Conversion to DSD: Does It Eliminate Digital Glare?

Hi All

  This question is for people that have gear capable of converting vanilla redbook pcm CD files in to DSD.
To my knowledge this would include the Sony HAP ES and certain DACs, such as one that I am interested in, the Mytec Manhatten.
   I currently have two highly resolving CD Players, the Oppo 105 and the Denon "Anniversary Edition" SACD/CD player.  I listen to Classical Music about 99.9% of the time.  Rest of the system is Parasound PreAmp JC-1 and Power Amp A-21 with B&W 803- Diamond speakers; Bluesound Vault-2 and Node-2;
and a MacBook Air via Thunderbolt/Firewire adapter into a 10 year old Apogee firewire dac.
  My complaint is that some CDs, particularly in full Orchestral passages, tend to harden, particularly the strings.  My SACDs (I have over 100) don't do that, and I tend to attribute this to the DSD used in SACDs.
I am therefore interested if converting vanilla rebook CDs to DSD tends to eliminate this problem.    
I do not believe it will - I think your problems are probably more to do with
1, Cables
2. acoustic treatments
3. speaker placement

I’ve invested a considerable amount of time and effort (and some $$$) in all of these for considerable rewards.

I first focussed first on cables and then on acoustic treatments and finally speaker placement.

All of these achieved far more than converting from one file type to another - in fact I’m still playing the original file types & resolutions that I have always played with the very same DAC.

My cables are what I consider to be the mainstay of my system and the acoustic treatments - the icing on the cake

Speaker placement - the extremely fine tuning for superb imaging

My classical collection leaves nothing left to be desired - even from systems costing sever thousand $$$ more than my own very modest system

If you are still playing the original file types, and the same dac, then how do you know it's the cables?  I haven't found that cables and room treatments make the slightest bit of difference for this issue.  My SACDs sound great but some--not all-- of my CDs tend to harden up in loud passages.

Herr Mahler, I bought a Sony 5400 ES back about a year after they came out.  I noticed the same thing.  SACD's almost all sounded far better than redbook, with any digital glare type artifacts being rare.  I began to invest heavily in classical SACDs.  After I owned the Sony for a year, I sent it to ModWright.  It came back much better overall, but particularly notable was how much it elevated redbook.  I'd say 65-70% of my redbook cds were within a stone's throw of SACD.  Digital glare was not totally absent from all CDs but was substantially reduced in most cases. Only a few of my redbook CDs remained objectionable.  In May 2014 I bought a Sony HAPZ1.  I was immediately impressed by this unit.  After a couple weeks of burn in, the stock HAPZ1's overall performance was nearly on a par with the modded 5400ES, and I noted that some redbook CDs that were virtually unlistenable on the 5400 were now quite acceptable when upsampled.  I subsequently sent the HAPZ1 to ModWright for modification, which of course, improved it further.
I have owned two Denon players in the past.  Both of them were highly resolving, but also prone to digital glare.  I am also not a big fan of B&W speakers.  I could imagine the B&Ws combined with a Denon might be problematic. 
You have a couple of options.  Since you already own an Oppo, you could send it to ModWright.  For a similar investment, you could buy an HAPZ1.  Based on my experience and overall satisfaction with my HAPZ1, I might recommend that approach. In fact, my Modwright 5400 is rarely used. There was a bit of a learning curve with the HAPZ1, and it certainly takes a while to burn and transfer an extensive library.  The HAPZ1 firmware is much better than the initial iterations, and it is nice being able to browse my entire library via my tablet instead of hunting through a bunch of CDs, no matter how well organized they may be.  
Mahler123 - I've just completed about two years of auditioning different cables, more recently implementing acoustic treatments and lastly, the final repositioning of my speakers.

During that time I have experienced what I refer to as "glare" at varying levels and with each change I made, while playing tracks having various file types (WAV, FLAC, DSD, AAC, MP3 etc.. and sample rates from 16/44 to 24/192.

A few tracks are in a couple of different formats and a couple of tracks were recorded at different sample rates - each seemed to present a similar amount of "glare" with each of the cables tried.

Surprisingly, I also found the level of "glare" varied each time I applied room treatments. I believe the final improvements were due to the reduction in reflected waves bouncing around the room, which would indicate that they too seemed to effect the "glare" that I was experiencing.

Once I had the acoustic treatments sorted - all that was left was to reposition my speakers for a final improvement in "glare"

So perhaps what I was experiencing and believing to be "glare" is not the same thing you are hearing.

From your description - "the hardness in full orchestral pieces" is also what I experienced - along with some very shrill moments on solo violin in the upper register and some really awful moments when sopranos hit their higher register with gusto - they now all seem to have been resolved and sound much smoother and extremely detailed AND - I can play the music at significantly higher volumes :-)

So perhaps we are talking about two different things - but what I experienced during this period on my system - neither the format or the sample rates seemed to make a scrap of difference to the particular degradation in sound that I experienced.

I hope you find a resolution to the issue, because what I experienced was very unpleasant and quite frustrating.


Many SACD/CDPs do not play Redbook to its full potential. DSD does not play a part in this, good Redbook playback is due to jitter control and often non-upsampling of Redbook files. Try auditioning a multi bit DAC, that will solve your digital glare problem.
My system is computer fronted, I eliminated glare by swapping my playback software to Jplay. DAC is NOS/Redbook only. Only CD player on hand is mass market from the 80s which sounds like ice. Perhaps it's not the DAC but CD playback?
Just get the latest pro audio DACs, they just works. Cheap too.
Hey browns fan
I had read your thread about the Sony before I posted my query and was intrigued. That was one reason that I referenced the Sony, because it up samples all recordings to DSD. I already own the
Blue Sound so I am not interested in another player that archives CDs. Instead, i was hoping that if a dac that converts everything to DSD (and of course the Sony cannot be used as a dac because it has no digital inputs) would improve the sound of the Bluesound (which is actually quite good in it’s own right). Modding my Oppo might be worth considering. Sorry about Johnny Manziel.
Willi--ok, I’ll take your word that your cable experiments have worked for you, and I haven’t spent nearly the time or money that you have probably spent. I have, however, tried about 4 different cables and a couple of room treatments to no avail. I decided ultimately to use Nordost Blue Heaven because they are neutral to my ears (all that I want a cable to be) and sanely priced. They are unshielded but since I don’t have a TV in this system no big deal.
coli-my present dac is a pro piece, and I love it, but it’s getting long in the tooth. Mytec Manhatten is basically a pro piece as well, and it ain’t cheap, but it’s creator basically invented DSD and it uses firewire, which I much prefer to usb
I would agree with those above who say no. Experimented with DSD upscaling quite a bit.

I've also never quite heard this "digital glare" -- and suggest examining other factors, like the knowledgeable guys above have suggested. Maybe someone can enlighten me on this. 

looking forward to this discussion -- interesting question. 
What produces glare? The usual suspects include but are not limited to comb filter effects (room acoustics), failure to isolate the player and other electronics from seismic type vibration, background scattered CD laser light interference, directionality of wire in fuses and cables, micro arcing in non audio wall outlets around the house, non pristine connections in system, the influence of magnetic fields produced by large transformers on everything in proximity to the transformer, undamped capacitors, undamped electron tubes, undamped CD transport mechanism, undamped circuit boards.

Digital Glare = CDs masters in the 8o’s

DSD conversion will not eliminate it!

You guys mean aliasing then?

"a nasty high-frequency ringing called Aliasing—a special analog lowpass filter is needed during recording, just prior to sampling—the infamous steep “brickwall” (anti-aliasing) filter, set at half the Sample Rate. In the past, these filters caused audio degradation (unwanted phase shift), since they acted on frequencies very close to the highest perceptible audio frequencies. It plagued the earliest CD recordings"
DSD conversion cannot reduce glare on its own. Nor can any other digital format, process or protocol reduce glare on its own, period - hirez, lowrez or norez. The only thing a digital format, process or protocol can guarantee is the presence of noise - (as in mostly digital noise) and it’s the noise that causes the glare. Get rid of enough of the noise and there’s no more glare at all. The method I use means you would not have to replace or upgrade Any of your current digital gear in order to solve the problem.

I’d say the good news is that once you’ve properly gotten rid of the noise (while doing no harm whatsoever to the signal), you discover that you’ve not only eliminated the glare, but you’ve also improved the system sound quality in all kinds of other unexpected ways and to a larger degree than you might have any reason to suspect. Glare is simply the most obvious sign of overall distortion, but I find it’s actually just the tip of the iceberg. In this pursuit of eliminating glare, improvements are also made to the bass, midrange, sound stage, tone, timbre, color, textures, resolution, harmonics - in short, everything.

