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DSD Primer
« on: January 07, 2006, 12:37:43 PM »

Super Audio CD is the high-resolution music
release format developed by Sony and Philips
to deliver a new type of digital recording
known as DSD – Direct Stream Digital. In
contrast to PCM digital, DSD is a one bit
digital stream sampled at a very high speed,
2.8 MHz. Absent are the artifacts and the
“digital” sound found in 44.1kHz/16 bit (CD
quality) or 24 bit digital systems. Engineers,
artists, and reviewers have described DSD as
sounding very “analog-like.” By sampling the
signal with a single bit converter at a rate over
2.8 Megahertz, DSD offers an extremely wide
dynamic range (over 120dB) and extended
frequency response, rivaling or surpassing the
best analog and 96kHz digital recording systems.
An SA-CD is, physically, a DVD disc, but
one encoded in DSD. An SA-CD can hold a
stereo mix and a multichannel mix; including
a CD-format stereo mix on a separate layer
makes these discs compatible with all existing
CD players. (The separate layer makes it a
“hybrid” SA-CD.)
The three audio streams – stereo DSD,
multichannel DSD and CD – do not have to
contain the same program material. In fact,
some labels view the 4.7GB DSD layer as an
ideal medium to issue several CDs’ worth of
stereo recordings on one disc. Theoretically,
the SA-CD can hold 256 minutes of high-resolution
stereo; the longest-playing SA-CD
we’ve heard is the Police “Live” at144 minutes.
The SA-CD layer is accessed on disc players
that are specifically equipped for SA-CD playback.
Sony, Philips, Linn, Classe, Marantz,
Accuphase, Denon, Kenwood, Aiwa, and
Sharp all make SA-CD/CD and/or SACD/
DVD-Video players; Pioneer, Marantz,
Onkyo and Integra all offer “universal” players
for CD, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and SACD
playback. The list of manufacturers grows
daily, as the price range and options expand,
with players now available under $200 (US).
In addition to the benefits of high-resolution
and multichannel sound, the SA-CD technology
is extremely secure, with multiple layers of
copy-protection and encryption built into the
To summarize, a Super Audio CD is a
high-capacity disc that plays back DSD
audio. A variety of production scenarios
using commonly available production gear
can be employed to take advantage of the
sonic benefits of DSD and the SA-CD.
BUT to issue a SA-CD release, at some
point your audio must become DSD data,
and it must be specifically mastered for the
SA-CD format. Mastering for SA-CD
release is done with specialized equipment:
recorders, converters, the mastering workstation,
even the tape drive to record the
master. This suite of equipment is found in
the studios of major record labels worldwide
and in a handful of commercial mastering
labs in the U.S.
DVD-Audio is a new member of the successful
DVD family that brings high-fidelity sound to
the format. DVD is a video-oriented medium
that is capable of carrying surround audio and
high-resolution stereo audio; DVD-Audio uses
the same disc with encoding schemes that
emphasize the audio elements. It’s a flexible
format that enables the producer to include
high-resolution stereo (up to 192k/24 bit
PCM) and 5.1 surround (up to 96k/24 bit
PCM). Because it is an A/V medium, menus
and other visual elements become part of the
production equation. DVD Audio players are
needed to play back high-resolution audio on
DVD-A discs.
To summarize, DVD-A is a higher-bit
rate, multichannel implementation of the
PCM digital technology represented by
audio CDs.
Super Audio CD
is one of two new high-resolution audio discs on the market.

For the full technical brief on
this breakthrough technology, you
may view this url:
SonicStudio offers a graphical
presentation of similar information,
plus the SA-CD project
workflow, at
JANUARY 2 0 0 4 a i r s h o w m a s t e r i n g ©2003, 2004 1
Most SA-CD titles are hybrid discs (with a
DSD layer and a CD layer), playable on SACD-
equipped players and CD players.
Sony/Philips specifically developed the hybrid
disc in recognition of the demand by
consumers that the format be backward-compatible.
Even as listeners invest in the SACD/
home theater array, they still listen to CDs
on portable players and in cars. The hybrid
disc technology makes the music fully available
to the listener in any setting.
The hybrid disc also solves the practical
problem of maintaining dual inventory; one
release serves many markets.
Because CD technology is not secure and
its contents cannot be protected against piracy,
the CD layer of ay hybrid disc is as prone to
theft as any standard CD, even as the SA-CD
layer is robustly protected. If security is themost
important consideration, a single layer
disc may be the answer.
To take advantage of SA-CD’s high resolution,
your music should be recorded and mixed
using high resolution systems. There are several
strategies you can consider:
Record using a DSD recorder. This is referred
to as “pure DSD” and is popular among
audiophile record labels.
There are several recorders and workstations
available that record directly in DSD
• The Genex 9000 series digital recorders are
available with internal converters.
