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SACD options?

Old Hi-Fi Guy

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#1
I have an Arcam DV139 CD/SACD/DVD player that has served me well for many years. I have recently bought a new television, which led to a new Blu-Ray player, which led to a new AVR. Trying to get all these devices to co-operate with each other and with my DV139 has been a bit of a struggle for an Old Hi-Fi Guy like me, but I'm inching closer. However, today I suffered some bad news...

I've been trying to get my DV139 to play multi-channel SACDs through an Anthem MRX520 (which is on loan to me while my MRX720 is on order). After much trial and error, I discovered the unique magical combination of settings that enabled the DV139 and MRX520 to produce multi-channel sound at my speakers. The sad part of this is that during my experimentation I had already played the CD layer of the same disc in my new BD player, a Panasonic DP-UB820. That stereo CD layer played over HDMI and decoded by the MRX520 sounded much better than the multichannel PCM audio stream that the DV139 sent over HDMI to the MRX520. I'd been counting on the DV139 and MRX520 being able to figure this out between them, but they've let me down!

My previous receiver had multi-channel analogue inputs, so I used those with the DV139, but that isn't an option with the Anthem; HDMI is the only route. What is the solution to getting my magical multi-channel SACD sound back?
 

WHQL

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#2
Two thoughts: Are you using a good quality, high speed HDMI cable between the DV139 and the MRX520? There is a lot more data passed through HDMI in MCH. Also, you mentioned that your previous setup was using the analog outs from the DV139 to the old AVR. I assume that you were not using any room correction in that setup? Where is Room Correction being done now - DV139 or MRX520 ? Or both (not good). In my setup, there is a huge difference in sound quality (better) when I use Audyssey room correction on MCH inputs vs. MCH analog inputs. The effect of room correction on stereo sources, does not produce as big a difference in my system. Could it be that you are not used to hearing MCH with room correction, or maybe room correction is not set up correctly on the MRX520?
 

krabapple

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#3
Poor HDMI cable quality would likely lead to catastrophic failure -- dropouts -- not poor sound.

The OP should describe in more detail what the settings are in his player and preamp. Is the player outputting a DSD bitstream that the AVR decodes? Or is it decoding internally (and possibly applying DSP)? Is there DSP active in the AVR? Are the channel level and delays and crossovers set properly for the surround output?

The CD layer is 2 channel. That in itself is going to sound quite different from a 5.1 mix, even if the CD 2.0 is upmixed to 5.1. Be sure to compare apples to apples.
 
OP
O

Old Hi-Fi Guy

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Thread Starter #4
The HDMI cable from the DV139 is genuine high speed cable (from Blue Jeans). I'm not using any room correction at all as yet, nor did I previously. I'm using a basic setup (this is a short-term loaner from my local dealer) with all unnecessary stuff turned off.

Apparently the MRX520 can't decode DSD. In the DV139, for digital audio output I have a choice of S/PDIF stereo PCM, S/PDIF bitstream, and HDMI. Only HDMI is going to work for SACD, so that's what I've set. The manual is vague about rather vague about the details.

I'm not concerned about the levels and delays at this stage (the surrounds are actually very quiet - I'm just pleased to have them working at all). This issue isn't about a lack of multi-channel spaciousness or other effects; it's a very evident difference in SQ from the main speakers between SACD from the DV139 and CD from the BDP. The difference is big enough that I will no longer want to listen to the SACD player, so I think I need a different way to play SACDs. I suppose it's just about feasible that the front channels in the multi-channel mix could have been deliberately "muffled", but it seems extremely unlikely. I could always turn up the levels of the surrounds, but it seems like a waste of time chasing the wrong thing.

The DV139 has a "CD Direct" mode which "....mutes all video output while music is playing". I couldn't get any sound at all until I turned this off, so it's as if "muting" means turning off the HDMI ouput! Arcam wasn't a fan of HDMI back then, so I suppose it's a possibility.
 

Pluto

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#5
I would wager that some aspect of the 5.1 stream is either getting “folded down” to something that isn’t 5.1 or there is an inappropriate channel swap. First, are you certain you are hearing the surround layer on your surround speakers, not some ghastly process (or, perhaps, no process at all) being applied to the stereo layer?

