Yup. Agreed. Pretty consistent. Exceptions when the equipment is ill-matched.
This is an interesting topic relevant to what I'm going through now. Though there are many HDMI 1.3 receivers on the market, only few produce good sound quality IMHO, and it seems most of the HDMI pre/pros short of $3k have their quirks and problems (i.e. popping noises when switching inputs).
There are 2 options. 1: Get a good HDMI receiver and a cheaper digital player. 2: Get an older high quality preamp for the same price, but a more costly analog player.
In my case, after being unsatisfied with the NAD T175, I'm getting a Proceed AVP2+6 and anticipate using it with a Panasonic DMP-BD55K, or the new Oppo player, should it come out in time.
Are you suggesting that passing a digital stream HDMI into the pre/pro/receiver should consistently produce significantly higher quality sound than letting the player decode and do analog conversion? If so, I have reason to be concerned... Although, I can't see where the difference is besides the DAC and THX processing (which I rarely use).
That is what I am saying but within reasonable price/performance windows.
First, I am speaking of multichannel primarily but the observations apply to 2 channels as well.
Second, the Oppo/Integra combo was better via HDMI than analog and so was the Oppo/Anthem combo although the difference was smaller.
Third, both processors were superior with the Oppo than via analog from more expensive players.
Fourth, I do believe that the advantages of the room EQ in those processors tilted the preferences strongly in favor of digital input over analog.
"Are you suggesting that passing a digital stream HDMI into the pre/pro/receiver should consistently produce significantly higher quality sound than letting the player decode and do analog conversion? If so, I have reason to be concerned...(Rakuennow)
Not just a digital stream, but rather the bitstream that has traditionally been used to transport unprocessed DD/DTS material, digitally! I'm speaking ONLY about DD/DTS material here...not standard PCM, LPCM, or other!
Yes, besides Kr4's mention about the benefit of the digital connection and thus internal processing in the AV units, in regards to room correction, and keeping it all in the digital domain (good point), I've traditionally found better CD sound from processing internally in a good cd player source, and using analog in's or an external 2 channel auido preamp for better results for 2 channel sound (all things equal)/ However, as of late more specifically, the benefits of some of these internal DSP processing algorithms has made it a benefit to keep it in the digital domain...that and improved DAC's in the AV pre's and receivers helps a lot.
No, I'm talking about only DD/DTS movie tracks, in either PCM or Loss-less...er whatever is digitally being transported for the HD codecs (mp4?). Read virtually EVERY review over the past 10 years since DVD came out, in regards to AV receivers and processing DD/DTS, and all the reviewers will tell you that DD/DTS sound is much much superior if you process externally in an outboard AV pre of some sort - as opposed to processing internally in a DVD player, and passing analog to a preamp or receiver! That's what I'm referring to.
So, basically, besides the benefit of keeping it all in the digital domain, for DSP and for base management, etc (and possibly one less A to D and D to A conversion in the process), I want to know people's experience with direct A/B for movies with all the connection options. Ya know, the REAL DEAL.
Let me know...
Basically, I guess I could setup the following scenario's, and want to know what peoples experience with the exact same setup's have yieled, in one or all of the configurations, comparing them to each other. In short, which did they think was the best, and what equip did they use to get their results. So here are the scenarios:
You have a Blue-Ray or HD DVD player that process Dolby HD+ and DTS Master lossless compressed audio in ternally, and you have an AV receiver that has a capable 1.3a HDMI input, and the receiver also is capable of processing the above audio codecs. (possibly LPCM as well??? - doubt it). This/your same AV receiver or pre/pro also has 8 channel direct inputs to compare both processing methods and connections. Have you compared all the variables here, and what have you found? Was one better than the other for either standard DD/DTS 16 bit tracks? How about the HD Dolby and DTS master lossless? How about for LPCM? How about for standsard 16 bit or HDCD decoding (if available in the pre/pro or receiver as an option)?
Also, you have possibly the above equipment, processing and equipment options, but you also have an outboard 2 or more channel standard analog preamp or integrated amp to compare as well - with which to, say, connect dirrectly from your HD or Blue player into the preamp, forgoing the AV pre or receiver all together. Then what did you find with these formats?
Input, and actual experience/findings appreciated. I wanna know who's seriously compared all of this. Cause in the end, it does matter, sonically.
