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

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.

@milpai - thanks! It worked! I selected the Asio+DSD device and SACD output to DSD. And tried another .dff file, since foo had some kind of hangup with the test file. Now I’ve got Foobar sound. The DAC displays 5,6 DSD, and the volume level is fixed, so it seems correct. Now, to the next step - comparing Foobar and Audirvana. They should sound identical, maybe ; - )

This is weird. I had it - and lost it! I got Foobar to play my dsd files using milpai's advice. For a while I switched back and forth between Foobar and Audirvana, testing for sound differences. Since I know that such programs can be jealous of each other, I was careful to turn off F when listening in A and vice versa. But then; no direct dsd sound in F! Just, back to pcm, with "176.4 pcm" on the dac display! Why? I didn't change anything in the Foobar setup. And a reboot did not help. This is seriously beyond my understanding. The impression is that Audirvana grabs hold of the pc with an iron fist, I can hear the slight click as it switches to direct DSD, and it plays my files with no problems so far. Foobar, on the other hand, does not. Or only maybe. Now and then, like they say. Puzzling.

@fuzztone - its good to keep some perspective on things. I could fill my suitcase with a hundred small Fiio X3ii digital players, to equal the 15 kg weight of the Revox A77! X3ii does play DSD native, and weighs 135 grams. However the DAC is not so good in other respects, the Topping is clearly better, and the Teac NT-505 better still. And the Revox of course. However I gave up on analog tape recording after I discovered that my tapes detoriated over the years (more hiss / tape noise). I first switched to DAT tape (mostly disappointing sound), and later to DSD. I have used the x3ii as a portable player, it works ok in that role, but the laptop + topping + audirvana (or foobar) solution sounds better.

Another rule (re-)discovered: with direct DSD I am totally at the mercy of my recording. If the volume, channel balance or anything else is wrong, it stays wrong. I can fix it but then I have to quit the pure DSD mode. It is easy to understand why PCM became more popular. Seemingly easy to fix. This purity of DSD concerns the material too. I cannot de-click my LPs or do away with warts and blemishes. And if I have adjusted the cartridge wrong, I should do the recording all over again. It is amazing that anyone bothers!

I have often thought: streaming hi-res PCM has become better! Maybe better than my own DSD recordings, with its strange "stone age" stage of vinyl playback in the recording chain! Isn't the streaming e g from Qobuz clearer, better? However, after more listening, I change my mind. Especially with good-sounding LPs.

Why? It is maybe mainly habit and subjective ears. But I like it. With streaming I tend to look for new music, or change albums, but with the DSD files I more often listen to the whole album. I get more into the music. Almost like playing these LPs direct. 

Economy does come into it. Lets say you have a cartridge good for 2500 hours that will cost usd 4000 to renew. Your phono preamp loves NOS tubes, so this is additional cost, plus maybe player and arm maintenance. Lets say usd 5000 total, per 2500 hours over 5 years. 2500 hours equals ca 4000 LPs. So the cost for playing the LP direct is more than a dollar. The alternative, recording the LP and playing back the file, also has a cost, but it is MUCH lower. Maybe the recorder needs service every ten years for usd 1000. The cost pr LP playback will be one tenth. Other things come into this also of course (especially the initial cost for the recorder), but you get the drift of it.

I am not seriously switching from analog to dsd playback in my main rig. Or not fully. I will have to investigate more, with the Teac NT-505 handling the DSD. My purpose for now is to get a good-sounding laptop system to bring along e g on travels, to my cottage, and use in my home office. With a main motive; using the resources I already have, with a sizeable collection of LPs and several hundred recordings of them. Realizing value.