PCM vs. DSD, or the fake battle

Hey guys, I am often asked what I think. Which one is better, PCM or DSD? My short answer is: none. They are just 2 different ways of ‘doing’ it. I am not the advocate of one or the other.

However, this doesn’t mean that there are no differences. Strictly technically and theoretically speaking, PCM is better, there is no question about it. And it’s editable, which is not the case with the DSD material. But let’s not enter into technicalities and get people bored, and ask ourselves what’s all this fuss about DSD, and why it subjectively sounds better to some ears?

My take is that the answer lies more into practice than in theory. More exactly, into the hardware architecture of our beloved DAC chips. Internally, a PCM signal suffers a lot of processing prior to D/A conversion. First, the signal goes through the digital filter, afterwards feeds the delta sigma modulator, and then the switching stage. On the other side, the signal path of a DSD signal is much more straightforward, as it enters directly into the switching stage, with no processing. Simplicity will win immediately if the PCM processing isn’t accurate enough.