High End Audiophile Thread Part 2

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by vbetts, Sep 24, 2018.

  1. tunejunky

    tunejunky Ancient Guru

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    i'm really curious about these. Sennheiser was my first set of headphones and has always been in my top three. AKG & Beyerdynamic would be there but Sennheiser (for me) has just that hair more presence. PM's are like that for me too with HiFiMan eking out a spot in that three against the other PM's.
     
  2. OnnA

    OnnA Ancient Guru

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  3. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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  4. mikeysg

    mikeysg Ancient Guru

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    Sorry, when I see Z audio reviews, I'd put them on my ignore list, I simply can't take a reviewer who knows diddly about what audiophile level appreciation is like. He's about looks, bloated bass and doesn't know what a balanced sound sounds like....so, totally crap audio reviewer. I don't like that he wanna sound like a regular man in the street who indulges in F-bombs like there's no tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2021
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  5. mikeysg

    mikeysg Ancient Guru

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    Since I'd gotten a new 48" Omnidesk Pro 2020, I have more space, I can't use those clamp-on headphone mounts anymore, except for one only. So, I'd ordered a couple of headphone stands to put on my desk, I like that it has a curved padded surface where the headband rests, the weight of the headphone is spread over the curved surface/holder rather than focused on a small single point.
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. adabiviak

    adabiviak Master Guru

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    Hey - my ancient receiver/amp finally died, and I'm looking for a replacement. Is there some tech I should look for to make sure it's in there? My primary goal is spacial acuity in games. Speakers are as follows in a basic 5.1 setup:
    • Fronts: Altec Lansing "878 Santiago" (got them from a theater fire in San Francisco like thirty years ago)
    • Rears: some Pioneer towers with like five speakers (12" sub down to some bitty tweets at the top)
    • Center: in the market for a new one! Currently a Klipsch I'm not fond of.
    • I have some Rockford Fosgate speakers placed on the sides of the room... have considered these for side speakers, but they're just shelving at the moment.
    • If you tell me Atmos is worth it, I'm down to add some ceiling speakers.
    • Sub is some basic Sony thing.
    My sound card is a Creative Sound Blaster Z. I'd rather not upgrade if I don't need to, but I'll probably take your word for it if you have a compelling argument. Before the amp died, it was working wonderfully.
     
  7. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    No price range isnt helpful.

    The problem with modern receivers, even if you spend a lot, they dont improve in sound quality much at all as you go up the range.
    I came a cropper with this a couple of years ago so settled for a mid range Atmos Denon receiver for surround/atmos, then developed my stereo hifi with very high end parts. The front stereo hifi amp is also used with the receiver so the same speakers can be used in both setups with improved quality.

    Atmos height channels require an Atmos receiver, or Atmos pre-processor + power amps.
    This will be driven using an HDMI connection, no need for a soundcard at all.
    As far as I'm aware, if you dont want height channels for PC gaming, Atmos brings nothing to the table except expense and potentially more hassle.
    You could be better off with higher quality power amps

    Currently the best quality 7.1 pre-processor I have come across is the Oppo 205, needing quality power amps.
    They are no longer in production and arent cheap.

    Before I go any further, your budget and expectations are needed.
    Also how much room you have to fit equipment
    Do you need a receiver for any particular reason or can you go straight to power amps driven from your soundcard?


    Note:
    If your front speakers are good enough you can omit the centre channel and let the front speakers take over the duty.
    However, I dont know if Windows and media players will properly route all sources to front L/R when the Centre is disabled, I had problems with this a long time ago.
    ie if you drive from a soundcard to the amps directly.
    Using an AV receiver solves this issue, you send all channels to it and disable the centre in the receiver.

    I havent used a centre speaker for over 10 years since finding this out. My brother also does the same.
    I built a high end Centre speaker with ribbon tweeter and it barely got any use because it sounds better/more coherent with front speakers taking over instead.
    Instead of sound coming from above or below the display, it comes from dead centre where it should be. And it doesnt stand out as a point source like a centre speaker does, centre sounds blends with L/R channels much better when L/R speakers take over the duty.

