3 Things – Nothing Related To Anything Except Everything

It’s 2020. I have been recalling the beginning of the 21st Century which was 2000 – 2001, and that would be 20 years ago. At that time I was able to do lots of projects that just kind of presto happened. For NYE on 12/31/2000 I had a large version of the band called “David Elias & The Great Unknown” perform for our openly invited friends in a theater on the Hwy 1 coast in Half Moon Bay, California. I know some of the email addresses on my list here were there in the HMB Mel Mello Theater which is now called something else maybe twice or thrice over, who knows.

We had SF and Coast and East Bay and even Humboldt people on stage helping me with lots of songs played. Different nice & kind people from all over including La Honda and Pescadero brought perfect food including hand-dipped chocolate covered nasturtiums, and we (let us remain anonymous) brought kegs of beer inside and then there was other things to not notice too closely…

21st Century started a long time ago folks. I have to think about that when I wake up at 2:30 am or 4:00 am or 6:21 am if I slept in. Is it now the XO10014xo910#9999 Century???? No one knows. It could be any century forecast by Asimov or so many who came before him as well as later to write about the impossible. But that’s today. Impossible. Who can deny it.


The 3 Things Revisited

I still love music and I know you do too. Sanity and Balance through music comes in a language we can all understand perfectly but only few can read. No matter. How does it get better than that? So I don’t just write music, I write about music. But not just always about music but sometimes about things that make music more enjoyable, if you are needing to find that improvement in your life through your ears and deep down in your knowing know-dom.

So here are 2 articles I wrote just this month (I started working on the first one in December) and were published in A Creative Forum For The Audio Arts which is Positive-Feedback.com — I know my friend Chief Editor Dr. David W. Robinson through music for more years than we remember unless we count. PF as it’s called is a lightning rod for finding out about how to enjoy music in improved ways for your knowing know-dom if you need it. No kidding. Go there and see all the things they write about since 2002 or so. You can’t stop reading once you start, that’s all I’ll say at this point.

PF….

First I wrote an article and review about why it is no longer necessary to be called an audiophile who has a designated sweet spot to sit to hear the best sound in a perfectly acoustically correct room as incredibly good sounding studio quality, reference quality, perfect bit perfect quality, and any term you’ve heard to describe da kine! music. There is so absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things and I have been there myself in my way many times over many years. Audiophiles pay lots of attention to music, What’s not to like about that.

It’s that Audiophile Armchair Perfect Seat that I think is fading now as a type of requirement, and that is a huge freedom release for everyone who likes to listen to music.

These days, and really more like only in this past year or two, you can finally hear your music as really really good sound, in many different ways from many different sources including your TV, your phone, your CD player (I hate CD, but bear with me and read the post), DVD player, the Internet, a NAS drive or USB thumbdrive, anything Airplay or Google Play can reach….all of it.  No Bluetooth needs to be involved. I can repeat that because Bluetooth is probably sorely and mistakenly missing from the AMA’s Top 5 List of Frustrations That Lead To A Personal Breakdown Of At Least One Type If Not More. 

What I’ve realized working with new audio products and just paying attention to my now dated total affinity for Wireless WiFi Networking For Audio is the dawn of what I felt I should call “the transparent network” evolving that lets anyone play anything they ever heard or can imagine hearing (the global music library), and hear it with not just good but very excellent sound quality.

None of this existed even a couple years ago. This is not yet in many or most products, but the beginning of this transparency is in progress with more to come no doubt.

I’ll go out on the limb here and say that even if you don’t think sound quality matters all that much, you would think that it matters if you really heard the difference. It could take as little as 15 seconds. I’ve seen this happen more than once. You just have to use your ears, not your eyes reading a spec or brochure or YouTube video training. Just by listening.

A lot of people have said “David writes a lot of interesting stuff and it is about music which I care about but a lot of times I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

All I’m Talking About Here Is Really Good Sounding Music You Like To Listen To Online Or From Your Phone Or Computer or CD/SACD/DVD/Blu-Ray Player…


You don’t have to be an IT System Admin to hear really good sounding music today. In 1995 that was so not true for just about everyone online. Dialup internet and online music (downloads only, no streaming the network was too darn slow) was too new and too fun to worry about how inferior it sounded compared to vinyl or even the dreaded CD in most cases. By 2003 when I released an SACD, some really excellent digital sound was only possible for people who could speak Audiophile and who knew where to buy what gear for the best price which was usually a lot even in 2003 US Dollars today.

So… It’s a good thing we can now hear some very very good sounding ANYTHING we want, streaming or downloaded or otherwise for not hardly any new money spent and it’s another very good thing that our music library just got UNIVERSAL and ever expanded, never stagnant, like Asimov’s entropy, for  as little as say $120/year if not free. That’s a lot to think about but fortunately for us all, all we want to do is hear music.

So now you don’t have to read what I wrote in my blog and for PF, but if you want to read it anyway, it’s here:

https://positive-feedback.com/audio-discourse/the-fading-audiophile-armchair/

THE SECOND THING is another piece I wrote during the past 4 weeks that was mostly about reviewing an exceptional piece of innovative and comprehensive audio gear created by iFi Audio (iFi-Audio.com)

The product which is over 1 year out in the market is called the Pro iDSD. It breaks the doors down on most of the preconceived notions of DAC and even preamp or network audio or computer audio. The one reason for breaking the mold is that the Pro iDSD is a the ultimate refactoring audio vending machine. I made up that term for my blog review of the Pro iDSD, but that’s what it is. You can read about it here.

And THE THIRD thing is that I have a brand new web site as of today. It too started being written in December and now my past 20+ years of online hosting with Hostbaby is dust in the ether as a new host (Bandzoogle, yes, Bandzoogle) takes over. I’ll say now that not having heard their name before, I went to the sidecar to see what might happen. But it turns out they have tons of music and musician and ecommerce experience and dang, they made it easy to get going.

I believe that all is well on my new website at the moment so please stop by and take a look or a few listens to some of the song/album players or videos embedded there.The same “Contact” menu choice gets your private message to me (or just reply to this message). In fact, nothing about my web stuff or email or anything should have changed at this point except the content. Amen. Thank you Bandzoogle. If something does go wrong for you there, please let me know.

https://davidelias.com

FINALLY AS A 3b ITEM….On the new website you’ll see and can hear my latest album “Nighttime Music” that was released on Bandcamp about a week ago and will be on Spotify, TIDAL, Qobuz and all their cousins in about another week or less.

Nighttime Music” is a collection of songs (19 tracks) spanning a full 35 year horizon of original music by me with songs dating as far back as the mid-80’s when I was using a Porta One 4-track cassette recorder in Palo Alto to put down things I was writing with various instruments I played and voices I sang in. Talk about the good old days. (That’s one thing that can be so good about the good old days James.)

Thanks to all who take a listen to this album. There are songs as newly written and released as 2019 as well as old songs from back as far as 1985 which you can’t have heard before. There are also some bootleg versions of songs you might know but these are previously unreleased even though I always liked how they sounded. And there’s some tried and true older released tracks as well because they just fit right in the mix. These are probably not the songs you might guess. Well, you might. I don’t know.

Wishing you all much good fortune as 2020 rolls on, it’s a new decade, so the adventure is there for sure. I hope the music stays with all of us.

