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post #1 of 12 Old 06-01-2020, 10:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Question How to get maximum from my FLAC files? (equipment setup help)

Hello guys, amazing people here!
I need some advice. I love my stereo music, but I'm not sure if I'm doing it right.
This is my setup:
HTPC with FLAC files on internal HDD --> HDMI cable to Marantz SR6013 AVR --> connects to 7.1 surround and TV, but as we're talking only stereo here the main speakers (L and R) are Mirage FRx Seven (subwoofer is Yamaha YST-SW1500)

How do I play my files? I usually turn on my PC and play them with foobar2000. How's the sound? I like it, but I'm constantly thinking about ways I could upgrade it
Other ways I tried:
- playing files via HEOS app (built into AVR) where HTPC is used as a music server
- building an external player with Raspberry Pi and ALLO - Boss DAC (connecting with RCA cables to AVR), playing via VOLUMIO
- playing flacs from USB external drive connected to my AVR USB port

Which way sounds better? To be honest, I don't know, maybe my ears are not trained enough
I've read that for best results audio mode on my Marantz AVR should be either "direct" or "pure direct". I usually use just direct because in pure direct my subwoofer is not working (and I love a good bass).

Would you say that one route is better then the other or are they mostly the same soundwise?
Any other ideas to try? Would I improve my sound if I plugged in an extra amp that would serve only the main speakers? (I have a Yamaha A-S300 that I do not use at the moment).
Or would the biggest improvement - as I've read - come from changing front speakers?

I'm really trying to learn, but sometimes information can get overwhelming
Thanks for any advice guys and stay safe!
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post #2 of 12 Old 06-02-2020, 03:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PunisaAudio View Post
Hello guys, amazing people here!
I need some advice. I love my stereo music, but I'm not sure if I'm doing it right.
This is my setup:
HTPC with FLAC files on internal HDD --> HDMI cable to Marantz SR6013 AVR --> connects to 7.1 surround and TV, but as we're talking only stereo here the main speakers (L and R) are Mirage FRx Seven (subwoofer is Yamaha YST-SW1500)

How do I play my files? I usually turn on my PC and play them with foobar2000. How's the sound? I like it, but I'm constantly thinking about ways I could upgrade it
Other ways I tried:
- playing files via HEOS app (built into AVR) where HTPC is used as a music server
- building an external player with Raspberry Pi and ALLO - Boss DAC (connecting with RCA cables to AVR), playing via VOLUMIO
- playing flacs from USB external drive connected to my AVR USB port

Which way sounds better? To be honest, I don't know, maybe my ears are not trained enough
I've read that for best results audio mode on my Marantz AVR should be either "direct" or "pure direct". I usually use just direct because in pure direct my subwoofer is not working (and I love a good bass).

Would you say that one route is better then the other or are they mostly the same soundwise?
Any other ideas to try? Would I improve my sound if I plugged in an extra amp that would serve only the main speakers? (I have a Yamaha A-S300 that I do not use at the moment).
Or would the biggest improvement - as I've read - come from changing front speakers?

I'm really trying to learn, but sometimes information can get overwhelming
Thanks for any advice guys and stay safe!
All of the methods of getting the flac file to the marantz should be the same, you should get all the ones and zeros to the marantz. When I had a Denon, I typically used the usb port. As far as direct or pure direct goes, most AVRs don't do anything on pure direct but cut off unneeded video circuitry and the front panel display. They still do a/d and d/a conversions but without any room correction applied. Most don't have a real bypass of the conversions. Denon, similar to marantz, even says in their manuals that it cuts off unneeded circuitry.That is why there probably isn't any advantage in connecting an external DAC via RCA, the marantz will still do the conversions of that signal even on pure direct. The 6013 also uses the AKM 4458 dac, which although relatively inexpensive, isn't a slouch as a DAC, many components use it, the Oppo 203, my Anthem AVR, etc. If you are using direct, that's probably still using your sub and room correction to blend the sub in. I don't think you'll get any better, given your set up. I don't think a low level yamaha a-s300 is going to offer any improvement over the marantz in 2 channel mode. Now if you had the yamaha a-s3000, that would be different!!

A nice integrated with home theater by-pass may provide some improvement, but at a pretty significant cost. You can take advantage of room correction for blending in your sub properly and get better amplification for FR/FL.

