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SPDIF OUT and DACs
kennedyb4
post Jun 8 2002, 18:03
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Hello. I started this discussion with Pio and he suggested it would be a good hardware thread.

The questions were this..

1 My computer is hooked up to my Yamaha surround amp via the SPDIF output on my SBLive soundcard. I know this is not really a great soundcard otherwise, but does the quality of the soundcard have as much or any effect when using SPDIF?


2 Also, the DAC in my Yamaha is a 20 bit but I dont know if it would be considered good quality or not. Can you comment on this, or offer advice on an outboard DAC?

3 Would a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz make a significant difference?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
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Uosdwis R. Dewoh
post Jun 8 2002, 19:33
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Hello!

1. As far as I know, the SBLive family of cards always screws with your audio, by basically upsampling it to 48 kHz in a brutal and coarse fashion, leaving sound quality diminished. Apparently it does this to both the analog and digital output. I'd replace the SBLive to start with. You won't benefit very much from upgrading your DAC since the signal transmitted to it is already "damaged".

2. The DAC's in your Yamaha are probably decent. Better than may CD-players, I'd think, but still quite a bit short of the really good stuff. 20 bit converters are not per definition worse-sounding than 24 bit, but does, obviously, not provide accurate conversion from 24 bit sources.

3. It may or may not be noticable, depending on your source material (lossy compression, pure PCM etc) and the rest of your setup. Howevery, many Turtle Beach cards, and cards like them, can be found used for maybe $25 US or so. I'd recommend you try one out and see if you can hear a difference. If you're seriously considering upgrading the DAC-end of your setup, the SBLive should be the first thing to go.

Another solution is to upgrade to a soundcard with a better onboard (than both the SBLive and the Yamaha). In that case, search around the forum and you'll find plenty of good alternatives, most with very decent 24 bit converters. My own personal recommendation would be M-Audio Audiophile, for around $170 US.

Cheers!

/ Uosdwis
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kennedyb4
post Jun 8 2002, 23:05
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Thanks for your response.

I may get a new soundcard, but not because of its onboard DAC. My computer station is about 15 feet away from the receiver so I want to run SPDIF out to it to avoid the signal problems associated with a fifteen foot run.

I suspect your right, that the onboard Yamaha DAC is decent quality.

What I need is a soundcard that will pass on the output of my decoded Lame files to the amp DAC unaltered.

Does anyone know if the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz resamples its SPDIF out as well? I read that it is also a 48KHz resampling card as well, but I am not sure if this applies to the SPDIF output.

I have a santa cruz stuck in a closet somewhere.tongue.gif
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Annuka
post Jun 9 2002, 01:23
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QUOTE
Originally posted by kennedyb4

1 My computer is hooked up to my Yamaha surround amp via the SPDIF output on my SBLive soundcard. I know this is not really a great soundcard otherwise, but does the quality of the soundcard have as much or any effect when using SPDIF?


Not on my system... I tested that some time ago and posted results to this thread:
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/showth...=&threadid=1760

A copy of my post below:

>>>
I have performed some simple listening tests on the Live! card. It does not suck, but it is not sublime either:

- Very good listening room, no external noise and exceptional accoustics.
- A pair of Snell E.5 speakers (00)
- Sony VA8ES (analog) amplifer (00)
- Sony EP90ES 16bit DAC (00)
- Sony XA20ES cd player (0)
- Soundblaster Live! Value Edition (has digital out on card - no support for extra digital module). Card purchased Q4 1999.

Live! and CD player are connected to the DAC. CD player using optical out and Live! using coax. This should not make a difference in theory, but will probably make a slight difference in real life.

Test samples:
Belinda Carliale: Big Scary Animal
Alice Cooper: Cleansed by Fire

The samples were ripped with EAC and the cd inserted into the cd player. WinAMP and cd player started simultaneously. I then compared the Live! with the CD player by listening and switching back and forth on the DAC.

Note: Operating system used was Windows XP with native Microsoft drivers for the Live! card. The developers at Creative should be shot for their poor drivers!

The Live! card does indeed resample to 48kHz. The display on the DAC reveals this and I don't like it. However, the sound from the Live! card sounds almost identical to the sound from the cd player. It might have a slightly lower volume, but it is also possible that I am getting old.

It would be very interesting to compare the analog out of a nice 0 "2496" sound card with the "1648" from the Live!/Sony DAC. If the purpose is to play ordinary 16bit music, I am convinced the Sony DAC would win. It is afterall a high-end component. Unfortunately I do not have access to such a card.

My recommendation: If you already have an excellent external DAC or digital amp, go for a cheap Live!. But stay away from Creative's drivers.
<<<



QUOTE
Originally posted by kennedyb4

2 Also, the DAC in my Yamaha is a 20 bit but I dont know if it would be considered good quality or not. Can you comment on this, or offer advice on an outboard DAC? 


