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A Music Lover’s Reaction To DSD and Blue Coast Records

A Music Lover’s Reaction To DSD and Blue Coast Records

By Dennis Wade

As far back as I can remember I have had a love affair with music. I was fortunate to develop an approach to music that did not limit me to any particular genre, and because of this I quickly discovered artists and songs that ran the range from country to jazz, classical to rock. I have always been of the opinion that music has the power to transform our mental and emotional states easier than anything else, and have personally experienced the ability of music to alter my state of consciousness quicker and more effectively than any mind alerting drug or even a religious experience has ever done.

And so as I grew older and became aware of the audiophile world it seemed quite natural for me to seek out the best equipment and recordings in order to experience music played back at its best.

Unfortunately, my personal income has for the most part kept me in the lower ranks of what I could afford, with the “ultimate sound” always being kept far out of my reach. I often felt like a penniless child peeking in through the candy shop window at all of the delights within that he knew he could not have. I was constantly being teased and tantalized with reviews in audiophile magazines that spoke of equipment that had the ability to make you feel like the performers were right in the room with you. I tried with what equipment I could afford to achieve this wonder, and found that I could at least touch this, but the true riches always seemed to stay far out of my reach.

However, a few months ago all of this changed. No, I did not win a lottery, gain a higher income or come into an inheritance. Rather, I discovered a new format that was just starting to appear in the digital world   . . . DSD.

For some time now I have been keeping my music in digital files on my computer, mostly because of a lot of moving from place to place, and physical cds and records were much too hard to keep packing up.

I quickly recognized the limits in quality of mp3s and strove to keep my music in FLAC and later in 24/96, using ausbdac and headphones. This was much easier for someone who was a constant mover, and with the right dac and headphones, music could be a very moving experience.

My criteria for music equipment has always been that the sound must be able to involve me emotionally. I have had the experience of listening to expensive equipment at audio trade shows that was very clear and even presented an amazing soundstage, but failed to make me feel like I just wanted to keep listening.

I began to encounter references to DSD recordings and how they sounded more like analog than most digital recordings did, and my curiosity was stirred. Eventually I landed on the website of Blue Coast Records and began to listen to the samples that they offered from their albums. Now, these samples may have been recorded in DSD, but they were not being played back in that resolution from the website. However, even at the lower resolutions I immediately recognized the quality of the recordings, and was drawn into the performances in a way that only a handful of my extensive personal music library had allowed me to experience. I was hooked! I immediately bought a new dac online that could play DSD and bought a couple of albums.

When I played the recordings back in their native DSD, it felt like the owner of that candy shop I had spent so much time wishing I could get into had thrown the door wide open for me and had given me permission to choose whatever I wanted!

Right away I noticed how much more engaging the music was. It didn’t feel like a reproduction. Instead, it felt alive, and I could sense the presence of the performers so much more than before. I have attempted to find words to express what I kept experiencing, and the best analogy I can come up with is that it is the difference between 2D and 3D. I feel like I step into the music more, and get a strong sense of being in the actual room where the performance happened.

Now, I’m not a technician, nor am I familiar with all of the terms that audiophiles use to describe the qualities of their gear or recordings. But I do know when I am being emotionally involved with music, and I can honestly say that that only analog and high digital resolutions have this ability to draw me in in this way. Yes, it also depends upon the quality of your audio gear to be able to faithfully pass this involvement unto the listener, but it has to be in the recording to begin with. And we now live in a golden era of audio where more and more equipment at a lower price range has the ability to do this.

Right now, because I move a lot, my personal equipment consists of my laptop with my music files, a good usbdac that can play DSD and lower resolutions, Sennheiser HD650 headphones and a tube headphone amp, and I can honestly say that these DSD recordings draw me into the music in a way that I have ever rarely experienced before, with the exception of a good live performance. And all of this occurs at a financial range of less than $2000 for the equipment! Would it sound better when played back on $20,000 amps and $30,000 speakers? Undoubtedly it would, and if I ever win the lottery I will let you know! But the thing that amazes me over and over again with these recordings is that I am experiencing my music with a higher level of involvement than I was able to achieve up to this point, even with my very modest dollar investment!

So, what have I learned from all of this?

Well, there has been an audiophile saying that has come up consistently over the years that it all begins with the source. For the most part, I always took this to mean whether you chose analog or digital, or the equipment you chose to play the recording back on, such as which turntable or cd player you used.

But now, my experience with DSD and Blue Coast Records has given me a new definition of what is meant by “source”.

To me, “source” now consists of a few essentials: it begins with the performer. You need to be recording someone who has the talent and the ability to emotionally involve you within the performance.

Then, you need someone who knows how to record well. And in most cases, I would say that this means someone who knows how to record live performances where the musicians are playing together and listening to each other naturally, without headphones. Most studio recordings seem to miss this.

And finally, you need to be recording in a format that has the ability to capture all of this and play it back in a way that can pass this unto the listener.

When you have all of these, then you can produce musical magic! And Blue Coast Records does this in spades! I have yet to hear an album from them that doesn’t immediately grab my attention and draw me in! My hat is off to them, and I am so thankful for their hard work and passion for music that makes this all possible.

One last note, before I close:  there is something else I have found about DSD. I was fortunate to purchase a dac that uses computer software to up-sample all of my formats to DSD and by consistent comparing of song after song I have found that I like having my music up-sampled regardless of the resolution it was recorded at. Now I know that this is a personal thing and that many others prefer to listen to the music played back at the same resolution that it was recorded in. But this has not been my experience. Whenever I compare the same music played at different resolutions I immediately experience a greater sense of openness and 3D effect at DSD, so much so that I now pretty well play all of my music in DSD regardless of its original resolution.

This leads me to say to you, the reader, that if you have been hesitant about moving up to DSD, please go out and sample it like I did. It may well help you to experience your music in a more involving way than before. I know it sure has for me!


For more information on Blue Coast Records visit the website at: