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WHAT IS DSD?

You might have heard of DSD audio, but what exactly is it? Hereโ€™s everything you need to know.

In the last few years, digital audio has become a bit more complex than it used to be. You can listen to digital files in a wide variety of formats and weโ€™ve written blog posts about these and the differences between compressed, lossless and high resolution files before. There is one format thatโ€™s supported by some of our products thatโ€™s different to any other digital media though. This format is called DSD and there are some myths and misconceptions about the format that weโ€™re going to try and clear up.

DSD stands for Direct Stream Digital. Itโ€™s a high-resolution format that produces a high-resolution signal in a different way to that employed by the PCM system that can be transmitted as WAV, FLAC, ALAC or AIFF. If we were to look at a โ€™24 bit 96kHzโ€™ file- a commonly used high resolution sample rate, this contains a stream of information 24 bits in size. This stream of information is then sampled 96,000 times a second- giving us the 96kHz part- to produce a signal that is then converted to an analogue signal by a DAC. The system has been used since the dawn of CD (which uses a 16/44.1kHz signal) and it also represents the basis of how our ATF upsampling process works.

DSD takes a different approach to the creation of a high resolution audio signal. Instead of using many bits of information in the signal, DSD uses a single bit. However, instead of sampling the information several thousand times a second, this single bit samples 2.8 million times a second to generate the audio signal. The result is still a high-res signal itโ€™s just generated in a completely different way. 

DSD Infographic

DSD also came into being for slightly different reasons to most other formats. In the 1990s Sony and Philips worked together to develop the replacement for the CD. The result was Super Audio CD, a format supported by our CXU Universal Blu-Ray Player. The high resolution content on SACD discs is encoded as DSD (many discs also have a CD layer so they will also work on a conventional CD player). SACD didnโ€™t go on to replace CD and remains a specialist format, but the world of digital audio has moved into places beyond physical discs.

This left DSD a format without a medium, but the โ€˜characterโ€™ many people feel that DSD brings to music has meant that it has returned as a downloadable format that can be used via UPnP Streaming or USB. So what is this character? Many fans of the format say that there is a naturalness and tonal sweetness to DSD thatโ€™s not found in more conventional formats and that itโ€™s easier and more forgiving to listen to. This is hard to prove outright but our view has always been to try and let people decide for themselves, so both our CXN and 851N network audio players support DSD.

There are some important details worth knowing when making a comparison between DSD and a FLAC file, for example. The first is that DSD is not magically better than its rivals. A โ€˜standardโ€™ DSD file- often referred to as DSD64 is roughly equivalent to a sample rate of 24/88.2kHz. โ€˜Double DSDโ€™ or DSD128 samples that single bit of information 5.6 million times a second to give you a signal equivalent to 24/176.2kHz. Again, this is a sample rate that can be reproduced by formats that are not DSD. Higher rates exist but they are very, very rare. If anyone says that DSD is โ€˜betterโ€™ than other formats, the numbers donโ€™t necessarily support that. 

851 hi-fi system playing DSD audio file

Against this, there are some more logical answers why many DSD recordings sound very good indeed. Studios that master music in DSD specialise in high quality recordings of extremely good musicians. Because of this, DSD material includes some sensational music and if youโ€™re a fan of classical music in particular, youโ€™ll find that some of the finest performances by orchestras and composers have been captured in DSD and thanks to the care and effort that went into them, they sound fantastic even before any of the benefits of the format come into play.

DSD isnโ€™t currently a mainstream format and thereโ€™s a chance it wonโ€™t ever truly be something thereโ€™s a huge choice of music in. Despite this it does have some truly stunning recordings in exceptionally high quality and thanks to its inclusion on our network streaming products, itโ€™s something you can enjoy as part of your wider listening.

Do you have DSD files in your digital music collection? Is it your format of choice? Make sure you let us know in the comments below!

 

Overview

As more and more music lovers consider their personal computer or laptop as their principal audio source, they find that the sound quality they're getting simply isn't on par with what a premium component music system can deliver.

