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How Do Analog Recordings Become DSD?

Dirk Sommer, the Producer, Recording Engineer, Mastering Engineer and Owner of the label Steward of Sound (Sommelier du Son) takes us on a tour of how he creates digital DSD music from analog recordings. He also offers free music downloads for comparison at the bottom of the article.

Find the original article by Dirk Sommer in HiFi Statement Magazine here.

From bottom to top: the Mytek A/D converter, the active Neumann level controller, the Tascam 3000 and the notebook with the Sonoma software
From bottom to top: the Mytek A/D converter, the active Neumann level controller, the Tascam 3000 and the notebook with the Sonoma software

“The topic has been occupying me and my colleagues for a while now. A little over two years ago there were two downloads for this – but only in DSD format. Then, to make matters worse, these files got corrupted on the server as well. Since readers keep asking questions, there are new files here.

But the question in the headline has been bothering us for a long time: In order to clarify how great the influence of the Analog to Digital converter used is on the quality of a file, as a first step I produced three variants of one and the same song for download , the were created from the same master tape with converters from quite different price ranges. In 2019 Roland Dietl then reported on the current version of the Audiophile Optimizer and shortly afterwards on the combination of the new optimizer with Windows Server . The playback of audio files benefited considerably from this operating system variant.

When I wanted to offer you a song from Michel Godard’s album Soyeusement for free download in three different DSD formats, I couldn’t avoid some Windows variant : Back then, Playback Designs’ Pinot did the A/D conversion. The Sonoma program, also provided by the American/German digital specialists, then creates a file from the data stream it generates. As Bert Gerlach, one of the developers at Playback Designs, informed me, his program only runs on Windows computers. Neither Boot Camp nor Parallels on a Mac will help.

With PCM recordings, the signal from the Mytek is not only sent to the computer, but also to the Tascam in order to be able to use its peak hold function
With PCM recordings, the signal from the Mytek is not only sent to the computer, but also to the Tascam in order to be able to use its peak hold function

At first I only used the small program on my notebook with i7 processor under Windows 10, which I had bought especially for this application, but then our digital audio specialist Roland Dietl also installed Windows Server on a special partition. In combination with the Audiophile Optimizer, as a look at the active tasks shows, more than 50 percent fewer programs are active in the background than in Windows 10 – which should also benefit the generation of music files in terms of sound. Thought and done: I digitized a song by Soyeusement for the demonstration in our room at the last North German Hifi Days: “Villa Erba”. In the first variant, the notebook was fed via its switched-mode power supply and Sonoma ran under Windows. 

The second version did not differ in terms of power supply, but the recording program now worked under Windows Server with the Audiophile Optimizer. It was also part of the third recording, but the energy did not come from a switched-mode power supply, but from a PowerAdd with 23,000 milliamp hours. In order not to make things too easy for the notebook, I opted for DSD 256 files at 11.3 megahertz.

The Zenbook was powered by this PowerAdd for recording the three variants
The Zenbook was powered by this PowerAdd for recording the three variants

Using the professional equipment in our demonstration room, I was able to perceive some subtle differences between the three variants, but these are by no means negligible in the high-end area. Incidentally, our visitors and readers rated the differences very differently: they ranged from “slightly different, but cannot be clearly described” to “clearer than I could have imagined”. Incidentally, the differences made the biggest impression on an initially very skeptical colleague from the pro area with his own studio.

The Sonoma program also allows adjustment of the sample rate of the Mytek Brooklyn ADC
The Sonoma program also allows adjustment of the sample rate of the Mytek Brooklyn ADC

As already mentioned, the now damaged versions of “Villa Erba” were created with Playback Designs’ Pinot, which is now back with the manufacturer. 

For the tracks that can be downloaded here, I converted “Pane Caiente”, also from the album Soyeusement, directly from the Analog Master Tape into a data stream using a Mytek Brooklyn Analog to Digital Converter, which is powered by an SBooster MKII with twelve volts DC. The Asus Zenbook created the corresponding files from this with Windows 10 or Windows Server. For the third variant, a rechargeable battery took over the powering of the notebook. You have the choice between three editions in Stereo – DSD 256 (11.3 Mhz), DSD 64 (2.8 mHz) or PCM 192 kHz. Have fun comparing!”

The complete album is available in Stereo DSD 256, DSD 128 and DSD 64 Stereo from NativeDSD Music at https://www.nativedsd.com/product/sds0015-soyeusement-live-in-noirlac/

From Dirk’s original article on HiFi Statement.

Download. Michel Godard and Steve Swallow – Pane Caiente 192 kHz PCM

Download – Michel Godard and Steve Swallow – Pane Caiente DSD 64

Download. Michel Godard and Steve Swallow – Pane Caiente DSD 256

Written by

David Hopkins

David is NativeDSD’s Product and Communication Manager. He grew up writing songs, playing guitar and drums. Working with musicians in studio to produce records as a recording engineer and producer, he produced music for numerous commercials for Pulse Content, and organised numerous music events and concerts.

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