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Article: At Long Last! Listen To Your (Physical) SACDs Through an Outboard DAC


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Hi George-

AFAIR, all ESS chips convert DSD to PCM internally, they don't do one-bit conversion direct to analog. There are AKM chips that convert DSD directly to analog, without internal conversion as an intermediate step.

Maybe that's why you don't like the sound of the Oppo.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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There are other Universal players that have this I2S type of format, one is a Pioneer Elite DV-79AVi/AVi-s which calls it i.link connector. There are more out there also.

Current:  JRiver 26 on Win 10 PC (AMD Ryzen 5 2600 with 32 GB RAM) or Daphile on an AMD A10-5700 with 8 GB RAM

DAC - TEAC UD-501 DAC 

Amplification - Bow Technologies Wazoo Integrated (great amp - silly name)

Speakers: Wharfedale Linton Heritage - KEF LS50 - ELAC unifi UB5's - Linn Tukans - others......

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5 minutes ago, firedog said:

Hi George-

AFAIR, all ESS chips convert DSD to PCM internally, they don't do one-bit conversion direct to analog. There are AKM chips that convert DSD directly to analog, without internal conversion as an intermediate step.

Maybe that's why you don't like the sound of the Oppo.

It's always great to possibly correlate a technical reason for the sonic preferences of someone. Thanks @firedog.

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There's also this : https://www.stereophile.com/content/geerfab-audio-dbob-digital-breakout-box

which can be attached to an SACD player HDMI out and output DSD (DoP) over SPDIF to a DAC. 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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58 minutes ago, firedog said:

Hi George-

AFAIR, all ESS chips convert DSD to PCM internally, they don't do one-bit conversion direct to analog. There are AKM chips that convert DSD directly to analog, without internal conversion as an intermediate step.

Maybe that's why you don't like the sound of the Oppo.

Could be. I was under the impression that as a 1-bit (delta-sigma) DAC that the ESS DACs would do a direct conversion of DSD.

George

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Wow! What a Great article! As an Oppo 205 owner and someone with many many hundreds of SACDs, I found this very interesting! May have to investigate the denafrips dacs (always have salivated at the reviews of them) to try this out!

Any similar solutions to extract the multichannel layer off of the SACDs to a higher quality multichannel DAC (without some semi-elaborate process of ripping them/iso files)? I enjoy both 2 channel and the multichannel sacds (esp for classical music). 
thanks!

Doug

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1 hour ago, gmgraves said:

While that’s very true, the solution mentioned in the Stereophile article costs about US$1000 vs around $60 for this solution. One has gotta want to play one’s SACDs through an outboard DAC very badly, to be willing to go that route. Luckily, now one doesn’t have to...

Sure, but lots of DACs don't have an HDMI input, but do have an SPDIF input. 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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31 minutes ago, miguelito said:

I actually purchased a similar device a few years ago:

 

http://www.hifi168.com/bbs/showtopic-249820.aspx

 

Works fine.

 

 

not an expert here, but I don't think that device sends the DSD in a manner that any device can use directly like the I2S over HDMI does. I on't think any commercial device accepts pure DSD over a coaxial connection, only DSD over PCM. correct?

Tidal/Qobuz >> Roon >> Mac Mini >> USB >> Antelope Eclipse 384  DAC and headphone amps >> Avantgarde Duo Omega with DIY 16 foot bass horns

 

ZYX Optimum - Moerch DP8 arm - Merrill Williams >> Esoteric E-02 >>> either Antelope as above or  Placette Passive >> DIY 300B amp

 

 

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If you owned a Bryston BDA-3 DAC, this would have been quite easy.  Connect a HDMI cable to one of the HDMI outputs of a Oppo BDP-95 model (or later) and connect to the HDMI input of the Bryston DAC and you are good to go.

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26 minutes ago, bbosler said:

not an expert here, but I don't think that device sends the DSD in a manner that any device can use directly like the I2S over HDMI does. I on't think any commercial device accepts pure DSD over a coaxial connection, only DSD over PCM. correct?

This device sends DSD from SACDs over DoP (aka DSD over PCM) over a coax SPDIF connection. My dCS Rossini DAC reports DSD is received.

 

The player in this case is an Oppo BDP-93.

mini+Roon > dCS Rossini DAC + Rossini Master Clock >

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3 hours ago, miguelito said:

This device sends DSD from SACDs over DoP (aka DSD over PCM) over a coax SPDIF connection. My dCS Rossini DAC reports DSD is received.

 

The player in this case is an Oppo BDP-93.

 

Please clarify - are you saying that you can connect the Oppo Player to your Rossini dac via coax and get a DSD stream out of the Oppo and into the Rossini over that coax connection.  I have a Vivaldi and assume I could do the same thing.  This would be great and eliminate ripping SACD's.

