DVD as CD Player (again)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by paiger, Nov 12, 2002.

  1. paiger

    paiger
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    I thought I'd bring this up again as I read something interesting the other day by John Dawson about his 'Black box' DAC. He said in an interviewthat it improved his CD sound immensly. I am assuming that this device takes the digital bitstream from a CD/DVD player and converts it to analogue, where it is passed to an amplifier. A few questions (not specifically about the black box, DACs in general).

    1. If I were to run an optical cable from a CD/DVD player to my reciever, as I do now, why would the black box be better? Is it because the DACs in my reciever are inferior to those on the box or is it because they are unhindered by digital encoding junk?

    2. Say you have one of these devices, where would you plug it into a reciever? I would guess into the 5.1 inputs which are hopefully 'direct'. Would you negate the effect by plugging into the 'CD' inputs?

    3. Would it be fair to say that a seperate DAC would bring a standard DVD player, say Pioneer 747, up the standard of a good, mid range CD deck (eg. Arcam CD62) or would it still be lacking?

    Opinions, experiences please.

    Steve
     
  2. paiger

    paiger
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    Another point, would there be any point in getting a seperate DAC box for a player like the CD62 or is that just silly?

    S
     
  3. paiger

    paiger
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    Also, any views on the DPA DAC's? I have been offered a 'Little bit' model quite cheaply. Is it any good?

    S
     
  4. John Dawson

    John Dawson
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    It is always gratifying that somebody reads those interviews (Hi Fi Choice I think). We started making outboard D/A converters about 12 or 13 years ago and then you could get a useful gain in sonics over many stand alone CD players.

    These days I am not so sure about the gains to be had - CD players have got better and as designers we recognise the limitations of the SPDIF digital interface - namely that clock recovery is not easy without increasing jitter levels. Cheap optical leads or interfaces can make this worse. This can all be overcome with a quartz crystal based phase lock loop (PLL) recovery circuit or a sync link system that feeds back a master clock to the CD or DVD transport but both are expensive and not usually found outside expensive processors. In particular most if not just about all AV receivers don't have this, nor most cheaper outboard DACs. If this is true of the DAC or AV amp you have then IMO you would be better off using a decent DVD player's analogue outputs (the Arcam DV88 or, better, 88 Plus unsurprisingly come to mind) for CD replay, fed into a true analogue input on the downstream amplification.

    In any case try before you buy :)

    HTH.

    John Dawson (Arcam)
     
  5. Reiner

    Reiner
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    I rekon that an expensive DAC (or even an expensive CDP) connected to most AV amps is a waste of time, or rather a waste of your hard earned cash.
    Specifically if the analog inputs undergo an AD conversion before they are forced through the DSPs and then converted back to analog once more - which is what happens in most AV amplifiers / receivers (i.e. those which don't have a true analog bypass).
     
  6. paiger

    paiger
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    I was just looking for a quick route to improve the CD performance of my Sony 700 DVD player. I know it's low end and my 1080 amp is too. I am planning a major upgrade and I'm trying to get my head around my requirements before I audition stuff. In light of John's comments, I think I'll live with my current set up for the mo until I have saved enough pennies for some serious gear.

    I have a bit of a dilemma. I am a big music listener but have a load of movies too. Now for movies, my Sony set up sounds good to me and something eve a little better would be perfectly OK. For music, I'm more fussy and miss the quality since going dow the AV route.

    My plan is to get a good pre/power eg AV8/Bryston or Arcam amp, then get a good CD player (CD23) and also a DVD jukebox (Sony 301 etc) which will house all my dvd's and be ultra convenient. This will give me great CD replay and also be easily good enough for movies. The problem will be hi-res audio which I am also a fan of. I would like DVD-A and SACD so would have to buy a player (marantz 8300) that did both as the AV8 has only one set of 7.1's and as yet, no provision for digital hi-res.

    Seems like a load of boxes but it would provide what I need and only the Arcam gear would be on show, the rest in a cupboard.