Aloha Nui and Take Care,

– DE
https://davidelias.bandcamp.com
https://youtube.com/davideliasvideo
https://davidelias.com
https://art-of-listening.com

The Fading Audiophile Armchair

(This post excerpt comes in part from an email response to my friend Harold in the Netherlands. He was curious about our discussion related to my early MP3 work as an online musician through the 90’s into 2000’s and how and why my MP3s could have sounded so good back then to literally everyone who heard them. At the same time in another email to audiophile Dez in LA how the audio gear available today has removed ‘computer’ from the delivery of ‘computer audio’. Of course smartphones are all computers too but what we usually mean by computer is a desktop, laptop, or even tablet. The network is becoming transparent. Music libraries can exist in many places and a single playlist can reference any or all of them at will. The quality of the audio delivered to headphones and speakers can be streamed at studio master DXD quality using little more than 1mbps (1024kbps) which even my iffy satellite connection in Hawaii can support. This unfolds to 24/352.8k on my MQA Masters via TIDAL also on 7Digital, Deezer, Qobuz and other streaming lossless services.

If you can listen to studio masters from anywhere at anytime there’s no need for a sweet spot in a single room to go to when you want to hear your good sounding music. You don’t have to lug it around on computers with you either. It is a new audiophile armchair-less world in these ways these days.)


There are too many ways to hear music today. It creates lots of confusion and uncertainty about what any music listener should buy for equipment or should subscribe to for service. How much does good sounding music matter? How much does convenience in listening to the music that you like matter no matter where your are including the BART or car or plane or hotel or work? How much does it cost to do either or both (have good sounding mobile music)? These are the questions of the day.

In the past 2 years I’ve observed huge gains towards a convergent path for these things that has never existed before. One can even look back at the introduction of CD in the consumer market at the beginning of the 80’s with the clear intent by Sony to disable and destroy the vinyl LP market it hoped to capture with new digital audio. It was cleaner and didn’t hiss like tape or skip and pop like vinyl. Boo hoo. It also made the listener mobile with the first CD Walkman.

20 years later the masses at all age levels particularly young generations have flocked back to vinyl as something that actually sounds good so they produce it as artists and buy it as listeners. The production for vinyl can’t keep up with the demand to print the good old 12″ discs. Despite the fact that cassette was born along with early FM radio and lived with vinyl through the 70’s and long beyond, it has stayed a huge favorite for younger generations making music through the Bandcamp explosion and many other outlets. Vinyl and Cassette win there. Analog wins! Sound Quality wins! CD is the dinosaur.  Downloads and streaming are necessary conveniences and work when they need to.

Good sounding music always wins. That’s what I say. Convenience comes in second after the thrill is gone, which can take a decade or more no doubt. Still, sound quality wins.

When I started working with DSD as an independent artist and was invited and treated kindly beyond words by some of the Sony SACD Project team to participate with their newly evolving DSD gear, I was able to record and hear what my natural acoustic singer-songwriter material really sounded like on excellent digital recording and reproduction setups. I’d been doing things with my songs as recordings from the early 4-track Tascam cassette players in the 80’s to the then current mid-90’s 16/44.1 and 16/48k PCM multitrack (usually up to 8) recorders. I had cut my teeth on this approach with 4 self-produced and released home studio CDs in the market on CDBaby (I was one of first 50 artists signed up there) and online via my websites since 1995 where I was handwriting HTML to code the pages using Windows Notepad because Dreamweaver and the rest of the WYSIWYG tools hadn’t been invented yet.

DSD instantly solved everything I didn’t like about recording digital, even not thrilled with results from some 24-bit leading edge workstations I was able to test things on like the early Waveframe. It was always a compressed sounding result and lacked natural sustain on notes and breath released and didn’t have any warm cozy acoustic ambient cushion to place the real song and real performance onto for listening to the playback, not matter how much work was done trying to fix that in the mixes using EQ or effects like compression, reverb and delay and the rest.

So DSD was the instant magic sauce for me. I heard it first used on early Sony legacy jazz and folk/rock archive tapes transferred from analog masters to DSD64. It was played from a prototype Sony archive workstation into my home studio setup which of course I knew the sound characteristics of. And what I heard through my speakers then changed the way I listen to music to this day. It’s been elaborated on and compounded more than I ever imagined and I’m still working on the art of listening which in a large part involves unlearning a lot of old habits for listening based on compressed sliced and diced CD and other digital recordings since the 80’s. It’s hard to unlearn how to listen but one has to to let really good recordings seep into our ears and brain’s recognition of sounds correctly to enjoy fully. Spatial and temporal issues are at the heart of much of the problems with standard PCM recordings rendering them unnatural sounding and hard to listen to for hours and hours and hours without getting fatigued and maybe suddenly hating having any sound in your ears at all.  DSD, MQA, and now iFi Audio’s GTO filter (along with other earlier minimum phase and apodized filters) all address these big problems in different ways.

When I was able to take some of the early DSD recordings I had (2002 – 2006) and convert them to a format that I could deliver to some of the online musician forums I was participating in to share my work in its best sounding quality, it was of course not in the native DSD format they were recorded in. This was in 2000. The world had barely advanced to the wonders of 33.6k and 56k dialup modems to get to the internet. ISDN tests on the public network by the phone companies had already all but come and gone. What was left was early ADSL (DSL) at max. around 1.2mbps in the US for download and far less upstream speeds, and the early cable modems at maybe around 5mbps. But the cable modems were then as they are now shared so you couldn’t rely on any fixed throughput for downloading anything when your neighbors or coworkers were online nearby.

There wasn’t much audio streaming then.  It was all about new ideas of how to download music for a price per song or album (iTunes) onto your PC or Mac to play later at will. You built a CD library by ripping yours and your friends’ CDs and downloading MP3s or AACs at 128k or less from Apple and a few others or wherever you could find a Napster or the like. Crappy sounding music for the most part yes at rates up to 128. Pandora was and still I believe streams at 64kbps. Very crappy sounding, which is not a knock against MP3, just the low bit rates used by almost everyone even today except Bandcamp, Spotify and a few others not serving lossless streaming. How so many others using the same old low MP3/AAC streaming bit rates get away with it, I have no idea. Maybe their customers have never listened anything better and expect it to be the way it has always been. MP3 sampled at 256kbps and 320kbps on the other hand is often hard to distinguish from CD quality and in fact may have fewer errors in the sound file and could even sound better than the source. Another subject for another day. I’m not a a big fan of either high sample rate MP3 or Red Book CD but what I mean to say here is that a lot of much worse quality has been clogging the ether pipes for a good 25 years now and still is. Shame on some.

So with my 4 released CDs (“Lost in the Green”, “Time Forgets”, “Half An Hour Away”, “The Blue Planet”) and lots and lots of unreleased songs as digital masters I wanted my stuff to sound as good as it could online in the forums. A good example of the forums (before Myspace – don’t get me started) was a place called Mixsposure. I think a version of Mixsposure may still exist and for all I know some of my songs might still be up there I really don’t know.

But it was a great collection of musicians from all countries sharing their original work and getting listened to and reviewed and rated to some extent through the forum. Those were days of truly constructive (not destructive) criticism with common interests in self-producing good sounding albums with good songs.  Lots of music to hear and some really nice friendships made long distance in those early music online days. I enjoyed it and participated quite a bit. It wasn’t the only site I went on over those years, there were tons coming and going and I tried to try all of them to see what I preferred. But Mixposure kept its cool while others crashed and burned or got nasty as in Myspace.

