My i2s adventure for my DS Sr. - and "custom" cable

To start with, I wanted to let everyone know that Blue Jeans Cable was able to send me an HDMI cable WITHOUT pin 18. More later. They take their BJC Series-FE Belden Bonded-Pair HDMI Cable, which is Premium Certified by hdmi,org, and remove pin 18. Note - I covered the certification number on the sticker, it didn’t come like that.

They will do it for anyone at the cost of the cable plus $15 (plus shipping) – just email them. Here is a pic of the cable, the connector, and because it’s difficult to see the ping (or lack thereof), a pic of my HDMI tester showing no pin 18 connection. I have no financial interest in Blue Jeans other than having emailed them to see if they could do it.

For anyone looking to delete pin 15, they said if anyone needs it, contact them and they will try, but because it’s in the middle of the cluster, it would be harder.




Next post will be about the my Pi i2s streamer.

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I debated about getting the TransportPi but figured if I ever switch dac, I would likely just use USB instead of S/PDIF anyway, so the outputs would never be used (assuming it didn’t use the PS Audio standard for i2s).

The great thing about the FifoPi is that it already requires a separate 3.3v because it’s isolated from the Pi power. You can also opt to power the Pi with a better 5v supply if you wish instead of the USB C connector (see the two green connectors on the board – the one on the right is for the isolated 3.3v and the left is for the optional 5v)

The doc for the FifoPi said it was transparent and would just work, but I found I had to enable the dtoverlay (I used the dtoverlay for hifiberry-dac). The HDMI transmitter worked automatically as the output once the FifoPi was active. I’m debating about trying other “stock” overlays, but the one for the hifiberry works fine and passes everything bit perfect (tested with PS Audio’s test file). For the JRiver interface, it shows up as a hardware option with no change.

In THEORY, the FifoPi may not be necessary as the Directstream doesn’t need MCLK, and everything else gets reclocked, but I figured it can only help to get better clocks than the stock Pi can do (less work for the Directstream?), so I got CCHD957 clocks to run (IanCanada also sells adapter boards because the 957 does not come in Dip-14 packages – I don’t think you can get decent clocks in Dip-14 anymore since smd is so ubiquitous).

Memory cards aren’t meant for the constant read/writes that occurs when using it for daily use, so I use an external SSD as a boot drive and to hold all my files, including the Jriver thereby eliminating the need for the micro SD card. I use an external case that supports trim, but it was a slight pain to activate it, since the OS doesn’t support it natively.

Here’s where pin 18 comes in. I confirmed that the HDMI transmitter DOES put 5v for use by some dacs that use the PS standard AND needs the 5v. I read that Ted stated that it’s best to NOT have 5v coming from the source, even though it wouldn’t hurt the DS in any way. My thing is I didn’t want any noise from the Pi coming over the 5v pin.

I’ve gone through various experiments. Using HDMI breakout connectors and not connecting pin 18, taking HDMI female/female and female/male adapters, cutting them open and grinding the joint for pin 18, taking a cable and cutting the connector open to cut the wire on pin 18, taping over the pin, etc. I was never really satisfied for two main reasons:

  1. They’re all ugly
  2. It adds additional connection points

I also tried a replacement solder connector without connecting the pin but soldering an HDMI connector is a MAJOR pia. I even tried manually pulling the pin, but again, could not do it as clean/professionally as Blue Jeans was able to do it.


Note - I’ve tried DSD files to test, and it works fine, but I really only have PCM and a few Flac files. The CCHD957 clocks I installed supports up the following rates:


The FifoPi comes with basic clocks so you can make sure it works, and I debated about just leaving those in for the reasons above, but I figured if I move on at some point, I will want better clocks.

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thanks for sharing, but what is this about?
Can you provide some background/explanation?

First was to let anyone that needed an HDMI cable without pin 18 to send data to the Directstream via i2s (since it MAY cause issues for some, or at minimum introduce unnecessary supply noise), Glue Jeans Cable is willing to sell cables without the pin. To me, it’s worth the measly $15 over the stock price of their cable since it’s not a kludge and it’s great cabling that is certified by hdmi.org.

Second was to show a dedicated i2s streamer/transport that is reasonable in price and works perfectly to send music to the Directstream via i2s. It’s basically the cost of a Raspberry Pi 4, along with two “hats” by IanCanada. Also added were 2 high precision clocks, and an outboard power supply.

