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


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2 hours ago, jxo said:

I have a couple of flimsy Sony BX510s for ripping and I can see why these may not be the most well made transport devices.   I assume bits are bits but I was asking whether using a bluray player for digital transport to a DAC would be different for any reason (as distinguished from a Sony player for ripping purposes).  I assume a solid blu ray player with a dedicated audio hdmi output would be unable to read an SACD (unless its a Sony).   Just checking.    Btw, those cheap Sonys regularly used for ripping are not feature designated as SACD players.

I do not know what it means to be " not feature designated" nor does it matter.  If the device will not play SACDs, it cannot rip SACDs.  If it can play SACDs, it may be able to rip SACDs.   Does your question go beyond that?

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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8 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

I do not know what it means to be " not feature designated" nor does it matter.  If the device will not play SACDs, it cannot rip SACDs.  If it can play SACDs, it may be able to rip SACDs.   Does your question go beyond that?

nope, got it.  thanks.

Regards,

Jim

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On 1/12/2021 at 11:40 AM, gmgraves said:

That’s next. I have a friend’s Oppo 105 (from which SACDs can be ripped with the proper software). Just bought a new Windows laptop and am waiting for it’s delivery. When it arrives, I will install the needed software, and rip some SACDs for comparison.

What do your CD's sound like compared to SACD? 

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2 hours ago, Rexp said:

What do your CD's sound like compared to SACD? 

You just asked the $64,000 question!
 

The answer is anything but simple. I have regular CDs that sound infinitely better than SACDs of the exact, same material, and I also have SACDs of older analog masters that make them sound like the best modern digital masters. It seems that how carefully a release is produced is just as important, or possibly even more important than the format. Same is true with LP vs CD!

But, given the best source material, the Pontus makes the best SACDs show the original promise of the format, and show that CDs can sound much better than they rightly should!

George

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As I understand it, the Bryston BDA-3 DAC has been able to play DSD from SACDs via its HDMI input since its introduction three years ago, typically using an Oppo with HDMI output to read the SACDs. A number of receiver/DACs with HDMI input can do so as well.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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On 1/10/2021 at 11:02 AM, gmgraves said:

The Oppo UDP-205 as a stand-alone SACD player is mediocre at best, but it does seem to be an exemplary transport for streaming DSD data to an outboard DAC. I’ve tried several Sony Blu-Ray players and an Oppo 105, and the UDP-205 sounds superior playing SACDs through the I2S converter to the Denafrips Pontus via HDMI with the Oppo 105 as a close second.

Am interested in identifying new players that would serve well as an SACD digital transports for this type of setup.   Did you compare the Oppos with the cheap Sonys (I have several lined up for ripping and they are flimsy at best)?   Curious whether a new Sony ES would perform better.   I am not seeing too many new players with HDMI outputs and SACD capability other than the Sonys.

Regards,

Jim

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On 1/20/2021 at 2:56 PM, jxo said:

Am interested in identifying new players that would serve well as an SACD digital transports for this type of setup.   Did you compare the Oppos with the cheap Sonys (I have several lined up for ripping and they are flimsy at best)?   Curious whether a new Sony ES would perform better.   I am not seeing too many new players with HDMI outputs and SACD capability other than the Sonys.

We’ve discussed this. Yes, I compared the Oppo 105 and 205 against several cheap Sony Blu-ray players with SACD playback. The Sonys aren’tverygood.

George

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I bought the HDMI box on E Bay.  I attached it to my Oppo 105 using the HDMI 2 output. I didn’t use an external P/S.  I also used the HDMI output on the box to display video on the TV.  I set the Audio out to DSD on the 105. I used the I2S output with a HDMI 2.1 cable to a Topping D90.  I had to E mail the E Bay seller to get the I2S pinout.  On the D90 you have to reverse the Data.  Playing SACD's the D90 shows 2.8224 and DSD on the display.  The sound is much improved to the stock Oppo105.

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22 hours ago, Mogulman said:

...  I had to E mail the E Bay seller to get the I2S pinout. On the D90 you have to reverse the Data...."

