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multichannel analog switching vs. downrez

tvh3ad

Established Member
I've pretty much come to terms with the idea that Arcam probably isn't going to provide an upgrade path to those of us who own processors or receivers with HDMI switching sans audio and only a single multichannel analog input. With player prices plummeting, I've begun planning my eventual first foray into HD/bluray and found this nifty device: http://www.zektor.com/mas71/index.html

Looks like this would allow me to add two more multichannel devices plus my 139 without requiring that I fork over a shovelful of cash to replace my otherwise-perfect AV9 processor! On the other hand, it also means that I'd be using the processing built into the HD/bluray player(s) instead of the AV9...which, in turn, leads to this theoretical question:

If the choice is: A) Dolby TrueHD decoded on a Samsung or Sony deck and then sent to the AV9 in analog via this switching device, or B) Dolby 5.1 sent via toslink/coax to the AV9 and then converted to PLIIx/THX...

...which option would be more likely to sound better? why?
 

ianmacd

Established Member
I have always believed (without the benefit of testing as I have a PS3 that doesnt have MCH out) that a track converted on the amp from DD or DTS will sound better than one converted on the player and output'ed via MCH or even 5.1 PCM via Digital.

I believe this because I can not believe that Toshiba etc.. would use anything like the quality of DAC's or Audio Decoders that Arcam use in their AV range.

As I said this is supposition as I currently do not have the equipment to test this.

If anyone is in the position to do some testing then that would be useful.

Ian.
 

proux

Established Member
Dolbuy TrueHd is supposed to be a much superior format, so it should sound better (decoded on the player), than Dolby or DTS from the Arcam AVR. The optical / coaxial connections can't carry that much bandwidth (hope this is the right term:D), so even though the Arcam DAC does an excellent with what it is supplied with, it cannot make up for the loss of information caused by compression.

Having said that, I would also like to know from someone who has tried it. I am thinking of adding a Toshiba HD-DVD, but then I can't use the MCH AVR input for DVD-A / SACD, and the nifty device you found is a bit pricey for my taste...
 

MBL

Standard Member
I have tested with an HD-EX1 and I must say, that it is very clear to me, that high res sound and DTS sounds much better over the analogs. Dolby Digital I still prefer decoded in the AVR350 (even though I will have to set both the EX1 to bitstream and redirect the HDMI signal in the reciever).

Summa: Go for the analogs if you have the possibility for high res sounds - its AMAZINGLY open and LFE is tight as a rock.. :)
 

Stitzlein

Standard Member
I have an Arcam 280 connected to both a Samsung BDP1200 via Toslink, as well as a Toshiba HD-A35 connected via analog. I can say with confidence that Dolby TrueHD over analog on the Toshiba sounds more clear and accurate than Dolby Digital Plus over Toslink on the Sammy.

I have watched 300 on both the players and the TrueHD track is superior to the DD+ track. That said, DD+ sounds very nice, just not as nice as TrueHD. It's like going from CD (DD+) to vinyl (TrueHD).

Joe
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I have tested with an HD-EX1 and I must say, that it is very clear to me, that high res sound and DTS sounds much better over the analogs.

This is rather a strange statement, given that the Toshiba can neither decode nor transmit DTS HD, as theToshiba specification clearly states. "Core only" is the same DTS you get on normal DVD.
 

MBL

Standard Member
This is rather a strange statement, given that the Toshiba can neither decode nor transmit DTS HD, as theToshiba specification clearly states. "Core only" is the same DTS you get on normal DVD.
Maby its the calibration of my Toshiba player, but I get noticable better sound from the analogs than the internal decoder in avr350 (and I know its only core DTS either way).
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Maby its the calibration of my Toshiba player, but I get noticable better sound from the analogs than the internal decoder in avr350
Perhaps, but this is not a property of HD sound, but rather a comparison of two decoders over the same source. A comparison with the DV139 or AV9 would be interesting.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
It's like going from CD (DD+) to vinyl (TrueHD).
Sounds like you need a decent CD player. Or are you saying that TrueHD reproduces a limited dynamic range with a substantial background rumble, let alone a continuous stream of rice crispies sound (snap, crackle and pop)? I'm no LP newbie - I have 1500 LPs and have spent far too much money on LP equipment - and there is absolutely no comparison with decent CD replay. :)
 

proux

Established Member
Sounds like you need a decent CD player. Or are you saying that TrueHD reproduces a limited dynamic range with a substantial background rumble, let alone a continuous stream of rice crispies sound (snap, crackle and pop)? I'm no LP newbie - I have 1500 LPs and have spent far too much money on LP equipment - and there is absolutely no comparison with decent CD replay. :)

