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

There are output settings in foobar2000.

You're would be much better off with a dedicated streamer 

@o_holter ,

I have been sing Foobar2000 since July-2020 and have not played a disc again. I have ripped my 150 SACDs to DSF files. I play these WITHOUT converting them to higher rates.

But I to convert my 500+ FLAC albums to 512 DSD via Foobar. Please see the link below that is super helpful for the initial setup on how to play DSD using Foobar.

Foobar2000 setup for DSD playback

Once this setup is complete, experience it. And when you are ready, you can use the foo_out_asio+dsd for playing NATIVE DSD Vs DoP.

foo_out_asio+dsd component

Good luck and let us know about your experience.

@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.

@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.

@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.

Given the current level of hassle with Foobar, if I was the OP I would just shell out for Audirvana, which in my past experience had pretty good support (the OP may want to investigate this during the trial period) or since this is a second system, bite the bullet for a relatively inexpensive streamer that does DSD, such as the iFi product.  If Foobar is this difficult to setup, consider what might happen down the road.  A software update of your computer OS might suddenly cause a malfunction, and then if you are back to square one you would like to be dealing with a product that was easier from the get go 

Thanks to all of you for discussion, and now to @mahler123 for comments. We are thinking along the same line. Quality companies like Audirvana deserve investment. I also hope Foobar comes with a better solution.


Audirvana on my Thinkpad T14 through Topping e30ii seems a good, portable and cost effective solution. Not sure, would an external iFi bring it further along. Maybe in my home office. 

@o_holter , Fidelizer has nothing to do with DSD. It optimizes playback by shutting down unwanted services and daemons running in the background. There is something more that it might be doin. You can go to their website and lookup.

Like I said, Foobar2000 is not for everyone. I can set it up and configure it in under 30 minutes due to the sheer amount of time I have spent on understanding and setting it up on 2 previous laptops before I installed and set it up on my server. On website they have a thread on T+A DAC 200 and how to use HQPlayer with that DAC. It is far too complex than Foobar2000, but is supposed to provide the best possible DSD listening experience. Seems like you can convert even Tidal and Qobuz to DSD 512 or 1024. I am thinking of going that route, some years from now.

Yes, thanks.

For now I will mainly lean back and explore Audirvana. With single or dual speed DSD, especially the latter, further tweaks may not be so much needed perhaps? Dont know. But the way direct DSD presents the music is really impressive. 


Like I’ve said, it is not much you can do to your DSD files, once recorded (or downloaded), unless you want to compromise them by converting to PCM. One thing that you can do, however, is to cut them up. So, for example, if you have recorded one side of an LP, to one DSD file, you can cut it to separate the tracks, with no harm to the DSD format. Each track will be as good as the original.

I use VinylStudio from Alpinesoft to save my original full LP side recording into individual tracks. This is "enthusiast software" (even more than Audirvana Origin). The process takes time. Vinylstudio can do some things on auto (preliminary division of tracks) but so far I have had to adjust manually to get it right. It works very well, however, if you are willing to spend some time with it.

Audirvana problem: I cannot start a DSD file from Explorer, I have to start Audirvana itself, and then, make sure the DSD file is in the library (the folders that the program scans). It is not a dealbreaker but irritating. I would like to click my file and be done with it, so that .dff and .dsf files are started with Audirvana (easy to do with Foobar).

@o_holter Did you get DSD working in Foobar?  I've used it for many years and it hasn't failed me and it sounds wonderful.  I also have a DSD Direct capable DAC, the SMSL D-6, and I believe that mode offers the highest sound quality.  You might have to check the output device.  Mine has to be on DSD+ASIO: USB DAC ASIO.

@drewdawg999 - thanks, I actually did, right now! I did not find any output named "DSD+ASIO" etc, but tried some other Asio drivers at random. This one worked: "ASIO+DSD: DSD Transcoder". At least, I assume it works - the Topping Dac shows "5,6 mhz DSD" and the volume is fixed (not variable). It sounds like MP3...just joking! It does sound like DSD, and like the file sounds in Audirvana.

Oh well, only halfway there - Foobar plays my .dsf files ok, but not my .dff files.

Oops sorry for the typo, yes it's "ASIO+DSD: " etc.  I don't have DSD Transcoder but you can try configuring it to play the files you want. It should support .dff files, I can play them just fine. Or you could try the Topping ASIO driver which should have a different name.