 

As an aside, I am pretty sure the Vivaldi transport sends DSD from SACD's to the Vivalidi dac (or upsampler), but I do not have a Vivaldi transport, so I am not certain how it works for sure.

- Mark

 

Synology DS916+ > SoTM dCBL-CAT7 > Netgear switch > SoTM dCBL-CAT7 > dCS Vivaldi Upsampler (Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 Dual 110 Ohm AES/EBU > dCS Vivaldi DAC (David Elrod Statement Gold power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 xlr > Absolare Passion preamp (Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 xlr > VTL MB-450 III (Shunyata King Cobra CX power cords) > Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker > Kaiser Kaewero Classic /JL Audio F110 (Wireworld Platinum power cord).

 

Power Conditioning: Entreq Olympus Tellus grounding (AC, preamp and dac) / Shunyata Hydra Triton + Typhoon (Shunyata Anaconda ZiTron umbilical/Shunyata King Cobra CX power cord) > Furutec GTX D-Rhodium AC outlet.

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1 minute ago, MarkS said:

Please clarify - are you saying that you can connect the Oppo Player to your Rossini dac via coax and get a DSD stream out of the Oppo and into the Rossini over that coax connection.

I can connect the HDMI out of the Oppo (setting the Oppo to output bitstream I think it is called - DSD over HDMI), into this adapter, which in turn transforms the DSD stream into a DoP stream and sends it to the Rossini over coax/SPDIF.

 

The Vivaldi or Rossini transports send DSD to the DACs over a double-AES connection (only). I don’t now if that is DoP but it is almost certainly not.

 

As for this device, I had someone buy it for me in China (costs ~$450) but you can use other methods that will buy it for you and send it over. 

mini+Roon > dCS Rossini DAC + Rossini Master Clock >

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo G2

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Thanks!!

 

- Mark

 

Synology DS916+ > SoTM dCBL-CAT7 > Netgear switch > SoTM dCBL-CAT7 > dCS Vivaldi Upsampler (Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 Dual 110 Ohm AES/EBU > dCS Vivaldi DAC (David Elrod Statement Gold power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 xlr > Absolare Passion preamp (Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 xlr > VTL MB-450 III (Shunyata King Cobra CX power cords) > Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker > Kaiser Kaewero Classic /JL Audio F110 (Wireworld Platinum power cord).

 

Power Conditioning: Entreq Olympus Tellus grounding (AC, preamp and dac) / Shunyata Hydra Triton + Typhoon (Shunyata Anaconda ZiTron umbilical/Shunyata King Cobra CX power cord) > Furutec GTX D-Rhodium AC outlet.

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54 minutes ago, Daveyu said:

What i2s cable did you use for this article or just a high speed hdmi cable, is there a difference?

Just regular HDMI cables. It never even occurred to me to try boutique HDMI cables. You can if you wish, but that’s a road I don’t want to travel down.

George

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The weak link here is the SACD transport being used. Besides the proprietary transport in the T&A SACD player, the best available transport I know of for SACD's is the Denon/Marantz unit. That is what DCS uses, I believe. This is important, because all laser disc transports will die, and spares of the current Denon/Marantz unit can still be purchased.  If someone (me) really wants to play their SACD's and have no need for an outboard DAC (to stream), then the Denon DCD-1600NE player is a steal. Much better sound than my old Sony SCD-1 (better than the 777), which died a similar death. (And, that is after replacing the laser once already. Did I need to buy 2 spares?) If the Denon 1600 is too low-fi, then Denon has higher end models, as does Marantz. Over and done with. Yes, I did buy spare parts for the Denon: an entire mech and laser assembly for $99 versus $250 for the Sony laser alone back in the day.

g033DCD1600-F.jpg

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4 hours ago, Shib said:

The weak link here is the SACD transport being used. Besides the proprietary transport in the T&A SACD player, the best available transport I know of for SACD's is the Denon/Marantz unit. That is what DCS uses, I believe. This is important, because all laser disc transports will die, and spares of the current Denon/Marantz unit can still be purchased.  If someone (me) really wants to play their SACD's and have no need for an outboard DAC (to stream), then the Denon DCD-1600NE player is a steal. Much better sound than my old Sony SCD-1 (better than the 777), which died a similar death. (And, that is after replacing the laser once already. Did I need to buy 2 spares?) If the Denon 1600 is too low-fi, then Denon has higher end models, as does Marantz. Over and done with. Yes, I did buy spare parts for the Denon: an entire mech and laser assembly for $99 versus $250 for the Sony laser alone back in the day.

g033DCD1600-F.jpg

Absolutely! That’s what I found. The quality of the SACD playback is determined fairly, largely, by the quality of the transport. The Oppo 205 gives incredibly analog-like playback through the Denafrips Pontus. But the same SACDs played on the Sony’s transport, was pretty poor.

