Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Best of Everything

It's been a harrowing six weeks since I returned from vacation, particularly haggling with the guy I bought a semi-functional Denon DVD-9000 from.  It didn't play most DVD-Audios.  Out of a stack of 8 it played only one.  The seller agreed to pay for repair.  I got estimate, but before I got his approval (he took more than a week) I went ahead and paid to have it fixed.  But replacing the laser didn't help.  In fact, afterwards, it wouldn't play the one DVD-Audio it played before.  Still plays CD's.  So now I was stuck.  I offered either to have the old laser put back in (no guarantee that would restore original mostly broken operation either), take $125 off the refund, or settle for $250 partial refund (out of $699 purchase price) for unit that only plays CD's (and not DVD's).

I might not have offered $250 except I figured that with the $125 off (because the repair made it slightly worse) the amount I was effectively getting off was at least $375 compared with sending the unit back. And if you count the cost of shipping and materials, make that $450.  Then, if you count all my effort and patiently waiting…you see I actually got the player for free compared with sending it back.

Actually, of course, I paid $699+shipping+$89 (for ineffective repair) - $250 partial refund.

Anyway, it rarely happens that I've gotten any such satisfaction in previous cases, so eBay's buyer protection system works (even though I didn't elevate this case to the full eBay buyer protection, the seller was under effective threat that I might).  It's unclear what they would have done in this case.  I might have gotten full refund (but still out shipping and ineffective repair costs).  Or they might have maintained that the ineffective repair made the unit unreturnable.  I think it would have gone my way.

I still look at getting the unit at low cost after some mistakes (like the repair and the minor damage it caused--which I feel correct in taking responsibility for).  And for one thing it does, it might have been worth having at any cost.  For this may well be the Best HDCD Player Ever!

It has the dual differential PCM 1704 for the real PCM conversion.  And the separate power supplies, etc.  And it's built like a tank (which, sorry to say, often has little to do with actual reliability).

Many of the famous HDCD players used predecessors to the PCM 1704, such as the PCM 1702 and PCM 63.

You really want a real PCM converter, I believe, especially for something sampled with a real PCM converter like the Pacific Microsystems Model One and Two.  So you can rule out pretty much all the other universal players that have been made since the DVD-9000, including the estimable Oppo's BDP-95 and BDP-105.

I actually did and A/B/A comparison (I hate doing those) with my DVD-5900.  The difference was as I expected.  Through the DVD-5900, which uses high grade sigma delta conversion chips, the HDCD sounded like you were hearing the music play from inside a jello mold.  The dynamics were inverted, so that transients were convex rather than concave.  The DVD-9000 seems to have measurably higher transient output on HDCD's, maybe by 1-2dB.  I had the change the gain setting on the Lavry to compensate.  I have also worried the extra output might be a sign of some sort of deterioration.  But the DVD-9000 is by far the better sounding.  It's been a revelation like hearing everything the first time.

This is exactly the sort of difference I was expecting from my "information" analysis.  The real PCM player preserves the full information, the sigma delta player shaves the original information off by giving a successive approximation, which only looks good in slow measurements.

So I now have by far the best HDCD playback I've ever heard, and I've been enjoying that on Reference Recordings and an HDCD encoded set of Mannheim Steamroller Fresh Aire I-8.  Which do finally and really sound fresh and not canned as they do on sigma delta HDCD players, or worse without HDCD decoding.

But what about DVD-Audio.  I cherish my DVD-Audio's and in fact just bought a new one (!) this month.  This format isn't dead at all.  Am I still forced to play those through sigma delta derived analog output?

No, and in fact, I can do that even better than I expected, I have found!  My Oppo BDP-95 is the rarest of models that can put 96/24 on the spdif output.  And I can now route that to the living room on coax (as I also do for high res audio on my Mac).  I first tried that last weekend, and was blown away.  It was even better than my DVD-Audio played on Onkyo RDV-1, resampled by Lavry AD10, recorded from digital on a Masterlink, then transferred to my Mac.  This was not a resampling of the DVD-Audio, it was the recording itself!  The bass had even more impact and tunefulness.

So between the DVD-Audio and HDCD, my house was playing wonderfully this weekend, and still.

Actually I don't know what might happen, though, if the DVD-Audio has a 192kHz stereo track.  Does the Oppo digitally convert that to 96kHz?  Then I've got digital conversion…though probably fairly benign.

In addition to the eBay fight I was having (which created a continuous feeling of stress…even going back to before I placed the order as the eBay buy-in-now page malfunctioned and I had to pay from checking, which screwed me up for several days until payday I had to keep adding money to checking), I finally got around to doing the time alignment on my system.  Last time I did a full time alignment it was 3 years ago.  Everything was way out of whack, including one subwoofer being out of polarity (at one time, I was testing that as a way to reduce boom).  The time delays were way off too.  Following the Tact measurements I also tweaked the EQ a bit, reducing the huge notch at 45 Hz a tad, and even adding a slight notch in the Acoustats low bass but well above the crossover point (but nowhere else).  The result measured nicely and sounded wonderful.  The new DAC (Onkyo RDV-1) for the midrange helps greatly, and I'm running the digital typically with little attenuation (maybe 3dB in midrange) due to the low output of the Onkyo, which works beautifully in my system.  This also means, btw, that I can't turn up the volume very much more, though the Tact can play up to +7dB, I'd rather not go above 0.  But having extra volume control range below 0dB which you don't use--is actually a bad thing.

Almost all kinds of attenuation (except amplifier gain switching) are information losing, so having less attenuation also means that much less is being lost.  My typical master gain was more than 10dB lower because the Behringer DCX2496 has 10dB more useless output.  Resistor ladders also reduce information in an analog system--6dB less output from a passive network means 1/2 as much information down to either the noise level (the conventional, but wrong IMO, way of thinking about this) or down to a quantum level (probably around 10-30 below 1V).  Either way of measuring information, you get this loss through attenuation, either resistive or in digital.  (Only HDCD avoids the information loss when going to lower levels, though it's level control features.)

I'm also copying the Reference Recordings HRx files to my Mac and converting them, using Triumph with the Izotope resampler, to 88kHz for playback through Amarra through my digital link to the living room.  They didn't seem to get resampled to 88kHz by the Oppo.  None of my digital stuff goes above 96kHz.  Lavry argued that 192kHz wasn't better anyway.  Anyway, my resampling is "the best" also.

No comments:

Post a Comment