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


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On 2/8/2021 at 11:47 PM, gmgraves said:

After your last post, I tried both optical and coax connections from the I2S “box“. I could get my Pontus to recognize neither one of them. It simply did not work. I’m beginning to wonder if there aren’t differences between these boxes bought through different vendors (???!!!).

Some of the listings for these boxes refer to Board B versions implying an update.  Thanks for all your work on this George.

Regards,

Jim

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This is the Ebay box I bought.

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Digital-Interface-Separate-Extract-Audio-I2S-Optic-Fiber-Coaxial-HDMI-ToI2S-IIS/124522696807?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

 

L/R channels are reversed via its I2S HDMI output.

I was able to negate this via I2S settings adjustments in my Topping D90's menu.

 

My newly acquired Gustard X16 however does not offer I2S pin settings adjustments in its menu so I simply reverse the XLR output leads.

 

Anyone using the I2S HDMI output of this particular box with a DAC that does not offer I2S pin settings adjustments will need to swap their output cables over for correct L/R channels.

 

See my Feb 4 post for I2S pin settings diagram of box.

Also note that DSD flag is pin 15 which worked with my Gustard and was set in my Topping ( it offered 14 or 15) 

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4 hours ago, jxo said:

Some of the listings for these boxes refer to Board B versions implying an update.  Thanks for all your work on this George.

No problem. I just wish I could use the coax or optical connection for I2S. It would allow me to eliminate an HDMI switch and connect the I2S through another interconnect. Oh,well, live and learn. Many thanks for your input.

 

George

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On 2/11/2021 at 2:42 AM, gmgraves said:

No problem. I just wish I could use the coax or optical connection for I2S. It would allow me to eliminate an HDMI switch and connect the I2S through another interconnect. Oh,well, live and learn. Many thanks for your input.

 

Does'nt work for me either over Coax

On 2/10/2021 at 10:21 PM, jxo said:

Some of the listings for these boxes refer to Board B versions implying an update.  Thanks for all your work on this George.

This is what board A and B refer to https://www.aliexpress.com/i/1005001274719662.html?spm=a219c.12057483.1000001.8.1fd07081rjiHLX

 

so it seems boxes with board A don't have I2s over HDMI

 

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On 2/11/2021 at 2:42 AM, gmgraves said:

No problem. I just wish I could use the coax or optical connection for I2S. It would allow me to eliminate an HDMI switch and connect the I2S through another interconnect. Oh,well, live and learn. Many thanks for your input.

 

 

Buyer beware, after lots of time and effort I am sending the box back, the one I have just does not work on any output

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I've followed this thread with great interest.

 

I have an Esoteric DV-50S which has an HDMI output and a Gustard x20 Pro DAC which accepts I2S input but I can't seem to find any information confirming if the DV-50S does pass DSD through the HDMI port?

 

Can anyone confirm if Esoteric does pass DSD through their HDMI output?

 

Cheers, 

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1 hour ago, Wheat King said:

I've followed this thread with great interest.

 

I have an Esoteric DV-50S which has an HDMI output and a Gustard x20 Pro DAC which accepts I2S input but I can't seem to find any information confirming if the DV-50S does pass DSD through the HDMI port?

 

Can anyone confirm if Esoteric does pass DSD through their HDMI output?

 

Cheers, 

Japanese CD/SACD player products that adopted HDMI for connection to receivers are transmitting DSD over the HDMI connector. The Sony's XA5400 player has that same feature as the Esoteric device and the o/p can be switched between multichannel or stereo. I have not found the standard for mapping of the DSD streams over the wires of HDMI. But it seems it is standardized among Japanese manufacturers. Then, by using the Chinese box (which is at the center of these postings) one can convert this DSD over HDMI to DSD over HDMI-IIS. As said in earlier posts, the HDMI-IIS can have several variants (not standardized) hence the DAC needs to have a way to reconfigure its input streams (over the HDMI-IIS connector) to match the incoming bitstreams. 

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@hgaggioni

 

Thanks for that.

