My magic 3 ingredients on any good recording are, in order: #1 – the song, #2 – the take/performance, #3 – the recording. I rank them in this order because if the energy and musicianship are there in any good song (#1 and #2), it will be conveyed to the listener at many / all levels.
But being able to capture that in the right mechanical and physical terms (mics, preamps, recording levels) followed by careful mixing and mastering are surely what produce the finest collections of recorded music (#3). There’s no other way.
I am slowly realizing the emphasis behind MQA’s tag “Take Me There”. There are often very big differences between what an artist / producer intend a final recording to sound like, and what the actual artist and song takes do sound like in the studio or live show. In order to produce the intention of the art direction (which may not require elaborate effects and tricks in the studio, but still require craftsmanship to the highest levels), #1, #2, and #3 above have to be present. There’s no other way.
Capturing great sessions or multi track overdub creations that don’t have all of #3 can still be considered great, despite the lack of full delivery of intention due to limitations on the original source recording. My musical listening history is filled with these less than perfect recordings but simply incredible songs and performances. I probably treasure some of these as the finest in my personal/memory collection.
But until there were DSD conversions from master tape archives, there was, to my ears, no way to deliver a good sounding #3 in a digital format which was initially CD, then even worse MP3/AAC, then HDCD and even HDTracks / ProStudioMasters (which I’ve purchased but rarely play).
There are indeed limits of DSD conversions from tape which include slower time to process, limited catalog availability, more expensive and larger files without streaming to deliver to any large consumer base as well as the additional audio setup to convert DSD back to analog properly. So be it.
DSD is great for what it does and the “right” way in my opinion to convert analog tape masters to digital as intended (!) by Sony and Phillips originally to rescue their aging deteriorating master tape archive vault.
Now with MQA that intention is finally achievable and deliverable in all current modern formats to all listeners without extracting source masters from tape in every case.
It literally undoes the artifacts imposed during step #3 (by decompressing, not compressing, which is the same as removing edges and correcting time coherence) by re-encoding already existing hi-res PCM masters. It then proceeds to deliver the master CD quality and higher over low bandwidth (approx. CD 1.44mbps) and even on printed standard CDs, with a hi-res component (unfolding) for any compatible setup.
So the intention’s follow through in #3 after capturing a great song, then recording and producing it masterfully, is realized, at least compared to anything we’ve had in the PCM digital domain for audio reproduction to date.