Playing back DSD files on an MSB DAC
"Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) is the trademark name used by Sony and Philips for their system of recreating audible signals which uses pulse-density modulation encoding, a technology to store audio signals on digital storage media that are used for the Super Audio CD (SACD)." This is the definition supplied by Wikipedia. The MSB DSD decoder will play DFF or DFS files. Note that DFX files are not DSD files that can be played.
There are many resources available on line which discuss the technical aspects of DSD. Rather that repeat all of that we will just outline what is required to playback DSD files in very simple terms.
DSD at the studio is packed in a .wav container and is then called DoP. This .wav file is then distributed to you, the user. The header of the file identifies it as a DSD file but in can be treated much like any other music file. The problem comes when you attempt to play the file. If your music player does not know what a DSD file is, it will play it like a music file and you will hear nothing but low level static with a faint hint of the music, or it will refuse to play it at all.
There are some confusing terms being used. DoP is completely native and unprocessed DSD 'packed' into a PCM bit stream with 8 bits of 'ID Header' that must be stripped out before playback. A native DSD stream would have no header. That is essentially the only difference between the two. Once inside the MSB DAC, the ID Header is stripped away and a 'pure' DSD stream is again present. From there the DSD 1bit 2.8 MHz (DSD64x) and DSD 1bit 5.6 MHz (DSD128x) is mapped to our 1.4 MHz 24bit Ladder DAC with no analog filtering. It is as pure a playback as you can get as we do not suffer from all the Delta Sigma artifacts. The proof will be in the listening.
So the first thing you need is a music player on your computer that will properly play DSD files. There are many options and more showing up each day. For the purpose of demonstrating DSD we describe how to use Foobar on the PC and Pure Music on the MAC.
Next you need a DAC that can decode DSD. With our latest firmware, version 4.1, the MSB DAC IV can decode DSD so that is no problem. You can play DSD across any input to the DAC, not just USB like many other manufacturers.
DSD decoding is an option in your DAC setup menu but the default condition is ON. DSD is a new feature and should you find a problem you can always turn the feature off.
DSD files come in two formats, 64X and 128X. Both can be decoded by the MSB DAC. These multipliers refer to the sample rate as a multiple of the CD rate of 44.1 kHz.
The following instructions will allow you to get DSD playing. For other music players, please contact them for instructions how to use the player with DSD. It is VERY important to note that all players have the option - and usually the default option - of converting DSD into PCM in the program and outputting a down-sampled version. This will sound VERY bad. You can tell that all is set up properly when the DAC IV display says DSD 64x or DSD 128x on the display. If it says anything else, the music player is downsampling the DSD file!
Connections to the DAC IV
MSB DACs can accept DSD signals from all digital inputs, not just the USB like most other DACs. It is very important to verify that you have established a bit-perfect connection between your computer and the MSB DAC before beginning this process. If you do not have a bit-perfect connection than DSD will NEVER work. You should play one of the MSB BIT PERFECT test files and verify that your USB or PCM connection is bit-perfect. Even with our knowledge of computer music and DACs we always begin by verifying our system is bit-perfect as so many applications can and will change your computer settings without telling you.
Playing on the MAC
The first player we tried was iTunes with the latest version of PURE MUSIC. We followed the instructions on the PURE MUSIC web site and it worked perfectly. The only thing you need to know is the FLAG used by MSB is O5FA. This must be changed from the default setting.
The next player we tried was iTunes with the latest version of Audirvana. We installed the program and set it up - select audio output and 'enable DSD mode' and it was done.
Playing on the PC with FOOBAR
Setup with Foobar is a bit more difficult than with a MAC. It might be worth printing out these instructions. Begin by downloading and installing the latest version of Foobar. We installed Ver. 1.1.13. If you are using the USB connection to the DAC than you should have already installed the MSB driver and plug-in for Foobar. If not please see the USB instructions here.
The first thing to note is that the stock Foobar plug in is poor. We do not recommend using it. It only works with a limited number of file types. We have found a much better one. You can download it here:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/sacddecoder/files/foo_input_sacd/ and you want to download the file "foo_input_sacd-0.5.11.zip" or a later version if one exists. It is a bit of extra trouble doing this but the results are worth it. Open up the zip file and have a look. You will see the following files. Run the ASIOProxyInstallation file. No input is required.
Now take the foo_input_sacd.dll file and drag it to the foobar components folder (the components folder = Open Foobar, right click Properties, on the 'shortcut' tab 'open file locations', double click 'components'), as shown.
Now open up the foobar PREFERENCES (file - preferences) and you will need to make some changes. Go to PLAYBACK - OUTPUT - ASIO. (If you do not see ASIO under OUTPUT, go to the Foobar site, output component tab, and download ASIO 2.1.2). Once you have ASIO under OUTPUT then select it. You will see foo_dsd_asio in the pull down menu. Double click on it. It will open a new window. On some PCs the window is NOT in front so if you do not see the window, look for it under the other windows (foobar bug).
Set the DSD Playback Method flag to 05FA (dcs marker 0x05/0xFA) as shown below. Notice the ASIO driver is set to MSB ASIO. If you are NOT using USB for example and want to output DSD on a PCM out using a sound card, you would select it here.
Set the Device as shown below.
Now go to the SACD control Panel (file-preferences-tools-SACD). Here you need to select DSD or the program will down-sample the DSD to PCM. For fun you can compare the sound quality of the MSB DSD processing with the computer based downsampling. Even though this processing is very good, it does not come close to the resolution of the MSB processing.
You are now ready to play a DSD file. There are many sources available. Below is a free download you can use to test the system.
DSD is still quite new and most of these players are still in Beta mode, so expect some little problems. We have made the PC installation on an XP machine and Windows 7 machine and all have been perfect. The most common problem is that the computer connection is not bit perfect. PLEASE check this before contacting MSB. It is the first thing we will ask you to do.
Other Music Players
Players are changing fast and more and more should support DSD in the days ahead. We have not made any attempt to test or find the best player. We just have given examples of players that work with the MSB DAC. JRiver does currently work with 64x and 128x DSD.
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