    We tried this on my Dads system using mid range Acoustic Energy speakers (soft dome tweeters) with a mid range Denon receiver and it doesnt work well at all.
    I built my Mum small stereo ribbon tweeter speakers and even with her £50 receiver (seriously crap) there is no need for a centre channel, its amazing without.
    It is all down to the speakers (and maybe using a receiver to route centre to L/R) whether this works.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2021
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  8. tunejunky

    tunejunky Ancient Guru

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    Mufflore has covered the basics and some of the pros/cons.

    my 2 cents are brand and feature suggestions:

    the better sounding (at a premium) receivers are Marantz, Denon, and Yamaha. buy the least expensive model with pre-amplifier outputs.
    the next tier of receivers (without premium pricing) are Pioneer, Sony, and way too many others.
    the Pioneer is the best bet as you will get more power and pre-amp outputs at a lower price.

    there will be very little difference between the premium receivers and the mass market ones below the top-of the-lines.
    the biggest difference will be the ease of use and the quality of the (auto) room correction.
    and believe or not the remote.

    what i suggest re: SoundblasterZ is very different - buy a Chromecast dongle. use different inputs for your streaming vs game/computing. OR just use your GPU's HDMI output
    the center channel is the single most important channel in any multi-channel set-up. do not trust the SoundblasterZ with it's questionable driver support to support Dolby Atmos.
    as far as your PC is concerned i doubt you need to change the Soundblaster
    .
    by buying a $30-ish dongle you have an HDMI 2.0 Atmos Compatible output which will then plug into your receiver (and just put the soundblaster on a separate input for Boom Boom Pow)

    all done
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2021
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  9. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    Yes, I forgot to mention HDMI out for surround (without atmos) to a receiver is a good solution when not pushing for very high end surround. This is basically what I did but I use Atmos as well.
    ie With a Soundblaster Z, imo, its not worth splashing out on separate power amps because the Z isnt revealing enough to need better quality than a decent AV receiver will provide.
    As tunejunky pointed out you can connect the Z to the receiver - but probably only for stereo, unless you dont mind losing quality with compressed surround over SPDIF. HDMI will beat this for surround quality.

    Summing up:
    In your situ op, I would move to a decent receiver for surround, fed via HDMI.
    This will support every surround format (with a good enough AVR) and let you play all media from your PC.
    Connect your Z to the analogue stereo CD input on the AVR for music as tunejunky suggested because HDMI isnt the best connection method for 'maximising' sound quality.
    You can test for yourself if that provides any benefit.

    If you want/need to play media from your phone, the Chromecast dongle looks really good, didnt know about that :)

    ps
    I'm not sure the Soundblaster Z can support Atmos, that support would be provided by an Atmos app.

    The Atmos app provides no useful function with anything pre-encoded with Atmos launched from the PC (ie games, locally stored movies...) because Atmos is fed directly to the AVR, the PC doesnt need to decode it.
    There are 2 reasons (I know of) you might want to use the Atmos app:
    1) you are using analogue out and the media source only has Atmos, no PCM channels. Then the Atmos app is needed to decode to PCM.
    2) some internet based streamers I hear need the Atmos app to enable Atmos audio streaming.

    If any of the above isnt quite right I'm happy to be corrected :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2021
  10. adabiviak

    adabiviak Master Guru

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    Wow, thanks you two! That's super helpful.
    Budget: whatever (almost). If you told me four figures would get a system that would blow my mind, I'd consider it with some more research. I'm also not that familiar with Atmos, I just heard it thrown around and did some cursory searching, so if it's not going to add much to the sound position in a video game, I'll pass.

    All the room in the world: the PC is in the basement, and the cables run through the floor to the monitor and whatnot (for total silence, plus it gets free cooling from the exhaust from my heat-pump water heater in the summer, and keeps the basement from freezing in the winter). Otherwise I have three available shelves in the living room here.

    Not real need for a receiver... just kind of a standard getup I've been using forever. How do those connections go to the power amps?

    I've been doing this since the center speaker started crackling.