    By the way John, if you are reading this, what are the airflow requirements for power amps? Is it acceptable to place it a closed cupboard with other AV gear? Would this make it run way too hot?

    Steve
     
  7. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Might be worth reading CJROSSs DAC info thread in the HiFi separates forum here. Has a lot of useful info.

    IMO a decent DAC will massively improve the sound of a cheap/midrange CD player, esp. one that is a little old now.

    A couple of weeks ago I got a Tag DAC20 (£1250 when new, but I got mine from Tag for £450, when they were selling off their test models). The DAC20 does have very good clock recovery that almost eliminates jitter.

    My CD player is a 12 year old Marantz CD50SE which was a mid-range player at the time and the difference the DAC20 made was totally unbelievable. I don't think I've bought a single bit of kit that has made as much difference. Soundstage, timing, clarity are all vastly improved. I can actually hear the 'shimmer' of a cymbal which before was basically just white noise.

    As you will read from CJROSS in his thread, and I agree with him, a good outboard DAC can take a midrange CD player or DVD player (playing CDs) into £1000+ high end CD player territory. The difficulty these days is finding a decent outboard DAC for reasonable money. I was very lucky to find my DAC20 when I did!

    I would take my view on transport/DAC further and say that IMO, provided you use a good clock recovery DAC then it's almost completely transport independent. Any CD transport (including DVD players) can read the digital data off the disc correctly, the problem is the D/A conversion and jitter.

    As a little test when I got my DAC20 I tried it with my CD player (incredible as I already mentioned), but then also with my DVD player (Philips DVDR 890) and a Sony Discman portable (which has optical digital out). There was almost no perceptible difference between the three.

    Still - read the articles which CJROSS has linked in his thread. Interesting stuff.

    Michael.
     
  8. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Oh yes - about using AV amps: Reiner is right that most AV amps/receivers do an A/D conversion of all incoming analog signals and then their own D/A conversion back again before amplification. Only high end amps and processors allow you to bypass this step.

    It's not as bad as it sounds though because it's all done internally and there's almost no scope for introducing jitter which would be the major cause of sound degradation.

    Having said that I don't use my AV recevier (Marantz SR4200) for CD playback. I kept my 2ch. amp (Arcam Alpha 6+) and now use it as a power amp for the front speakers with the SR4200 or as a standalone 2ch. integrated when listening to CDs (my DAC20 analog outs go directly to the Alpha 6+). It's a little bit fiddly as a setup but the sound quality of the Alpha 6+ for 2ch. music is so much better than the SR4200.

    If you (paiger) are considering the AV8/P7 (or other similar) pre/power combo then that won't be an issue because the AV8 has analog bypass, and it's an excellent combo to rival any dedicated 2ch. pre/power.

    Michael.
     
  9. paiger

    paiger
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    Very interesting, thanks. I am seriously considering the AV8 and I only have one reservation (before auditioning). It has only one way of recieving high-res audio (DVD-A/SACD). Now, if I were to go for a DV27 with DVD-A then there would be no way of getting SACD multi-channel into the processor. I like the idea of the Tag link where you will be able to send CD/DVD/DVD-A (in a minute) from the DVD32(192) through this and leave the 5.1 bypass free if you have a seperate SACD player.

    The only easy solution is to have the DV27 doing CD and DVD and a seperate SACD/DVD-A player such as the Marantz 8300. You are then of course missing out on DVD-A playback from your DV27.

    It's a tough one. I reckon I'll end up with a an AV8, an Arcam CD player and something like a Pioneer 757 or Marantz 8300 for DVD/DVD-A and SACD.

    S
     
  10. paiger

    paiger
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    By the way, as the AV8 has most of the jitter correction facilities that John talks about, how would a good DVD player (747) sound for CD's when used purely as a transport (coax into the AV8's DAC's). Would there be a tangible benefit of getting a dedicated CD player as well and feeding that to the analogue bypass?

    I guess that's a good thing to include in an audition.

