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Taking digital all the way!


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How much could and should we actually expect from going digital?

I am an old puritan analogue freak on my way to CA digital nerd.

 

As a technology strategist, it is killing me to see us mucking around with half assed mixed analogue/digital solutions.

We can get much more out of the digital domain, now we are there.

 

My analogue puritan strategy was to buy the best quality but simple solutions and thus minimize distortions and colourations. No EQ, short good cables, vinyl and MC pickup with step-up etc.

Accepting to live with passive crossovers :-(

I.e. get the most natural high quality sound by providing the purest analogue signal to speakers.

 

I suggest the digital strategy should be to reap all the benefits available from the digital domain - including what it can do for any remaining analogue signal paths.

I.e. deliver the most natural sound by any means possible.

 

 

Taking digital all the way - how?

 

Top - down

- Provide the best possible signal source: digital straight from the mixing pult (or what ever comes close 24/96, 24/192 or vinyl A/D at min. same resolution.

- Cut away analogue paths to remove distortion, colouration, phase error.

- Use the digital domain to abaite, control and optimize the sound waves including but not limited to EQ, phase, room correction.

- Run / sample / upsample at higest possible resolution.

- Re-think and re-optimize all components for the digital domain.

 

 

Bottom - up

- Digital transport: play only from memory whether CD player or CA or NAs player or other

- Vinyl: A/D as close to the pickup as possible. behold has a solution where the analogue cables are 30mm long (short). Treat signal for PU factory test frequency responce, clicks and noice somewhere in the digital domain.

- Amplification: bi- or tri-amp monos inside or just next to the loud speakers. D/A conversion should be build as an intregal part of the power amp. Amps could include some or all of the digital filtering and abatements. Volume and source selecting controlled in amp via coordinated remote control.

- Loudspeaker cable: must be as short as possible, almost non-exixting.

-Loudspeaker units - our most trubblesome part in the signal chain. Speakers should be designed to make the most of digital domain, including but not limited to:

- Active cross over.

- Correct frequency resonce from speaker factory test data

- Higher empasis on low distortion and high transparancy, low empasis on linearity.

- Feed back of loud speaker membrane movements to amp would be optimum.

 

 

So what do we get to thow out or sell to some unexpecting mid-fi life form?

- Cables, lots of cables

- Step up, RIIAs, pre-amps, EQ's

- CD players unless they run from memory or are great for ripping

- Analogue power amps

- loudspeaker cables

- Speakers optimized for freq linearity with passive cross over

- A ton of CD's

 

 

Do you see the point?

 

Does it hurt to think of?

 

Are you ready to take digital all the way?

 

 

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile”

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The DAC was born because digital audiophiles saw that there was much that could be improved by breaking away from the DAC from inside the CD/DVD/iPod/Minidisc players.

 

New products like the NAD M2 and the Devialet are the integration of DAC,Preamp, and amplifier into one unit.

 

Products like those spell the beginning of the end of the standalone DAC.

 

It'll be a while though, because only those with deep pockets can afford them for now.

 

CD

 

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Well, behold is offering it in super high end.

 

UPA192 tri-amping power DAC mono block in one housing:

http://www.behold.eu/page.php?en100000

 

MCA768: Moving Coil A/D directly on the Headshell:

http://www.behold.eu/page.php?en326200

 

 

- The technology is ready

- Lots of bang for the buck in the product

- Super Sound from smart architecture, not from expensive parts

- Huge PR to the first producer to do this at reasonable prices and large numbers

 

Is it fear of the unknown

Is it sheer ignorance?

Is it too good to be true?

 

What is holding them back?

 

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile”

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  • 4 weeks later...

Is anyone else out there ready to take the plunge?

 

Is anyone else ready to take digital all the way?

 

A manufacturer could revolutionize the audio market with just 4 product lines:

 

- A/D SMD converter for the pickup

- Digital preprocessor with memory play, digital X-over + EQ + Room correction

- digital cabeling preprocessor -> mono-block

- Small mono-block power DAC's (25/50/100/200W)

 

That would allow anyone to get the most out of any signal source and speaker setup.

