What is DSD Audio and How to Play

What is DSD audio

Direct Stream Digital (DSD) is a trademark of Sony and Philips used in the digital audio signal reproduction system used for the Super Audio CD.

DSD uses a 1 bit of information and has a sampling rate of 2.8 million times per second that’s 64 times the speed of CD. Standard DSD is sometimes called DSD64 (2.8224MHz) for this reason, with double, quadruple and octuple speed versions called DSD128 (5.6448MHz) and DSD256 (11,2MHz), DSD512 (22,5792MHz).

DSD audio has 2 formats to store is DSF and DFF. The DSF has the ability to store more metadata for the track, while the DFF does not have this capability.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of DSD

DSD has better quality than PCM because DSD has a very high sampling frequency level, it is only necessary to use simple filters at low frequency, less distortion compared to the original.

DSD also has its limitations. All the things that are required post-recording such as equalisation, editing, dynamic range control and adding reverb usually involve the DSD stream being converted to PCM to do the processing and then switched back. You may come across the term DXD on a recording. This is where the original DSD signal has been converted to 24-bit/352kHz PCM and processed in that form throughout. While the name (intentionally or not) sounds like DSD, it is simply very high resolution PCM.

DSD also has problems with high interference levels compared to PCM. Intelligent processing techniques allow engineers to optimize performance and dynamic range in the sound zone. 

How to Play DSD?

The solution is to use an external Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). A DAC is able to handle the high sample rates used in the DSD format, can be easily connected to your computer via USB.

Besides, amplifiers and receivers capable of playing high resolution audio, including DSD! They have a built-in high quality DAC. Now you only need the right software that’s capable of playing DSD audio using DoP. There are quite few programs like Audirvana for Mac, Foobar2000 and Teac HR Audio Player for Windows. JRiver and HQPlayer are available for Windows and Mac.

I want to emphasize that DSD does not all determine the quality of a recording, a good record depends a lot and mainly on the technique of the recording engineer.