Why do we need a DSD-capable DAC to play back DSD files, rather than use CPU decoding?

E.g. we don't need an mp3-compatible DAC to play back mp3 files on a PC, because the CPU handles the task of decoding mp3 just fine; converts them to a PCM stream and sends them to a regular DAC. Why would DSD content be any different?

1 Answer 1


It is possible to decode DSD and send it to your normal DAC. It will make a sound, as good as your normal DAC can do. Do a search for "dsd to wav converter". I am not clear if it can be done in realtime or if you need to convert to a file, probably depending of how much oomph your computer has.

But the "hifi people" say that this misses the point of listening to DSD. The magic comes from using the specific DSD equipment which will somehow sound even better than any standard DAC. Well, as they say in the car adverts, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Addendum: Note that mp3 is compressed format where information in the sound is removed by purpose. DSD is non-compressed making the data file a lot larger. Some people say the can hear the difference, but to me, if you play back on your phone speaker, not so much.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.