DSD logoI’m gonna start this with some blustery, self-involved credentials. Okay? Good. I’ve been buying, downloading and playing high-resolution digital music files since about 2009, when I bought a PS Audio PerfectWave DAC. Earlier this year I decided there was no turning back, and began ripping LPs to 24/96 via “needle drops” on an old M-Audio Firewire 410. I hardly ever listen to MP3s or AACs at home, and have taken to listening to 24/96 FLACs on my iPad via FLAC Player while on BART. I barely play CDs anymore, either – it’s pretty much all high-resolution digital or vinyl.

Yet, somehow, I’m always wanting more. It’s a kind of sickness. I doubt DSD is the cure, but it might be a quick fix – “fix” as in a short-term solution to addiction.

The advent of the DSD format is becoming 2013’s big digital music development. Neil Young’s Pono might be fighting for attention as well (who knows, Pono might be DSD?), and I’m willing to split my allegiances, depending on how (and when) the latter is implemented. Other than a glimpse of the Pono hardware unit on David Letterman, and some repeated, rambling references in Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace autobio, though, Pono might just as well be considered vaporware at this point.

So let’s talk DSD.

I haven’t heard it. Nearly everyone who has, though, and has written about it, has raved about the quality. One of my favorite local hi-fi stores, Music Lovers, hosted an extensive demo of the format this past weekend. I spend so much time commuting to San Francisco during the week that it’s hard to get me across the Bay during the weekends, so I decided against attending. Now I’m kind of regretting it.

At the Music Lovers event the hardware and associated system were crazy expensive, of course, and the listeners (I assume) about as discriminating and high-falutin’ as they come in audiophile circles. The folks running the demos at stores and hardware conventions seem to have all sorts of mysterious, high-level access to native DSD files sourced from original masters. How? Dunno, but the consensus seems to be that this is the format that stereo snobs have been waiting for.

There aren’t many sensibly-priced DACs that can process DSD at this point. And there’s not a whole lot of music available on the format. Ripping to DSD isn’t anywhere near as easy as just converting a CD to FLAC or AIF or WAV, either.

But, given the increasing choices in hardware and music, as well as some improved marketing muscle, will DSD finally pry iPhone/iPod users from their MP3s and crappy earbuds? Not anytime soon. But DSD could very well give jaded sound-quality buffs and audiophilia nervosa cases– finally– a good reason to buy all their favorite music over again.


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