The best High Rez Players and Values:

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Meles, Nov 24, 2015.

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  1. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    For years I've been in the dark and analogue only, but now that high rez digital is getting cheaper I am seeing the light.

    I've recently discovered 24/96 and 24/48 playback via DVD-video playback and my "hot-rodded" Pioneer bdp-51fd is singing (direct to analogue out via wolfson voltage out dac). Have had and still have a Samsung HD-841 for SACD and just could not see the light. The DVD-video burns of 24/96 on the Pioneer blu-ray player has really caught my interest and now I've become aware of the wonders of the mythical SACD-R and its compatibility with the old Samsung (which is about as exciting as a wet fart since SACD over analogue outs not great with this player.) With the hotrod Pioneer I'd be happy to stay at 24/96 playback, but can't do 6.1 24/96, etc. and so SACD-R has a big appeal since it give me hope of getting this material onto disc. Still really, really like DVD-video audio CDs in 24/96 since any dvd player will play them and I'd like to hook this into awesome car sterereo (and call me crazy, but not aware of SACD inroads so much.)

    So given the projectile vomit sound quality of the Samsung HD-841 analogue outs, what is the best SACD or ISO image player(s) that can be had and what are the budget plays? (throw in car audio too since I've got an $8k system needings some Rez!) As it stands I'll probably play around with my Sammy to test the SACD-R format, but trying to come up with some nice solutions. Aware of some locals with the nice PS audio stuff and some kind of MAC super compact media servers, but that is heading to $10k or so looking for something a little more bang for the buck with some upgrade possiblities if my eyes stay wide shut.

    Another huge issue for DVD playback of audio is the 48 or 96khz restriction. Lots of material in 44.1 and it seems upconverting to 48 not the best sonic option.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2015
  2. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    My search so far for the best SACD-R player via analog out has ruled out the Denon players due to reliability issues and issues with DVD-r media.
    Own a Samsung and will start some experimentation with that player, but have not located the 'Confirmed to play after (custom) firmware update" source. (Pursuing contact with Bob Squires Jr, but new member here; (My own Samsung HD841 is quite bad on analog outs, but will give it another try in the system in the next few days)
    The Yamaha seem to not offer the best sound, so out.
    Need to research Sony units.
    The Oppos scare me and the BDP-93 and 95 might be real contenders if not for the issue of higher price and the problem that if firmware has been upgraded to later version that blocks SACD-R, one cannot go back. The earlier Oppos are not contenders with the Pioneer.
    Cambridge Audio stuff built in same factory as Oppo and close friend has a failed Azur 740C, so skeptical, but the Cambridge Audio Azur 650BD and 751BD are contenders, but pretty expensive used.
    Almost bought a Pioneer Elite DV-79AVi ($100 local pickup), but not an SACD-R player, but what a tank with an IEC. The Pioneer DV-58AV is a newer, non-Elite unit, but still has a robust build with better DAC than the older Elite. It is considered more upgradeable and despite not being on the SACD-R list, it infact does play SACD-R for sure and is US version of Pioneer DV-LX50 which is on list. It is the leading contender, but it eats me up that my own BDP-51FD is considered a better CD player than either of these units and my own experience with 24/96 via DVD-v burns is impressive. (My 51FD is hotrodded in a manner that cannot be replicated on either of these units.) The Pioneer DV-58AV can go for close to $200 used right now and is the leading contender especially if I can grab one near $100. Ric Schulz used to upgrade these and might have a few more tricks up his sleeve:

    So, for now the modded Pioneer DV-58AV might be the king of the SACD-R players with all the mods. Still looking and reviewing, so please poast!
  3. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    So, the Primare BD32 is not on the SACD-R player list, but does play them as it is based on Oppo BDP-93. Their design spec freely admits this; At $6000 new this is the best SACD-R player, but don't update the firmware or then it is worthless for SACD-R. The Primare BD32 appears to be the best stock player:
    "The stereo output circuitry uses the flagship Crystal DSD DAC CS4398 in conjunction
    with Primare’s signature fully-balanced analogue output stage comprising Burr-Brown
    OPA2134 OP-Amps, WIMA and EPCOS polypropylene filter capacitors and large MELF
    resistors; and a single-ended output stage comprising a single MOSFET transistor fed by
    an active current source rather than passive resistors." Used $3000.