Well, I'm not at my house right now, and unfortunately won't be for another month. But I can't wait to get back there and report the results. I'm not too worried about 2-channel audio, since I could still use an optical to my Squeezebox. Supposing multichannel PCM and high resolution formats, I am merely speculating right now as to what could possibly cause a difference:
1. DAC - That is a given.
2. Analog stage - In most pre/pro's or receivers, an ADC would be necessary for bass management, etc., before the final DAC to speakers. If the pre/pro allows analog passthrough, this shouldn't be a problem. I can couple that with an analog bass management/crossover system.
3. THX Processing/DSP's - In my experience there's a tradeoff of imaging for dynamics. I wouldn't mind leaving this off.
4. Room correction - I couldn't tell exactly what Audyssey was doing. It made my already bright Monitor Audio speakers brighter, and changed the soundstage a bit. Another one with tradeoff's.
5. DD/DTS Decoding - I think most experts agree, especially with the lossless formats, that it doesn't matter which component decodes this.
I can also only assume what Kal heard was inferior analog stage in his processors, based on his comments. If the Oppo/Anthem sounds better than Oppo/Integra analog, and this is using the same player DAC's and processing, then the only difference is what's after. Please note this is only my opinion and I'm not trying to imply I know more than Kal.
Enough speculating, though! I, too, would like to hear from anyone with actual experience. I've been struggling with this decision for months now and eventually settled with going the analog route, partially from a financial standpoint.
5. DD/DTS Decoding - I think most experts agree, especially with the lossless formats, that it doesn't matter which component decodes this." Rakuennow
I disagree here. I've been not only doing audio/video for almost 20 years now, but have been reading all the articles, been to the tade-shows, installed 100's of systems, talked to many many audio equipment engineers and industry experts, and they have all unanimously concurred that THE WAY to connect your DVD player for the best possible DD/DTS sound/processing (not necessarily cd playback, mind you) has been connecting DIRECT DIGITAL (almost always Coax, sometimes digital XLR or ST Glass optical where aplicable..but usually always coax digital) from your DVD player's digital out to an outboard DD/DTS decoder of some sort, typically to the digital input of an AV receiver or AV pre-pro! They ALL found out too that the either the DD/DTS Dac's and/or analog output stages and/or a combo of the two were not as adequate as simply passing the DD/DTS bit-stream to a more capable outboard processor! In fact, that is why even as of late you would never ever ever ever hear any pro audio reviewer worth his salt tell you that he has his DVD player hooked up with the "analog connection" to his preamp or AV processor! - NEEEEEEEEEEVER! Why? because it's been very common knowledge that this has not been as good...we're talking limited dynamics, 2 dimensional sound-stage, weaker pressentation, etc.
Now of course I'm referring to the last 12 years or so of DVD DD/DTS application. I'm NOT referring to the new HD codecs! Still, and yet, has anything changed since then? Why would it then all of a sudden, since there's higher resolution being made available, now be better or even ACCEPTABLE to connect otherwise?!!!!!!
Does this make sense to anyone?
I mean, don't take my word for it, just read back for the last decade+ any artical from an AV receiver or pre/pro's review on how/why they use the digital connection from the DVD player to the processor. Because that is EXACTLY how they did it! Then, of course, if you read enough, you'll actually get an article saying that this is the preferred method, result-wise. Bellow are some examples:
"A digital audio connection is best; not only because it typically sounds better, but because it will allow your AVR to use 5.1-channel Dolby Digital or DTS processing." (Darryl Wilkinson;Home Theater mag, on connecting an AV receiver with DVD)
"...One thing is certain either one(coax or toslink) is better than an analog two-channel connection" (Mark Fishmenm, on connecting DVD; Crutchfield)
"Though one exception is DVD players that contain an HDCD decoder, which can give compatible CD's a boost in audio quality. However, a digital connection should still be made for movie listening." (Techlore.com, on dvd connection)
"Based on our experience with traditional DVD players we would normally expect to get better sound from digital connections. After all, good A/V receivers normally have better DD decoders and Digital-to-Analog Converters than those inside DVD players." (Satliteguys.us, on standard dvd)
Oh and there's simply soooooo many more, that I think we all agree, that over the past decade, if any knuckle-head were to tell you that you should hook your DVD player's audio up with analog cables, for DD/DTS playback, you'd either turn and walk away or laugh at them, or both!!
