High Resolution Audio: DSD vs PCM

Last updated on October 2, 2021 by , Posted to convert audio

dsf vs wav

Currently, there are two methods of storing high-resolution digital audio - DSD and PCM. The PCM format has been known for a long time and is used everywhere - CD Audio, DVD Audio, MP3. DSD technology was developed later, by Sony and Philips and used in Super Audio CD and for DSF files. Despite the fact that SACD is not widely used in the consumer market, high-resolution audio has breathed new life into the DSD format. In articles, devoted to the DSD format, many advantages over PCM are described, but most of them are marketing hype. Is DSD better than PCM in real life?

1 Superior sound quality

DSD64, or SACD, has higher resolution than a 16-bit 44KHz Audio CD, roughly the same resolution as 24-bit 96KHz PCM recording, and not as much resolution as a 24-bit 192KHz PCM recording. Want even higher quality? DSD has DSD128, DSD256 and even DSD512 formats in stock. These formats are well ahead of DSD64 in a number of technical characteristics. They have high-frequency residual noise higher in the frequency range than DSD64, and therefore are less likely to affect our listening experience. The quality of the recording plays a far more significant role than the format or resolution.

2 Audio Processing

Since DSD is a one-bit format it is literally impossible to perform any editing. There is no audio editor that support DSD format. All audio editing software, like WaveCut Audio Editor can process Hi-Res audio only in PCM format. You can convert DSD to PCM at any time, but converting back can be problematic. Hence the conclusion is that there are no pure DSD records. Most of the available DSD records have been converted from the PCM format.


So, what to choose DSD or PCM? There is no unambiguous answer, since the characteristics of these formats are better than those of the equipment on which these formats will be played. When evaluating the sound quality of different formats of high definition, subjective sensations come to the fore, and therefore choose what you personally like. Unless you are the lucky owner of a single-bit DAC, converting DSD to FLAC would be a smart move both in terms of quality and disk space.

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