• The Tascam DS-D98 is an extension of the
Tascam DA78 family; it uses standard
DTRS tape for recording 2 channels of
DSD, and includes built-in converters.
• The SADiE, Pyramix and Sonoma workstations
all record multichannel DSD, with
external A/DSD and DSD/A converters.
• Prism, dCS, Meitner and Genex all offer
high quality external DSD converters.
All of the gear described here is available to
buy or to rent. Airshow has the DS-D98 and
Genex 8500 to play back mixes received from
our clients, a Sony Sonoma, and Prism and
Meitner converters.
Record on the equipment of your choice, and then
mix to DSD. High-resolution PCM (24 bit/88
kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, or 192 kHz sampling
rates) can be produced on several popular
workstations like ProTools HD, Nuendo, and
Digital Performer. Use all of your favorite hi-res
PCM and analog mixing tools, then use a
DSD recorder to store the mixes for SA-CD
mastering. The same recorders and converters
described above can be used in this scenario.
Mix to high-resolution PCM or analog (yes, it’s
hi-res, too!) and leave the final DSD conversion
‘til mastering.High-resolution PCM recorder
options are numerous: high-res multitrack
recorders like the Tascam DA-98HR; or hard
disk recorders from Mackie, Radar, Alesis,
Tascam and others. High resolution digital
mixes can be delivered to the mastering studio
as WAV, AIFF, or SDII files on CDR, DVD-R,
hard drive, and other formats.
Studio equipment manufacturers are working
to give engineers and producers the full range
of digital production tools they need in the
DSD format. Sony has created modular
"building blocks" for eq, i/o, mixing, etc,
which will speed up the process of bringing
DSD production and mastering tools to market.
JANUARY 2 0 0 4 a i r s h o w m a s t e r i n g ©2003, 2004
Single-layer vs. Hybrid release
What are the ways to produce for SACD release?
What about DSD production tools?
To illuminate the marketing aspect of this decision, visit
and view the tags that accompany the hybrid and the single-layer SA-CD releases.
For information on commercial rental of
DSD gear, please visit
“DSD = Doesn’t Sound Digital”
— Bob Dawson, Bias Recording
DSD as a master delivery format
The Producers and Engineers Wing
of the Recording Academy released
comprehensive guidelines for digital
deliverables in 2003; titled “Master
Delivery Recommendations,” it
acknowledges that DSD’s high resolution
is “future-proof,” as source
media for a variety of release media.
The P&E guidelines find DSD is
an acceptable delivery format, even
for non-SA-CD releases. You may
download a copy of the complete
document at
Sony Music and Universal Music are making
extensive use of SA-CD to generate new interest
in catalog recordings. The high-profile release
of the ABKCO Rolling Stones recordings,
“Dark Side of the Moon,” and the early
Dylan catalog have heightened listener – and
label – interest. According to one label
executive working on them, SA-CD reissues
can be tricky. If it’s a well-known recording,
and reissued on CD already, listeners will come
to the SA-CD reissue familiar with a version
that was probably digitally edited or noise
reduced. The artist and label may want to
evaluate the DSD-remastered version in comparison
with existing remastered versions to
choose an SA-CD reissue that best represents
the music. (If the reissue is significant enough,
a test pressing of a DSD-mastered version and
a PCM- mastered version may be warranted.)
To summarize, for a stereo SA-CD release,
the process is similar to that of a stereo CD
release, though using specialized DSD gear
in the process. Options range from end-toend
(or “pure”) DSD, to mixing (digital or
analog) to DSD media, to DSD mastering
of analog or digital mixes.
A compelling reason for listeners to invest in SACD
and DVD players is surround. SA-CD is a
wonderful medium to experience surround.
The Super Audio CD can hold both a highresolution
5.1 surround master plus a high-resolution
stereo master of 74 minutes of audio
on its SA-CD layer (in addition to the stereo
CD layer of the hybrid disc).
A surround release involves the following steps:
1. Record
2. Mix to high-res stereo
3. Mix to 6 channels (or fewer – the SACD
reissue of Mike Oldfield’s classic
“Tubular Bells” is in 4.0). The options
described above for delivery of high-resolution
digital stereo mixes are also appropriate
for delivering multichannel mixes.
4. Master for stereo
5. Master for multichannel
For mastering and editing multichannel
audio, DSD workstation options are the Sony
Sonoma, SADiE, and Pyramix. SonicStudio’s
will be available soon.

JANUARY 2 0 0 4 a i r s h o w m a s t e r i n g ©2003, 2004
What about SACD reissues?
What issues does multichannel audio present?