Denon's DA-300USB combination D/A converter and headphone amplifier elevates computer-sourced digital audio tracks to purist audiophile levels, delivering superb sound quality without compromise.

Equipped with a range of advanced digital technologies, the DA-300USB connects via asynchronous USB to the computer and features the ability to decode both PCM (traditional digital audio format) and DSD (Direct Stream Digital - the advanced digital audio format of SACD).

For connection to other digital audio sources, the DA-300USB also features three digital audio inputs - two optical and one coaxial.

Featuring audiophile grade construction with highest quality component parts and circuit design, the DA-300USB delivers a level of sound quality on par with Denon's highly praised universal disc players.

KeyTechnologies

At the heart of the DA-300USB is the high resolution PCM1795 D/A converter, which features advanced segment 32 bit architecture along with the ability to handle up to 192kHz PCM sample rates as well as the ability to decode both 2.5Mhz and 5.6Mhz high resolution DSD files (either natively decoded or via DoP - DSD over PCM).

Via the USB-B port, the DA-300USB communicates with the PC or Mac via asynchronous data transfer mode, which ensures smooth, jitter-free digital communication, which is especially vital with very high bandwidth digital audio datastreams. For optimum compatibility with the broadest range of sampling frequencies, the DA-300USB is equipped with two master clock crystals, instead of the usual one.

For the widest dynamic range and lowest distortion, the DA-300USB features sophisticated digital signal processing, including Denon's exclusive Advanced AL32 processor that delivers vastly improved detail especially through the critical midrange band, providing noticeable improvements in clarity with low level softer sounds.

Audiophile

Grade Design

Housed in a sleek casing, the DA-300USB features no less than 7 separate printed circuit boards, to ensure the highest isolation between circuit blocks. Powered by a 15V/1A AC adapter, the DA-300USB features sophisticated DC power conversion technology with a power block that delivers separate DC voltage sources to power the various stages.

To ensure the most stable and accurate digital audio and timing data at the critical D/A converter stage, the DA-300USB also features advanced isolator chips that combine high speed CMOS technology with unique on-chip micro air-core transformers. A total of 9 isolator chips are employed, with 18 channels of isolation, delivering superior common mode noise rejection and maximum protection against digital noise transfer between critical stages, compared to conventional optoisolators.

Wide Range

of Connection Options

The asynchronous USB-B port connects to your computer's USB-A port. Once connected, the computer recognizes the DA-300USB and routes the digital audio data to it, bypassing the source device's internal audio circuitry.

For connection to other sources, the DA-300USB features 3 digital audio inputs - two optical and one coaxial - so you can enjoy greatly improved sound quality from your HDTV, satellite or cable box, game console or disc player.

The line level output connectors are high quality, with full 2Vrms output for compatibility with integrated amplifiers, pre-amplifiers and other analog audio components.

The front panel headphone jack features a standard-sized 6.3mm/ยผ" connector, along with a convenient volume control.

High Performance

Sound

For the purest audiophile grade sound quality, the DA-300USB is equipped with separate audio output circuits for the line level outputs and the headphone output. The headphone amplifier block features dedicated buffer and gain stages, and is compatible with the widest range of headphone types, including low impedance models.

Advanced OLED Display

with Touch Control

The elegant front panel features an advanced OLED display that provides clear indication of the input selected, along with the audio file type (PCM, DSD), the sampling frequency and the headphone volume level. The Touch Control lets you easily cycle through the various modes.

Vertical & Horizontal Mounting

Capability

You can choose to mount the DA-300USB either vertically or horizontally, depending upon your equipment configuration. An internal sensor detects the chosen orientation, and rotates the OLED display data accordingly. A custom bottom plate is provided for vertical orientation.