The bad news with this approach *can* mean that the cost of treating the gear can, in some cases, exceed the price of the digital gear, but since the improvements are substantial and across the board, this also serves, roughly, as an alternate means of upgrading your system...but, without ever buying any new components. In any case, what I’d say is that this approach eliminates though, is certainly the endless searching for a "glare-free digital sound". But, you apply the treatment with several different devices that are applied in several different locations in both your home and in your system. That’s just necessary to attack the noise at their sources in the home. But, as an example of costs, my $1400 CDP uses 2 active platforms, one above the player and one below. This is said to drop measurable noise inside the CDP somewhere between 150 and 200 extremely nice sonic result, but the price was $2050 (although they’ve come out recently with a new platform that you only need one of to reduce noise to about -200 db for about, I *think*, $1100). And this does not include the AC treatment that gave me terrific improvements on top of that, which cost around $150. And, since we’re talking about improving everything about the sound, that could either be looked at as the endgame or just for openers, depending on what you’e looking to accomplish on your own budget.

I came across this company (Alan Maher Designs, in 2010 and have been steadily acquiring devices from there since then. I started small (first purchase was $25), and took things very slowly until I kinda got my bearings on the performance, but have been extremely and consistently impressed. Over the last 6 years I have spent more than $10k on the stuff and that to me is not chump change. I know I wouldn’t have wound up doing that unless I could come to count on increased performance with every single purchase, every time out...although the elimination of digititis I pretty much accomplished at somewhere between $2-3k-dollar mark, but I kept on going because I fell stone in love with what all of it was doing for everything else. I have no association with Alan other than being a very satisfied customer.

The reason you have not heard much of anything about AMD is that the company has not yet officially launched. There is a facebook group by invitation only that I’ve been a member of since 2010 with typically around 300 or so members worldwide. In exchange for our getting good discounts on the new stuff AMD keeps coming out with, Alan gets feedback from users with real-world installations in a variety of electrical grids all over so he can make adjustments, improvements, come up with new apps or whatever. A launch date hasn’t been announced yet, but I expect some word sometime in 2017 possibly...or maybe later this year even, but right now Alan says his r&d has become such a juggernaut that he is rethinking in terms of how far he wants to be ahead of his competition when he decides to open. His products will run the gamut from over $1k each to likely somewhere well under $50 each. This answer to the problem of digital glare is not available to everyone yet, but the day is coming - it’s just a question of exactly when.


I would suggest you consider an outboard DAC and pay particular attention to Johnny Darko's DAC index and comments on CD playback . 16 bit music can be irritating on a poor recording but if well recorded a good DAC will allow you to enjoy it. Some DAC designs accentuate the shortcomings of 16 bit recordings, others are at least neutral. Up-converting to me = equalization... you gain improvement in one area and loose in another
In the FWIW column, listen to the Cranberries if you want a test disc for 16 bit shrillness... if your DAC can tame them without loosing detail, you have a keeper
 One of the recordings that bothers me the most with glare is an early 80s CD transfer of and Ormandy/Philadelphia recording of Sibelius Second Symphony (early 60s recording).  Yesterday I was playing the same recording from a Japanese Ormandy collection, presumably remastered transfer (I can't read the liner notes since they are all in Japanese)
and lo and behold, most of the glare isn't present.  
Does conversion to DSD eliminate glare?
Conversion of PCM to 128/256/512 DSD is desirable with delivering a more accurate analogue signal to your Pre Amp/Receiver/Amp and more closely emulates the analogue signal delivered from a TT or Reel to Reel setup, while endeavoring to ensure accurate translation of the original source recording to an analogue signal.

So the question you can ask is... can a TT or Reel to Reel (analogue) setup sound GLARY? ... of course, the answer is YES :)

You always need to pay attention to your setup, especially your speaker placement/setup and room setup :)

It would appear that translation/upsampling of PCM to 256/512 DSD is (can be) a good idea, especially if no Dac is used and the noise can be effectively dealt with (cleanly removed) :)
mahler123 I am interested in further discussion insofar as I have a system very similar to
yours...B&W802D2's etc....and listen more or less exclusively to classical music.  I had a Denon 1713UD universal player and replaced it with the Oppo 105d, which improved on clarity at the expense of harshness.  I then added a Luxman DA-06, based like the Denon on BB 1795 chips, and believe I achieved clarity greater than that offered by the Oppo, with full-bodied resonance particularly complementary to piano music, and with overall sweetness and smoothness.  Annie Fischer's celebrated recordings of the Beethoven piano sonatas, which manifest some treble thinness ? related to her partial 'reworking' of her venerated Boesendorfer, sound wonderful with the Luxman.  String quartets are another matter...again I prefer the Luxman sound.  So now I wonder what improvement in clarity, without loss of a full-bodied sound, the new generation of DAC chips might offer.  Perhaps you have some thoughts regarding this.  Of course these choices overlap with digital formats.......