So my DSD conversions to MP3-128 and MP3-256 were uploaded slowly slowly slowly over DSL to Mixposure et. al. and posted for everyone to take listens to. The results were always surprisingly and even embarrassingly strong and forward. Musicians online in  2002, 2003 heard things I’d created for my “The Window” SACD release using DSD and simply converted to MP3 using PCM converted test mixes of my DSD 2-track and multitrack to stereo projects along with PC tools like Audiograbber and others to create the MP3s with the LAME encoder. Then early versions of Audiogate from Korg appeared in 2006 which I used as a main tool for lots of DSD mastering and exporting to other formats including MP3. Audiogate was also the way I worked with Gus Skinas at superaudiocenter.com to create the first Sony DSD Disc download (as a zipped ISO image for DVD burning) in 2009. “The Window” DSD stereo master was then getting downloaded into Sony Playstation3’s for native playback as well as on some special Sony and Onkyo players with USB inputs.

These ~2GB album files were no easy match to download for many people, as the cable modem world hadn’t expanded greatly beyond some of the same early 5-10mbps limits. But hell, we had to wait an hour for a CD to download 10 years before at 33.6k dialup so fair is fair, right? Netflix had the same problem with their early streaming in 2009 as well when they begged their customers to make sure they had at least 5mbps download speeds at home so the movies would not hiccup and stall and stutter in the middle. (Does any one else get the little chime going off in their head for audio that points to MQA’s design to stream at often under 1mbps and still deliver a 24/384k studio bit perfect master unfolded and decoded at the listener’s end — I do. They are a killer vending machine of their own with their design.)

WHY DID MY ARTIST TRACKS ON MIXPOSURE SOUND SO GOOD AS MP3

There is a word that the industry has come to use called “provenance”. I don’t know where its use in audio came from and don’t particularly like the word’s implications and confusing context definitions in Websters, but for audio it simply refers to the quality and care used in making the source studio or live recording. It’s what goes into making a good master. Provenance is completely agnostic to all the media types and equipment types used. It (the recording) just has to be done well.

Provenance has always been at the top of my list, regardless of  the term used to refer to sound quality or the media used. (I made one CD “Voice Memo: Songs From Hawai’i” in the past few years with 30 tunes all recorded on my iPhone using the smartphone’s stock Voice Memo app. Then I mastered it all on PC and released it on CD and download. I used provenance including the phone’s mono mic proximity for voice and guitar, levels, upsample and mastering on PC using Audacity, to the maximum capabilities of the environment I chose to make that album in. The album idea was to capture the process of songwriting as since 2007 I often record new songs I’m writing onto my iPhone to capture the true original song and remember how I wrote and played and sang it as I was writing it.)

Anyone can make a terrible recording using DSD, just as they can do so using an iPhone. As I’ve written before online, the things that make all the difference to what the listeners end up valuing are in my mind staged in a very particular order of precedence:

First is the performance of the musicians. This trumps all else in my opinion. Along these lines but much more subjective is the quality of the song itself. Good songs sound better, kind of a no brainer, but what constitutes a good song is of course up to everyone to decide for themselves. Still there are many commonalities the public has had about what good songs are, otherwise there would be no Billboard or Grammys, or CMAs, but don’t get me started there. Suffice to say that finding good songs is not always as easy as looking up Billboard, or lookup up the Grammy or CMA winners or reading a magazine’s best-of. It never was that easy and never will be in today’s exploded quantity of music world.

Next important is the quality of the engineering used in whatever setting the music is recorded in (studio, field recording, concert, kitchen table…). Proper selection and use of microphones and any preamp or other gear in line to the recording device is an incredibly important factor on delivering a good result. Setting up these devices properly which includes things like proximity (where to place the microphone and how to angle it) are all tasks for qualified sound and recording engineers. Anyone can do it but not everyone can do it well.

Third important is the gear to record the music such as analog tape machines including reel-to-reel (R2R), cassette, and digital machines like MP3 or CD/HD portable, studio quality PCM/DXD or DSD workstations. This has to be done correctly without clipping and all the other problems that can arise.

Fourth is the art of mixing and mastering. This is critical as it can both destroy a perfectly perfect recording by doing things (to my ears) like adding compression, unneeded effects, overdubs and edits and otherwise chopping apart the sonic values of the performance and turning it into something else much more manufactured sounding. On top of the, the nature of mixing is to literally create the environment (2D, 3D) that the listener will experience a multitrack recorded album in their setup. Good mixes are just that and vice versa. All art, no bull. Nearly all my recordings took just part of one day or just a few days to record and then many months to mix and then master. I’m not saying my albums are automatically good because of that, I’m saying that mixing and mastering are no bull.

Fifth is the media delivery which can include streaming or downloads as lossy or lossless with extra improvements in the proper circumstances such as MQA decoding at the listener’s end, or gear like the iFi Pro iDSD to do such reconstruction on its own during playback in the forms of GTO filters and then DSD1024 upsampling to further allow the music to sound more analog like in very very real and distinctive ways to the listener.

Those are the 5 steps in order that I think need to be addressed to result in a media portable recording that can literally be played or sprayed through the ether anywhere to any device and still sound very very good within the context of how it is being played.


Doing these things above correctly to the fullest extent allows low converted (downsampled) streaming or downloaded 128k MP3s, CDs or anything else to sound better than any other low quality 128 MP3 tracks, CDs or anything else, as far as sound quality at least. It only gets better from there with the higher res formats for delivery.  And if the listener is setup for hi-res reproduction in the native format of the source recording (say DSD64, 128, 256 or MQA 192, 352, 384) guess what, they will be blown away ever time.

So if a golden master is created with high degrees of provenance, then its good sound to all listeners travels from its source master (DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DSD512, or DXD (352.8 or 384), MQA (DXD with MQA encoding, or MQA CD 16.44.1 PCM with MQA encoding) to any other downsampled format such as MP3 for say downloads or streaming on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, or Garageband or LastFM, or Streaming on Spotify (which can use 320k and sounds very good) or any other use, even Pandora at 64kbps.

In my world MQA PCM always qualifies as significantly improved provenance to the source PCM without MQA so this applies equally to MQA CD and and 24-bit encoded PCM remaster at different bit rates 48k, 88.2, 176.4, 192.

Bandwidth, cost, OTG lilfestyle issues, are just some of the reasons music has to be available in many formats today. The transparency of the network itself is essential and critical. That includes gear, music players as apps on phones, tablets and computers, wires or wireless protocols (Bluetooth vs WiFi, Airplay vs Google Cast), and finally the output devices (wireless/wired speakers or headphones/earbuds) is essential and critical. The details of HOW and WHERE one listens to THEIR MUSIC has to become less and less and less and eventually invisible with the requirement to still have very very good sounding music coming through to our ears.

So once again my point for all of this post is in the paragraph above. With that becoming an advanced reality more and more each day, the armchair requirement of the dated audiophile of the 80’s and 90’s is becoming a non sequitur and so the armchair audiophile in a single room with a limited library of music has all but faded to the past.

Amen to that since it also means that the burden of finding a single sweet spot in a room to listen to great sounding music is not quite the burden it has been in the past for all of us, nor does it cost as much to find just about anywhere. This is just as true for diehard audiophiles as for anyone else.

Live Long!