    At the moment, the Z is connected with the six analog lines going to those respective inputs on the receiver, and the positioning seems pretty good. I haven't dabbled in extracting sound from HDMI... would I use like a second HDMI port from the card to feed the poweramp or receiver, or do they come with a pass through, which then feeds the display?
     

  11. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    Sorry not to post, I'm so poorly at the moment (not covid) I'm unable to think well enough.
    Also apologies to tunejunky if I disagreed with anything you said, your experience is great to have here. It wasnt my intention, I struggle to say things well enough at times.
    I'll be back when I can think better!
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2021
  12. mikeysg

    mikeysg Ancient Guru

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    Oh, do take care, many of us are so concerned about COVID-19 that we sometimes forget that there're other nasties around, like STD's!:p NOT that it has anything to do with your present condition.:p:D Just kidding, hope you're feeling better!

    I've tried gaming with ATMOS enabled for one of my games, Warzone I think, and it does work....using a HDMI port from my RX 6900 XT direct to my LG Dolby ATMOS/DTS:X capable soundbar. I've purchased Dolby ATMOS (DA) from MS Store, and with that, the option for DA is available on my sound setting. But I do find it a hassle to enable and disable, though I do leave it on on my HTPC system (HDMI from my GTX 1080 to my Philips Fidelio B97/98 soundbar (a pretty powerful and feature packed soundbar I might add).

    BTW, can anyone suggest a good video/media player that supports Dolby ATMOS and DTS:X? Must be able to play MKV and MP4 files encoded with DA, and possibly other codecs.
     
  13. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    LOL, thanks I think :D

    MPC HC, MPC BE and Potplayer.

    MPC versions here
    https://forums.guru3d.com/threads/media-player-classic-home-cinema-mpcbe-thread-updated.328525/
    They dont need to support Atmos, just support passing it to whatever you are using as the sound processor.
    If you dont have an Atmos device theres no point using the atmos sound track. Use one of the PCM tracks.
    (stated for completion)
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2021
  14. mikeysg

    mikeysg Ancient Guru

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    @Mufflore ,
    Thanks, I tried Sound Control Panel -> Properties -> Spatial Sound (now set to 'Off')

    Tried both MPC HC and VLC Player, both now show 'Multi Channel PCM' on my Philips Fidelio B97/98 soundbar (before this, it'd only show 'Dolby Surround').

    So, is this correct?
     
  15. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    Depends how its connected, what sound tracks are available and how the player is configured.
    In your case probably just the player needs configuring.

    In MPC HC/BE right click the screen, select options.
    Click Internal Filters, Audio Decoders, click the Audio decoder configuration button (this may differ slightly on MPC-HC).
    Any type of audio your soundbar supports, tick that in the Bitstreaming/Pass through section.
    If you dont it will be decoded by the PC instead and sent as PCM.

    The Encode to AC-3 option (if present) is for devices that only support AC3 and not DTS or other codecs, ie it converts from DTS to AC-3.
    You shouldnt need that.
    DRC is Dynamic Range Control. It will reduce the differences between quiet and loud so they are nearer the same level.
    Handy for late night viewing when you dont want to disturb people or if you find loud noises are too loud when quiet are too quiet.

    Leave everything else alone unless you write down what it was set to before you change it!

    ps
    This is off topic for this thread, I know it can be a struggle to get started so I helped, but best not to pursue this topic here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2021
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  16. tunejunky

    tunejunky Ancient Guru

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    no, Spatial Sound must be turned on. Dolby Atmos is the primary form of Spatial sound
    multi-channel PCM is exactly correct, it provides for lossless multi-channel passthrough which includes Dolby Atmos. "Dolby Surround" is a lossy format.
    fwiw, Apple incorporates Dolby Atmos as part of their (marketing of) "Spatial Sound" music through iTunes and programming from AppleTV is in Dolby Atmos.
    the differences between the flavors of "Spatial Sound" is one of discrete lossless channels (Atmos) or matrixed surround which may be lossy including Dolby Digital (AC-3) or an enhanced stereo effect using algorithms.
     
