Many magazine and web articles compare FLAC (=PCM) and DSD version of the same music with varying outcome. I think it’s too early to judge, however. There are too many pitfalls to make a reliable comparison:
1 Source material
DSD can only be optimal when the original is recorded in DSD or comparable resolution in PCM. Unfortunately many early sacd’s were recorded in PCM at lower sample rates. I even heard a Peter Gabriel sacd that was recorded at 48kHz on an ADAT recorder (not the most brilliant recorder, even then). Recording analogue tape digitally is the only exception since the artefacts of analogue are quite different from digital. So recordings can be made in both PCM and DSD for comparison. However...
If the material is recorded in DSD and converted to PCM, you’re not only listening to the difference between the two systems but also to the conversion process. Korg offers free conversion software for people that use Korg DSD recorders. Daniel Weiss also offers conversion software, costing serious bucks. Weiss makes excellent audio processing software for over 30 years now but my guess is that even he can’t guarantee inaudible conversion.
In most cases the DSD signal has to be converted to PCM unless your reproduction system is DSD compatible. You need a computer, software and a d/a-converter that do DSD. The first converter I heard of that was capable of native DSD reproduction was by dCS. In the mean time a number of native DSD d/a-converters became available:
Native DSD d/a-converters:
(bijgewerkt op 4 februari 2013)
Auralic Vega (US$ 3500)
Ayre QB-9 DSD (DSD update aangekondigd)
Ayre DX-5 DSD (DSD update aangekondigd)
Benchmark DAC2 HGC (€ 1.700)
Chord Electronics Ltd. QuteHD (€ 1.295) See our review....
Chord Electronics Ltd. QBD76 HDSD (€ 7.000)
dCS Debussy (€ 10.900)
EMM Labs DAC2X (€ 15.500)
exaSound Audio Design e20 DAC (€ 2.500)
Fostex HP-A8C (€ 1.650)
Korg DS-DAC-10 (US$ 699)
Korg MR-2000S (US$ 1799)
Light Harmonic Da Vinci Dual DAC (US$ 31.000)
Lumin Network Music Player (US$ 3,980)
Luxman DA-06 (US$ 3.531)
Lynx Studio Technologies Hilo DAC (US$ 2.295)
Meitner Audio MA-1 (€ 7.100)
Meinter Audio MA-2 (€ 11.300)
MSB Technology Analog DAC (US$ 6.995)
MSB Technology DAC IV (€ 6.000)
Mytek Digital Stereo192-DSD DAC (€ 1.499)
Pioneer Electronics SC-67 AV Receiver ($2,000)
Playback Designs MPD-3 DAC ( €6,500)
Playback Designs MPD-5 DAC (€ 13.000)
Simple Design Sonore/exD DSD DAC (€1.300)
Sonore exD/DAC (US$ 1.195)
Prices can differ and are only for general reference. Manufacturers are invited to report their DSD products to us
DSD files know three container (file) formats. The DSD data is identical but the way it’s stored differs:
DSF is the DSD variant of AIFF. It can store the same amount of metadata but is not (yet?) recognized by for instance Foobar.
DFF is the DSD variant of WAV. This format does not hold metadata.
SACD ISO is a disc ‘dump’ or ‘image’ of a sacd, so one file holding all tracks of a sacd album