Has anyone connected NuWave Phono Converter to DS Sr through I2S?


#1

I did an experiment the other day and connected my NPC to the DS Sr through the I2S input with generic HDMI cable. In comparison to the analog output of the NPC, it sounded terrible. Lacking in dynamics and shrunken soundstage. I then switched to AQ Cinnamon HDMI cable and it sounded much better, but still not as good as the analog, and still lacked the dynamics and soundstage of the analog output. So HDMI cables matter, I guess. My question is what level of cable is necessary to get the I2S input to the level of the NPC analog output? (I’m assuming the I2S will equal the analog NPC output given a good enough cable, which may be an erroneous assumption, I realize.) I’ve heard people on this forum mention the AQ Vodka or Chocolate and the Nordost Blue Heaven or Red Dawn are other possibilities. Not to mention the stock HDMI that comes with the DMP. I’m asking because I am planning on using I2S down the road, hopefully with the impending PSA Octave streamer and want to maximize performance. Any input would be greatly appreciated!


#2

Probably isn’t going to happen. You are comparing going from the analog phono input to the line out (still analog) with the phono going through the NPC’s relatively inexpensive A to D converter to whatever output. It’s not surprising that simply boosting from phono to line level is better sounding than post-ADC. It also is higher output level, so be sure you are comparing level-matched. If you spent the cost of some of those cables on a dedicated ADC, you would get a better result (but need yet more cables).


#3

Some people here who don’t run preamps have reported digitizing the signal from the TT and sending it to the DS I2S input, and they have been pleased with the results. So it should be possible to get a good-quality sound this way. I haven’t done this myself; I hope that those who have will comment.


#4
badbeef said Probably isn't going to happen. You are comparing going from the analog phono input to the line out (still analog) with the phono going through the NPC's relatively inexpensive A to D converter to whatever output. It's not surprising that simply boosting from phono to line level is better sounding than post-ADC. It also is higher output level, so be sure you are comparing level-matched. If you spent the cost of some of those cables on a dedicated ADC, you would get a better result (but need yet more cables).
I've been comparing things pretty closely to level matched and the analog wins for sure. Plus, soundstage isn't affected by volume very much, and the analog has a much wider soundstage. I don't think everything I'm hearing is related to ADC in the NPC. I could be wrong, but I suspect not. I'm really wondering if the cables can make up all this difference. If someone could compare their reference HDMI versus a generic from the NPC to the DS Sr, I'd love to know the results! I may just borrow a nice HDMI from my local shop and compare. Thanks for your input, Badbeef!

#5

You’re welcome. A good phono pre (which the NPC is) doesn’t have to do as much “work” as a Pre plus ADC (which the NPC also is), since the analog phono stage section is before the ADC. The NPC is two in one, for reasonable money. Most of us audiophiles don’t run into ADCs much (being mostly concerned with the other ends of things - DACs). It would be kind of a miracle if cables made up the difference.


#6

magister - not sure what you are referring to specifically, but it is not possible to go from a TT to the DS I2S without a preamp. Moreover, it is not possible to get there without both a preamp and an A to D Converter. I am pleased with the sound I get through the NPC doing that task. It however is not (and basically cannot be) as good as simply running it through a phono pre.


#7

When I bought the NPC, I read about how one can go from the TT to the NPC, digitize the sound, and go via HDMI cable from the I2S output on the NPC to an I2S input on the DS DAC. This is for people who don’t use a preamp, controlling volume through the DS. As I said, I’ve never done it since I have no desire or need to digitize my vinyl playback. IIRC Paul claimed that it was hard to tell the difference between an analog output/preamp/DS arrangement vs the digital output/direct to DS, which speaks (as PSA sees it) to the quality of the A-D converter in the NPC – this was the issue for the OP.


#8

I recall that review. I can’t remember where it came from, though. It’s actually what made me think to hook the two up via I2S. I don’t think I could go with direct to the amp from the DS Sr, though. My room absolutely needs room correction, which my Anthem AVM 60 does very well (with as assist from Room EQ Wizard).


#9
magister said When I bought the NPC, I read about how one can go from the TT to the NPC, digitize the sound, and go via HDMI cable from the I2S output on the NPC to an I2S input on the DS DAC. This is for people who don't use a preamp, controlling volume through the DS. As I said, I've never done it since I have no desire or need to digitize my vinyl playback. IIRC Paul claimed that it was hard to tell the difference between an analog output/preamp/DS arrangement vs the digital output/direct to DS, which speaks (as PSA sees it) to the quality of the A-D converter in the NPC -- this was the issue for the OP.
Yes I've done this and agree with Paul very little diff. I was using a Transparent cable, don't recall trying cheap ones.

