Best source for Directstream DAC - latest thinking?


#1

Hello PS Forum folks!

I recently took the plunge and bought the DS Snr that I had been coveting for what felt like a very long time.

And I’m not disappointed as the reviews were spot on and it rocks! Well done Paul, Ted & team 77_gif

I have read various posts on this forum so know this was covered previously. But as far as I can tell it hasn’t been covered in detail for a while (like middle of last year) so I wondered what the communities thoughts are on the best source for the DS.

Current setup is:

QNAP HS-251+ NAS with SSD (with fibre optic isolation in place between it and the DAC) to Bridge II and into DS.

The sound quality is great. But as ever, I wonder if there is more and from the threads on here it seems the Bryston BDP-2, and Auralic Aries and some custom/high end servers like the Melco and the Pink Faun are very well regarded and reputed to increase the SQ even further.

However a lot of those threads predate the Bridge II. I’m also intrigued to see that Bryston launched a Roon Ready BDP-3 and wonder if this changes the dynamic.

So can I ask for the latest thinking on a dedicated unit like one of the above versus NAS>ethernet>FMC>Bridge II?

I’m also intrigued by the whole I2S thread and whether a unit like the Pink Faun server that supports I2S output brings much to the table for SQ?

Or is it worth waiting to see if a high end manufacturer like Melco or Auralic bring out a player/server that supports I2S directly out of the box?

Thanks in advance for any input and advice. And I’m glad to join the community with my first postsmile

Cheers,

Alan


#2

Welcome! Sounds like you have a great system.

I’m afraid there’s no easy answer to your question. The various servers you mention can all sound very good. But you’ve got your Ethernet/Bridge option tweaked with the fiber isolation. I don’t imagine that any of them is going to sound much better (maybe a little bit) than what you’ve got. Of course I haven’t heard them all. If you’re happy with your current arrangement I would relax and enjoy the music. I found a real sonic improvement when I upgraded from B1 to B2.

I too am interested in the possibility of using an I2S connection, so I looked at the Pink Faun card. Unfortunately it doesn’t play native DSD, which is a dealbreaker for me (might not be for you). You would also have to run a Windows machine as part of your playback setup. Like you, I currently use a NAS for several reasons – one of which is that I don’t want, and have no room for, a full-sized computer in my music room. (I say “full sized computer” because otherwise someone is going to remind me that a NAS is in fact a computer.)

PSA is developing its own server – see the thread titled “Music Server in the Pipeline.” I think it will have an I2S connection, so this might be worth waiting for (ETA end of 2017, if the firmware gods can be appeased with appropriate sacrifices).


#3

Before I have PC/Roon-NAS-FMC-Bridge II/DS Jr, now I have Router-FMC-Melco N1A (player mode)-ethernet cable-Bridge II/DS jr. The insertion of the FMC in the original setup was a great SQ improvement (in my setup, was mainly clarity, more 3D soundstage). The Melco N1A brought further improvement in clarity and soundstage/imaing, also improved bass. The thing I am excited about is the improved piano tone, more balanced now throughout the low to high notes, piano sounds more real (unfortunately still not quite there compared to my babygrand piano).


#4
magister said

I’m afraid there’s no easy answer to your question. The various servers you mention can all sound very good. But you’ve got your Ethernet/Bridge option tweaked with the fiber isolation. I don’t imagine that any of them is going to sound much better (maybe a little bit) than what you’ve got. Of course I haven’t heard them all. If you’re happy with your current arrangement I would relax and enjoy the music. I found a real sonic improvement when I upgraded from B1 to B2.

I too am interested in the possibility of using an I2S connection, so I looked at the Pink Faun card. Unfortunately it doesn’t play native DSD, which is a dealbreaker for me (might not be for you). You would also have to run a Windows machine as part of your playback setup. Like you, I currently use a NAS for several reasons – one of which is that I don’t want, and have no room for, a full-sized computer in my music room. (I say “full sized computer” because otherwise someone is going to remind me that a NAS is in fact a computer.)

PSA is developing its own server – see the thread titled “Music Server in the Pipeline.” I think it will have an I2S connection, so this might be worth waiting for (ETA end of 2017, if the firmware gods can be appeased with appropriate sacrifices).


Hi Magister,

Thanks for both the welcome and the reply.

Yeah I’ve been reading many posts on here and the CA forums and I guess there really is no easy answer. Too many options to consider. The advice to sit back and enjoy what I have is definitely sound advice (pardon the pun wink) but there is always that nagging ‘what if’ feeling.

Native DSD is not a deal-breaker for me as I only have a few SACD’s and they are on the original discs and not ripped (yet anway - looks such a hassle ripping them!). So the Pink Faun is perhaps an option.