~ DE, January 11, 2020
Cover Photo © 2020 David Elias, “Standing Waves”

 

Photo by iFi Audio

When Computer Audio’s Top Quality Hi-Res No Longer Requires A Computer or a Bluetooth Leash and Delivers Stupendous Sound

By David Elias, 01/05/2020

The last 2 years of computer audio (2017 – 2019) for listeners and musicians have been unlike anything I have seen or heard since the earliest exciting and revolutionary days of the introduction of DSD as SACDs into the market which I participated with as an album (SACD “The Window” released in 2003). After the SACD early years (~2000 – 2005) excitement the next step was to launch Sony DSD Disc Format downloads in 2009 with my release of “The Window” in stereo, followed by “Crossing” and then both as multichannel 5.1 studio DSD64 masters. Keep in mind around then Netflix streaming was still new, 5mbps Internet download speed was a marvel to have, and DSD playing on any of the 30+ million Sony Playstation3’s in homes then was astonishing.

Following those years of early SACD Discs (.ISO image downloads to burn to high capacity DVD-R’s) 2013 and 2014 were the beginning of Sony’s official High Resolution Audio (HRA) program removing DRM from DSD recordings and inciting many companies to create low cost DSD USB DACs and headphone amplifiers that soon flooded the market and began encouraging many to listen to excellent recordings in both DSD and PCM (24/96 and DXD).

Since 2016 the introduction of MQA as both remasters for downloads and low bit rate, high resolution (unfolded up to 24/384 but delivered at about 24/48k or far less in my experience (FLAC ~700-1000kbps)) streaming from TIDAL and other services further puts the inexpensive reality of the highest quality studio masters in the accessible hands and ears of music lovers from something as simple to use as an iPhone or Android smartphone, tablet, or from laptop or desktop. Hi-res from a smartphone streaming from the internet. Who would have guessed. No one did, not too long ago.

On the high end of gear in these categories, and as described in this post regarding iFi Audio’s Pro iDSD product released in 2018, there are products now available that can be connected to home studio setups delivering bit perfect transmissions of encoded MQA and 1-bit DSD over WiFi as well as DSD1024 resampling of any streaming source such as Spotify (from 160k up to 320k through the Internet to your phone). These same standalone receiving DAC/DLNA/AirPlay/Google Cast units can also decode MQA from a connected computer (via WiFi or USB), or internet streaming hi-res TIDAL masters. None of this was imaginable in 2009, or 2013, or 2016, let alone anytime before that.

Photo by David Elias

iFi Audio Pro iDSD DAC/streaming/preamp and xDSD mobile DAC/headphone amp


Jump To The Point – What Do I Get Reading This

You get to imagine living and/or working in an environment where you can play any music you like in any audio format from any device you might have (including your Smart TV or Apple TV or CD/DVD player) through your stereo setup or headphones with the best sound you may have ever heard from the exact same music your ears may already know very well. I believe it will sound better to you than it ever has before, even though the listening room, the headphones, the stereo or studio monitors you are using may not have changed at all.

What’s changed is what I’ll call the digital audio cleaning and grooming needed to create an excellent quality analog rendition of the music, as they say, “as the artist intended”. Here is one artist musician who agrees this is finally possible in a single box regardless of the source or format of the data or the destination of the sound delivery (headphones, PA, stereo, studio monitors).

You get the best sound from your own digital album/cd/streaming library collection than ever before by routing and refactoring the audio through the iFi Pro iDSD.

The iFi Audio Pro iDSD digital to analog converter provides an incredibly effective and authentic delivery of analog audio from virtually any digital source using its unique and highly progressive combinations of filtering, DSD1024 resampling, analog tube preamplification, and balanced outputs with headphone impedance matching.

For the first time, what’s commonly referred to as hi-res computer audio requires no computer to play digital audio from any internet stream, both lossy and lossless into perfectly natural and studio quality analog music through your headphones or speakers. And there is no Bluetooth; amen to that too!

All of this can take place over your local WiFi setup in which the Pro iDSD acts as a DLNA or UPnP (AirPlay or Google Cast) endpoint and in fact can extend your Internet router’s WiFi range to allow local devices like smartphones receive streaming music from favorite sources like Spotify, TIDAL, Pandora, Apple Music, Amazon Prime.  In my test the Internet WiFi router was located upstairs with a slightly weak 802.11 signal for smartphones downstairs. So I had the Pro iDSD located downstairs air link cleanly to the WiFi router upstairs, and had my phone and computer WiFi connect directly to the Pro iDSD unit as their WiFi router. These music source devices were then more reliable to play music consistently from, and even for any other internet access they might require.

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More about the Wow….

I’ve read some reviews about the Pro iDSD and most of them say they don’t know exactly what to call the device, or they say it has so many features that it’s hard to describe. I don’t have any problem describing what I see and have used the iDSD as: The ultimate media refactoring vending machine.  

It plays from nearly any source and delivers to nearly any receiver endpoint for playback in a perfectly cleaned up audio state of sound quality excellence. It supports the native source format if desired (lossy MP3 or AAC, lossless CD, MQA, DSD) but has tremendous sound quality improvement options as well. It is indiscriminate about what kind of music it receives and what kind of refactored music it delivers as analog. The user decides all of this, mostly in realtime with the ability to then easily listen to the differences between the choices to nail down a preferred sound. I don’t know of any other product that does this to this extent, and usually not even close.

If you play your streaming services in the same crappy 64kbps Pandora input that began in the 90’s, they come out of the Pro iDSD as filtered and upsampled DSD1024 (45mbps). Stream your Smart TV movies and music or your Amazon Prime favorite shows and they get the same filter + DSD upsample (aka resample or remaster) treatment. Send your CD/DVD player audio through your Smart TV via HDMI and get the same improvements.

Stream your TIDAL Masters MQA library from your tablet or laptop and you can hear audio unfolded to 24/384k with ringing corrections on both the encoded (master) and decoded (DAC) side. Play your native DSD up to DSD1024 (wireless DSD64 as DoP, USB wired otherwise). DSD64, 128 and 256 source masters can also be upsampled to the higher DSD bitrates.

Use the DLNA or AirPlay or Google Cast connections to send all your music from your smartphone to the Pro iDSD via reliable and extended distance WiFi. No more Bluetooth woes! Have your MP3 and CD music filtered through iFi’s innovative and effective GTO filter to work through some of the same PCM ringing problems as MQA does before DSD resampling and converting to analog to your headphones.

Enjoy a tube warmed preamp sound for all of it!

The ultimate media refactoring vending machine.  

Much of the music you may already play comes from a phone or tablet streaming from services like Spotify, TIDAL, Pandora, Bandcamp, Apple Music, Qobuz, Deezer, any or all of them, at different times. Using iFi’s Pro iDSD DAC and headphone amplifier or studio (tube or digital) preamplifier you will hear your music take on new depths and clarity and natural sounding characteristics you probably have never heard before with your own music libraries. To my ears, the digital reproductions playing through the Pro iDSD all seem to back off and just let me listen. There are no battles between what my ears hear and how my brain receives the music. It flows pure and simple.

You don’t need a computer to hear this. It can come from the same smartphone you play music on everyday. Forget Bluetooth, go WiFi. It’s a cleaner, bit perfect transmission (also forget about aptX and other compatibility headaches) and without a 30 foot limit (which it never is) before it stutters and drops and waits and drives you crazy. I’ve decried the virtues of WiFi audio over Bluetooth for years and now I have it before my very ears.

