So I recently bought an Anthem STR integrated amp from my local dealer. Previously I was using DS DAC directly feeding AVM M5 Mono-blocks with my Focal Sopra 3 speakers. I was quite happy with my system but then one of the mono-blocks gave up (They are probably 15-20 years old. I bought used around 6-7 years ago). My setup is in my living room and do not have room treatments of any kind. My source is Tidal running thru a Roon Core (Intel NUC) thru the DS DAC bridge 2.
Before I get to my question I would like to make a disclaimer. I am quite new to this hobby and do not have much experience with listening to High end systems in dedicated rooms.
Few days back I tried going USB direct from the Intel NUC Roon core into the Anthem Integrated STR, which has a built in DAC, while also feeding an analog signal from the DS DAC to the balanced input on the STR. I grouped the DS DAC Bridge and the Intel NUC in Roon so I could play the same track simultaneously on both devices and switched between the USB and Balanced inputs on the integrated amp. I was expecting to hear better sound from the DS DAC acting as the source, however, I could not discern between the sound from both inputs.
In case of both inputs room correction was turned off and the analogue signal from the DS DAC was untouched by the ADC/DAC of the Anthem.
Now this leads me to my question:
- Is it possible that the DAC inside the Anthem Integrated is as good as the DS DAC that I am unable to distinguish between the two?
- Is my system not transparent enough? room not good enough? Listening skills not honed enough?System not setup well enough? that I am unable to notice the difference.
Looking forward to hearing thoughts/advices from this wonderful community.
I am not familiar with the STR, ARC-enabled kit (never owned any), but I do use the AVM 50V2 as my Pre/Pro and preamplifier for my HT and stereo listening. The AVM 50V2 allows me to apply the DSP/ARC capabilities to the PS Audio DS DAC analogue output or to allow the DS output to by pass the ARC software.
Check your users manual to see if your kit does the same. Its possible that you are hearing the DS DAC’s output, unmolested, in both instances (if I understood your signal path correctly).
By the way, every time I make a an adjustment in kit, kit placement or room arrangement/treatment, I try the stereo bypassing ARC and then I rerun ARC calibration and put the new “room curves” back into the signal chain. I have yet to prefer the bypassed sound/without ARC over the direct stereo feed.
I think ARC is amazing and always offers an improvement – provided you take the time to carefully set up your speakers and listening position as best you can.
FWIW/I hope this helps some.
Both 1 and 2 is possible, but I suspect it is 1.
My reasoning is that as you said you are new to high end. I’m in the same situation but maybe a year or two ahead of you.
It takes quite a bit of experience to be able to hear the difference. For me the problem is that I haven’t “learned’ how to remember details from what I heard yet. This makes it hard to hear minor differences.
Try to listen for changes in soundstage or instrument placement they can be easier to remember.
When I tested speaker cables at home I listened for a day and then switched. For me that made it easier since I suddenly missed a cable from the previous day. I did not hear a difference when doing short sessions.
Thanks for the reply.
Just to make things a little clear
I don’t think we are referring to the same AVM. I am referring to the company AVM from Germany and I was using one of their Mono Block Power Amplifier before I started using the Anthem STR Integrated Stereo Amp
The signal chain is as follows
a) Roon Rock-Ethernet-DS DAC Bridge 2- Balanced Out to Integrated Amp. Everything turned off with regards to room correction or any other DSP so basically the analogue signal from DS DAC remains analogue.
b) Roon Rock - USB - Integrated AMP. Here the Digital signal from the Roon core is getting converted by the STR’s Internal DAC.
Hope that clarifies.
Thanks again for the response.
Will try the approach you have suggested and listen to both options over longer periods exclusively and then see if I can distinguish the differences.
“AVM” is a model “prefix” for older Anthem Pre/Pro’s. I think it stands for “Audio-Video Master”. Hence AVM 50v2.
The Anthem STR integrated has ARC, just as my Pre/Pro does. What I am hoping you can figure out is whether you can feed the DS signal “straight through” the STR to your amp(s) using the same input, such that you can toggle between ARC on and ARC off and see what you like better.
It is my understanding that ARC does not serve as a DAC, per se, when you do this. Rather the analogue signal that is produced by the DS DAC (which does serve as the DAC) is “processed” for room correction purposes only.
You should be able to set up your signal chain so that the “magic” of what the DS DAC does is preserved.