    The Marantz UD7007 (used ~$700) was rated close to the Primare above at 9.5/10 and was also not on the list. It seems many early Universal Blu-ray/SACD players have a chance of playing SACD-R as they DVD-R is part of the Blu-ray specification. Yamaha BD-A1020 6/10. Sony BDP-590 1/10! Denon DBT-1713UDP was 5/10. Oppo BDP-95 8/10. Most of these are not on the list and I supsect that a lot of early Blu-ray units are missing. It seems Oppo based (really Mediatek) units had firmware updates in 2012 to correct the SACD-R issues. Chances are anything made after 2012 will not play SACD-R.

    Many recommend playing the ISO file from a hard drive for best sound.

    DENON DVD-3910 highly recommended by some. "DVD-3910 universal DVD player was essentially the former flagship DVD-5900 player (with a slightly scaled down power supply) and a whole lot more." Underwood liked the unit, modding it with a tube output; the
    DVD-5910 was Pioneers slightly later grand effort. Some reliability issues perhaps, buy maybe Denon not so bad. These are older units back to 2005-2006 time period. Seen some 3910 south of $200. Mint hardly used ones for $100 and an Underwood used for $500 on ebay along with one by a company called Hotrod.

    NAD stuff was quite pricey, but perhaps not a great value even used. Sony not so good.

    The Marantz stock is not a file player like an Oppo, but sounds way better than any stock Oppo. The Oppo 105 modded up can sound a lot better than the Marantz, but does not play SACD-R. I suspect the older Oppos modded might be really something playing files, but I've not heard this.

    Next step is to just start messing with SACD-R and playback of files via PC. My HP Envy has very, very nice headphone outs and so I'll try that versus my Samsung and may have that off the ground first due to lack of firmware source for HD841. My envy has bluray player so and outside chance it might be coaxed into playing the discs themselves and not the iso.

    At this point very, very interested in bringing blu-ray/sacd or dvd 24bit material to my Mercedes W140 1993. One Sony head unit might play SACD-R, or might feed it with external dvd or blu-ray player. Waiting for the format wars to settle in the home system and do wish I had way to convert SACD-R material to two channel 24/96 DVD-video discs since this is very portable. Some format shootouts may be necessary.
  4. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    24/96(or 48) dvd-video disks are really cool because you can share with nonphiles and it is suddenly very easy since it only takes a DVD player. Unfortunately, SACD DSD material does not get there so easily without compromise (some SACD rips actually go into analog domain and back to do 24/96 and this takes serious equipment to do with any fidelity.) 24/48 multichannel is probably nice, but it seems multichannel-philes want more so not sure that DVD-video 24/96 will be the future.

    What about taking other formats on the road? A lot of factory car stereos did have the dead DVD-audio format, but SACD very rare, and since most SACD-R players are blu-ray, I doubt the Sony unit does SACD-R. Neil Young's Pono via high speed USB can play DSF files which can be extracted from SACD-R. All sorts of 192khz/24bit vinyl rips floating around and also 96khz/24 bit which is a natural for DVD playback. Not a lot of confidence in this, but its there with surface noise and all (Huge LP collector myself.) SACD-R is not really portable unless you know someone with a compatible player. Many claim ISO of DSF file playback is superior. With the Pono in tow it would be possible to take the show on the road, but a lot of work converting every SACD to ISO and then to DSF. For personal headphone playback and automotive playing it seems Pono and the like via USB has a strong place. One can of course hook this into other's stereos too, but alas much more invasive than just sliding a 24/96 DVD into a player.

    Putting the SACD isos onto disk is another means to archive and all of the above players in the previous posts come into play. Oppo 105 plays DSF, may be possible to play the ISO directly with early Oppo that is SACD-R friendly. The Pioneer BDP-140/150/160/440/450/LX-55 players will play SACD iso via USB and SACD-R with firmware changes. By the way, here is firmware for the Pioneer DV-800AV/-LX50/-58AV mentioned in previous post:

    This certainly will not work on these Pioneer Blu-ray players. On further reading firmware exists for reading SACD-R and is free. A Chinese firmware maker has one that will play SACD iso images, but that is/was $160. The LX-55 would be the best of these players, but 450 might be newer. This group of players seems to be unique in that SACD-R and iso playback easily done. The LX-55 DAC (AKM4480) does handle DSD, but not so sure that analog circuitry is amazing. The US version is BDP-53FD. Beware. These only have stereo analog outs and the unit does not seem to attract modifiers so its a great midling unit, but may not be a cork sniffer's delight.

