Buying the right equipment to play multi-channel SACDs

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newslane

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Hi everyone,

I am interested in creating a system to play multi-channel SACDs in DSD. It's my understanding that the Sony UBP-X800 player will play these SACDs, and I would need a multi-channel preamp to decode it. I want to output to some vintage amplification that I own.

Am I on the right track? If the Sony will pay SACDs, is there a reasonably-priced pre-amp that anyone can recommend? Thanks for any ideas you may have.

John
 

ubertrout

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Pretty much any modern AVR can act as a preamp (or amp, depending how much you want to spend), so long as it supports HDMI 1.1 or higher, if you have the X800 output a 24-bit PCM stream via HDMI. If you want to send a DSD signal over HDMI you'll want a AVR that supports DSD - The Sony STR-DN1080 is a good cheap option that will process DSD and pair well with outboard amps, although its own amp section is decent as well.
 

newslane

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Many thanks....looking at the back of the Sony STR-DN1080, I was expecting to see pre-amp outs to connect with my outboard amps. I am looking for separate pre-amp outputs for front speakers, rear speakers, and center speaker. I do see the SACD HDMI input. Am I missing something?
 

ProgRules

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You don't need a pre-amp. You can just get a dvd player that plays sacd and has 5.1 analog outputs to hook up straight to your amps. If you have a way to control volume on your amps (not likely, but I guess possible with vintage equipment?), any sacd player w/ 5.1 analog outputs will do. If you need volume control, then you'd need the sacd player to have that. I know some Oppos have volume control, but they all have gotten crazy inflated prices since the company left the business (support is still there).
 

newslane

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I would need volume control - the amps are passive and don't have any controls. I would need a way to balance the output of the five channels.

I will look for an Oppo that has the controls to see if it might work. Thanks for the suggestion.
 

ubertrout

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Many thanks....looking at the back of the Sony STR-DN1080, I was expecting to see pre-amp outs to connect with my outboard amps. I am looking for separate pre-amp outputs for front speakers, rear speakers, and center speaker. I do see the SACD HDMI input. Am I missing something?
Fair point...I don't use separate amps, I just use my AVR's amp section. The Marantz SR5015 (and most Marantz models) do analog multichannel in and preamp out (and HDMI in). Sony's top-of-the-line unit, the str-za5000ES, will also do it.
 

LuvMyQuad

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Above all, you need something with MCH analog outputs. Whether it be a pre pro, AVR, optical player, or MCH DAC. They are very rare in both modern AVRs and disc players (until you get to flagship status AVRs). They are much more common in gear that is 5+ years old.

You will also need a volume control at minimum (some switching might be nice too). I am not a fan of volume adjustments being facilitated by built in digital controls in disk players. They can only reduce signal level from full output and in doing so, will truncate the bit depth of the digital signal. In the extreme, this can cause audible distortions. Also, since there is no capability to apply gain to the outgoing signal, low sensitivity of the amplifiers can become an issue. An analog volume control in a disk player is another matter entirely however. I believe the Oppos use a digital control?

Unless you have your heart set on using DSD over HDMI, you don't really need that option either. Some claim it offers better sound, but I have not experienced that. Still, if true, you would likely need a high quality DSD capable multi channel DAC to notice it. Fortunately, the Sony player should have an option that allows you to output DSD as PCM. The conversion is internal to the player.

Consider a used pre pro with HDMI inputs. Something like this
 

windhoek

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Somewhere in your mind as a memory...
I think it's harder to buy a new AVR with pre-outs for all channels than it used to be due to HDMI 2.0 protocols and protections. My old Yamaha AVR had pre-outs galore but my current Marantz AVR has front channel and 2 x sub pre-outs only. If you really want to power your speakers without using an AVR's amplification stage then you're probably going to have to buy an AVR that was made a few years ago and/or a player that has pre-outs, as has been mentioned already.

Fwiw, I use the front pre-outs to allow a separate poweramp to power the speakers in my 4.0 setup and it sounds much better than using my AVR 's own amplification so I get why you'd want to bypass an AVR's poweramp section.
 

newslane

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Fair point...I don't use separate amps, I just use my AVR's amp section. The Marantz SR5015 (and most Marantz models) do analog multichannel in and preamp out (and HDMI in). Sony's top-of-the-line unit, the str-za5000ES, will also do it.
Thanks. Although the Marantz SR5015 is apparently discontinued, Crutchfield has an open box return one for just over $1000. I'm tempted, but I feel that I need to do more research about all of this.
 

newslane

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Above all, you need something with MCH analog outputs. Whether it be a pre pro, AVR, optical player, or MCH DAC. They are very rare in both modern AVRs and disc players (until you get to flagship status AVRs). They are much more common in gear that is 5+ years old.

You will also need a volume control at minimum (some switching might be nice too). I am not a fan of volume adjustments being facilitated by built in digital controls in disk players. They can only reduce signal level from full output and in doing so, will truncate the bit depth of the digital signal. In the extreme, this can cause audible distortions. Also, since there is no capability to apply gain to the outgoing signal, low sensitivity of the amplifiers can become an issue. An analog volume control in a disk player is another matter entirely however. I believe the Oppos use a digital control?

