What the %^[email protected]#$ am I listening to........

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Mike__P, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. Mike__P

    Mike__P Extra

    Aug 28, 2004
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    Thread title is misleading -- I don't really have a problem here, but I have some time on my hands so I thought I'd ruminate a little on my experience with my newly acquired Pioneer 578a uni player and Yamaha V2400 receiver over the last week or two. This might get a little lengthy, so if you're easily bored you might want to skip to the next thread. [​IMG]

    First of all, I love them both. Also, I don't care what anyone says, everything else being the same, I find the (good) SACD and DVD-Audio discs MUCH more satisfying than the Redbooks. I assume pricier systems will generally sound better, and cheaper systems will generally sound worse, proportionately for all 3 formats. I may be an undiscriminating slob, but dollar for dollar my hi-rez discs sound fabulous and I'm a happy camper. [​IMG]

    Especially love the Yamaha receiver. Aside from however its sonic qualities stack up (and the YPAO stuff), it has lots and lots of inputs and outputs, configurable options, great remote (finally have been able to rid myself of all the others), and just seems wonderfully thought out and sophisticated w/r/t the user interface. And it will figure out some way to get sound out of your speakers, no matter how you screw up the cabling, configuration, and/or selection menu's.

    Which brings me to the point of the thread.

    Looking to maximize configuration flexibility, and looking to avoid crawling behind my in-wall HT again later, I took maximum advantage of all the parallel inputs and outputs (of differing formats) available, knowing the Yamaha would detect what was available, and choose which was best based on a set of default priorities (which are changeable once you crawl deeper into the setup menu's.)

    Thus, as a new user, no matter how much you fumble through random selections on the remote, you will almost always hear sounds (and usually wonderful sounds) from the speakers. I think most people who are not turned on by exploring the technology will stop there.

    I love this stuff so as I experimented further I began to realize how easy it is to mistake what the signal path is at any given moment and, good as it sounds, much better audio was available ONCE I GOT IT RIGHT.

    The potential complexity is substantial. You've got to keep in mind whether you're working with digital or analog outputs, there's often a format selection which must be made on the disc itself, the somewhat obscure "initial" and "sound" settings must be set properly on the player, you must select the appropriate input on the receiver (analog? digital? multi-channel? stereo mix? direct stereo from stereo output pair? L/R mixdown from 5.1 analog MC?, etc., etc., etc.) Oh, by the way, you may accidently be listening to some kind of funky DSP "stadium" setting because the system defaults to that since you used it last time.

    And if you're alert to all these possibilities, you've got to figure out some unambiguous way to tell which you've got, based on some fairly cryptic displays. Most here on this forum probably enjoy sorting this kind of thing out -- I suspect most ordinary people don't.

    I suspect that at least 50% of the people who are running systems in the price range of the 578a/V2400 combo are not listening to the configuration they think they are (present company excluded, of course). I suspect, for example, this is one of the reasons we hear so many wildly differing views about how hi-rez sounds.

    As I said, all of this is appropos of nothing, I suppose, but I do worry sometimes about all the regular people who don't have the time and inclination to work all this out, and as a result may not appreciate how cool multi-channel, hi-rez audio is, and thus may not help to build the market. I can't post a link yet, but I hope LanceJ won't mind me copying one of his posts from another thread below -- I thought he made the same point very nicely:

    The reason I brought up the low-res digital output is because someone somewhere will not know that the hi-res signals emerge ONLY from a dvd-audio/sacd player's analog outputs. He will then proceed to hook up only his digital output, push play and many times he will hear music. And for many people, hi-res sound is a very subtle improvement over regular-res sound (particularly if they don't use high quality amps & speakers). And if they are using something like a pair of $5K Thiels and a $4K McIntosh amp, they will scratch their heads and wonder what all the yelling about hi-res is about......and probably get just a tad pissed off about paying for all that new hi-res hardware and software.

    And not all receivers display what format (44.1kHz, 48, 96, etc) their digital input is receiving, so this could further add to the mystery.

    All the Warner discs I own allow a digital signal from my Pioneer's optical output, but at no more than 48kHz (my Technics receiver cannot decode anything higher than that & it has no display for sampling rate, so I am making an educated guess here).

    Some discs I own allow a downmixed-to-stereo digital signal, some don't. Lots of receivers have the ability to downmix 5.1 digital signals--my Technics SA-DA8 can do this with DTS 5.1 tracks for example.

    This is the downside of dvd-audio's flexible nature--you have to really read the disc's label and the player's manual & operation displays to get the most out of this format.


    -- Mike
  2. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

    Jul 8, 1998
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    Two comments:

    1. I agree 110% on your assessment of the joys of MC hi-rez. I have maybe 50 titles, and of those, there are perhaps one or two that I prefer to stay with 2CH. I find it astounding that I can actually hear crusty old music that I never wanted to hear again take on new life and vibrancy. I took great care with speaker placement and balance, and when I camp out in the sweet spot and fire up my hi-rez player, it NEVER fails to put a huge sh*t eatin' grin on my face.

    2. Your comments on system complexity are spot on. The days when a non-techy person can buy a system, set it up properly and move on are long gone. I have helped friends who are engineers at Los Alamos and Sandia Labs set up basic 5.1 HT systems, and they had critical settings and connections wrong.

    My point is that these guys are not exactly idiots[​IMG], and they could not figure it out. Combine products that are overly complex for the sake of being complex (why do I need 3 different ways to access a freakin' chapter on a DVD?), add in the typical manual translated by someone for whom English is not his or her primary language, and well, you know what happens.

    Well, enjoy your rig. If only the SACD and DVD-A camps would just get on with releasing software, I will be spending a lot more money!


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