  17. tunejunky

    tunejunky Ancient Guru

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    OK, so your receiver has a dedicated 5.1 input, which is good but shows it's fairly old and dates from the transition from analog surround (Dolby Surround) to Dolby AC-3 and SA-CD. you bought well.
    what the new receivers bring to the table is more power (typically Class D amps in the better receivers), better DAC's, better channel separation, and far better performance at lower volumes, especially the center channel.
    but to "keep it real", a reassessment of your speakers (you will definitely need new "height" speakers, maybe front and rear) should be in order as that's where you will be getting your sound from.
    i would start by getting a center channel speaker as close to your Altecs as possible, so i would go with their sister company JBL and get their best model under $600. those old Pioneer towers will save you from needing a 2nd sub in the rear for now.
    buy a new sub, Japanese subs are made for Japanese homes (or wee small apartments). for a traditional sub i like SVS, but since you're not afraid of pro gear (or mixing and matching) i would highly recommend an Electro-Voice on a stand (like the "Sub-Dude"or the Iso-Acoustics both under $80.00) as you'd be getting a better woofer with more power and better ability to "trim" to match the room. as far as "height" speakers don't bother with the funky looking Atmos height speakers (paying for a premium), buy high quality indoor/outdoor speakers with wall mounting brackets. they also have the advantage of being precisely positioned to reflect the sound off of the ceiling and fwiw, match wall paint better. and having height front and rear is amazing.
    for the receivers i think we already covered that ground.
     
  18. tunejunky

    tunejunky Ancient Guru

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    a note on positioning height speakers for Spatial Sound/Atmos:
    place height speaker 3/4th's the distance from the floor, i/3rd the distance from the side wall. angle speaker within the bracket to 30 degrees toward the seating area, 45 degrees in a very large room, repeat in the rear.
    this will give you the best results over the widest possible range of speakers.

    and as far as Atmos branded speakers are concerned, the difference in price between more than one model reflects a large room vs. small, not a qualitative difference (though there may be one).
     
  19. mikeysg

    mikeysg Ancient Guru

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    When I enabled Dolby ATMOS in the Sound Control Panel (instead of 'Off'), my Philips soundbar indicates that it's getting Dolby Surround. I suspect that my HTPC is doing the decode, and my soundbar doesn't quite get it, hence 'Dolby Surround'. When I set it back to 'Off' and enable 7.1/5.1 Channels, I get 'Multi-Channel PCM' again.
     
  20. mezball

    mezball Master Guru

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    For peeps who are interested, a couple of days before Christmas I received another new toy. Here we have the Monoprice Monolith 15, replacing the SVS PB2000 Pro. As the pics suggest it is a beast, and weighs a lot compare to the SVS. It is heavy, and larger then I thought, lol. Had about 10 more days to play with it. I have listened to a quite a few songs through it using my two channel setup (Ascend Acoustics Sierra 2EX, Emotiva Basx A300, and PT1 pre-amp), and a few movies with the HT Set-up ( 5 channel Klipsch speakers, Outlaw Model 5000 amp, and Denon X4000) in same room. Off the start the gain needs to be increased a lot more then my previous Outlaw LFM Plus sub that had analog controls (SVS is all digital, so could not really compare). The Monolith Sub 15 has more low sub freq output then SVS or the Outlaw, with a little less mid bass punch, unless you raise the gain. But, here it has a lot more head room to do that, so problem solved. Truth be told, this sub sounds great both with movies, and music then the other two subs mentioned. I ran it with 3 ports open, in non-THX mode, not to crazy with THX enabled. It seems I hear a lot more sub bass details, then before, especially listening to something like Infected Mushroom.
    Built for the SVS, and Monoprice is about the same, as both use vinyl wrap, but giving the edge to Monoprice for using HDF, instead of MDF, the cabinet is a rock. I purchased the version 1 of the 15 for the same price the SVS is going for now. Unless you really need the SVS app, which I do not, due to I let my sound processor take care of that, and adjust if needed. I would recommend the Monolith over the SVS. sub1.jpg sub2.jpg sub3.jpg
     
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