Mogulman:  can you elaborate on what was needed to get I2S from the breakout box to, and working with, your DAC90?

Regards,

Jim

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2 hours ago, jxo said:

Mogulman:  can you elaborate on what was needed to get I2S from the breakout box to, and working with, your DAC90?

Hello George,

Thank you very much for your review of the Pontus II DAC and the discovery of the HDMI-I2S box. I bought the Pontus as well as the box, connected the box to my XA5400 Sony player in HDMI o/p mode and to the Pontus. Everything worked flawlessly ! I have multiple high-end DACs and transports and this is by far the highest level of sound quality I have in my system (even slightly more open than DSD files from a HAP-Z1ES server to the Pontus over USB..!).  Thank you again.. Hugo 

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Hi @gmgraves I just received the message via the Contact Us form.

 

To the attention of George Graves

 

In reference to your Audiophilestyle Web article -- "At Long Last! Listen to Your Physical SACDs Through an Outboard DAC" -- I wondered about the available setup options of the OPPO-UDP-205.

 

I took some screen shots of the options in question but could notdetermine a way to insert local images files (with no Web URLs) in this message.

 

Here are the options I wanted to bring to your attention:

  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • HDMI Audio Format
        • Auto
        • LPSM
        • Bitstream
        • Off
  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • SACD Output
        • Auto
        • PCM
        • DSD

 

My assumption from the above options screens that with the settingshown in bold (Bitstream+DSD) it should be possible to pass the SACD signal to an external DAC.

 

I must confess to ignorance as to which digital outputs these options are mapped to: HDMI, SPDIF or Toslink. This would be crucial for your task so it would need additional research and/or experimentation to resolve.

 

My apologies if you were already aware of these options and havefound they do not directly achieve what you need.

 

JWH

 

 

Note: Following is just for your general reference regarding SACD options

  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • SACD Priority
        • Multi-Channel
        • Stereo
        • CD Mode

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On 1/27/2021 at 5:22 AM, jxo said:

Mogulman:  can you elaborate on what was needed to get I2S from the breakout box to, and working with, your DAC90?

 

Any luck getting it working yourself?

If so........what are your settings?

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On 1/26/2021 at 5:50 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

Hi @gmgraves I just received the message via the Contact Us form.

 

To the attention of George Graves

 

In reference to your Audiophilestyle Web article -- "At Long Last! Listen to Your Physical SACDs Through an Outboard DAC" -- I wondered about the available setup options of the OPPO-UDP-205.

 

I took some screen shots of the options in question but could notdetermine a way to insert local images files (with no Web URLs) in this message.

 

Here are the options I wanted to bring to your attention:

  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • HDMI Audio Format
        • Auto
        • LPSM
        • Bitstream
        • Off
  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • SACD Output
        • Auto
        • PCM
        • DSD

 

My assumption from the above options screens that with the settingshown in bold (Bitstream+DSD) it should be possible to pass the SACD signal to an external DAC.

 

I must confess to ignorance as to which digital outputs these options are mapped to: HDMI, SPDIF or Toslink. This would be crucial for your task so it would need additional research and/or experimentation to resolve.

 

My apologies if you were already aware of these options and havefound they do not directly achieve what you need.

 

JWH

 

 

Note: Following is just for your general reference regarding SACD options

  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • SACD Priority
        • Multi-Channel
        • Stereo
        • CD Mode

Those settings on the Oppo UDP- 205 are irrelevant at least as far as the Denefrips Pontus are concerned as the HDMI input port is I2S only. The default for the audio output settings on the Oppo is “Automatic”, so, when playing an SACD, the player selects the proper options for the Audio-Out only HDMI port (or at least that’s how it seems. I’m really no expert on the Oppo beyond what info is available in the unit’s manual). 
Some DACS might take the HDMI SACD output DIRECTLY. I know that the DACs in some A/V receivers will do this, but *I* know of no stand-alone DACs that do this (this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any). Also, the way I understand it, the convention is that the DSD output from any player that will support SACD is only available on HDMI; not USB, nor either coax or Toslink SPDIF.