AKG Q701 review

The competitively-priced Q701s keep their five stars for a third year running Tested at ยฃ250

5 Star Rating
 

OUR VERDICT

The competitively-priced Q701s keep their five stars for a third year running

FOR

  • Big, open sound
  • Good for all types of music
  • Among the most detailed for their price
  • Very comfortable

AGAINST

  • Large to wear out and about
  • Rivals have more pep
 

AKG Q701 deals

 
 

The AKG Q 701s may be ludicrously big and green, but design isnโ€™t their real talking point (honest).

The flagship in AKGโ€™s Quincy Jones-endorsed product range, and closely based on the companyโ€™s K701 model, these over-ears have been residents of the five-star club for some time now.

And as theyโ€™re ยฃ100 cheaper than when we first tested them in 2011, weโ€™re interested to see how these old-timers fare in new company.

Performance

The โ€˜3D formโ€™ velour earpads are a great fit โ€“ snug and airy

The โ€˜3D formโ€™ velour earpads are a great fit โ€“ snug and airy

The 701s sound just as we remember them: big, open, analytically detailed and superbly balanced.

MAGNI

MAGNI 3+ AND MAGNI HERESY HEADPHONE AMP AND PREAMP

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DESCRIPTION

SPECS

FAQ

REVIEWS

DOWNLOADS

 

Magni 3+ and Magni Heresy raise the bar even higher for affordable headphone amps, with by far the highest output power in their price classโ€“at least 200% higher than any competitor. At the same time, they provide the cleanest measured performance of any Magni, ever. Go ahead. Compare these new Magnis to anything out there at the price, and we think youโ€™ll agree: thereโ€™s really no competition.

Not Just a โ€œStarter Ampโ€
Either Magni 3+ or Magni Heresy are all the amp youโ€™ll ever need, for any headphone. They both have the power, performance, low noise, and versatility to meet all your needs. Youโ€™re set from IEMs to hard-to-drive planar designs. With a full 2400mW into 32 ohms, either Magni has tremendous power reserves. Combined with low distortion, an exceptionally low noise floor, and switchable gain, both Magnis perform far beyond their price.
 
Your Choice: High Performanceโ€ฆor Even Higher
For Magni 3+, we pulled out all the stops in designing the highest performing discrete Magni ever, by any metricโ€”power, distortion, or noise floor. But itโ€™s easy to get even higher measured performance from integrated (op amp) designs, so we decided to give you a choice, with Magni Heresy. 
  • Choose Magni 3+ for the ultimate expression of an affordable all-discrete current-feedback headphone amp. Itโ€™s now seriously like a mini speaker amp, right down to the driver stage and Vbe multiplier. Magni 3+ is in our traditional silver and gray chassis.
  • Choose Magni Heresy for insanely great measurements from an all-op-amp based headphone amp that uses super high quality parts, including a multiple paralleled output stage with feedforward. Magni Heresy is in a black and red chassis.
Both amps sound fantastic. You really canโ€™t make a wrong choice. 
 
Versatility Comes Standard
Both Magnis include preamp outputs. This means you can connect either one to your desktop powered monitors for a complete systemโ€”or even connect it to a speaker power amp and use it as a preamp. With its built-in time-delayed start-up and instant shut-down, thereโ€™ll be no glitches or pops through either headphones or speakers, either.
  
Designed and Built in California (and Nevada)
By โ€œdesigned and built in California" this is what we mean: the vast majority of the total production cost of either Magniโ€”chassis, boards, transformers, assembly, etcโ€”stays local. Our chassis are made minutes from our facility. Our PCBs are done in Nevada. Yes, the wall-warts are made in China, but there's some give and take at this price point. 
 
2-Year Warranty and 15-Day Return Policy
Either Magni is covered by a limited warranty that covers parts and labor for two years. And, if you donโ€™t like your Magni, you can still send it back for a refund, minus 15% restocking fee, within 15 days of receiving your amp.
 
 

Switch to HiFi Mode

Audirvana is a high-performance audio playback software which handles all formats and resolutions, makes music a priority on your computer, adapts its settings to your sound system, and offers you all the necessary features to optimize your setup.

Libraries and Playlists

Viva Diversity!