 

My DV-50S is now 17 years old but is still going strong. I've recently by-passed the internal DAC (when playing CDs) by running coax into my external DAC (Gustard x20 Pro). I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how close the two are, in terms of sound quality. I have no doubt that I would hear a greater difference if I tried a higher level DAC (like a Denafrips Pontus).  

 

It will be interesting to compare the DV-50S' internal SACD playback against the DSD processing capabilities of the Gustard (a sub $1,000 DAC). 

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On 2/12/2021 at 8:56 AM, hgaggioni said:

... by using the Chinese box (which is at the center of these postings) one can convert this DSD over HDMI to DSD over HDMI-IIS. As said in earlier posts, the HDMI-IIS can have several variants (not standardized) hence the DAC needs to have a way to reconfigure its input streams (over the HDMI-IIS connector) to match the incoming bitstreams. 

All this work is much appreciated.   I am still unclear whether one MUST use an I2S (IIS) capable DAC in order to utilize the ChiFi converter box to get the best SACD playback SQ.   @hgaggioni reported that he was able to send DSD signals to his Pontus over coax, optical and HDMI/I2s.   Is DSD over coax and optical still using an I2S protocol necessitating the use of an I2S DAC?   If that is non-sensical, apologies.  The only necessary I2S pieces of this data flow maybe the output from the player over hdmi and the input of the converter box and the hdmi output of the converter box.   If so, this box would work similar to the DBOB with the additional digital output option of HDMI (I2S?).   DBOB site says: 

"External DAC must accept DSD via the DoP protocol [DSD over PCM] through S/PDIF Coax (preferable) or Toslink inputs."  I.E., I2S DACs are not necessary.

 

Is the converter box sending DSD via different protocols depending on the output option used?  DoP via coax and optical and DSD via another protocol (some references out there to "raw" DSD), I2S or otherwise, on the HDMI output?  If they are indeed different, is one better or preferred?   As GeerFab "prefers" coax?

I just want to know which DACs to start putting on the short list to purchase-- in addition to the Pontus.   If I2S is strictly needed, the list gets very short.

Regards,

Jim

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1 hour ago, jxo said:

All this work is much appreciated.   I am still unclear whether one MUST use an I2S (IIS) capable DAC in order to utilize the ChiFi converter box to get the best SACD playback SQ.   @hgaggioni reported that he was able to send DSD signals to his Pontus over coax, optical and HDMI/I2s.   Is DSD over coax and optical still using an I2S protocol necessitating the use of an I2S DAC?   If that is non-sensical, apologies.  The only necessary I2S pieces of this data flow maybe the output from the player over hdmi and the input of the converter box and the hdmi output of the converter box.   If so, this box would work similar to the DBOB with the additional digital output option of HDMI (I2S?).   DBOB site says: 

"External DAC must accept DSD via the DoP protocol [DSD over PCM] through S/PDIF Coax (preferable) or Toslink inputs."  I.E., I2S DACs are not necessary.

 

Is the converter box sending DSD via different protocols depending on the output option used?  DoP via coax and optical and DSD via another protocol (some references out there to "raw" DSD), I2S or otherwise, on the HDMI output?  If they are indeed different, is one better or preferred?   As GeerFab "prefers" coax?

I just want to know which DACs to start putting on the short list to purchase-- in addition to the Pontus.   If I2S is strictly needed, the list gets very short.

Hello Jim,

I guess we are all guessing the signal formats since we do not have detail documentation on the ChiFi box. 

If you read the Pontus II user manual, it indicates that DSD 2.8284MHz (i.e., DSD64 or 1X) is accepted in all inputs :

Supported Format (DSD) 2.8224MHz(DSD1X) All Input

                                          5.6448MHz(DSD2X), 11.288MHz(DSD4X) USB & I2S Only

The output from my Sony XA5400 is DSD muxed into the HDMI format. The conversion box simply extracts the DSD (raw data) from the HDMI mix and converts it into IIS format over different wiring - but still inside the HDMI physical interface. I have no idea if the box does DoP for output over SPDIF or Toslink. I suspect no. This is because the Pontus still uses DSD raw for higher speeds (2X, 4X) over HDMI-IIS and USB and it does not mention the use of DoP . If the box were using DoP for SPDIF/Toslink and DSD raw for IIS I would not be able to listen to SPDIF/Toslink outputs, since I think Pontus does not support DoP. 