George

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2 hours ago, gmgraves said:

Glad it worked for you. This setup seems pretty bullet-proof. I would like to try this with a lot of different Blu-ray/SACD players, but that’s fairly impractical. I tried it with three, two Sony’s; one that I had on-hand and a friend’s as well as my Oppo 205, and a buddy’s Oppo 105. Somewhat disturbingly, all the players sounded different streaming SACD to the Pontus through the I2S box, with the transport in the Oppo UDP-205 sounding far superior to the Oppo 105 or either of the two Sony units I tried. While all sounded better than the Oppo 205 operating in the stand-alone mode (playing SACDs through it’s on-board ESS SabreDAC pro), none of the other players could hold a candle to the UDP-205 as an SACD transport playing an SACD through the Denefrips Pontus via I2S. The other players, used as transports, all “smeared” the sound and obscured detail compared to the 205. Makes me wonder if there aren’t other Blu-ray players (which support SACD playback) out there which would sound even better than the Oppo UDP-205. But without a direct comparison, there is simply no way to know.

Anyway, I’m pretty stoked about the level of playback quality I’m getting from my more than 300 SACD discs with the current set-up. My results are so master-tape-like, that I can’t imagine how that could be improved, but it really wouldn’t surprise me to find out that even my current level of quality playback could be bettered! That seems to always be the case, doesn’t it?

George,

I also have a very large collection of SACDs and over 3000 CDs. I tried the Sony's flagship Blu-ray player (UBP-X1100ES) - which again worked flawlessly- , but the sound was less detailed and open compared to the XA5400 (last flagship SACD player from Sony). The build of the CD mechanism is completely different with the XA5400 being solid and more elaborate that the UBP's. Hence, indeed the quality of the transport plays a huge role in the ultimate sound quality through this arrangement of HDMI-i2s into Denafrips Pontus. I can also imagine that stepping up to the Venus II or the Terminator Plus will enhance the quality even more...but we will be chasing the law of diminishing returns. 

Interesting is that I have found many well produced current CDs will be far superior than middle-of-the-road SACDs (especially early ones, circa mid-2000s). And that different is possibly far more noticeable than the increments provided by better DACs. Once again, thanks for your contribution!

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3 hours ago, hgaggioni said:

George,

I also have a very large collection of SACDs and over 3000 CDs. I tried the Sony's flagship Blu-ray player (UBP-X1100ES) - which again worked flawlessly- , but the sound was less detailed and open compared to the XA5400 (last flagship SACD player from Sony). The build of the CD mechanism is completely different with the XA5400 being solid and more elaborate that the UBP's. Hence, indeed the quality of the transport plays a huge role in the ultimate sound quality through this arrangement of HDMI-i2s into Denafrips Pontus. I can also imagine that stepping up to the Venus II or the Terminator Plus will enhance the quality even more...but we will be chasing the law of diminishing returns. 

Interesting is that I have found many well produced current CDs will be far superior than middle-of-the-road SACDs (especially early ones, circa mid-2000s). And that different is possibly far more noticeable than the increments provided by better DACs. Once again, thanks for your contribution!

Amen to that, brother. I have always maintained that the care taken in production is, with all else being equal, more important than format; high-rez or not. Case in point: I have two copies of Prokofiev’s “Lt. Kiji Suite” with  Fritz Reiner and the Chicago symphony, recorded in the mid-1950’s by RCA Victor. One is a Redbook “XRCD” from JVC, while the other is a BMG release of the same material on hybrid SACD (part of BMG’s “Living Stereo” SACD series that they released in the mid-2000s). The XRCD sounds so much better than either the Redbook layer or the SACD layer of the BMG release that it’s difficult to reconcile what one is hearing with the knowledge that they are exactly the same performance!

Now, of course, the XRCD retailed for around $40, and the BMG series for around $8 per title, but the BMG was SACD fer crissake! SACD is supposed to be high-resolution and much better than Redbook CD!
This is not the only example of a CD of a work that sounds better than either it’s SACD, DVD-A, Blu-Ray Audio or MQA stream of a particular work, but it is the one that always comes to my mind when the subject comes up. The same is true, sometimes when it comes to LP vs digital.