Am I right here, or is this just me?...Please give me some feedback...perhaps an "Amen" here. Or am I just crazy?
Now again, things could have possibly changed since the new codecs hit the scene (particularly when Blue and HD players hit the market, and there were NO RECEIVERS OR PROCESSORS that had this technology built in for internal process). But now that you can process in an "either/or" scenario, let the truth be told about which connection is best. Capiche?
So, yes, I'd like to here some more experiences here, specifically in regards to the new HD codecs and DVD hook-up options for best sound. Thanks
Same answer as in the pre lossless codecs/blu-ray world. Connect using the HDMI to a processor that decodes lossless codecs rather than via PCM. The better processors use better components (ie. DACs) and sampling rates so a bitstream connection is best (i.e., a good quality HDMI cable)....imho.
I'm using a new Cary Cinema 11a processor.
Maybe the reviewers notes you posted were talking to the masses and not the higher end AV buyers? it makes sense to me that they were, by and large, accounting for those who have bought DVD & CD players well under the $200 marks and possibly even less. Given then their usually much more expensive AV reciever's DACs would then be readily more capable of processing digital signals.
Given even simple costs a single cable type interfgace, if good performance can be had from it, seems both the economical and wisest choice.
I have since played with various connections to the receiver via coax analog & optical, and realized such marginal differences with none being that night and day diff, I have just kept the HDMI connections to those items possessing such ins & outs. Analog elsewhere.
Due to the info at the time or point of purchase, I looked for HDMI explicitly for use as my sole AV HT interface. Primarily for costs and ease of connectivity.
Naturally the additional aspect of upsampling SD video to higher resolutions too, which I've since found out isn't the end all be all I thought perhaps it should be. But it's not bad either. Just not a significant enough aspect for a buying decision to be made upon, for there is darned little difference in image sharpness or color vividness by their said escalation. Also too the higher res audio carried on 1.3a is attractive too. This last feature might well be improved upon using analog cabling for audio at least.
In each case though I want to point out the 'bottleneck' as it were remains the processor (AV receiver or player), and it's doubtful to me the use of analog cabling will severely increase performance with todays HD capable devices.
it will however, severely increase costs. Eight times or even six times more just for audio.
I'm not motivated to alter the interfaces to other digital ones, for audio, nor to analog for video. What I'm getting via HDMI now is definitely good enough in both instances for the theater experience to be most involving. IHMO
My sole use of analog cables is for connections to outboard amps, sub, and speakers. I am going to add one RCA composite video from a VHS tape deck to the AV reciever only, as the rec allows such video to be passed along onto the HDMI output cable and then out to the projector.
It may well be otherwise for some, but I feel the mention previously of current digital processing is greatly improved
over past efforts. so much so I'm pretty comfortable with sticking to the one cable 'HDMI' fix.
I did not mean for you to take this so personally, Iplaynaked. I note your experiences, respectfully, but let's talk about "5. DD/DTS Decoding" for a bit, independently of all previously mentioned variables. That is, assuming all DAC's were equal, no additional THX processing applied, etc., I am merely stating that I don't logically see how there could be any difference where the formats are decoded, using DD/DTS supplied algorithms. Especially in this day and age when I could assume all processors should be perfectly capable of decoding lossy formats without fault. That may be debatable (although to a night and day difference??).
Now on the point of DAC's, I agree. DAC's often are more capable in the receiver end, and I suggest that your esteemed reviewers might be hearing this and not the format decoding. Or it could be that the average Best Buy receiver and/or digital processors (like the Anthem) have relatively weak analog stages. And by the way, Nick, the source dictates the sampling rates; pre/pros could upsample after they decode bitstream to PCM.
It's not like I have a problem with digital, though, really. What gets me into using analog, even today, is a little problem I have to HDCP (content protection with HDMI). Unfortunately, since HDMI is relatively new technology, especially to "audiophile" products, there still needs much ironing out of handshaking problems, and relays, which introduces pops in some products, in my experience. My main reason for considering analog connects is so I could get 7.1 lossless out of the player, and into an old fashioned, proven reliable, pre/pro. When it comes to lossy DD/DTS, I could just use s/pdif or optical, but then I would have redundant connections (analog for blu-ray, digital for dvd's), wouldn't I? It makes sense to use only one or the other, only with digital besides HDMI, you cannot transport lossless thanks to content protection!
