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post #1 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
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MiniDSP NanoAVR Processors with Dirac Live at CES 2015



Mark Henninger checks out the latest nanoAVR processors from miniDSP, which offer a way to add Dirac Live multi-channel room correction to a wide variety of AV systems.

When I first used the nanoAVR HD last year, I particularly liked depth and ease of use of its built-in software. I appreciated how it offered very fine control over bass management and EQ. In April, 2014 miniDSP debuted its first products running Dirac Live. At CES 2015, I had a chance to check out a nanoAVR DL as well as several other devices that run Dirac's highly capable room correction software.

Tony Rouget, the Managing Director at MiniDSP, showed me the company's lineup of Dirac Live-compatible devices, including the brand-new nanoAVR DLA. It features eight (unbalanced RCA) analog outputs in addition to HDMI connectivity. The result is a compact device that acts as a multi-channel DAC incorporating highly sophisticated DSP processing—Dirac Live. It accepts up to 24-bit/192 kHz audio, which it processes at 24-bit/96 kHz resolution. The nanoAVR DLA passes 4K/UHD video. It has a learning remote feature, plus there's an Android app for control over volume, mute, and presets. You gain full control of the nanoAVR DLA's functions when its connected by USB or Ethernet.

I also checked out the nanoAVR DL, which lacks the analog outputs of the DLA version. Otherwise it shares the same features and costs $620 in a package with the (required) UMIK-1 measurement mic. I costs $550 if you already have a UMIK-1, and thanks to the analog outputs you can use it in lieu of a pre/pro or AVR if its connected to active speakers or a multi-channel amp.

While I was there I also looked at the $1000 DDRC-88A, a Dirac Live-capable unit with 8-channel analog input and output. It's been out for over a month now, and AVS already a very popular thread dedicated to it, which you can check out here. The DDRC-88A includes both balanced and unbalanced connections and performs its processing at 24-bit/48 kHz resolution.


The backside of a DDCR-88A.

The nanoAVR approach to room correction is appealing because it's a separate component—with it, you can add Dirac Live to almost any HDMI-compatible system. And with analog outputs on the nanoAVR DLA, you only need an HDMI-compatible source!

I have several pre/pros and integrated amps slated for review that do not include any room correction. I plan to create room correction profiles for my reference speaker systems and using them with "zeroed out" AVRs, integrated amps, and pre/pros. Doing so levels the playing field between different devices from different manufacturers while providing the benefits of highly customizable room correction. Furthermore, it'll be interesting to find out how Audyssey, MCACC, YPAO, and other room correction systems compare to Dirac Live.

The nanoAVR DL and the DDRC-88A are already available. The nanoAVR DLA is coming soon but its release is still a couple of months away. When there's a firm shipping date or new pricing info, I'll update this post.


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Last edited by imagic; 01-27-2015 at 08:51 AM.
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post #2 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 01:35 PM
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Question, because I honestly don't know: what kind of audio stream is typically present with the HDMI output of an AVR? Is it just 2.0? Whatever was on the media? Processed (bass managed, etc.) 7.1? Or does it vary? IOW, if one plugs the nanoAVR DLA or a similar device into the output of an AVR or pre-pro, what will it see?

Also, I saw brief reports elsewhere of a "7.1 channel configurable" amp from miniDSP in full-sized (maybe 2RU high) chassis. Did you see anything about that?

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post #3 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post
Question, because I honestly don't know: what kind of audio stream is typically present with the HDMI output of an AVR? Is it just 2.0? Whatever was on the media? Processed (bass managed, etc.) 7.1? Or does it vary? IOW, if one plugs the nanoAVR DLA or a similar device into the output of an AVR or pre-pro, what will it see?

Also, I saw brief reports elsewhere of a "7.1 channel configurable" amp from miniDSP in full-sized (maybe 2RU high) chassis. Did you see anything about that?
Yes, there was a 7.1-channel amp with DSP capability. I got a photo of the back, let me see what I can dig up on that.


miniDSP 7.1 channel amp with integrated DSP capability.