    Sevenoaks here I come.

    S
     
  11. michaelab

    michaelab
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    With a processor as good as an Arcam AV8 or a Tag AVR32 then a good DVD player (even a mediocre one) would still make an excellent CD transport. I very much doubt you'd get any benefit from having a dedicated CD player and using its analog outs. I'd go as far as to say that only a really high end CD player would have a DAC as good as the ones found in the AV8 or AVR32. At that point it just becomes a matter of personal preference.

    If you want to be able to have DVD-A and SACD then I'd go for a universal player like the Marantz 8300 which you can use for everything. Hook it up digitally and via the 5.1 analog outs to your processor and then only use the analog connections for DVD-A and SACD, use the digital one for everything else.

    If you audition an 8300 connected digitally to an AV8 and a CD23 connected analog to same then I think they'll be comparable. Basically, with a good DAC/processor there's really no need to have more than one transport.

    Michael.
     
  12. paiger

    paiger
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    Yes, that was what I was thinking. I may have to go with the Pioneer (virtually the same player as the 8300) though purely because it's silver. Would have to audition the two as the concensus is that the Marantz is superior.

    I think this would be the way to go for now. It will still be a huge step up from my existing set up and with all the cofusion surrounding hi-res audio, hi-bandwidth links and with Blu-ray on the horizon I feel that investing large sums of cash in any format is a bit risky. All I really know is that I want good performace from CD's so that will be my criteria for judging if I need an extra box.

    Steve
     
  13. NicolasB

    NicolasB
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    I was listening to an all-Arcam-FMJ setup a while back - DV27, AV8, P7. The quality when playing back CDs was perceptibly better when using the DV27's DACs and the processor's analogue bypass than it was just using the player as a transport and using the processor's DACs. Mind you, the DV27 is a pretty good CD player. John D reckons it is comparable to Arcam's own CD92 (which sells for about £900). I don't whether you consider this "really high end".
     
  14. michaelab

    michaelab
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    For CD players I would consider anything around the £1000 mark to be pretty high end. I was just saying that you'd have to spend a hell of a lot on a dedicated CD player to better the sound from a DVD/CD transport and AV8 (or similar).

    Michael.
     
  15. nwgarratt

    nwgarratt
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    The CD quality from my Sony NS900 player is excellent. I use the 5.1 output (it is the same as using the red/white analogue outputs).
     
  16. Droogie 2001

    Droogie 2001
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    This is in response to Reiner's comment.
    If you are using a Denon 3802 in Direct mode via Analogue cables from a DAC then are you saying that they are still getting re-processed by the AV Receiver?
    What about the EXT-IN connections and mode? These surely by-pass all processing?


    Regards
     
  17. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Don't know about the 3802. However, very few AV receivers have a proper analog bypass mode. I just checked the specs of the 3802 on their web site and it didn't mention anything about analog bypass so I doubt it has it. Using the external 7.1 inputs in direct mode probably switches off any DSP stuff but I doubt that the A/D/A conversion is skipped.

    It's much easier to design if the input to the power amplifier section all comes from the internal DACs - to have a proper analog bypass they'd have to have a separate route into the power amp. and that would cost a lot more, which is why you only find proper analog bypass on really high end kit.

    Michael.
     
  18. John Dawson

    John Dawson
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    For the record, the Arcam receivers (AVR100 and 200) keep the signal in the analogue domain for the stereo analogue inputs and the 5.1 analogue input.

    Obviously the AV8 has this too, plus the ability to switch off the DSP system entirely when handling analogue signals.

    John Dawson (Arcam)
     
  19. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Paiger, I don’t know where you are at with your quest on the DAC side dude but Ive just spotted this post so bear with me.

    3. Would it be fair to say that a seperate DAC would bring a standard DVD player, say Pioneer 747, up the standard of a good, mid range CD deck (eg. Arcam CD62) or would it still be lacking?