It sends the data “bit-perfect” over i2s (lvds), and has the ability to use cleaner/better power supplies to reduce/eliminate supply noise (an outboard 3.3 volt supply is mandatory / 5v is optional).

The “HdmiPi” (the board that takes the data from the “FifoPi” below it) is made to the PS Audio standard for i2s (with the exception that it does put 5v on pin 18 in case it’s being used with a DAC that needs it).

I made it because other than something like the Pink Faun Pcie card, there’s no reasonable way to get i2s streaming from a PC. I already have a dedicated PC that I’ve used for many years now that I use via USB and Bridge II, but wanted to try i2s, since everyone appears to rave about it. I wanted something that is “pure” i2s from the get-go, versus something like the Matrix bridge that takes USB, processes it through an Xmos chip, then pushes it out via an LVDS chip. Once it gets to the DS, it then goes through an LVDS receiver chip, then off to the rest of the board.

So using something like the Matrix, it’s going motherboard>usb controller>usb cable>usb controller>xmos chip>lvds transmitter>hdmi cable>lvds receiver>processing.

The streamer as shown goes pi motherboard>fifo board (with precision clock)>lvds transmitter>hdmi cable>lvds receiver>processing.

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thanks again for further explanation. I am not able to keep up with all the latest tweaks/enhancements going on with dacs (especially as they relate to my DS Sr) - ocxo clocks, transformers, external power supplies, etc.

I’m still not completely understanding what you have done - too many acronyms and initials - I know what a pi is, but not fifo board or lvds transmitter but it intrigues me.

Have you used either the Uptone Audio ISO-Regen to the DS Sr USB or the EtherRegen to the Bridge II? I found the Bridge II, especially when combined with the EtherRegen to produce the best sound quality. I run a hard-wired ethernet cable from my modem instead of using an ethernet switch and found it to make a much more reliable connection. If you have used the EtherRegen how would you compare it to your I2S streaming?

I also use Audirvana Studio with Qobuz for streaming. As much as I prefer the JRiver MC28 user interface, the latest version of Audirvana sounds much better. I wish JRiver would offer Qobuz.

I don’t use Qobuz myself and you may already have seen this but the JRiver help function suggests:

Services such as Tidal and Qobuz can be played with the JRiver audio engine by using our [[WDM Driver]]

Say what??!!
Would one use the Qobuz or Tidal app and it is sent through JRiver?

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I’m unfamiliar with these services, Al, and was just trying to point out a possibility to the poster.

Yes, Joe is right. In fact, with MC 28, I didn’t have to do anything. When I stream Qobuz from Audirvana, I can start MC 28, and the music I am playing on Audirvana is also playing in MC 28. However, any music heard through MC 28 does not sound as good as the same music played in Audirvana Studio, IMHO.

It was always sad to me that JRiver didn’t support Qobuz or Tidal. I would try to find out more but trying to learn anything about JRiver involves their forum and you can only find the information you are looking for if you already know where it hides. I don’t and I won’t likely try again. Their forum is the pits of hell IMHO.

I avoid it myself and try things out through trial and error. Usually more of the latter but once you get it working right it’s not bad.

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I’ve spent some time on the Jriver boards. They believe it’s a matter of time before most streaming services fail; therefore, it’s a waste of their time to incorporate any streaming service into jriver. They have done it in the past for services that failed and they are adamant about not doing it again.

I agree that it’s a shame they think this way. Pushed me to Roon/Qobuz where I spend about half my listening time.

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So it turns out I already read the book and know the ending. I was hoping for a sequel where the right thing gets done.

My post was not intended to start a debate about streaming. The primary reason is that I already have about 15,000 music files so (at least at this time) don’t feel the need to. JRiver, FOR ME, is an easy and convenient method that (FOR ME) just works the way I want. A lot of it has to do with how much time I can actually spend listening, which makes streaming less cost effective for me.

If you stream, and want to use something like a Raspberry Pi, there are a lot of options these days. Volumio is popular for those using Qobuz (less so for Tidal). Many use LMC (Logitech Media Server) along with PicoPlayer. For Roon, I believe the most popular is Ropieee. Volumio is a dedicated OS (as are many media based players for the Pi) - you load it, run it, and you’re off. Same with Ropieee, which is a dedicated Roon bridge that you just load and play. DietPi is another distro that is popular with Roon users as well.

I used JRiver on this build as a test run to see if it works, I already have a Master License (because of my Apple at work) which makes loading it on the Pi free, and I’m already familiar with Debian Buster, which is a standard distro (which Jriver uses to develop their Linux version with).

