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Article: The Value Proposition in Computer Audio: Entering Multichannel at the Ground Floor


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Happy to see your comments re. Auro for 2 channel sources, KR.  It seems to be available on an increasing number of products.

 

@jrobbins50, no it would require a five channel set-up; this is the way I believe KR is using it.

 

Bill

 

 

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3 hours ago, jrobbins50 said:

So, Auro3d requires no further speakers or amps. Let me understand the arrangement, @Kal Rubinson.

No.  3D requires speakers (and amps) above the horizontal listening plane.

3 hours ago, jrobbins50 said:

Can I turn Auro2d alone on for a single input of that sort?

It is possible that you can but there's no point to it with only 2 speakers.  It is meant to up-mix stereo to a more spacious soundfield and requires additional speakers in the horizontal listening plane.

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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29 minutes ago, jrobbins50 said:

 So, I’m unclear as to whether a 5.2 surround arrangement will work fine for Auro2d 

Sure.  You have more than just a stereo L/R pair to which you can expand.

30 minutes ago, jrobbins50 said:

I’m interested in your experience using the 7.1 analog inputs on the AV-8802A as to whether that input set can support Auro2d.

No.  You must use another input since the 7.1 analog inputs bypass all digital processing.  Even the stereo analog inputs would work but any of the digital ones would be better.

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Sorry, @Kal Rubinson, but I am now slightly confused.  I totally get that I can't use the 7.1 analog inputs for Auro-2d.  But, you reference using stereo analog inputs, which would imply a stereo output.  Or, is the signal path that is workable something like this:

 

Source stereo file on NAS or streaming from Tidal ---> Server for convolution and Roon playback ---> analog stereo input on Marantz, applying Auro-2d ---> 5.2 output to amps and subs

 

Put another way, does Auro-2d cause the Marantz to take the stereo input and create a surround environment with it?  If so, then a MCH DAC isn't even required, right?  Since my Bel Canto streamer's 2-channel outputs are connected to the stereo analog inputs on the Marantz, it would just be a flick of the switch, so to speak, to enable Auro-2d for that input set and then the output from the Marantz would be 5.2?  And would you, as I suggest above, apply convolution in Roon anyway before Auro-2d, or are they mutually exclusive sound processing arrangements?

 

Seems like a new and interesting thing to try, so I do want to make sure I understand it correctly.  Thanks for your patience with my inquiries here.  JCR

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27 minutes ago, jrobbins50 said:

Sorry, @Kal Rubinson, but I am now slightly confused.  I totally get that I can't use the 7.1 analog inputs for Auro-2d.  But, you reference using stereo analog inputs, which would imply a stereo output. 

1.  Yes, to use Auro-2D, you supply the Marantz with a stereo source input and it will output an Auro-2D 5.1 or 7.1 signal to your 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup.

2.  You cannot use the 7.1 analog inputs because those are not digitized by the Marantz but the stereo analog inputs are!

30 minutes ago, jrobbins50 said:

Source stereo file on NAS or streaming from Tidal ---> Server for convolution and Roon playback ---> analog stereo input on Marantz, applying Auro-2d ---> 5.2 output to amps and subs

Seems right.

31 minutes ago, jrobbins50 said:

Put another way, does Auro-2d cause the Marantz to take the stereo input and create a surround environment with it?  If so, then a MCH DAC isn't even required, right?

Yes and yes,  Since the job of Auro-2D is to up-mix stereo to a pseudo-multichannel output, why would you feed it multichannel?

32 minutes ago, jrobbins50 said:

Since my Bel Canto streamer's 2-channel outputs are connected to the stereo analog inputs on the Marantz, it would just be a flick of the switch, so to speak, to enable Auro-2d for that input set and then the output from the Marantz would be 5.2? 

Indeed.

 

32 minutes ago, jrobbins50 said:

And would you, as I suggest above, apply convolution in Roon anyway before Auro-2d, or are they mutually exclusive sound processing arrangements?

It depends on what you are doing convolution for.  If you are doing it for speaker/room correction, I would not as I would let the Marantz Audyssey handle it.

 

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Yes, speaker and room correction, @Kal Rubinson.  When we last exchanged messages on the topic of Audyssey, I was considering paying up for a pro license for my 8802A as I have the pro kit. Your recommendation then was, paraphrasing, to use Audyssey pro only if one of the more current softwares were unavailable. 
 

