Trying To Sort Out Hi-Res Digital Audio - or how to make my Oppo and Sprout 100 get along

Ok, so I’m trying to get the best quality output from my Oppo BDP-103 into my PS Audio Sprout. My understanding is that the Oppo can only output the highest resolution signals through its HDMI ports. All other ports output a reduced resolution signal. So for now it seems that my best bet is to use the analog outputs which at least seem to provide a quality signal - at least I can hear a difference when switching audio resolutions when playing a Blu-ray pure audio disk. I guess my question is whether or not the analog outputs of the Oppo are giving me some benefit of high-resolution audio like SACD, DVD-A or Blu-ray pure audio or not? And without a device like a DirectStream DAC that can accept HDMI signals direct, this is my best solution for now?

As always, All opinions/suggestions greatly appreciated

I also have the BDP-103 but I would not recommend anyone to use the analog outputs for any serious listening. The digital outputs are way more high-quality - even though you cannot squeeze the last bits out of it.

The optimal way of getting all bits out of the 103 is by installing a I2S card (from Oppomod.com) but the value of that will depend on the rest of your gear. (The card only is USD 220+shipping from Seol).

I have done that upgrade and can certify it made me keep the 103 in the setup.

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Very interesting, was not aware of that card. Will check it out, thanks @PerL . I’ll also do some more testing with the digital outputs.

Lots of things to unpack here but your best solution, with the gear you have, is analog out to sprout. Yes, you’ll hear benefit of the high resolution material in this configuration.

Digital vs. Analog. An analog signal is always “full resolution”. Reason… let’s talk about what digital audio is…

Sound in a pressure wave, that can be presented by an electric signal, and that wave is reproduced in your space when a thing, your speaker, pressurizes the air in response to the electrical signal it receives. On the analog side of your system these electrical signals are represented by small voltage fluctuations in your cables and electronics and then those small changes are amplified by the amplifier to much larger voltage changes to move your speaker.

Now, digital stores these voltage fluctuations in bits of data. But bits of data are not infinite like our analog world; our analog world can produce infinite pressure change. So, in digital we sample the fluctuations. The higher the sample rate the higher the resolution. High resolution audio is just sampling the analog at a higher rate to give us a lower chance for error when it comes time to reproduce the sound.

Now, I’m generalizing over some complicated stuff here but the take-away is to know… The high resolution source material provides you with, or should provide you with, a more accurate analog signal once the digital to analog conversion (DAC) is complete. You want to use the highest quality DAC you own and, in this case, may very well be the Oppo. This is why, yes, you’re gaining benefit by letting the Oppo feed the Sprout an analog signal.

HDMI… is both a standard for communicating digital information (a language) and a connector / cable standard. DACs can have HDMI connectors but they are not using the HDMI “language” to talk to other gear. They use I2S and there is no standard for this (different manufacturers use different pins on the HDMI connector to make this work0. For this reason, you cannot take a standard Oppo, which is using both HDMI connector and language, and plug it into a Direct Stream DAC. While the Oppo is using the HDMI connector it is not talking the I2S language needed to talk to the Dirext Stream… unless…

Which is why this suggestion came up. However, the reason you’d want I2S out of your Oppo is because you believe you have something further down the chain which will do a better job of converting the digital bits to analog. That isn’t Sprout (my opinion). The Oppo is a good DAC. Let it do the conversion until you have a great DAC and then you’ll want to identify how to get that DAC fed the bits from your high resolution source material.

Good luck and don’t forget to enjoy the music.

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And then have the Sprout convert that analog signal back to digital for its volume control? Seems like going into the Sprout via analog adds another ADC and DAC step.

Just plug your Oppo into the digital input, you arent missing anything.

Good point. I have no idea how the Sprout does volume (and didn’t consider that in my recommendation) but if it is digital volume control then (confirmed it’s using the volume control in the ESS)… all bets are off. Will just need to experiment and use whatever sounds best.

No, the DAC in the 103 is nowhere close to a good DAC, it is barely OK. The DAC in the 105 is OK. Trust me, I have had both models… I am certain that the DAC in the Sprout is to be preferred in this setup, but will not handle I2S. So hence I would recommend going SPDIF for now.

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@PerL, I’m looking at the i2s card for the Oppo. Couple of questions - is there an update to the Oppo to allow the i2s board to be configured, or does it need to be configured? Also I’m assuming this is a mod involving modifications, maybe even chassis modifications. Is it a difficult mod to install?

I really appreciate everyone’s input, doing my best to digest it all and come up with a testing plan and possible direction. Also forgot to say in my original post that I plan to upgrade the Sprout with a GainCell DAC at some point and that I’m currently using the Sprout to front end a S300 amp.

No software update to the Oppo is needed. But you have to use a Dremel or similar tool to cut a whole in the back plate to allow for the new card’s HDMI connector. Inside the Oppo it is easy, just to connect the card using the supplied cable.

But again, you need to be sure that the recieving side is capable of handling I2S. (I have the Directstream DAC).

My plan is to use a GainCell DAC which has an i2s port I believe.

I would be surprised and disappointed to learn that analog signals coming into the Sprout 100 are converted to digital and then back into analog.

If the OP is spinning SACD’s, DVD-Audio discs and high-res audio Blu-ray’s on his OPPO BDP-103, then the only way to get any benefit from that high-res content (short of modding the 103) would be to use the 103’s analog outputs into the Sprout’s analog inputs.

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Which is what I’m doing @bootzilla and it sounds awesome to be honest - compared to anything I have had in the past. However, I know there is more available - I just have to be able to tap into it. Thinking pretty solidly now that modding the 103 and moving on with replacing the Sprout with a GainCell DAC (already have a S300 amp to mate with it) is the path I need to take.

The volume control is digital. The extra conversion stage probably makes no audible difference anyways.

You probably tried this already, but if not, perhaps try running the OPPO directly into your S300 amp and control the volume with the OPPO remote, thereby bypassing the Sprout. It might be a sonic upgrade.

Right you are. . . .

Interesting idea, I’ll try that

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Didn’t work for some reason. Changed the volume on the Oppo to variable and connected the analog out to the inputs on the S300, but when I tried to turn up the volume from zero it just went full volume.

Hi, see the last post in this thread – might be the issue.