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Why DSD is the Best Archiving Format for Analog Tape

Why DSD is the Best Archiving Format for Analog Tape

Audiophiles come in all shapes and sizes... not just people but formats.  it's confusing and only the most passionate music lovers takes this 'sport' of great sound.  Whether tape, cassette, vinyl, CDs, SACDs, DSD256, FLAC 9624, WAV 192, MQA, mp3, AAC, mp4... you name it, it's out there to confuse us all.

There is the 'digital' camp and the 'analog' camp and the 'just give me the best of it' camp....  that's where me and my crew stands.  Everyone has an opinion but the truth is... "the best" is expensive to record, mix, master, convert and preserve.  Compromises are made for greatness to provide a supply of new music to the audiophile that is 'affordable'.  If everyone could afford the price, hassle and rigor that a 1/2" 2 track tape machine requires, I'd suggest you all go that route.  Sadly, most audio engineers compromise the audio at the first stage of recording.. the multitrack.

Many of us are making strides within organizations like NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Science -- also known as the Grammy organization) to educate engineers on the audiophile audience.  On May 13, 2017, we're thrilled to be part of a day long workshop devoted to Hi Resolution Audio put on by the NARAS organization.  Myself, Marc Finer and many other engineers will be demonstrating methods to achieve Hi Resolution Audio in Stage One of the recording and maintain it to the final delivery format.  Listening stations for comparisons will be offered.  We hope to excite and challenge 10% of those attending to start recording in High Resolution Audio.

I won't quibble with those of you who don't consider analog tape 'not high rez'.  Sorry, I've been recording in analog and digital since the 80's and my personal preference is still analog tape.  Throw your specs at me, it's okay.  I use my ears.  It's my opinion.  End of subject.  Maybe we need a new semantics for "sounds the best".

The next best format in my opinion is DSD - Direct Stream Digital (and that's after 35 years of recording in PCM).  After many tests, DSD 256 comes closest to reproducing the sound of analog tape.  I still prefer the analog, but the next best format is DSD 256.  It makes sense that Sony created the format in the 90's as an archival medium for tape.  

Preserving the masters recorded in tape and delivering to the public in DSD makes sense.  Archiving tape and restoring it to playability is not an easy process to be sure.  It also requires a skilled technician who understands how to calibrate the tape machine to optimze the playback of tape.  DSD is going to capture that calibrated sound.  There's no promise that one engineer's transfer is going to sound the same as another's.  This is where you learn to trust the mastering engineer.  There are less than a dozen engineers I would trust for an accurate master.

Coming up will be segments on the decision making that occurs in mastering for the tape to DSD transfer.

Cookie Marenco
Blue Coast Records