    So, if one wants to not use SACD iso files and just use discs the players mentioned in previous posts seem to be the top contenders. For ISO playback with a SACD-R too and much more. The Pioneers just mentioned above have a solid niche (not for me).

    For me, the Pono (Sabre DAC!) and any similar players are of strong interest. They are new and might have good DACs. I am not over confident in the analog out of these versus the SACD-R players above, but I'd think they might compete with the Pioneer's with USB iso playback mentioned above.

    At $400 for a Pono and a mod of about $300 to an ancient Becker head unit in my car seems a bit steep so it seems I must wait for some more experimentation. Using Foobar on PC and playing ISO, but this goes to PCM before analog so not ideal. Still waiting on Samsung Firmware (permission as user on site) so I can try playing an SACD-R. Friend bring SACDs over soon so I can refresh my impressions of the lack of goodness coming from the Samsung analog outs.

    I've been interested in a Raspberry Pi for sometime, but the right project has not presented itself. At under $50 I may have to play with it soon:

    One is not playing physical discs with a Raspberry Pi, but it seems like a poor man's Pono, but with added convenience of iso playback! The Popular Mechanics raspberry pi head unit seems a bit extreme for most, so that may be phase 2. An Oppo and DSF file playback seems quite logical too, but a lot of money and not a travellling show. PS Audio of course can play the DSF files for a very, very nice home unit.

    What I want is a removeable head unit for a car that has incredible fidelity and can be used in the office with headphones and on the greatest of audiophile systems. This would play all sorts of formats including SACD iso. Not sure of legality as a commercial product with SACD iso playback. For now its listen to SACD and some more contemplation and then perhaps an Archphile Raspberry pi that might be later demoted to car/headphone use if it is not amazingly awesome in the big rig.
  5. Reese

    Reese Any Norwegian Jarlsberger, per chance?

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  6. Stereosound

    Stereosound Forum Resident

    PonoPlayers go on sale from time to time at Amazon and and in their brick and mortar stores if that helps you.
  7. Chooke

    Chooke Forum Resident

    Perth, Australia
    Brother_Rael and Meles like this.
  8. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    No. I've got directions to add auxilliary input to my Mercedes Becker head unit. That is first. Then literally I am going to park car in driveway and hook up indoor high rez player to this and see what it sounds like. Depending on results proceed from there. Current player using Wolfson Dac and may get portable media player competitor to pono for this if I really like it. Though about portable bluray player, but don't have the DAC i want. or even another good one.
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  9. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Leaning more to car only device. My current Wolfson DAC has strong bass performance, so not as crazy for the pono which is best with balanced headphones.

    24/96 DVD is the preferred format. I've decided that playing SACD isos is not necessary. Just feel my current player would be hard to beat.

    Will be able to convert head unit for free in Mercedes, but its not easy.
  10. Hellenback

    Hellenback Forum Resident

    Toronto, Canada
    Giving up on SACD-r ISO is too bad. I find SACD/DSD can often sound better than other formats, so have picked up a few standalones that play burned back-up ISOs.

    I don't know why you denigrate Pioneer as they can be standalone giant killers. The Elite 58AV sounds great stock (no need to mod) even as a CD player but is excellent with DVD-a, SACD and also does SACD-r ISOs w. easily installed custom firmware.

    Pio Elite 53fd, while having no analog surround out (just stereo), sounds great over HDMI with a decent surround amp/receiver decoding the stream and can do most any HD audio format over USB and network with stock firmware. For analog stereo playback, the AKM DAC chip is no slouch.

    The Denon 2910, 3910 & 5910 are SACD-r ISO capable in stock form, but I've stuck with the 3910. The 2910 SQ is not as good, and the 5910, depending on condition, can still run as much as an Oppo 93/95 (w. early firmware).

    You mentioned foobar for PC playback and said it had to be converted to PCM...which brings me to the final and most future proof playback method for SACD ISOs.: A DSD capable DAC.