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Another explanation/info on running Qobuz on a Pi. This one using BubbleUPnP as the control point

You can also access Qobuz through MoOde and mConnect.

I really haven’t dug deep into the streaming end since I don’t do it, but there is a plethora of information out there now that streaming options have become so pervasive. I think a lot on this forum run Roon, so it APPEARS that Ropieee would be the best option for this hardware route, and it’s FREE!!! (thought the maker(s) do ask for donations).

https://ropieee.org/

Sorry, I did not mean to divert the intent of your thread.

Maybe I am not using the term streaming correctly, but I’m using it to describe playing music by sending it to your dac whether it comes from a storage device or it comes from the internet. My objective is to get the best sound quality possible into my dac, and then maybe make my dac process that music (data) better (perhaps by replacing the transformers or power supply as some folks here have done).

I think tak1313 is describing a purer I2S method of streaming (as I define streaming), and it may be better than my use of the Bridge II with an EtherRegen.

Is that right?

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No problem for me. It just seemed that there were more concerns about the software being used versus the actual hardware (two separate issues), since the device, using a Raspberry Pi at its core, is capable of using other software (Roon, Qobuz, Tidal, MoOde, Bubble UPnP, etc.) to stream whatever media.

Essentially, “streaming” is just a methodology whereby the media (music, video, etc.) is played locally by whatever method/devices one chooses. This as compared to media that is stored locally (as in one’s hard drive, nas, etc.).

Even to me, all the definitions are getting way out of whack with terms getting bandied about and making stuff even more confusing. That gets compounded by how quickly the tech evolves. I’m getting too old, I guess. My next step after I retire will likely be getting rid of everything and switching to an integrated amp with a built in DAC like the NAD M33, or maybe something PS if they come out with something beefier/more robust than the Sprout by then. I’m sure my wife will appreciate the “downsizing.”

When I started putting the Pi stuff together, she quipped “don’t you already have a computer for your stereo?” So at this point, I have TWO computers feeding the DS via usb, Bridge II, and now i2s, the DS, a BHK Pre, and two W4S monoblocks.

THEN on top of that, being a pack rat, when I upgrade, I don’t get rid of the old stuff, so I have a W4S pre, an Audio Research SP9, a Hafler Pre, a W4S stereo amp, a Pass amp, an old PS Delta 100 amp, an Ohm Walsh 5 pair of speakers, a pair of Revel speakers, a pair of Paradigm speakers, a Paradigm subwoofer, and one JL subwoofer.

Every time a get a new piece, my wife asks “are you going to sell the other one?”

Here’s a good explanation of “streaming”

Then you have terms like rendering/renderer, transport, controller/control point, etc., etc., etc. “FifoPi” is what the developer calls the “hat” he developed for extracting the data from the Raspberry Pi. “Hat” is just a generic term for a lot of boards that are developed to attach to SBCs (single board computers). It’s called a “hat” simply because it plugs in to the top of the SBC and covers much of the board. “FifoPi” is likely called that for first-in-first-out, referring to the serial signal it’s extracting and reclocking.

The “HdmiPi” is the “transport” section that then takes the data from the FifoPi, converts to LVDS (low voltage differential signaling) so it can be sent over a cable to another device (such as a DAC). IanCanada also makes a “TransportPi” that also includes a coax and optical S/Pdif out besides the HDMI/i2s - but like I said, if I ever use it for something else, I’d likely just use usb, which makes the other outputs redundant.

i2s was never developed to be sent over a distance greater than a few inches - it was developed as a communication standard that is used within a device. PS was smart enough to figure out a great way to use existing tech, via LVDS, to send the i2s information over a greater distance than previously done.

My wife glaringly pointed out that I missed the Van Alstine Model One preamp, Cambridge Audio Azur 640c (v2) CD player, Rotel “it’s so old I don’t even remember the model number” CD player, Cambridge Audio DacMagic DAC, and Audio Resarch LS3 (with remote) among the “junk” on the shelf…

Edit:
When she saw my list, she felt that I was missing stuff, but didn’t know what - she doesn’t care about audio/equipment in general - but she counted the items on my list and counted the stuff in the rack that I use to store all the stuff and said," you missed a few things."

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My wife says the same (or used to), as did (just once) a fellow audiophile!
My standard response - “don’t be ridiculous: that’s quitter talk that is!”