My,, how I love forums....
Some of my background.
I have been written up in various magazines like Perfect Vision, Stereophiles Guide To Home Theater and Robb Report. Ive had mentions in Stereophile and The Absolute Sound. The theaters I do tend to be reasonably high performance and got noticed. I did the CES DTS booth system for years.
Im a engineer who, back in the day, made the best video projector taking awards for "product of the year" from Stereophiles Guide and Perfect Vision. Even today its almost impossible to beat the picture with even a professional D-Cine projector.. So I do understand analog engineering. I use post production equipment for home theater use. I have extensive experience building my own high performance audio gear. I'm a hobbyist in analog engineering.
Ive been doing high performance theater gear since before Dolby Pro Logic. Back during Laser Disc days.
Exotic high performance theater is my career. Been doin it for like 20+ years now.
I never meant to bash a product. I just feel some of the products mentioned are not at the same level of performance as the 861/40/707
The reason I am posting is to see what might be out there worth looking into.
Responses in chronological order:
I know, I know, the rack ears make for sonically inferiority and not being able to see it while listening makes for a lesser experience.
If you cant see it your wire run lengths might be so long your loosing tons of performance right there. The longer the wire the more loss. Period. You might have noticed most super high performance 2 channel audio has very short wire run lengths. This is for a reason. The same applies to theaters. I have clients where the gear is all up front close to and inbetween the speakers and it needs to look as good as it sounds.
Style is a important design consideration IMHO. Products in the price class can afford to have good styling. The simple fact is the ADA is ugly. Sorry it just is. You are absolutely correct tho, style is not the most important quality at all. In fact it could be butt ugly and I would not care at all. Its all about how it sounds.
have you heard them or are you just commenting on them with no first hand experience...
I have 2 decades of experience with all these brands. Some brands have specific sound characteristics IMHO. Brands tend to have sonic characteristics in my experence. ADA and Classe are examples in my opinion. NOT BAD just not at the level of engineering or performance that the Levinson has IMHO. I am always willing to revisit a product and do direct A/B.
Personally the only way I truly judge a piece of gear is to put both products into the exact same system and A/B. Ive done that for decades. For example 861 vs 40. Ive done that over and over. These are very close and have things that are good for both. Ive done this with previous casablanca processors, I personally have always preferred the 40/861 over the casablanca in the past but again, its fairly close.
Using a special DTS QUAD copy of Dark Side Of The Moon ( not that horrible 5.1 version ) is one of my test discs. I use this to judge multi channel imaging. Quad requires 4 equal channels of reproduction. IE all four speakers/amps/interconnects all need to match. This is a very difficult test. I listen for imaging between the rear channels also between the fronts and rears. I have used this test for quite a while. Normal surround processors do not put real effort into the rear channels. This is instantly apparent using this test. Rears are almost a after thought for most companies. Not so for the 40, 861 and casablanca. The 40 *for some unknown reason* is just WAY better at this test. The rear channel processing or analog stages is just way better. I honestly dont know why. Rear channel performance is important for more then just multichannel music, movies benefit greatly from good rear channel reproduction.
I also do a whole list of other things each time I evaluate some new product. Even the GUI and automation protocols are important to me. I am also a Crestron programmer so I do nice fully 2-way interfaces to these products and how they work is also important.
ANYWAY.... Yes I do lots of direct testing trying as hard as possible to do direct A/B using very high quality gear in the rest of the system. Typically I use the very highest end product from amps/speakers to interconnects. This is a luxury I have that most reviewers dont have because I have access to both products at the same time and the rest of the gear tends to be state of the art revealing the differences in the products more clearly.
There seems to be big differences in the sound for every surround processor so far in my experience. No piece of gear sounds the same.
I also have a list of clients who all have very high performance systems and all of them play with new gear all the time. So I also get to do A/B's in a number of systems to confirm what I have personally experienced. Also this client base is very experienced in high performance gear with decades of experence as well and offers me lots of feedback on products as well.
I have clients with both tube based and transistor based systems.
I also can luckily count a few well known reviewers as friends. I get interesting product info from them as well and can ask them what they think of something off the record.
spearl8, thank you for a civil response.
The 707 is HDMI 1.3 and it's fantastic. I wouldn't be surprised if the 707 is better in every way over your 40. Quite an expensive piece if you're only using it for HDMI though. An S-1200U or Classe SSP-800 are probably your best bets for your needs.
Price is not really important in my quests, performance is. Im looking for the very best performance devices.
The 707 is interesting and I do not have direct A/B experience with it yet. Do not simply write off any product like the 40 without direct A/B. The 40 is a very impressive bit of engineering and a huge expense went into making it.
You can see from a photo on their site that it seems to use a switching power supply
That's a toroidal (linear) power supply upper right
Indeed thats what I thought too, but if you look at that board on the far right it seems to have too much electronics on it for a linear supply. But yes, could well be. Hard to judge... Maybe there are other things on that board. Switchers can have toridal designs. In fact its the best way to make a switcher.
You guys should have caught me on that one because a Meridian 861 uses a switcher
and it sounds good !... hehehe, you missed flaming me there, come on I expected more ! hahaha... i love forums..
Levinson uses stock decoder chips too. Logic 7 is an overlay on top of that. Nobody makes their own chips. Only Meridian AFAIK writes their own code, and not for the hi-rez codecs. The SSP 800 has more MIPS of DSP power 1200 I think vs. the G68 and 861 which have 900, so in that sense it's a more 'powerful' (and therefore better) processor.
Hmmmm.... I would have to open up a 40. I was told over and over again when the 40 came out that they wrote their own code. This was a selling feature at the time and was part of the whole 861/40 era. I think you might be mistaken here. BUT I might be as well. I dont equate 'powerful" with better of course, its all about the math, its all about the algorithms. Meridian is famous for this. As a AES member I have listened to many fun papers delivered by Dr. Rhonda Wilson over the years at AES shows. She is quite the algorithmist.
I was under the impression that the 40 used "balanced DAC's" IE 2 DACs in a complimentary arrangement and these drove the balanced outputs. I was told once long ago that these dac's derived their signals way back in the decoding stage ? Is this complete marketing BS ? I was also told all 6 channels did this and had equal analog parts so every channel had the same quality and signal path. I have not personally opened up a 40. This is weird as I usally open up everything.
I think the 40 seems to have exceptional analog signal path engineering after the DAC's,,, as has been the tradition in the pre Harmam days of Levinson products.
I have not personally opened up a 40 to verify these things. I have opened up many other products like the 861 however. I will in the upcoming months however just because I am curious now.
Perhaps better men than I can look at the innards and tell how something sounds. Me, I'm limited to hearing with my ears not my eyes.
I think with your engineering knowledge if you opened up enough gear and also listened you would start to notice correlations. Having built my own gear since I was 16 I have clearly noticed certain parts have certain sound characteristics. Caps, various way of making a gain stage ( transistor vs op-amps )... In fact every part seems to effect sound. Ive done lots of A/B of various specific electronic components. So when I look at gear and I see specific parts in a signal path I do think its possible to generally get a idea for a basic class of sound quality. Mostly this applies to really high end audio like tube gear or high end transistor gear BUT this of course also applies to a surround processor.
Whew.... I do hate defending threads in a forum. Its a lot of work..