Supercharged Song Towers, Oppo BDP-203, Anthem MRX-520, LG B6 OLED
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Last edited by glangford; 06-02-2020 at 03:10 AM.
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post #3 of 12 Old 06-02-2020, 05:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by glangford View Post
All of the methods of getting the flac file to the marantz should be the same, you should get all the ones and zeros to the marantz. When I had a Denon, I typically used the usb port. As far as direct or pure direct goes, most AVRs don't do anything on pure direct but cut off unneeded video circuitry and the front panel display. They still do a/d and d/a conversions but without any room correction applied. Most don't have a real bypass of the conversions. Denon, similar to marantz, even says in their manuals that it cuts off unneeded circuitry.That is why there probably isn't any advantage in connecting an external DAC via RCA, the marantz will still do the conversions of that signal even on pure direct. The 6013 also uses the AKM 4458 dac, which although relatively inexpensive, isn't a slouch as a DAC, many components use it, the Oppo 203, my Anthem AVR, etc. If you are using direct, that's probably still using your sub and room correction to blend the sub in. I don't think you'll get any better, given your set up. I don't think a low level yamaha a-s300 is going to offer any improvement over the marantz in 2 channel mode. Now if you had the yamaha a-s3000, that would be different!!

A nice integrated with home theater by-pass may provide some improvement, but at a pretty significant cost. You can take advantage of room correction for blending in your sub properly and get better amplification for FR/FL.
Thank you for the input! Yeah, Yamaha a-s3000 would be sweet, if I had the funds
So basically whatever I do my music will be transformed from digital to analog by AKM 4458 DAC in my Marantz? Even when I supply it via RCA cables? Does my music in that case gets "processed two times" if I use external DAC such as the mentioned ALLO BOSS? Still a bit confused. Also, does in that case even matter what software I'm using in my HTPC if audio is supplied via HDMI? I would guess it's raw digital data and the "big job" gets done inside the AVR? One more question - I have "preouts" on Marantz, that also just "moves on" the already processed music for amplification (external AMP), no bypasses here, right? Or...?
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post #4 of 12 Old 06-02-2020, 08:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PunisaAudio View Post
Thank you for the input! Yeah, Yamaha a-s3000 would be sweet, if I had the funds
So basically whatever I do my music will be transformed from digital to analog by AKM 4458 DAC in my Marantz? Even when I supply it via RCA cables? Does my music in that case gets "processed two times" if I use external DAC such as the mentioned ALLO BOSS? Still a bit confused. Also, does in that case even matter what software I'm using in my HTPC if audio is supplied via HDMI? I would guess it's raw digital data and the "big job" gets done inside the AVR? One more question - I have "preouts" on Marantz, that also just "moves on" the already processed music for amplification (external AMP), no bypasses here, right? Or...?
A different chip in the marantz will take the analog in and change it to digital, apply processing, then use the 4458 to turn it into analog again to amplify. My advice with an AVR is to leave everything in the digital domain as long as possible. Feed the AVR digital from HDMI, optical, etc., then let the AVR do its processing. The 4458 is not a flagship dac, but it is a very good dac chip nonetheless. It sounds very good on my oppo 203.

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Headphone Rig: Oppo BDP-95, Burson Audio Soloist MKII Headphone amp/ Sennheiser HD800S, Sennheiser HD650
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post #5 of 12 Old 06-04-2020, 03:16 PM
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I ran into the same issue trying to do Stereo Music VIA a AVR

My Marantz 7011 was setup for a 5.1 surround system which worked great.

My FLAC files were on a USB drive/NAS drive

Tried RPi with Allo DigiOne Signature ( two board setup ) with Digital out to the Marantz. The sound was good but seemed lacking

Next I tried getting a Seperate DAC SMSL SU8 ( $250 )and a Crown XLS 1002 amp ( $350 ) and bypassed the marantz completely.

So Rpi/Digione Signature BNC out to SMSL SU8 Dac and XLR out to Crown Amp best sound setup to my ears.

I like the crisper sound of horn tweeters ( think Klipsch ) and this combination made my 20 year old Mission Argonaut's sing.

The Marantz was a softer/ mellower sound that tended to round off the highs.

Bottom line you can get a simple A/B speaker switch which provides for two amps with one set of speakers for $60

https://www.amazon.com/Amplifier-Rec...ronics&sr=1-12

Since I predominately listen to Music This worked for me

Good Luck and Happy Listening

Jim Meader

Audirvana on Win 10 PC, USB out to SMSL SU8 DAC, XLR out to Crown XLI 1500 amp, full range signal sent via RCA to 12 inch Klipsch sub, Audirvana accesses FLAC Music files on USB Drive
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post #6 of 12 Old 06-05-2020, 03:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by JimMeader View Post
Tried RPi with Allo DigiOne Signature ( two board setup ) with Digital out to the Marantz. The sound was good but seemed lacking

Next I tried getting a Seperate DAC SMSL SU8 ( $250 )and a Crown XLS 1002 amp ( $350 ) and bypassed the marantz completely.