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post #4 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 01:47 PM
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They'd be more interesting if they could decode surround sound formats instead of just lpcm.
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post #5 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 01:57 PM
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They'd be more interesting if they could decode surround sound formats instead of just lpcm.
Use your HTPC to do the decoding.
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post #6 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 01:58 PM
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Yes, there was a 7.1-channel amp with DSP capability. I got a photo of the back, let me see what I can dig up on that.


miniDSP 7.1 channel amp with integrated DSP capability.
Ethernet input only it appears. Darn. I read that and thought "what a great idea for the MF/HF section of biamped mains and four height speakers." But it looks like it would need another box (multichannel ADC) to make that work.

Any insight on what kind of audio stream typically emerges from an AVR or SSP's HDMI out?

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post #7 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 02:00 PM
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Use your HTPC to do the decoding.
Would rather let the htpc just bitstream it and not have to worry about various codecs and support libraries.
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post #8 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post
Ethernet input only it appears. Darn. I read that and thought "what a great idea for the MF/HF section of biamped mains and four height speakers." But it looks like it would need another box (multichannel ADC) to make that work.

Any insight on what kind of audio stream typically emerges from an AVR or SSP's HDMI out?
That's a USB input, actually.

You have me stumped on the AVR question, and I feel like I should know the answer. I'll make sure I do by this time tomorrow.

Mark Henninger

Last edited by imagic; 01-26-2015 at 02:03 PM.
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post #9 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 02:37 PM
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That's a USB input, actually.
Not analog, regardless.

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You have me stumped on the AVR question, and I feel like I should know the answer.
I feel like I should know it, too! The question never occurred to me until I saw your picture of the nanoAVR-DL. But IF AVR's typically output processed multichannel from their HDMI out, then this box seems to be the pick of miniDSP's multichannel Dirac offerings (for 8 or fewer channels): no AD-DA loop, cheaper than the DDRC-88A.

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post #10 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 03:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post
Ethernet input only it appears. Darn. I read that and thought "what a great idea for the MF/HF section of biamped mains and four height speakers." But it looks like it would need another box (multichannel ADC) to make that work.

Any insight on what kind of audio stream typically emerges from an AVR or SSP's HDMI out?
I think the answer is, it depends (as usual). In interviews with the engineers from Audyssey and other room correction sofware engineers (maybe Anthem's ARC?) I remember them stating that Audyssey (I think maybe all of them) processess only at 24/48khz so it "dumbs down" any incoming signal before applying the room correction (to avoid having the chips doing 4X the math on a DTS-MA signal). I think I read similar articles on Audioholics and Sound&Vision (or HomeTheatermag) if you want to google. Even if you chose not to have your receiver do room correction, in a situation like this you'd definitely want to think about using a Blu-ray player with DUAL HDMI outs, so it didn't chop your audio signal up before Dirac does it job. I'm not sure I'd trust a receiver to output the audio signal unchanged via HDMI...now, we just gotta get DirecTV/Dish/cable to start releasing boxes with 2 HDMI outs for when they eventually start sending out high-def audio signals (prob. not going to happen since that business model seems to be dying).

One would also need to be extremely careful to use only seperate amplifiers with these. After having just read the review of the Pioneer SC-89 flagship AVR, and the reviewer commenting that it seemed to do a double conversion on the incoming analogue signal from an external DAC (So, D to A then into the receiver, A to D and then D to A before finishing). This double conversion would defeat the purpose (and improvement gained by) the Dirac correction system. It would be interesting to know if there are any receivers that do NOT do an D/-A/D/A conversion from an digital source signal (thus the need for USB Audio inputs on home theater receivers, says the reviewer).

-Cory

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post #11 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by pottscb View Post
I think the answer is, it depends (as usual). In interviews with the engineers from Audyssey and other room correction sofware engineers (maybe Anthem's ARC?) I remember them stating that Audyssey (I think maybe all of them) processess only at 24/48khz so it "dumbs down" any incoming signal before applying the room correction (to avoid having the chips doing 4X the math on a DTS-MA signal).
I have no problem with that. Dirac as implemented in the multichannel miniDSP boxes will do the same anyway. My question is limited to asking what audio signal follows the video from a typical AVR or SSP HDMI out. The reasons I care are (a) this one is cheaper than the DDRC-88D and (b) it's smaller than the DDRC-88D. It also doesn't have an AD-DA loop, but that's of no audible consequence.


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Even if you chose not to have your receiver do room correction, in a situation like this you'd definitely want to think about using a Blu-ray player with DUAL HDMI outs,
Why would one want to forgo room correction when listening to music coming from the turntable, AppleTV, Roku, set top box, etc.?