One experiment that I tried after I had submitted the above article, was to compare an SACD sampler of releases from Reference Recordings, with the Reference’s CD ROM of the same material through the same Pontus DAC. The material on the CD ROM, was in the form of a group of 24/192 WAV files. The results surprised me. The SACD outperformed the 24/192 WAV files in every way an audio presentation can be aurally compared! I hesitate to make odious comparisons, but certainly, in that case, the high sample rate LPCM was inferior to the DSD data from the SACD. Hardly scientific, but certainly an eye opener.

George

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3 hours ago, gmgraves said:

Absolutely! That’s what I found. The quality of the SACD playback is determined fairly, largely, by the quality of the transport. The Oppo 205 gives incredibly analog-like playback through the Denafrips Pontus. But the same SACDs played on the Sony’s transport, was pretty poor.

 

Hello George, for once we are in agreement. The heavier duty the transport, the less vibration, and less work is required by the laser and its focusing mechanism. An analog out from a pressed metal transport of Sony SACD BD ( I have several) will always sound like that, pressed metal. The coax digital out is marginally better through an external DAC, although I have not tried the methods in this article (no DAC that's suitable for inputs, or player with HDMI out combo).

 

I'm quite happy with the Accuphase DP-720 SACD XLR out or via their HS-Link (LVDS) to a compatible DAC for SACD playback, it still has the edge even over ripped DSF files. One day the laser will die, I am assured that spares are available for some time yet.

 

Interesting read and great discovery :)

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@gmgraves

 

The Sony BDP-BX37 was unique SKU US/CA model, only available in a set of retail stores owned by a very rich Southern family 🤠, designed to hit what was at that time the lowest available price point for those desiring to try Blu-Ray.  For comparison on a supposed audiophile site you picked a highly amusing device.  Certainly amusing to me since I bought one used a year or two ago to do basically the same test(s).  Admittedly I didn't get CC to monetize purchase of a dongle and moved directly on to watching a 99¢ BD after determining this device was not an unrecognized jewel missing some key hardware mod/firmware adjustment.    

 

Absolved of provenance.  I think your article missed a key element by failing to mention the Burr-Brown (Texas Instruments) PCM1738 DAC chip in the Sony which ultimately provoked you to explore the OPPO's capabilities further.  Some mention of why one/both of us chose this exact model wouldn't have gone astray either.  Though probably beyond the scope of this article.  I'd also liked to have seen a few lines, or HINT HINT get the boss to clean up and promote his previous article, on mShuttle file transfer as a second reference point to depict how broadly it and the OPPO varied in function as transports.      

 

As always, you prove a very interesting character under any pen name.   

 

Edit: While digging up that pdf I came across this Audio Circle link which delves fairly deeply into the questions at hand.

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Interesting article which got me thinking about my Cambridge Audio DVD99. To clarify I found this on ASR:

i) conventional HDMI video-audio interface, in which the digital video and audio signals are processed by an HDMI controller chip. An extension of this standard is "DSD-over-HDMI" - which encrypts DSD data (yes, this is I2S) within conventional HDMI multiplexing methods. I understand that quite a number of SACD players have this feature, but the only receiving devices commercially available which support this feature are Home Theatre Receivers (no DAC's) and even then, only a modest number of HTR's.
The downside of this method is that the digital clocking of HDMI chips yields relatively high jitter.

ii) I2S-over-HDMI interface - This is what Paul McGowan is talking about! There is no digital processing involved - the (weak) I2S signal is amplified by an LVDS transmitter, then connected to an HDMI jack. This is where confusion often arises - "HDMI" is involved only for its physical connector! There is no HDMI-associated processing involved.
This can be a very high quality, low jitter interface, indeed.
The downside is that this interface is quite rare, and your choice of hardware is very limited. Yes, Paul McGowan's "PerfectWave transport" supports I2S-over-HDMI - but it only plays CD and DVD discs - not SACD! There's no off-the-shelf SACD player available which supports I2S-over-HDMI. DSD-over-HDMI, sure, but not I2S-over-HDMI. This is for (Sony) legal/licensing reasons, not technical reasons.
Examples of other playback devices which offer direct I2S output (and optional I2S-to-HDMI) are the Raspberry Pi computer, and a conventional PC with Pink Faun I2S Bridge.

I wonder if jitter is part of the problem @gmgraves experienced?

It seems that accessing the DSD stream from a disc player is complicated by the need for highly specific hardware (matching SACD player output to DAC input via de-embedder), and not least by Sony's protection. It seems my Cambridge Audio DVD99 can output DSD-over-HDMI so potentially a de-embedder could get me half way to routing DSD to my DAC, however it only accepts DSD over USB - probably a very common problem.

Ah, but they don't realise, it's right before their eyes, life is for livin', right now before you die.

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