Playing DSD files

I have a small but DSD-capable DAC (Topping E30ii), and many DSD files on my hard disk. I am trying Audirvana Origin (one month free trial). It is able to play my DSD files, and the sound is good. However, before I buy it, I would like to test Foobar2000, with DSD components / plugins, maybe the sound is equally good.  Yet I cannot get it to work. I’ve installed foo-component for dsd and sacd, but no sound, or even  error message: unrecognized format, trying to play my .dff files. Anyone knows a workaround? With Foobar, my DAC display shows PCM (up to 706), it does not show (correct) DSD, like it does with Audirvana.

Ag insider logo xs@2xo_holter

@fuzztone and @milpai - thanks.

I already have a dac/streamer in my main system (Teac NT-505) which does the job fine - streaming PCM e g from Qobuz, AND playing my 5,6mhz DSD files. The question now is just playback of the DSD files, from my laptop and small DAC.

I love DSD. I don't want conversion. I don't want DoP. I just want it straight and native. I have some hundred LPs that I have patiently recorded to DSD files, and want to listen to them in that format. Not too much to ask? Yet it is tricky.

Using the DSD recorder itself for playback is possible but a hassle. I have used a Korg MR1, and then Tascam DA-3000, for vinyl rips for fifteen years. The recordings themselves are good (Korg 2,8 mhz) to excellent (Tascam 5,6mhz). But the file system is stone age, you are lucky if you can get them to recognize an external harddrive, they cant be networked, and so on. So it would be great if I could just use Explorer, and click Play on the file. 

But maybe I am unlucky. Foobar and I are not friends, now. I tried installing the asio+dsd component. I already had the sacd component. Yet foobar remains silent, telling me it does not recognize the .dff file. The setup procedure is long and partly obscure. I can see from the many comments that I am not alone having problems. Let me say it again: I dont want anything except the pure DSD file, playbacked native, like my Topping E30ii DAC is capable of. No upconversion. No sneaky change to PCM. Maybe DoP is harmless, but I'm not sure until I can compare them. Oh well. Maybe I need to uninstall Foobar, and try from a clean install.

Meanwhile, I am impressed by Audirvana Origin, which seems to be a genuine enthusiast program, receiving good reviews. Librarians, here we come. This Origin version is not a montly pay streaming program. It just plays your own music library. What is more, it plays the files correctly, including single speed and double speed DSD files. It does the trick, without a lot of setup and strange solutions. The Topping says YES immediately, it displays "DSD" and the correct Mhz speed. While with Foobar it either displays cd format pcm, or some strange multiple like 706 khz pcm. Do I smell DoP?

In short, Audirvana seems up to the task, while Foobar doesn't. So I am tempted to look the other way, and invest (ca 1200 kr in Norway, ca USD 130) in it. This is a one time investment, and they promise long term maintenance and support.

In all my Foobar tries so far, I can regulate the volume from the PC (the Topping DAC has no volume / preamp). Probably once more an indication that we are still not into native DSD territory. When Audirvana takes control, however, the volume is fixed. As it should be - the golden rule is "no messing with the DSD signal", and even changing the volume is messing. Meaning that true DSD goes missing!

This is not practical in my home office system, since my small Fostex submini only has manual volume at the back, which needs adjustment along with the volume to the speakers. However it seems a minor cost. If I get Audirvana on the laptop + E30ii + external hard drive for the music library, I have a portable package I can easily bring along to, for example, a holiday house which has Audioengine A5+ active speakers. I already know that these speakers sound better with the Topping in the chain (compared to direct from the Thinkpad), and assume it will sound better still with Audirvana as DSD playback program.

Sorry for rambling on, but maybe some of this is informative for some of you. I have some more trial weeks with Audirvana before I decide.

As a simple but very basic test: my ears say yes. I have never heard my DSD files so good, before. Not from a small laptop based system like this. Very close to the original direct playback sound from the LPs. The Teac NT-505, costing 10x the Topping price, does it even better, but the main sonic picture is similar, and a big step up from pcm (or sneaky pcm). When the first DSD recorder was launched by Korg, they promised "future-proof sound", and Audirvana (and Teac, and other DSD-capable DACs)  shows they were right. Unlike the CD hype of perfect sound forever.





