How to make a DSD Disc
using a Korg DSD Recorder
Last update: August 12, 2010
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How To: Creating a DSD Disc from Korg MR-1/MR-1000 1-bit recordings
This guide is intended for users of the Korg MR-1/MR-1000 portable audio recorders that record in 1-bit DSD format. If you're a Korg MR-1/MR-1000 owner who also owns a PlayStation3 or is thinking of buying one, this guide will be of particular interest to you as the PS3 now supports playback of DSD Discs as of firmware 1.60.
If you downloaded DSD tracks, like from Wheatus' site
, creating a DSD Disc from them is far easier. You will not need this guide; just follow the instructions they provide about folder structure and burn your disc.
If you downloaded an (ISO) DSD Disc image, like from Blue Coast Records' site
, it is even easier still. Just open the ISO file with a DVD burning program such as Nero
, Roxio Creator
or Free ISO Burner
Part I - Introduction
DSD Disc is a format specification Sony developed for writing high-definition 1-bit/2.8-MHz DSD audio files to recordable DVD media (DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW), playable on PC's and hardware supporting DSD Disc playback. The audio quality of a DSD Disc is comparable to a 2-channel SACD audio disc, which also happens to be mastered using 1-bit/2.8-MHz DSD audio files. DSD Disc is by no means intended to replace SACD. Playback of DSD Discs is currently limited to Sony VAIO PC's/notebooks, non-VAIO PC's running Windows Media Player 10/11 (with DSD plug-in), PlayStation3 and the Sony SCD-XA5400ES and SCD-XE800, whereas the SACD audio discs have much greater hardware playback support. Note that all PS3 models can play DSD Discs, even those that don't support SACD.
The advantage of DSD Disc is that anyone can easily create a DSD Disc if they have a 1-bit recorder like the Korg MR-1 and a DVD burner on their PC. Authoring and burning of SACD audio discs is not possible by the average home user. The software to edit DSD files and author a SACD disc (i.e. SACD Creator) costs around $5,000. Then you still have to take the SACD master to a duplication house able to burn your SACD creation. SACD discs cannot be created using PC DVD burners.
The DSD Disc format was first made available on Sony VAIO PC's and notebooks. All VAIO PC's and notebooks since late 2005 contain the Sound Reality audio chip which supports native playback and recording of 1-bit/2.8MHz DSD audio files. VAIO PC's and notebooks come pre-loaded with a couple applications which can write DSD audio files to a recordable dvd in DSD Disc format; SonicStage Mastering Studio and DSD Direct. After examining a DSD Disc I created using DSD Direct on my new VAIO notebook, I discovered DSD Disc is nothing more than a DVD data disc (UDF) with a specific folder structure and a playlist text file having a .ddp extension. So having a newer VAIO PC/notebook with the SonicStage applications is not required to create a DSD Disc. Any PC/Mac user can author their own DSD Discs and burn to data DVD using a dvd burning application like Nero 7. I've manually authored and burned a couple DSD Discs on my HP PC running Vista just to prove it's possible. The ones I created manually are no different than the DSD Discs I created using DSD Direct on my VAIO notebook.
This guide will take you through the steps required to author and burn a DSD Disc.
Part II explains how to take the raw DSD audio files created by the Korg MR-1 and prepare them for burning to DSD Disc using the AudioGate software included with the MR-1.
Part III will show you how to properly author the DSD Disc for burning to disc. If you're already familiar with editing DSD files in AudioGate to remove dead air and create separate DSD tracks, you can skip straight to Part 3.
Here's rundown of the playback options for DSD Discs...
Sony VAIO - Sony VAIO PC's/notebooks since late 2005 can play back DSD audio natively using the Sound Reality chip. DSD Discs are played using Windows Media Player. Sony pre-installs a plug-in for Windows Media Player which allows it to recognize DSD audio files. I've tested playback of DSD Discs on VAIO using Windows Media Player. Audio quality is superb, provided you're using good quality speakers, not cheap $20 PC speakers. I am disappointed however that playback is not gapless. There is a short pause as Windows Media Player goes from one DSD track to the next.
non-VAIO PC's - With VAIO PC's/notebooks, Sony has provided a Windows Media Player plug-in which can be freely distributed to non-VAIO PC users running Windows XP/Vista and Windows Media Player 10/11. The plug-in allows for playback of DSD audio through realtime conversion to PCM. Including the installation for the plug-in is an option when burning a DSD Disc using DSD Direct and SonicStage Mastering Studio. You can download this plug-in here:
There are minimum hardware requirements as the conversion from DSD to PCM is quite taxing on the CPU.
