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post #1 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 06:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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When upgrading my home theater systems I frequently try new combinations of playback gear to ensure the best audio quality. So it was time to compare the latest in HDMI audio to S/PDIF audio.
Over the years HDMI audio has improved with each major revision, where as the Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect Format (S/PDIF) is mainly used in legacy systems and those in high-end audio who reject HDMI.

Let’s compare the two specifications:
The maximum S/PDIF capacity is 96 KHz at 20bits with 24 bits optional for two channels.
HDMI supports up to 8 channels of uncompressed audio at sample sizes of 16-bit, 20-bit, and 24-bit, with sample rates of 32 kHz, 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, and 192 kHz. HDMI also supports Dolby Digital and DTS, and up to 8 channels of one-bit DSD audio at rates up to four times that of Super Audio CD. With version 1.3, HDMI supports lossless compressed audio streams Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

For this comparison I used my reference Samsung 700 all-digital receiver with a Asus media player, which has both HDMI and S/PDIF outputs. The speakers were the Triton Two Towers.

Seriously there was no comparison as the S/PDIF optical connection offered inferior performance with by every audible measure even being fatiguing and irritating. This bus shows its age.
The HDMI audio was dynamic, articulate, musical and pleasing to the ear.

As background, I’ve done similar comparisons with each previous generation of HDMI. The first generation HDMI chips were atrocious sounding, used in the Panasonic DVD players and digital receivers. But that was eons ago. Now it’s time to make a strong recommendation for HDMI.

That the “high-end” two channel audiophile (read expensive) market continues to use S/PDIF is both perplexing and humorous, probably rooted in not having the resources to upgrade.
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post #2 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 07:21 AM
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You are using components that no audiophile would call "Reference". I have seen many people sell of their expensive receivers without HDMI and upgrade to low/mid range receivers with HDMI. In those cases, the upgrade is a sonic downgrade.
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post #3 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 07:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bommai View Post

You are using components that no audiophile would call "Reference". I have seen many people sell of their expensive receivers without HDMI and upgrade to low/mid range receivers with HDMI. In those cases, the upgrade is a sonic downgrade.

If you want transmit lossless multichannel audio, there is no alternative to HDMI regardless of "audiophileness".
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post #4 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 09:20 AM
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If you want transmit lossless multichannel audio, there is no alternative to HDMI regardless of "audiophileness".

Maybe no digital alternative, but there is Multi-channel analog you know as the alternative. I think the op is putting to much faith in ASUS audio myself. A fairer comparison would be to use a modern stand alone bluray player for the comparison.
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post #5 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 09:59 AM
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All those stated differences don't matter if you are sending the same audio stream.

For example, I playback a CD from my DVD player connected with S/PDIF, and then change to it's HDMI output. Same 44.1khz at 16 bit audio stream.

Bits are identical.

All that's left for differences would be jitter. None of that other stuff you mentioned matters, IMO. Bits are bits and I highly doubt any bits are being dropped by either interface. Which leaves jitter (timing issues) as the only remaining variable for the two interfaces when discussing apples to apples (exact same audio stream.)

I dare someone to tell those two scenarios apart by switching back and forth between the S/PDIF connection and HDMI connection (assuming there's no switching glitches which would clue them in, such as a delay for HDMI.)

Some people have complained that HDMI has higher jitter. But it ALSO has a video clock, which should allow an audio clock to be derived. And seeing how the audio is intermixed with the video, some buffering has to occur, so one might expect a properly designed receiver to have perfect audio timing. My own speculation of course.

I don't believe in Santa Clause, I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, and I have SERIOUS doubts that jitter differences between S/PDIF and HDMI are audible.

If I ever get time, I will try this experiment from my DVD player, but if I can't switch blind, my conclusions won't mean much.

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post #6 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 10:32 AM
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May be I was misunderstood. There is more to sound quality than the lossless stream vs lossy stream. There is DAC quality, there is amplifier stage, there are capacitors, and head room, etc. If you are going to compare a Samsung HDMI receiver vs a Rotel receiver that does not have HDMI, I would go with a Rotel. You are losing more from the analog stages of the amplifier than the difference between lossless and 1.5 mpbs DTS or 640kbps DD.
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post #7 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 11:13 AM
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When comparing different modes of handling the digital audio streams make sure the levels & bass management settings are matched..
When any digital stream is being decoded through the audio DSP there may be significant different trim controls..