Back to you point though – now that you clarified your two signal paths for comparison purposes – It is of course possible that the DAC in the STR does not sound better than the DS DAC. I would be very surprised that they would sound the same over a longer period of listening though.
It is very hard to make a true apples to apples comparison in this hobby. There are so many variables to account for. For example, in one case you are feeding the DAC via the Bridge Ethernet card (my current preference use of the DS DAC as well). In the other case, you are feeding the STR DAC using USB.
It is commonly reported that the digital pathway matters much in terms of sound quality.
In the end, take your time with your listening, pick what sounds best and enjoy the music.
Let us know what you figure out.
The over/under for how many more messages before somebody says Roon sucks or the bridge-2 sucks or suggests you should try a super expensive USB cable is about 2…
I think the answer is probably in the #1 bucket - law of diminishing returns. That STR looks like a nice piece of gear and it truly does have a pure analog path. Whatever minute differences (better/worse) there may be at the DAC level are probably getting normalized (or flavored) by the STR preamp and amp stages. In other words, you are mostly hearing the Anthem sound.
If so, then you might as well use ARC to tailor the sound for your room - never tried it myself but that’s one of the major reasons for having an Anthem STR.
My understanding is that any DSP (ARC, YPAO, audyssey etc) happen in the digital domain, requiring an analog signal to go through the ADC - DSP - DAC process. Analog signal processing is called “tone controls” on the preamp
Yes it is possible to run the analogue input from the DS DAC untouched by any digital signal processing on the str. This is how I have it setup.
Thanks for the suggestions!
Yes but was kind of hoping for the DS DAC to be better/different since it’s more expensive than the integrated amp itself. Maybe it’s my lack of experience in listening skills that I don’t hear the difference but then if that is the case then maybe it’s better to remove the DS Dac from my chain and just use the STR as a one box solution. As I wouldn’t notice the difference any way
Riffing on your stated “newbie” status; consider this:
IME, the best way to critically listen is to isolate a change/potential improvement and just enjoy it for an extended period of time, focusing on music you know well and really enjoy. Then, after a good bit, change back to your “baseline” setup (removing the “difference” you are evaluating only). If there is an improvement to be discerned, you will likely notice it in the form of its loss or absence when you revert to the “baseline”.
I hope this makes sense. It works for me. Have fun.
I own multiple Anthem preamp-processors and I have a lot of experience with ARC. Your question avoids ARC being an influence to the situation which I believe is the correct approach. Anthem has been known for quite some time for including high quality DACs in their PrePros. So I believe your first thought is correct, two high quality DACs that are hard to pick a favorite.
I have DSD Sr. and a DSD Jr. and just for giggles a Chord Qutest. My favorite is whichever one I am listening to at the moment. When I am listening to the Qutest I think oh man, this is it. Then I switch to the DSD Sr. and feel it is best… until…
You have an embarrassment of riches. Enjoy don’t analyze…
And try ARC!!!
Yes, I will try that. Last night I also volume matched both sources and could notice subtle differences between the two. Maybe its a matter of paying attention to detail such as tonality, soundstage depth, etc. Last night I did feel that the sound was more detached from the speakers and there was perhaps more depth when I was using the DS DAC. I will keep listening and see if these observations remain consistent over a longer period.
Yes I took out ARC out of the equation because that add a completely different variable. My objective was to compare the two sources (Roon-USB-STR) vs Roon-Ethernet-DSDAC-XLR-STR) just to see what benefits I was getting by using the External DAC.
I would also agree with you that perhaps the internal DAC in the STR Integrated is quite good and perhaps having the option of multiple DACs is not a ‘bad’ problem to have. It was quite fun doing the comparison, which I will continue to do. I guess these are some of the things that make this hobby interesting in the first place.
Thanks for your input!
You are most welcome. For what it’s worth I always use ARC. It can be switched in an out on the fly and after doing this many times using it became the rule. This is my theater setup, my high end setup doesn’t have such things. But ARC is impressive. Anthem is impressive.
I agree; and as noted above, I have yet to find my system set up sound better without ARC calibrated and running – whether in stereo or HT mode.
I just wish Anthem would make ARC available as a standalone “black box” or software program. I suppose that could cut into their kit sales, however.
Do you have a good aftermarket power cord on the DSD? You will hear a huge difference with power cords. It’s power supply is the most sensitive of any of my components.
Yeah, this kind of sums up every comparison I’ve ever done.
I would love to hear what you think about the STR with ARC on vs the DS with ARC on and off.
I have the exact same setup and dilemma. Amazing.