Just like playing back DSD Discs on VAIO PC's using Windows Media Player, playback is not gapless. There is a noticeable pause in between tracks.
Sony PS3 - A Sony PS3 with firmware upgrade 1.60 or later has the ability to play back DSD Discs through a home theater receiver. To take full advantage of the PS3's DSD Disc playback, you'll need a receiver which can process audio over HDMI, a feature usually found in higher-end equipment. HDMI-passthrough is not the same. If the connection between the PS3 and receiver is HDMI, the PS3 converts the DSD audio files in realtime to 24-bit/176.4 kHz PCM and sends it to your receiver. If using a S/PDIF optical connection between the PS3 and receiver, the audio is sent to the receiver as 24 bit/88.2 kHz PCM. As I'm using HDMI to pass audio from my PS3 to Yamaha receiver and haven't tried using optical out, I can't confirm the optical out works.
After inserting DSD Disc in the PS3, it'll show up in the PS3's on-screen Audio Menu as a 'DSD Disc'. The PS3 handles playback of DSD Discs just as it does regular audio cd's, displaying the artist and track names, provided you supply the tag info for each track in Part II, Step 11 of this guide. And you'll get the visualization options. Unlike playing DSD discs in Windows Media Player, playback with the PS3 is gapless.
Hopefully a future firmware upgrade of the PS3 will give us the option of sending raw DSD straight to the receiver over HDMI instead of doing the PCM conversion. There are a number of receivers that accept DSD over HDMI.
Part II - Preparing raw DSD files for burning to DSD Disc
- Create a working folder for your recording on your PC's hard drive, preferrably giving it a descriptive name containing the date of the recording and band's name.
- Connect the MR-1 to your PC's USB port and enter Slave Mode to mount the MR-1's as a new drive on your system. Click 'Computer' in Vista's Start Menu to view the drives mounted. You should see the MR-1. Double-click the MR-1's icon to browse it's contents in Windows Explorer. Double-click the MR_PROJ folder, then the DSF_PROJ subfolder inside of it. You'll see a list of subfolders for every 1-bit DSD recording project on your MR-1, each labeled 'DSF_xxxx' (xxxx is numeric value incremented with each recording project starting with 0001). Using the date modfied field for each folder, find the one for the recording you'll be burning to DSD Audio Disc and double-click to open it's contents. You'll see a project file with a .PRJ extension and one or more files with the .DSF extension. Holding down the Shift key, select just the .DSF files and drag them over to the new folder you created on your PC's hard drive in step 1. Don't copy the .PRJ file. It's only used by the MR-1. Now that the raw DSD files have been copied over to your PC, you can unmount and disconnect the MR-1.
- Launch the Audiogate 188.8.131.52 software. Version 184.108.40.206 is the most recent version that can be downloaded from the Korg website. Upgrade to this version or whichever is the most current version available.
- Click the [Add] button located above the Song List pane. Navigate to the project folder where you copied the .DSF files. With the Shift key held down, click on every .DSF file to hightlight. Then click the [Open] button. You should see the files now listed in the Song List pane in the correct order. In the example I'm working with as I'm writing this guide, the two raw DSD files are named DSF_0012_001 and DSF_0012_002.
- The first thing to do is remove any 'dead air' you may have recorded prior to the band starting into their first song and after the final encore. Double-click the first track to start playing it. Locate the end of the dead air by dragging the red Time Slider to the right with your mouse during playback until you've found the approximate proper starting point for your recording. Pause playback by clicking the Play/Pause button, then use the Time Wheel (located just to the left of the track information window) to back up or go forward with more precision than the Time Slider. Then pressing the Play/Pause button to re-start playing. Use this Time Wheel and Play/Pause combo until you've found the exact true start point for your recording. With the playback paused at that exact point, click the [Divide] button. This will split up the track into two. The first track in the Song List now contains just the dead air. The second track contains the recording with the proper starting point. It'll have the same name as the first with an additional '.1' added. In my example, the first track listed after the split is DSF_0012_001, the second is DSF_0012_001.1. Remove the first track containing the dead air from the song list by clicking the track in the Song List to highlight, then click [Remove] button.
Repeat this process again to remove any dead air you wish to trim from the end of the recording by playing the last track in the Song List and using the Play/Pause button and Time Wheel combo to find the exact end point of the recording. Create the track split at that point, then remove the last track created.