Let's assume, for now, that the 5.1 channel matrix is the same for the DVD and SACD departments. Do you have one of those test discs that specifically identifies each channel so you can check the overall presentation matrix? If not, you may need to find a means of ensuring that each channel is routing to the appropriate speaker (and only the appropriate speaker). You might be able to download a suitable ISO file to burn onto a test DVD for this.
 

Sal1950

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#6
The difference is big enough that I will no longer want to listen to the SACD player, so I think I need a different way to play SACDs.
How many different SACDs/CDs have you compared in this way? Firstly you can't expect these two totally different masters to sound in any way alike. I hear the same things all the time but I've got hundreds I can compare, and the winner SACD 5.1 or CD 2ch just depends on the release and your preferences in sound balance.
 

Pluto

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#7
Apparently the MRX520 can't decode DSD
That doesn't matter because no licensed SACD player was allowed to output DSD. There is no way of knowing how well – or badly – the player's internals are converting the DSD stream to PCM, how correct they are getting the 5.1 matrix and that's before we even start to consider the complications that HDMI brings to the party.

My inclination is to use DVDs and Dolby Digital to check the overall system before you introduce the complication of SACD. The daft licensing restrictions on that medium caused a great many problems when it came to anything other than straightforward analogue playout from the licensed unit.
 
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#8
Queries regarding connection of SACD/Blu-ray/DVD players to AV Receivers come up semi regularly, and often there's a perception that HDMI, being new and hi-tech, should be the best connection method.
Let me say at the outset that HDMI is a video-centric interface, and in most situations it's actually bad (or at least sub-optimal) for audio quality. At an earlier stage I gave a detailed explanation, in this post -
https://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/notes-on-chromecast-airplay-and-hdmi.892495/

Some SACD players and AVR's offer a special type of connection protocol called "DSD-over-HDMI" and this is certainly a high quality audio connection method (for SACD/DSD only) ... but I'm fairly certain this feature is not available in this particular equipment setup.

Old Hi-Fi Guy, I suggest you forget about making a digital connection from DV139 to Anthem, and just go analogue instead (3x pairs of RCA cables). There's no technical disadvantage in doing this, you will simply be doing the D/A conversion at the player device instead of at the receiver.
 
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SimpleTheater

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#10
The DV139 has a "CD Direct" mode which "....mutes all video output while music is playing". I couldn't get any sound at all until I turned this off, so it's as if "muting" means turning off the HDMI ouput! Arcam wasn't a fan of HDMI back then, so I suppose it's a possibility.
Don’t blame the Arcam, blame the Anthem. I still have this issue with my Yamaha RX-A3060 hooked up to my Oppo. The only way to play music through the Oppo is to either turn on the projector or disconnect the projectors HDMI cable (others have the same issue). Why the Yamaha has no issue playing music via MusicCast without the projector being on is probably related to the multi-channel sound coming over HDMI.
 

Archsam

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#11
OP
O

Old Hi-Fi Guy

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Thread Starter #12
Lots of terrific comments! It's early morning here and I have to be out this morning. I'll reply more fully this afternoon.
 

jhaider

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#13
Are you within the return window for the Panasonic player? I would just replace both disk players with one that reads everything if possible. Sony is the best priced option (and what I use). Pioneer has an expensive option. Both are cluttered with “apps” - personally I’d prefer a disk player for disks and leave the streaming stuff to AppleTV - but I can’t compare UI because I’ve never used the Pioneer.
 

krabapple

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#14
The HDMI cable from the DV139 is genuine high speed cable (from Blue Jeans). I'm not using any room correction at all as yet, nor did I previously. I'm using a basic setup (this is a short-term loaner from my local dealer) with all unnecessary stuff turned off.

Apparently the MRX520 can't decode DSD. In the DV139, for digital audio output I have a choice of S/PDIF stereo PCM, S/PDIF bitstream, and HDMI. Only HDMI is going to work for SACD, so that's what I've set. The manual is vague about rather vague about the details.

I'm not concerned about the levels and delays at this stage (the surrounds are actually very quiet - I'm just pleased to have them working at all). This issue isn't about a lack of multi-channel spaciousness or other effects; it's a very evident difference in SQ from the main speakers between SACD from the DV139 and CD from the BDP. The difference is big enough that I will no longer want to listen to the SACD player, so I think I need a different way to play SACDs. I suppose it's just about feasible that the front channels in the multi-channel mix could have been deliberately "muffled", but it seems extremely unlikely. I could always turn up the levels of the surrounds, but it seems like a waste of time chasing the wrong thing.

