FLAC vs DSD: Which Audio Format is Supreme?

Whether you are an audiophile or not, you may possess FLAC and DSD audio files. 

You may get curious and think, “Which one is better, FLAC vs DSD?”

DSD format has a higher sample rate than FLAC audio files. For untrained ears, it may be difficult to distinguish. But there are certain types of jazz and classical music where DSD shines. On the other hand, FLAC shines on compression and file size. DSD outmatches FLAC in sampling rate and audio quality.

Don’t worry if this confuses you, we will get to the details. Stick along to find out more about these formats.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • DSD is better if you prefer a higher sample rate.
  • FLAC is better for DAC inner working as it offers both sigma-data modulator and filter.
  • DSD also lacks in modulation and bit depth.

Difference Between FLAC And DSD: Quick Comparison

The dispute between FLAC and DSD has raged on for quite some time, particularly among audiophiles.

To make things easier for you, we have created this quick table for a quick comparison.

Audio AspectsFLACDSD
Audio Quality Pulse code modulation with multi-bit depthSigma-Delta modulation with 1-bit depth
File SizeRelatively smaller Larger
Sampling RateUpto 384 kHz2.8 – 45.2 MHz
Other FeaturesRoyalty free, metadata support, split audio into multiple tracks.Simple format, higher efficiency, and higher sampling rate.

Now, let’s jump to the main comparison.

FLAC vs DSD: Detailed Comparison

FLAC vs DSD has been the talk of the town among audiophiles for a long time. DSD was first introduced by Sony and Philips for their audio CDs. Soon they transitioned to computer systems.

DSD vs FLAC
Source: samplerateconverter

DSD became popular among audiophiles due to its high resolution and sample rate. However, FLAC being the top priority format for audio listeners for a long time gives DSD good competition. This is similar to the MQA and FLAC competitions.

In this article, we have compared the vital aspects that set these two formats apart.

We think you’ll come away with a solid grasp of the differences between the two formats.

Audio Quality: 

This is the most crucial part of any audio format, the quality. If the audio quality is not good, there is no reason to use it. 

However, things get quite tricky here as both formats are quite good. You won’t be able to discern the difference with your untrained ear if you’re new to the area.

The DSD format uses sigma-delta modulation with a one-bit depth. DSD’s 1-bit audio bit depth is surprising, given all the details it preserves. 

Take into account that the precision doubles for every bit of improvement. It has the same high-quality sound as CDs. Therefore, you won’t hear any audible difference.

The PCM modulation of the FLAC format is also good. It has a multi-bit format. It features lossless compression for audio files. 

However, DSD performs better in Jazz & Classical music. That’s why many record labels prefer DSD over FLAC format.

Winner: Both of them are good, and we cannot decide which one is the best. Hence, we will call this a draw.

File Size:

Comparing DSD to FLAC is unfair because DSD was not created to be a compression format. Like other audio formats distributed via physical media (such as CDs), DSD suffers from large file sizes.

When it comes to audio compression, FLAC is the only option. This uses the algorithm that can typically shrink an audio file by 40 to 50 percent. This is an astounding percentage.

Different audio format file size
Source: Real HD Audio

When compressing audio, ZIP can only save you roughly 10% to 20% of the original file size. You can do this while still restoring it to its original quality when you decompress it. All of the original audio information is preserved here.

The approximate DSD file size of an album in DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256 is 3GB, 5GB, and 8GB, respectively.

FLAC music encoded at 192 kHz and 24 bits only uses roughly 1 GB per album. This is way smaller than the file size of DSD. Hence, popular streaming services like Spotify use FLAC on Desktop app.

You should back up your SACD in FLAC format once you’ve dispelled the myth that “digital audio quality is not as good as CD” and recognized that digital format is a permanent method of audio storage.

Winner: The winner will be the FLAC format for its relatively small file size.

Sampling Rate:

How many times a sample is taken per second is known as the sampling rate. You can compare the sampling rate with the FPS of a video.

This simply means that the audio quality is proportional to the sampling rate. However, this is up to some limit.

Presently, the standard is the same as that of CDs or the lossless audio file format FLAC. The frequency of this is 44.1 kHz. As a result, 44,100 samples are extracted from an analog signal. The goal is to create a digital file for each second of music played.

Speaking of sampling rate, the DSD format is superior. DSD sample rates are multiples of CD sample rates of 44.1Hz. DSDs have 64 to 1024 times the CD sample rate. This is quite astonishing in terms of FLAC.

DSD sample rate
Source: samplerateconverter

Is FLAC better than DSD? 

It may seem so. but the multiplication factor of the DSD helps minimize the noise and provides better quality. Also, its sampling rate of 2.8- 45.2 MHz is better than the FLAC format.

Winner: DSD will win this one for its superior sampling rate and multiplier.

Other Features:

Apart from audio quality, file size, and sampling rate, there are some other cool features. The distinctive qualities of each one make them distinct from the other.

The FLAC format is completely free of licensing fees. It can swiftly decode and stream audio and make use of metadata.

FLAC is not only an ideal digital format for archiving audio but it also works very well for transcoding.

flac 192 vs dsd 64

For example, many people change their FLAC files to MP3 to listen to them on their mobile devices.

In addition to whole albums of FLAC music, we also have FLAC cue files. 

This allows one to divide the FLAC audio into numerous tracks, something that DSD can’t do.

On the other hand, the DSD format is quite simple and efficient. It has a higher sampling rate and can record the smallest of details.

Which One is Better?

Finally, after much deliberation, we can decide which option is superior.

If you are very sensitive about audio quality and authentic sound, go for DSD. It will give you the most genuine recording and a higher sampling rate.

However, keep in mind that the DSD format requires more storage space. Hence, if you are looking forward to working with it, be sure you have a large HDD.

On the other hand, if you want the best compression, pick FLAC. It is the most versatile format on the market. It is compatible with almost all devices. 

Also, the FLAC format requires less storage than the DSD, multiple times less. Because of this, you can put away your storage worries.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is DSD noisy?

When it comes to out-of-band noise, traditional DACs have a sharp buildup problem. This noise is an inevitable byproduct of the DSD process. This is caused by the use of 1-bit Sigma Delta DACs. Extremely powerful out-of-band noise can readily cause audio distortion.

What are the advantages of FLAC?

The improved audio quality of a FLAC file is its primary benefit. You can enjoy the file just as it was meant to be played by the developer. FLAC is free from the compression that weakens the quality of some MP3s. It also saves space.

What is DSD256?

DSD256 is the 11.2MHz sampling rate that offers a resolution of up to 256 times. This is better than the resolution of a regular audio CD. As the highest audio resolution format currently available, DSD256 will allow your ears to fully appreciate the capabilities of your playback device.

Conclusion

That will be all on FLAC vs DSD. If you want raw quality and detail, pick DSD. Otherwise, you can pick FLAC for compression and versatility.

Whatever you do, make sure you know your purpose and pick your format accordingly.

Have a great day.

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