- Now that you've trimmed any dead air from the start and end of the raw 1-bit recording, combine all the tracks listed in the Song List by holding down the Shift key and clicking each track listed. Once all the tracks have been selected, click the [Combine] button. It'll join all the individual tracks into one. In my case, the resulting track is named DSF_0012_001.1 Double-click the track name in the Song List to edit the track name and remove the '.1' at the end.
- Make a note of the total running time for the recording listed in the Song List pane. This will become important when it comes time to author the DSD Audio Disc in the next section. 1GB will hold 22 minutes of 1-bit/2.8MHz audio, so a single-layer 4.7GB DVD media will hold a maximum 1 hour and 43 minutes of 1-bit DSD. If your recording is longer than 1:43, you'll need to either split up the recording onto two 4.7GB discs or burn to to a higher-capacity disc like dual-layer DVD+R which can accomodate 3:23 of 1-bit DSD audio.
- In this step you'll enter some preliminary tag info for your recording. Click on the word Info at the top of the track information window. You'll now see editable fields for the Title, Artist, Genre, Location, RecDate and RecTime of your recording. For now, just fill in the Artist, Genre, Location (I enter City and State here) and the RecDate. Leave the rest blank. You'll enter the Title and RecTimes (optional) later once you've created the separate tracks for each song. Entering this basic info now saves time later as the Artist, Genre, Location and RecDate will automatically carry over to new tracks created through splits. After entering the tag info, click Play to the left of Info to return to the track info display. The track info window should now be displaying the Artist name you entered.
- If your recording levels were too low, you'll want to make any Gain adjustments now prior to tracking and splitting the recording into separate tracks. Increase or decrease the overall Gain (in dB) by clicking the mouse pointer inside the Gain control during playback and dragging the mouse up or down. Be careful not to add too much gain that it causes clipping. Locate the loudest section of music you can find in the recording. Then adjust the Gain against this. It would be helpful if Korg added the ability to normalize to Audiogate, or at least scan an entire track to find the peak dB.
- Now it's time to split up the combined track you created in Step 6 into separate tracks for each song in the setlist (and encore break if you wish to separate that out into its own track). Use the same method as in Step 5, using the Time Slider, Play/Pause button and Time Wheel to locate the exact start of each track and click the [Divide] button.
This process can take awhile. If you mess up and create a split at the wrong place, you can easily undo it by clicking the new track created and the one prior to it, then the [Combine] button to put them back together.
- With Step 10 complete, the Song List pane should now contain separate tracks for each song with auto-incremented tracknames (DSF_xxxx_001, DSF_xxxx_001.1, DSF_xxxx001.2, ...). Rename each trackname with the correct songname (you'll need the setlist handy) preceded with a two-digit track number (e.g. "01-Sychronicity" ). Edit a trackname by double-clicking it to enter edit mode. After updating a trackname, go the INFO pane as in Step 8 to finish entering the tag info. The Artist:, Genre:, Location: and RecDate: should already be pre-filled with the preliminary tag info you entered in Step 8. Enter the missing Title and optionally the RecTime which you can get from the Song List pane.
- Optional: Add fade-in to the start of the first track and fade-out to the end of the last track. I won't go into the details of doing this as it's pretty straightforward. See the help file for AudioGate if you need help with fades.
- Verify all the tracknames are correct and are preceded with a two digit track number. Look over the INFO for each track to make sure the tag info is all correct. When satisfied everything looks OK, click the round Export button. In the dropdown form that appears,
a. Select 'All Songs' for the Source:.
b. Click the Select button and choose the working folder created in Step 1 as the Destination:
c. Select 'DSF' for the File Format: and 2.8MHz for the Sample Rate:
d. 1 bit is automatically for the bit depth and cannot be changed.
Click the OK button. The export process will now begin. It can take awhile to complete, so take a break. The process should be complete in 15-20 minutes.
- Your working folder should now contain a new set of DSD files for each track exported. Proceed to the next section to author the DSD Audio disc.
Part III - Authoring the DSD Disc
In this section you'll set up the directory structure and contents of the DSD Disc. A DSD Disc is nothing more than a data DVD (UDF format) with a specific directory structure and playlist text file (.ddp extension). Once you've set up the folder, moved the .dsf files to the correct folder and created the .ddp index file, you burn the project to a blank DVD media using Nero or whichever burning software you use to create data DVD's.
