Vinyl ripping to DSD5.6 - the Korg DS-DAC-10R ADC/DAC

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
I was going to put this in digital but given my perspective, analog & vinyl might be the place.

I'm a die-hard vinyl guy and only begrudgingly got to making digital a regular part of my in-home listening by going the DSD route, where all digital goes to an SDM chipped DSD capable DAC as DSD5.6 (128). For me, this is the most ‘analog' sounding digital I could find (or at least ‘afford') and it's good enough that I can enjoy it right along with vinyl even if a turntable remains ‘my' benchmark.

Now that my in-system digital playback suits me (via DSD), I'm finding that how ‘good' it does is really down to the source material which can be great (or very bad) right from pcm 16/44.1 on up to DSD5.6. Some of the best digital material I have heard however, is of the analog master > DSD2.8 or 5.6 variety and surprisingly, vinyl rips to DSD5.6. Maybe vinyl>DSD5.6 just ‘suits' my listening biases as you are capturing much of what I love about the sound of vinyl with an analog-like (colored?) digital encoding technique, which is just fine by me if it sounds like my turntable, I'm good.

So I've been wanting to try ripping vinyl to DSD ever since hearing the results, but the cost of experimenting with this was pretty high and limited to the somewhat inconvenient (to me) Tascam DA-3000 or the now discontinued Korg MR-2000S both well above my $ threshold for something I might not like. Korg's new introduction of the $600 (USD) DS-DAC-10R changed this however, and a recent Cosmo Music store sale had me diving in to see what was possible.



The DS-DAC-10R is an interesting piece; it uses the same ADC chipset as the MR-2000S to record straight to DSD (or PCM), functions as a ‘pure' DSD2.8 or 5.6 DAC, and has a headphone jack and selectable internal phono EQ, allowing a turntable to be plugged straight into its analog inputs with no need for an external phono-stage. Purchase also gives you the full license for Korg's Audiogate4 application that does all of the necessary recording, track splitting, tagging and playback functions even format conversion from PCM>DSD or DSD>PCM if desired. Since I don't want to do any digital clean-up or manipulation just record the analog everything remains in the DSD domain with no trips to PCM and back; something that was pretty important to me.

Out of the box, it appears to be a very well made piece; a substantial lump of aluminum with a copper sub-chassis and styling that…leaves me cold. It probably wouldn't bother me too much except for the overly bright ring of fire around the headphone volume knob that radiates in different colors based on function and what it ‘sees' as digital input. I feel like I should be wearing a lead bib around this thing.

For my use, I set the 10R to line input direct (no phono EQ) I wanted to capture what I like about the Zyx MC on the Sonic-Frontiers phono stage so kept it in play, plugged directly into the Korg with some Van Den Hul cables. The 10R is hooked up to my player PC with a Wireworld Starlight 7 USB cable, Uptone Audio REGEN and home-made ‘hard' USB adapter. Since the Korg is USB powered, this arrangement puts the Korg on my linear/regulated lab power supply which powers the REGEN. This setup doesn't sound quite as good in my system for playback as the Sotm SMS-100 streamer running HQPlayer's NAA, but USB direct is needed to do recording.

The Korg only has a few hours on it and no NAA so it's not fair to be too critical about playback yet, but I don't think it's quite up to the Concero HD/NAA when fed DSD5.6 via HQPlayer. It's real close, and if I didn't A-B them in rapid succession it might be hard to pick a favorite but let's say it's a work in progress from a purely DAC perspective. With some burn in hours (for what that's worth) or after putting it on the SMS-100 streamer things may improve a bit so we'll see.

As an ADC for ripping vinyl though oh man this is an exciting piece! My first ‘hack' at a recording was done by just queuing up what I had on the table (Muddy Water's Folk Singer), pressing Record in Audiogate, adjusting recording levels and letting it run for a few tracks. The resulting file (DSD5.6 dsf) went to a generic place on the hard drive and was given a cryptic name - 1 long file for the session. I pointed Roon at this new location to ‘watch', the cryptic file came up as ‘unknown' DSD128, pushed Play and…

Amazing it was like I still had the record playing. There was depth, the big airy soundscape, the ‘bite' of the guitar without the digital edge, the big tone and soaring vocals almost all I love about this record was now playing out of the much maligned ‘computer junk' in my room. Sure, this might just be ‘my' personally colored rendition as-per my chosen vinyl front end but that's exactly what I was after I want my digits to sound like my turntable and it seems to work.

I've gotten a little better with the workflow I'll clean the LP on the VPI machine, set recording levels, start the rip, add the artist and album tags as it goes, pause to change sides and finish out the file. I'll then go in and add ‘breaks' between cuts and add track names as I go, export the files to an ‘album name' folder and move it off to my network attached file server. Roon picks it up, identifies it, adds artwork and all the Roon value-add stuff and it's now part of my regular library, ready to playback as native DSD5.6.

