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Considering Multichannel Audio System Options


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Thank you both Kal and Fitz for your insightful comments!  Lots to digest/consider.  

 

Fitz, you say that you listen to stereo only occasionally - where do you source your MCH music?  I do have a decent SACD collection but redbook dwarves it by several orders of magnitude!  Which is why I still want to ensure to build a great stereo system...

 

 

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Thank you Fitzcarraldo for your thorough (and very inspiring!) post.  You've pushed me to go back to the whiteboard and rethink my strategy.  HRAudio looks great, thank you!  And yes, I also buy a lot of SACDs from the UK.   MDT is probably my favorite site - selection, availability of hi res editions, fast shipping and prices are VERY often cheaper even with shipping than getting the same discs in the US from Amazon. 

 

Looking forward to continuing the discussions after I gain clarity on my strategy.

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On 9/11/2018 at 1:55 PM, Fitzcaraldo215 said:

 

My Mch collection is mostly ripped from SACDs, though increasingly labels are turning to downloads for Mch with corresponding disc releases only on CD. There are other downloads in PCM and DSD and the rest are ripped from BD-A or BD-V.  Most all are imported and tagged in my JRiver library on my NAS, though the BDs are more troublesome.

 

 

Fitz, I have another question for you.   In your experience, do these sources provide a dedicated subwoofer channel?  I have a handful of multichannel SACDs that are 5.0, so it seems to me that these assume either that you'll listen with full-range speakers/no SW, or that your system will do its own bass management.   I have to rip more of my multichannel SACDs and see what's really in there, as I've noticed that the back of the case usually doesn't say - it could be 4.0, 5.0, 5.1....

 

Do you prefer to listen to sources exactly as originally designed, or do you do bass management to have SW output in all cases?

 

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23 minutes ago, SrMead said:

 

Fitz, I have another question for you.   In your experience, do these sources provide a dedicated subwoofer channel?  I have a handful of multichannel SACDs that are 5.0, so it seems to me that these assume either that you'll listen with full-range speakers/no SW, or that your system will do its own bass management.   I have to rip more of my multichannel SACDs and see what's really in there, as I've noticed that the back of the case usually doesn't say - it could be 4.0, 5.0, 5.1....

 

Do you prefer to listen to sources exactly as originally designed, or do you do bass management to have SW output in all cases?

 

Yes, some Mch SACDs are 5.0, some are 5.1.  There is no rhyme, reason or consistency.  5.1 is really not necessary for music, but many exist nonetheless.  The metadata on the disc itself identifies 5 or 6 channels of audio.

 

Incidentally, some Mch SACDs from remaster are actually 3.0 or 4.0, but they are in a 5.0 container with the unused channels having zero signal.  So, no problem.

 

I listen to all sources, including stereo, using bass management with my sub via JRiver.  That automatically handles the 5.0/5.1 issue, and it provides better sound even in stereo.  In JRiver, though, one must avoid the Source Number of Channels output parameter setting in favor of the 5.1 output setting.  The other setting screws up channel assignments between 5.0 and 5.1.

 

Aside from occasional testing, I seldom listen in pure DSD.  I most always convert on-the-fly from my DSF files to 176k PCM in order to use DSP features like Dirac, bass management and speaker distance correction.  In my system, that sounds superior overall to pure DSD, though not in all ways.

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Fitzcaraldo215 said:

I listen to all sources, including stereo, using bass management with my sub via JRiver.  That automatically handles the 5.0/5.1 issue, and it provides better sound even in stereo.

 

You said before that JRiver goes into your Exasound.  How is that connection done?  I'm assuming that JRiver performs the bass management and outputs a 5.1 signal into the DAC?  I'm not too familiar with this area of functionality in JRiver.

 

Do you have a pre-amp after the DAC, or do you go straight into your power amp?

 

Thanks for all your input.   You're really helping me a lot in my planning.

 

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SrMead —

 

You won't find two better guides to establishing a multichannel system then Kal and Fitz.

 

Are you considering attending RMAF next month? I'm moderating a seminar entitled "Multichannel Music: The Promise and the Problems" on Sunday morning, October 7th at 10 AM. Kal will be on the panel, as will Brian Moura (of NativeDSD). Would be great to see you there.

 

Andrew Quint

Senior Writer, TAS

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16 minutes ago, SrMead said:

 

You said before that JRiver goes into your Exasound.  How is that connection done?  I'm assuming that JRiver performs the bass management and outputs a 5.1 signal into the DAC?  I'm not too familiar with this area of functionality in JRiver.