My personal prejudice: If your surround amp has 5 power amps, pre amp, remote control, tuner, Dolby Digital, DTS and cost below $1,500 I don't think the DAC will be any good.

I might be wrong. It is however quite easy for you to tell by performing the following listening tests (A requires a CD player with digital out):

A: Test how much the resampling to 48kHz damages the sound by using similar method as I did.

B: Compare analog out with digital out from the Live! card. The Live! DAC sounds better than my old CD player, a Denon DCD-1290 - $420 in 1994.
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Pio2001
post Jun 10 2002, 01:20
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Here's what I answered first to KennedyB4's private message :

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
kennedyb4 wrote on 06-06-2002 07:56 AM:
Hi Pio. I know you are very knowledgeable about digital stuff so I would like to ask you a question.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's perfectly on-topic in the audio hardware section, you know. Even if you open a can of worms asking such things wink.gif

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
kennedyb4 wrote on 06-06-2002 07:56 AM:
My computer is hooked up to my Yamaha surround amp via the SPDIF output on my SBLive soundcard. I know this is not really a great soundcard otherwise, but does the quality of the soundcard have as much or any effect when using SPDIF?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It does affect the quality at least a little since the SB live performs asynchronous sample rate conversion on all audio passing through, even to the digital out. The SPDIF output plays 48 kHz whatever audio file you listen to.
Now about the quality of the card itself affecting the sound of the digital out... it may... with some sensitive (not necessarily good quality) converters. This point is the can of worm I spoke about.
I think 70 % of the people on the forum will answer "no" (exept for sample rate conversion, I mean), and 30% "yes".

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
kennedyb4 wrote on 06-06-2002 07:56 AM:
Also, the DAC in my Yamaha is a 20 bit but I dont know if it would be considered good quality or not. Can you comment on this, or offer advice on an outboard DAC?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I can't... I've got no idea about the quality of converters in Home Theatre amplifiers, and all I know about external DACs was that the Micromega microdac (350 ) I once got sounded inferior to the DAC built inside the Sony DTC 55ES DAT deck (1000 deck). But this external DAC was known to be crappy anyway...

Pio2001


Quote :
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
kennedyb4 wrote then :
(...)

The guys over at the syntrillium forums are telling me that the interconnect cable quality for spdif is critical, and far more sensitive than a analog run. They are saying that a poor cable could introduce enough jitter to disturb phase info, which is the problem I think I might be having.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Oh no ! OH ! :eek:
Well, well, well

http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/ultimatebb....ic;f=3;t=003055

I just recovered from that awful thread, just to find the question asked here !

All I can say is that

-It does makes a difference (between optical and coaxial) with my Sony DTC 55ES DAT deck used as a DAC (1990, 1000 deck)
-It doesn't make any difference in a theoretical perfect DAC (that doesn't exist in reality)

Professional people say that good DAC are not sensitive to jitter, but
-They don't use SPDIF, that is by its design the most sensitive digital link to jitter, they use AES/EBU, or SDIF2, or ADAT, or...
-They usually use external master clocks for all their digital devices
-They also say that all consumer DACs are crappy biggrin.gif

I would say that it depends on the DAC.
Anyway, the difference (if difference there is) is little, compared to the difference between DACs themselves, so it's not so important.
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kennedyb4
post Jun 10 2002, 04:52
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Whoa. Nice thread. Those guys are scary:D

Bottom line that I heard. Replacing your interconnect with a quality cable may not help but it won't hurt either.

I'll switch mine out and see what happens. I'm going to install the TB card as well. It smokes the sblive card on specs. Who wouldnt rather have an extra 20db of quiet?
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adriel
post Jun 12 2002, 03:44
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There are several interesting things about the SB Live's digital output:

-It outputs at a lower volume compared to the original .wav file by about 0.65-0.70 dB on average.

-Possibly outputs an inverted waveform (of dubious consequence, and it might just be the S/PDIF slave device that inverted it)

-Output is not true to the original .wav file. Both 44.1kHz and 48kHz .wav files are changed, with differences dispersed throughout the frequency range.

QUOTE
Replacing your interconnect with a quality cable may not help but it won't hurt either.


Well, it can hurt. For example, if you don't happen to like the sound of the system with the new interconnect. It might be too bright, too thin, too warm, etc. If you want something that is lightning fast, low capacitance, and realistic sounding, try 28 or 30 gauge magnet wire or 4N pure silver wire insulated with teflon tape, terminated with good RCAs.

QUOTE
My own personal recommendation would be M-Audio Audiophile, for around 0 US.


I disagree. An Maudio Audiophile is just about indistinguishable in sound quality from a SB Live when both their volume output levels are matched. The Live has more hiss, but that is about it. You'd only want to purchase an Maudio if you use them for what they are designed for: a low latency soundcard for electronic music generation with software such as Reason.