The DV139 has a "CD Direct" mode which "....mutes all video output while music is playing". I couldn't get any sound at all until I turned this off, so it's as if "muting" means turning off the HDMI ouput! Arcam wasn't a fan of HDMI back then, so I suppose it's a possibility.

Hard to know where to start. I looked a the Arcam DV139 manual, which is not super informative, but there do appear to be a bunch of output settings (e.g. speaker size, delay, crossover...) that hopefully do not apply to SACD (DSD-->PCM here) via HDMI, but they should all be set to off/bypass just in case -- anything suggesting DSP should be set to off -- and all such settings should be applied in the AVR instead. (But who knows...if that *doesn;t* work, try using the DV139 speaker config menu to match your setup)

You also have to make sure you are accessing the multichannel layer of the SACD -- you can set it to be the default layer in the DV139.

Also according to some threads, firmware should be v5.06 in order to get 'full functionality' of HDMI 1080p with this player.

Your surrounds should not necessarily be 'quiet' -- surround mixes can and often do contain surround content that is as loud as front channel content.

What specific SQ releases are you comparing to what SACD releases? How are you playing the two of them? SACD is discrete, SQ not. The mixes are going to sound different for at least that reason, even if the SACD is sourced from the same quad master as the SQ.
What are the settings in the Anthem for each type of input? Are you hearing the same thing with DVDA surround releases?
 
OP
O

Old Hi-Fi Guy

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Thread Starter #15
I would wager that some aspect of the 5.1 stream is either getting “folded down” to something that isn’t 5.1 or there is an inappropriate channel swap. First, are you certain you are hearing the surround layer on your surround speakers, not some ghastly process (or, perhaps, no process at all) being applied to the stereo layer?

Let's assume, for now, that the 5.1 channel matrix is the same for the DVD and SACD departments. Do you have one of those test discs that specifically identifies each channel so you can check the overall presentation matrix? If not, you may need to find a means of ensuring that each channel is routing to the appropriate speaker (and only the appropriate speaker). You might be able to download a suitable ISO file to burn onto a test DVD for this.
By co-incidence, I received a few days ago a Pentatone SACD that includes a series of test tones specifically intended for setting up SACD systems. I haven't played it yet, but I'll give it a try.
 
OP
O

Old Hi-Fi Guy

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Thread Starter #16
How many different SACDs/CDs have you compared in this way? Firstly you can't expect these two totally different masters to sound in any way alike. I hear the same things all the time but I've got hundreds I can compare, and the winner SACD 5.1 or CD 2ch just depends on the release and your preferences in sound balance.
These are just my first impressions. It's early days with this revised system. Nonetheless, I've been using a track from Jazz in the Pawn Shop that I'm familiar with in both two- and multi-channel.
 
OP
O

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Thread Starter #17
That doesn't matter because no licensed SACD player was allowed to output DSD. There is no way of knowing how well – or badly – the player's internals are converting the DSD stream to PCM, how correct they are getting the 5.1 matrix and that's before we even start to consider the complications that HDMI brings to the party.

My inclination is to use DVDs and Dolby Digital to check the overall system before you introduce the complication of SACD. The daft licensing restrictions on that medium caused a great many problems when it came to anything other than straightforward analogue playout from the licensed unit.
Thanks, I didn't know that about DSD. Sony strikes again.
 

Pluto

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#18
I received a few days ago a Pentatone SACD that includes a series of test tones specifically intended for setting up SACD systems
I assume that amongst the tests is a sequence specifically for identifying the 6 individual signals within a 5.1 stream?
 
OP
O

Old Hi-Fi Guy

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Thread Starter #19
Don’t blame the Arcam, blame the Anthem. I still have this issue with my Yamaha RX-A3060 hooked up to my Oppo. The only way to play music through the Oppo is to either turn on the projector or disconnect the projectors HDMI cable (others have the same issue). Why the Yamaha has no issue playing music via MusicCast without the projector being on is probably related to the multi-channel sound coming over HDMI.
When the DV139 is cued up and ready to go, the Anthem's display says "Multi PCM", but this changes to "No Sig" the moment I hit play unless CD Direct is turned off. I have an old Sony SACD player that I picked up recently for other purposes - I think it was this player that produced no sound if the TV was turned on and switched to the HDMI channel that was connected to the Anthem, but would produce sound if I changed the channel on the TV! Weird stuff!
 
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