What is DSD?

Learn the basics of DSD before diving into downloading and playing these files by reading this article.

Jonas Sacks avatar
Written by Jonas Sacks
Updated over a week ago

DSD - What is this?

Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) is a trademark name used by Sony and Philips for their system of digitally recreating audible signals for the Super Audio CD (SACD).

NativeDSD offers original recorded DSD data, directly from labels that recorded in this format. But instead of shipping SACD's - you download the .dsf files directly onto your computer, and play them on your DAP Server, or from a desktop, laptop to your DAC or mobile device using a player.

DSD uses pulse-density modulation encoding—a technology to store audio signals on digital storage media that are used for the SACD. The signal is stored as delta-sigma modulated digital audio; a sequence of single-bit values at a sampling rate of 2.8224 MHz (64 times the CD Audio sampling rate of 44.1 kHz, but only at 1 ⁄ 32768 of its 16-bit resolution). DSD can be recorded in Standard Rate (2.8 MHz or 64fs), Double DSD (5.6 MHz or 128fs) and Quad DSD (11.2 MHz or 256fs). 

More information about the different rate structures that we have to offer can be found on this page.

The next steps you can take:

  • This is a great read to fully understand DSD.

  • Try the free starter pack to run a test on your system.

  • If you are not sure if your DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) can playback a DSD (.dsf) file, you may check here.

  • Find out which software players you can use on the this page

The "Native" in nativedsd.com

NativeDSD, is our name, defining the objectives of this download service site. But, what exactly does that mean?

The word "Native" in NativeDSD Music means offering music files that are sourced as early in the production process as possible. The key word is Native. Unlike the majority of download service sites today, unless otherwise indicated, NativeDSD offers only DSD Edit Masters, sourced from DSD session recordings, and not ripped files from optical media. The much abused term “Studio Masters” has little relevance when the source of a sites download file is from the same optical media available to the consumer.

To put this into perspective, this is most important for recordings that contain the fragile low level spatial and instrument detail content of acoustic recorded music. That is music recorded in an acoustic space at the highest technical level available, with the intent of transporting the music performance to the listeners’ room at the highest degree possible.

Studio and Field Acoustic Recording

Recordings can be grouped into those that are studio originated, and those that are field acoustic recorded. Acoustic recordings (which consist almost entirely of classical music and jazz recorded in a performance space), contain the low level information of instrument detail, spaciousness, and dynamic range, that allow the listener to best judge music image reality. Also, that which greatly enhances our emotional involvement.  

It is however those natural acoustic recordings that are most subject to sound quality degradation from the multiple processes inherent in production recording. For this reason, NativeDSD chooses its recordings from the earliest production stage possible

All DSD acoustic recordings start as musicians in an acoustic space being picked up with multiple microphones. The analog signals from these mics are first amplified by mic preamps, and fed to DSD Analog to Digital converters. Some labels will perform a session analog mix and balance before A/D conversion, but most labels, perform that mix and balance digitally in post production. In any case, post production always includes editing to correct note or tempo phrasing, and playing errors. Musicians and producers strive to present the best interpretation and performance possible.

Post Production

The result of post production editing and mixing is a .dff DSD digital file called the DSD Edit Master, and which is the source of NativeDSD's downloads. 

From the Edit Master the DSD data is lossless compressed and encoded to produced a .dst ISO Cutting Master, which is then used by the SACD plant to produce an SACD for distribution. A similar process is used converting the DSD Edit Master for other optical media, like DVD-A and Blu-Ray, in their proprietary formats. There is however debate about whether the compression and encoding process for optical media production is in fact lossless from a sound quality standpoint.

All download services have to obtain the file data they sell from the labels. With the exception of a very few house label download sites, and sites remastering original analog tapes, these files are supplied to the download services in optical media form (SACD, and to a lesser degree DVD-A, and Blu-Ray), and are then ripped. If the resulting DSD files are to be sold tagged with metadata, they use the track tagging contained in the ISO file. 

NativeDSD obtains the .dff DSD Edit Master files directly from the labels, converts them to .dsf (no music data conversion, just added data buckets to contain metadata). The .dsf files, both stereo and multi-channel are then custom metadata tagged with label supplied album data. 

The objective of this additional work is to provide the closest to the edited original project recording as possible, tagged with the most complete metadata available.

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