- In the working directory you created in Part II, create a project folder for the DSD disc contents. Name it 'Disc 1'. If the recording you're burning to DSD Disc is longer than 1:43 and you plan on burning to single-layer 4.7GB recordable DVD media, you'll need to split up the recording among two discs. If that's the case, create a second project folder for the 2nd disc. Name it 'Disc 2'.
- Double-click the 'Disc 1' folder you just created in Windows Explorer. Inside the 'Disc 1' folder, create a new folder named 'DSD_DISC' (all upper case). This root folder is required.
- Double-click the 'DSD_DISC' folder created in step 2. Inside 'DSD_DISC', create a new folder with a descriptive name for the recording, ideally containing the date of the performance, artist and city. This folder name can contain upper and lower case letters and numbers. An example directory name is 'Snow Patrol 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ'. This folder is where you'll be copying the individual DSD tracks created by the export in the last section.
- Navigate back out to the project folder where all the DSD files for your recording are located. Select all the .dsf files with track numbers and descriptive names created during the Export in Section 2. Cut and paste the files into the folder created in step 3. If you're splitting up your recording between two blank 4.7GB DVD discs, only move the .dsf files you wish to include on the first disc. You'll be coping the rest of the .dsf files to the 2nd disc folder.
- Navigate back to the root of DSD_DISC folder. Right-click in this folder and select 'New > Text Document' from the menu. This will create a new empty text file inside the folder. Give this text file the exact same name as the subfolder created in Step 3. For example, if the subfolder I created was named 'Snow Patrol 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ', the text file must be named 'Snow Patrol 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ.txt'. This text file will end up being the playlist file that the DSD Disc player requires for playback.
- Double-click the text file to open it up in Notepad. Inside this text file you'll create a one-line text entry for each .dsf file inside the folder for your recording. Every line must have the format
'./<folder name>/< dsf file name>'
The folder and file names you list must exactly match the contents of the folder. So it's best to use copy/paste so you don't make any errors.
Here is an example of the contents of an actual playlist file:
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/01-Intro.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/02-Hands Open.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/03-Chocolate.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/04-It's Beginning to Get to Me.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/05-Headlights on Dark Roads.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/06-Signal Fire.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/07-Grazed Knees.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/08-How to Be Dead.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/09-Ways and Means.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/10-Spitting Games.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/11-Make This Go on Forever.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/12-Chasing Cars.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/13-Shut Your Eyes.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/14-Set the Fire to the Third Bar.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/15-Somewhere a Clock is Ticking.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/16-Run.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/17-encore break.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/18-Finish Line.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/19-Open Your Eyes.dsf
./Snow Patrol - 2007-07-18 Phoenix AZ/20-You're All I Have.dsf'
- Once you've entered all the tracks in the text file, save it and exit Notepad. Now change the extension of the text file from .txt to .ddp
- The 'DSD_DISC' folder should now contain the folder containing all your .dsf tracks and it's corresponding .ddp playlist file. If you wish to burn more than one recording to the same disc, you can do this by simply repeating steps 3-7, creating a separate folder for each recording, copying the .dsf files to the folder, and then creating the corresponding .ddp playlist file for each folder created.
- You can optionally include on the DSD disc the installation folder for the 'DSD to PCM' Windows Media player plug-in which will allow any non-VAIO Windows PC (meeting minimum hardware requirements) to play back the DSD Disc. That way if you copy the DSD Disc for a friend, they can install this plug-in on their PC to play the disc.
If you wish to include the plug-in install, you can download this plug-in here:
Unzip the file and copy the entire Plug-in folder to the 'Disc 1' folder. Do not place it inside the 'DSC_DISC' folder.
- Other files you can burn to the root of the 'Disc 1' folder are the info file for your recording and any cover art files.
- If you were splitting up your recording to two separate single-layer DVD's, you'll need to repeat the steps above for the 'Disc 2' folder you created in step 1.
- You're now ready to burn your DSD disc. Fire up Nero Burning ROM (or other burning software), insert a blank DVD, and select the option to create a Data DVD (UDF). In your Nero disc project you'll include the entire contents of the 'Disc 1' folder. Do not include the 'Disc 1' folder itself, just everything inside it. It does not matter what label you give the disc. Burn the disc. If you split up the recording to a 2nd disc, burn the contents of the 'Disc 2' folder to a new disc. You're done!
Below is a link to view (right-click to save) Sony's official DSD Disc format specification document in PDF format. This doc has all the details about the DSD Disc format including directory structure, playlist files, file and directory naming conventions, etc. The beginning of the doc has a short background on why the DSD Disc format was created.
DSD Recorder overview