Playback of DSD/PCM hybrid files

There is a Mac app known as DSDMaster, which not only converts DSD files to PCM versions, but optionally produces a hybrid file that contains the original DSD content. There is a companion Mac app called BitPerfect that detects and plays the DSD content in hybrid files, but it works in conjunction with Apple Music and isn’t nearly as musical as Audirvana. The advantage of producing hybrid files is that they can be played on devices that don’t support DSD, but still played natively on devices that do. I know there are other apps for other platforms that also produce hybrid files. Does anyone know of a plugin available for Audirvana that can detect and play DSD content from hybrid files? Might it be possible to add this feature to Audirvana Studio?

There is no point in using their hybrid DSD files for playback in Audirvana… You either want DSD file playback or you want a downconversion of the DSD source to DXD, produced by DSDMaster… I use it to down convert stereo DSD for playback in DXD so to employ the 112dB “Redline Monitor” plug-in for high-quality HTRF up to 24/352.8kHz and then up-convert to DSD128 using SoX in Audirvana Studio…

What is the benefit of doing all these conversions rather than playing the original DSD tracks in Audirvana?
And what the 112dB “Redline Monitor” plug-in does?

If you only listen to your music on your computer using Audirvana, there is no point. However, if you ever want to take your music with you, then you can’t use Audirvāna. There is no version of Audirvana for any portable device that I’m aware of and I’m loath to carry a separate device for music anyway.

Although I’m now retired, I used to work in an office where I wasn’t allowed to load anything personal on a company computer, nor even to bring my own computer into the office - not even an iPad. I could, however, bring my own speakers for use with my iPhone. File size aside, a hybrid file let’s me use the same file on all my devices. I use a high-res cloud-based service, VOX, which uses their own proprietary player on the iPhone, but with limited options. In spite of long promised native DSD support, it still doesn’t handle DSD files well at all, particularly with respect to metadata. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a better alternative for iOS, and of course a cloud based server allows me to use my entire music library on the go, thanks to unlimited data.

Yes, up-conversation to DXD is an option, not that my ears are capable of differentiating DXD from any PCM format at or above 88.2kHz. However, my home audio setup to my ears sounds better when files mastered in DSD are played back natively. In other words, I want the best of both worlds without having to generate separate files in different formats for each device. I wouldn’t have requested hybrid file support otherwise. However, I’m willing to listen to alternative suggestions.

Hello @SteveInNYC ,

I’m also a heavy user of DSD tracks.
I have an alternative suggestion for your iOS devices, with which you won’t have to waste time in conversions, and with which you will get a far better sound than VOX, Music and all the other players for iOS.

It’s a Russian audiophile player that exists for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows.
It plays any format that you can imagine, including DSF, DFF, DSF-WV and ISO SATA.
This player has a great sound, but an unintuitive UI. If you take the time to study how it functions, you’ll be happy with it for your iPhone.

The name of the player is Neutron Music Player, and you can buy its license from the Apps Store for $8.

My primary listening mode is with headphones…

Any stereo audio being auditioned with headphones without psychoacoustic Head Transfer Function (HTRF) skews the contextual harmonic and spatial relationships imbued in the music production because the Left and Right channel information is isolated from each other by our head… HTRF restores the natural binaural blend of the Left and Right channel information as we would hear it presented over speakers or auditioned in an acoustic space by recreating the natural binaural head/ear interference spatial relationships as the sound waves are encountered by our pinnae placement on our heads (to put it simply)… The 112dB Redline Monitor HTRF plug-in is useable to 352.8kHz or 384kHz. So to listen to stereo DSD over headphones, this is my preferred method, knowing full well the sonic differences between the stereo DXD downconversion and the stereo DSD source… Currently there is no HTRF processing of DSD… I listen to native binaural DSD recordings for “pure” DSD headphone auditioning.

These are iOS Hi-Res players for DSD playback… The KORG iAudioGate and the TEAC HR Player (or ONKYO HR Player).

Thank you
As it is impossible to process DSD, I understand why you apply these PCM conversions for headphones listening.

My iFi DAC has a feature that is called “3D Matrix for Headphones”, that you can switch on and off, and that recreates a holographic sense of placement and depth in order to recreate a soundstage that is supposed to be comparable to a playback with speakers.
I use it when I listen with my headphones.