My personal recommendation is a Sony CE775 SACD/CD player for $180-$200. It makes the Audiophile and Live sound blurry, smeared, and flat in A/B comparison. Don't think worse of the CE775 merely because of its low price: It has superior IMD specs compared to some of Sony's older players, even their ES line, for example the CA80ES.
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Pio2001
post Jun 12 2002, 11:47
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Blind listening test between different resampling algorithms, including the SB Live digital output : http://66.96.216.160/cgi-bin/YaBB.pl?board...&num=1010178496
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Annuka
post Jun 12 2002, 11:59
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Pio2001
Blind listening test between different resampling algorithms, including the SB Live digital output : http://66.96.216.160/cgi-bin/YaBB.pl?board...&num=1010178496


The links to the samples don't work.
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kennedyb4
post Jun 12 2002, 12:43
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I swapped out my spdif cable ( rca unsheilded cheap shit) for shielded 75 ohm co-ax with gold plated connectors.

Hard to A/B for obvious reasons but there was no appreciable change.
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spoon
post Jun 12 2002, 13:16
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Are you able to upgrade your ears to appreciate the improvements you after? wink.gif

The 20Bit dac will be fine, after all you are only feeding it 16 bit samples and I suspect the Yamaha dac will be good down to 1 LSB

Seriously here is an upgrade that will improve your sound and is free!, record your music as Loss-less, forget lame, mpc, ogg.


--------------------
Spoon http://www.dbpoweramp.com
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fewtch
post Jun 12 2002, 13:36
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How about recording, then software-upsampling (using a good quality algorithm) to 48KHz (then encoding as lossless). Doesn't that bypass the whole "crappy upsampling by Live! cards" altogether? Then it will play 48KHz as 48Khz (unless I'm missing something).

Too bad Lame isn't optimized for 48KHz...


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Bring back dynamic range... www.loudnessrace.net
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kennedyb4
post Jun 12 2002, 13:48
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There are a few members interested in a 48khz upsampling winamp plug-in using ssrc as a starting point.

Not sure if anything is happening as yet or what is involved.

I sent an e-mail to Naoki Shibata about it but no response so far:(
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Case
post Jun 12 2002, 13:53
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QUOTE
Originally posted by kennedyb4
There are a few members interested in a 48khz upsampling winamp plug-in using ssrc as a starting point.

Not sure if anything is happening as yet or what is involved.

I converted the SSRC to work on audio samples (it used to work directly on files) and included the support on Peter's out_wave. However as I don't understand all the workings of the plugin I have a problem, there is weird noises added to signal. I'll post on the thread if I get it working correctly.
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PoisonDan
post Jun 12 2002, 13:55
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QUOTE
Originally posted by kennedyb4
Does anyone know if the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz resamples its SPDIF out as well? I read that it is also a 48KHz resampling card as well, but I am not sure if this applies to the SPDIF output.

Yes, it also resamples, but the sampling algorithms of the TBSC are much better than those of the SBLive, so it has superior sound quality for 44KHz material compared to the SBLive.

QUOTE
I have a santa cruz stuck in a closet somewhere.tongue.gif

Any other interesting hardware you simply have "stuck in a closet somewhere" ? biggrin.gif
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fewtch
post Jun 12 2002, 14:09
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QUOTE
Originally posted by kennedyb4
There are a few members interested in a 48khz upsampling winamp plug-in using ssrc as a starting point.

My understanding is that SSRC is optimized for speed as much as quality (original use is for converting big .WAV files). Since playback in WinAMP is only 1x realtime and modern CPU's are very fast, could SSRC be further optimized for quality?

Just an idea/suggestion...


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adriel
post Jun 12 2002, 18:48
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I can't hear the difference between a Live upsampled 48kHz .wav file, the original .wav file, and a software upsampled 48kHz .wav file.
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Pio2001
post Jun 12 2002, 18:49
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Annuka
The links to the samples don't work.


I forgot to tell that the test is over since monthes. CD-RW.org has certainly removed them from his webspace. The files were 7.6 MB. I can mail them if some people are interested.

QUOTE
Originally posted by fewtch
How about recording, then software-upsampling (using a good quality algorithm) to 48KHz (then encoding as lossless).  Doesn't that bypass the whole "crappy upsampling by Live! cards" altogether?  Then it will play 48KHz as 48Khz (unless I'm missing something).


It allows better quality, but I've read that the resampling isn't bypassed.
It is not for the digital input anyway, since it performs asynchronous sample rate conversion in order to avoid slaving its clock to the incoming data, but I forgot to record the SB Live output to know if the output is affected, when I had both the SB Live and the Marian in my computer.
I once recorded the digital output of the SB Live right into its own input, the files were different, of course, because of the recording volume being unable to give unity gain, but I also recorded digital silence, and the result was a noise 1 bit high ! Certainly a dither noise.
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