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All possible paths to a 2.2 setup with DSP - finding the best fit and value

CrustyToad

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Hello to the ASR forum! This is my first thread, but I have been a reader for quite some time. What a breath of fresh air this place is! Kudos to amir and others for the reviews and to all for the discussions!

So for some time now I have been pondering the idea of expanding my current system to a 2.2 setup with DSP to apply room correction. I plan to do this over the span of the next few months (to spread the costs) and I have been looking into all the options of achieving this.

For context, my system is made up of Rpi4 with volumio->Behringer U202HD->Cambridge Audio 840 v2->Elac DBR62 and sometimes the Audio Spectrum Sirene v2 (Greek brand with Seas units that is now RIP). I like the Elac’s, (their bass is impressive) but still switch to the AS sometimes due to their much wider soundstage. The amp is quite powerful so it can drive the Elac’s quite nicely (measurements here). The quality of the sounds is already really satisfying and I think DSP and dual subs will take it to the next level.

Already have a UMIK-1 and might consider in the future to replace the Cambridge audio with a Nord or Audiophonics Hypex NC502MP (if audiophonics finally offer it). I am currently also in the market for a new AVR (torn between a Denon avr-x2600 and any of the 3500 or later series if I find a good deal) which comes back in the 2.2 options below. The HT system would share only the subs with the 2 channel system and use kef 305 as speakers (already in place).

For now the main idea would be to have a 2.2 system that includes room correction via DSP and fulfils the following conditions:
  • Ideally a single device to control volume, crossover and DSP room correction
  • Has a reasonable price (about 600 euro in my book :))
  • The least amount of clutter
  • Least number of devices in the chain
  • Central volume control by remote
  • Is friendly to use for significant other
  • Preferably the crossover is in the digital domain and easily tweakable as subs will be shared with AV amplifier.

The routes to this that I have identified so far are the following (random order):
  • Allo piano 2.1 dac (50 €): in this case the DSP will have to be implemented in volumio with BruteFIR as far as I understand, although the dac does mention the presence of a DSP chip. I have tried installing BruteFIR before with little success but maybe this became better by now?. Even if in place, it requires manual REW measurements and filter generation. The DAC quality is a questionmark, manufacturer claims 112db DR and SNR. Requires some work to setup but at least it is cheap.
  • miniDSP nano-digi (188 €): everything happens in the digital domain, requires adapter from rpi usb to toslink, requires two DACs to then drive amplifiers and subs (sync issues?), which would add at least another 200€ for something like Topping E30/D10s. In this case the cost sort of matches the DDRC-24 solution but with a better DAC in the chain. It is a long chain of devices though.
  • miniDSP 2x4HD (250 €): could be used only in the analog domain to avoid the known poor quality DAC part, but that means again that DSP should happen in the digital domain with volumio and BruteFIR to avoid DAC->ADC->DSP->DAC signal path.
  • miniDSP DDRC-24 (456 €): includes DIRAC live, one box solution, though hardware is old and DAC is known to be quite poor. If not for the low quality DAC this would have been the first choice.
  • miniDSP studio SHD studio (1070 €): nice elegant solution with DIRAC and volume control, but cost is high and still requires two dacs (again sync issues?) which adds another 200€ minimum for something like topping E30/D10s.
  • miniDSP studio SHD (1515 €): this is the ideal solution with a competent DAC and full DIRAC functionality and volume control in a single elegant package. Cost is a bit on the unreasonable side of things.
  • NAD C658 (1700 €): another awesome all-in-one product for the purpose. Still need to buy extra license for full Dirac functionality. Issues mentioned on this site with quality are worrying, especially for the price which is also too high for me.
  • Denon AVR with a pre-out for front B (meaning 3000 series and higher): assuming that the Audyssey equalisation works also for front B. This option actually reduces the overall cost and clutter, but I would still be running two amps (denon for pre, crossover, dsp and cambridge for power). Clearly the DIRAC option is preferable to Audyssey but the Denon option is attractive.

So this was my "short" introduction, curious to see if my option list is exhaustive. Also, people with experience with one or more options, can maybe share their thoughts? I know individual options above are discussed in other threads (which I do follow), but I thought it might be nice to bring and discuss all options together in one thread.

Also, (as others such as @Vasr have mentioned) I think this really highlights a niche market for topping/others to address: a pre/dac with volume control and variable crossovers for subs preferably in the digital domain. I think prices below 400 euro or so would still make it very attractive (@JohnYang1997). I am surprised that more options are not there for a single device to offer this at a reasonable cost.
 
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