 

All this talk about the perfect DAC is beyond me.

Why do we accept to live with all the short comings (and excessive price) of the analogue gear?

 

Why settle for less, now we are going digital?

 

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile”

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The cost of a pure digital system should be much lower than a pure analogue system. Calculation power and bandwidth comes cheap these days!

 

Any shortcomings of the remaining few analogue parts can be reduced by the pure digital system.

 

Cost will like everything else only go down with mass manufacturing.

I am thinking someone along the lines of NAD.

 

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile”

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Sort of sounds like the "perfect sound forever" spiel we were told in the 80's. We do listen to analog after all...

 

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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Sounds like my simple system, digital file playback thru Genelec 8260,s. DSP, digital volume control, active speaker, just add laptop, Aurality etc, sit back and be amazed!

 

That indeed sounds like a nice clean setup.

Just add a 5.1 processor for the best surround music available today.

Hmmm . . perhaps worth a trip to the bank?

 

What maximum resolution does the Genelec 8260 take 24/192 ?

 

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile”

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Just for the record I build turntables for a living so in no way am I associated with Genelec but the new 8260s changed a lot of systems in my neibourhood. Many highend speaker amp combos have been replaced, including my own.Being freed from all the cable, interconnect, audiophile questioning and just enjoying great music is most rewarding! A full genelec home theater with subs is as good as it gets, and so simple, not cheap though.

 

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Any experiences and/or recommendations for a 5.1 Surround processor suited to work with a Genelec setup?

 

A suitable A/D should be included I suppose.

Stand alone or as an integral part.

 

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile”

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I do not get involved in 5.1 so am not up to date. I know Meridian make a processor with 5.1 digital out. Most folk are still running analogue out to the Genelecs for 5.1. Genelec make an ADC but I have not used it.

 

If anyone knows of any 5.1 digital out product I would love to know about it as I see a great use for this now.

 

Perhaps a pc can be configured to do this?

 

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Well, for awhile I have been close to what you are describing. I have used a Tact 2150 XDM, digital all the way in that unit. It does pre-amp functions, room correction, and has two channel power amps which are digital up to the output with the amp ouput being the only analog signal involved anywhere in the system. Use CD,and digital from computer for music and internet radio, and need no other sources. I have no experience with them, but they make similar units for 5.1.

 

A friend has a similar setup, uses an MSB A/D converter at 96 khz/24 bit to digitize his phono stage signal from his turntable. This feeds the digital signal to his Tact 2150. It really isn't all that expensive considering what all you get to leave out with one digital box that does all this. It does it to a high level of quality also. Driving electrostatic speakers you only need one amp per channel, no multi-amping needed. If you want to do bi-amping or tri-amping they let you digitally daisy chain multiple 2150 amps to all work together as one unit. Pretty neat system. Easily the best sounding I have ever owned, and some of my other equipment wasn't bad at all before this.

 

Prior to this going back more than a decade, I used an MSB Audio Director A/D to convert any analogue, used a Meridean 518 digital pre-amp for digital volume control and digital inputs, this fed a Wadia 12 DAC which directly drove an analog power amp. This convinced me that digital was not amusical, or fatiguing in general. No combination of analog pre-amps, or even passive volume controls had ever been as musical, quiet, transparent, enjoyable or as high a fidelity as this digital front end to my system. I later switched to a Wadia 25 DAC that had its own digital volume control to reduce the box count.

 

It has taken far too long to get all digital. If high end audiophiles hadn't gotten this prejudice against digital sound back in the 80's it could have happened sooner than it did.

 

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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I am running Pure Music on a G5 (4gb RAM, SSD) with a USB out through an ART Legato. I have been tweaking this part of system for some time. For a little over a week I have been feeding the digital signal to an NAD M2. If I am listening to a digital recording, whatever happens between the studio mic and the speaker cables is all zeroes and ones.

 

I built a Heath hi-fi amp from a kit before solid state was an option, but I am not nostalgic for the old-time sound.

