Don't believe everything you think

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There is an ongoing debate (at least amongst designers and recording engineers) about the PCM format (CD’s, DVD’s) vs. the DSD format (SACD) in digital audio – which is better?

What’s interesting about this debate is that most people think (and therefore believe) what they are listening to is either one or the other – but the fact is all modern DACS use PCM on their inputs and DSD on their outputs. We are all listening to both formats.

PCM is the digital audio format used in 99.9% of all digital recorded media, mastering labs and recording studios and is stored on CD’s, DVD’s and hard drives. DSD is (today) a little used recording and mastering format that started to take off with the advent of SACD, but didn’t really go anywhere (‘Tis a shame Sony killed it because it sounds much more like the real deal).

Because most SACD’s sound better than most CD’s it’s natural to assume one format is better than the other – when in reality we listen to a hybrid of both.

A pure SACD recording is DSD from the beginning to end (there are plenty of analog and PCM to DSD SACD’s as well). PCM is typically recorded and stored natively and converted to DSD in any modern DAC (24 bits and higher). So the debate really should be about a pure DSD chain vs. a hybrid PCM to DSD.

The point of this article is to set the record straight. We’re all listening to DSD.

Seems a little information about a given subject can get our belief system up in arms over the wrong facts.

Tomorrow: the Quiet Revolution.