#10
amgradmd said I don't think I could go with direct to the amp from the DS Sr, though. My room absolutely needs room correction, which my Anthem AVM 60 does very well (with as assist from Room EQ Wizard).
All the discussions that I have seen about this have involved systems with no preamp. I don't know why it wouldn't work with a preamp. But you are introducing some additional complexities. I think a call to PSA support would be a good idea. You should be able to get good sound through the I2S connector.

#11

Right - the “TT to NPC to I2S” part - going in and out of the NPC - is where there’s a phono preamp and an A to D converter. I can only speak to the NPC alone vs. NPC to Jr., but the analog out (skipping an ADC and DAC) sounds better to me. This is just listening-wise. If you need/want to digitize, this doesn’t apply.


#12

I don’t understand why anyone would want digitize their analog signal when playing records. Archiving the vinyl so you can play digital files, that makes sense, I do that. It is a good way to get rid of defects, like ticks and pops.

But to take an analog signal and send it through two conversions, makes no sense. It won’t improve the signal, it can only harm it.

Bad Beef, some programs/players can do the RIAA processing in the digital domain, but I don’t think the NPC allows that option. I suppose if you had no analog preamp, and was using a Directstream to control the volume, then running the NPC through it might be a little or no cost option. I personally would want a preamp.


#13

I didn’t find output from TT-NPC-DS that bad compared to direct phono output from NPC. But anyway direct phono is direct phono - I always prefer it than any digital media. Also I had a pre amp between DS to my power amp in both the cases.

Regards,

Sourav


#14
Sourav Mazumder said I didn't find output from TT-NPC-DS that bad compared to direct phono output from NPC. But anyway direct phono is direct phono - I always prefer it than any digital media. Also I had a pre amp between DS to my power amp in both the cases.

Regards,

Sourav


I thought as much. It just tells me the quality of the HDMI cable matters. That’s good news (in that it’s fixable) and bad (in that it’s another freaking expensive cable!!angry_gif). So much for bits being bits! Any reasonably priced (i.e. < $500) recommendations??

#15
jeffstarr said I don't understand why anyone would want digitize their analog signal when playing records.
The whole point of this exercise was to evaluate and optimize the I2S connection on the DS Sr. Not for use with phono but for the upcoming Octave network streamer which will have I2S input. Or other potential I2S sources, for that matter. I'm taking a known quantity (the NPC analog output which is very very good) and comparing to I2S input, which for me is an unknown quantity. That's it. Although I could see how people would like to attach the NPC>DC Sr>amp, which I'll take a shot at. But as I said earlier, it would exclude my room correction and JL subs, so it's highly unlikely I'll go that route.

#16

I have mine connected via xlr to the BHK pre and to the DS via a Pangea HDMI cable. Switching A/B while spinning vinyl sounds the same to me - no discernible difference in my system.


#17

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about. Thanks Mark!


#18
magister said When I bought the NPC, I read about how one can go from the TT to the NPC, digitize the sound, and go via HDMI cable from the I2S output on the NPC to an I2S input on the DS DAC. This is for people who don't use a preamp, controlling volume through the DS. As I said, I've never done it since I have no desire or need to digitize my vinyl playback. IIRC Paul claimed that it was hard to tell the difference between an analog output/preamp/DS arrangement vs the digital output/direct to DS, which speaks (as PSA sees it) to the quality of the A-D converter in the NPC -- this was the issue for the OP.
Here's that review I was thinking of from John Darko talking about using the NPC through the DAC without a preamp. Maybe you were referring to this as well.

http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2013/11/ps-audio-nuwave-phono-converter-part-1-no-pre-amplifier/

Regardless, I’m anxious to try a better HDMI cable and see if I can tell a difference from the analog out.


#19

Sorry for the late response, I’ve been traveling the last two weeks and my brain was somewhat disengaged … I got my NPC a little over three years ago and I believe I had it for about a year while I had a preamp and the PWD Mk II. At the time I had an Audio Research PH2 phono preamp which is a solid state unit. I did some comparisons between it and the NPC and didn’t notice any significant difference though I slightly preferred the NPC (the PH2 was a 20 year old design). I don’t recall how much listening I did with the NPC analog out, but I don’t recall there being a significant difference between it and the I2S output. I was quite impressed how little the digital conversion did to the sound. As for an HDMI cable, I have been using a PS Audio HDMI-12 cable all along. When I got my DS I got rid of the preamp, sounded better that way, and have used the NPC I2S ever since. This is why I bought the NPC. I know there is more to be had from my turntable, but the thought of getting a BHK Pre and another Phono Pre (BHK?) would be a significant additional investment. Something I’m not real interested in at the moment. So call me satisfied!