    With a DSD DAC, foobar will play ISOs and DSD files with no PCM conversion (ASIO out). You'd either use a proprietary, DAC specific ASIO driver or "ASIO4All" which is a freeware driver. There's a bit of a learning curve getting foobar set-up to output a DSD bitstream, but nothing too difficult.

    The last standalone on my personal list is the Pioneer 610AV with an easy custom FW update. I usually use it over HDMI as my receiver's DAC is better than the one in the 610; but it still sounds good over analog (with a bit of EQ).

    Lastly, the only player that cost me more than $100 was the 58AV which I purchased near new with warranty while still a current model. The rest I bought used after waiting patiently for them to turn up on eBay or local audio forums.

    Anyway, that's my 2 cents...I realize it's an older thread but hoped someone might find the info useful.
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  11. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Really getting stoked about high rez digital lately and so, so many ISOs and DSF files now. Was just playing an LP rip (which I don't mess with normally) and swear I could hear difference between foobar playing the ISO and its conversion to 24/96. I made a proper 24/88 for comparion of a from a sacd iso and then thought I was placeboing myself as I really strained to hear differences from the all digital file. This has my audiofizzle synapses firing and thinking about pure DSD playback. This was all just listening on my hp envy 3D laptop with its baby subwoofer.:help:

    Add to this my little Pioneer bdp-51d hotrodded has been sounding much more analog like with a recent tweak a friend mentioned (thx Absolute Sound:realmad:.) Said tweek is to unplug every device with a power supply in your house with a power supply. That sounded so good that I've learned what breakers and switches (furnace) to hit to turn everything off even appliances (turn refrigorator down in temp earlier in day so it can survive a long power down.) LOL cutting off your fridge might not be so smart if you forget to turn it back on.:nyah: Its very subtle device by device and painful to give up internet, but usually when I listen multitasking kills 90% of the enjoyment. For most this is not practical, but easy enough for me. (Just replaced physically buzzing transformer in furnace you could hear from 30 feet away through door if listening for it too.) Crazy stuff, but woodwinds, brass and top extension/air often rivals some of my best LPs. I may be hooked for life on SACD/high rez, but despite excellent 2 channel analog the converion to 24/96 DVDs many not be ideal.

    All of these power line tweeks seem to really help the digital and I'm considering further investment especially to get away from the labor intensive process to make 24/96 DVDs (its easier to play isos or dsf files direct plus keeping original format and new DVD isos is taking a lot of space and I'm not playing DVDs outside my main system so portablity not a must.) I was over checking out the new PS Audio stuff and directstream memory player. Thats the absolute most I'd do and they have a new unit coming out tomorrow called the Stellar Gain Cell Dac that might be "affordable". I'd rather do something much, much cheaper. "ASIO4All" for all driver and foobar on laptop sounding like possiblity...

    I've never looked at standalone DACs... With some research looks like my HP Envy 17 is candidate for "ASIO4All". Looks like USB is the connection to standalone DAC. Add to this the crazy tweeker in me really likes the idea of a DAC powered by USB so I could go battery power for potential sonic gains given the powerline insanity above.:p So looks like its time to research DSD dacs. When I listen to the main system I don't want to be on my laptop. If I want some online access I use my phone or may put modem/router setup on batter backup, so laptop playback seems like a go for me. It would be amazing to control selection from laptop at listening position, but perhaps I ask the impossible?:help:

    So I either need a ridiculously cheap DAC (usb stick style DAC) that does DSD direct to analog or maybe something more robust. I have a very nice high gain tube linestage (Bendix 6900) with a very trick Placette remote volume control (all bulk foil vishay resistors), and I'm able to "hotrod" my Pioneer's Wolfson voltage out dac directly to the two channel analog inputs (wire to RCA jack that foregoes balanced and knocks unit from S/N of 117 to 111 db). Most Dacs are current out which can be better as the discrete circuitry can be better. Bottom line is I don't need a lot of gain from the DAC. Less gain is better. The Bendix placette combo drives the ***** out of my amps (triamping is a lot of load) so low gain DAC is my thinking. :help: I need suggestions.:help:
  12. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Really looking for a prod in the right direction. Very, very happy with analog output setup for current DVD 24/96 playback. Concerned that inability to play 24/88 is a big issues as conversion to 24/96 not as clean with foobar dBpoweramp/SSRC (I've heard 24/96 DVD beat original SACD on cheap player and assume that this is because software conversion to pcm much better than old Samsung SACD player doing it on the fly.) For convenience it may be best to keep everything DSD (no pcm) and get a dac that will work with pc doing "ASIO4All". I've been searching for good discussions on dacs, but not finding much. Really could use a lead in the right direction on dsd dacs.:help:
  13. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Looking at Topping D30 Dac and brand new SMSL M8A dac. The Topping going for $85 so I've found cheap. M8A may have great bass so may got that way at $250.