And yeah I saw the Music Server in the Pipeline thread and read it enthusiastically. I think Paul suggested the pricing would be on a par with the DS DAC though and it’s a long way off by the sounds of things. Still it will be very interesting to see what they come up with.

Cheers,

Alan


#5
zheng4 said

Before I have PC/Roon-NAS-FMC-Bridge II/DS Jr, now I have Router-FMC-Melco N1A (player mode)-ethernet cable-Bridge II/DS jr. The insertion of the FMC in the original setup was a great SQ improvement (in my setup, was mainly clarity, more 3D soundstage). The Melco N1A brought further improvement in clarity and soundstage/imaing, also improved bass. The thing I am excited about is the improved piano tone, more balanced now throughout the low to high notes, piano sounds more real (unfortunately still not quite there compared to my babygrand piano).


Hi zheng4,

Thanks for the reply.

I’ve read a lot about the Melco so it’s good to get some direct feedback on someone using and enjoying it. It’s definitely on my maybe list If/When I decide to do anything.

Also interesting config where the FMC is between the router and Melco. Is that because you figure the Melco is already well isolated in it’s output due to good power supply etc?

Cheers,

Alan


#6

+1 on the welcome. I got an Auralic Aries about the same time as the Bridge II beta. I found the B2 sounded better but then I did not go to great lengths to optimize the Aries’s USB connection (did try a Regen and still though the B2 won). With enough tweaking you can probably get most of the inputs to sound pretty close. I am looking forward to the PSA server, which I expect will have an I2S connection.


#7
zheng4 said

Before I have PC/Roon-NAS-FMC-Bridge II/DS Jr, now I have Router-FMC-Melco N1A (player mode)-ethernet cable-Bridge II/DS jr. The insertion of the FMC in the original setup was a great SQ improvement (in my setup, was mainly clarity, more 3D soundstage). The Melco N1A brought further improvement in clarity and soundstage/imaing, also improved bass. The thing I am excited about is the improved piano tone, more balanced now throughout the low to high notes, piano sounds more real (unfortunately still not quite there compared to my babygrand piano).


Zheng, so you apparently directly to the DS DAC from the Melco via ethernet. Did you ever try to direct connect with your previous setup? The Melco doesn’t use Roon, does it? What streaming services can you use? Sorry, but I don’t know a lot about the Melco. It seems that people like it a lot. Thanks.

#8

Recently bought the Melco N1ZS10 after auditioning together with the N1ZH60 on which I had my eye at first because of it’s 6Tb hard disc space. Thought the N1ZS10 would not better the sound by great margin and was beyond my budget…

But the differences between these two models were immediately apparent. The N1ZH60 is very good (!) but surprisingly improved by the N1ZS10. This brought me in doubt…this model with only 1Tb space on the SSD’s…should I pay that much more while the cheaper model has (much) more disk space…

Above, Melco now produces MkII models, should I wait for one of them? The only difference is a bettered USB-connection to DAC. Since my intention is using the ethernet connection to the Bridge II with Audioquest Diamond, to me that’s of less importance.

As far as I know Melco does not (yet?) support Roon. I really do not care about that, played for a while with Roon in the past but left it having my own way to explore and retrieve the music I like. The Melco has both ethernet in- and out and treats all data the same before sending out (buffering, isolating, (re)clocking and more hocus pocus) with magical result. You can use any streaming service you want, the IP-adress for the Directstream is delivered by the Melco (even in Direct Mode without LAN connection, in which case obviously you can’t use internet streaming services). Personally using BubbleUpnp and streaming both Qobuz (most of the time) and Tidal. No problem with short of hard disk space using a 4Tb 2.5*usb disk in the expansion slot. The internal audio grade SSD’s may be avoiding sound quality of IT drives (as Melco states) but -at least in my system- I really do not hear any difference compared to my own expansion disk in the Melco.

The upcoming MkII models happened to be my luck and made it possible to buy the Dutch importer N1ZS10 demo unit fully guaranteed at very great discount !! Next step will be installing minimserver on the Melco (DSD and converting flac/wav on the fly).

Very very happy with the Melco in my setup happy-132_gif


#9

I read a review in Stereophile where they used an Oppo BDP103 to get DSD to the Directstrem through HDMI? Can this be done and can the BDP105 do it?


#10

No. The DAC can’t accept HDMI signals though it uses an HDMI style connector. We use another format known as I2S.

I don’t know what review would have suggested this as it is inaccurate. The only DACs capable of decoding SACD over HDMI rely upon Sony designed DAC chipsets - which are questionable sonically.

The DirectStream Memory Player does what you want through or DAC.


#11

Yes I know I have a JR. The review was November and the used the BDP103 viw HDMI to a Bryston BDA-3 to transfer DSD from a SACD so I was wondering if that would work with the JR or Sr?