The music could also come locally stored as downloads or ripped CDs from your computer (tablet, laptop, desktop) connected via WiFi or via USB to the same iFi Pro iDSD and sound again better than you have heard it before. The player could then be Roon, JRiver, Audirvana, Amarra or others.

Why will it sound better?

If you are used to streaming less than bit perfect CD quality music from Pandora (64k free, 192k paid, lossy), Spotify (Free up to 160k and Premium up to 320k, lossy), TIDAL (Premium 320k, or HiFi 16/44.1 to 24/96 lossless), Qobuz (Premium 320k lossy, Hi-Fi 16/44.1, Sublime up to 24/192k lossless), Bandcamp (up to 256k lossy), Apple Music (up to 256k lossy including Mastered for iTunes), all of your lossy MP3 and AAC streaming music can be properly filtered to address pre- and post-ringing echoes that make digital music sound unnatural, and then get upsampled to DSD1024 (or DSD512) by the Pro iDSD and then output as analog (via analog tube preamp!) to your headphone/speakers with highly improved sound quality and listening pleasure.

All this can happen over WiFi in your home directed from a smartphone.

Lightly depress a Pro iDSD knob to instantly go from “No DSD Remaster” to “DSD Remaster DSD512″ and then once more to advance to ” DSD Remaster DSD1024“. If you are curious why the remaster (aka upsample, or resample) improves the sound, first I say you have to just listen to it. DSD remastering through oversampling has been at the heart of most digital audio players since you may be surprised to know the earliest portable digital players and recorders featuring 1-bit then 4- or 5- or 6- or thereabouts bit DSD (delta-sigma) converters. I’m saying that the heart of PCM digital to analog playback in commercial consumer gear has been a close DSD cousin all along, since the 90’s. The Pro iDSD is a high level Cadillac version of that root approach.

I like to think of DSD as a digital representation of an analog wave, such as you would see on an oscilloscope. This approach (Pulse Density Modulation) is as much as 1024 times the sample rate of CD. Describing the analog wave in binary storage is a very non-destructive way to reproduce the sound later through a DSD DAC. The high sample rate DSD conversion (remaster) of PCM masters also makes the result sound more analog like and natural to my ears. That’s why I’ve always preferred to record to DSD in the first place whenever possible. Now the ability to remaster everything (except MQA) to the highest DSD bitrate comes in a very nice looking 4 pound package.

Read some high level expert discussion on this by the chief creator of the iFi and AMR products:  https://www.audiostream.com/content/qa-thorsten-loesch-amrifi

Prior to resampling the music source you can apply an iFi software invention called the Gibbs Transient Optimized (GTO) Digital Filter. I feel strongly this is a true landmark breakthrough for playback of non-MQA PCM digital masters and streaming music. I also use their Bitperfect+ filter option as an alternative. Rotate the knob on the front panel of the Pro iDSD anytime to change the filter being used (they offer 5 choices) and to hear the differences in real time within the same song.

What I hear with the GTO Filter and DSD resample is a huge improvement in the width of the sound stage, separating the instruments and giving them much more natural sounding attacks (impulse) and decays (sustain). The edgy sound of digital audio ala CD quality which has plagued my ears since it was introduced around 1981 is no longer edgy. It’s suddenly a real sound as if people were actually playing the instruments I’m hearing in the room I’m sitting in. Singing and breathing are similarly more relaxed and natural sounding. I also hear distinct improvements in this same direction between the DSD512 and DSD1024 remasters, preferring DSD1024 as most natural. Some music I’ve listened to through the Pro iDSD sounds best to me using their Bitperfect+ filter instead of GTO. I would need to continue listening to and comparing these filters to decide when and why one filter may excel in natural sounding results over another and if there is any consistency to their different uses.

I want to add here my preference for the Tube switch selection in the Pro iDSD because once again there are distinct natural differences to my ears between how deployment of the J-FET all-valve Class A output featuring two GE5670 tubes warm the resulting sound (of usually acoustic or ambient style music genres as my preference) and get my vote over solid state or the Tube+ (added natural harmonic distortion) alternate choices. Slide the switch on the front panel anytime to instantly hear these differences.

All of this is based on the premise of working with a good recording and production master in the first place. But in all fairness, many recordings that sound crappy through normal CD player setups, will sound improved and even good through, say, a Spotify or TIDAL stream of them (MP3-320 or lossless 16-44.1) into the Pro iDSD streaming DAC/preamp. I’m starting to think of this tasked performed as audible cleanup, a series of steps (highest DSD resample, best filter, tube preamp) that deliver easy to hear improvements on the sound delivered to your speakers or headphones.


It’s in the Apps

I have used numerous music player apps on my iPhone to control playback through the Pro iDSD, it being set in its “Apps” mode through a front panel knob selection of inputs. Again these apps are not delivering audio via Bluetooth which is not present in any form on the device. Wireless audio is always 802.11 WiFi which has been sorely overlooked by the digital music consumer product manufacturers and largely overlooked by prosumer and studio gear makers. Another important topic for another day.

The most complete solution I have found for iOS and Android as a music player capable of providing access to the user’s libraries of music online including TIDAL and Qobuz as well as saved music on the phone, Dropbox, iCloud, or OneDrive is called mconnect from Conversdigital Co., Ltd. This app literally connects any music/video/photo media server to any UPnP or Google Cast (Chromecast) device.  It plays MQA Masters on TIDAL as well. Voila!

With that app in hand, I can connect my iPhone to the Pro iDSD as UPnP and log into my TIDAL or Qobuz account and stream MQA or any other music to the studio playback. I can also send my Apple Music library of albums stored on the iPhone itself to the same destination including MQA playback. (Please note here that unlike what others have mistakenly claimed, MQA is not an audio format which is technically referred to as a codec. MQA is an encoding that can be applied to any of the common lossless PCM audio codecs available, the most popular being FLAC, ALAC (Apple compressed lossless), WAV and AIF. This is significant because I can download MQA masters as 24/44.1 or 24/48k ALAC files and even Apple Music/iTunes will acknowledge them and store them on my iPhone without even knowing they are MQA!) All of this happens over WiFi allowing me the freedom of moving anywhere I’m connected including outdoors.

A video by Owen Delehedy at iFi Audio on how to setup mconnect for playback through the Pro iDSD is online at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkv0_2JAdEA

You must use the paid version of mconnect, not the Lite version. It also doesn’t support Spotify accounts but the Spotify app can run concurrently on the phone with mconnect player and they cooperate. iDSD detects MQA Masters from TIDAL and decodes up to the full 24/384k depending on the resolution of the source recording being streamed.

mconnect app can direct play of DSD and FLAC from the phone as well and supports Gapless playback. It will run on iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet. It also supports AirPlay compatible devices Apple TV, Airport Express, AirPlay Audio. You can render on Smart TV, and other UPnP supported Audio and receivers.

You can create mconnect Playlists that contain songs from any mix of servers you are connected to. What? Yes, you can integrate your various music libraries across servers by creating playlists choosing from any or all libraries.

In addition to mconnect player, other apps I’ve connected to iDSD from my iPhone using AirPlay or DLNA include Spotify, Bandcamp, Onkyo HF Player, HiBy, Qobuz, TIDAL.

