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Yarlung Records: DSD Albums from Native DSD A New Adventure in Recorded Sound!

01-04-2015 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 77

I am new to the digital download game, but better late than never! With my excellent Astell&Kern 240 portable digital audio player (DAP) as a music system server, I loaded four DSD albums downloaded from NativeDSD.com. All were from the excellent label, Yarlung Records, in that section of the NativeDSD site. Originally recorded on analog tape in 15 ips half-track quarter-inch format, the transfers from tape to DSD were all made using the Merging Technologies HAPI 8-channel ADDA (two channels only in use for this project). Post-production was done by Tom Caulfield of NativeDSD.com. The albums that I’m reviewing were all the Single DSD (DSD64) version, one of the DSD sampling rate options available. There are also Double DSD (DSD128) and Quad DSD (DSD256) versions of these albums for sale at NativeDSD.com. Note that the release of this set of albums to Single, Double, and Quad DSD was sponsored by exaSound, a leading manufacturer of DSD DACs.

I am used to audiophile sound, but was unprepared for the sonic leap the DSD albums provided. Let me cut to the chase: They tore my CDs to bits, while presenting the Yarlung recipe for airy, delicate precision, plus textural nuance in ways I had only heard suggested previously on master tapes. 

My gear used here included the A&K 240 DAP, both Kimber Select 1036 and WYWire Platinum cables, and both of my reference systems, which are all tube and include Marten Speakers. Apple computers were used for downloading and transfer to the Astell & Kern 240. The 240 plays the DSD in native form.

The albums downloaded were Sophisticated Lady Jazz Quartet, Vol. 1, Suryodaya, Smoke and Mirrors, and Mahler Symphony No. 5, with Gerard Schwarz conducting the Colburn School Orchestra. Each album was unique in its musical form, but each shared the special microphone recording technique Yarlung utilizes. Whether a giant orchestra or intimate tabla recording, Bob Attiyeh, Producer and Recording Engineer, uses a single stereo tube C24 AKG microphone. Spot mics are rarely employed. With the able assistance of Steve Hoffman and Jacob Horowitz as Mastering Engineer and Assistant Producer, Yarlung pulls off wide ranging plus spot on imaging every time. The Native DSD performances bring you closer to those original sources than ever before. 


Sophisticated Lady Vol. 1 is Yarlung's first jazz recording and beautifully rendered. It is all about space. The instruments are floating in air as they bloom in the less than lively hall. There is a lack of grain here that is present on the CD as well as a smoother sound that makes the performance really kick. The highs and mids are über realistic in this space. The bass, while well blended and deep, has a bit less impact than I am used to in most jazz recordings. This is probably as it should be, as I have heard the hall, and it is not one for big bass bloom. Fascinatingly, the bass is truer, bigger and more powerful in the DSD download than on the CD. If you want to hear what true, you-are-there sound is like, then this is the musical vehicle to take for a spin. Fascinating and fun!


Suryodaya is a tabla and violin recording with a sense of presence and power that you will adore. I do not know much about Indian Music. I say this without apologizing, but I can tell you these fellows perform with energy and melody that is mesmerizing and involving. The DSD sound is pure protoplasm and power. No grain, no wavering distortion, no stray ambiance...​Attiyeh hit a home run with this recording. This is a true reference recording. I cannot say I understand the music, but I do enjoy it. I love the way the lifelike sound blooms and grows as the performers add emphasis. This is a great recording venue as the impact of the bass and the power of the mids and highs will send you to the moon.


Smoke and Mirrors is a percussion and vocal group doing new age music with melodic undertones with a kind of jazzy intent. This is quite a recording, and quite a group. They play with such amazing precision and energy you just cannot turn away. Again, the imaging of the many percussion instruments is spot on; impact in the DSD recording is alive with energy. This is surprising stuff with reference sound to boot. Attiyeh must have had a blast recording it! You want perform a toe tapping accompaniment when you play it. Smoke and Mirrors is a very intimate recording with flawless sound. Again, the grain free sound is addictive.


I saved the best for last. Well, it is my favorite. The Mahler 5th recording is amazing! How in all recording history did Attiyeh pull off this recording? The young orchestra sounds like the London Phil. You sit on about row 8 center and you get a perfect unobstructed view and sonic picture of the venue and sound field. The depth is endless, and right-to-left separation is seamless and realistic. I heard power and majesty. I heard elegance and sweetness. I heard imaging that pops with realism and textural rightness. Of course, Gerard Schwarz, Conductor Laureate of the Seattle Symphony, is a master artist, and right at home with Mahler. Attiyeh has brought something really new and special to this warhorse, and somehow has removed the recording gear from the music. He has left us with a musical gift of realism I only hear when I pay big bucks at Disney Hall. The mechanical nature of recording big orchestras has been obliterated. I am astounded.

I consider my first journey into music from Native DSD in DSD to be a complete success. The Yarlung Records Recordings, very good on CD, are alive on DSD. I am delighted that audiophiles and music lovers have this exciting new DSD medium to revel in. What joy! 

By the way, Yarlung Records is a 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization, and I consider it mandatory that you support them by buying their music, which supports and showcases young talent. You can sponsor a recording as well. Just contact them for details (see below). 

Price: Varies according to title and DSD rate. Check the NativeDSD.com site for current pricing of each album.

Yarlung Records
10920 Wilshire Boulevard #150-9162
Los Angeles, California 90024
(310) 692-4575
[email protected]

DSD download site: https://yarlungrecords.nativedsd.com

(All cover images courtesy of Yarlung Records and NativeDSD.com)