SACD without a Sub?

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by RobCar, Apr 23, 2003.

  1. RobCar

    RobCar Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm hoping to pick up a Sony C222ES SACD player, mostly b/c I want a changer, but also b/c of the benefit of SACD capability. But I'm wondering, if I don't have a sub, will SACD playback be devoid of bass?

    I have the five other speakers, but have held off on the sub until I move into a house. Am in a small apartment now with thin walls.
     
  2. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Rob, for many multichannel discs (that is, those with "LFE" channels encoded), you would lose the .1 channel in your setup, and thus much of the bass. However...

    The C222ES has bass management (identical, I think, to my C555ES). You can set it for "no sub" and the bass is redirected away from the "LFE" channel. Unfortunately, you will also incur a substantial loss in fidelity by engaging the BM circuitry. I'm not sure precisely how the BM is performed (converted to PCM?), but I can tell you the loss of resolution is severe. This was my greatest disappointment when first hooking up my C555ES, and I was shocked that no one had ever made mention of this rather enormous drawback. Attention is being paid today, but all too often I see this highly significant fact going completely overlooked.

    There are two solutions, one free (but requiring a compromise) the other relatively cheap (but with no compromises):

    (1) free / compromised - play multichannel discs with "LFE" channels in 2-channel (stereo) mode only. You won't get multichannel, but at least you won't lose a chunk of the frequency range. This is not quite so onerous a solution as it may sound since many SACD studios do not encode "LFE channels" into multichannel discs, and some use that channel for optional "height envelope" data instead. Unfortunately, there's no small amount of multichannel SACDs with the "LFE" channel.

    (2) cheap ($199 for B-stock) / uncompromised -- buy an Outlaw ICBM-1 and enjoy the multichannel mix with "LFE" redirected to your main speakers and all other channels crossed-over at their most apt frequency.

    This issue begs the huge question:
    Why in hell does anyone encode SACDs or DVD-As with LFE channels?!?

    I can think of no good reason.
     
  3. RobCar

    RobCar Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for all the info, Rich. So another solution would be to get a sub, and then all would be fine with playing the SACDs that did have the LFE channel encoding, right?
     
  4. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    That would be the most expensive solution, but that'd certainly work!

    Of course, unless you have full range speakers all around in addition to the sub, you may find you still desire an Outlaw ICBM-1 to dial it all in perfectly. Remember, the onboard bass management of your player (and any other player I'm familiar with) seriously degrades the audio signal. Do your own comparison and see for yourself. And, yes, the sonic degradation even occurs when you set it from "multichannel direct" (no bass management) to "4 large plus sub" (which would seem to suggest much the same setup). Something about that circuitry.... it's a far, far cry from transparency.

    FWIW, many folks coming from the audio side of the multichannel coin (as opposed to the video/DVD side) prefer large "full-range" speakers to subs for better sonic integration. With certain exceptions -- the cannons in the 1812 Overture, pipe organs -- music does not generally go as deep as the explosions and other LFE effects in movies. Given that most music lies within the frequency range of a good, large speaker, many audiophiles prefer not to have to integrate a sub into their systems.

    I'm not sure why the "LFE" channel was carried over to SACD encoding by some studios. Perhaps there's a good reason for doing so, but I haven't heard one...
     
  5. AaronBatiuk

    AaronBatiuk Second Unit

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    RobCar,
    I also do not have a sub. I rely entirely on my Front L/R speakers for bass reproduction for both movies and music. I recently purchased a new receiver, a Sony STR-DA4ES, largely because of its unique ability to handle this situation. It has the ability to perform 'analog downmixing' of the multi-channel inputs. So, for a setup like mine or yours, where there is no sub, the receiver mixes the sub channel (of either of the multi-channel analog inputs) into the Front L/R speakers. The same goes for the centre channel, if you do not use a centre channel speaker.
     
  6. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Eeek! Downmixing can sometimes result in some weird effects--beware. [​IMG]

    While I like surround music, its hi-res sponsors don't seem to have fully worked out its bugs.

    The only surround format that sounds really good AND works seamlessly are DTS Entertainment's "5.1 music discs". And the fact you can even use a regular CD player w/a digital output to play them makes them even better.

    LJ
     
  7. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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  8. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    If you play the stereo mix, obviously you won't get multichannel. But if you play a multichannel disc with an "LFE" track encoded, and you have no sub and no way to redirect the "LFE" channel to the mains (without sonic degradation), then you will lose that portion of the frequency range dedicated to the "LFE" channel.