Itโ€™s simple. Audirvana is an open platform that accepts all formats used by our most demanding customers โ€” FLAC, MQA, DSD, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV โ€” but also M4A, MP3, WavPack, Cue Sheets, or APE.

Now some hardware for day to day listening below:

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AT-LP1240-USBXP

Direct-Drive Professional DJ Turntable (USB & Analog)

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  • This superbly made, professional quality DJ turntable is designed primarily for use in clubs, touring and mobile DJ applications. It can also be used by music lovers to play their record collections at home. Its sleek, elegant matte-black and silver design fits into any stereo music or home entertainment system, and its built-in switchable phono pre-amp enables it to be used with a wide variety of receivers, powered speakers and other A/V components. As an added benefit, the turntable offers a USB output that allows direct connection to a computer for easy LP-to-digital conversion.

    Built to deliver exceptional music reproduction even under the most demanding conditions of professional use, the AT-LP1240-USBXP utilizes a powerful direct-drive 16-pole, three-phase motor for quick startup, unwavering speed stability along with easy back-cueing, forward and reverse play and quiet operation at 33-1/3, 45 or 78 RPM. The turntable features an S-shaped tone arm with adjustable tracking force (counterweight) and anti-skate adjustment. It comes with the AT-HS1 universal 1/2"-mount headshell and the AT-XP5 DJ phono cartridge.

    Additional DJ-friendly features including a damped cast-aluminum platter with stroboscopic speed markings and slip mat, an illuminated speed indicator and adjustable pitch control, dual start/stop buttons, a removable stylus target light, a dedicated tone arm grounding lug, a hydraulically damped lift lever and a locking tone arm rest that keeps the arm and cartridge in place during transport.

    Audacityยฎ and other compatible third-party software packages can be used to convert the audio on a record to MP3, WAV or other format digital audio files.

 

"The new Cambridge Audio Azur 851W is impressive. I recently tried the 851W in my system and was really wowed by it."

THE IDAHO STATESMAN

UNITED STATES,

AZUR 851W

POWER AMPLIFIER

 
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Delivering immense power and incredibly low distortion, the 851W power amplifier is perfectly matched to partner our 851E pre-amplifier and 851N network player; taking their pure signal and amplifying it with huge presence and authority.

"ONE OF THE MOST TRANSPARENT, THRILLING AND RICHLY REWARDING AMPLIFIER COMBINATIONS I HAVE ENCOUNTERED."

- ANDREW EVERARD, MAY 2014

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Silver
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CLASS XD

Rather than use a Class A design, which is sonically brilliant but generates vast amounts of heat, or a Class AB design, which is efficient but sonically limited, we developed our own Class XD amplifier design which the 851W takes advantage of. This has the sonic purity of Class A and the efficiency of Class AB for the best of both worlds. For more information on our unique patented Class XD technology watch the video at the bottom of the page or click here for a full description.

TERRAPIN BUFFERING
POWER AND CONTROL
FLEXIBLE CONFIGURATION
CAP 5 PROTECTION
REVIEWS
TECH SPECS
SUPPORT

AUSTRALIAN HI-FI

AUSTRALIA,

"With its 851E preamplifier and 851W, Cambridge Audio has built a pre/power combination that offers not only 'holy grail' audio performance, but also an almost complete suite of features and facilities.  If you're in the market for separates (and you should be if you want seriously good audio!), this 851 duo should be high on your short list... if not at the very top of it.  Highly recommended."

KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINAL

UNITED STATES,

"If you are looking for a high-end amplifier that provides the performance of the $25,000 exotics but without the crazy price, the new Cambridge Audio Azur 851W is impressing many reviewers in the audio world."

THE IDAHO STATESMAN

UNITED STATES,

"The new Cambridge Audio Azur 851W is impressive. I recently tried the 851W in my system and was really wowed by it."

ANDREW EVERARD

UNITED KINGDOM,

"Simply, this is one of the most transparent, thrilling and richly rewarding amplifier combinations I have encountered, with fine grip on the speakers with which itโ€™s used, vast amounts of information delivered and never even the slightest sense of the music being held back or sold short."

