Tag Archives: PCM

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I don’t necessarily agree with this, but PS Audio is heavily invested in DSD, with their top of the line DAC, converting all PCM recordings to DSD. At its best and that means the recording and playback abilities of our stereo systems being able to pay back DSD, DSD does sound better than PCM.

However, almost all of what I have, and by a lot, is PCM and it sounds fantastic, as long as the recording allows.

Sweeping statements

Here’s a subject I am perhaps more guilty of than most. The practice of making a sweeping statement about how everything is one way or the other. This is wrong and this is right. This matters and that does not. This guy’s a liar, and this one always tells the truth.

The problem with this line of communication is two-fold: nothing is always one way or the other and we cannot know everything.

I find myself making sweeping statements in an effort to emphasize a point important to me. DSD always sounds better than PCM. And you know what? In the examples I have experienced, that happens to be true. Unequivocally true. Thus it must be universally true—only, it isn’t.

This is how divides happen. When all you have ever experienced suggests one conclusion, then it must be the same for everyone else—which is true only in the case where others have experienced exactly what you have.

If our goal is to effectively communicate then perhaps it’s best to include the caveat “in my experience”. That’s a hard one to get wrong.

I’ll do my best to be better at that.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Inc.

The live myth

Just a reminder that if you’re attending Chicago’s Axpona, come by and say hi tomorrow, at 4PM. I’ll be one of the cranky old guys up on stage in the Legends Forum.

There are no perfect recording or playback mediums. The much sought after goal of reproducing live music from recordings in your home is mostly a myth, though we often catch glimpses – snippets of the thrill of what it might sound like – sometimes outright fooling us into turning our heads because it sounds like someone is playing in the room. But consistently fooled? Not in my experience.

And yet claims of one playback medium excelling over another swirl like Minnesota black flies in June.

I promised in yesterday’s post on mastering limitations that I’d mention some areas where digital doesn’t hold a candle to vinyl in a technical sense. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact vinyl’s analog. And analog is the gold standard. Analog is continuous, infinite in resolution, and defines the medium conveying recorded music: the output of a microphone. Digital’s performance is always referenced to analog’s gold standard.  Sony’s original marketing claim of Perfect Sound Forever suggested digital is a carbon copy of analog (which, of course, isn’t true).

Digital’s proclamation of perfection is kind of like the artificial sweetener industry’s claim that their product is “indistinguishable” from their gold standard – sugar – a claim we can argue about all day long – but the point is the same. Both are attempting to be as good as the reference. Never better. And if someone’s claiming “better“, run like hell.

I don’t want to focus too much on the good and bad of digital, though most of you know my stance on it. DSD is closer to analog than PCM – and not by just a little. Sure, there are pundits that hear more detail and resolution from PCM than DSD, even if the PCM is a copy of the a DSD recording. That’s a subject we’ll likely jump into when we take a breath. But for the purpose of this discussion between the two major format groups – vinyl vs. digital – I will simply reiterate that both from a technical standpoint and from my own listening experience, DSD is closer to analog than PCM of any resolution.

But regardless of your opinion on the matter, here’s the thing. Both vinyl, DSD, and PCM’s goals are the same. The accurate reproduction of the original analog waveform in all respects.

Vinyl attempts to capture the analog using analog means – while PCM strives to do the same thing with numbers, DSD with varying degrees of energy density. In each case, the goal is the same.

And none get it right.