    An Outlaw ICBM-1 will allow one to redirect the "LFE" channel without loss of sound quality IMO. The onboard bass management circuitry, on the other hand, will also redirect the "LFE" channel, but at the expense of a rather significant degree of resolution.

    (Btw, this discussion caused me to start this thread: "Resolved: the "LFE channel" should never be utilized on SACD/DVD-A." http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...hreadid=137014)
     
  9. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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  10. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    You are absolutely correct that the ICBM will not allow for level adjustment. This brings up an interesting issue...

    When I was exploring the 555ES, determining which setting was best, I also did a full speaker level calibration with Radio Shack SPL meter, etc. Unlike yourself, however, I had to boost the signal of my center to the last line of the first set of, er, notches, and my rears to the the first line of the second set of notches. That is, in my system, apparently my center and rear levels were too low when the signal was passed unaltered... exactly the opposite of what you've found in your system.

    Peculiar. My center and rear speakers are actually easier to drive than my mains, they're equidistant from the listening position and all get the same amount of juice. This suggested to me that they should have been reduced in volume, if anything. But I redid the SPL readings on three occasions, and always got the same results.

    Leaving aside the reduced quality of the signal from engaging the bass management circuitry, and just focusing on the calibrated levels, I couldn't help but think that they simply sounded wrong. For SACDs with ambient mixes like "Time Out" or "Blue Bossa" or "Kind of Blue", it sounded fine. But for SACDs with more aggressive multichannel mixes, particularly Hancock's "Headhunters" and Krall's "When I Look In Your Eyes", it sounded terrible. The properly calibrated rears struck me as way too loud, rendering the Krall disc essentially unlistenable. If you've heard it, you know that the engineers took the questionable course of sending her vocals to all speakers, such that it sounds very much like the "pyramid" effect negatively described in this excellent (though essentially negative) review of the Natalie Merchant "Tigerlily" DVD-A: http://www.highfidelityreview.com/re...umber=19230301
     
  11. Don Bingaman

    Don Bingaman Extra

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    Rich, I've noticed the same effects. First, SACD LFE levels seems to vary greatly from studio to studio, and disc to disc. Telarc records it 10 db down from flat so it doesn't break anything, and dmp doesn't use it at all - they like to encode a height channel in the .1. Tom Jung and Richard Vandersteen both think a better approach for full range bass is to cross the front left and right over to stereo subwoofers using either an electronic crossover, (what I wouldn't give for my good 'ole Dahlquist DQ-LP1), or a simple single pole high pass filter between the preamp and the front channel amp(s), combined with an unfiltered signal to the subwoofer, using the subwoofer's own low pass filter, (kind of like the good old days). Their collective advice was to forget the damn LFE channel. WRT the surround levels, I've got a Sony TA-P9000ES with sweet little ANALOG pots for each channel, AND a 6-way passive bypass mode for my TA-E9000ES surround processor. This arrangement lets me set the speaker levels in the digital domain for DD and DTS, and in the analog for SACD and DVD-A. The calibrations are different for these two recording types, though. If I set the TA-P9000ES up for equal SPL at the listening position from each channel, the surrounds sound too loud on many SACD and DVD-A recordings. The same setting for movies, though, works just fine. I think, like everything else in this hobby, the correct surround level is a matter of taste....many (but certainly not all) SACD and DVD-A recordings are recorded more like old Quadrophonic and not like the ITU standard ideal. (Tom Jung's work at dmp is a notable exception - his stuff just sounds terrific with equal SPL calibration) I would guess we will be twizzling the levels, (particularly the surrounds), to compensate for the recording engineer's "art expression" for some time to come, unless and until surround recording techniques become better understood, develop into standards, and then become widely accepted.
     
  12. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    Rich,
    couple of things.
    Why do you think that BM degrades sound provided it functiones properly?

    Reagrding your speakers.
    Is your center and surrounds are closer to any boudaries,then your mains are?
    If yes, there is your difference.
    BTW what brand of speakers do you use?
     
  13. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    Dupe.
     
  14. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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  15. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Scott, I think that particular Krall disc just suffers from a poor mixing decision, but the negatives can be ameliorated somewhat. Still, I go for the 2-channel mix on that one nearly everytime.