HI-FI NEWS

UNITED KINGDOM,

"These amps represent a genuine introduction to true high-end amplification at the same time offering real value for money. Features-wise theyโ€™re fully loaded."

AUDIO APPRAISAL

UNITED KINGDOM,

I normally struggle to summarize reviews โ€“ however, in the case of the 851E/W, itโ€™s simple. Buy it, and thank me later. Chances are youโ€™re already raising a phone to your ear and calling your local dealer for a demo โ€“ if thatโ€™s the case, this review has served its purpose. If not, I suggest you do so nowโ€ฆ if anything, you owe it to your music collection.

 

Marantz CD6006 review

It's gone up in price but the latest Marantz CD player is absolutely worth it Tested at ยฃ400

5 Star Rating
 

OUR VERDICT

Marantz remains a master of the affordable CD player

FOR

  • Big sound
  • Good timing and focus
  • Fine build and finish

AGAINST

  • Favours easy listening over out-and-out detail
  • Meaningful increase in price over CD6006
 

Marantz CD6006 deals

16 Amazon customer reviews
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The Only True Stereo Loudspeaker

Polk Legend Series Premium Floorstanding Tower Speaker with Patented SDA-PRO Technology

  • Drawing from more than 45 yearsโ€™ experience in developing loudspeakers, the Legend Series defines the next generation of Polk
  • The Legend L800 is a high-performance floorstanding loudspeaker that renders the most lifelike, detailed, true stereo imaging you have ever heard.
  • Next generation patented SDA-PRO technology makes the loudspeakers disappear, revealing the true imaging of the original recording.
  • Features twin newly designed high resolution 1โ€ Pinnacle tweeters, dual Turbine Cone mid-range drivers and dual 10โ€ woofers with Enhanced Power Port.

AVAILABLE FINISHES

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  • <button>L800 R Brown Walnut 2</button>
  • <button>L800 L Black Ash 3</button>
  • <button>L800 R Black Ash 4</button>
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Vintage Test Report: Nakamichi Dragon Cassette Deck

 

 

The analog era saw a great many high-end cassette decks, but none as famous or sought after as the Nakamichi Dragon.

Introduction, September 2018
If you were an audiophile in the late 1970s or early 1980s-or just a teenager with a fresh driver's license-the Compact Cassette was integral to your life. While reel-to-reel magnetic tape introduced the concept of the โ€œmixtapeโ€ decades earlier, it was not until the cassette's launch by Philips in 1963 and its later adoption in automobile decks and portables in the 1970s that music lovers got the ability to create personal playlists and take them to-go in a convenient, pocket-friendly format.

But eeking out high-fidelity from a design that traded a consumer reel-to-reel's ยผ-inch wide tape and typically 7-1/2 inch-per-second maximum speed for a 0.15-inch strip running at a meager 1-7/8 inches per second was not without challenges. Dolby B noise reduction, released in 1971 in Advent's Model 201 cassette deck, was a step in the right direction, as was the introduction of three-head decks with dedicated heads for erase, recording, and playback. Dual-capstan decks reduced speed variations by grabbing the tape on both the feed and take-up sides of the head cluster. Eventually, new metal tape formulations further improved performance. Still, serious hurdles remained. Notably, the small size and physics of the cassette calls for near-perfect alignment of the vertical gap in the playback head across the width of the tape. Any minor variance from perpendicularity results in a potentially dramatic loss of high frequencies. To make matters worse, the ideal cassette deck needs to retain that โ€œazimuthโ€ alignment even after the tape is turned over or the tape direction reversed (and/or the head flipped) for playing of the B-side. Furthermore, minor azimuth differences between the angle of the play head and that of the original recording deck (a given with prerecorded cassettes) undermines any attempt to tune the deck for perfect repeatability.