 

Do you have a pre-amp after the DAC, or do you go straight into your power amp?

 

Thanks for all your input.   You're really helping me a lot in my planning.

 

The Exasound E28 is connected to the PC via USB.  No exotic cables are of benefit, in my opinion.  That is the only way to get Mch to the Exasound.

 

The E28 is connected directly to my amps and sub.  I have the XLR version of the E28.

 

I use the digital master volume control in the E28, synchronized with JRiver volume.

 

Yes, JRiver performs the bass management.  There is a Wiki page on that.  Dirac Live then EQs the bass managed sub channel prior to the DAC.  

 

 

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10 minutes ago, ARQuint said:

 

SrMead —

 

You won't find two better guides to establishing a multichannel system then Kal and Fitz.

 

Are you considering attending RMAF next month? I'm moderating a seminar entitled "Multichannel Music: The Promise and the Problems" on Sunday morning, October 7th at 10 AM. Kal will be on the panel, as will Brian Moura (of NativeDSD). Would be great to see you there.

 

Andrew Quint

Senior Writer, TAS

Sounds interesting!  Where?   I'm in Seattle.

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4 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

RMAF is in Denver.

 

There  is a good alternative to the narrow selection of dedicated multichannel DACs.  See  https://www.stereophile.com/content/music-round-93-minidsp-ripping-sacds

 

Kal, I found your article through some other thread last night.  Very interesting!  Budget considerations aside, do you think that this solution could result in better quality than going with the exasound e38?

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Potentially, but not at a competitive price.  Remember, one has many, many options among stereo DACs and all seem to have their advocates.  Using 3 CA DACMagics was a sweet spot, imho, but not as good as the exaSound.  Three Benchmark DAC3s was a different story but so is the price.

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Fitz and Kal - bouncing off of you another idea.  I'm thinking about amplification.  Would you drive all channels with the same multichannel power amp, or would you separate out the channels?  Maybe prioritize the fronts with their own stereo power amp and the rest with a multi-channel amp? 

 

How important is the center channel?  OK to group it with the surrounds?

 

What amp brands do you suggest?  My current amp is a Rotel and I like it, but I'm curious to see what else is out there :)

 

Looking fwd to your thoughts, thanks!

 

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2 hours ago, SrMead said:

Would you drive all channels with the same multichannel power amp, or would you separate out the channels? 

I use three identical monoblock amps for L/CR (ocassionally a three-channel amp) and a stereo amp for SL/SR.

2 hours ago, SrMead said:

How important is the center channel? 

For music, it should be identical to L/R or, at least, an adjacent model in the same range.  Avoid most dedicated center speakers.

2 hours ago, SrMead said:

What amp brands do you suggest?

???Tough to say.  Pick the speakers first. 

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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14 hours ago, SrMead said:

Fitz and Kal - bouncing off of you another idea.  I'm thinking about amplification.  Would you drive all channels with the same multichannel power amp, or would you separate out the channels?  Maybe prioritize the fronts with their own stereo power amp and the rest with a multi-channel amp? 

 

How important is the center channel?  OK to group it with the surrounds?

 

What amp brands do you suggest?  My current amp is a Rotel and I like it, but I'm curious to see what else is out there :)

 

Looking fwd to your thoughts, thanks!

 

For amps, I have 3 stereo amps plus a monoblock for 7.1:  a Spectron Class D, 2x Parasound A23s and a Bryson Powerpac 120.  I believe in short speaker wires, hence long interconnects, ergo my Exasound E28 has balanced XLR outs.  I have 10-meter interconnect runs to my surround and back channels.

 

Incidentally, I have not done an E28>E38 upgrade because I am a bit worried about those long interconnect runs, and there is no balanced E38.

 

Also, those Parasound amps are terrific, especially for the price.  And, they make bigger models in 2/3/5 channel configurations.  But, there are other brands that are good, too.  I have no direct experience with Rotel, but I hear nothing negative about them.

 

If I were you, I would probably get a 3-channel amp for up front and use the Rotel for the surrounds in 5.1.  

 

The center channel is important for both music and video.  It may seem subtle, because it does not define the soundstage spatial boundaries like the main fronts.  But, it fills in the center of the soundstage, providing more coherence, detail and depth, and it anchors the frontal image.  It also delivers much better dialog articulation on video. 