After living with the Mytek Manhatten for a few months now, I do think that an improved Dac helps----with glare.  Note, seventies, that the mytek features the same chip as the Oppo 105, but the implementation is worlds apart--so it just in't the chip that makes the DAC.  As I have been playing some of the more offensive digital recordings--a Jean Pierre Rampal 'big box' on Erato is Glare Culprit #1--it isn't that they now sound soft, but there is a simultaneous gain in detail and loss of ugliness, especially in the treble.

   regarding Annie Fischer's Beethoven, I never thought they sounded deficient via the Oppo, but they are more impressive via the Mytek, particularly in the midrange.  And yes, that certainly is a resonant Bosendorfer that she plays.

   I have listened to these recordings both in flac from my Bluesound Vault and via the Oppo asa transport, both fed into the Mytek, and I don't think the digital format matters beyond lossy and lossless

"some CDs, particularly in full Orchestral passages, tend to harden, particularly the strings.  My SACDs don't do that, and I tend to attribute this to the DSD used in SACDs."

1. are you certain that the SACDs were mastered the same way as the redbook Cds?

2. have you compared redbook CDs and SACDs of the SAME concerts?
- and are you doing double-blind tests A/Bing the 2 discs with a slight time lag between them and switching back & forth?

The redbook spec. is known to have more than adequate sample rate for human hearing of sinusoidal waves...

OTOH, it is always possible that humans can hear the difference in bit rate on impulses (which make up a lot of music).  Most sensory channels are very good at near simultaneous comparisons, poor at remembering one thing vs. another and the impulse effect would fit the former.  But I have never seen any tests of that.

Because of the above, I never accorded much emphasis to the purported "need" for higher bit rates... not until I recently discovered that Meridian was involved.  That is a very serious company and their interest should not be taken lightly.

Of course, there is the real issue here of what could you do about it, if it was in fact a bit rate issue?

I think you should try to eliminate other possible reasons for what you are hearing and do test #2 above.
@mahler123 nails it. I have the Brooklyn. There’s no glare in any format. They all sound good.

What I did noticed with my previous dac is that a Remedy Reclocker improved the top octave resolution. The RR re-clocks everything to 96/24. After auditioning both DAC’s I’ve come to the conclusion that some DAC’s play high rez much better than low rez.

For a long time we have assumed that High rez music sounds better because of the data in the files. Now I wonder if it wasn’t really that DAC’s have underperformed with Redbook. It’s not quite the same thing. The new generation of DAC’s has really closed the gap between Redbook and High rez.
high rez files would require less interpolation

one would have to be certain the two discs or digital files are from the same program material, and then match SPLs very carefully
I heartily agree with Eric's last paragraph.  The best DACs are now improving redbook to levels that we previously hadn't thought possible 
I’m reviving this thread just to say that I *always* mention that SACD is the cure for digital glare that can often be the downfall of regular CD, even Hi-Rez files.
SACD magically avoids it while at the same time enhancing resolution, especially in the bass (but really at all frequencies).
Long live SACD (a fantasy, I know...).

[Every time I hear someone say it's the mastering process that matters most and SACD goodness is just a placebo effect, I just want to scream. Hear SACD on a good player like EMM or Playback Designs and hear how stunning SACD is.]

No, i don’t think it was ALL the mastering process, though there was proof that some first gen SACD’s were deliberately sweetened.

I also think the question of digital glare in PCM in modern reasonably priced DACs is largely gone. Except in some brands which seem to relish it.

I don't think it's a fantasy to say long live SACD.  In Classical Music there are over 3000 titles available .
   My current two DACS, the Mytek Manhatten and the Bryston BDA-3, are glare free, even on the worst recordings.  I'm sure the DSD has something to do with it, but they also both have great isolation and power supplies.  It's nice to know that state of the art digital is possible without having to take out another mortgage...
So, what exactly do you mean by conversion?  A numer of DAC's since the early days have been single, PWM at the back end and yeah, lots of those had glare anyway. :)