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Can I just use the DACs in my receiver?


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I am new to this and I understand that the recommended solution involves connecting a server to a DAC like the Berkeley which is itself connected to a preamp or poweramp.

 

I have an Onkyo NR-5007 receiver which apparently already contains 192kHz/32bit Burr-Brown DACs.

 

Can I just use the receiver as the DAC and feed a digital signal to the receiver by connecting a mac with toslink (or by using a DLNA server, the Onkyo is a DLNA compliant "player" and it can play FLAC files located on a DLNA server). What would be the disadvantage of doing this?

 

What would be the advantage, if any, of feeding the receiver with a separate DAC which would itself be connected to a mac?

 

 

 

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Your receiver, although Onkyo's flagship, is, like any other receiver, built for functionality (quantity of features) rather than the specific quality of 2 channel audio DAC and subsequent analog stage. The $$ invested in that receiver are for nine channel internal amps, HDMI switching, a plethora of audio codec decoding, multichannel DACs, yadayada. It's unlikely that the analog section (power supplies, capacitors, analog output jacks, etc) was heavily focused on when building the receiver. OTOH, the Berkely DAC (as example, since you mentioned it) is built, mainly,for one purpose, two steps...to take a digital signal and convert it cleanly, then send it out very high quality analog outputs.

 

Both will work, one will do a specific job better. The result will be in the realism of the sound.

 

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... in that regard and comparing it to other available DACs, which is going to be difficult because this kind of equipment (i.e. the receiver) is usually not reviewed from that angle. Comparing it for myself is also going to be difficult. Listening to a DAC setup at a dealer and then comparing it to the Onkyo involves many variables and proceeding from memory.

 

I suppose that more information on the topic is going to become available over time as people get more interested in the subject. I a least have found a solution to start with this. I can always add the DAC or other components later.

 

Many people have receivers that they could use. This could be an interesting subject for Computer Audiophile!

 

Thank you for your responses.

 

 

 

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I, and probably several other readers of this forum, would be very intested to read a review of the sonic performance of the flagship of the new line of networked receivers from Onkyo. For many of us, the primary entertainment system in the home is the home theater which most often has at least 5.1 channels of audio. I currently do my listening of hi-rez, 2 channel content by connecting the output of my DAC to the receiver, putting the receiver in bypass mode (no reconversion to digital) and driving only the two front speakers (the best of the lot). This setup sounds great, but lacks some of the resolution of fine detail, timbral accuracy and dynamics of systems qualifying for the hi-end moniker. The receiver is a nearly decade-old Onkyo and I'm strongly considering an upgrade.

 

Please try out some hi-rez content on your NT-5007 and let us know the results. There are several great tracks available for free through this site or from the vendors (2L, Linn, etc.). If you're running a recent flavor of Windows, you can easily set up your music library to be shared on your network (you may have to convert FLAC to WMA lossless or WAV). This shared libary would then be visible to the NT-5007 over the network. Or you could connect to your receiver via S/PDIF from the computer. I would expect the network connection to be much lower jitter, and I'm not sure if the NT-5007 will accept greater than 48/24 over S/PDIF.

 

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I am at at point where I have successfully set up a Mac Pro as a DLNA server to use the 5007 as a DLNA player and read lossless files directly from the Mac Pro over an ethernet network (all you need is inexpensive software).

 

It works flawlessly, no hiccups whatsoever, and the receiver seems to be reading the files which are of a higher quality than CD quality without downsampling (I aslo use the receiver it to read files through an Apple TV, which however downsamples everything to CD quality as far as I understand it, so it is not a solution for higher quality files).

 

I am just getting started with this, and I have several problems:

 

-I lack a comparison point, so I can't compare what the 5007 does to the solution suggested on this site and I am trying to find information on that very subject.

 

-My "library" of high-res files is at the moment limited to the recent USB Beatles compilation (ie. 24 bit 44.1khz FLAC files). The FLAC files play directly on the 5007 without problems, but I honestly can't tell the difference between the sound I get in this manner and CD quality. I now need to listen to higher res files with recorded material for which I could actually hear a difference (classical music recorded at higher than CD quality I suppose, I love the Beatles but I don't believe that there is much to be gained by using higher quality files for this kind of recording). Any idea where I can get those (I will investigate 2L and Linn, where are the sample tracks on this site that you are referring to)? I have a number of FLAC files downloaded form Deutsche Grammophon, but they are CD quality only.

 

As for the receiver itself, I very much doubt that you can get more for this kind of money. I just love the sound and flexibility (I also just upgraded my speakers to PSB Synchrony Ones, which helps a lot).

 

The only downsides to the 5007 so far are that the thing is ugly like hell, its bulky and I can heat my whole house with it (well, not quite, but it does run hot, and you need plenty of space above and behing it). The graphical interface to play files through the network (or through a USB mass device, like a USB key) is also quite ugly and rudimentary, but all you have to do is turn the TV screen off after setting it up the way you want!

 

I really can't tell whether the 5007 would "lack some of the resolution of fine detail, timbral accuracy and dynamics of systems qualifying for the hi-end moniker". I did listen to supposedly higher-end electronics when shopping for the speakers. I auditioned PSB Synchrony One speakers buying them with Classé electronics which are apprently high-end and I can't say that there is a difference between that and the Onkyo, but that's working from memory alone, not on the basis of a side by side comparison. Moreover, there are many variables (not the same room, not the same CD player, etc.) and the end result was obviously limited by the quality of the speakers. I might have heard a difference with higher quality speakers, who knows?

 

Its probably just me, but my perception is that speakers make a more audible difference than electronics past a certain price point in any event.

