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 - 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.

@o_holter , you are welcome.

Please understand that Foobar2000 is an old software and the user needs to be a bit savvy. And very sincerely - I am not meaning that in any derogatory sense. I have investigated a lot of time for this software than any other piece of software that I could care. It happened because this audio stuff has become an addiction for me, rather than a hobby. So, unless I check your setup (not my intention) I cannot tell you why your Foobar2000 setup seems like an issue, while Audirvana is not. There are other things that you need to check in the Foobar like "exclusive more", etc. Audirvana is probably doing that for you already - hence you are paying for it.

I think most folks might be served better by going to Audirvana or JRiver or other install-and-play softwares, albeit at a price.

And since you are using a laptop, you can try the FREE version of Fidelizer software and see if that improves your Audirvana experience. In my case, it made a big difference, that I went ahead and purchased the license. YMMV.

Good luck.

I wish Foobar was easier...also for stable DSD native playback. Chime in, if anyone has an updated solution. I have great respect for all the work that has gone into the program. I realize that playback of DSD is still a niche. 'Addicted' people like @milpai and myself ; - . Foobar seems to work fine with PCM and maybe with upsampling to DSD also. 95 percent of all users? But NOT what I want. Just pure DSD playback. This is what Audirvana does with no hassle. So I think I will invest in the Origin version (one time investment). With a bit more testing, first. Fidelizer - this is not for pure DSD files, is it? I get sceptical to a program that wants to fix something that should be left alone...but, OK, I will try it. 

Testing Fidelizer + Audirvana vs Audirvana alone. Abba Voulez-vous from original LP, DSD 5,6 file. First impression, no dramatic change of the sound.

Testing the same Voulez-vous file in my main system, with the Teac NT-505, tube amps and big speakers. More meaty and layered sound (of course) than in my small office system. A better DAC. Next I listened to the same track through Qobuz streaming. It is only 44/16 pcm, yet holds its own in some ways. My LP is worn and has more noise. So at first the pcm stream simply sounds clearer and better. It is only after a while that I notice that the upper register is less delicate, the sound flatter, and more ’blaring’ or ’in my face’. To my ears.

However this gap is not as wide as it was ten years ago. And the plus and minus situation makes me wonder - is it worth it? DSD itself is maybe ’future proof’ for a while longer, but is vinyl? Analog production and playback has also developed, not just digital, although it was declared it dead long ago. When DIGITALLY REMASTERED was actually a sales sticker on LPs, rather than a no-no. The LP is not dead, and the recording of LPs is still meaningful.

This depends a lot on the LP, of course. The better the recording and production (and the vinyl), the better is the sound in the DSD recording as well. However I can enjoy DSD rips of lower quality recordings, like 1960s singles and EPs, also. They often have more "guts", for lack of a better word. In mono, at 45 rpm. This format paved the way for the consumer music business in the 1960s.