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Playback Disappointment in Linear PCM Recording Systems

As an “in-the-trenches” music recording engineer, my workflow has evolved to essentially an all in-the-box approach, with the exception of some external DSP. After spending many hours on a mix, I always get a strong feeling that when I finally print my mix to a stereo track in my workstation, or to a hardware-based digital recorder and play back the resulting 24-Bit-96-kHz WAV file, that it’s just not the same. A sense of disappointment. It seems to lack depth, reverb tails fall off, the transient response seems dulled, and an overall “graininess” to the mix. This paper and presentation will demonstrate the differences by way of 5.6-MHz DSD null tests and explore the difference between a live digital stream, and the disappointing playback of that digital stream that has been captured by a recorder in WAV file format. Upon demonstrating the problem, I will discuss possible solutions and workarounds I have used.

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