Best digital to Analog receiver - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 06-15-2012, 06:41 AM - Thread Starter
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The main component of my home theater setup is a nice Denon 3808 receiver. However these days I like most others are watching more media from digital sources which puts a premium on the digital to analog conversion for speakers. As well as digital cable I watch more streaming media (video) from many sources starting with Netflix, Amazon etc etc.
I am finding that digital compressed signals being used the reconversion and eventual translation into the analog signals sent to speakers is becoming even more important in the eventual quality of the audio experieince. In essence I fnd that particularly spoken dialog is tending to sound more "clipped" to my ears rather than the old smoother pure analog signals. Probably as I age my ears are also far more aware of this!wink.gif

So I am beginning to research for my next receiver which puts a premium on the digital to analog conversion and the end quality of audio. And yes the speaker set up I have is very decent quality though I guess I could always spend even more money on the center speaker for spoken audio. But I don't think that's my main problem. In terms of pure music Logitech sells the "transformer" to fill out the "gaps" in digital mp3s and converting to analog so I guess it's this kind of enhanced capability I am looking to be built into my next receiver.

Any suggestions where I should be looking?
Thanks.

Ian
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post #2 of 17 Old 06-15-2012, 08:50 AM
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Current Marantz AVRs and pre/pros incude "M-DAX" which purports to improve the bass and treble of any of the lossy-compression audio codecs. It has adjustable settings. Denon calls their equivalent function "Restorer".

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post #3 of 17 Old 06-15-2012, 08:55 AM
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It's going to be tough to beat the 3808CI. As seldon suggests, try setting RESTORER (p. 44) to MODE 3 - Restorer HQ.

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post #4 of 17 Old 06-15-2012, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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I will try the restorer feature. I was hpoing that in the last 5 years or so an OEM had stepped up with really good hardware/software in this area.

Ian
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post #5 of 17 Old 06-15-2012, 11:44 AM - Thread Starter
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OK I fired up the machine and while watching a cable channel I pressed 'restorer" button... But nothing happend or rather nothing changed on the small LCD display of the Denon. So this does not seem to be a feature which helps with speech audio.

Ian
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post #6 of 17 Old 06-15-2012, 01:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IRJ View Post

OK I fired up the machine and while watching a cable channel I pressed 'restorer" button... But nothing happend or rather nothing changed on the small LCD display of the Denon. So this does not seem to be a feature which helps with speech audio.
Restorer only works on analog stereo inputs like mp3 music. If your cable tv box is connected to the receiver with hdmi that is preferred. Try all channel stereo mode instead of dolby digital mode etc. when watching tv.
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post #7 of 17 Old 06-15-2012, 01:23 PM
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Restorer will work on either analog or PCM 2.0 audio ... works especially well with internet radio stations.

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post #8 of 17 Old 06-16-2012, 08:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Nobody got any suggestions on best digital to audio receiver?

Ian
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post #9 of 17 Old 06-16-2012, 10:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IRJ View Post

Nobody got any suggestions on best digital to audio receiver?

Hi IRJ, maybe I'm misundestanding your query, but are you experiencing some sort of dialog intelligibility issues?

Well, can you confirm that your center speaker is placed properly? Be it above or under the screen doesn't matter as far as it is tilted toward seated ear height. If you need to readjust the center speaker don't forget to run Audyssey again.

Lookin' forward.
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post #10 of 17 Old 06-16-2012, 10:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IRJ View Post

Nobody got any suggestions on best digital to audio receiver?

Your choice of words might be part of the problem. The "best digital to audio receiver" has almost zero meaning.

AJ
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post #11 of 17 Old 06-16-2012, 07:25 PM - Thread Starter
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I am not sure how else I could have put the issue. I believe that the receiver I have, while competent, is NOT the best at converting digital signals into analog sound. Both for music, but more of an issue is converting speech.
So I am wondering which newer receivers put a premuim on this.
How would you suggest I start the thread?
I am VERY sure I am not alone in experiencing this issue.