Thanks for help - but even with this setup, Foobar inisits on playing my .dff files through pcm. While .dsf plays fine, true dsd. Have not found the cause yet.

It would be nice to play .dff files correctly in Foobar, but meanwhile Audirvana does it for me, and there are also programs that can convert .dff to .dsf (like Tascam Hi Res editor, and Deffy).

Since my new solution plays my DSD files suprisingly well, I am testing the Tascam DA3000 recorder again. However, something has happened, maybe after I installed windows 11 on my pc, Windows now does not recognize micro cards formatted on the Tascam, and vice versa.So my recording of some good LPs like Jeff Beck: Performing this week, and Pharoah Sanders: Promises, was a waste of time. The files are seen by Tascam ok and can be played back there, but not by Windows. "Do it again, Sam".

Problem solved, some new LPs recorded, sounds good. I ran full format of the SD card in the Tascam, and now the card was recognized by Windows.

I realize this resembles a one man show, but so be it.

Problem with micro sd card - after full format in Tascam - solved.

Problem with .dff playback in Foobar - not solved. It insists on playing them as pcm, whatever components and outputs I try (foo_this, foo_that). While .dsf files play fine, as 'true' dsd. Maybe in some systems it doesn't matter, but in my case, the true dsd playback (where volume is disabled) is truly worth it. 

Happily, Audirvana plays both .dff and .dsf just fine. I also wonder if it plays the .dsf files a bit better than Foobar. Slightly more sonic space, and no breaks/gaps like I sometimes think I hear in Foobar (maybe, a buffer problem). Not sure, though.

Testing recently recorded LPs like Beatles: Magical mystery tour, the German Horzu version with true stereo. If you have rare costly LPs like this you owe it to yourself to record them to DSD. And the better the sound of the original LP the better it is from the DSD file.

It can be subtle, though. In this and many other cases, the streaming version of the album (on Qobuz) is not actually the original. It is "remastered 2009" whatever that means. They have obviously tried to fix the sonic problems of the original. Superficially, for a short while, it sounds better. In the longer run, no. 



Testing .dsf file playback with Audirvana vs Foobar. I am not able to hear any clear difference. Also, no breaks/gaps. Testing Doors: LA woman, Analog production 2 x LP at 45 rpm. Sounds great. This has been some days work, but I have now recorded 77GB of .dsf files (24 albums). To be played back in whatever system I use. I now have a total of 214 albums, 750GB, thanks to the Tascam recorder, and a small portable WD Passport 5TB disk.

Foobar issue fixed, it now plays .dff as well as .dsf files correctly. Trivial reason: I was running v 1.6.4. I upgraded to the latest (v 2) and updated the DSD and SACD components also. The Topping E30ii dac needed a restart. Now, it displays the correct DSD rate (5,64), and this is displayed correctly in Foobar also.

A new test.

Beach boys: Holland - a classic from 1973. The qobuz streaming is clearer, and quite good. My vinyl rip from the original LP is more noisy. It is a quite even match, give and take.

Karpe: Omar sherrif (2023). This is interesting since it is a frontline good-sounding production, from one of Norway's best bands. I compare the Qobuz streaming to my recording of my vinyl version of the album.

Here, the wear and tear factor with the vinyl is less obvious. It is clearer that the vinyl sounds better than the streaming version, This is probably due to a better master used on the vinyl version compared to the streaming version.


Some more comparison. Is DSD worth it?

First, from the Native DSD sampler, Shostakovitsj. Sounds good. A well recorded symphony orchestra with no compression. Maybe it sounds just as nice in PCM. 

Second, my DSD128 recording of Grateful Dead: Dancing in the street, live from Cornell 1977, recorded from LP. Recorded from a good source - my 5 LP box from this concert. Better than streaming? Maybe.

Summary of results so far. The gap between pcm hires streaming and dsd is smaller than some years ago, but dsd still has the edge, to my ears. Direct dsd sounds better than dop (dsd over pcm). The low price Topping E30ii DAC, and the mid-price Teac NT-505, both take a major step up in sound quality, playing direct / native DSD, with the volume control disabled. On both units, DSD128 recordings sound better than DSD64.