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Denon AVR-3805 won't send digital audio to two rooms -- alternatives?


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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted May 02 2006 - 07:43 AM

I got a Mac Mini recently to use as an audio server. I am in the process of compressing my entire CD collection to Apple Lossless format, and want to use the Mini instead of a CD player, connecting it to my receiver via optical digital.

I have however run into an insurmountable problem with my Denon AVR-3805 -- it will feed audio from a digital input only to Zone 1 (my bedroom/Home Theater). Considering that I mostly listen to music in Zone 2 (my living room), this is a fatal problem.

Going analog from the Mini to the receiver is not an option due to the lower quality and large difference in volume level as compared other sources. Not to mention that it would prevent me from sending DD/DTS 5.1 sound from the Mini.

I have come to the conclusion that I need a new receiver. The Denon AVR-3806 has the same (to me insanely stupid) limitation. What alternatives are there -- a good quality receiver that will take an optical digital output and feed it to speakers in two different rooms?

Any suggestions are welcome... Thanks!

Ted
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#2 of 23 OFFLINE   John Titan

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Posted May 02 2006 - 10:30 AM

How about something like this..
http://www.partsexpr....26&rak=180-980

This might work for you. You'd have to switch it manually but at least the price is good.
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#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted May 02 2006 - 02:48 PM

[manual optical switch] Looks like a useful product -- but what conceivable help is it to me?

The problem isn't that I need to feed to different digital inputs on my receiver -- the problem is that NO digital input will feed my living room ("Zone 2") speakers, because Denon only allows analog inputs to go to Zone 2.

I could have a switch between the two sets of speakers, so both are fed from the Zone 1 output, except that usually I want the music on in both rooms simultaneously.

Unless I'm missing something I need a new receiver which doesn't have this limitation (if someone can suggest one), or I need to hook up a stereo power amp to the Denon's pre/pro output and use it to power the living room speakers.

I don't like the amp solution, because my space is limited and I don't want to generate extra heat and use extra power... though it might be considerably cheaper then buying a brand new receiver in the same category as the Denon 3805.

Ted
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#4 of 23 OFFLINE   John Titan

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Posted May 03 2006 - 10:54 AM

Sorry. misunderstood you.

Why are you worried about getting DD/DTS 5.1 fed to zone 2 if your only going to have to convert it to 2-channel any way.

I would suggest you use the analog inputs or buy another receiver ( a small digital like the panasonic sa-xr55 wouldn't take up much room and would give off very little heat).To power the 2nd zone

Even Most top line recievers are only going to be able to handle 2 channels in a 2nd zone or they would have to be 5.1+5.1 channels.
Denon makes the AVR-5805 for 6000$ that will do it.
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#5 of 23 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted May 03 2006 - 03:31 PM

Ted,

You don’t necessarily need a so-called second zone digital feed. There are at least a couple of alternatives that may be viable.

For one, does the Denon have a input for a digital recorder, like a CDR or mini-disc? If so, that input will have both in and out digital connections. The output (i.e., “Record Out”) should carry the digital signal from whatever source input you’re using. If so, you can use that for your second zone feed.

Second, does the Mac server have both coaxial and optical digital outputs? If so, you can probably utilize both of them. One you can send to the receiver, the other to your second zone.

You didn’t mention what the second zone signal is going to be feeding into, but...
Quote:
-- the problem is that NO digital input will feed my living room ("Zone 2") speakers
I assume you know you can’t send a digital signal directly to a pair of speakers.

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#6 of 23 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted May 05 2006 - 08:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Titan
Why are you worried about getting DD/DTS 5.1 fed to zone 2 if your only going to have to convert it to 2-channel any way.
John, sorry for not being clear enough -- I have no interest in sending DD/DTS5.1 to Zone 2. However if I am feeding my receiver via analog, that means I can never send DD/DTS to Zone 1 either.

Just to further clarify -- the Mac Mini has only one audio output -- which can be either analog or optical/digital depending on the type of cable you plug into it. You have no way of running analog & digital out at the same time.