Multichannel production is beyond the
scope of this brief. There are many good
resources on the topic. The monthly
Surround Pro is the primary publication for
the working audio pro. Qualified
subscriptions are free:
Dolby Labs offers an extensive publication,
“5.1 Channel Music Production
Guidelines.” Among the useful topics covered
in detail are the Center and LFE channels,
monitors and subwoofers, delay and
bass management. Dolby offers forms for
documenting multichannel sessions. You
may download a copy of Issue 2 at
Bobby Owsinski of Surround Associates
has written and taught extensively on the
topic, and offers an instructional DVD:
Rich Tozzoli is another prolific writer and
active surround mixer. His site is
Oliver Masciarotte offers an excellent
reading list and comprehensive production
resource links in his Info Annex:
DSD is the first digital format I’ve heard
that actually surpasses analog performance.
We’ve made comparisons of the direct mic
feed vs. analog tape vs. the DSD
recorder. The sound of the DSD is virtually
indistinguishable from the direct
mic feed. It’s very exciting that the
sound we capture at the session can be
reproduced without compromise in the
listener’s home.
—Joe Harley, Producer
The mastering process involves two parts:
• the creative aspect of equalization, making
the disparate mixes flow like a record,
• the technical aspect of encoding for the
release medium, and the creation and quality
control of the master parts.
SA-CD is a new format, and many of the
tools that mastering engineers use every day to
master CD releases still need to be developed
for DSD. Fortunately, the EQ included workstations
like the Sony Sonoma sounds very
good. The Sonoma also includes a comprehensive
virtual mixing desk and router, making
it ideal for mastering SA-CDs totally in the
DSD domain. Airshow is one of a handful of
commercial studios with the Sonoma
Another option for SA-CD mastering is
using the tried and true analog tools – EQ,
compression, limiting, etc. A well-equipped
mastering studio will be able to offer several
options for mastering an SA-CD release:
processing completely in the DSD domain,
using analog processing and converting back
to DSD, or converting from high-resolution
Master Parts
When the mastering session is over, the
reference recordings, masters and backups are
created. For a CD release these typically are:
• A reference disc for the client to review,
• A master (disc or tape) for manufacturing,
• A safety master,
• An archive of the session data
SA-CD releases add several items to this list:
• A reference of the high-res master(s)
(surround and/or stereo) for client
• The SA-CD cutting master for the DSD
stereo and multichannel elements (AIT
format digital tape),
• Safety copy of the DSD master (AIT format
digital tape),
• Archive of the DSD session data (AIT
format digital tape).
Quality Control of the Masters
Best practices for CD mastering involves QC
at three stages of the process:
• An engineer listens to the real-time creation
of the master,
• The master is analyzed by computer for data
• The master is listened to end-to-end on
Best practices for SA-CD mastering
involves all of those plus these additional
• An engineer listens to the real-time
creation of each of the masters (for example,
2 stereo and 1 multichannel),
• The multichannel master is played back
through the workstation, and each pair of
channels is listened to end-to-end on
headphones; count three passes to QC the
multichannel master.
JANUARY 2 0 0 4 a i r s h o w m a s t e r i n g ©2003, 2004
Mastering in Greater Detail
“A paradigm shift creates new
opportunities; with SA-CD, a
newer and smaller label has a
chance to get out in front.
The future of multichannel
listening is in SA-CD. It’s better
than any competing format at
capturing the character of
each voice and instrument.”
— Warren Sampson, founder of Artegra Records
Remember CD Text? This little-used feature
was designed into the original CD specification
to provide the display of text information on
the front of a CD player, describing the disc
and the tune. It’s back in the SA-CD spec.
SA-CD Text display is included on most SACD
players. Displayable text fields include
Disc Title, Artist, Genre, Track Title, Track
Performer and Track Time. ISRC codes, if
used by the label, are encoded here. An SACD
Text file is created using a simple, proprietary
editing program, which displays pages
where one keys in the information. Each
playlist requires its own file: the hybrid CD
layer, the hi-res stereo playlist and the multichannel
playlist. Plan into your production
schedule the time to obtain and verify this
Authoring is the final step of the master creation
process. Authoring combines the various
elements - stereo DSD audio, surround DSD
audio, and SA-CD text to create a “cutting
master” which is sent to the SA-CD replication
plant. Authoring is also the step where some
of the encryption measures are added to the
disc. Ask your mastering lab and your manufacturer
for quotes on authoring.
Airshow Mastering provides SA-CD authoring
services even if you’ve mastered your audio
Because Sony and Philips have precluded the
availability of a “SA-CD-r,” there is no chance
to check a “ref ” of the full product, except as
the result of a test pressing. This is an optional
service, generally offering around 10 check
discs for your review. Check with your
manufacturer to determine cost and the time
this may add to your schedule.
Disc manufacturers are gearing up to handle
this new medium. Hybrid disc manufacturing
is available from plants in Europe, Japan, and
the U.S. Domestic hybrid disc manufacturing
is available at DACD/Sony and Crest National.