Ian
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post #12 of 17 Old 06-16-2012, 09:19 PM
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No, you are indeed far from alone with experiencing such issues. However, the conversion of analog to digital, which you seem to be overly focused upon when it comes to the issue of dialog quality, is trivially easy. That is why nobody is answering that specific question. All modern receivers can do that job more than well enough.

To improve dialog, all of your efforts should be directed to the quality of the center channel speaker (upgrading if need be), optimizing the positioning of the center channel speaker (the existing one if you have a center channel speaker, or, a new better one that you purchase), and finally, the possible use of room treatments and/or the built-in receiver EQ software adjustments solutions to help minimize whatever room-generated anomalies that can often interfere with good dialog intelligibility. THESE are the things that matter.

A receiver upgrade might help. I don't know what version of Audyssey your model has and whether it offers any of the newer software features, such as in the case of Denon receivers, Dynamic EQ or Dynamic Volume. Some of these newer features might make a positive difference. Or you could try to exhaust all possibilities for improvement with your existing equipment setup first.

Here is but one example of the types of tweaking available with respect to improving dialog with some of these features, pulled from the first page of the ongoing Denon 2012 receivers dedicated thread:
Quote:
Center Channel dialog too weak watching TV: Adjust the Dynamic EQ "Reference Offset" setting from 0 to 10db. You can also try increasing the center channel volume by using the “CH Level” button on the remote (XX12 models only) or adjusting the Center Dialogue setting (XX13 models only). And lastly, another option is to use the "Multi Ch Stereo" mode which will add the dialog to the surround speakers bringing it closer to your main listening position.
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1334369/the-official-denon-avr-xx12-model-owners-thread/0_60#user_L7

Granted, all the above possibilities will involve much more mental engagement on your part than the simpler answer you had probably hoped to find upon starting this thread. But nevertheless, this is the reality of the situation. eek.giftongue.gif

Mourning the disappearance of the -ly suffix. Words being cut-off before they've had a chance to fully form, left incomplete, with their shoelaces untied and their zippers undone. If I quote your post (or post in your thread) without comment, please check your zipper.
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post #13 of 17 Old 06-17-2012, 02:35 AM
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Some people even complain about the poor dialogue audibility in Blu-ray when it has uncompressed or lossless compressed audio. Some dialogue is just mixed poorly or too soft. The above suggestions would help to some extent. Even then, some dialogue is just hard or impossible to understand due to heavy foreign or regional accents, dialects and slang.

When faced with lossy, highly compressed audio in internet streaming the problem is worse. The bottom line is you can't expect highly compressed audio to sound like uncompressed audio. It's the same unrealistic expectation some people have on internet SD video to look HD on an HDTV.

I don't know the nature of 'clipped' audio you mentioned, is it DD 2.0 or 5.1 and what bit-rate is it?

What about this Logitech "transformer" for mp3 that you seem to like? If you tell us more perhaps we get a better idea of what it does. What does it do to 'fill out the gaps in mp3', does it upsample or apply some signal processing?

In any case if you aren't aware, the regulars of this forum firmly believe all DACs (digital to analogue converters) sound the same, so if you're after a receiver with better DAC you're unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing.

Audiosceptics accept audio trials using 25 people. A recent Oxford study with over 353,000 patient records from 639 separate clinical trials shows for every 1,000 people taking diclofenac or ibuprofen there would be 3 additional heart attacks, 4 more cases of heart failure and 1 death every year.

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post #14 of 17 Old 06-17-2012, 08:26 AM
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A quibble: it's not "All DACs sound the same" it's that "All properly implemented modern DACs sound the same". The design problems encountered in the early days of CDs and digital audio which resulted in inaccurate outputs have been resolved in modern DAC circuit designs. Equipment designers have to go out of their way (and some do!) to produce DAC designs which result in inaccurate sound within the human auditory range. Some people like the distortion called "warm" for example. Apparently that results from slightly amplifying the "upper midrange" audio, although I'm not sure exactly what frequencies that involves.