Beware – AirPlay is lossless to 16/44.1k — so your hi-res and possibly MQA won’t stream via WiFi under AirPlay intact. DLNA support by players like mconnect can do better than that and can preserve DSD as well as MQA encoding. My MQA masters are folded to 16/44.1k so they are preserved perfectly well under the lossless delivery of TIDAL or Qobuz to my iPhone using mconnect, then WiFi over to the iDSD via Airplay and unfolded and decoded to the stereo. “It sounds just like you are playing in the room” was what a listener with good ears said immediately.

These albums streaming to iPhone from both the Qobuz app as well as mconnect (TIDAL library) as 44.1k lossless, then sent via WiFi Airplay to the iDSD where they are recognized as MQA with DXD resolution (24/352.8k) and accordingly unfolded and decoded, sent to the Tube preamp then out to a Yamaha amp and Polk Audio stereo speakers setup in the room. Note that the streaming bitrate for the various songs are in the 700-800kbps range as FLAC! That is roughy 1/2 of the bitrate of a CD (1411kbps). MQA’s tech advances in delivering the highest res PCM with correction for ringing at the lowest bitrates is a big part of what makes the past 2 years in computer audio so fantastic. 700kbps streamed into your phone or computer becomes approx. 17340kbps (24/352.8k) unfolded and played through the MQA DAC. I love the math.

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Rediscover your music just by listening.

What MQA Encoding and the iFi Pro iDSD streamer DAC GTO filter have in common is the ability to correct the biggest problem with PCM recordings especially the CD 16/44.1k format we’ve all had to live with for too long. Both MQA and GTO filter technologies come from two different companies who have in fact collaborated, and help clean the sound you will hear in your digital music in cooperative ways. When I say “clean the sound” I am referring to the problems with PCM and the industry’s decades (think 1980) old standards for preferring to favor frequency accuracy over timing and spatial accuracy. This was done and still done by the industry studios and labels despite the fact that our ears are much more senstive to the timing and locality of sound than to frequency.

By implementing the favored brickwall filter on CD in the earliest implementation of CD, Sony and Philips imposed the burden of what is called pre- and post echo ringing effects all digital music listeners. The ringing artifacts are most severe on CD resolution masters (16/44.1k) and then continue to decrease with the higher resolution masters (24/88, 24/96, 24/176, 24/192, 24/352, 24/384k).

Ringing is a distortion added to the digital audio signal that echos the impulse (accentuated instrument’s note or singer’s voice or drumbeat you are hearing) multiple times before you ever hear the note/voice/beat itself come through the signal to your ears. Pre-echo ringing means an echo before the note is played. Even worse, the echo is an inverse unnatural sound like a tape being played backwards.

Post-echo ringing are those following the impulse. While both (pre- and post-echoes) are confusing to the ear/brain/listener, it is the pre-echo ringing effects that throw off our listening and make our ears tired and disbelieving in what they are hearing. Echoes off a wall in a room are common and natural to our ears. The post-echo ringing artifact is similar to that and so less invasive to our listening.

Ringing happens over and over and over again with typical PCM masters, more so with the lower resolution masters (CD is 16/44.1k) that the higher res masters (up to 24/384k in the DXD category) because of the math related to the steepness of the brickwall filter attenuating all frequencies above a fixed limit (on CD this is at 22.05k or half of the 44.1k sample rate). By attenuating the frequency through the lowpass cutoff filter, echoes are imposed before and after the impulse. The severity of echoes will change with the type of filter used, hence brickwall versus minimum phase versus apodizing versus the new iFi GTO (Gibbs Transient Optimal) filter.

More info here from SoundOnSound.com: MQA Time-domain Accuracy & Digital Audio Quality


My Grandson Baseball Analogy

Imagine you are watching your grandson perfectly crouched over home base with baseball bat raised in anticipation of the pitch now being delivered. You see ball delivered and you see your grandson begin to swing. But just before the bat reaches the ball you think you hear the sound of the bat connecting, not a full impact but a shadow of that sound playing backwards. In fact you might have heard it twice or more times in quick succession. Immediately after that you see the bat connect with the ball and then hear the resounding smack!  Suddenly all is well, but what did you hear before the bat struck the ball?

Your eyes saw the bat had not connected to the ball but your ears heard premonitions (echoes) of the ball to be hit. Then a split second transpired (the difference between the speed of light at your distance and the speed of sound) and you heard the familiar and expected resounding crack of a good swing connecting for a great hit. It may have been followed by tiny echoes of the event but those were masked to your ears by the main impulse event of the ball being hit.

You don’t know what you heard as the shadow of the main impulse event. Your brain didn’t know what your ears were hearing.  Those echoes didn’t exist in the real world. It didn’t happen on the field with your grandson. It was a phantom sound that threw you because you expected to hear nothing from the bat and ball until after he actually hit the ball. (I’ve also read about a precedence factor in the human ear/brain that claims our location recognition of sound is programmed to ignore echoes that would otherwise confuse us as to where a sound originated from after bouncing off numerous walls, floor and ceiling inside a room. If that’s true, then the effect of pre-echo ringing is even worse on our disorientation of what we are trying to listen to in digital music. More on that here…)

My baseball analogy is not even describing the whole problem because it puts the listener in a vision-oriented situation which normally influences some 80% of our sensory perception. So vision in my example is partially correcting the audio problem by deciphering for the brain/viewer what is really going on visually. However when we listen to music from our favorite armchair or tatami mat we can’t use our vision to correct distortions in what we are listening to. We are focused instead on the distortions and spatial discrepancies of what we are hearing. It can be hard frustrating work. Things called ear fatigue, digital glare, edgy unnatural sound are what we then suffer from.


Ringing and Filters

Welcome to the world of pre-echo ringing also known as time smearing and temporal blurring. My example of the baseball batter is the analogy of what we are subjected to with the typical CD quality digital playback that was recorded and mastered with close attention to frequency accuracy not time accuracy. These problems are equally true or worse for MP3 and any lossy derivatives of CD masters. These pre-echo ringing artifacts are created during the analog to digital transformation of sound under Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) processing. They are created to a much lesser and closely or fully inaudible degree by other techniques including DSD’s use of Pulse Density Modulation (PDM).

To this end PCM industry recordings are usually made with what are referred to as linear phase brick-wall (or “brick wall” or “brickwall”) filters to accomplish their best attempts at analog to digital conversions with the 20kHz range of human hearing being catered to and other “noise” above 22.05kHz (half the value of the 44.1k sample rate per Nyquist) sharply removed. By avoiding aliasing, ringing is introduced. It’s at its worst in CDs and less so in the higher res well made studio recordings at 24/96 and higher sample rates. The artifacts of this filtered approach to exacting only preferred frequencies desired are the ringing artifacts then imposed on both sides of the impulse itself (pre- and post-echo ringing). MQA addresses and corrects this problem as does iFi’s new GTO Filter. (More from Stereophile in 2006 on this here…)

Even more (from Audiostream) on ringing and why DSD doesn’t record with this problem…

Other filters have been introduced over the years primarily referred to as mininum phase (or apodized, or listen filters) that can remove the pre-echo and place the entire burden on the post-echo side of the impulse which is not as intrusive to our listening since we are accustomed to hearing and adjusting to post-echos as sound reflections off walls etc.  Once again, iFi’s GTO filter is an advanced approach to resolving these ringing problems for any source digital audio including MP3 and other lossy streaming or downloaded files such as what iTunes has been selling as AAC lossy downloads since 2003 when the store opened with 200,000 songs.


