DSD listening impressions

When listening to SACDs I was not really happy with the sound they delivered. To explain this, here's my configuration:
  • Yamaha BD-A1020 Multiplayer, connected to a ...
  • Rotel RC 1570 PreAmp via analog RCA (the only connection accepted for SACD signals)
  • Quad 303 Power Amp (properly revised by myself a few months ago)
  • Tannoy D500 speakers connected via Kimber Cable
  • Finally a GigaByte Brix MiniPC running Daphile Audio Server is connected to the Rotel via USB for convenient access to the music
So I extracted the Standard CD layer from some of my SACDs into FLAC files and placed them on the server. That way I was able to switch back and forth between the SACD layer and the redbook layer coming from Daphile easily when starting both playbacks simultaneously.

The issue was that for all discs tested the SACD layer sounded a bit dull as compared to the 44.1/16 signal from the server. I consider this not acceptable ... 😉

First I changed the RCA cables between Yamaha and Rotel: WireWorld, Oehlbach, and several more. Hardly any audible difference between them. The server delivering plain 44.1/16 PCM was still ahead.

In my opinion, what's the most probable reason for the issue should be the two DACs involved: when listening to SACDs the DAC of the Yamaha comes into play, when listening to the standard CD rips from Daphile the DAC in the Rotel is used.

Now I'll process several SACDs using SACDextractGUI, place the result on the Daphile, and then listen ...

We'll see ... I'll keep you informed!
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
In my opinion, what's the most probable reason for the issue should be the two DACs involved: when listening to SACDs the DAC of the Yamaha comes into play, when listening to the standard CD rips from Daphile the DAC in the Rotel is used.

Yes and I'd add it's not just the DAC chip itself that is different, but the entire analog output stage, and perhaps most critically, a totally different power supply design too.

The job of a disc player's power supply is far tougher than that of most other components, because it has to physically spin the disc at constantly varying speeds, and power the DC servo for the laser. That requires quite a bit of current, the only thing comparable in a MiniPC Daphile server is the fan (if it has one), or a moving parts HDD (if it has one).

All of those things and more can affect sound quality to one degree or another.
 
Yes and I'd add it's not just the DAC chip itself that is different, but the entire analog output stage, and perhaps most critically, a totally different power supply design too.
You're most probably right about this. I will continue my tests over the weekend.
 
Have you done level matching?
Ahh, actually not! Well, I'm performing my first steps in ripping SACDs, being open for any advice! Thanks for this!

Yesterday I started ripping several SACDs directly into dsf files. Noticing then that my Rotel PreAmp isn't capable of handling DSD input I converted these into PCM / FLAC format using a DeaDBeaF player under Linux, the only one I found so far doing this conveniently in batch mode. Only problem: DeaDBeaF wouldn't let me choose a proper sampling rate, it always wrote 352.8 kHz to disc, resulting in output files being much larger than necessary.

I would consider 88k / 24b or 176k / 24b sufficient for standard SACD input, right?

Today I want to try another approach by ripping to ISO first and then converting to PCM / FLAC afterwards. Any ideas for an appropriate software to perform this task under Windows 10 (preferred) or Linux? Doesn't have to be a player, I'm focused on the conversion process.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
My first exposure to SACD was via a DVD/SACD universal player, which I believe converted DSD to PCM. I was underwhelmed, it just sounded like a CD to me. It was a fairly cheap Denon player, lightweight, not much going on as far as power supply or output stage. My next exposure to it was a really nice and stupidly expensive EMM Labs CDSA 2-channel SACD player. So a $200 universal player vs an $11,500 SACD player. It was a nice difference, unsurprisingly. The difference in player was much more of the equation than just switching between formats. I wouldn't say that SACD blew my mind or anything but it's my preferred digital format, and I've liked the few times I dabbled in DSD files through my old BMC dac which handled DSD without converting it to PCM.
 
Ok, here an additional resampler component for foobar can be found. It seems to be a little more flexible. Don't know whether the rest of this evening will be enough to test it. Possibly tomorrow.
 
