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  1. #1

    AV Receiver as DAC?

    I've been considering setting up an audio server with either a Powermac G5 dual 1.8GHz or a 2010 Mac Mini (I have one of each) and wondered if it is possible to use an AV receiver as a "DAC" and run the optical output of the G5 or Mini directly into the receiver. My receiver (a Denon AVR-3808ci) has multiple assignable optical and coax digital inputs, which I don't use since all of my equipment is HDMI (the player, an Oppo BDP-83, can pass hires audio over the HDMI link). I believe Denon used to offer 24/192 capability over the digital links for DVD-audio disks but not SACD (because of DRM), so I am wondering if this would work and alleviate me from having to purchase an outboard DAC. This seems too simple, so I must be missing something-I'm sure someone here can help point that out. TIA!
    Mac Mini 2010/2.4GHz/8GB RAM/120GB SSD[br]HiFace USB/Coax adapter[br]Drobo 4x2TB media storage[br]Denon 3808ci receiver (used as pre/pro)[br]Oppo BDP-83 universal BD/DVD/CD player[br]JVC DLA-HD250 projector[br]Rotel RMB-1095/RB-1080 power amps[br]VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SME 309/ATML150/SDS/SAMA turntable assembly[br]Quad 44 preamp ( with MM and MC phono modules)[br]Dynaudio Audience center/surround/rear speakers[br]Dynaudio Aries F/R speakers[br]NHT 1259/Rythmik Audio 12\" subwoofer[br]

  2. #2
    Sophomore Member Akapod's Avatar
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    Yes, but ...

    Yes, you can connect the optical out directly to your A/V receiver. (I ran my system this way for a couple of years). You will have three issues:

    (a) Optical outs tend to have issues with jitter.

    (b) A/V receivers will probably not use the same caliber DAC chips as a high-end stand-alone DAC.

    (c) I think the optical out is limited to 96 kHz.

    On the other hand, it's a cheap and immediate fix. Hook it up and give it a listen!



  3. #3

    Akapod, thanks for the quick

    Akapod, thanks for the quick reply. I'm not near either of these computers at the moment, but the Audio Midi utility on my office MBP unibody C2Dshows a max rate of 96k on the output. It seems improbable that the G5 has a higher sample rate capability, so using the built-in optical output would give me up to 96k, but no more. I am interested in your comment about jitter on the optical output-is it too much for the device at the other end to overcome with reclocking and buffering, since the optical signal would presumably get both at the other end?
    Mac Mini 2010/2.4GHz/8GB RAM/120GB SSD[br]HiFace USB/Coax adapter[br]Drobo 4x2TB media storage[br]Denon 3808ci receiver (used as pre/pro)[br]Oppo BDP-83 universal BD/DVD/CD player[br]JVC DLA-HD250 projector[br]Rotel RMB-1095/RB-1080 power amps[br]VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SME 309/ATML150/SDS/SAMA turntable assembly[br]Quad 44 preamp ( with MM and MC phono modules)[br]Dynaudio Audience center/surround/rear speakers[br]Dynaudio Aries F/R speakers[br]NHT 1259/Rythmik Audio 12\" subwoofer[br]

  4. #4
    Sophomore Member Akapod's Avatar
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    The $2700 Question

    Whether the amount of jitter is excessive is a question of personal taste.

    When I first connected my Mac Mini to a McIntosh MHT 200 several years ago, I thought the sound was as good, and maybe superior, to playing a CD in my CD player, using its DAC chip, and connecting via RCA cables to the same integrated amp.

    Then late last year, I went to my local audio store and tested the Ayre QB-9 and was blown away with the sound quality. Unfortunately, being blown away cost me $2700 (by the time you add in cables and tax).

    Connecting via optical will work well; connecting via a high-quality asynchronous USB DAC will work much better, but it will put a hurt on your wallet.

  5. #5
    Trouble maker... Audio_ELF's Avatar
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    Mac and AV Reciever...

    First off, depending on your expectations, yes you can use your AV Reciever and a Mac to great effect. Personally I would be looking at using your MacMini, purely on aesthetic and (physicla) noise levels; though re MacMini will also allow you to trial software such as AyreWave.

    The simplest connection method will be optical from MacMini to Denon. The optical output is part of the headphone socket so you'll need a Mini-TOSLink to TOSLink cable (ideally) or a Mini-TOSLink adapter and standard optical cable. (Assuming you are using iTunes and CD Rips) select 16bit and 44100Hz in audio midi and (as they say) Bob's your uncle. The limitation of this setup (iTunes and Optical connection) is that if you wish to try high resolution audio files you're limited to 96kHz (most Mini's don't support 88.2kHz even); as commented the jitter on the Mac's optical output is quite high and Audio Midi needs to be manually configured (though many people with similar setup find it perfectly acceptable to leave the settings at 24/96 all the time).