    It is in my most humble iopinion that adding a DAC to a Pioneer 747A at the price of an Arcam CD62 will take your CD playback abilities into the next league of CDPs. By that I mean £1000+, there are many DACs available on the secondhand market that are in a different league compared to a mid level player like a CD62, dont get me wrong dude the CD62 is a good player but buying a sub £1000 player when you have a transport already in the shape of a decent quality DVD Video transport like a 747 does not compute to me, you are rebuying the transport cost at the next step, pure & simple your sound per pound upgrade is not as effective. As long as theu dudes have said already you choose a good DAC with attention paid to its recovery clocking then it should be as transport dependant. FYI the DPA Little bit DAC are loved by everyone who has ever owned them, the Little Bit 2 & 3 are still good buys at £200 & £300 respectively. These added to a 747 would be more my cup of tea than a CD62. Moving upmarket from these types of DACs you can have a Tag DAC 20 for £450 a truly amazing piece of kit, Ive seen a MF A3.24 96/192 Khz upsampling DAC for £525 or how do you fancy a Chord DAC 64 for £1350, now can anyone persuade me that adding a DAC to a DVD player like a 747 is not up to CD62 standards.
    Here are some more that would blow that level of CDP into the weeds, just firing a rough seacrh on the net, and I have omiited a host of Wadias, Theta Pro Prime etc for clarity all at the £600 level of mid market CDPs.

    TRICHORD RESEARCH Pulsar Series DAC plus Pulsar Series external power supply also included one metre length Trichord Analogue interconnect pair, £600 (new £2000) Tel: 07973 128 355 (Enfield, North London)

    TRICHORD RESEARCH pulsar series dac 1and pulsar series power supply, balanced inputs, upgraded power cable, Contact: Luke, Telephone: 02072546820 RRP: £1800 Price: £600

    http://www.midlandaudiox-change.co.uk/index.htm DPA PDM II Pulse array DAC 2 Box £1895 £599

    BTW I agree with the dudes that adding a DAC to a lowly AV reciever is maybe wasted as the stereo effort is not as good as could be expected, once you get to dedicated AV Pre a la AV8, Tag 32s, or the like, generally the DACs onboard & the pre amp section are up to scratch.

    HTHs & All IMHO dudes.
     
  20. Droogie 2001

    Droogie 2001
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    I have had a look at my Denon 3802 manual and it says that when the EXT IN button is selected the connections setup on those jacks bypass the surround circuitry.
    It also says the DSP settings cannot be selected nor can the standard (i.e. Non DSP modes) play modes such as Direct, Dolby/DTS surround etc.
    Would you still say that an Analogue/Digital conversion is still occuring again with the inferior receivers's DAC's even with this information?

    I ask this as I am looking to add a Stereo amp up to my existing surround system and want to issue I do not lower the quality in any way.

    Thanks
     
  21. michaelab

    michaelab
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    That would suggest that the 3802 does have a proper analog bypass.

    If you add a stereo amp to your system then, for music, you don't need to involve your AV receiver at all, just connect the analog outputs from your source (CDP, DAC, turntable or whatever) direct to your stereo amp. Then connect the front channel pre-outs from your AV receiver to another input source on your stereo amp. Obviously you also need to connect your front speakers to your stereo amp, not the AV receiver.

    Select the CD (or other music) input source for listening to music and use the stereo amp's volume control as normal. For watching movies select the 'AV' input source on your stereo amp (the one where you put the AV receiver's pre-outs) and then set the volume so it balances with your other surround speakers - it's usually pretty high, somewhere around the 12 o'clock mark. Then only use the AV receiver's volume control during the movie.

    Clearly you need to remember to put the volume on the stereo amp. back to a sensible level for listening to music!!

    I run a system like that with a Marantz SR4200 and an Arcam Alpha 6+ stereo integrated. With that setup I had the additional irritating problem that the Arcam responds to the Marantz volume controls so I couldn't change them independently. I ended up using a bit of angled black plastic to block the IR receiver on the Arcam. I only remove it when I'm listening to music.

    Michael.
     

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