Much more to dive into here with lots of variables, options and tweaking to come but my first few rips have pulled me into just listening to the music like digital has rarely done before. I'm going to try a few albums where I have them in several formats to get a good read on ultimate quality potential here but in the end, this is mostly about getting all my valuable (to me) vinyl into a format that lets me enjoy it more both in my listening room and everywhere else I listen to music.

So far, so good.


 

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billfort

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks Byron. I know you've been down the DSD5.6 road as well and have to say this is a pretty amazing way of leveraging what we know is possible with it - decent vinyl straight to DSD seems to make for pretty nice digital.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, it's pretty amazing what this Korg is capable of - thanks for showing me what is possible with ripping from a good table!

I've been messing with my digital stuff some more today, tweaking around with software and things, and it's incredible how close it's gotten to playing an LP - if I wasn't dropping the cartridge/pushing the play button myself, I don't know that I could consistently tell the rips from the vinyl straight-up. Never thought I'd say that.
 

JP

Junior Member
Careful now... pretty soon you'll only fire up the 'table to rip stuff, or when you're feeling particularly nostalgic!
 

goofytwoshoes

Junior Member
Please keep us updated about your experiences with the 10R. I currently have the DS DAC 100 for playback, and have started to record LPs to a Korg MR2 in DSD. I am saving my pennies to upgrade to the 10R, as the MR2 records in DSD 2.8 and I like the 5.6 capability of the 10R.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
I can do that I didn't think there was any interest in this here but I have recorded a few LPs now so have a little to add.

DSD5.6 is proving to be fantastic but my 2.8 rips from SACDs can be incredible too (I up-scale everything on playback to 5.6) - how have you found doing this with the MR2 to 2.8?
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
I've gotten fairly comfortable with the Korg Audiogate software and since I have no intention of doing any digital domain editing like tick & click removal, EQ'ing, etc., I only need software to split tracks and tag those tracks which Audiogate does quite nicely in the DSD domain. I record straight to DSD5.6 and store those tracks straight-up on my server so there is no format conversion done using Audiogate. If I want to carry these recordings on something portable like a phone, I'll do a down-converted copy to flac or high-bitrate MP3 but since I use Roon & HQPlayer on my network attached players, any local playback is either straight-up as DSD5.6 or converted to PCM where needed on-the-fly (i.e 24/192 to feed my Marantz HT receiver).

Monitoring for que points etc. is done with headphones as I keep the speakers and subs off or very low during recording little chance of local speaker feedback affecting things that way. It is a little tricky getting the start/pause/stop points perfect but that's mostly about room layout and having to do 2 things in quick succession in that room drop the queuing lever and click the record button. I'm sure software editing could ‘fix' this a little but it's no big deal and I'm getting better at it.

These files are BIG and I have a small SSD drive in my player/recorder PC so I do 1 LP at a time. I record both sides, split tracks, tag while splitting, create a folder for the LP (artist name album name), dump the tracks into that folder & move folder onto my server. Roon picks everything up from there; adds artwork and does its thing which IMO makes experiencing the album on listening even better than pulling out the vinyl at least now that the sonics are close to or on par with my turntable.

And performance-wise, I think DSD5.6 does a fantastic job of capturing what I love about vinyl. This is really an entry-level DSD ADC/DAC with a little hot-rodding via a Regen, linear power-supply and USB tweaky bits, but it's very satisfying on listening and I don't feel the need to go running for the record rack anymore to really listen to the music I've ripped.

I'm very happy with this purchase and thought I'd be quick to move on to something else for playback but no; it sounds damn nice as a DAC too.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
HypnoToad;n42178 said:
Maybe you could share one of your rips?
I could - do you have DSD5.6 playback capability? I know you could convert them to something else and the results seem really good doing this here but IMHO, you kind of lose a little of what this whole process is capable of in doing that.

But then that's just me, as I find good DSD (and a decent DSD capable DAC) can sometimes get closer to vinyl than PCM. Maybe a misguided goal and probably down to personal preference more than anything but that's the reference in my listening room and where I want to end up.
 

goofytwoshoes

Junior Member
billfort, thanks for the updates. I've recorded two ways. First, with a Sony DD turntable/Micro Acoustics electret cartridge connected to a Meitner PA6i with MM voltage-mode phono input, and Tape Out into the MR-2 Line Level input. Second, with the TT plugged directly into the MR-2 Mic input, which just barely records at a high enough level for decent playback level. I'm having a tough time hearing any difference from the LP, to either recorded file, to an SACD rip. I believe that, like you, I will be totally satisfied forever with LPs ripped to DSD. There's two reasons I'd like to step up to the Korg 10R - DSD5.6 recording function, and a phono input that steps up the recording level for better volume level on playback.