    The first alternative suggestion would be to investigate the UPnP / DNLA capabilities of your Denon. Using a UPnP server such as EyeConnect on your Mac this can stream music via Ethernet direct to your receiver. The Mac can then be located away from you AV setup. Depending on configurations this can be simple or easy to setup. You could also look if yours is one of the Denon's that can be upgrades to support AirPlay.

    If you want to improve on the initial suggestion I made of using optical connection and iTunes there are a few options. First a USB to SPDIF converter such as the HiFace will give a lower jitter connection to your Reciever. Secondly there are various software available which give better playback than iTunes and also switch the sample rate output automatically. These software options include Amarra and Pure Music (commercial software which integrate with iTunes); AyreWave (beta but high quality, currently available free) and an open source player who's name currently esapes me.

    Yes you may find for the quality of music you are looking for you need a separate DAC and stereo amp, but you can certainly get music which the average person would find high quality from a simple Mac and AV Reciever setup.

    Eloise
    ...in my opinion / experience...
    While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.
    And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

  6. #6

    Thanks, Akapod and Audio_Elf

    Thanks, Akapod and Audio_Elf (Eloise), for your detailed replies to my questions. Aside from cost and convenience(since I already own the receiver), one of my primary motivations for using the Denon is to take advantage of the multichannel DAC capabilities built into the receiver, which I would not obtain with an outboard DAC (at least none of the ones I have heard about). Eloise, I agree that the aesthetics of the Mini are much more desirable than that of the G5 tower, but I am not quite yet ready to throw in the towel on it until I do a bit more testing and listening. The HiFace USB/SPDIF converter sounds interesting-can it handle multichannel as well, or is the conversion restricted to two channel only? Even if it is only two channel, it sounds like this device would give me the ability to play my 24/192 HDAD rips and hires files from the Mac to the receiver, correct?
    Mac Mini 2010/2.4GHz/8GB RAM/120GB SSD[br]HiFace USB/Coax adapter[br]Drobo 4x2TB media storage[br]Denon 3808ci receiver (used as pre/pro)[br]Oppo BDP-83 universal BD/DVD/CD player[br]JVC DLA-HD250 projector[br]Rotel RMB-1095/RB-1080 power amps[br]VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SME 309/ATML150/SDS/SAMA turntable assembly[br]Quad 44 preamp ( with MM and MC phono modules)[br]Dynaudio Audience center/surround/rear speakers[br]Dynaudio Aries F/R speakers[br]NHT 1259/Rythmik Audio 12\" subwoofer[br]

  7. #7

    AV Receiver as Dac

    Audiofox, the following are a couple more considerations that might interest you.

    I have been using this method for years, and it works very well with my Arcam AV8. But its performance was somewhat of a new benchmark when it was introduced to the market. Its hard to say how well every AVR would perform by comparison. Please understand this is not meant as a disparaging remark about your Denon, but I am inclined to think not all AVR's are created equal and results could vary widely going this route. But what the heck its easy to try via a toslink cable and quite inexpensive too. You have nothing to loose really.

    Regarding optical toslink having enormous amounts of jitter. We hear this ad nauseam but I have yet to ever see any proof of it, via charts, diagrams etc. And in fact JA of Stereophile some time ago published some work claiming just the opposite with mac minis exhibiting fairly low jitter, sorry I don't have the link. Regardless I would love to see the published work assuming it does exist on toslink jitter from recent mac computers.

    That out of the way, recently I have been experimenting with a variety of different toslink cables as well as some pro audio USB and FW dacs feeding the analog stages of my AV8. I don't think it would be fair to say either of these two dacs (Lexicon Alpha USB or M-Audio FW 410) are state of the art such as the Weiss DAC2 or similar, but they are a starting point for me at least to see if its worth while to take it to the next level which I probably will. Just not sure which DAC I will go with yet. However I can honestly say with my current setup I could live with the existing setup (toslink out) for still a long time to come as it really is quite good. Its worth noting using the toslink in full surround mode with the AV8, audiophiles & music loving visitors always comment on how smooth the sound is and how relaxed the experience was.

    Are there difference between the analog I/O's via either of the two mentioned dacs and the AV8 vs toslink? Absolutely. My problem is I can't decide which I like the best but if the recording is outstanding my preference goes to the glass toslink with the AV8 performing its multi-channel surround from the feed. With less than stellar vocal recordings, its a bit of a toss up between the plastic toslink or the Lexicon Alpha. The M-Audio is not very reliable and stable when hooked up to home gear from my experience, though it did sound very good. In addition the AV8 can completely shut down the digital signals with an analog feed and go direct stereo which also sounds quite nice too.

