This post is a result of the latest "weeping and gnashing of the teeth" over on sa-cd.net a couple of weeks ago when it was revealed that many Chandos SACD's previously thought to be originating from DSD masters were, in fact, derived from PCM masters. Although for some reason I only had a couple of Chandos SACD's and thus did not have too much skin in the game (and, in any case, I don't post on sa-cd.net), I had recently downloaded a couple of Chandos 24/96 multi-channel files from The Classical Shop: the Debussy orchestral works with Stéphane Denève and the RSNO, and the Saint-Saëns orchestral works with Neeme Järvi and the RSNO. I had previously downloaded a number of stereo (two-channel) 24/96 files from the same source, and I found these downloads, almost without exception, to be very impressive – particularly the two recent multi-channel downloads.
Just for fun, I use a software program called "Spek" to check out the spectrographs of the various tracks I've downloaded, and every one of the tracks I referred to above looked like a normal PCM derived file, as I expected, because when I checked the equivalent CD's of the files I happened to download, they clearly stated "recorded at 24/96". For example:
(I don't know if you can make it out here, but it's in the upper right quadrant.)
However, there was one exception: the free "test" download of part of a Weinberg symphony. In this file, you could see the dusting of ultra-high-frequency noise (absent on the other files) which can be a tell-tale sign of DSD. (BTW, I should also emphasize that this test file also sounded excellent to me, just like the PCM-derived files.) The interesting thing about this is that Chandos has contracted out the recording of some performances in their catalogue to third parties, and many of these third parties evidently DID record in DSD, as in the case of the Weinberg symphony. So far, it seems to be pretty straightforward: in-house Chandos recordings were PCM, and third-party Chandos recordings could be DSD or PCM.
So here's where it gets confusing. Someone at Chandos wasn't focusing on their SACD booklet information, because, in the upper right-hand corner of the back of their SACD's, there's a statement, "recorded in DSD" – even for their in-house productions. For example:
(Again, it's hard to make out, but it's in the upper right quadrant.)
This was what provoked all the outrage at sa-cd.net: that Chandos were "lying" to their customers about the origin of their SACD's, i.e., they SAID they recorded in "DSD", but they USED "PCM". Especially offended were the "DSD only" listeners, who have a penchant for expressing their disdain for PCM. ;-)
But wait – there's more confusion! Let's return to The Classical Shop downloads for a minute. Before this information broke on sa-cd.net, I had assumed that all of the hi-rez multi-channel downloads EXCEPT for the Debussy and Saint-Saëns albums referred to above had been recorded in DSD – because that's what it said on the backs of the SACD cases for the equivalent albums. But the verbiage on The Classical Shop site said (for each multi-channel album) "Recorded in 24 Bit / 96Khz". OK, I think I can now accept that in view of the recent "revelations". However, when you check out the Weinberg Symphony No. 3 on that same site, it ALSO says, "Recorded in 24 Bit / 96Khz", despite what my spectrograph of the test file from that album seems to indicate!
So, as a customer, what are you supposed to do? If you say, "Who cares whether it's PCM or DSD!", I say, "Where's the fun in that? Inquiring minds want to know!" So, in an effort to put the truth out before the public (by endangering my cash!), I risked all of £19.99 to download the Suk album with Belohlávek and the BBC Symphony - it took seven hours. (Remember, it's 24/96, 5.1, and one of the tracks had a problem downloading and I had to do it over.) I've been able to listen to only one track so far, but I've seen the spectrographs for all the tracks, and there is no dusting of ultra-high-frequency noise, as seen on the Weinberg test track. My verdict: it's likely to be a PCM recording. But remember that the Weinberg album (which is also available in multi-channel) seems to be a DSD original.
Strangely enough, I had actually posted on The Classical Shop site about a month ago, stating that if they were going to offer 24/96 downloads, then they should use 24/96 masters - it turns out that, for the most part, that's what I now think they were doing, but I just didn't know it when I posted there - and apparently, neither did they (at least until recently)!
So what are our lessons learned from all this? Gee, I dunno. I think with a lot of these hi-rez formats (DSD, 24/96 and 24/192 PCM), many of us are trying to correlate what we hear with the method or type of file used for the recording, but it seems to me that we're now almost at the stage where the differences are so minute that arguing so passionately about the sonic merits of PCM to the exclusion DSD (or vice versa) is the equivalent of arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
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Topic - Chandos Masters: DSD or PCM? Real confusion! - Chris from Lafayette 16:52:27 07/05/12 (10)
- Sony/Philips BS - Tony Lauck 14:19:20 07/07/12 (3)
- Tony - are you referring to the Acousence Mahler 6? - Chris from Lafayette 14:47:00 07/07/12 (2)
- RE: Tony - are you referring to the Acousence Mahler 6? - Tony Lauck 15:04:57 07/07/12 (1)
- Thanks, Tony! [nt] - Chris from Lafayette 15:11:29 07/07/12 (0)
- RE: Chandos Masters: DSD or PCM? Real confusion! - Bruce B 09:40:12 07/06/12 (1)
- Ah, yes - the real question! ;-) - Chris from Lafayette 10:47:30 07/06/12 (0)
- It's like wine - Thornhill 20:25:47 07/05/12 (1)
- RE: It's like wine - ted_b 21:08:02 07/05/12 (0)
- RE: Chandos Masters: DSD or PCM? Real confusion! - ted_b 17:37:32 07/05/12 (1)
- "If it's DSD, then let me hear it in native DSD. if it's PCM, then let me hear it in native PCM" - Exactly [nt - Chris from Lafayette 18:06:30 07/05/12 (0)