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Most the events of recent years referred to digital sources. Those became the most popular topic for audiophile discussions. And that's a good thing. In front of our very eyes the future of audio unfolds. What's to be decided is how such files should be accessed. It's already clear that files will dominate physical music media except perhaps for vinyl. And it's not just about simple either/or decisions when new ideas come to the fore. One of the latter which already has some history behind it is the streaming of DSD files.

You can find some information on it in my Lumin review which quoted extensively from Joël Chevassus' review here on 6moons. We'll simply add that to for a converter to succeed in this climate, DSD support is almost mandatory. But is DSD one of the truly essential audiophile events? Is it sensible to make it part of your purchasing decision? Or is it nothing but another short-lived fashion trend that'll be forgotten a few years hence?

When I auditioned the Lumin I had no doubts. Properly produced DSD was more relaxed and nicer than PCM even at 24/192. But despite being a reference player, so good that it could become part of my reference system, I still couldn't conclusively identify core differences between DSD and PCM. The Mytek Stereo192-DSD allowed me a closer look at this without intermediaries. And I found a quite serious difference. I could make simple comparisons thanks mostly to the Japanese Net Audio magazine which includes DVD-Rs in their issues with different types of files. As I already own quite a few of these, I could conduct a reliable test. There's one more issue to DSD. It's presently still under debate whether base sampling at 2.8224MHz (so-called DSD64) is sufficient or whether twice the rate ought to be used which studio equipment already does (5.6448MHz or DSD128). Some have recently even proposed the idea of quad DSD or DSD256 [the Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum upsamples all DSD64/128 to DSD256 using a proprietary upsampler – Ed]. For now the first two file types are in actual use and the Mytek plays them. I used digital showcase albums from Opus3 Records to compare DSD64 and DSD128 files.

First something that will otherwise go unnoticed. The Mytek is a truly professional monitoring device. It offers perfect resolution and tonal balance. Although it tends to sacrifice tonal richness for transient speed and great definition, it does it with much grace thanks to fantastic resolution. Huge amounts of information build up a credible picture in front of our eyes at a rather high-end level, not mere hifi. Differences between files were both obvious and repeatable. Hence this is a top-quality monitor system. Comparing 24/192 PCM to DSD was interesting. DSD better showed dynamic changes at the micro level. PCM each time delivered a head-on attack of the music. The difference between 192kHz and 96kHz was significant . The more I listened, the bigger it got. But I still compared apples to apples. DSD was more of a pear. It made for more sophisticated listening. It seemed to better 'understand' natural sound. It better expressed dynamic nuance and how a musician would modulate the instrument. It's of course not just about more detail but the holistic experience. Yet details comprise the experience. If they're correct, we more easily buy into the illusion of 'real'.

DSD seemed to also deliver more natural midrange and bass. I really loved the softness that came from proper attacks, from being sure that what made it sound so good was not just precision but behavior over time where each attack has its phases, not just the initial punch. So DSD sounded softer and more delicate. Each time I played an equivalent PCM file I had to turn down the volume as though the larger dynamic range of DSD allowed it a better utilization [without gain compensation DSD files will be 6dB lower than equivalent PCM to avoid modulator overload - Ed]. I think I finally understand why Japanese audiophiles love SACDs so much and why each true samurai has a katana and a Mytek in his listening room. This sound in many ways is similar to the sound of vinyl, albeit with less coloration. The midrange is still most important in this presentation and carries a lot of energy to sound very rich if not as euphonic as LP. Vinyl still wins on relaying sudden macrodynamic swings however.

There was another element which this comparison allowed me to study up close: treble and spacing. From the first time I listened to DSD files and SACD it was clear that this medium presents treble with a little smear, without proper sharp definition. Most music lovers who happily moved from CDs to SACD accepted this new medium with all its ups and downs including its more delicate not as precise treble. With the Mytek I could easily tell that cymbals on 24/192 PCM sounded more like real cymbals played live or from analogue master tape. DSD made them sound more like what I know from vinyl playback. DSD thus offers the more enjoyable pleasant but less realistic sound. PCM tries to capture the true nature of the sound. None of these solutions are perfect. If asked to choose, I'd still pick analogue tape.

Even so I completely understand those who call DSD the best way to play music. I think that if any part of the system degrades its overall performance, PCM files will show it more clearly. DSD files might help to smooth things over to make your audition more enjoyable. The same goes for the quality of music material. The best PCM productions are amazing in their precision and sound very natural. But should there be even the slightest imperfection in the production process, they'll be exposed. On the other hand even if imperfect, DSD files always sound good except perhaps if first converted from PCM. But that's a different story.

What about the rest? As you see this review drifted towards DSD. That's because the Mytek directed my attention at this topic. It delivered a very clean precise accurate sound like most devices from the professional markets. I do not know how Mytek's engineers managed it—perhaps they listened to prototypes in some top performance system—but the fact is that this sound lacks all harshness and aggression. I felt the same even with the active Sveda Audio monitors. The Mytek still won't match the best digital I know from Ancient Audio, Audio Research or Mark Levinson on richness and transferred energy but it costs less than the power cords I used on those machines.