Direct Stream Digital Audio

How does mastering affect the final sound for DSD, vinyl and other formats? Part One

How does mastering affect the final sound for DSD, vinyl and other formats? Part One

Blue Coast Collection 3

Recently several people have asked the question...

Why doees my vinyl sound so much better than the PCM 192 files of the same music?

There isn't a simple answer.  Mastering is only the 3rd of 6 stages of degradation that audio has to deal with... the final stage being the home listening system.  Let's start at your listening systems..the 6th Stage.

Playback of your audio listening system

It's stating the obvious to say that the same audio file (let's choose the  CD / SACD for purposes of this article) will sound different when played back on different CD / SACD players.  Yes, I will repeat... take one  CD / SACD, play it on different  CD / SACD players and it will sound different if coming through the same system.  Why?  All  CD / SACD players are not created equal.  

Manufacturers choose different filters, digital chips, internal wiring, etc to keep within the final expense of the CD/SACD player.  Yes, that means that most probable, the more expensive CD/SACD player has more expensive parts.  It's not always true, so the advice is to listen.

The same thing happens with vinyl.  Vinyl lovers are (for the most part) aware of the chain the gets them to a better sound.  Stylus, Cartridge... etc.  We're not talking about the pressing quality, rpm, etc.  Just the electronics of the record player.

Comparing any high resolution file, whether DSD or high sample rate PCM is affected by the DAC (Digital Audio Converter) on the output.  Some DACs sample all the files to DSD (even PCM), some DACs output what the sample rate is for output choice.  

So How do you compare vinyl with digital or other formats......

We haven't talked about how CD, SACD, Vinyl, high resolution, mp3 are all mastered differently for the same music in order to optimize the playback format.  We'll do that in Part Two.  

You really can't give a comparative opinion unless you have multiple devices of the same format playing back or know your own system so well you can appreciate what your system delivers consistently.  

Don't get me started on streaming and the filtering that happens before it gets through your computer... OUCH!


It's time for PRIME.. Blue Coast PRIME, that is... here's a 50% discount coupon to be a member.


Get Blue Coast Collection 3 with your an annual PRIME membership plus year round 30% discount on any album in the Blue Coast Music store. Check the site for more details of membership benefits.