I assume, therefore, that the box is sending DSD raw over all outputs (IIS, SPDIF and Toslink). When listening to the 3 outputs the sound is very close (not careful listening). The issue is then that you may have SPDIF/Toslink transmitted DSD from the box but still cannot be played from a DAC that uses DoP in their SPDIF/Toslink inputs.

Hence, the decision is not for a DAC that supports (or not IIS) but for a DAC that supports DSD raw across all types of interfaces (such as the Denafrips DACs for example).

I apologize if I am clouding the topic even more...:(

Hugo  

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14 hours ago, hgaggioni said:

...I think Pontus does not support DoP. 

I assume, therefore, that the box is sending DSD raw over all outputs ...

Hence, the decision is not for a DAC that supports (or not IIS) but for a DAC that supports DSD raw across all types of interfaces (such as the Denafrips DACs for example).

I apologize if I am clouding the topic even more...:(

Hugo  

Hugo:  thanks much.  To the contrary, clouds are lifting.  You confirmed some of my instincts (as technically un-based as they are).  It would also imply that the ChiFi box is outputting differently from the GeerFab DBOB.  Important to get clarity here otherwise folks may be making some expensive mistakes in choosing equipment to solve this SACD playback conundrum.    I have some older DACs that support various DSD formats; curious which ones will work and those that won't with the mystery Chinese puzzle box that came last week.   But I am definitely looking at these Denafrips DACs based on the trusted feedback here.   thanks again,

Jim

Regards,

Jim

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In case anyone is interested for comparison sake.   Design detail of the D.BOB:

 

"The D.BOB design is centered around two chips made by Lattice Semiconductor. The Sil9533 Port Processor is the main HDMI decoder chip, which extracts PCM audio data from the HDMI datastream and sends it out via S/PDIF [not HDMI or USB]. The HDMI pass-through functions are also supported by this chip. But, the Sil9533 does not support DSD.  [Instead,] the DSD datastream is extracted from HDMI, and encoded as DoP, by a Lattice LCMX02-1200HC Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)."

Regards,

Jim

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1 hour ago, jxo said:

In case anyone is interested for comparison sake.   Design detail of the D.BOB:

 

"The D.BOB design is centered around two chips made by Lattice Semiconductor. The Sil9533 Port Processor is the main HDMI decoder chip, which extracts PCM audio data from the HDMI datastream and sends it out via S/PDIF [not HDMI or USB]. The HDMI pass-through functions are also supported by this chip. But, the Sil9533 does not support DSD.  [Instead,] the DSD datastream is extracted from HDMI, and encoded as DoP, by a Lattice LCMX02-1200HC Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA)."

I am not sure that I would word this the way it is.  The Sil9533 does support DSD but not via I2S.  Its DSD output mode is an alternative to the I2S output mode.

Quote

Audio Output Block The Audio Output block supports audio extraction from the received HDMI/MHL streams. The extracted audio is 8-channel I2 S, 6-channel DSD, or S/PDIF audio. The audio port extraction includes:

- I2S, eight channels: PCM, up to eight channels, HBR, such as Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio 

- DSD, six channels 

- S/PDIF, IEC 60958: PCM, two channels

- Compressed bitstream: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Surround EX DTS, DTS ES......

 

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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2 hours ago, Kal Rubinson said:

I am not sure that I would word this the way it is.  The Sil9533 does support DSD but not via I2S.  Its DSD output mode is an alternative to the I2S output mode.

 

You should know!   I recall a review of this D.BOB box a few months back in my favorite mag.    thanks much

Regards,

Jim

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9 minutes ago, davide256 said:

I'm curious as to how the Oppo used as streamer endpoint out over HDMI/I2S sounds to the Pontus...should our next generation endpoints use HDMI/I2S instead of USB?

AFAIK, the Oppo will output (or input) HDMI but not I2S.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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2 hours ago, Kal Rubinson said:

AFAIK, the Oppo will output (or input) HDMI but not I2S.

