Wading in deeper

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In yesterday's post The beat goes on I shared with you an observation of PCM vs. DSD and how the sound differed: PCM always being a bit more 'alive' and 'energetic' while DSD being a bit more 'laid back' in its presentation. What I appreciated in the observation was the lack of a judgement as to which was better or worse. It was just an observation. But it is a head scratcher when an original DSD recording, like those of Blue Coast Recording's magnificent Mahler series, can sound more 'alive' and 'like music' when converted to PCM. I've been scratching my head over this for quite some time now. Over on the comments section of yesterday's post, one of our more prolific and informed commentors, Acuvox (who happens to make unbelievably realistic acoustic recordings himself), proffers this opinion:
"The “energized” sound reported on PCM is probably an artifact of ringing filters on the transient edges. They typically exhibit “pre-ringing”, that is they start to ring BEFORE the transient. This time smearing increases the perceptual loudness of the transient. It is exciting, but fatiguing. Real music produces a relaxed euphoria. People who listen to acoustic music daily find PCM inferior to DSD and digitally compressed music unlistenable. If you take the time to acclimate by listening exclusively to DSD for a few weeks (and not through DACs that convert to PCM as an intermediate step), you may find your preference shifts as well."
I am not certain I can agree or disagree with his opinion on the cause, or even his conclusions, as I haven't enough facts to move forward on. Perhaps the single biggest differences I notice are the increased energies right at the transient which sounds more 'real'. For example, a double bass or cello, you can hear more of the bow hitting the strings of the instrument and believe that to be closer to the real thing. It can sound that way. So perhaps Acuvox is helping explain the mechanism in play that slightly exaggerates the transients. Let's suggest he's correct. What then?
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Paul McGowan

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