 

And, while my dream system would have 3 identical speakers across the front, as Kal suggests, I am not at all unhappy with my horizontal center speaker, a Martin Logan which matches my other ML speakers quite well, especially after Dirac calibration.

 

 

 

 

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You are quite welcome.  Kal and I and others are still here if you need us.

 

Having wandered about in the audio wilderness for decades and hearing  exaggerated promises about this or that stereo system or upgrade sounding “just like live music”, hirez discrete Mch was the first time I was truly happy with comparisons to my live concert experience.  I have been at it for 11 years with no regrets whatsoever.  No multi, multi kilobuck stereo, and I have heard quite a few, is as good as this.  Mch is easily the biggest and most satisfying audio discovery of my lifetime.

 

Good luck and happy listening.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok guys, here's an update.   

 

I'm spending the weekend being blown away by my new toy, the exasound e38.   What an incredible piece of equipment.  Fedex showed up yesterday with it.

 

It's like I have an entire new system, and I haven't changed anything else - instead of using the DAC in my Rotel receiver the e38 took over the job and breathed new life into my system.   Detail, precision, separation, depth, imaging... I'm not sure what words to use but honestly I didn't realize my trusty old 13 year old system could sound so good.

 

Not to mention that from a practical perspective, going from stereo to MCH is now a non-issue - Roon sends over the stream and the DAC takes care of it.   I plugged it into the MULTI INPUTs of the Rotel and just keep the receiver set to that in bypass mode.  No more switching from optical to HDMI-in to analog 2 ch.  By the way, Roon configuration was a 15 second task.  The drivers ensure that Roon can send DSD streams natively so no more DoP packing or heavy loads on the PC processor even with quad-DSD.

 

The speakers and system setup is still following the conventional home theater layout with the surround channels in the back.  So the journey will continue with updated speakers and a new geometry bringing the surrounds to the sides per your advice.  Probably a new pre and separate amps.  So this is not over by any means but I have to say, this first step of the journey is already a blast.

 

Thanks for all your help and inspiration, you guys have been instrumental in setting me on the right track.

 

I hope your weekends are being even half the fun as mine :) 

 

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Glad to hear of your new acquisition;  the exaSound DACs are the sweet spot in the MCH market.

 

Sadly, Fitzcaraldo215 is suffering from a serious health matter.  I do not know how he would feel about me mentioning this but his absence is certainly felt by those who know him and I cannot respond here without an abiding concern for him on my mind.

 

 

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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  • 1 month later...
On 9/15/2018 at 2:22 PM, ARQuint said:

Are you considering attending RMAF next month? I'm moderating a seminar entitled "Multichannel Music: The Promise and the Problems" on Sunday morning, October 7th at 10 AM. Kal will be on the panel, as will Brian Moura (of NativeDSD). Would be great to see you there.

 

 

I didn't make it to Denver but was happy to see that the session was posted to YouTube.  About an hour of very interesting discussions.

https://youtu.be/Bu4cNkytab4

 

 

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On ‎8‎/‎23‎/‎2018 at 11:19 PM, Evo-No-Revo said:

Yes, that was a point I meant to make earlier..  My music selection isn't really represented very well in the multichannel recording available.  There are those few classic rock albums done to SACD.  I do really like concert videos and that is one of the drivers of my multichannel A/V setup.  I am way more interested in classic rock, prog rock old and new and some classical.  The classical is mostly to enjoy the equipment as I have literally never tapped my toes to classical music.   Jazz sometimes but I often find it more annoying than entertaining.  I guess I am limited in that respect.  I have 97,000 plus tracks in my library and I bet I could live easily with only 10,000. 

Hi Evo, not sure if you are still interested in jumping into the multichannel waters but in the prog genre there are quite a few old and new releases done in mch. Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Anathema , Pineapple Thief, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd all have wonderfull released out there. On www.quadraphonicquad. com you can find tons of multichannel releases. 

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks Robert,

I have a few multichannel recordings from Tull, Floyd, Porcupine Tree and Steve Wilson.....I have not heard of Pineapple Thief.   I am listening to it right now....I like it!

 

 

DIY Music Server > Lumin U1 Mini > Exogal Comet Plus w/Upgraded Power Supply > Exogal ION Power DAC Amp > Magnapan LRS (fuse delete) > REL SHO/3 Sub

Verrastar PC Cables, Phasure Lush^2 USB, Audience Au24 SE speaker cables

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