Jump to content
IGNORED

Digital Front End


Recommended Posts

I apologize in advance if this is a little too off topic for a Computer Audiophile forum, but I suspect many of you have opinions on this nonetheless.

 

I have a ton of ripped music. And a growing collection of high(-er) res files. A pile of LPs. All these get use! But I also have a couple hundred SACDs that are languishing.

 

So I'm interested in getting a better SACD player. I currently have an old Accuphase on semi-perm loan, and quite frankly, I'm underwhelmed. In fact, my old PS Audio III DAC sounded routinely better playing the redbook layer of a hybrid SACD than the Accuphase did playing the SACD layer of the same disc. It was silly.

 

I thought about getting a Sony ES SCD-XA5400es, but Sony seems to have discontinued the line and the only remaining stock are from dealers with less than stellar reps, or the ever-declining number of oddball one-offs from non-dealers with no Sony warranty.

 

I've thought about an Oppo, but while they're good, even the new 83SE is a big step down from my DAC. This may end up being my best bet, but I'm concerned that I'd end up with a player no better than the Accuphase.

 

I've thought about an Ayre C-5xeMP, but at $6k, I feel that investing more in a player for my few SACDs than I have in my DAC is a bit silly. I suppose I could find a used one, though.

 

I've heard good things about the new Marantz Reference line, but the feedback on that line is contradictory. And at $6-7k, they're not exactly cheap.

 

Ok, so there's some data points. Suggestions are welcome.

 

Link to comment

Have you looked at a SACD player adapted (or with external adapter) to output 176.4 PCM into your DAC?

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment

surely second hand must be the way to go? Maybe not the most popular format in the first place, but I imagine a few people must be getting rid, so I would have thought you could find bargains. Total guess.

 

A tangential socrastictical debate on what's better, a used bargain or a brand new box, may be annoying - but for a format such as SACD, I call bargain.

 

An end-of-line discounted Sony under guarantee doesn't sound bad (but then I'm not sure what a Sony guarantee is worth these days).

 

Sorry for the distinct lack of firm suggestions :)

 

ZZ

 

Link to comment

I currently have an old Accuphase on semi-perm loan, and quite frankly, I'm underwhelmed. In fact, my old PS Audio III DAC sounded routinely better playing the redbook layer of a hybrid SACD than the Accuphase did playing the SACD layer of the same disc. It was silly.

 

Weird.

 

What is your room/amp/speaker setup like? Could the accuphase be faulty? This is a rather odd conclusion unless you prefer a warmer presentation or a compressed sound (many people do - which is why mainstream music is heavily compressed)?

 

In general the CD redbook layer on most SACD's is woefully compressed - this will mean they sound good played a low SPL levels, as the compression adds more punch, which is perceived as more detail/loudness. Since most listeners do not have decent setups then the compression gives them a sound they like most. (It is the same technique that makes commercials on TV sound so loud and audible compared to the movie you were watching - the compression helps in speech recognition by making everything a little harsher)

 

In general, the SACD layer will have much less compression and will have much greater dynamic range. This SACD version may actually sound a bit lifeless at less than real live SPL levels. The CD layer may sound better at background/conversational/general listening levels, however, when cranked to the levels you would expect at a concert then the SACD layer should sound FAR better - regardless of the D to A stage (because the recording is simply so much better!! When you crank a better recording it opens up and the better dynamic range allows you to hear more details, space and natural decay (timbre) around the instruments (details that mastering compression has destroyed on most CD's).

 

 

 

Benchmark DAC2, Active speakers: ATC 150's, 100's, 20's, C6CA, C6 Subwoofer.

 

Headphones: Only for playing drums. I don't like sounds in my head. The best headphones suck. Nothing can replace good speakers played loudly. And nothing absolutely nothing is a substitute for live music!

Link to comment

Clux 11SA (named something else in USA) - UK cost around £100 - strips the audio from a HDMI connection from SACD player, etc. presenting 2channel PCM streams via TOSLink at upto 192k - exact format varies depending on the player. Such an output could be fed into a compatible DAC or recorded digitally with a suitable interface.

