How names hurt us

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How names hurt us

When we name something we forever relegate it to a category. It's why caviar can be both a delicacy and fish bait depending on its title.

Digital audio is very much tainted with its name. When we think of digital we immediately place a set of values deserved or not: accurate, sterile, dynamic, uninvolving, crystal clear. Analog audio would have a different set.

Of course, these are generalizations but they tend to stick with us and shape our opinions and preconceptions of how a system might sound before we actually hear it. It's one reason we're often surprised when music sounds unlike what we might expect.

My readers know of my love of DSD, the format of capturing audio with single bits of information.

I am not sure how to label DSD. On the one hand, I can put a DSD stream on the scope and see the music, something I cannot do with PCM. I can also take the DSD stream and plug it directly into an amplifier and hear the music, something completely out of the question with "digital audio".

I have said DSD is closer to analog than digital. One of the reasons I suggest this is in an attempt at removing the stigma of words and meanings associated with "digital". As soon as we hear "digital" we assign it a set of qualities we expect to hear. If we further explain it's a specific type of digital very much unlike PCM we're given a smirk and a knowing head motion. "It's still digital" in the same way a Pomello is still grapefruit when compared to a Ruby Red despite the night and day differences.

You will see me more often than not referring to DSD as analog. I am sure this will raise the hackles of many but calling it digital is an insult at the least, an injustice if nothing else.

I'd rather err on the side of how it is perceived by the ear than how our textbooks think of it.

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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