So, I didn’t buy the Audyssey license. Instead, I went down the Audiolense XO path and have been totally happy with the decision, notwithstanding the Roon MCH channel mapping issues that you and I both have been plagued with.

 

So, are you suggesting that for this specific purpose — using Auro-2d in the Marantz — I should calibrate an Audyssey pro MCH filter for the Marantz and have convolution off in Roon?  Ugh, more work, but I believe I see your point. 
 

The Auro-2d upgrade is $199 and the Audyssey pro license is $150.  And then there is the time to install, learn and use Audyssey pro. Is Auro-2d worth that investment, in your opinion?
 

Shana Tova to you and all on the forum. Cheers. JCR 

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1 hour ago, jrobbins50 said:

So, are you suggesting that for this specific purpose — using Auro-2d in the Marantz — I should calibrate an Audyssey pro MCH filter for the Marantz and have convolution off in Roon?  Ugh, more work, but I believe I see your point. 

Yes.  The point is that, since you are sending only stereo to the Marantz, AudioLense can only EQ those 2 channels because the one's that Auro2D extracts are not accessible to it.  So, even though Audyssey is not as competent as AudioLense, it is better than no EQ.

1 hour ago, jrobbins50 said:

The Auro-2d upgrade is $199 and the Audyssey pro license is $150.  And then there is the time to install, learn and use Audyssey pro. Is Auro-2d worth that investment, in your opinion?

Hard for me to say.  Have you tried any of the up-mixing options that the Marantz has now to get a taste of what Auro-2D might do?

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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No, @Kal Rubinson, but I have Redscape Audio’s headphone software bedside. Not only does it credibly recreate a real 6 channel surround environment for MCH tracks, it enhances the soundstage for 2 channel tracks played through it.  So, I get the idea. 
 

I’ve never used any of the Marantz options. What option would you say I should try and for this test, is using the built-in non-pro Audyssey adequate? Thanks. JCR 

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18 hours ago, jrobbins50 said:

Source stereo file on NAS or streaming from Tidal ---> Server for convolution and Roon playback ---> analog stereo input on Marantz, applying Auro-2d ---> 5.2 output to amps and subs

 

Wow.  Your setup with a multi-channel DAC would be perfect for me to run Auro as a plug-in if they develop a VST or AU version (currently just AAX for Protools).......

 

In my current two-channel setup I use either Audirvana with plugins for music or Audio Hijack for movies with plugins to do some tricks for what I think (currently!) are enhancements for both (in slightly different ways).

 

Bill

Labels assigned by CA members: "Cogley's ML sock-puppet," "weaponizer of psychology," "ethically-challenged," "professionally dubious," "machismo," "lover of old westerns," "shill," "expert on ducks and imposters," "Janitor in Chief," "expert in Karate," "ML fanboi or employee," "Alabama Trump supporter with an NRA decal on the windshield of his car," sycophant

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15 hours ago, jrobbins50 said:

I’ve never used any of the Marantz options.

I'm not sure why you use the analog inputs when your Bel Canto has optical and coax outputs (assuming it's like other BCs I've seen).  If you're doing it because you prefer the SQ of the BC's integral DAC to that of the Marantz DACs, you'll negate that by adding Marantz A-D and D-A processing on top of a signal that's already been converted to analog by the Bel Canto. 

 

Auro may not be accessible by digital input.  But I've not seen a MC receiver that wouldn't apply Dolby & other more common internal MC processing to digital input, since most MC receivers are bought for HT and most HT users connect their TVs, cable boxes, and other sources to their receivers digitally.  All you have to do is push a button to turn these effects on.  If I were you, I'd connect your Bel Canto digitally to your Marantz and start listening to the various ambience syntheses available to you.  Once you see what they can do, you'll have a better idea of if and how much you like the concept.

 

I'm also confused about your Okto DAC8 Pro.  Why do you need it if you have a MC receiver?  I know of no advantage to driving the unbalanced analog inputs of the Marantz with an 8 channel balanced DAC.  What source material are you using, if your Bel Canto is connected directly to the Marantz's analog inputs?  How are you listening to it with only a 2.2 speaker setup?