 

Other similar devices are available and there are reports on the forum of internal modifications to achieve the same.

 

I've seen reports implying the the Cambridge Audio 650BD and (maybe also) BD83 can be configured to output such a signal without any adaptor but I'm not 100% sure of this.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment

Yes, think the device I'm thinking of is the Atlona HD570 in the USA.

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment

I hear you, and yes, it was really unexpected. I have no explanation for it other than a problem with the player. But the result was consistent.

 

[edit] I will say that most of my listening between these two was done when 90dB+ volumes weren't possible. I think the average was about 80dB +/- 5dB. And yes, we did note the loudness difference which I had no explanation for at the time, to which compression is a very obvious answer.

 

That said, playing some SACDs of classical music (of which I don't have many) did make my Plinius-fed Merlins sound rather anemic. Playing similar music through my DAC not only warmed up the sound, but two potential buyers (I was selling the Merlins at the time) commented that when switching over to the DAC from the Accuphase, "they sounded like totally different speakers". And they were not playing the system at reasonable volumes, but rather cranking up to 95dB+ (I ended up fleeing the room while crossing my fingers).

 

Link to comment

My understanding is the Atlona will strip audio out of HDMI and pipe it out optical. Unfortunately, for this function to work, the Atlona also needs to be simultaneously and continuously connected via HDMI to a monitor to hold the HDMI handshake. The Atlona acts like a vampire tap on an existing connection, and not like a proper destination in and of itself.

 

Link to comment

In the future, PS Audio may have a way to play DSD through the Network Bridge to the Perfect Wave DAC-this would be a ways off though, but if they can make it happen, it will be true DSD, as converting to even high rate PCM makes no sense (the advantage of DSD is its single bit nature).

The following solution requires some DIY, but can be done, and if you are not capable, you could pay a tech to set you up:

Modify an existing transport to output pure DSD (hack it) this can be something as simple as an OPPO

Then build up a Buffalo DAC from Twisted Pear Audio. The Buffalo is based on the ESS 9018 chip, and can accept DSD natively. In a few months Twisted Pear is also going to introduce an Async USB receiver module for the Buffalo that should be capable up to 24/384 PCM!

I would not bother with any solution that converts DSD to PCM in any form.

I believe FMAK at Audio Asylum is running a Buffalo, and sending it pure DSD files from his soundcard (as well as high res PCM), you might want to check out some of his posts over there.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

A couple of questions for you...

 

First off, you comment that PS Audio may have a way to play DSD files via the Bridge - but how does this actually help (except in promoting PS Audio again) unless they are also able to provide a way to get DSD data from the SACD onto the computer. Something which I understand is impossible without mastering grade equipment?

 

Next you suggest modifying a transport and using it with a Buffalo II DAC board - giving you the ESS Sabre 32 chip. While we all know that things are not as simple as "using the *best* DAC chip", the BD83SE already uses the ESS Sabre 32.

 

You end up commenting "I would not bother with any solution that converts DSD to PCM in any form" but you realise don't you that (assuming I have understood correctly) as soon as the DSD data hits the Sabre DAC it is converted and oversampled to enable it to go through the same 6bit delta-sigma "DAC" - so in actual fact you are supporting a design which isn't true PCM all the way through.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment

The Gefen "HDMI Director" will emulate an HDMI monitor with HDCP handshake.

 

ted_b said on May 30 that he planned to try the Atlona with a 30-day return privilege.

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Sacd-transport-DAC

 

You might ask Ted to post his findings in this thread. Alternatively, if you PM him, please summarize his comments here.

 

 

HQPlayer (on 3.8 GHz 8-core i7 iMac 2020) > NAA (on 2012 Mac Mini i7) > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

Link to comment

1. I need to edit the above post, as it should be made clear that the PS PerfectWave DAC would require hardware upgrades to handle DSD natively (the DAC chip can do it, but it is not enabled on the board level)-the Network Bridge is designed to process DSD as delivered. The Network Bridge was designed to work with DSD, to be future proof.

