to mix the recording. (2) That no equipment exists for digital mixing. Is this true?
      PS: Octave Records, Blue Coast Records, 2L, nativeDSD recordings played as files off my server, sound as good as any turntable I’ve heard. Digital/DSD playback has advanced a lot in the last 5 years.

    2. I will try and answer both your questions here. First, there is no way to mix or adjust the volume levels in DSD. DSD is a pure recording means that cannot be futzed with.

      So, a truly pure recording would be one that is live, two channel, single rate DSD. Once recorded that pure DSD file could be put onto a SACD and released. No conversion to anything. Kind of like Direct to disc vinyl in the old days where the band played live into the cutter.

      But that is not how most is done and so far, none at Octave.

      In our new studio we have moved on from the original Sonoma system to the newer Pyramix DSD system (the same Pyramix system that Zuill Bailey was recorded on).

      In the older Sonoma system you are correct in the path. Single rate DSD->convert to analog and mix on an analog mixing console->through an A/D converter back into DSD.

      In the new Pyramix system it looks like this: quad rate DSD->low pass filter to generate a special kind of lossless 352kHz PCM file we can mix and master with->then back to DSD through a process in Pyramix called DSD rendering (though we sometimes experiment with going to analog and then back through an A/D to DSD but I prefer the former).

      Hope that helps.

      In the

        1. Thanks. It’s a bear of a system to learn. I think I have it nailed now but… we had to pick the most complicated DAW in the world.

          As Cookie points out, anyone dedicated to DSD is pushing the boundaries of everything. Couldn’t be more accurate.

  3. The bottom line is microphones and speakers are both pure analog. Everything starts off and finishes in analog no matter how many times it’s converted in between.

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