    My current favorites are the ones made by Lifatec, called Silflex toslink, one is glass the other their top of the line plastic and the nice thing about each of them is they build a very well made mini-toslink to toslink cable. The plastic is a bit more forgiving but not quite as dynamic as the glass cable. Highly recommend in either case and very reasonably priced too.

    One further note, with toslink you can output via the midi 32 bit floating point and up to 96 KHZ and anything in between including 88.2 khz. Its not limited to just 24 bit or 16 bit. But with AyrweWave and Audirvana as juke boxes each of these software will revert back to 44.1 assuming redbook files. iTunes on the other hand will play files if the midi is set to a sampling rate up to the full 96 khz.

    Hope this helps, be glad to answer any questions you might have.



  8. #8

    You can address the jitter directly......

    ....by placing a jitterbox between the Macs optical output and your AVR's co-axial input;

    http://www.monarchyaudio.com/DIP4.htm

    I recently acquired used Theta TLC. It did wonders for my jitter bomb airport express. For about $200, you can get the still current Monarchy DIP.

    CD

  9. #9

    Thanks to all for the

    Thanks to all for the detailed and enlightening suggestions and tips. I see some quality time in my near future in my HT "man cave" over the holiday break to test my two candidate Macs with my receiver and a hard drive full of my favorite FLAC stereo and multichannel files, with the possibility of adding a low cost USB/SPDIF converter so I can stream 192k files and see if I can hear the difference. To make it simple, I'll begin with the existing (and free) optical connection and demo copies of Amarra and Pure Music and settle in for some serious listening, then modify the setup as I go. I can certainly think of worse ways to while away the winter days!
    Mac Mini 2010/2.4GHz/8GB RAM/120GB SSD[br]HiFace USB/Coax adapter[br]Drobo 4x2TB media storage[br]Denon 3808ci receiver (used as pre/pro)[br]Oppo BDP-83 universal BD/DVD/CD player[br]JVC DLA-HD250 projector[br]Rotel RMB-1095/RB-1080 power amps[br]VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SME 309/ATML150/SDS/SAMA turntable assembly[br]Quad 44 preamp ( with MM and MC phono modules)[br]Dynaudio Audience center/surround/rear speakers[br]Dynaudio Aries F/R speakers[br]NHT 1259/Rythmik Audio 12\" subwoofer[br]

  10. #10

    Update: I am in the process

    Update: I am in the process of adding a Drobo 2nd gen (with 4x2TB Caviar Green HDs) and a HiFace USB/SPDIF converter to my arsenal. The G5 will probably go on eBay unless my son talks me into giving it to him-he also has the HTPC bug but is doing it on a student's budget (ie, free and/or Bank of Mom and Dad). Thanks again for the tips and comments!
    Mac Mini 2010/2.4GHz/8GB RAM/120GB SSD[br]HiFace USB/Coax adapter[br]Drobo 4x2TB media storage[br]Denon 3808ci receiver (used as pre/pro)[br]Oppo BDP-83 universal BD/DVD/CD player[br]JVC DLA-HD250 projector[br]Rotel RMB-1095/RB-1080 power amps[br]VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SME 309/ATML150/SDS/SAMA turntable assembly[br]Quad 44 preamp ( with MM and MC phono modules)[br]Dynaudio Audience center/surround/rear speakers[br]Dynaudio Aries F/R speakers[br]NHT 1259/Rythmik Audio 12\" subwoofer[br]

  11. #11
    Junior Member bleedink's Avatar
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    Hello. This is the method I

    Hello. This is the method I use as 1. it seems hard to find a multi channel DAC from my experiences and the ones that are seem to be way out of my price range. and 2. My receiver has separate burr brown dacs for each channel so I am not sure of my need for another DAC to add to the chain. That said I personally prefer just using HDMI which also limits my options. I really don't understand the whole jitter thing as I would have no idea if I am hearing jitter or not. I do know that my old receiver (pioneer 1019) did not handle this as well as my current receiver, so of course you would need to have a receiver you believe would have comparable dacs built in. I can't comment on the Hi-Face stuff as I am not sure how to use one in a multi channel environment. I can tell you that price/performance wise I feel my investment in a better receiver really opened up the musicality of my collection. It handles any sampling rate up to 24/192 and seems to do so pretty well. I am sure there are much better options out there depending on how much you like to tinker. But for a dead simple set up, depending on your individual needs, you can certainly build a kick ass sound system without an external dac. My Yamaha is a constant source of unanticipated surprises each time I listen to well-made masters. I also do a lot of home theater watching on the same machine so this simplifies the experience for me and that convenience so far trumps any jitter concerns that I currently have. Again you will want to research the DAC(s) in your receiver to decide whether they are satisfactory for your purposes.
    Macbook Pro 2010->DLNA/UPNP fed by Drobo->Oppo BDP-93->Yamaha RXV2065 ->Panasonic GT25 -> 5.0 system Bowers & Wilkins 683 towers, 685 surrounds, HTM61 center ->Mostly SPDIF, or Analog out. Some HDMI depending on source[br]Selling Art Is Tying Your Ego To A Leash And Walking It Like A DoG[br]