Fortunately for audiophiles, these and other obstacles indigenous to the cassette became a source of fascination for Niro Nakamichi. The company bearing his name was founded by his brother Esturo in 1948 as a research outfit before it veered into reel-to-reel tape deck design in the 1950s. But it was Niro who later took over and gave the firm its greatest fame as provider of the world's finest (and most expensive) cassette decks. Among these, none was as heralded or lusted after as the Nakamichi Dragon.

918nak.mag.jpg

Although the deck integrated several prior Nakamichi advances, what came together in 1982 in the $1,850 Dragon (later repriced to $2,499) was nothing short of an engineering marvel. Among its features was a beltless and springless dual-capstan transport with direct-drive motors controlled to remarkable accuracy by a quartz clock; the mechanism intentionally pushed away the cassette's troublesome, built-in pressure pad (normally intended to improve tape-to-head contact) and relied solely on the motors to provide the desired pressure. In Stereo Review's April 1983 review, written by Craig Stark of Starksonic Studio (who had by then taken over tape deck reviews to ease Julian Hirsch's burden) and reproduced here, the Dragon's measurements revealed the lowest wow-and-flutter of any cassette deck ever tested. But, as you'll read, its biggest breakthrough was the inclusion of Nakamichi Auto Azimuth Correction (NAAC), a microprocessor-driven system that used a cleverly-designed feedback loop to detect azimuth error in real time and physically correct it with a servo-controlled head, thus ensuring perfect alignment even with prerecorded tapes!

Fairly quickly, the complex and costly mechanics of NAAC technology and the difficulty of servicing these auto-reverse machines caused Nakamichi to abandon it in its RX series of UDAR (Uni-Directional Auto Reverse) decks, which mechanically flipped the cassette to best maintain azimuth accuracy. But the Dragon held on, finally exiting the market in 1993 after an 11-year run. Nonetheless, with the rapid advance of the Compact Disc in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the demand for Nakamichi's cassette decks waned, and the new digital audio tape (DAT) format it banked its future on failed to gain traction with consumers. The company eventually lost its financial footing and disappeared. After years of dormancy, the brand is now controlled by Grande Holdings, a Chinese firm based in Hong Kong that offers the Nakamichi Shockwafe series of high-performing soundbars and other lifestyle electronics. -Rob Sabin

 

 

There is much higher end gear with a single  Amplifier going over $ 10,000 but based on my experience, there is a lot of snake oil in the audiophile market. 

The above gear is affordable and provided among the best listening bang for buck.

So why wait ?  Dig out your Vinyl, Cassettes, DSD, FLAC and enjoy them. It's all about the love for music. A whole generation lost out with streaming of low quality MP3 music. Let them sample some higher quality music and relish in the real quality of sound.

If you are picky and still want Hifi, Tidal offers FLAC music streaming.

Share your gear, you might be sitting some very cool hardware. 

I have been blessed with a golden ear so I can pick up a lot of details. The younger folks have excellent hearing and still have a chance to enjoy. We are losing an older generation who love music and cannot share their experience with us.

Last edited by Former Member

I will try to share my home theatre experience in the near future sharing some 4K projectors, Dolby Atmos Amp and speaker system, Projector screen, Subwoofer, ceiling and floor standing speakers and comfortable seating. 4K Bly ray. Streaming your 4K Movie collection from a home server etc.

I watched the latest Star Wars movie in theatre and my projector quality, seating and sound system is much more enjoyable than what I saw in the theatre.

Stay tuned.

Last edited by Former Member

I rather just build a simple headphone amp using the lm386 audio amplifier IC. I'm not up-to-date with the new digital designs of amplifiers. I can't afford the expensive stuff also I will still hear distortion coming from one source or another no matter how expensive the equipment is. I currently have a radio shack PA amplifier connected to a ONN boombox to play CDs and radio. When I record my rap I use a cheap dynamic microphone with a homemade mixer that uses an OpAmp IC and a transistor for the mic preamp.  I used to steal parts at radio shack but I wish I worked there. My dad gave me money for much of my hobby to buy parts and I really appreciate him for that. Some days I would buy capacitors and resistors and other low-cost items. 

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