SACD Manufacturing
SACD Test Pressing
SACD Authoring To keep abreast of domestic manufacturing,
check in with Oasis Disc Manufacturing at or write to
You may download the Sony SA-CD Text Editor software
For Airshow technical information on authoring and source file formats,
please go to and click on the “Surround and Hi-Res”
button at the top of your screen.
JANUARY 2 0 0 4 a i r s h o w m a s t e r i n g ©2003, 2004 5
Over 2,000,000
SA-CD-capable players have
been sold.
Over 1,500 SA-CD titles are
available worldwide.
Super Audio CDs are sold where regular CDs
are sold – more or less. The “less” is physical
retail; high-resolution sections are small, and
SA-CDs share space in them with DVDAudio
discs. Because hybrid discs are singleinventory,
most titles are found under the
artist’s section with their CD releases.
The “more” is Internet sales. At the cutting
edge of SA-CD acceptance, early adopters are
often audiophiles, or other committed listeners
who have grown accustomed to finding their
music online. Sony helps the seeker find SACD
titles with a well-organized on-line store
(below). Per-disc prices for SA-CD
releases range from $16 to $24 – and
occasionally more.
“Our first multichannel releases
were pristine recordings, and
that’s what SA-CD is all about:
sonic purism without the hassle
of video and graphics content.
We mixed in our familiar highresolution
PCM environment,
then converted to DSD in
mastering, a workable strategy
that gave us world-class results
– and a Surround Music Award
nomination for “Un Segundo
Una Vida.”
- Brian Mackewich,
THE ARTIST’S AND PRODUCER’S co-founder, 333 Entertainment
Selling Super Audio CDs
When you visit, you can search by format; try SACD or Super Audio. Most
of the currently available titles are on has an extensive list
of titles, many as special order.
In addition to the mass market online music outlets, look for sales at these sites: This is a Sony-operated site (not to be confused with Sony
Music) which sells SA-CDs exclusively. The site has virtually every SA-CD title
manufactured, and SA-CD players.
• The online site for the Acoustic Sounds catalog, this
audiophile retailer has many SA-CDs plus vinyl and audiophile CDs, as well as players
and other listening gear. The online site for the Music Direct catalog, this audiophile site
has SA-CDs DVD-As, vinyl, CDs and various players and listening gear. An audiophile site with SA-CDs, DVD-As, vinyl and CDs. This online publication has updated information on
high-res releases and playback gear all in one place; even better, it has links to all SA-CD
label websites; at last count, HFR tallied almost 200 SA-CD record labels.
JANUARY 2 0 0 4 a i r s h o w m a s t e r i n g ©2003, 2004
In this brief, we’ve identified a number of
variables that will affect the budget for an SACD
project: pure DSD vs. traditional
production strategies, stereo vs. stereo + multichannel,
hybid vs. single-layer. At some peril,
we offer these broad guidelines for budgeting:
• For a hybrid stereo release, plan to spend
1.5X to 2X what you would spend with a pro
mastering lab for a standard CD release.
• For a hybrid stereo and multichannel
release, plan to spend 3X to 4X what you
would spend with a pro mastering lab for a
standard CD release.
The cost increments are due to increased
studio time; the higher cost of the AIT tape
used for master and archive parts; and the
additional time to QC multichannel masters.
The categories of expense at the manufacturing
stage are:
• Authoring ($300-$500 per title) This may
also be available from your mastering lab;
Airshow offers authoring.
• Glass Mastering (up to $500 per title)
• Test pressing (optional, often bundled in
the glass mastering charge)
• Manufacturing (hybrid or single-layer)
• Packaging (“super jewel box” or conventional)
As domestic manufacturing ramps up,
prices will change. For now, expect to pay
around $2.00 per packaged disc, depending,
as with CDs, on packaging choices and
especially, on quantity. Check frequently for
The best-planned budget is one developed
following consultations on production, mastering
and manufacturing. Because so many aspects
of this new medium are in flux, we recommend
a budget and schedule reality check for every
Preparing a Budget for Your SACD Release
SACD Manufacturing Costs
Airshow Mastering engineers and
staff welcome the opportunity to
consult and work with you on
your first – or next – SA-CD
release. For a partial listing of
Airshow’s SA-CD credits and to
review our comprehensive SA-CD
and multichannel resources,
please visit the website:
Please feel welcome to call Chief
Engineer David Glasser or
General Manager Ann Blonston
at 888.545.9035.
To receive updates of SA-CD
information, please email:
For Airshow technical
specifications and recommendations
for high-res mixing and source
file formats for SA-CD mastering
and authoring, please go to www. and click
on the “Surround and Hi-Res”
button at the top of your screen.
JANUARY 2 0 0 4 a i r s h o w m a s t e r i n g ©2003, 2004


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Re: DSD Primer
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2006, 07:44:43 AM »


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