The point of this article is that it can be converted between the two with an intermediate device, hence why the Pontus works with the OP’s Oppo 205 HDMI output. The Oppo’s aren’t bad as UPNP endpoints and I’m finding the HDMI output of a 103 converted to toslink superior to toslink directly out from same device, had started me wondering about USB vs HDMI to I2S conversion

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...
On 1/6/2021 at 1:05 PM, Douglasmaurer said:

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

I am told that one can do this with a Meridian HD621 or a UHD722.  

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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So a bit of a follow up here.........

 

I previously was using the cheap Chinese HDMI to I2S converter box between my OPPO 205 and Topping D90 MQA

After internally matching I2S settings via the D90's Menu I was able to pass DSD externally via the OPPO's HDMI and have the Topping D90 receive it via it's I2S (HDMI) input.

I had "DSD 2.8MHz" showing on the D90's screen and my SACD's sounded great.

 

I then bought a Gustard X26PRO MQA and ran into an issue.

Apparently the Gustard's I2S input works in "slave mode" which means potential compatibilty issues with my Chinese converter.

This was the case as not only were channels reversed ( easily fixable by swapping analog out cables around ) but there was some low level crackling accompanying the music which I could not solve.

 

Now the good news..........

 

There is ANOTHER slightly more expensive Chinese converter box that looks identical to mine which apparently also supports DOP64 via it's coax output!!!!

 

I could have just bought it the first time round but thought all boxes were the same and went with the cheapest.

Oh well.......now I know the reason that some cost more!!!!

 

At the end of the day though.........around AUD$150 sure beats USD$1K for a Geerfab D.BOB!!!!!!!

 

Anyway, I will be ordering one shortly and will report back.

 

Cheers Guys

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  • 3 weeks later...

 

Hi Guys,

 

So my converter box turned up and works perfectly.

DSD from OPPO 205 HDMI out >> Converter box HDMI in.

Then Converter box SPDIF Coax out >> Gustard X26PRO SPDIF Coax in using DoP 64.

Gustard DAC display shows 2.82Mhz.

 

Cheers

 

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On 4/30/2021 at 11:34 PM, linger63 said:

So my converter box turned up and works perfectly.

DSD from OPPO 205 HDMI out >> Converter box HDMI in.

Then Converter box SPDIF Coax out >> Gustard X26PRO SPDIF Coax in using DoP 64.

Gustard DAC display shows 2.82Mhz.

 

Thanks for posting this Linger63!  Also a thanks to George who wrote the article and to everyone else who commented.  I'm a new member here but a longtime Audio Asylum member.  I just sold my Marantz SA11-S3 CD/SACD player so I'm starting from scratch.

 

I was ready to plunk down $800 (on sale on AudioGon) for a GeerFab D.BOB when I came across George's article.  I view this as a real game changer!  The way I see it, the money I'm saving buying the "black box" instead of the D.BOB can be put towards a better DAC!  Speaking of which, the other day I ordered what I assume to be the same "black box" as Linger63.  It cost a little over $100 USD but outputs DSD64 via DOP through Coaxial and Toslink.  It's good to know this works too.

 

I also purchased a Sony UBP-X800M2 digital player for $299 USD.  It's one step down from Sony's TOTL $599 ES model.  However it weighs almost as much, both are in the 8 pound range, and it has a separate audio-only HDMI output.  It should be better than the really cheap Sony players that weigh less than 2 pounds.

 

I'm considering four DACs at this point and all should work well with the "black box".  The Gustard X26 Pro, Denafrips Pontus II, Denafrips Venus II and the Kitstune Holo Spring 3 KTE.  The latter should be available later this month. 

 

Gerry                

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  • 2 weeks later...

A new Pontus DAC arrived several days ago as did one of those I2S converter boxes off EBay.  Dusted off my old Oppo 95.   Ran the second hdmi out to the converter then from there to the I2S input of the Pontus.  Bingo, it worked.  Cold and without any break in at all, sounds very nice.   Will be comparing it in more depth to my old ModWright Sony SACD player (totally tricked out by Dan) but on its third laser.   

 

Thanks George, this is a fabulous development.  Now I will have to build out the server and run Roon to the Pontus as well.

Regards,

Jim

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