 

I think this system sounds about as good as any system I have heard, and I have heard some good systems. It delivers the musical information precisely. No noise. It has all of the characteristics of sounding clinical, but, to my ears, it is not clinical. I still have a lot to learn listening to this system.

 

It will probably not sound right to people who like vinyl and 300Bs.

 

I don't know how to compare. I hear a lot of live music, and much of what I listen to at home is by musicians I frequently hear live. The world of avant-garde jazz is small and New York City, which is my part-time base, is one of its centers.

 

Live music, I think, can't be compared to recorded music. You hear a lot more of the sound on a recording; you get much more of the musical experience live.

 

(BTW If any one is going to be in New York during the second-week in June, I would recommend the Vision Festival. Downtown jazz at its best.

 

http://kadmusarts.com/festivals/4049.html)

 

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Congratulations on the NAD M2. It really is a groundbreaking piece of equipment. And I have heard a rumour that the company that developed the technology on which it is based (Diodes Zetex) is working on integrating the discrete circuitry in the M2 into a small number of chips, so we can look forward to having this all-digital amplification in lower-cost NAD amplifiers in the future.

 

nigel[br]ALAC stored on Drobo -> Mac Mini -> iTunes -> Airport Express (1st gen) -> Monoprice toslink -> NAD M2 Direct Digital Amplifier -> Wilson Benesch Curve

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I don't want to hype equipment, and, of course, NAD is not a name that is going to make anyone weak in the knees.

 

But Robert Harley in his review in TAS review preferred his $50k Berkeley-Passe reference system to the M2, but it admitted that at a little more than a tenth the cost, it was not as distant as one might expect. I didn't have a $50k system at hand for direct comparison, but, to my memory, it is at least in the ballpark with some very good systems that I have hard.

 

Some audiophiles might not like it because there is not much to fuss with. Few cables are required. There aren't many buttons. You hook the silver box between your computer and your speakers and listen to music.

 

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Take digital all the way? We're not even close...

 

All-in-one products that combine DAC/Pre/Amp? For some, but probably not for most. Audiophiles want control, want an upgrade path, want the "best" of each (by whatever definition), etc.

 

Digital to mono block? OK. But the conversion from digital to analog has to happen somewhere. It is not necessarily true that an all digital path to the speaker will yield the most musical result. So do it at the amp, or a pre/pro, or a DAC. Some might be puritanical, but I'm agnostic on this one.

 

Optimal transport? We are still upgrading every aspect of hardware (RAM, drives, etc.). Software is changing weekly, if not more rapidly. OS's continue to evolve...

 

Lastly, none of the above posts (but I skimmed some) addresses the mode of transmission. USB: is that the best we can do? Even USB 3.0 falls short of Thunderbolt's promise for transmission rates.

 

About the only thing I'm sure of is most of the digital gear I own will be obsolete within 5 (+/- 2) years, just like my computers.

 

At the end of the day, digital's potential is a promise. Like the photographer who finds the "best" camera is the one in his hand, I am convinced that the "best" system is the one in my room.

 

Until the next "best" one... ;-)

 

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TWDodge

 

You are arguing with a post that I think no one has made. We are as close to digital all the way as we can get. Obviously, we have analog music and analog ears, but at least some of the recordings I listen to are converted to digital right after the mic jack and, in my system, converted to analog just before the speaker connectors.

 

I don't know that this is the best. I don't even know that, in the long run, it is desirable. What you say about obsolescence is no doubt true. I've been around long enough to know something about obsolescence (obsolete myself one might say). I started building audio with vacuum tubes in the late 50s; I rebuilt garage sale Dynacos in the 80s; I had some relatively high end solid state stuff; I went back to higher-end tubes in the 90s; back to solid state sometime around 2000; got an IPod, and thought, man, I'd use the old computer in the basement to make myself a big Ipod. I thought I had invented computer audio (like my friend, who at the age of 12, started asking big questions, and thought he had invented philosophy). I was a little disappointed to discover that other people had invented computer audio. My friend was disappointed to find other people had invented philosophy.

 

The primary reason I wanted an M2 was that I wanted a system that I could hook up and forget about, so I could listen to the music. So far it is doing that very well. I really don't like audio gear. I just want it to deliver the music and not call attention to itself.