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Redline Monitor is parametric with great control and customization which includes pure ‘direct’ hi-fi binaural configuration with zero room modeling…

I just checked on their site, it’s actually an enhanced “Crossfeed” plug-in.
iFi says that it created the feature that I mentioned in order to provide an improved solution over standard Crossfeed.

I try to download the trial version of Redline Monitor.
I gave them my e-mail, and I wait that they will send me a download link.

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I suggest using the ‘hi-fi mode’ which does not add room modeling ambiance (zero distance) with the speaker angle setting of 75º and a (-) .5dB Center Level setting

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@SteveInNYC ,

As the iPhone’s internal storage is limited to its drive, another solution came to my mind.
It’s a cloud storage solution like Vox, but it has some advantages that Vox lacks, including the support of DSF tracks. The sound should also be better than Vox.

It’s Brio By Orastream.
Unlike Vox, it comes with a very complete and easy to use desktop application that allows you to use it at home with USB DAC connection and also network playback. The player is free, and has all the features of an audiophile player.
It has a feature to upload very easily your music tracks to the cloud. You can play then these tracks with the iOS application for the iPhone that is also free.

Brio offers a free subscription with 25 GB of cloud storage that are also freer. For more cloud storage, you need to go for the paid subscription.

I’ve been playing around with the Redline plug-in and Audirvana. As has been mentioned, it’s an enhanced crossfeed plug-in with parametric control, and it only works with PCM stereo. Truthfully, it sounds about like I’d expect it to, which is to say it distorts the soundstage. There are three parameters that can be adjusted: Center, Soundstage and Distance. Center actually attenuates the virtual center channel that Redline Monitor creates, essentially exaggerating or suppressing sounds from the center of the soundstage, Stoundstage narrows the perceived soundstage. From what I can tell, it doesn’t widen it. Distance compresses the center of the soundstage, effectively pulling more or less of the soundstage into the virtual center channel.

The problem with using a crossfeed-only approach is that it can’t simulate a real environment. It amounts to substituting the artificial world of listening with headphones with something akin to listening in a sound studio. It’s similar to listening in an acoustically dead room. It doesn’t sound any more natural to me than listening with headphones, and one must give up native DSD playback.

The best option for listening with headphones is to buy only single-microphone or binaural recordings, but that certainly limits the selection of music. Simulating a binaural recording from one made using traditional multi-channel recordings is controversial in audiophile circles. Sony has done a lot of work in psychoacoustics, and they make headphones that do a decent job of recreating a simulated concert environment. Unfortunately, they’re limited by Bluetooth and the quality of the sound drivers leaves a lot to be desired. They also make RF wireless home theater headphones and they perform amazingly well - for watching movies. The virtual surround sound is so accurate that I could swear that a sound that’s supposed to come from behind in a 7.1 or Atmos-encoded movie really does sound like it’s coming from behind. I sometimes forget I’m using headphones. It’s surreal. However, when it comes to listening to music, the headphones sound awful. The exaggerated reverb is intolerable and the musical timber is wrecked.

I’m sure there must be better options for realistic audiophile music listening using high-res headphones. I’d also like to find something that can handle multi-channel audio, and can work with DSD natively. A better solution for the iPhone is definitely something I’ll check into, particularly those that can handle DSD natively. However, I’d still like to see hybrid file support in Audirvana, which is the request I made in starting this thread in the first place.

I’ve been involved in the world of psychoacoustics for many years… When one is listening to speakers or a live performance we are relegated to our personal head-transfer elements of pinnae placement, head circumference and thoracic dimensions along with the physical proximity to the sound source(s) and the neurology of our personal audiological perceptions and interpretations and biases.

In the case of a parametric HTRF of the Redline Monitor design, the technology provides a means to audition the stereo source material with, or without adding virtualized room influence, so to best provide the necessary contextual spatialization, harmonic and dynamic relationships in the playback experience… I suggest that when using Redline Monitor, for generalized stereo playback, the “Distance” parameter being set to ‘0’ or no room influence (as described by Redline to provide the highest level of fidelity) and the Center level at (-.5dB)…

Of course, when one has been conditioned to listening with headphones without high-quality HTRF (cross-feed)… the new perception will be foreign to the cognitive auditory system that has been conditioned to rationalize a skewed stereo presentation with isolated L and R signals that were originally intended for auditioning via speakers…