    Interesting that you have your front end at the "open" end of the room. I can see how that could reduce low/mid frequency response somewhat, but I bet you get outstanding imaging. I'm a little surprised that my wife's been cool with my speakers being 4-1/2 ft out from the frontwall, but the actually look pretty good like that in our room. Also, my room is open to the rear, with the surround speakers in the so-called "ITU" array (http://www.timefordvd.com/ref/ITU.shtml), and a little more than a foot out from the side walls. These differences might go a long way in determing the differences were hearing.

    My advice (and I bet this would go a long way toward solving some of your problems): equidistant placement!!! This will lower the perceived level of your rear speakers relative to your fronts, and also bring them into perfect time alignment (crucial for something like "Headhunters", less important for ambient mixes that are sorta "echoey/resonant" in nature anyway). Since sound moves relatively slowly, you needn't get it just exactly perfect, but the closer you can come the better. Can you bring your mains closer to your listening position, or can you move your listening position forward to be closer to the mains/further from the rears?

    Don, that Sony TA-P9000ES sounds terrific! I don't even want to ask how much it costs... does it also do time alignment (delay)? I find it interesting that you also find the "properly calibrated" surround channels to be too loud with most multichannel music. I swear I don't think this has anything to do with any "stereo bias" I may have, as I enjoy getting a nice full sound from all around me. I don't find this particularly distracting. But on some discs, like the Krall disc, the effect is almost like placing her more to the rear of the soundstage. She's not behind me, but she's practically in my lap. Now, if they could only create a video effect to go along with this (say, something to accompany "Popsicle Toes"), I might just come to prefer this mix.

     
  16. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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  17. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    OK,
    what seems to be the culprit,is that the there is down conversion from DSD to PCM in that player which I'm sure can have audible "side effects".
    BM generally is crossover just like the one in your speaker,only it is in digital domain,so the usual problems like phase shift is less "pronounced" as with analog filters.So in theory the ICBM would be "inferior" to an all digital counterpart.
    Who is the mixer on the Diana Krall disc,is it Al Schmidt?
    He's the original recorder/mixer of Diana's recent albums,but he constantly screws up the MC mixes IMO.[Hear her Paris concert.[​IMG]]
    Does the piano can be heard from the right surrounds as well on this SACD?
     
  18. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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  19. Dalton

    Dalton Screenwriter

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    Ok I have a question about SACD with a sub. My mains are not quite full range so i am not getting the bass i want in 2ch SACD. Is there any way to incorporate my sub into 2ch. SACD? I also noticed that the .1 channel in surround SACD discs is not very loud compared to DD and DTS when i am watching movies. I love the SQ of SACD but i could use a little more bass slam. Any help/advice/suggestions appreciated. BTW, my SACD player is the Philips 962SA(much better than the Sony 775 i had tried). Would i be better off with the new 963SA that has bass management? Does the bass management work with stereo SACD's? I don't think i can stretch the budget for the Denon 2900(would love to try it). Besides, there are alot more SACD titles that interest than DVD-A(which i have in the Yamaha c920 i own).

    Thanks Guys,
    Dalton
     
  20. Don Bingaman

    Don Bingaman Extra

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    Rich, the Sony TA-P9000ES only cost $ 475.00 from Oades Bros. (great dealer, BTW). Unfortunately I think the Sony may have discontinued this piece, at least in the US. It was designed as an all-analog companion to their TA-E9000ES all-digital sound processor. It does not have bass management, but I've heard of folks combining it with the Outlaw ICBM to pick up this function. (I run my Vandersteen system full-range all the way around). Now why someone hasn't come out with a 6-channel analog preamp with pots for each channel AND BM is beyond me....maybe the market of audiophiles who could really figure out how use such a beast has grown too small. WRT time alignment, it seems to be a related to the mix. In my setup, my front speakers are 12 feet away, the center channel and sub are 13 feet away, and the surrounds are 7 feet away on either side of the main listening chair. On records with substantial non-ambient content in the mix, I need to turn the surrounds down to maintain the front sound stage - if the surround levels are too high, the precedence effect from the ~ 4.5 millisecond head start the surrounds have on the front speakers is noticeable and somewhat distracting. IMHO, unless Sony addresses phase equalization in DSD in their next generation of players, mixes that put non-ambient data in the surrounds will be compromised for most listeners, since achieving a true equi-distant ITU speaker placement is damn near impossible in most home theaters, where the majority of surround sound set-ups reside today, (and probably for the forseeable future). My Sony SCD-C555ES does not have this feature, but I think it would be helpful in my system. BTW, Dalton, this player, (which I think is still available through Oades Bros., does have a "2 Channel + Subwoofer" mode, selectable for all 2 Channel SACD's.
     

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