Ted
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#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted May 05 2006 - 08:28 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne A. Pflughaupt
Ted,

You don’t necessarily need a so-called second zone digital feed. There are at least a couple of alternatives that may be viable.

For one, does the Denon have a input for a digital recorder, like a CDR or mini-disc? If so, that input will have both in and out digital connections. The output (i.e., “Record Out”) should carry the digital signal from whatever source input you’re using. If so, you can use that for your second zone feed.
Hi Wayne,

The problem, that I can't seem to get across, is that if the source into the Denon is digital there is no way to play it in Zone 2. Even if you have Zone 1 off, you can only play an analog input to Zone 2.

Quote:
Second, does the Mac server have both coaxial and optical digital outputs? If so, you can probably utilize both of them. One you can send to the receiver, the other to your second zone.
As I posted just above the Mac Mini has only one audio output.
Quote:
You didn’t mention what the second zone signal is going to be feeding into, but... I assume you know you can’t send a digital signal directly to a pair of speakers.
Yes, of course I know that. I wish I could draw a picture, but the setup is very simple:
The Denon is connected - via good old fashioned speaker cable Posted Image - to 5 speakers in my bedroom (Zone 1), and 2 speakers in my living room (Zone 2).
So long as I have an analog input into the Denon, it can be played out of both Zone 1 & Zone 2 (in Stereo). If I have a digital input it can only be played in Zone 1. This is a design limitation of the Denon. Having extra digital inputs in no way helps.

I did try to be tricky ran an analog stereo cable from the Pre-Pro out to a free analog input (TV) on the Denon, and set Zone 2 to (TV). This actually did kind of work, but not really -- the Zone 2 volume was way lower and there was buzzing.

I hope I have been clearer this time...

Thanks again,
Ted
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#8 of 23 ONLINE   Steve Berger

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Posted May 05 2006 - 05:46 PM

Your complaint is not unique to Denon. Digital decoders will generally not give a 5.1 output simultaneously with a downmixed stereo output. The designers (or licensing bodies) seem to have decided that the only reason you would want to do that is to make illegal copies of 5.1 material on stereo recorders. (it is a licensed format, probably with copy restrictions)

On my Sony receivers, the only downmix of digital inputs is on the headphone jacks and only when the speakers are turned off. Since it will downmix to the headphones, it is obviously possible for the hardware to do it. You might want to check and see if the zone 2 speakers are enabled when you put the receiver into 2 channel mode.

My DVD players will give simultaneous digital and downmixed stereo outputs (they must have paid the license fee) on Dolby 5.1 but not on DTS selections. I only need line level outputs for remote locations and I have done that with the headphone output or with speaker to line level convertors (automotive type). I take the B speakers and center channel, convert to line level, and combine them to feed an RF modulator. It's not ideal but better than nothing.

Don't be too frustrated when others don't understand what's happening. The limitation is something that is hard to put into words. The multizone concept is a holdover from the predigital era. You can probably blame Dolby and DTS rather than Denon (and others) for the artificial limitation.

#9 of 23 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted May 05 2006 - 07:54 PM

Hi Steve,

OK, now I'm regretting ever mentioning DTS/DD. Imagine if you will that I only have stereo speakers in both Zone 1 & Zone2, I only ever want to listen to PCM stereo music coming from iTunes on the Mac Mini, and want to hook up to the Mini via digital rather than analog to the receiver because it sounds much better that way.

No downmixing, nothing multichannel -- I just want stereo sound going to two different rooms...

Ted
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#10 of 23 ONLINE   Steve Berger

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Posted May 06 2006 - 03:37 AM

Unfortunately, any "digital in" to "stereo out" is downmixing. That's why I suggested putting the receiver into "2 Channel" mode; it might re-enable the zone 2 speakers.

The problem (as I see it) is either the copy protection algorithm built into the decoder blocking the output (which I suspect), or the hardware is physically incapable of processing a digital input to both 5.1 and stereo simultaneously (which I doubt).

The receiver is not going to make a value judgement as to the content of the digital input and say "this source is OK to send out to both zones but that content is protected and I am not allowed to send it both places". The assumption will be "You're a naughty boy and I won't let you copy this".