Just my $0.02..
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post #8 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 12:55 PM
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For the basic interfaces, I am not sure there are any significant differences other than jitter, though of course HDMI may support higher bit rates. Jitter differences between HDMI and S/PDIF are significant and audible in many cases. This is because most clock-recovery circuits do not reject all the jitter (especially the deterministic jitter) before being used as the clock for the DAC. Still, the levels are pretty low, and most of us are unlikely to hear it in normal playback situations. That said, one of the reasons I chose my AVR is because jitter is very low (comparable) on HDMI and S/PDIF; some were orders of magnitude worse on the HDMI side. I did some personal testing and could not tell whether I was listening to the HDMI or coax outputs from my BD with some CDs I like. Not scientific but good enough for me. I am afraid to do a more detailed comparison as I can't afford a new higher-end BD player at the moment...

Of course, all the comments about how the two sources are handled/processed are apropos.

"After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music" - Aldous Huxley
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post #9 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 01:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bommai View Post
May be I was misunderstood. There is more to sound quality than the lossless stream vs lossy stream. There is DAC quality, there is amplifier stage, there are capacitors, and head room, etc. If you are going to compare a Samsung HDMI receiver vs a Rotel receiver that does not have HDMI, I would go with a Rotel. You are losing more from the analog stages of the amplifier than the difference between lossless and 1.5 mpbs DTS or 640kbps DD.
How about a Denon HDMI vs Rotel non-HDMI??

The idea that there really meaningful differences in DACs, caps, etc is just an audiophile wet dream dogma. Not one scientifically proven study in 40 years showing real audible improvements, hmmmm.....but we have people posting subjective opinion daily when the facts do not support their opinion.

Please show me the evidence of what is lost in the analog stage...remember uncontrolled listening tests (I hear something...) are completely invalid. People seem to not realy understand the control expectation bias has over them, let alone all the improper level matching that goes on.

Amp stage??? remember $500 amp is as good as a $5K amp if designed properly.

head room? Buy a bigger amp (QSC, Crown have the most headroom).

The answer is really simple. If you want lossless digital audio stream you need HDMI. There isn't anything else to think about.

SQ is controlled by the speaker designs and the room. Electronics are their to process/amplify the signal and NOT to screw things up (distorting the signal). People need to focus more on the speakers and room and less on fussing over electronics.

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post #10 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 01:19 PM
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It is easy to measure differences among analog outputs. Whether anybody can hear those differences is another story... Most of the money in my system is in the speakers and room treatment, imagine that.

"After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music" - Aldous Huxley
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post #11 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 01:27 PM
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Yes, my point about proven differences is refering to measured audible differences. fractional differences in L,C or R values only matter if it alters the actually sound wave created by each speaker driver.

For all the years of arguements and all the years of back and forth, I just never understand the audiophile position. In 20 seconds I can alter my systems response dramtically with a twist of a dial (Active XO designs, EQing). Spending $100K on electronics, searching out 100+ different choices will never, ever give me such a dramatic difference so why bother with worrying about electonics at all when we have all the choice/change/control on the speaker side of the discussion.

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post #12 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 01:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiFiFun View Post
Seriously there was no comparison as the S/PDIF optical connection offered inferior performance with by every audible measure even being fatiguing and irritating.
What is a "S/PDIF optical connection"? There is S/PDIF (coaxial) which was developed by Sony/Philips and TOSlink (optical) which was developed by Tosiba, but there is no S/PDIF optical connection.
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post #13 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by bommai View Post
May be I was misunderstood.
No, most of us understood you perfectly

Quote:
Originally Posted by bommai View Post
...There is more to sound quality than the lossless stream vs lossy stream.
Of course there is. There's speakers, room treatments, and EQ

Quote:
Originally Posted by bommai View Post
...There is DAC quality...
No there's not. If you can tell one DAC from another then one is either broken or engineered incorrectly


Quote:
Originally Posted by bommai View Post
... there is amplifier stage
Not unless you are driving your current amplifier past its limits which very very few ever do. In today's world of 8ohm speakers and current quality in most amp and amp stages, this is very unlikely



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Originally Posted by bommai View Post
there are capacitors
Not really. Unless those caps are a few dozen years old and even then probably not

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Originally Posted by bommai View Post
and head room
See the reply to amplifier stages above. If you are over driving your amp. Buy more power. Cheap these days but very few people are in danger of over driving their amps.

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Originally Posted by bommai View Post
etc.
And just what is etc?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bommai View Post
If you are going to compare a Samsung HDMI receiver vs a Rotel receiver that does not have HDMI, I would go with a Rotel. You are losing more from the analog stages of the amplifier than the difference between lossless and 1.5 mpbs DTS or 640kbps DD.
No your not. You would have to compare the specs of both and then see if you are driving one past its capacity. If you aren't. No sq difference at all.