Unless you have your heart set on using DSD over HDMI, you don't really need that option either. Some claim it offers better sound, but I have not experienced that. Still, if true, you would likely need a high quality DSD capable multi channel DAC to notice it. Fortunately, the Sony player should have an option that allows you to output DSD as PCM. The conversion is internal to the player.

Consider a used pre pro with HDMI inputs. Something like this
Thank you...some nice observations here. I am determined to play DSD over HDMI to get the most out of all the SACDs I have, although I agree that only certain SACDs seem to sound better than their CD counterparts in my stereo set up. But those that do sound better - wow.

So, it looks like I will need that high-quality DSD-capable multi-channel DAC you mention. But I will admit to some sticker shock.

I'll check out the link you provided. I would move now for the right equipment if I knew it would work as planned, but I feel I still have a lot of learning to do.
 

LuvMyQuad

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I'll check out the link you provided. I would move now for the right equipment if I knew it would work as planned, but I feel I still have a lot of learning to do.
Note that the equipment I linked does not do DSD over HDMI.
 

LuvMyQuad

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Thank you...some nice observations here. I am determined to play DSD over HDMI to get the most out of all the SACDs I have, although I agree that only certain SACDs seem to sound better than their CD counterparts in my stereo set up. But those that do sound better - wow.
I would bet that they still will sound WOW after conversion to PCM. I have A/B'd Oppo decoded DSD with ripped DSD converted to 24/88.2kHz. I could not tell them apart. Maybe you can.
 

newslane

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I would bet that they still will sound WOW after conversion to PCM. I have A/B'd Oppo decoded DSD with ripped DSD converted to 24/88.2kHz. I could not tell them apart. Maybe you can.
You're probably right about the sound difference, but this is purely a music room - no video - and I want to be able to play everything correctly.
 

marpow

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I had an expensive McIntosh universal disc player where the SACD reader took a crap.
I was in a predicament to replace with the new updated version or go in another direction, which I chose the latter. I researched the best of reviews and came up with this:
SACD/DVD/DTS,BD, etc Sony UBP-X800M2
Blu Ray Player Panasonic DP-UB9000P-K
These two together where 1/4 the price of a new McIntosh universal player.
They are both fairly thin, I stack on top, they look like one unit, and so far never a problem, easy to work, etc.
 

newslane

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I had an expensive McIntosh universal disc player where the SACD reader took a crap.
I was in a predicament to replace with the new updated version or go in another direction, which I chose the latter. I researched the best of reviews and came up with this:
SACD/DVD/DTS,BD, etc Sony UBP-X800M2
Blu Ray Player Panasonic DP-UB9000P-K
These two together where 1/4 the price of a new McIntosh universal player.
They are both fairly thin, I stack on top, they look like one unit, and so far never a problem, easy to work, etc.
Does this set-up include the preamp to process DSD? I need something to connect the output to my vintage amps. Thanks for the idea, though.
 

marpow

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Does this set-up include the preamp to process DSD? I need something to connect the output to my vintage amps. Thanks for the idea, though.
They both run HDMI out into my Pre/Pro which does the playback into my amps which are not vintage. Looks like you need a preamp to process DSD which I think there are a lot of those being made now, at least up to DSD256?
 

newslane

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They both run HDMI out into my Pre/Pro which does the playback into my amps which are not vintage. Looks like you need a preamp to process DSD which I think there are a lot of those being made now, at least up to DSD256?
Yes, that's right. I think I have the SACD player part figured out, I just need to make sure that I buy a pre-amp that has an HDMI input of 1.1 or higher and can process DSD. I'm willing to spend what it takes, but I want to know for sure it will work first. I spent a lot of money upgrading and refurbishing my amps, and have plenty of power. Speakers would be next.
 

marpow

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Yes, that's right. I think I have the SACD player part figured out, I just need to make sure that I buy a pre-amp that has an HDMI input of 1.1 or higher and can process DSD. I'm willing to spend what it takes, but I want to know for sure it will work first. I spent a lot of money upgrading and refurbishing my amps, and have plenty of power. Speakers would be next.
I hear you brother. Money and our own brains can get in the way sometimes. I think you have what it takes. It will work. One thing that I notice with others is that sometimes there equipment which is good equipment has no displays, so there is an element of guessing, is it DSD, is it 5.1, is the center channel working or how well are the rears working, stuff like that.
If possible and affordable to you the purchase that you make as a preamp have the capaibility to display the signal it is recieveing. I believe all hard discs of SACD are going to only be DSD64, I could be wrong, but most for sure, wehereas the digital downloads offer the higher DSD rates.
Good luck, keep us posted.
 

Kal Rubinson

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So, it looks like I will need that high-quality DSD-capable multi-channel DAC you mention. But I will admit to some sticker shock.
The least expensive way to do this is to buy a used Oppo 103/105/203/205 and use it as a player/preamp. The only caveat is that you have to be careful that the digital volume control is in operation at all times!
Beyond that, I see three options:
1. Find a used 6-channel preamp to accept the analog output of your player. None are made but there are many on the used market.
2. Rip your SACDs to files and play them via USB/LAN to a multichannel DAC/streamer.
3. Buy a suitable AVR or prepro that will accept DSD over HDMI from your player.
 
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