This all assumes that the receiver does not have a "B" speaker output that is seperate from the "Zone 2" output since that would be the logical connection for the second room and putting the receiver into "2 channel" mode would send identical stereo audio to both A and B speakers which in this case would be two different locations.

#11 of 23 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted May 06 2006 - 05:30 AM

Quote:
Unfortunately, any "digital in" to "stereo out" is downmixing. That's why I suggested putting the receiver into "2 Channel" mode; it might re-enable the zone 2 speakers.
The Denon's manual explicitly states that digital inputs will not be sent to Zones 2/3 or VCR/Tape out.

I thought it was a just a stupid design limitation, but now I realize that this one more of the absurd copy protection measures with which the MPAA/RIAA punish there best customers without in any way, shape or form preventing piracy.

This a very depressing thought, because it may well mean that I won't be able to find ANY brand receiver with which to replace the Denon to do what I want.

Quote:
This all assumes that the receiver does not have a "B" speaker output that is seperate from the "Zone 2" output since that would be the logical connection for the second room and putting the receiver into "2 channel" mode would send identical stereo audio to both A and B speakers which in this case would be two different locations.
The Zone 2 output can double as additional surround speakers in a 7.1 setup. There is no A/B concept.

I guess if you had a receiver that supported dipole speakers you could use one set of "poles" for the speakers in the other room?? I can't believe I'm even considering such a ridiculous workaround...


Quote:
I would suggest you use the analog inputs or buy another receiver ( a small digital like the panasonic sa-xr55 wouldn't take up much room and would give off very little heat).To power the 2nd zone

I searched for the Panasonic sa-xr55, and it doesn't look like it is being made anymore. Any similar experience that can be more easily found?

Ted
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#12 of 23 ONLINE   Steve Berger

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Posted May 06 2006 - 06:50 AM

Have you thought about "distributed audio" systems. Here are some products from MCM Electronics. There are other brands and sources, etc but this may give you some ideas to look at.

http://www.mcminone.......5Fid=50-6565

http://www.mcminone.......5Fid=50-2202

http://www.mcminone.......5Fid=50-6675

You would have to select products compatible with the power that you need and speakers that you have and the amp would have to be in 2 channel for correct audio to show up in the other room unless you would install 5 speakers in the remote location.

#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted May 06 2006 - 10:47 AM

HiTed,

Sorry I misunderstood earlier.
Quote:
The Denon's manual explicitly states that digital inputs will not be sent to Zones 2/3 or VCR/Tape out.
The problem isn’t your Denon. All receivers are the same in this regard – the analog and digital signal paths are totally independent. Here’s the source of your problem (emphasis added):
Quote:
Just to further clarify -- the Mac Mini has only one audio output -- which can be either analog or optical/digital depending on the type of cable you plug into it. You have no way of running analog & digital out at the same time.
Most home digital components – TIVOs, DVD players, etc. – have outputs for both analog and digital audio, and signals are present on both. So, you can send the digital audio to the receiver, and the analog to a separate location simultaneously. This is probably the source of the confusion here, since this is what most of us are used to seeing.

That said, if it’s true what you said about the Mini having only one audio output, that can only be either digital or analog – you’re flat out of luck trying to send audio to two places, unless you can find a receiver or other component that will take a digital signal input and output both an analog and a digital signal.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Posted Image

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#14 of 23 OFFLINE   John Titan

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Posted May 06 2006 - 02:19 PM

I had the model number wrong. Here's the right one
http://www.jr.com/JR...Product=4032234
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#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted May 07 2006 - 01:24 PM

Ted,

I think I mis-stated before about you not having any options. I checked the on-line manual for the 3805, and it has digital outputs (Optical 3 and 4) for a digital recorder, (MD, CDR, etc.). Page 39 of the manual tells how to configure them, but the signal from any digital input should be present on those outputs (it has to, otherwise the digital recorder would have nothing to record). You can send that connection to your second zone, but it’ll only be the selected source – no “CD in the main room, Mini Mac on the second room” capability.

The only problem now is that those outputs are optical, and I doubt you’re going to find a cable long enough. So, a receiver that has coaxial connections for digital recorders is probably your only option. You can use regular RCA coaxial cables for that.