Obviously you are way past where I ever got with PC sound. Once I got my first streamer (of 6 current) ones I pretty much abandoned it except for ripping/mastering. I did notice quite an improvement in minimizing PC noise using Fidelizer. I recommend trying the free version. He even responds to tech requests.

I think for your purposes and desires you would be be better off springing for Audiovarna (but I have never tried it.) I have an E50 on my PC, replacing a Schiit multibit that failed and they refused to repair. I love it. I do much of my listening through a second one (my first) in my media room. They are currently $169.15 making me tempted to buy a spare. I use one (on the PC) in DAC mode and the other in pre amp mode. They are both wonderful.

Please allow a few observations from a cranky old man:

Paul at PS Audio records exclusively in DSD at his Octave Records studio. He insists that there is zero loss in SQ by playing them back in DoP mode. Before I read that I felt like you, but I have noticed no difference. All my DSD files are .dsf. You could try that.

Good luck wherever you find it, you sound like a serious practitioner of audio art. Sorry I cannot be more help but I too have found foobar to be somewhat difficult. I can’t recall ever playing DSD on my PC but now I have lost interest in that.

Peace be with you.

Thanks! Before recording to DSD the last fifteen years, I recorded my LPs to analog tape, mainly with the Revox A77 from the late 60s to the 90s. A reliable serviceable machine. But it weighed a ton! I then switched to digital and the new sound technology, with several Sony DAT recorders. And 80ies digital gear, like a small cd player. Not something I listen to, today. I invested in DSD recording early on in the 00s, even though, at the time, it was seen as peripheral at best.

Note that by saying I like DSD, I am not saying this format cures all and any problems. I am not a DSD fetishist. It is only the total of recordings, compared to the total of PCM recordings, that all in all sound better. There are a lot of exceptions. A poor recording in DSD will sound worse than a good PCM recording. The same goes for production. It is no miracle cure. It is only the average bonus of the format.

Maybe DoP sounds as good as direct DSD. So far I have not been able to compare.




Your Revox is heavy? I can’t even lift my Otari BQII any more. (Anyone interested?) I enjoy my favorite well made recordings in Redbook (or analog) more than most DSD files that I have. I used to record vinyl but I cannot abide permanent surface noise and the dynamics that are compressed for LPs I always play vinyl through an expander. The fact that DSD is non editable i(without PCM conversion) is a nonstarter for me. I am not "anal" enough to put $1600 into a SugarCube SC-1, my Puffin is good enough for vinyl playback. I only rip vinyl when rare music is otherwise unobtainable.

Whatever trips your trigger. We all have our "own" stubborn beliefs. As long as they are based on facts vs faith, all is good.

In short, Audirvana seems up to the task, while Foobar doesn't

I am able to get pure DSD out of the Foobar. So I feel it is a user setup issue and not software issue. What is the Output "device" that you have selected? It should be the ASIO+DSD one and not just the Topping that you might be selecting. Also under Preference -> Tools -> SACD try to seletc the output Type as "DSD" instead of "DSD+PCM".

That tutorial like that I have provided is excellent resource for setting up Foobar2000. Yes, Foobar2000 setup is a bit technical in nature. Hence most folks here don't want to deal with it. But the gains are awesome, once you set it up. If you think that Audirvana gives you the results, then that should be the way to go for you.

And you are correct - don't mess with DSF files to convert then to 2X or 4X DSD. The PCM files can be converted to 1X, 2X, 4X DSD if you use the "DSD Processor". The only other s/w that does NOT convert DSD to PCM while upsampling 1X DSD files to 2X, 4X DSD is the HQPlayer. But that requires even more complex setup, which might deter folks.

I recently came across a podcast where Peter Comeau from Mission mention that - the reason why people like upsampling to higher bit rates is because it pushes the noise to higher frequencies. Maybe that is why we prefer DSD to PCM? Whatever - but correct mastering is the key to a great recording.