  12. #12
    Sophomore Member Ajax's Avatar
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    Audirvana PLayer


    Hi,

    It sounds like you are looking for the best possible sound quality for the least amount and I would therefore suggest you first consider upgrading the players (Jukebox) from iTunes before worrying about your system.

    Players IMO are just as important as any other link in the chain and I suggest you spend time exploring alternatives to iTunes as you can get much better sound quality for little or no outlay.

    FYI a comment previously about one particular player under development called Audirvana (a free player) not being able to play hi rez is not correct. Jurgen confirmed the Audirvana Player is bit perfect on all lossless formats up to 24/96khz, including FLAC ALAC WAV AIFF.

    I have just spent the whole morning playing Audirvana and everything worked without a hitch, including the automatic changing of the sample rate, which iTunes cannot do. I played 16/44.1 files ripped from my CDs and 24/48 files from the Society of Sound using ALAC, AIFF and FLAC (which iTunes also cannot do). For a non technical person this says a lot about the ease of use of this player.

    I was really seriously impressed with the sound. I listened to Diana Krall (live) and Charlie Winston and their voices were very natural with great presence, as if they were in the room with me.

    I have no commercial interest in this player I was just seriously impressed following the development of it on this site on another thread, it's ease of use and of course the sound quality. It also fixed two major problems for me with iTunes - playing FLAC files and allowing automatic sample rate changes.

    This player first loads the file into RAM, avoiding a spinning hard drive. This process supports my long held belief, shared by Linn with their famous LP12 turntables in the 80s, and Chris C of this site, that if you can get the information correctly off the source, and isloate any electronic noise or mechanical vibration, you can get great sound out of almost any amp / speaker system.

    I note that a lot of contributors to this site have confirmed that their "budget" systems got a great lift in SQ when the player was improved.

    The Audirvana player is still in development stage but all is needed is to add some user friendly features. It will be replacing iTunes in my system for serious listening.

    Of relevance to your thread is the fact I was using a very basic and inexpensive system - 13" Mac pro with 4G RAM via USB into a DACport (24/96 by CEntrance) and then Akimate active speakers (combination of a 40watt built in Creek amp and Epos speakers). Total system (excluding computer) is only $US800 and shows that audiophile quality music is now readily available to all.

    That said I have a similar situation to you with a Macpro playing into a high end Rotel surround sound processor and 5 channel poweramp combination.

    I have two inexpensive solutions for you that will work well for simple 2 channel playback from your USB output:

    - a HiFace upgrade to reduce the jitter out of the MAC Mini USB before the coaxial input on your Denon surround amp at only $US200,

    - or a much better upgrade would be the new Asynchronous Arcam rDAC at only $US499 and reviewed positively here by Chris C and also What Hifi.

    The rDAC would give you great flexibility as it provides 3 digital inputs - coaxial, optical and USB and you could run your CD player and other toys through it. The analogue output would simply go into one of the analogue AUX or CD inputs in your Denon amp.

    Hope this adds some fuel to you decision making.

    Good Luck.
    OFFICE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors
    TRAVEL: MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 - Sennheiser HD 650

  13. #13

    Ajax, thanks for the tips. I

    Ajax, thanks for the tips. I have since purchased a HiFace USB/SPDIF converter so I can stream 192k files, and I also downloaded the Audinirvana player and hope to spend some time playing it over the next few weeks. The initial results are very promising-thanks again to all for your helpful comments.
    Mac Mini 2010/2.4GHz/8GB RAM/120GB SSD[br]HiFace USB/Coax adapter[br]Drobo 4x2TB media storage[br]Denon 3808ci receiver (used as pre/pro)[br]Oppo BDP-83 universal BD/DVD/CD player[br]JVC DLA-HD250 projector[br]Rotel RMB-1095/RB-1080 power amps[br]VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SME 309/ATML150/SDS/SAMA turntable assembly[br]Quad 44 preamp ( with MM and MC phono modules)[br]Dynaudio Audience center/surround/rear speakers[br]Dynaudio Aries F/R speakers[br]NHT 1259/Rythmik Audio 12\" subwoofer[br]