Jared Sacks: DSD Present and Future
By Jason Victor Serinus Feb 21, 2014
Serinus: Who is recording in native DSD?
Sacks: Pentatone, Harmonia Mundi, BSO, and Alia Vox for starters. BIS doesn't and Linn doesn't. Even the Concertgebouw does not, because they have to use the equipment the radio station uses. Some discs from Challenge Classics—he's an old student of mine—are native DSD. There are maybe 15 small labels in Germany, as well as Exton from Japan.
On the recording front, there's also some new equipment, a mike preamp and A/D–D/A converter from Merging Technologies called Horus, that will be easier to handle because it's all in one box. While expensive, it's a lot cheaper than it was in the past. That will make a big difference.
I record at 64Fs, 2.8 million times a second. More recently, it has become possible to record at 128Fs and 256Fs. Audiophiles may think at twice the samples, it's going to get better. That is the case up to where we are at 64. Going to 128 will raise the noise level an octave so it's easier to deal with, but in terms of the audio spectrum, I don't think it's necessary. I will have to do some listening tests.
In our business, we have to do post-production, but not all the time. I always make a mix-down into stereo. The surround channels go directly to an A/D converter, so they don't go through a mixer, and I try to leave them like that. Then I make a master without going through post-production (without going through the sigma-delta converter again).
The moment I have to change levels or do some EQ, I have to go through the mixer, and that means going through the sigma-delta again, which lowers the quality. Of course, it's all high DSD, but you have to go into DXD if you do post-production, and there's really no way around it. This problem will be solved in the future. But we are talking about further research, which costs money, at a moment when there is not much to be made selling to recording companies.
When you listen to my raw data, and you compare it to the post-produced recording, there's a difference in the air around the instruments and the depth. There's a degradation of sound. It's slight, but it's there. It's unfortunate, but there's nothing we can do about it, because we have to go into the sigma-delta processor again. As with any other audio signal, if you have to keep on processing, it will change.
You may ask, given that, if there is a difference between the sound of 192 and DSD? You have to have a really good system, and it also depends on the repertoire, to hear the difference. I still do, especially because of the dynamic range. When I down-sample to 192, you can hear that it's PCM, absolutely.
My Grimm converter is so good that, when combined with my specially made mixing board, the battery-powered microphone preamps I've used for the last two years, and the new van den Hul T-3 cable, the sound is just incredible. You really hear it on my Mahler 1 recording. The sound stays so open, and the air continues, even in the loudest passages. The emotion and depth of sound just envelop you.
I feel I'm getting as close as I've ever gotten to the live event. And I also notice it on the reviews. I've been recording with this combination for two years now, and the reviews in both Europe and the US praise the sound quality.