I have the Classics Records remastering of Stravinsky’s “Firebird”. The LP was mastered at 45 RPM, single-sided on 200 gram vinyl by Wilma Cozert Fine (the original Mercury Records mastering engineer, and the wife of the late C. Robert Fine, Mercury “Living Presence” chief recording engineer and head of Mercury’s classical division). In fact it was the last thing Wilma Cozert Fine did before she, herself, passed away. I also have the same performance on both CD (also mastered by Ms Fine) and SACD (don’t know who mastered the SACD release). Both the CD and the SACD sound very mediocre, but the LP is one of the best sounding commercial recording releases that this audiophile has ever heard! Dynamic, with thunderous bass, and silken highs; incredible sound stage and image specificity, this LP makes the digital versions sound like acoustic 78s by comparison! (OK, you caught me, I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture!). 
All of this proves to me that the production process and the care taken (or not taken) is more important, ultimately, than the release format. Sure, High-res digital, whether LPCM, or SACD (DSD) (have the potential to be) better than Redbook CD, or analog. But unless best practices are followed from microphone to final product, the actual format can be irrelevant.

George

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28 minutes ago, gmgraves said:

Amen to that, brother. I have always maintained that the care taken in production is, with all else being equal, more important than format; high-rez or not. Case in point: I have two copies of Prokofiev’s “Lt. Kiji Suite” with  Fritz Reiner and the Chicago symphony, recorded in the mid-1950’s by RCA Victor. One is a Redbook “XRCD” from JVC, while the other is a BMG release of the same material on hybrid SACD (part of BMG’s “Living Stereo” SACD series that they released in the mid-2000s). The XRCD sounds so much better than either the Redbook layer or the SACD layer of the BMG release that it’s difficult to reconcile what one is hearing with the knowledge that they are exactly the same performance!

Now, of course, the XRCD retailed for around $40, and the BMG series for around $8 per title, but the BMG was SACD fer crissake! SACD is supposed to be high-resolution and much better than Redbook CD!
This is not the only example of a CD of a work that sounds better than either it’s SACD, DVD-A, Blu-Ray Audio or MQA stream of a particular work, but it is the one that always comes to my mind when the subject comes up. The same is true, sometimes when it comes to LP vs digital.

I have the Classics Records remastering of Stravinsky’s “Firebird”. The LP was mastered at 45 RPM, single-sided on 200 gram vinyl by Wilma Cozert Fine (the original Mercury Records mastering engineer, and the wife of the late C. Robert Fine, Mercury “Living Presence” chief recording engineer and head of Mercury’s classical division). In fact it was the last thing Wilma Cozert Fine did before she, herself, passed away. I also have the same performance on both CD (also mastered by Ms Fine) and SACD (don’t know who mastered the SACD release). Both the CD and the SACD sound very mediocre, but the LP is one of the best sounding commercial recording releases that this audiophile has ever heard! Dynamic, with thunderous bass, and silken highs; incredible sound stage and image specificity, this LP makes the digital versions sound like acoustic 78s by comparison! (OK, you caught me, I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture!). 
All of this proves to me that the production process and the care taken (or not taken) is more important, ultimately, than the release format. Sure, High-res digital, whether LPCM, or SACD (DSD) (have the potential to be) better than Redbook CD, or analog. But unless best practices are followed from microphone to final product, the actual format can be irrelevant.

I work for a Japanese company and have had the opportunity (and continue) to travel to Japan many times. As you know Japan adores physical media and have excelled in production workflows for video and music. I have acquired hundreds of these Japanese printed discs, 

The label Venus (Hyper Magnum Sound) - primarily CDs, SACDs and now LPs - is an example of superb mastering techniques and manufacturing of the media (SACD, SHM-SACD, etc) . Now these discs are available in the US, of course at $30+ .... but the capture, editing mastering is insanely beautiful - even if the original material was recorded in studios are outside Japan. Right now I am revisiting all of these discs - exclusively Jazz - on my new set up - and it is really shocking to hear layers of details that (as far as I can rely on my memory) were not there the first time around.   Cheers....

