Is DSD pseudo analog?

April 27, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

11 comments on “Is DSD pseudo analog?”

  1. “The whole world is made of bits! Analog is an illusion!” Really??? It seems that PS Audio is creating a new theory of physics? Do you really claim that Newton’s apple is falling down making discrete steps? Or is planet earth moving around the sun permanently accelerating nearly infinitely fast and then decelerating again to zero in a definite time interval? But maybe you simply wanted to reveal that there are only a limited number of viewing cells in the retina of our eyes and a limited number of hair cells in our inner ear whose analog (!) impulse-like signals are processed by our brain-cells fooling us to see and hear uninterrupted “movements” as they really happen when you move a fiddle stick over the violin’s strings.

    1. Hi Paul (it’s pronounced Gloster or Glostershire)

      DSD is analogue.
      Analogue is not an “illusion” it’s simply an expression of a form. I would argue that every format of recording music; record, tape, CD, is analogue – they are all an analogous form of the original thing that work in different ways. The fact that record and tape have been branded as analogue and cd/downloads/streaming as digital has created a partisan nonsense!!
      Drilling down to be more specific PCM is absolutely 100% digital as it is value words expressing signal levels that can be digitally manipulated. DSD is not digital value words simply densities of 1’s and 0’s bits that mimic the signal that cannot be digitally manipulated.

  2. I think I get where you’re going with this Paul. I think our impression of what is ‘continuous’ and what is ‘discrete’ depends on our observational context. From our everyday point of view, natural processes appear ‘continuous’ but, if my understanding of the subject is correct, at some level ‘continuous’ processes break down into a series of discrete changes. I think quantum physics is a good example of this, theorizing that (continuous) processes can be broken down into a series of transitions from one discrete (energy) state to the next.

    On the other hand, although you can feed a DSD bit stream directly into an ‘analog’ input and still get something out that resembles the original recorded sound, we still need a sophisticated DAC to ‘clean up the hairy bits’. 🙂

    I think the real trick will happen when we can record something digitally at such a level that even our sophisticated ‘playback chain’ (including our ear/brain) can’t detect nor will it care that the input is not really a ‘continuous’ (analogue) signal.

    1. I guess it’s rather about continuous and non-continuous signal but both are always analog! In real world there is no ideal impulse or step-function and thus sharp transitions from “0” to “1”. These digital values are processed from an analog signal varying between to voltage levels by looking for a threshold!

      1. Good point! I guess if we were creatures (or devices) sensitive to the ‘short’ time intervals involved, we’d maybe think that the voltage transition from a ‘0’ state to a ‘1’ state (or back) is just part of a continuous signal anyway! 😉

  3. I don’t mean to step on anyone’s tows here, I’m just wanting to make a very strong point here.
    It doesn’t really matter what type of audio file it is.
    But if you need a dac to decode it, then you can’t really call it analog.
    Sure DSD comes very close to sounding just like analog.
    But if you need a decoder to decode it, then it’s not truly analog.
    The dac’s that can decode DSD files and play them back, have A synchronous chips in them to do all of that hard lifting.
    If you didn’t have A synchrrnous chips in your dac’s, you wouldn’t bee able to listen to DSD files.
    They just cempaly won’t play.

  4. Analog is continuous like painting a straight line. Digital is bits and pieces. Both sound good but the real deal is analog and it can be sensed by the ear as being warmer and more like real life. Digital takes an analog signal and breaks it up in bits and then converts it back to analog. Yes something important is lost in that process but it still sounds very good.I love both formats. There are pros and cons to both so both should stay in the audiophile world.

    1. I don’t dispute you hear a difference between – I assume records and tape, PCM and DSD but I totally disagree that this is due to a signal being chopped up into bits. All of these formats are created in very different ways and play back in different ways. Attributing qualities to being digital or analogue I believe is a serious mistake and has created a partisan mindset as I’ve described above.
      All music/sound starts as modulations of the air that have to be converted into an an electrical signal before being able to be captured into any format. They all work and work very well all said and done. It appears to be personal taste or a specific recordings qualities that make the difference.

  5. Paul is absolutely right. Everything is made up of discrete quanta. After newton came other scientists like Feynman, Planck and many others even energy is not continuous but made of discrete packets. Electricity which is generate out of the force the needle of the phone cardriche receives from the groove of your LP is made of electrons. So even playing your record on the turntable results finally in being discrete quanta flying around.
    Note: Electrons which are lepton’s, just as the Muon, Elektron-neutrino, Muon-neutrino, Tau-neutrino, and there anti-particles, the Positron, Anti-muon, Anti-tau, Elektron-anti-neutrino & Muon-anti-neutrino)
    Also everything that has mass hadron’s, the Baryons made up out of three quarks (Protons and Neutrons which make the majority of the mass of an atom)

  6. The only difference between the air I’m surrounded in and the table I’m resting my elbows on is the distance between the Atoms. Even in the table the distance between each Atom is huge compared to the diameter of each atom. Indeed light is also made up of discrete photon particles. Electrons in their orbitals don’t haphazardly fly around the nucleus, they fall into discrete orbitals depending upon their energy state. Also the electrons moving through your speaker cable are discrete as well pushing against each other. Just a smaller digital state.

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