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#16 of 23 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted May 07 2006 - 11:06 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne A. Pflughaupt
Ted,

I think I mis-stated before about you not having any options. I checked the on-line manual for the 3805, and it has digital outputs (Optical 3 and 4) for a digital recorder, (MD, CDR, etc.). Page 39 of the manual tells how to configure them, but the signal from any digital input should be present on those outputs (it has to, otherwise the digital recorder would have nothing to record). You can send that connection to your second zone, but it’ll only be the selected source – no “CD in the main room, Mini Mac on the second room” capability.

The only problem now is that those outputs are optical, and I doubt you’re going to find a cable long enough. So, a receiver that has coaxial connections for digital recorders is probably your only option. You can use regular RCA coaxial cables for that.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt
Wayne,

I think you still are misunderstanding what I'm trying to do -- I have no interest in sending digital out to another room, or anywhere else. I have speakers in two rooms (connected the old fashioned way), and the Denon will only play a digital input to the speakers in the first room, but not the second. No such restriction applies to analog input.

If you go to page 71 of the manual it says: "Digital signals are not output from the Zone 3, (FIXED-OUT) output jacks and Zone 2 audio output jacks."

In other words, if the input is digital, it will only play in "Zone 1".

Ted
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#17 of 23 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted May 07 2006 - 11:31 PM

Maybe the solution lies in a USB audio device (with a known good analog output). Use that to to feed Zone 2, and the built in sound to feed Zone 1 (digitally). Switch between sound output devices using the appropriate Preference Pane on the mac.
Perhaps the m-audio transit? (I've only used the sonica usb, which is nice, but it has been discontinued.) Other possibilities include the Headroom Bithead, or perhaps something else with actual RCA ports.

edit: if you have an intel mac, be sure to get a product with intel or universal drivers.

#18 of 23 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted May 08 2006 - 07:12 AM

Okay, I think I figured it out. You’re not trying to feed a digital signal to the second room. The second room's speakers are connected to the Denon directly, and it doesn’t send digital signals to the second room's speaker connections. Adding insult to injury, the Mini Mac only has one audio output that can be configured for either digital or analog, but not both, so there aren’t any secondary analog connections that you can add to get what you need.

You still have an option, adding an outboard stereo amp to the front pre-outputs, to power the second room speakers. Any digital inputs will go out those connections (the Zone 2 pre-outs might also work for this as well).

A caveat, some receivers will disconnect the internal amps when you connect a cable to the pre-outs, so make sure you have a generous return policy if you buy a second amp. It would be best to try it out a spare first. Or, you could pick up something at a pawnshop. Two-channel gear sells dirt cheap these days.

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#19 of 23 OFFLINE   John Titan

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Posted May 08 2006 - 10:37 AM

Ted,
Would it matter if your Bedroom + living room both played the mini (or any source you have connected to zone 1) at the same time. If that's ok with you. Then here's a low cost solution.
Get a speaker selector (impedance matching) and run 1-2 pairs (or more depending on the model) of speakers all from your main 2 channels(zone 1).
something like this http://www.outdoorsp...imma4pasps.html
As long as your willing to listen to the mini on all the speakers you would have connected to this, this would work.
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#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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Posted May 09 2006 - 07:54 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne A. Pflughaupt
You still have an option, adding an outboard stereo amp to the front pre-outputs, to power the second room speakers. Any digital inputs will go out those connections (the Zone 2 pre-outs might also work for this as well).
That is my current plan. I got an old receiver to test with, but I believe that it should work fine.

As a long term solution I still would like to replace the Denon with something that will do the job on it's own, but for now the outboard amp approach will have to do.

John -- yes, I normally have music on in both rooms at once, so a switch is not an option.

Jeremy -- I am aware of the USB devices, but from what I've read they are less then 100% reliable -- you upgrade your version of Mac OS X and the driver breaks, that sort of thing. I'd sooner get an Airport Express -- but I have to double check that the Mini will send audio to two different outputs at once.
In any event, I am going to try the external amp for now, as much as I hate the idea.

Ted
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