 

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Its probably just me, but my perception is that speakers make a more audible difference than electronics past a certain price point in any event.

Trust me - it's not you. Speakers by far make the biggest difference - and can extact the most out of your wallet. There's the famous strory about Wilson Audio demonstrating a comparison of two systems; one with the outrageously expensive Wilsons powered by a hidden setup and another with contending speakers powered by top of the line components in plain view. Most listeners chose the Wilsons but were aghast when the curtain was drawn showing an iPod for the source.

 

Here's a link from this site for some very well-recorded samples - http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Complimentary-241764-HRx-Downloads-Courtesy-Reference-Recordings.

 

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I downloaded the samples.

 

iTunes imports and plays the AIF version without problem, but attempting to sync with Apple TV results in a error message to the effect that the sampling rate is not supported. So Apple TV is not a solution for this level of files.

 

I can't appreciate the difference with the computer speakers I currently have.

 

The Onkyo can be used as a DLNA player, but it turns out that it is limited to 24bit/96kHZ in that regard. So using the Onkyo as a DLNA player is clearly not a solution for very high res files like these ones. The Logitech Transporter appears to have similar limitations.

 

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Sorry I steered you to the hi-hi-rez content. 2L allows download of complete tracks in various formats, and all their tracks that I've heard are of outstanding quality - http://www.2l.no/hires/index.html. Personally, I haven't decided if support for sample rates greater than 96kHz would be a showstopper. That format can sound just wonderful, and I'm not sure that I'm not just trying to convince myself that I can really hear any difference to higher sample rates.

 

FWIW, I just saw a press announcement for a new NAD processor, the M15 HD. I was briefly excited fantasizing what a company with a long history of delivering products of very high value could offer. But, in perusing the back panel, I found no RJ-45 input. This soon-to-be-released, supposedly state-of-the-art A/V processor doesn't connect to ethernet!!! It doesn't even have a USB input! I predict this product may sell a max of about a thousand units and wil be discontinued in 2 years. What a waste!

 

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I am leaving for work, so I did not have much time to spend on this.

 

I downloaded all of the samples and attempted to play them with the 5007 over the ethernet network. I can report that 24/96 2 ch. works over the ethernet with the Onkyo 5007 used as a DLNA player. 5.1 plays, but is output as 2ch only.

 

The supported formats are MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis and LPCM (that's for the Onkyo 5007 used as a DLNA player over the ethernet or using the USB input to play music files on a USB device). The "maximum" is 24/96, 2 ch. The receiver itself can play up to 24/192 using other inputs.

 

As for the sound quality, I did not have much time and I am no audiophile, just a music lover, but I must say that I was amazed. I listened to the Vivaldi track and I would never had believed that this was playing over an ethernet network if I had not set this up myself! In fact, it sounded better than a CD (but I lack a comparison point).

 

As to the fact that the NAD does not connect to the ethernet and has no USB input, one might argue that you may want to have these functions handled by a separate component. The DLNA playing functions of the 5007 work, but are rudimentary from a GUI and functionality perspective, and I again can't compare it to other solutions for lack of a reference point. I did not buy the Onkyo for this reason, just because it is a great value.

 

As to high res files, there has got to be a limit over which you can't hear any difference in the real world given that you are limited by the rest of you components, your room, your ears and age, etc. These files do get huge and take forever to download, not to mention the cost. I will be looking for info on this also.

 

This feels just like the beginning of the digital era for photography!

 

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As to the fact that the NAD does not connect to the ethernet and has no USB input, one might argue that you may want to have these functions handled by a separate component. The DLNA playing functions of the 5007 work, but are rudimentary from a GUI and functionality perspective, and I again can't compare it to other solutions for lack of a reference point. I did not buy the Onkyo for this reason, just because it is a great value.

I would argue that the A/V receiver is easily the best place to have ethernet and USB/Firewire connectivity. Many receivers are being released with a full complement (5 - 9 channels) of 24/192 DACs, and I'm sure there are many instances, such as the NAD, where their implementation is at least as good as many DACs aspiring for hi-end stature.

 

Also, you described the DLNA functionality of the Onkyo as "rudimentary from a GUI and functionality perspective". As a DLNA compliant device, the Onkyo can be controlled by any compliant Control Point. I have little doubt that in the not too distant future, there will be a range of DLNA compliant control points available, and you'll be able to pick and choose the user interface which best suits your needs.

 

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Just remember all the variables when auditioning anything. The acoustics of your room will sound completely different than a showroom. Also consider listening position. My take would be to audition whatever you can in your own home. That way you have the best chance at an accurate assessment. Also, when trying to do A/B comparisons, you should only listen to short selections as the human brain can retain short passage differences better than you might expect.

 

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"I would argue that the A/V receiver is easily the best place to have ethernet and USB/Firewire connectivity."

 

You may be right, but it depends on the implementation I suppose, and information regarding this is hard to find. Also, having separate components helps from a flexibility perspective. You can ugrade separately, for instance. You may also want video, which may or may not be possible with your receiver.

 

This whole thing is obviously in its infancy, and is going to evolve pretty fast I would think.

 

As for myslef, using the Onkyo as a DLNA player is a $0 solution to play high-res files in my immediate future, it works and the sound is great so I am going to be doing just that until I know a lot more about the subject.

 

I am learning very fast about the limitations of the components I have which I never knew were there. The mac toslink connection appears to be limited to 96khz for example. The apple tv appears to be limited to 720p and CD quality. Those limitations may or may not be relevant. The first priority is to determine what is realistically useful in the real world and plan accordingly. Can anything above 96khz make an audible difference with my room, speakers, etc., or with anything I might realistically upgrade to, for example?

 

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