 

 

 

 

 

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All the way... a matter of semantics.

 

I was taking it metaphorically. As in answering the question, "have we taken digital all the way?" or, "is this as good as it gets?"

 

Not as in "we've managed to link our entire system via digital signals".

 

The first part seems like a real challenge, hence my post. The latter seems like a putting some chips on a board and stringing some cables. There is artistry in both, but I'd hate to think we've reached the end -- we've taken digital all the way.

 

Peace.

 

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Interesting idea.

 

So,

 

Live performance ? mike ? A/D converter ? digital workstation ? digital master ? local file ? software-based player (presumably with a whole suite of digital solutions toward library management, EQ, sample rate conversion, selectable digital filters, etc.) ? digital volume control ? digital amp ? D/A converter ? speaker

 

Now, if only you had a digital mike and digital speaker!

 

 

Rob C

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or taking the digital low-road - that is the question.

 

Sounds like you are having fun and getting great music reproduction at the same time.

 

I really like the Genelec route, as it truly cuts the analogue road down to almost nothing. I'm almost tempted so the least I can do it to take them for a test drive.

 

The new Magnepan 1.7 quasi ribbon speakers has however taken my fancy. They offer a transparency and openness that is difficult to beat. The passive X-ver are a know issue, and they do leave a lot to be desired.

 

My wish setup therefor includes digital X-over and power-DAC tri-amping for the stereo bit plus something for 5.1.

 

I suppose that I have gone completely mad!

 

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile”

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Actually, it just occurred to me that in my haste to jest in the previous post that I may have acted rashly; it may not be as harebrained as I had originally thought to desire to eliminate those last two elements in the chain—at least not in some sense.

 

First, I don't propose to rethink current mikes or speakers so I'll have to rephrase what I'm thinking: what's really left to eliminate in the analog domain is not the mike and speaker but the anti-aliasing filter and reconstruction filter—both of which must be physical analog filters currently. Their necessity is easily understood, but I suspect there exists a sampling frequency sufficiently high enough that they could be avoided entirely. For example, with a sufficiently high enough sampling frequency, an anti-aliasing filter would not be needed—even with a "theoretically" perfect mike—as air itself could serve that function.

 

We could even drive the speaker itself directly from a digital stream. And, since all realizable speaker elements have mass, they exhibit inertia. Perhaps once the sampling frequency of the digital stream (set to drive directly the speakers) exceeds a certain amount, element inertia becomes sufficient enough to limit high frequency response enough to eliminate the need for reconstruction filters.

 

Ruminations when I should be sleeping. I imagine the needed sampling rates would be very high, but I wouldn't say prohibitively high. Maybe the equivalent of DSD256 or more—but that's mere speculations as I haven't yet attempted to perform calculations using approx. values for frequency attenuation just from air, viscoelastic effects of materials, etc.

 

Oh, and 1-bit of course.

 

Rob C

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  • 3 years later...
How much could and should we actually expect from going digital?

I am an old puritan analogue freak on my way to CA digital nerd.

 

As a technology strategist, it is killing me to see us mucking around with half assed mixed analogue/digital solutions.

We can get much more out of the digital domain, now we are there.

 

. . . .

 

I suggest the digital strategy should be to reap all the benefits available from the digital domain -

including what it can do for any remaining analogue signal paths.

I.e. deliver the most natural sound by any means possible.

 

 

. . . .

 

 

Do you see the point?

 

Does it hurt to think of?

 

Are you ready to take digital all the way?

 

 

 

It's been three years since I asked this very fundamental question, and yet the industry is still largely running around with it's head under its arm.

 

Are we for ever doomed to stand in the shadow of the analogue audiophiles of the 1970s?

Promise Pegasus2 R6 12TB -> Thunderbolt2 ->
MacBook Pro M1 Pro -> Motu 8D -> AES/EBU ->
Genelec 5 x 8260A + 7271A sub
Genelec 8010 + 5040 sub

iPhone SE 2 ->  Sennheiser PXC 550 II
Blog: “Confessions of a DigiPhile”

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