J Dunlavy:.. if you stop to think about it, no loudspeaker can sound more accurate than it measures ...
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post #14 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by htcritic View Post

No, most of us understood you perfectly



Of course there is. There's speakers, room treatments, and EQ



No there's not. If you can tell one DAC from another then one is either broken or engineered incorrectly




Not unless you are driving your current amplifier past its limits which very very few ever do. In today's world of 8ohm speakers and current quality in most amp and amp stages, this is very unlikely





Not really. Unless those caps are a few dozen years old and even then probably not



See the reply to amplifier stages above. If you are over driving your amp. Buy more power. Cheap these days but very few people are in danger of over driving their amps.



And just what is etc?



No your not. You would have to compare the specs of both and then see if you are driving one past its capacity. If you aren't. No sq difference at all.

I can easily make out a poorly constructed receiver from a better made receiver. I had auditioned Onkyo, Denon and HK receiver a few years ago and found HK to be much better for music quality.
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post #15 of 18 Old 02-17-2011, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bommai View Post

I can easily make out a poorly constructed receiver from a better made receiver. I had auditioned Onkyo, Denon and HK receiver a few years ago and found HK to be much better for music quality.

Did you go in expecting to like the Onkyo better? I'm guessing not.

Note also the level matching and EQ could easily eclipse any difference in "basic audio quality" that might exist between the units. It is sort of hard to do a controlled test, but don't read too much into the results of any uncontrolled test.

-Max
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post #16 of 18 Old 02-18-2011, 07:56 AM
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Quote:
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I can easily make out a poorly constructed receiver from a better made receiver. I had auditioned Onkyo, Denon and HK receiver a few years ago and found HK to be much better for music quality.



What you are posting about has nothing to do with music quality. There isn't a measurement or a proven fact that the HK has better SQ then the other brands.

You want to win $1K, I can set up a controlled test with proper level matching and I will bet that you would not pick the HK from "other" AVRs when they are all hidden and the ABX test is done properly.

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post #17 of 18 Old 02-18-2011, 08:37 AM
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What you are posting about has nothing to do with music quality. There isn't a measurement or a proven fact that the HK has better SQ then the other brands.

You want to win $1K, I can set up a controlled test with proper level matching and I will bet that you would not pick the HK from "other" AVRs when they are all hidden and the ABX test is done properly.

I am going to have to call bs on that. There seems to be a lot of this you can't tell the difference between x and y, and if you can it's your bias that causes it.

It really depends on what you are actually testing, and how you are conducting the test. The differences can be huge and hit you over the head obvious. The problem isn't finding the differences it's finding which is the way it's supposed to sound, or which sound do I like better.
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post #18 of 18 Old Today, 01:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by penngray View Post
<div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
<div class="smallfont" style="margin-bottom:2px;">Quote:</div>
<table border="0" cellpadding="7" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">
<div>Originally Posted by <strong>bommai</strong> <a href="showthread.php?p=20020752#post20020752"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="http://images.avsforum.com/avs-/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">May be I was misunderstood. There is more to sound quality than the lossless stream vs lossy stream. There is DAC quality, there is amplifier stage, there are capacitors, and head room, etc. If you are going to compare a Samsung HDMI receiver vs a Rotel receiver that does not have HDMI, I would go with a Rotel. You are losing more from the analog stages of the amplifier than the difference between lossless and 1.5 mpbs DTS or 640kbps DD.</div>
</td>
</tr></table></div>
How about a Denon HDMI vs Rotel non-HDMI??<br><br>
The idea that there really meaningful differences in DACs, caps, etc is just an audiophile wet dream dogma. Not one scientifically proven study in 40 years showing real audible improvements, hmmmm.....but we have people posting subjective opinion daily when the facts do not support their opinion.<br><br>
Please show me the evidence of what is lost in the analog stage...remember uncontrolled listening tests (I hear something...) are completely invalid. People seem to not realy understand the control expectation bias has over them, let alone all the improper level matching that goes on.<br><br>
Amp stage??? remember $500 amp is as good as a $5K amp if designed properly.<br><br>
head room? Buy a bigger amp (QSC, Crown have the most headroom).<br><br>
The answer is really simple. If you want lossless digital audio stream you need HDMI. There isn't anything else to think about.<br><br>
SQ is controlled by the speaker designs and the room. Electronics are their to process/amplify the signal and NOT to screw things up (distorting the signal). People need to focus more on the speakers and room and less on fussing over electronics.
I was using HDMI out on my MacBook Pro for audio, I switched back to S/SPDIF since my audio sources rarely demand higher quality audio then 44.1 and 16 bit. When I was using HDMI there was a phantom monitor that I didn't see that was using the graphics memory. Sometimes when I opened a application it would go to that phantom screen that I couldn't see and I would have a very hard time getting it to open on a monitor that I can see.
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