    Feeling like I'm giving up better analog section in current setup for improvement of pure DSD versus butchering it to 24/96. Ugh.
  14. enfield

    enfield Forum Resident

    Essex UK
    We seem to be trying to achieve perfect playback of imperfect recordings.Dabbling in Hi-Rez is like 'pee-ing in the wind' when the vast majority of recordings available today are flawed and most have been reduced to, at best, 'average' by inadequate recording/engineering/mastering processes..A well recorded and mastered album will sound superb on 44.1/16..Hi- rez will only improve the 1%-odd of exceptionally well recorded material.Hi-rez is the equivalent to scratching around the edges for very small improvements.When better production and recording techniques initially would reap much more significant leaps in sound quality than Hi-Rez playback would ever do.
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  15. Meles

    Meles Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I need to do some more serious comparisons. Certainly with home theatre I hear a big difference between DTS-HD and True versus dolby digital (presume this to be 16 bit vs 24 bit). I've heard that similar comparisons between redbook layer and sacd layer are due to manufacturer choices. Definitely having a case of audionervosa over DSD versus PCM. I could make a bit of sample files and play them on my pc from a DSD file, but right now I use a bluray player that is supposed to be a great CD player on my big system, but it may be biased towards 48 instead of 44.1. Of course it doesn't have true DSD playback so I'm back to cork sniffing some low end DSD dacs so I can hear for myself.

    I've never heard CD sound that I've liked in any way. My pioneer BDP-51FD has been perfect for me because I sold out digital a long time ago for LP playback. Why waste money on an imperfect sound forever?

    I think part of the issue with digital is the eventual conversion to analog. Integrated circuits and all those electrolytic capacitors just degrade sound in many ways. My hotrodded Pioneer ditches two integrated circuits and a power transistor after the Wolfson voltage out dac for a wire.o_O I still can switch back and forth with minor trouble between the original circuit and the hotrod. It sounds a whole lot better in my system and also is a winner from the standpoint of eliminating unnecessary gain from the system as my line stage is quite strong.

    Did the hotrod long before stumbling on the window of using 96/24 via DVD playback. I started "dabbling" about 18 months ago with this.

    The other problem with digital I suspect is noise. I've seen local audiophiles spend dearly for noise filters and stuff and I've never really like the ones I've heard for analog and just stayed away. I now understand their angst on digital and powerlines give a recent tweek. For my system the change was to unplug every device in the house and even kick off the breakers for appliances and hit the lightswitch for the furnace. This free tweak was pretty jaw dropping for my playback of 24/96 and really has closed the gap. My analog system is down right now, but I suspect it won't be much improved. 24/96 with this tweak really closed the gap. So ad noise on the powerline as a big culprit. (Your mileage may vary, but I got onto this tweak due to an audible 60hz buzz from a transformer in my newer furnace also messing with my lines, so my case may be extreme and yesterday said transformer has now been replaced as I need AC sometimes when listening.:D)

    I'm due to revisit the lowly CD and see what happened. Perhaps it will have closed the gap with these improvements. I need to research so I can convert DSD to 96/24 and 44.1/16 and compare the results (need new Dac for that). In the meantime I could do 96/24 versus 44.1/16. Its probably a huge waste of time and money so I'll probably just slide in a few good CDs I have and see if I'm wowed at first and they are in ballpark. This will probably end up being Gladiator soundtrack CD versus Terminator 2 24/96.:yikes: The best way to do all this would be with a new DSD dac that plays it all properly and so 44.1/16 drive by has done nothing for me.:mad:
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