2. I believe there are some ways to get access to DSD on some computers, and get DSD to stream via a soundcard. I suspect you have to use Sony Computers. I do not do this myself, but as noted, for those who are interested, check out posts on this topic by fmak (I believe he uses an RME soundcard to output DSD), over at the pc audio forum at Audio Asylum.

3. The ESS chip used in the OPPO is the lower level version (I think 9022?) not the better performing top of the line 9018. As you note, it is not just about the chip. Anyone interested in the DIY Twisted Pear Buffalo DAC should check it out. The implementation is very sophisticated in terms of power supplies, and I/V and analog output stage options. I am going to build one of these up, and will be happy to post my thoughts.

4. Processing in the ESS chips. So far, I am not entirely clear on how the ESS 9018 handles all data. I do know that in the Buffalo the ASRC is enabled, which makes me nervous. But I take solace in the fact that Daniel Weiss uses the 9018 this way in the DAC 202 (and he normally does not like ASRC in hardware)-apparently ESS' implementation of the ASRC is quite different from that used in hardware by TI, AD, etc.

As to PCM processing of DSD, the real data sheet for the ESS chips is not in the public domain, so it is not possible to really get an idea of what is going on (with spectrum of the output, and the effect of the noise shaping involved). Perhaps the ESS is no good at processing DSD? It appears that when it does convert DSD to PCM, it is at much higher sampling rate (like in the MHz range?), this would be a lot different than converting DSD to PCM at 24/176.4. Those who have used it for this purpose have reported good results.

I am interested in the well implmented ESS DACs, because this chip operates differently from the norm, and so far the reports have all been very good. Commercial products that operate outside the norm in terms of digital processing (Chord, dCS) are out of my range in terms of price, so I cannot experiment with them at home. What I do like about the TP Buffalo DAC kits, is that one can fit them out however they would like: both IC based, and discrete based I/V conversion and output stages are available (or you can build another design), one can provide their own power supplies, or use TP's low output impedance/low noise shunt regulated supplies, etc. Since it is DIY one can use the best parts and power supplies, avoiding the compromises inherant in most commercial products, for a fraction of the cost. TP has also been working very closely with ESS since the inception of the Sabre, and are now on their third design for this chip: they probably know more about how to implement the ESS DACs than anyone else at this time.

 

Eloise: do you have access to full technical details on the ESS 9018? I know that the real data sheet is not in the public domain and requires a developer to sign an NDA to get your hands on it? And, thanks for correcting me on how the ESS handles DSD.

 

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

Link to comment

This has always done a very good job of SACD in my mind, I am not sure what chips are inside though.

 

Funnily enough I have been thinking of selling it and buying the Oppo BDP83SE which has the Ess Sabre 9016 chip, I know at least 3 friends who have made the change and have not looked back.

 

 

 

Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...

Atlona modified their unit for me to eliminate the need for the handshake at no extra charge and I had it in less than a week. It sits between my Oppo and a Berkeley Alpha and works as advertised.

Jim

 

Olive 4HD/Oppo-83 >> Berkeley Alpha >> Bryston 4B SST2 >> Canton 3.2ref

Link to comment

Hi Jim - To get the Alpha to display 88 and 44 correctly you need to scroll through the inputs. Once it's back to the correct input the display will read the correct sample rate. It's not a problem with the audio playback even if you don't do this. The Alpha was designed to read the incoming sample rate extremely fast then disengage from the display. If the incoming signal doesn't settle down to the exact sample rate extremely fast then the Alpha displays the correct but incorrect rate if you know what I mean. This way there is no sonic degradation attributed to the display. There's no free lunch.

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

Link to comment

Comparing the toslink output direct from the Oppo to the HDMI>>Atlona on a Blu-Ray audio disk I found the performance to be the same or very similar. Obviously HDMI>>Atlona is the only way I have to play SACD so I have no comparison. Overall I'm pretty happy with the solution although I plan to bug Mike about replacing the unused BADA input on the Alpha with an HDMI input. I think it would be a good upgrade for them.

 

Olive 4HD/Oppo-83 >> Berkeley Alpha >> Bryston 4B SST2 >> Canton 3.2ref

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...