Redline Monitor is not a substitute for speakers in an acoustic space… In my case it is a means for retaining the contextual elements of a stereo production that have been imbued in it… These are the contextual L+R harmonic, dynamic and spatial/phase relationships that are integral to the stereo production… To presume that listening to stereo productions that were mastered as to be primarily auditioned over speakers in an acoustic space, is correctly perceived, when auditioned with headphones, would be myopic at best and a form of cognitive-dissonance…

The idea that listening to a stereo production meant to be auditioned via speakers in an acoustic space, via a set of headphones, where the L and R signals are isolated from each other by the head, thus eliminating the contextual L+R harmonic, dynamic and spatial relationships that are imbued in the mix, is by definition, the ultimate form of distortion.

Forget about virtualization of DSD signals for the near future…

With RAM size increasing in the iPhone it now becomes possible to carry several DSD recordings for playback… thus eliminating the need to create the hybrid files…

Hello @Agoldnear ,

I did not have time to test the Redline Monitor yet. I got the installer for Mac, and I’ll take the time in a few weeks to see how this cross-feed filter sounds, and I’ll post you then a feed-back.
I just compared quickly the feature of my iFi DAC with standard cross-feed filters, and the feature of iFi is really very good in comparison.

Hello @SteveInNYC ,

DSD tracks are already heavy, so why do you need these hybrid files that with an addition Hi Res PCM should be huge?
And to play them with what? With a mediocre player such as Music or Vox on your iPhone?
Try Neutron. It will play the original DSD tacks, and it sounds great.

I looked into Brio and the unlimited plan is triple the cost of Vox. However, I wouldn’t be subscribed to Audirvana if cost where the primary factor. That said, to quote the FAQ for Brio, “DXD and DSD tracks are not uploadable but are supported for local playback on the desktop app.” Having another desktop app to play DXD and DSD files is irrelevant, as Audirvana handles them natively and exceptionally welld. I’d like to have a cloud-based solution since no phone has sufficient memory for my entire library, but the lack of support for DSD in Brio makes it of questionable benefit.

What makes you think the Hybrid DSD files are not larger than a native DSD file? It seems logical that the Hybrid DSD file is only a means for Apple Music to play the file…

From the BitPerfect DSD Master site:
… BitPerfect’s new Hybrid-DSD files look like Apple Lossless files. In fact, strictly speaking, since they adhere fully to the Apple Lossless file specification, they ARE Apple Lossless files! For that reason, when DSD Master creates a Hybrid-DSD file it gives it a filename with “.DSDh” inserted between the original file name and the “.m4a” extension:


The “.DSDh” has no other function than to enable you to recognize Hybrid-DSD files at a glance, and differentiate them from regular Apple Lossless files. If you like, you can edit the file name to remove the “.DSDh”, and this will have no impact whatsoever on its performance or behavior…

My guess is they are storing the entire DoP file as an .m4a file

… Channel D uses file alias trick in PureMusic to allow DSD file playback from the iTunes library and it is buggy…

I presume you are looking to trick some player into playing DSD… This will only work if the player can detect the DoP files hidden behind the .m4a file name and switch to DSD playback… Otherwise, it would seem they would be unplayable by a plain vanilla PCM audio engine…

I have the Brio player on my Mac, but never use it. I also don’t use Brio’s cloud storage, and I forgot that Brio does not store DSD and DXD tracks on its cloud service.
So I’m sorry that I gave you an irrelevant advice.

However, storing these hybrid tracks on the cloud in order to play them with Music or Vox on your iPhone has an inconvenient: these are not good players. What’s the point to store on the cloud DSD and DXD tracks, if they will be played with a mediocre player?
And why not store in this case PCM tracks that are converted from your DSD tracks, since Music and Vox will play anyway the PCM layer of the hybrid tracks?

I have a similar problem to yours, and I resolved it differently.
All my music albums are stored on drives in my home, where I play them. But when I travel, I take with me a copy of all my tracks on three small SSD drives, each of 2 TB (for a total of 6 TB). In this way, I can play them with my MacBook Pro, and a DAC wherever I go.
In addition, I have some 100 GB of music that is stored on my iPhone. It’s enough for me if I’m away from home for only a day or two.

What is your opinion of using iCloud storage and accessing content via the Files app with a player like the Korg iAudiogate or the Onkyo HF Player?

I never tried that.