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***the reviewer commenting that it seemed to do a double conversion on the incoming analogue signal from an external DAC (So, D to A then into the receiver, A to D and then D to A before finishing).
Of course any processor that does digital processing requires a digital signal. (That includes, of course, performing an A/D conversion on the signal from one's phono preamp.) And a USB input doesn't change that. Any digital pass-through will do: AES/EBU, optical, coax, USB, ethernet, etc. And, of course, any such pass-through will mean that the external DAC isn't actually doing anything.

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The audio output from an AVR/pre-pro's HDMI outputs is typically one of two things...

1) no audio output
2) Passthru audio output (whatever goes into the AVR/pre-pro is what comes out).

For the AVR/pre-pro's Zone 2/3/4 HDMI outputs it almost always simply passes the audio thru untouched. For the main zone a.k.a. HDMI Monitor Output A and (for those that have a second main zone output) B, the default setting is to only output video. The reason for doing this is due to the fact that the HDMI Monitor output usually goes to your TV/projector. Most TV's and projectors can only accept stereo audio from HDMI sources (though they can handle multichannel audio from their internal tuner and streaming apps). When you have audio passthru on your AVR/pre-pro's HDMI Monitor outputs turned off, the audio capabilities of your TV/projector are ignored and the AVR/pre-pro simply sends it's own EDID (for the audio portion) back to the source device, as it is seen as the only audio sink device. Your source device will then send whatever audio track you have selected (provided the AVR/pre-pro supports it). If you enable audio passthru on your AVR/pre-pro's HDMI Monitor Outputs then your TV/projector is also seen as an audio sink device. Your AVR/pre-pro will auto mix the EDID it sends back to the source device indicating the shared capabilities of both the AVR/pre-pro and the TV/projector. Since the source device can only send one audio track thru the HDMI cable connecting it to the AVR/pre-pro at a time, this means that if your TV/projector can only accept stereo then that is all the source device will send (meaning your AVR/pre-pro will also only receive a stereo audio track).

I assume (but don't know for certain) that the minDSP devices also have the ability to disable audio passthru from their HDMI output. This way you can plug it in between your AVR/pre-pro and your display and enable audio passthru from the AVR/pre-pro to the miniDSP while disabling audio passthru from the miniDSP to the display, allowing you to get multichannel audio to the miniDSP in this configuration. Because the miniDSP needs PCM (it can't decode Dolby/DTS/Auro/DSD/FLAC or any other compressed audio) and because most AVR/pre-pros simply pass the audio thru from the source device untouched, you would need to decode your audio in the source device.
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post #13 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 07:03 PM
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They'd be more interesting if they could decode surround sound formats instead of just lpcm.
MiniDSP tries to be economical as it cost money for the licensing to decode the surround sound formats.
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post #14 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 07:17 PM
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These guys (minidsp) come up with the coolest products! MiniDSP - if your listening, please have a balanced version of this as well!
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post #15 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 07:18 PM - Thread Starter
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These guys (minidsp) come up with the coolest products! MiniDSP - if your listening, please have a balanced version of this as well!
Indeed, I mentioned that would be a winner while I was there.
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post #16 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 07:38 PM
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Indeed, I mentioned that would be a winner while I was there.
A few questions:
1 - What's the difference b/w balance vs unbalanced version
2 - As of now, do we have a definitive guide available on how to use it (besides their manual)? It seems like there is a debate going on what the order should be of devices.
3 - Since AVR won't be doing much other than bass management, how do we achieve features like Dynamic EQ?
4 - Has anyone used it? A few graphs of Before/After would be great to see.

thx.
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post #17 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 08:20 PM
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Use your HTPC to do the decoding.
HTPC cannot decode Atmos.

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I think the answer is, it depends (as usual). In interviews with the engineers from Audyssey and other room correction sofware engineers (maybe Anthem's ARC?) I remember them stating that Audyssey (I think maybe all of them) processess only at 24/48khz so it "dumbs down" any incoming signal before applying the room correction (to avoid having the chips doing 4X the math on a DTS-MA signal).
Audyssey is far more taxing to the processor, then decompressing zip files like DTS HD MA, which is also the first step before any post processing being applied to the recovered PCM signal. The fact that most off the shelf DSP chips can't provide post processing like Audyssey to signals greater than 24/48k is not the program's shortcoming either, nor it would matter much to movie BD's as they are all 24/48. There are some music recordings that have higher sampling rates, but they are not mainstream in numbers. Of course this day and age one shouldn't have live with some limitations like this, but IMO room correction still gives a clear measurable advantage, vs higher sampling rates, so if I had choose between the two, the choice is obvious.