Hi Mark, perhaps the quote should have been "like going from CD to SACD".:)

Still, if the vinyl record is good and clean enough, my TT does give a more involving experience than my CDP (despite the CDP costing almost twice as much new as the TT/ cartridge).
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
perhaps the quote should have been "like going from CD to SACD".
That would have been a much better quote:), but I suspect the OP meant to say "like going from LP to CD" as that would have indicated a huge leap.:D

I have both CD (CD82) and SACD (DV137, sold to my wife as an SACD player). Of course I could upgrade both (CD36, DV139), but to be honest I can't really hear much of a quality difference, although SACD does give extra channels. Maybe my ears are just too old, or maybe I'm more interested in the music than the sound, or maybe the recording quality is a bigger variable (a recently purchased Naxos SACD had a pretty awful sound). OTOH we did like the surround sound "effects" at the end of the recent Don Giovanni SACD (Harmonia Mundi).
 

tvh3ad

Established Member
Um...vinyl vs. CD???

Really, I just wanted to know whether TrueHD decoded in a mass-market player would sound better than using the AV9 as the decoder with an existing downrezzed format.

I guess there's not enough information yet to sustain a meaningful thread.


PS. Vinyl. ;)
 

Stitzlein

Standard Member
As I mentioned before, TrueHD over analog sounds superior to DD+.

Although I stand by my analogy of DD=CD < TrueHD=Vinyl, a better comparison would have been DD=MP3, and TrueHD=CD.

Joe
 

Dr Dog

Established Member
Um...vinyl vs. CD???

Really, I just wanted to know whether TrueHD decoded in a mass-market player would sound better than using the AV9 as the decoder with an existing downrezzed format.

I guess there's not enough information yet to sustain a meaningful thread.


PS. Vinyl. ;)

You're basically asking whether the quality you'd lose going from a high quality source format (TrueHD or Linear PCM) decoded in a "mass-market" player then sent via analog interconnects to the Zektor switching box to more analog interconnects to your AV9 is great enough that you'd be better off using digital interconnects and starting from a lower quality source format (DD). I've not heard the new formats (waiting for the Samsung BD-UP5000 to feed into my AV8), but unless you're using dreadful analog interconnects I'd be very surprised if the digital DD won out.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Really, I just wanted to know whether TrueHD decoded in a mass-market player would sound better than using the AV9 as the decoder with an existing downrezzed format.
The first question you need to answer is whether the "mass-market player" you're considering really does decode (the extended stream of) HD sound formats. If it doesn't - and very few do (there are none for dts hd) - then you have gained nothing, HD core being the same as DVD.

Of course, there is the psychological effect - the belief that you're hearing an HD sound format makes you believe the total system sounds much better (this is the foundation of the whole ludicrously priced exotic cable market). There are a whole lot of posts elsewhere here where people tell you how wonderful their new HD system sounds, although their equipment is known not to actually be able to decode anything more than the core stream. A serious blind A/B comparison is the only way to go.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Doesn't the Samsung BDP-1400 decode dts hd?
The operative question is whether it supports the extended stream, as dts hd (core) is the same as normal DVD dts.

The Samsung web site gives no indication whether the 1400 can manage the extended stream of any HD format. Given that manufacturers that do support the extended stream state that fact (it being a major selling point) and that players supporting any extended stream cost somewhat more than the Samsung, it would be reasonable to assume that the 1400 didn't have such support.
 

tvh3ad

Established Member
Just an update: I borrowed a blu-ray player for a few days and watched a few bits of movie via my AV9 (entirely to play around with the audio). I was limited both by the player (which couldn't do DTS MA) and disc selection (nothing high-rez except 5.1 LPCM), so all I really got do to was compare 5.1 LPCM over analog vs. standard DD over SPDIF decoded by the AV9.

It took awhile to get the analog input level-matched to the SPDIF, but once I got them synced up, here's what I found:

Using the AV9 as the decoder, the default disc encoding (Dolby 3/2.1 + THX Ultra2Ex on the blu-ray titles I tried) sounded very similar to 5.1 LPCM via analog, except that the extra THX processing caused the rears to become enabled and of course did its usual THX filtering. With THX off, I had a hard time telling the two options apart. I'd say the analog LPCM was maybe marginally clearer and punchier, but the difference was *not* night and day as I was expecting.

I'll want to repeat this comparison later in the year with a newer player and other audio options, but for now I'd say I could pretty easily live with DD+THX over analog 5.1 LPCM.

The picture, on the other hand, is another story...
 

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