Files I've recorded with TT plugged directly into the MR-2 make use of Audiogate's RIAA correction upon playback, and sound equally as good as files recorded through the Meitner's phono stage. Can't decide which way to go, at this point. Recording directly to the MR-2 is more work, but the possibility of better playback down the road as RIAA software correction improves is intriguing.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
I understand the interest in applying 'software' RIAA later - it is amazing what software is capable of and it's always improving - but I like having these DSD5.6 rips ready to play straight-up on a variety of devices and the one thing that I can be sure of, is that playback software and DACs will continue to evolve and improve. Audiogate sounds very nice as playback software, but HQPlayer sounds better to me and I know there are better DSD DACs out there - a straight-up DSD5.6 file with the RIAA already done just seems more universally applicable and future proof to me.

There is also that 'personal taste' thing I mentioned where I love the sound of my current Zyx MC cartridge into the Sonic Frontiers tube phono-stage, and right or wrong, I want my rips to convey some of that secret-sauce on digital playback. I know the rips aren't as pristine, vanilla, pure, un-colored. etc. as what might be possible using software to do RIAA but that's OK by me - I just want these rips to sound as good to my ear as my turntable - and they almost do. :)
 
I came here for the SACD ripping thread but I have a bunch of vinyl I want to rip too and have been investigating that for an even longer time but not getting off the dime.

One of the questions is RIAA in hardware or software and I will share these admittedly hearsay data points which I have added to my consideration as I lurch from the 1980s , (last time I added a new CD player to my system) to the present day.

I met at a local surplus electronics store which I have frequented since they opened, a local St. Louis audiophile. This is one of those guys that we all know who is a RAVING, foaming at the mouth, audiophile. He built his own electrostatic speakers and lots of electronic components, including electronic crossovers.
He recognized a kindred spirit and we started discussing things. We got onto the subject of "hardware of software RIAA" and he was completely adamant about doing it and promised I would hear the difference and love it if I did it in software. I don't remember the software he recommended if any. This was quite a long time ago I might add. One vote for software. (from someone who would fit in here I suspect)

Fast forward to the present day. I have been befriended by a young (28 years old) recording engineer. His boss who records the St. Louis Symphony just went to some kind of conference on archival recording where the consensus was that RIAA should be done in hardware not software. Expert votes for hardware.

I like and am used to the sound of my Pioneer C-21 preamp phono stage, so I will certainly try that. I will probably compare both methods on LPs that I know well.

The DS DAC10R is a little bit more than I had planned to spend (there are a lot of recommendations for the very inexpensive Focusrite audio interfaces) but although it has a high list price its current street price seems to be about $370. Quite reasonable.

I have note even listened to hi rez yet on my own system. Just at Axpona.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
The DS DAC10R is a little bit more than I had planned to spend (there are a lot of recommendations for the very inexpensive Focusrite audio interfaces) but although it has a high list price its current street price seems to be about $370. Quite reasonable.
Thats a nice unit, I can't imagine you wouldn't be happy with it. Their AudioGate 4 bundled software is also excellent according to a friend of mine in California.
 
The resulting file (DSD5.6 dsf) went to a generic place on the hard drive and was given a cryptic name - 1 long file for the session.

I've gotten a little better with the workflow I'll clean the LP on the VPI machine, set recording levels, start the rip, add the artist and album tags as it goes, pause to change sides and finish out the file. I'll then go in and add ‘breaks' between cuts and add track names as I go, export the files to an ‘album name' folder and move it off to my network attached file server. Roon picks it up, identifies it, adds artwork and all the Roon value-add stuff and it's now part of my regular library, ready to playback as native DSD5.6.
So from what I read, I take it you can export a native DSD64 or 128 file as DSF, without any conversion for playback on ANY software? It sounds like that's exactly what you did, but the manual is kinda iffy on that. Thanks!
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
This unit along with AudioGate 4 lets you record an analog input to either DSD64 or DSD128, and leave it in that format, as a .dsf file. Can those files "playback on ANY software"? Well no, only software & DACs that can play native DSD .dsf files can play them without conversion. If you have pcm only software (& DAC), AudioGate will let you convert .dsf to pcm, but you could just record them to pcm in the first place if that's what you want in the end.

I use Roon, HQPlayer, JRiver & USB Audio Player Pro (on an Android phone) which can all play native dsf files and pass them to DSD capable DACs in that format. For the one pcm only DAC I have, these software options can also provide 'on-the-fly' conversion to pcm, so I leave these files as they were recorded (DSD128) on my server.
 
This unit along with AudioGate 4 lets you record an analog input to either DSD64 or DSD128, and leave it in that format, as a .dsf file.
Thanks, that answered my question! My DAC supports DSD using DoP, so I've been looking at upgrading my vinyl rips to DSD to play over my Volumio music server or from my laptop using FooBar2000.
 
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