Why WiFi?

Finally and hugely importantly, a fantastic option for input on the Pro iDSD is what they refer to as “App”. The Pro iDSD acts as a DLNA server on your WiFi network. Apps such as the Spotify (lossy) and TIDAL (lossless) players on your computer or smartphone can see the server once you set it up (use a passworded encrypted protocol!) and connect to it for audio output. So the Pro iDSD is your midpoint between your wireless computer or smartphone and your internet service provider through your normal WiFi router. It talks to both sides.

Your iPhone/Android phone is no longer hampered by poor sounding, poorly connected, highly frustrating Bluetooth that you have to sit nearby to stay connected to. Instead your phone sends the signal via WiFi to the Pro iDSD as a perfectly preserved digital signal where it then gets converted to analog. You can walk anywhere in your home or even outside where WiFi reaches and stay perfectly connected. iFi got it right. I’m amazed at how long it has still taken wireless digital audio to migrate to Ethernet where it should have originated from in the first place instead of a sketchy lossy, dropout prone protocol like early and persistent Bluetooth.

Anyone using the Sonos Connect product in a similar fashion will immediately understand the musical and logistical benefits of this. The Sonos product does not however support MQA as iFi’s product does.

All of the source input regardless of where it comes from can be easily resampled as DSD1024 on its way to your stereo. Will you hear the difference? I honestly can’t imagine anyone listening and not hearing these differences. I’ve presented these comparisons in real time to other non-audiophile ears and the results were instant and affirmatively better with the proper filter and DSD1024 resample. My ears find also find it instantly preferrable.

MQA avoids DSD resampling on the Pro iDSD and gets properly unfolded and decoded up to the highest bit rates (24/352.8k and 24/384k) for analog delivery to your headphones or speakers.


Your TV plays through it too…a pretty damn big deal

I can’t stop writing about the Pro iDSD without telling you that you can also easily hook up the optical Toslink cable from your Smart TV as another audio input (Coax/Toslink S/PDIF). This will route your tv’s audio through the same beautiful cleanup process (GTO or Bitperfect+ filter -> DSD1024 -> Analog Tube preamp -> balanced or unbalanced Analog output) as I’ve described for other sources like streaming MP3. It will be upsampled to DSD1024 if you desire. By the way, DSD1024 is a 45 to 49 mHz single bit rate. How far we’ve come.

In case you’re wondering, yes there is a BNC connector (S/PDIF in or sync input) as well as a Micro SDHC and USB A to connect for example your 2TB USB drive with your entire music library or smaller thumb drive to. Here is the Pro iDSD user guide, see page 4 for all inputs and outputs…

Since my test setup CD/DVD player was connected to the LG Smart TV via HDMI, all CD and DVD audio also went through the same Toslink cable into iDSD. Simple. Sounds great. In this setup Amazon Prime (both music only as well as 4k and other films) also comes through as resampled DSD1024 converted to analog signal through the Tube preamp to a Yamaha amp and out to a pair of vintage Polk Audio speakers in the room.

In short, iFi Audio’s Pro iDSD is a fantastic and innovative addition to today’s revolving doors of media playing gear and software. IFi’s products have always made hugely impressive impressions on me, but the Pro iDSD is a new trip to a new universe with all the sound quality I’ve been trying to find find for quite a few decades in the digital domain.


What’s Next?

Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy…

So much work still needs to be done before we can have confidence in asserting what can be heard and what cannot be heard.” – Thorsten Loesch

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Errata…

  • Pro iDSD plays downloaded DSD512 and DSD1024 files only via a USB wire connected, not through WiFi.
  • On a number of occasions I lost the Pro iDSD WiFi connection, or, slightly more confusing, my source device appeared to be streaming music to the iDSD but no sound came from the speakers. Occasionally this was due to a mysterious zero volume suddenly imposed on the iPhone, since it’s not a Bluetooth connection to iDSD it’s either off or on in terms of volume control, but zero volume yields exactly that, no sound, from the amplifier & speakers. Other times, I had to turn off the iDSD unit and power it back up to restore a complete audio path to the house stereo. It seems to occasionally lose the WiFi source connection it supports at least as far as streaming audio. This didn’t happen often, but often enough to note here.
  • Specification
    Sample rates: PCM up to 768kHz
    DSD up to 49.152MHz (DSD 1024)
    DXD and double-speed DXD (2xDXD)
    Inputs: USB (required for DSD, DXD and sample rates above 192KHz)
    AES3 (XLR – single link)
    S/PDIF (coaxial/optical combo)
    BNC multifunction (S/PDIF in or sync input)
    Outputs: Balanced XLR at 4.6V (+15.5dBu – HiFi) or 10V (+22dBu – Pro)
    Single-Ended RCA at 2.3V (HiFi) or 5V (Pro)
    Headphones 6.3mm & SE 3.5mm Jack at 0.55V/2.1V/5V
    Headphones BAL 2.5mm/4.4mm Jack at 1.13V/4.6V/10V
    Headphones out 1,500mW RMS X 2 @ 64 ohm, 4,000mW max. 2 X @ 16 Ohm
    Headphone Output Impedance: Single-Ended (S-BAL): < 1 Ω
    Balanced: < 2 Ω
    Volume control: Balanced (6-gang) Alps potentiometer, motorised with IR remote control
    XLR/RCA outputs can be selected as fixed level or adjusted
    6.3mm headphone jack is always adjusted
    Other Functions: Various digital and analogue filters can be selected for DSD and PCM up to 384KHz
    PCM Filters: Bitperfect 44.1 – 192kHz, always used for 352.8 – 768kHz
    Bitperfect + 44.1 – 96kHz
    Gibbs Transient Optimised 44.1 – 384kHz
    Apodising 44.1 – 384kHz
    Transient Aligned 44.1 – 384kHz
    DSD filters: fixed 3rd order analogue filter @ 80kHz with correction for DSD’s -6dB gain
    Gain (headphone section): user-selectable: 0dB, 9dB and 18dB
    Dynamic range: 119dBA (solid-state, PCM, -60dBFS)
    Output power Pro iDSD 4.4mm socket. (16 Ω, balanced/single-ended): >4200mW /1>1,575mWPro iDSD 2.5mm socket. (16 Ω, balanced/single-ended): >4000mW /1>1,500mW
    Output voltage (600Ω, balanced/single-ended): >11.2V / >5.6V
    Input voltage (Pro iDSD): DC 9V/6.7A – 18V/3.35A
    Input voltage (iPower+): AC 85 – 265V, 50/60Hz
    Power consumption: < 22W idle, 50W max.
    Dimensions: 213 (l) x 220 (w) x 63 (h) mm
    Weight: 1980g (4.37 Ibs)

 

The Single Bit in DSD goes further than the US Dollar

When 1-bit gets you more than the $1-bill

The highway to great sounding recorded audio playback got much wider since the advent of higher sample rates for DSD. Now DSD128, 256 and 512 are new options offered as the Higher Rate Program (HRP) from NativeDSD.com in the Netherlands.

For that reason I say the 1-bit DSD recording format has only increased in value to happy music lovers compared with the the value of the US dollar over roughly the same past 20 years in the market.

If you have been buying DSD downloads or SACDs in the past, you might be happy to know that NativeDSD just began releasing some its top titles in higher resolution in the native DSD format. They call it HRP. What does that mean?