 

2.2 is generally used to mean 2 full range speakers and 2 subs.  If that's what you have, I assume you also have some kind of MC HT speaker setup, since you bought a pretty serious MC receiver.  If so, you can experience the various effects available in your Marantz through your HT speakers - they may not be high end audio quality, but they're good enough to demo the effects.  If you don't have a HT setup, some of the synthesized ambience programs are usable with 2 channels.  They do make a difference you should try, if only to be able to understand what they do - you don't have to like it or use it forever.

 

 

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2 hours ago, bluesman said:

Auro may not be accessible by digital input. 

It is.

2 hours ago, bluesman said:

If I were you, I'd connect your Bel Canto digitally to your Marantz and start listening to the various ambience syntheses available to you.  Once you see what they can do, you'll have a better idea of if and how much you like the concept.

Exactly.

2 hours ago, bluesman said:

I'm also confused about your Okto DAC8 Pro.  Why do you need it if you have a MC receiver?  I know of no advantage to driving the unbalanced analog inputs of the Marantz with an 8 channel balanced DAC.

It may be justified if one thinks that the d/a in the Okto is sufficiently superior to the d/a in the Marantz.

 

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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1 hour ago, Kal Rubinson said:

superior to the d/a in the Marantz.

As I said above, “If you're doing it because you prefer the SQ of the BC's integral DAC to that of the Marantz DACs, you'll negate that by adding Marantz A-D and D-A processing on top of a signal that's already been converted to analog by the Bel Canto”.  That’s obviously also true for the Okto.

 

Almost all HT receivers convert analog input to digital before it reaches the DSP chips. They then run the processed digital signals through a DAC for analog output to the speakers.
 

So if the OP prefers the SQ of his Okto or his Bel Canto to the internal DACs in the Marantz, he’s almost certainly negating that advantage when adding DSP.  He’s reprocessing the analog output signal with the same DACs after adding a preparatory pass through the Marantz’s ADC. This can only degrade SQ and makes no sense to me. 
 

Those line level connections are also prone to noise of many kinds - electrical, RFI etc. And the Okto is fully balanced.  Running balanced XLR to unbalanced RCA removes another potential SQ improvement by eliminating common mode rejection. So that logic also seems flawed to me.

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20 minutes ago, bluesman said:

Almost all HT receivers convert analog input to digital before it reaches the DSP chips. They then run the processed digital signals through a DAC for analog output to the speakers.

This Marantz does not do this nor does mine.  There is no a/d nor, of course, an additional d/a with the 7.1 analog multichannel inputs, only with the stereo analog inputs.

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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29 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

This Marantz does not do this nor does mine.  There is no a/d nor, of course, an additional d/a with the 7.1 analog multichannel inputs, only with the stereo analog inputs.

So the internal MC DSP simulations and ambience synthesis functions like Dolby are also non-functional on the analog MC inputs?  
 

The only reason I can see for this would be the assumption that any and all DSP is being applied ahead of a DAC in a front end that has no analog power output stage.  If so, why would anyone buy (or, for that matter, try to sell) a $4k+ receiver to use as an analog amplifier in lieu of better amplifiers for the same money? 
 

You seem to be contradicting yourself with the statement that “[t]his Marantz does not do this nor does mine.  There is no a/d nor, of course, an additional d/a with the 7.1 analog multichannel inputs, only with the stereo analog inputs”.  These Marantzes do exactly this - but (as you tell us) it’s only on input through the stereo RCAs and not on the 7.1 analog inputs.  It’s being done to the Bel Canto’s signal in the OP’s 8802 - just not to the Okto’s output.

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1 hour ago, bluesman said:

So the internal MC DSP simulations and ambience synthesis functions like Dolby are also non-functional on the analog MC inputs?  

Yes.

1 hour ago, bluesman said:

The only reason I can see for this would be the assumption that any and all DSP is being applied ahead of a DAC in a front end that has no analog power output stage

I do wonder about the reason for it but it is what I use to integrate my streamer and mch DAC with my multichannel prepro since I do all processing, including DiracLive, in software.

 

1 hour ago, bluesman said:

 If so, why would anyone buy (or, for that matter, try to sell) a $4k+ receiver to use as an analog amplifier in lieu of better amplifiers for the same money? 