Just set up my spare BDP-103D to rip SACDs. Worked first time, but I wasn't really happy with the sound of the resulting files when played back through my UDP-203. Compared to the actual disc it sounds dry and uninvolving, I couldn't listen to a complete track before having to turn it off.

Nice idea and convenient if you want background music all day I suppose, but as a serious music listener it's not for me unless a more recent and/or higher quality player can be coaxed into working. Thanks anyhow, it was an interesting exercise.
 
Just set up my spare BDP-103D to rip SACDs using this method. Worked first time, but I wasn't really happy with the sound of the resulting files when played back through my UDP-203. Compared to the actual disc it sounds dry and uninvolving, I couldn't listen to a complete track before having to turn it off.

Nice idea and convenient if you want background music all day I suppose, but as a serious music listener it's not for me unless a more recent and/or higher quality player can be coaxed into working. Thanks anyhow, it was an interesting exercise.
What is the playback chain of source, DAC and connection method for each, disc spinning and server?
 
I did some further experimentation with an unused BDP-105D I happen to have. The following comparisons assume the original disc as 10/10 standard (which is not the same as saying 100% accurate, since compared to live music all recordings are inadequate)

1. BDP-103D Stereo: 5/10 Dry, bright, flat soundstage , no air
2. BDP-105D Stereo: 7/10 Dry, less bright, more detail, no air
3. BDP-105D Surround 5.1: 8.5/10 More detail again, starting to sound normal
4. UDP-203 and original disc, Surround 5.1: Huge soundstage, sweet, open, details for miles.

I think my initial impressions based on #1 above were more of a shock than they could have been if I'd realized that the UDP-203 normally selects the surround version and does it's own processing into stereo. #3 is certainly usable for convenience, so it's all good! I suspect the BDP-103 suffers fairly badly from digital jitter by the sound of it. It will be on Fleabay fairly soon.

@timztunz

The system currently comprises the UPD-203 as source, a Victor JM-S7 110W/ch VFET amp and two linear arrays of Jordan J6Ts (2 sides x 3 drivers in individual boxes). I have brand new Eikonas here and the enclosures are in a semi-built state, can't wait to hear them.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Just set up my spare BDP-103D to rip SACDs. Worked first time, but I wasn't really happy with the sound of the resulting files when played back through my UDP-203. Compared to the actual disc it sounds dry and uninvolving, I couldn't listen to a complete track before having to turn it off.

Nice idea and convenient if you want background music all day I suppose, but as a serious music listener it's not for me unless a more recent and/or higher quality player can be coaxed into working. Thanks anyhow, it was an interesting exercise.
That's an interesting impression, most have reported the opposite, but obviously it will depend both on subjective preference, and the quality of the actual player being used for playback comparison.

The thing about it is these files are bit-for-bit accurate to the original disc, so the actual capture of the data isn't different or subject to differences depending on which exact player you use for the rips. Even the cheapest Sony that is compatible produces a bit perfect copy of the disc.

That said, I'm not suggesting that there could not be an audible difference in the way that bit perfect data is handled by the DAC stage of the UDP-203 using a digital input, as opposed to reading the file off of the optical disc itself.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
What is the playback chain of source, DAC and connection method for each, disc spinning and server?
The system currently comprises the UPD-203 as source, a Victor JM-S7 110W/ch VFET amp and two linear arrays of Jordan J6Ts (2 sides x 3 drivers in individual boxes).
I think what @timztunz was asking and what I'm curious about too, is exactly how were the ripped files played back on the UDP-203?

Did you put them on a USB thumb drive and connect that directly to the player's USB Type-A input, or were the ripped files streamed to the player over a network server connection involving the player's USB Type-B input?

I'd also be curious if the UDP-203 was setup to transcode DSD to PCM through it's digital inputs, which might produce a small but likely noticeable degradation in sound quality as opposed to straight DSD playback. I think the transcode to PCM is unavoidable with multichannel files if I'm not mistaken, though I don't own a UDP-203 so that may very well not be the case with that model. But if the player is transcoding the ripped files to PCM for playback, then the comparison to straight DSD off of the optical disc is an apple-to-oranges thing to some extent.
 
The thing about it is these files are bit-for-bit accurate to the original disc, so the actual capture of the data isn't different or subject to differences depending on which exact player you use for the rips. Even the cheapest Sony that is compatible produces a bit perfect copy of the disc.