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post #19 of 283 Old 01-26-2015, 09:07 PM
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HTPC cannot decode Atmos.
Not yet.
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Not yet.

Yep, so for those who want the goodness that is Atmos (or Auro3D), they cannot decode in the HTPC.


I like your website, btw.

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Yep, so for those who want the goodness that is Atmos (or Auro3D), they cannot decode in the HTPC.


I like your website, btw.
Hi Mark,

If I send a two channel signal (stereo / 2.0) to Nanodsp DLA, could it change the signal to 2.1?
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Yep, so for those who want the goodness that is Atmos (or Auro3D), they cannot decode in the HTPC.


I like your website, btw.
It will be available eventually. At the moment how many movies are in Atmos for home use anyways ?
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I am really interested in NanoAVR-DLA which I can insert between my video processor & my dated but trusty receiver with multichannel analog imputs & get Dirac live in the process. Hopefully the pricing is reasonable. This product will breathe life into some of us who still have high performance AVR's without HDMI inputs or room correction.
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post #24 of 283 Old 01-27-2015, 06:43 AM
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HTPC cannot decode Atmos.
Even if you could decode Atmos in your HTPC, you would still be limited to 8 channels with the miniDSP. It's HDMI input only supports up to 8 channels of PCM audio and the models with analog inputs only have 8 of them. Same is true on the output side of the miniDSP devices. And, afaik, the Dirac software used by the miniDSP devices doesn't support the use of multiple miniDSP devices, which would be the only way around the hardware limitations of the current devices.

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post #25 of 283 Old 01-27-2015, 06:56 AM
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I am really interested in NanoAVR-DLA which I can insert between my video processor & my dated but trusty receiver with multichannel analog imputs & get Dirac live in the process. Hopefully the pricing is reasonable. This product will breathe life into some of us who still have high performance AVR's without HDMI inputs or room correction.
Just keep in mind that any EQ/room correction you do in the miniDSP will change the audio signal that your AVR receives. This will have an impact on your receiver's capabilities to correctly upmix the soundtrack to a larger number of channels via matrix processing. Because of this, it's recommended that you simply run the AVR in Direct mode.
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post #26 of 283 Old 01-27-2015, 07:33 AM
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Thankfully my receiver is straight passthrough using MCH inputs with out any further processing. This should work in my setup.
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post #27 of 283 Old 01-27-2015, 07:55 AM
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If the nanoAVR DLA goes from HDMI to analog, does that mean it will do bass management then which the other Dirac Live devices they sell don't seem to support?
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Even if you could decode Atmos in your HTPC, you would still be limited to 8 channels with the miniDSP. It's HDMI input only supports up to 8 channels of PCM audio and the models with analog inputs only have 8 of them. Same is true on the output side of the miniDSP devices. And, afaik, the Dirac software used by the miniDSP devices doesn't support the use of multiple miniDSP devices, which would be the only way around the hardware limitations of the current devices.
That I did not know, thanks.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by HFGuy View Post
It will be available eventually. At the moment how many movies are in Atmos for home use anyways ?
More than none.


The only player I can think of that might actually add Atmos (and DTS:X when it comes out shortly) is PowerDVD...but that also depends on the licensing costs.
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Non-standard RAIDs can recover deleted files. Anyone who says RAID protection is only for failed drives is lying.
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post #30 of 283 Old 01-27-2015, 09:25 AM
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These devices intrigue me....so let me ask:

Who is the target market for these devices?
-Custom installers who are used to separates and integrating them into a system?
-True HT Enthusiasts, those that go beyond your basic AVR set-up?
-2 channel audiophiles?
-DIY crowd who love to tweak everything?

Also, there seems so many room EQ solutions out there now, compared to just 2-3 years ago.

Is there a running list/thread of all room EQ devices and someone who's truly knowledgeable and does comparisons, both objective and subjective?
I'm thinking like zombie10k did for Projectors, that thread is a great resource and a defining benchmark thread for AVS'ers.
Projector Mini-Shootout Thread
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