Simple.  It allows the easy integration of a dedicated multichannel streamer/processor with a HT prepro that lets them share power amps and speakers.

 

1 hour ago, bluesman said:

You seem to be contradicting yourself with the statement that “[t]his Marantz does not do this nor does mine.  There is no a/d nor, of course, an additional d/a with the 7.1 analog multichannel inputs, only with the stereo analog inputs”.

OK.  Clumsy wording but you did get the point: 

 

1 hour ago, bluesman said:

These Marantzes do exactly this - but (as you tell us) it’s only on input through the stereo RCAs and not on the 7.1 analog inputs.

  

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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I misinterpreted a critical piece of information because of one of your posts, Kal -

 

On 9/21/2020 at 4:34 PM, Kal Rubinson said:

Yes, to use Auro-2D, you supply the Marantz with a stereo source input and it will output an Auro-2D 5.1 or 7.1 signal to your 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup.

 

You say clearly in this quote that the Marantz will output an Auro-2D 5.1 or 7.1 signal "to your...speaker setup".  It can't do that without an amplifier, which led me (and perhaps others) to believe that the Marantz units in question are receivers.  I just looked at their specs, and they're clearly not receivers - they're (as you described them) "pre-pros".  Forgive me for not knowing this, but my series is focused on the value oriented audiophile.  A $4k+ HT preamp is not commonly thought of as being a value oriented audio device.  Until today, I was entirely unfamiliar with this genre except for the Emotiva 700.

 

As the OP makes no mention at all of amplifiers or speakers in any of his multiple posts, it was logical to assume from his posts and yours that his Marantz is a receiver.  But with or without an output stage, he'll be running his 2 channel analog signal from his DACs through another AD-DA chain if he uses any DSP that's embedded in the Marantz or added by subscription from a 3rd party (i.e. Auro).  So any sonic advantage of his DACs over those in the Marantz will be diluted or washed away by additional ADA conversions and the use of unbalanced 2 conductor analog interconnects.

 

Whether the OP would prefer the SQ of the Marantz DAC with optical connections to his Bel Canto and Okto with analog connections is an interesting question, to which I'd love to know the answer.  But if the Marantz AD & DA convertors are suboptimal, are there higher quality pre-pros that might obviate the desire for a separate DAC up front?

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This article comes at such perfect timing for me. I recently "upgraded" from 4-way active mains to 1-way, full range line array. Quite the jump. So now I have an 8ch minidsp 88D, an 8ch DAC, and a 7-ch amp. All with 6ch free. I was thinking this is just begging for some multich experimentation.

 

The trick is. I need to get 8ch of AES out of my tower PC somehow. Right now it sends stereo audio to a Matrix USB transport that has one AES out for the 88d.

 

You mentioned the Minidsp U-DIO8, which would absolutely work. Lynx also makes a PCIE card with 16ch out. The problem though, is either one of those going to work with Netflix, DVDs, or traditional multich sources? Atmos is likely out, but maybe the older codecs would work? I need a game plan of how to get multi channel from streaming services out of the PC and into my audio rig.

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1 hour ago, sfhollis said:

So now I have an 8ch minidsp 88D, an 8ch DAC, and a 7-ch amp. All with 6ch free. I was thinking this is just begging for some multich experimentation.

 

The trick is. I need to get 8ch of AES out of my tower PC somehow. Right now it sends stereo audio to a Matrix USB transport that has one AES out for the 88d.

You may be making it harder to get MC than it needs to be for you by insisting on use of your current devices.  I assume you have your reasons for having bought that setup, but you don’t need all that stuff to do what you want to do.
 

If your PC has HDMI out, the easiest and cheapest alternative is probably to spend $300 on something like an Essence Evolve II HDMI DAC - you’ll have 8 analog RCA line outs to drive your amplifier directly.  An ESI Gigaport will turn USB input into the same 8 analog outs, if you prefer USB to HDMI.  And a UDIO8 will give you 8 AES channels out from USB.

 

If you use the MinuDSP for Dirac, you’ll need an AES MC sound card in your PC to drive it.
 

AES is not the easiest or most common modality for consumer audio.  There are AES MC sound cards for your PC, if you really want to go that route.  Most, like the Digigram PCX881e and VX822e, are sold to broadcast and recording industry businesses.  If it were me, I’d simplify rather than add yet more equipment.

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