Upsampling vs. resampling.
That's the playful fun to be had—or obsessive anxiety to be had by—with any of these newfangled musikbücher. OCD types will graduate to Masters in Arms - MIA when it comes to easeful enjoyment. They'll fuss over every track like the absolute polarity brigade does. Even though there's no one-click command, effectuating mode alterations lives only three menu layers down. Executing these commands by remote control takes just a few seconds. It can be done by any fly; er, on the fly. The music keeps going yet something happened. How obvious that something is depends. After exercising my thumb on the 'settings', 'confirm', 'up and 'down' buttons, I concluded that PCM-->DSD rendered transients softer, then threw in a minor reverb effect to inject additional spatiality as though venue ambiance went up. On quality PCM, this softening, sweetening and wetting action struck me as being of lower resolution. This was particularly true for the higher frequencies; for sacrifices in how specific depth layering could get; and for separation in general. In short, I preferred quality Redbook files upsampled to DXD as 352.8kHz or 384kHz. I imagined a slight preference for doing that in PureMusic. Once the production/recording quality of my PCM files dropped, the same DSD effect became an agreeable roundover on bite, hardness and flatness. The action was identical but I responded differently. What had parlayed as a loss with top Redbook where it had obscured very fine detail and energy now made for smoother reads of poorer productions. By the time I dumbed those down to 320kbps or lower MP3 compression—1/4th or less the data density of CD—DSD's gentle and fluffy spatializer and minor darkening effect had become my preference. It rendered such files enhanced, thus more palatable.

With my feelings necessarily couched in conditional language, DSD fanatics will be put off or protest. They might call my hearing faulty, my conclusions erroneous. That's immaterial. You are the arbiter. What sounds best to you on a case-by-case basis? I predict that not only will much depend on your music. It'll hinge also on the overall resolution level of your hifi system. As it happens, this AK4490-based converter leans to the warm and saturated side to begin with. Compared to my reference machines at 3-4 times the Lindemann's sticker, I heard less illumination, less magnification, less energy. In a small way, already in 44.1 as 44.1 playback—gone native—I recognized a mellowing or prettifying effect. It was attractive and a tad veiled; not a contradiction but enabler and result. Given the price discrepancy against my usual stuff involving discrete R2R ladders, Mosfet/valve or otherwise discrete output buffers, this is no criticism at all. Rather, it explains why even without DSD resampling, the musicbook:15 dsd already was a bit gentler on my binary code. It's how I could run the 15 direct into a pair of Nord Acoustics nCore-based 400-watt monos. My review described their signature trait as crystalline clarity. Paired with silver cables and Accuton speakers, that would generally not be a recipe for DAC-direct bliss. The fact that it came off so well confirmed that Lindemann voiced their new digital platform for just a bit of comfort over ultimate speed. It's a far safer bet for satisfaction when—to stay with the car analogy—the opposite often ends up going nowhere fast, i.e. becomes a relentlessly analytical sound. Not here. The musicbook:15 dsd starts out slightly dark and redolent, then injects a click of soft focus and textural looseness when PCM is resampled to DSD. Were you to agree with my findings, you'd listen to your best PCM recordings as maximally upsampled PCM; to anything less than 1411kbps as always DSD; and the in-between fare in either mode because it matters less. In the end you'll write your own ticket. That's the whole point.

DSD as the new analogue? Have you read propaganda to that effect? If so, the above might explain why marketeers coined it. It's not about whether vinyl actually sounds that way. It's enough that common perception believes it does. If accordingly vinyl sounds darker, warmer and juicier than digital, then the DSD fingerprint I detected shows some overlap. Not that it matters. Anyone observant enough recognizes that the hifi industry always looks for the next it thing to renew itself. DVD-A came and went. HDCD did, too. SACD came and, except for Japan, disappeared as well without the broader public noticing. It's only after Sony abandoned the format and streaming liberated majority users from physical media altogether that DirectStream Digital revived as a digital file format. With the advent of resampling, on-chip or software-driven math can generate DSD from PCM at the user's discretion. It matters naught whether SACD discs or native DSD recordings proliferate, remain niche or join the dodo. Without getting onto luxury price turf or proprietary FPGA coding, Lindemann exploit the on-chip options of a Japanese sample-rate converter to mix it up in this current fashion trend without forcing format conversion down our throat. It's laudable, educational and fun all around!

It's ironic how Jochen and I are agreed that the biggest PCM-->DSD benefit is on compressed music*. Those consuming it on an exclusive basis arguably care little about sound quality and all about convenience and getting free tunes. They may not even know what DSD is. Meanwhile those who do care about sound quality would never admit to—and perhaps really do not—listen to anything other than Redbook or higher. Personally, I love Spotify Premium for its interface and content density in the genres I'm most interested in. While I always chase down my favourite music to own and then at CD quality or higher, I not only discover plenty via my 320mbps 'Premium' subscription. If I can't purchase an uncompressed download, I happily listen to such files on the work desk. If the music really comes first, why not? With Lindemann's musicbook:15 dsd, such low-hanging fruit is sweeter. The fact that it's a compact deck and 4-in-1 on functionality is another major plus for such space-restricted apps. Add a set of active boxes from Genelec & Co. Be done. To establish the 15's performance on the bigger map, how would it fare against AURALiC's highly accoladed €3'300 Vega in the main system used in amp-direct mode?

* Just as PureMusic and Audirvana don't sound alike—we invoke different filter algorithms, buffer and dither specifics—one shouldn't expect that all PCM-->DSD would. There'll be different resampling codes where HQPlayer alone adds many user-adjustable parameters whilst Nagra runs on proprietary code from Andreas Koch. Then there's the quality of the critical analog low-pass filter in whatever DAC gets used. My observations here are thus specific to the Lindemann, not meant as any general consensus on this topic. Also, proprietary FPGA-based code can be altered and uploaded by firmware updates, leaving an upgrade path which PS Audio have exploited numerous times already for their everything-DSD machine. Lindemann's is fixed by the Asahi Kasei SRC chip.