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1 hour ago, hgaggioni said:

I work for a Japanese company and have had the opportunity (and continue) to travel to Japan many times. As you know Japan adores physical media and have excelled in production workflows for video and music. I have acquired hundreds of these Japanese printed discs, 

The label Venus (Hyper Magnum Sound) - primarily CDs, SACDs and now LPs - is an example of superb mastering techniques and manufacturing of the media (SACD, SHM-SACD, etc) . Now these discs are available in the US, of course at $30+ .... but the capture, editing mastering is insanely beautiful - even if the original material was recorded in studios are outside Japan. Right now I am revisiting all of these discs - exclusively Jazz - on my new set up - and it is really shocking to hear layers of details that (as far as I can rely on my memory) were not there the first time around.   Cheers....

Having, in another life, worked for Omron, Fujitsu, Oki Semiconductor, and Otari, I have been to Japan and spent more time there than I care to recall, so I can definitely relate to your observations about Japanese mastering and production practices when it comes to music (in the ‘80’s, I bought scores of Japanese video laserdiscs. Always found them to be better than the domestically available versions). I have lots of both 20-bit and 24-bit JVC XRCD titles (many jazz titles from labels such as Riverside and other small  jazz labels from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s as well as classics from the RCA and British Decca (London Records) catalogues) and they all sound superb - even the mono ones! 

When in Japan, I always made sure that I had lots of money available as I would sometimes need to take along a foldable backpack to bring all the laserdiscs, and music CDs back with me that I purchased in Tokyo’s Aki Habara district!

George

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https://intl.pioneer-audiovisual.com/find_by_category/docs/UDP-LX800_CMQ%40180919_HR.pdf#page=2

Quote

The function completely turns off the analogue audio circuitry from power supply to output, by cutting the power supply to the transformer during HDMI connection. The HDMI’s S/N ratio further improves and realises high-quality audio and video playback.

 

https://www.avsforum.com/threads/pioneer-udp-lx-500-800-owners-thread-no-price-talk.3018474/page-47#post-58812296

Quote

The Pure audio mode on LX800 is ideal because it shuts down all video circuits and does a clean audio transfer. Making the time delay (jitter) problem almost mute.

 

Transport mechanism looked quite decent

 

qGimqr6.jpg

 

34Mv792.jpg

 

And then a reversible upgrade could be applied to the PSU

 

https://www.clonesaudio.com/product-page/psplx

 

Replacing the clock(s) could provide further uptick (similar to Oppo UDP-205) in sound quality after the expiration of warranty

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/review-comparison-of-5-high-end-digital-music-servers-aurender-n10-cad-cat-server-totaldac-d1-server-auralic-aries-audiophile-vortex-box.787020/page-78#post-14117821

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20 hours ago, seeteeyou said:

Looks good. I’d love to try one out against the Oppo UDP-205!

George

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I purchased the Chinese box, I have a Pontus and old Sony bdp-4100, I could not get it to work with SACDs and

I have set DSD over hdmi in the Audio settings

 

I have also read that someone could not get their Perfectwave SACD transport to work with the Pontus

 

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7 minutes ago, Daveyu said:

I purchased the Chinese box, I have a Pontus and old Sony bdp-4100, I could not get it to work with SACDs and

I have set DSD over hdmi in the Audio settings

 

I have also read that someone could not get their Perfectwave SACD transport to work with the Pontus

 

I connected the PWT to Pontus over HDMI-i2s with no issue: set the 1X2X4X combination to 010. It is the same combination for XA5400/UBP-1100ES -> Chinese Box (i2s) -> to Pontus.

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45 minutes ago, hgaggioni said:

I connected the PWT to Pontus over HDMI-i2s with no issue: set the 1X2X4X combination to 010. It is the same combination for XA5400/UBP-1100ES -> Chinese Box (i2s) -> to Pontus.

did you use an external Power supply?

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