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post #15 of 17 Old 06-17-2012, 10:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IRJ View Post

Nobody got any suggestions on best digital to audio receiver?
The confusion is you used the word "audio" instead of "analog" in the thread title and here. We know what you mean and I left out that restorer works on pcm so we are even. I knew that you didn't want to use restorer anyway. On the denon 4311 this is on by default over network so gotta watch out for that "digital enhancement".

We all struggle with center channel dialog being overpowered by effects etc. during surround sound movies. Netflix doesn't stream a very robust signal compared to blu-ray. I actually use 5 channel stereo for tv listening most of the time because of this. Yes boosting the sjgnal helps. And upgrading center speaker might help.

The Logitech you mentioned is actually called the "Transporter" I believe. That is a network music streamer. It has an Asahi Kasei Microdevices DAC (digital to analog converter). Model # AK4396 rated at 24 bit 120 db s/n ratio. The denon 4311 has a similar dac same brand but only 110 s/n. The yamaha 3000 series and onkyo 5000 series use dac's rated same as transporter. Even better is the esstech sabre 32 bit dac found in the Oppo 95 bluray player. A few $3000+ receivers may now offer this dac if you are willing to pay. Save your money. The room calibration (eq) software is more effective.

Once you set your receiver up properly, the most important factor is quality of source. Audio and video over bluray is almost always awesome. Dvd audio is almost always great and the video is sd. CD quality audio is almost always good, but old music etc. can still sound lousy. Mp3 etc. digital stereo quality can vary greatly. Most of my mp3 music is 320 bitrate and I don't want restorer messing with it. 128 bitrate music usually sounds noticeably worse and probably can use digital magic. Network streaming quality can vary greatly. Movies and audio streamed for cheap or free usually send low quality audio. Pandora music is free for me, but sounds terrible. That may be your main problem. And boost that center channel volume. So what speaker brand/model was that again?
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post #16 of 17 Old 06-17-2012, 11:16 AM
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Quote:
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OK I fired up the machine and while watching a cable channel I pressed 'restorer" button... But nothing happend or rather nothing changed on the small LCD display of the Denon. So this does not seem to be a feature which helps with speech audio.
I just did some more research. Forgot to mention that hd service over cable or satellite (I use directv) should send 5.1 audio so restorer won't work, but an article about netflix movie streaming said most devices will only stream 2.0 audio with movies. This is a serious downgrade. The apple tv2 can stream 5.1 netflix over high speed broadband. Audio quality also depends on device used and speed of connection. Cable tv internet is usually fast. What device are you streaming netflix through and do you have hd cable service?
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post #17 of 17 Old 06-18-2012, 12:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Many thanks for the comments and info.

I am using as center speaker a JBL Northbridge E Series EC35. It is situated immediately below the Tv at appoximately (within inches) of ear levels. Yes I have run the Audyssey setup that came with the Denon 3803.

Before the advent of digital TV the sounds appeared better when run through a similar receiver set up. I find even cable TV (I use FIOSTV) only average quality re speech and streaming services are far worse, presumably because the data is compressed further.
Yes I did mean the Transporter by Logithech and thanks for the update there.

I have a number of streaming systems.
Logitech Squeeze Box for music (MP3s etc rippped at bettwen 192 - 256)
Roku for many flims
And lately I have been using much more Microsoft XBox because I find their video streaming better and presumably audio capability as well. Too early to judge this though.

Whenever possible I use Dolby 5.1

To describe better what I mean by clipped. With Analog voice reproduction there appears a smoother transition into individual words. With compressed digital audio I hear a more abrupt start to words and endings which my ears feel as far less pleasant.

I also get the feeling that many services push music sound levels higher as that is what many, more youthful?, customers want while audio dialog volumes need manadatory upward adjusting.

I will read the suggested Denon thread now.

Thanks again.

Ian
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