> That must lead one to question the reproducing system.
> "No difference whatsoever" is an exceedingly rare event.
Watch out for any line breaks above. The whole link needs to by used!
DSD vs. PCM tests at Universal's Emil Berliner Studios
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Posted by Mathias Myka on October 01, 2003 at 05:12:11
The September, 2003 edition of "Production Partner", a German magazine for
studio technology (http://www.production-partner.de), has a fairly
interesting interview with Rainer Maillard, head of the recording service
department of Emil Berliner Studios (http://www.emil-berliner-studios.com).
They do most classical recordings for Universal's Deutsche Grammophon label,
and also seem to be owned by Deutsche Grammophon.
For two of the most recent SACD productions of DG, the studio did a parallel
recording in DSD and PCM (96/24) technology, and made extensive comparisons
between the two digital audio formats. One of these recordings is the SACD
production of Gustav Mahler's 2nd symphony, played by the Vienna
Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Gilbert Kaplan.
If you have this SACD, you may have noticed that be booklet says: recorded
in PCM 96 kHz/24 bit.
As I find this interview quite interesting, I have tried to translate those
parts relevant to the never-ending SACD- vs. DVD-Audio/PCM discussion. Here
[About audible differences]
"When comparing the parallel recordings [i.e. DSD vs. PCM], several things
need to be considered. One example: when I compared the main microphone
[tracks] of the Mahler Surround Production in DSD and PCM, there was a
notable difference. Later I discovered that the sensitivity of the D/A
converters in conjunction with the monitoring unit had a certain tolerance,
which was about 0.3 to 0.6 dB. When playing back through five speakers, this
was audible. After adjusting the levels of all channels, the difference was
[About blind tests]
"We did A/B/X blind tests, which again and again without mercy showed the
difference between reality and imagination. To most of our colleagues and
guests it was impossible to notice a difference and thus make a judgment. I
think that's a positive result. It shows that DSD is positioned on a very
high quality level."
[About parameters for high end recordings]
"The question is not about format. To produce a high end audio recording,
completely different parameters have to be considered. How do I select
musicians, recording venue, instruments, positioning, microphones, cables,
converters, mixing desk, outboard equipment etc.? How do I combine these
elements? If I move a microphone just one inch from it's location, the
differences will be greater [than between DSD and PCM]. I could hire a
different piano tuner, then it will sound different again, or change the
room temperature. To me that's fascinating."
[About DSD's impulse reproduction]
"Because DSD uses 64x oversamling as compared to the CD, measurement results
for impulse reproduction are very good. But such a measurement signal will
hardly ever be encountered in practice. "
[About DSD artefacts]
"A one bit data stream by itself has a s/n ratio of only 6 dB. This noise
energy, by means of noise shaping, can be moved into a frequency range where
it no longer interferes. As a result, you get good s/n ratios of about 120
dB in the human hearing range. We took a closer look at the increasing noise
above 20 kHz, and we are not sure if this noise can be seen as an artefact
or effect, possibly even as a positive sound effect. [...] One very
revealing experiment was playing back a 30 kHz sine wave with varispeed at
one tenth of the original speed. By using this trick, you can hear the
artefacts at 3 kHz, which otherwise wouldn't be audible to us. Here, a
difference between DSD and PCM showed itself, and this also can be
[About archive media]
"With regard to our archive, the answer [derived from these experiments] is
clear: on a master recording, there is no place for noise, as it cannot be
removed later. So we have decided to use high resolution PCM with 96 or 192
kHz sampling rate as our archive medium."
Rainer Maillard was also interviewed in the English Pro Audio Magazine
"Studio Sound" where he in a much expanded detailed interview how this
comparision was done.
You cannot fault what they did in any way......except personal "Theories"
based in wishful thinking instead of facts.
The Mastering Room AB
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Learn from the mistakes of others, you can never live long enough to
make them all yourself. - John Luther