Is this in fact true? I trust I am getting a bit-perfect rip of a CD when I rip it with dBpoweramp because the software ensures ultra-secure ripping and Accurate Rip comparisons, but I have wondered about my DSD rips with SACD Extract and my DVD rips with DVD Audio Extractor, if they are really bit-for-bit accurate?
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Is this in fact true? I trust I am getting a bit-perfect rip of a CD when I rip it with dBpoweramp because the software ensures ultra-secure ripping and Accurate Rip comparisons, but I have wondered about my DSD rips with SACD Extract and my DVD rips with DVD Audio Extractor, if they are really bit-for-bit accurate?
To the best that the current software can read it, yes. The most recent versions of sacd_extract check to see how many sectors are on the disc, and how many are then read, right down to the last frame, to the best of my knowledge. The results of that are displayed in the GUI.

That said, there is no Accurate Rip for SACD (nor DVD-Audio as you noted), so no known/accepted full database of the supposed exact bit-for-bit copy details of SACDs like there is for CD.

Do you use one of the latest versions of sacd_extract? If so read the information displayed in the GUI the next time you are ripping an SACD, you will be alerted if audio frames are missing vs. the expected.
 
I think what @timztunz was asking and what I'm curious about too, is exactly how were the ripped files played back on the UDP-203?

Did you put them on a USB thumb drive and connect that directly to the player's USB Type-A input, or were the ripped files streamed to the player over a network server connection involving the player's USB Type-B input?

The ripped files were streamed via my LAN wirelessly, as most people would do. Burning them to DVD or writing to a thumb drive still would have added another layer of alteration.
 
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Is this in fact true? I trust I am getting a bit-perfect rip of a CD when I rip it with dBpoweramp because the software ensures ultra-secure ripping and Accurate Rip comparisons, but I have wondered about my DSD rips with SACD Extract and my DVD rips with DVD Audio Extractor, if they are really bit-for-bit accurate?

I very much doubt it. Apart from added digital jitter in the player used for recording there are other sources of error. Players have to be corrected for offset (see EAC docs) and network clock buffering can also add changes.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Apart from added digital jitter in the player used for recording there are other sources of error.
I don't know what that means. The player used to make the rip isn't trying to play music in real time, it's only just reading the bits off of the disc and then sending them to storage either on the network, or a USB thumb drive in the case of either the older PS3 method, or what's known as AutoRip with a Blu-ray player. Jitter does not come into play there at all.

When those ripped files are stored, there is no "jitter" stored along with any of that, and indeed some would argue there isn't really any jitter issue on playback either, with the possible exception of the last clock local to the DAC chip itself. While the playback side is up for at least some debate, the stored file aspect is not, there is no jitter plaguing the rip and subsequent stored files.

Playback of the rips over a network does introduce other layers of software, hardware, and clocking that aren't present when just playing the SACD itself, however that doesn't mean it will automatically be inferior.

Most people who comment seem to feel that file playback over their network sounds superior to playing the actual disc, however I do grant that in most cases they are comparing apples-to-oranges in that most disc players don't have the ability to playback files from the network, making that a DAC vs. disc player apples-to-oranges comparison.

It certainly is just that in my setup, my Marantz SA-15 can only play the disc itself, so I can't make a fair comparison between that and the file played back because the file can't be played back on my particular disc player, I'm using a completely different DAC for that, different digital board, different analog output stage, different power supply than that of the disc player, so it's not a valid direct comparison.

I certainly don't dispute your own experience with your particular setup and subjective preference in saying the disc playback is superior on your system, but you can't paint that with a broad stroke as being applicable in other cases, nor create reasons for such as the rip process somehow being plagued by jitter or errors. As my post to @No Such Member indicated, the GUI tells you if the frames ripped match what the disc TOC told it to expect.

Players have to be corrected for offset (see EAC docs) and network clock buffering can also add changes.
EAC is great but does not pertain to SACD, only CD. What you are reading in those documents is specific to Redbook CD. "Network clock buffering" on the rip itself, or are you referring to playback of the ripped files?
 
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