Player/Receiver Communication SACD/5.1 CD

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Frank Moriarty, Oct 27, 2003.

  1. Frank Moriarty

    Frank Moriarty Auditioning

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    OK, it's my first post, so here we go...

    As someone who is about to embark on their first HT experience, I have read the Home Theater primer and found it extremely helpful in sorting out the cloud of acronyms and abbreviations which were swirling around in my head. Having a conceptual understanding is really important to making intelligent (hopefully!) purchase decisions.

    But I do have a conceptual question that I'm hoping someone is willing to answer. In addition to DVD usage, I want my Home Theater to be able to play SACD audio discs and CDs with 5.1 mixes. Now I know Sony and others sell DVD/SACD players, but I'm not quite sure what I need to look for in the receiver to ensure it knows how to deal with the SACD signal. If I'm interpreting correctly one of the later contributions to the primer, the player has the processor that understands the SACD signal, which must be passed via analog outputs on to the receiver for channel distribution. So is it a correct statement that today there is no relatively inexpensive player-and-receiver setup that would pass a SACD signal for processing within the receiver?

    And along the same lines, as far as playing 5.1 mix CDs, do DVD players that handle 5.1 DVDs inherenetly know what to do with 5.1 audio CDs? And does that communicate on seamlessly into the receiver? Is this also passed player-to-receiver via analog outputs, as with SACD?

    Thanks for any insight available!

    Frank Moriarty
     
  2. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Whew. That's a confusing mix of questions, on a confusing subject coming from someone with a couple things confused. Lets see if I can't clear some things up.

    First off, what's your budget. It may be unreasonable, or unnecessary to demand all these things.

    Ok. Let's start. Most likely you will want a receiver, and a DVD player. For movies, the Dolby Digital, or DTS (5.1) track is usually sent via a digital cable(can be coax or optical, coax is usually preferred or indifferent, and cheaper) to the receiver, which decodes the stream.

    SACD, and DVD-A (DVD audio, different than regular DVDs), are both high-resolution formats, and as of yet, the decoding is ONLY done in the players because of copyright protection concerns. Thus, to take advantage of the high-resolution decoding, you MUST use analog connections here, and this way the player does the decoding, and passes all the channels to the receiver via 6 analog connections.

    Most likely this involves having your player connected via BOTH methods, as you will likely be watching movies, and listening to SACD, or DVD-A discs at different times, and you would switch inputs on your receiver between them.

    5.1 audio CDs. First, there are no "CDs" that contain 5.1. All CDs that are redbook standard contain just 2 channels of audio.

    There are, however, a small selection of DTS music discs (these are physically cds, but are NOT technically cds), that contain a stream of DTS data, which is in 5.1. Basically, the disc has a PCM flag, which tricks your player into playing it as if it were a CD. You then MUST pass this digitally to an outboard decoder, like your receiver, that then decodes the DTS track and plays it back in surround. CD players do not have the decoders necessary to do thi, playing a DTS disc directly from the player results in digital screeching. I am not aware of any DVD players that can play them on their own, but I may be unaware.

    I hope this further clarifies things, and then i'm sure you'll have more questions, so ask away!

    Good luck! [​IMG]
     
  3. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    There are no *inexpensvie* players that can pass DVD-A or SACD digitally, but there are a few here and there that use proprietary methods, though these are basically flagship models in their categories (ie; most expensive).

    There ARE a number of all in one units that have SACD capability internal, but the inexpensvie ones are not going to be as good as a decent receiver + DVD-A/SACD capable player. I'd recommend looking at the Sony AVD Series if you want all in one (I remember one is the AVD-C70ES).

     
  4. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Indeed john is correct, my wording was unclear. All cd players with digital outputs can *play* DTS discs. I merely meant that cd players don't have DTS decoders to listen to them(obviously). You need an outboard DTS decoder.
     
  5. Frank Moriarty

    Frank Moriarty Auditioning

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    Thanks to both of you for the input. Chris, you are correct - I did have some stuff confused, and likely not for the last time! [​IMG] But it's all part of the learning process.

    But let's see if I have a clear picutre. Take, for example, the new Sony Bob Dylan remasters. All of the 15 discs are SACD, but 8 of them also have 5.1 mixes. So - to play the SACD format, my player would decode the SACD signal and utilize its 6 analog outputs to the receiver analog inputs. However, if I wanted to play the 5.1 surround mix, the player thinks it's outputting standard CD signal which is passed to the receiver that then decodes this into the surround channels. Yes?

    btw, my budget I'm estimating at about $3-3500 including speakers, player, receiver, and the monitor.

    Thanks for your help! [​IMG]

    Frank
     
  6. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    You were on track up to here. No.