My only other reason, besides faulty HDMI products, is it makes sense financially! I'd like to clarify that when Blindjim says analog audio increases costs "eight times or even six times more just for audio", he is presumably talking about the cost of the cable, which is dimes on the dollar compared to the cost of the pre/pro and the player. The options you have nowadays are:
1. Buy an HDMI receiver used or new and have it depreciate in value 50-70% in the next 5 years, and a good, cheap, player. Upgrade said receiver when new formats come out.
2. Buy an already depreciated analog receiver that might have been SOTA a couple years ago, and a good player that supports analog connections for $500-700, like the new Oppo. Upgrade only the player when new formats come out.
Cable costs are a one-time affair. A quality cable can be used for lifetime.
I should add that I was very interested in the Cary 11A, but can't afford $3.5k at this point. I'll probably pick one up later when it starts showing on Audiogon.
"Maybe the reviewers notes you posted were talking to the masses and not the higher end AV buyers?" (Blindjim)
Um no. This doesn't make any sense. No reviewer with half a brain would be giving out suggestions that would compromise their reputation as a knowledgeable expert on any given subject. I mean it would take only a second for anyone who's paying attention to spot the flaws in their logic. So, no, this would not be done under any logical circumstance I can see.
Also, I've simply way to much professional hands on experience with all the hookup and component options over the years to be fooled by such a thing. Bottom line, tried and true, you always always used a digital cable to your pre or receiver for DD/DTS decoding from a DVD player...ALLLLLWAYS! It just sucked any other way. Again, that was old 5.1 DVD/DTS decoding at 16 bit, not the newer HD 24/96 stuff and such. Also, I'm not refering to standard CD pcm to HDCD, SACD, or other - just DVD.
My understanding was that not only did the DACS for decoding DD/DTS tend to be superior in outboard processor/receivers and such, but the analog output stages and buffers from the DVD players tended to not be that great either! This all works together to determin the final sound. These pieces are not just a collection of DAC's, ya know. There more to audio equipment that that, I assure you. Otherwise, all cd players with the same dac's would sound the same. Doesn't work that way.
Ok, here's one for you then. Let's say that things have changed with the newer DD HD+ and DTS master and Uncompressed LPCM sources. Lets' say, for the sake of conversation that the playing field has been leveled a bit, for instance. In this case, someone did lots of side-by-side comparisons using otherwise good Blue and HD players from the analog outs, to pass DD HD and Master Codecs, as well as the same quality of processing in the AV receivers and pre's and such. And it was determined by the professional AV reviewers and industry experts that there was simply no benefit (all things equal and considered - i.e, cabling needed to be quality through out) over one method of decoding these codec's over the other - basically a dead heat in decoding in the player vs. the receiver/pre-pro. Then my question would there be any real siginifican benefit in buying any of the newer AV receivers and pre-pro's with these 1.3a HDMI capable HD decoding processors built in, when you could buy otherwise excellent performing several year old AV receivers with 7.1 channel inputs instead!?!!!! In fact, if that is indeed the case - besides needing HDMI upconversion and video switching so badly (your monitor can likely do all the switching you REALY need) - then what benefit would there be to any informed consumer to going out and jumping on the bandwagon to buy the latest processing capable AV receivers and pre's?! There would be none. And, in that case, I suggest everyone considering dumping a couple thousand or more on the latest receiver save your money, and buy some $150 6.1 or 7.1 receiver from a couple of years back on the used market, AND BE DONE WITH IT!...cause you're really not getting anything you couldn't live without, otherwise, imo.
In fact, I can find a boat load of AV receivers and couple year old pre/pro's that offer 8 channel direct inputs, right now! - some of which offer HDMI, some Component switching..both of which will handle most any of the needs out there (as long as your pj or monitor upscales to 1080p, if high def and such). Many of these old pieces also offer EQ's, older DSP, Audyssey, etc.
Anyway, bottom line, is that theory is nice and all. But what matters in the end is audio and video performance results! - in my mind, anyway.
So what's the real deal? That's what I'm after. Until I see a shootout with all the different connection and processing options explored, this is all just theory and conjecture. Someone show me the money....