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I listen to my records in NativeDSD’s HRP (“The Window”, “Acoustic Trio DSD Sessions”, “Crossing”) in the higher resolutions as native DSD studio masters and am truly blown away.

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People have been saying and writing great things for some time about Double, Quad and now Octo DSD (read: DSD128, 256 and 512). For you Speed Racer types, those are the sample rates of 5.6mHz, 11.2mHz and 22.6mHz. If you are curious about what bitrate is compared to sample rate, remember that stereo has 2 channels (left and right) so the bitrate of DSD128 is 11.2mHz (5.6mbps x 2) and the others double for bit rates as well. If you get to multichannel (5.1 is 6 channels) then the multiplication x6 follows.

I like math these decades more than I used to, but what all these numbers really mean to me is that DSD can now better represent what I might see in an oscilloscope of the source recording sessions directly from the microphones and analog mixing boards as if they were being recorded to a nice fat analog tape. That’s exactly what it sounds like to my ears after hearing it being played back through my DSD DAC. Some call that transparency. I know it just sounds natural and acoustically correct.

It has never been as easy as today to find and buy both the gear required to play these sonic beauties (DACs), nor the titles of released material in formats as high as DSD512 which (here’s my Indy 500 voice…) sports no less than 512x times the resolution of the ubiquitously hated CD.

Please note: Your hardware and music player software must support these higher bit rates to work at all!

To me even that is not as important as the distinct differences between CD’s audio format (PCM) and DSD’s format (PDM). But that is a subject for another treatise. You can read about HRP and DSD’s higher resolutions according to Brian Moura on NativeDSD’s website…

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When the resolution (aka sample rate) is increased it means a finer grade of detail is applied to the digital representation of a completely non-digital (i.e., analog) requirement for human hearing otherwise known as sound waves.

Better representation means better reproduction which means better playback through your speakers and headphones. No I won’t start talking about the election or Democratic debates here. All I’m saying is the better described the analog sound wave is to a computer’s digital version of storage of that sound wave, the better a smartphone or computer or online Spotify/TIDAL/Apple Music server app can reconstruct that nice easy movement of air that lets us hear what was played in natural, uncompressed, non-edgy ways.

If you believe in all of that which I do, then higher resolution usually means better sounding music to your ears.

Why do I even care about all this? Because I’ve always wanted my records to sound good. Better than what CD could offer. That’s why I started with DSD at the very beginning of the 21st century. I like good sounding music in general, I always have.


What Was I Just Saying…
Onwards with this email announcement probably the second last for 2019…

LET ME WISH ALL OF YOU THIS: Have a very very Happy Holiday Season and New Year Celebration. Be Well Stay Well Be Well Stay Well on all continents and hemispheres.

22c1e79e-6c2f-4618-adbb-0feb7a1462ea


copyright David Elias, 2019

All photos copyright David Elias

It’s Good To Be 12 or 13 Again

I’ve been playing and ripping vinyl to DSD. I don’t have this new Korg device but this article points to the huge surge in vinyl sales these past years. I have several cases of albums I’ve kept in climate controlled storage (Hawaii is very tough on lots of things threatened by heat and humidity). I retrieve these albums as desired bit by bit, or groove by groove I guess.

The vinyl I’ve been playing most is brand new vinyl releases from people around 30 yrs. old or younger. They don’t offer streaming on Spotify or TIDAL. They often don’t have a Facebook or Tumblr page. They don’t offer CDs. They usually have cassettes in limited supply as is the vinyl. Occasionally I’ve seen 1/4″ analog 4- and 8-track tapes for sale.

It’s fun to be 12 and 13 yrs old again. The press we commonly know and are confronted by continues to be fixated on perpetuating its own machine at its own pace, pick an industry. That’s why I’m averse to press. I’d rather make up my own story than read theirs.

https://www.pressreader.com/usa/sound-vision/20180401/281599535941941

This article however appears on some people’s back pages. I don’t have this DS-DAC-10R device but a Korg antecedent. Actually I have 2 different Korg antecedents which are mobile DSD recorders. This 10R device from them is new to meet the rising vinyl market that Korg measures. Drop $500 — rip DSD128 off your vinyl. Simple. Vinyl and analog in general isn’t going away. CDs and downloads are.

As a good friend who has been working since the beginning with DSD and Sony SACD said and wrote almost 20 years ago, DSD is the analog quality without the flaws. I like it too cause it lasts forever and doesn’t change with the weather, especially if you are into digital backup like I am.

Higher Ground

Simplest is best. Solo acoustic.

YouTube Video is at youtu.be/z-IH6gNuFHE

CD master with MQA encoding is here:
https://davidelias.bandcamp.com/track/higher-ground-2

Higher Ground
– by David Elias

I feel the rain come in
The smell before the wind
Leaves fold down those pale green crowns
Yima Yima Yai

I watch the river rise
Both forks are snake eyes wise
Set me down on higher ground
Yima Yima Yai

I’m back where I came from
The trees the old deer run
Worn out trails
Tuck tired tails
Yima Yima Yai

I’ll meet you up the hill
Your hair it’s falling still
Lay me down on higher ground
Yima Yima Yai

Those nights were cold and clear
And every star hung near
Reaching round for higher ground
Yima Yima Yai

______________________________________________________________
released July 26, 2018
David Elias: acoustic and vocal
Song by David Elias
© 2018 all rights reserved worldwide

Listen soon on TIDAL, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, iTunes, Pandora

David Elias - Higher Ground - 1400px Cover - MQA - FINAL

 

You Roll Right On – Live Studio (HD)

Recorded live studio David Elias & The CasualTees
[words, music, photos, video by David Elias, © 2018]

http://davidelias.bandcamp.com
[24/176.4k audio download]

Video from photos of Big Island Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Maui’s Haleakalā.

Aloha ʻĀina
Recorded live studio David Elias & The CasualTees
[words, music, photos, video by David Elias, © 2018]

http://davidelias.bandcamp.com
[24/176.4k audio download, released 7/2018]

Video by David Elias w/ iPhone photos of Big Island Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Maui’s Haleakalā.

Aloha ʻĀina

__________________________
David Elias
DSD/MQA Masters: http://www.davidelias.com
Streaming/Downloads: http://davidelias.bandcamp.com
YT Channel: http://youtube.com/davideliasvideo
FB: http://facebook.com/davideliasvideo
______________________________

You Roll Right On
– by David Elias

Coastal waves of inspiration all you have is meditation
Trees of fire burn the choir singing for their salvation
Hints of glamour girls enamored with their own afflictions
Situations complications never mind the contradictions

You roll right on
You roll right on
You roll right on
As you roll right by
You roll right on

Memories of disenchantment paying back the conversation
All you owe is paid in full the rest is just hallucination
Early water Sunday’s daughter ran away no hesitation
Where she goes nobody knows, hell to pay in moderation

You roll right on
You roll right on
You roll right on
As you roll right by
You roll right on

Acupuncture found the juncture in between the constellations
Heaven knows those bodies glow when forced away from contemplation
Witness this with mortal bliss the Gods can’t touch our incarnation
And after all is said and done
You wind up back where you begun
Everlasting peace will mark the end of our emancipation

You roll right on
You roll right on
You roll right on
As you roll right by you roll
As you roll right by you roll
As you roll right by you roll
Right on