“On DSD from SACD, the BDA-3’s spatial performance was sensational, with wider, deeper soundstages than heard from my SACD player on its own.”

Link:

Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/bryston-bda-3-da-processor-page-2#ope15J6BmMrfgiTi.99


#12

That’s interesting. Here’s a quote from the page linked in that review entitled “Setting UP Digital Source Component to Output DSD”.

http://www.stereophile.com/content/bryston-bda-3-da-processor-page-2#hKMl5iFOiEvGf7oB.97

“My Oppo BDP-103 BD/SACD/CD player had to be set up to output DSD64 from SACDs. To view the Oppo’s internal setup menu, I attached a small TV monitor to the diagnostic video output connector on its rear panel. Using the remote handset, I then selected “SACD Priority” and “stereo output,” to override the player’s default multichannel/PCM factory settings. Then I connected an HDMI cable to the Oppo’s HDMI Out 2 jack—not its HDMI Out 1 jack, which is not wired to pass along DSD. Only when all that was done would the Oppo output the DSD64 file of “Breathe,” from the SACD of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.—Larry Greenhill”

Not sure if I believe it. I was under the impression that the DMP was the only unit to do this. Is this maybe a backdoor into DSD output? Can someone else verify this?


#13

Same here?


#14

I came across this issue a while back and was initially confused like you guys. There seem to be two parts to the equation:

  1. The transport outputs DSD through a standard HDMI connection, not the custom arrangement that PSA and some others use to get I2S through an HDMI cable.
  2. It only works with certain DACs; Paul says those that use Sony chipsets, which I assume is correct.

I’ve never had this setup in my own system, but I assume that it doesn’t sound as good as what we get from the DMP/DS combo with its I2S input optimized for audio quality and PSA’s Digital Lens etc.

But it is true that some combinations of transport and DAC can pass DSD through a generic HDMI connection. One statement I found said that Sony permits this “because HDMI is a secure connection.” I’m not sure what this means. We know that Sony doesn’t generally permit a digital data stream to be output from an SACD player. Does an HDMI connection enable some sort of handshake between a transport and a Sony-approved DAC?


#15

Correct that is kind of what I thought once I contemplated it that it is why they call it I2S. To be clear I have not tried it with my BDP105 on HDMI 2 and set to SACD out but I might since my DMP was shipped back for service.


#16

Please do! I’m curious if it would work with DS DACs through I2S. The skeptic in me says it won’t.


#17

It can’t work in the DS because Oppo does not support I2S format and we do not support HDMI format.


#18

I have the Oppo 105D too (as a Blu Ray & Netflix) source primarily but also for my few SACDs - so that would have been the dream solution. Had it been truefrown

Meantime my quest for the ‘optimum’ path into the DS continues. I read the Ted Brodie review of the DS with the Sonore Signature Series Rendu and thought that perhaps this was the answer. However, further investigations showed that Sonore had discontinued this product and Adrian at Sonore (who was really helpful with very detailed emails - great customer service! clapping_gif) said he felt the MicroRendu (with the right power supply) was better than the SSR.

I was trying to avoid USB and eager to go the I2S route so this put a hungry cat in with the worried pigeons!

Also raises the question of whether the MicroRendu with say the LPS-1 would beat the Bridge II for SQ. Any thoughts here? And apologies if that’s controversial. I love my DS and my Bridge II - just want to make sure I get the most out of it.

So in terms of that elusive I2S source does that mean it’s down to the Pink Faun, waiting for the PS Audio server or seeing if anything else comes to market with (DS compatible) I2S as it’s main output?

Also feedback/thoughts on the Bryston BD-2 or BD-3?

Many Thanks,

Alan


#19
BigAlMc said

Hi zheng4,

Thanks for the reply.

I’ve read a lot about the Melco so it’s good to get some direct feedback on someone using and enjoying it. It’s definitely on my maybe list If/When I decide to do anything.

Also interesting config where the FMC is between the router and Melco. Is that because you figure the Melco is already well isolated in it’s output due to good power supply etc?

Cheers,

Alan

I left the FMC connected to the router more for my laziness than anything else. I guess I should try to put the FMC between Melco and DAC to see what happens.

#20
amgradmd said

Zheng, so you apparently directly to the DS DAC from the Melco via ethernet. Did you ever try to direct connect with your previous setup? The Melco doesn’t use Roon, does it? What streaming services can you use? Sorry, but I don’t know a lot about the Melco. It seems that people like it a lot. Thanks.


In my previous setup, my router was directly connected to the DS DAC with ethernet cable with a switch in the middle; I used Roon as the controller on my PC. I can’t use Roon now with the Melco, I installed minimserver on the Melco (turned off Twonky), use mconnect on my iPhone.