    SACD is high-resolution, and can be 2-channel, or multichannel, or the disc can contain two mixes, often one 2-channel hi-res, and a multichannel. Some discs are hybrids and also contain a standard CD layer, which can be read by any normal cd player(not high res though). DVD-A can also contain high-res mixes in 2 channel, or multichannel. In both cases, the decoding for the actual formats(if you want to know, they are DSD, and MLP, respectively) goes on IN the player, and thus you MUST use analog connections.

    DTS discs are something totally different. They aren't really a major thing, but they contain music in DTS format, which is a compressed, lossy format that is used in film soundtracks, and DVD movies. This is multichannel, on a NORMAL cd, this is thoroughly different from SACD/DVD-A. Sorry we weren't more clear about that. I wouldn't worry in the least about DTS discs, you don't need anything special for them, and you probably won't buy them, except to play around with them.

    IMO, you *might* better off not even worrying about getting SACD or DVD-A compatibility unless it's particularly important. With a more limited budget, putting that money towards better speakers and TV is worth it more. Dylan on CD on a great system is much better than dylan in multichannel, on a less-capable system, even though it is "high resolution," or multichannel. Just another thought.
     
  7. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    SACD comes in two varieties: 2ch and multi-channel. Neither of these may be passed digitally. Hybrid SCADs will also contain a standard CD track, on a separate layer, that can be played by any CD player via digital or analog. DVD-Audio discs sometimes include tracks that may be played with a standard DVD player via digital, though not at the same resolution of the DVD-A tracks.

    I am not familiar with the Dylan CDs, but I am 99.9% certain that the 5.1 mixes will be SACD. (check the music area, there was a discussion about them semi-recently).

    I found the other model from Sony, it is the AVD-S50ES (5 disc version), the C70 is single disc. With your budget, it might just do the trick. One drawback of an all in one unit is less flexibility when the time to upgrade comes around, though you could always stick it in another room down the road. Both of these units are soon to be replaced, so you might want to check around for any info on when the new models will be released, as prices for these will drop, or the new models may have additional features you want.

    What size monitor and roughly what size room will this setup be going in? The budget is decent, but you will need to decide how to ballance out the funds, so I'd start with how much you want to spend on the display, and work from there. Good luck [​IMG]


    DOH, 6:42...good timing. [​IMG]
     
  8. Frank Moriarty

    Frank Moriarty Auditioning

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    Thanks, guys - this is some real food for thought, so let me do some more homework before I take up any more time! I appreciate your thoughts greatly... [​IMG]

    Frank

    PS - One other thing, if you don't mind. In my limited time poking around here I'm already seeing more than one person suggest a certain model receiver as a great value or a specific speaker set up that out-performs its more costly competition. Is there a repository around this forum that identifies, say, a speaker combo frequently suggested by multiple forum members, or a receiver that many people feel is an exceptional value? It would be great if I could review some "consensus items," or even sample HT setups by cost range... Thanks!
     
  9. Frank Moriarty

    Frank Moriarty Auditioning

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    John, you were right - I checked the Dylan discs and the mixes are both SACD, 2-channel and 5.1. Thanks -

    Frank
     
  10. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    Frank-

    There isn't really a repository for speakers, but you should go read and follow the speaker forum. There are MANY oft mentioned solid receiver brands, as well as speaker brands. Among the better brands, like marantz, outlaw, pioneer elite, sony es, onkyo/integra, rotel, yamaha, denon, and I always forget some, most any, if it has the right features will do. They will al vary slightly, sometimes more significantly, in terms of SQ. I own a marantz, and I beleive, if I remember correctly, John is also a big marantz fan. So don't be swayed by the both of us *too* much in just this thread. Lurk around the receiver forums, these questions come up all the time, and you can always run some searches both here, and on google to find reviews on models and brands you find mentioned.

    Speakers are much more varied, and personal taste comes into play much more. There are MANY brands of speakers out there, and really you need to listen to them carefully with music you know well. I am a paradigm fan, especially for beginners. They tend to have better dealers(not sold in chain stores), and they have very high value for how little they cost. As you move up in prices, there are many more competitive brands, though, and depending on tastes, you may find something else. Nontheless, if you can find a paradigm dealer near you, it's a good place to start auditioning and looking around. I'm sure you will find many other recommendations around here as well.

    So lurk/ask around the speaker, and receiver forums, and you will get lots of ideas. Just lurking/searching does well too, these questions come up often, and you can look back and find them.
     
  11. Frank Moriarty

    Frank Moriarty Auditioning

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    Thanks again, Chris. As I posted elsewhere, right now I'm considering a Cambridge Soundworks speaker package bundled with an Onkyo TX-SR501 receiver. It's a starting point, at least!

    Frank
     

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