So Rpi/Digione Signature BNC out to SMSL SU8 Dac and XLR out to Crown Amp best sound setup to my ears.
Hello, thanks for sharing! I was thinking about bypassing my Marantz too and having a simple switch between home cinema and pure stereo.

Your setup looks really cool, but can you tell me what does "Allo DigiOne Signature" do exactly (sorry for being a noob)? I've checked their page and I'm not sure I'm getting it.
Is provides SPDIF capability to RPI so you can connect it to your external DAC. That part I do get, but what's the deal with premium aspects of it? I mean, there is a small add on for RPI called "tinyToslink" that gives you that capability for 10x cheaper price. Isn't "digital=digital" (ones n zeroes) no matter how you deliver it to the DAC? Again, I'm pretty sure that there is something missing in my knowledge

Also, Crown XLS 1002 looks amazing!
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post #7 of 12 Old 06-05-2020, 07:13 AM
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I believe the below process is what it takes to play music from a digital file ( FLAC ) on a hard drive


Music files are on a hard disk in a computer, USB drive or NAS drive
Music files were created with a quality software ( in my case Exact Audio Copy @ 16/44 ( FLAC )
Using Moode Player software on a RPi ( others could be inserted here also ) or similar on PC or Mac

Step 1 Moode sees the music file and reads the digital file
Step 2 Moode software converts/upscales the digital file to the highest level your DAC can handle
Step 3 Moode sees my USB DAC and sends the digital stream to the DAC
Step 4 The DAC senses the digital stream and converts that digital stream into an analog signal
Step 5 the DAC then sends the analog signal out via XLR or RCA depending on DAC capability
Step 6 The XLR or RCA is connected to a PreAmp or directly to and amp which amplifies the analog signal to the speakers and we here music.

So the RPi with the Digione Signature becomes an ability to find, read, process and render a FLAC music file into a digital stream which then the DAC ( Digital to Analog Convertor ) passes to the preamp or amp. The digiOne signature has better electronics used in the process

The DigiOne Signature's two board system is expensive in relationship to other RPi products, but the two board combination with two different power supplies measures extremely well. Bottom line This is just another way to play music the brand names are just different

I believe most serious music lovers would be hard pressed to find fault with the sound coming from this setup. There are many products out there that do the same thing like https://us.auralic.com/collections/all but they all have to do the same process shown above, it's all about the engineers design, the electronics used and of course marketing.

I truly believe that if you had one amp and one set of speakers and a A/B source switch any difference in your listening experiece would be nominal between the RPi system or the Auralic system

Oh Well enjoy the music

Jim Meader

Audirvana on Win 10 PC, USB out to SMSL SU8 DAC, XLR out to Crown XLI 1500 amp, full range signal sent via RCA to 12 inch Klipsch sub, Audirvana accesses FLAC Music files on USB Drive
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post #8 of 12 Old 06-05-2020, 07:13 PM
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How to get maximum from my FLAC files? (equipment setup help)

Look at Roon to get your files from point A (HTPC) to point B (streamer and/or Dac) losslessly and with a nice interface (controllable from any pc or mobile device). Be warned though, Roon is expensive.

You will need a Streamer and or Dac to act as the Roon endpoint. Recent Denon/Marantz AVR’s can act as a Roon endpoint via AirPlay. If your flacs are 16 bit/cd quality, Airplay is good enough. If you have Hi Res files or want to play MQA/Hi Res files from Tidal/Qobuz via Roon, then you may need a different endpoint that supports it.

Your HTPC can also act as an endpoint if it is near the AVR, or get a device - it may possible the Allo signature can act as an endpoint. Your AVR can act as a Dac and also apply Room Correction, which should give you the best sound.

There are other options for an endpoint - Blusound Node 2i - can play your flacs and Tidal etc. it has a nice interface on its own, so can work very well without Roon. It can also act as a lossless Roon Ready endpoint.

MiniDSP SHD - This is a great device - it can act as an all in one - high quality Dac, VolumeIO streamer and Dirac room correction. You can feed the analog out of the SHD to the AVR that simply acts as an amplifier in pure direct mode. The SHD can also do bass management, so your AVR is pure pass through.

If the SHD is too much, the MiniDSP 2x4HD with Dirac is also a good option, and much cheaper. It’s Dac is not as good as the SHD (probably not noticeable), and it doesn’t have built in Roon or streaming so you will still need a steamer (like the Node 2i, or RPi or Allo Digital) to act as an endpoint.

Dirac room correction is much better than Audyssey (although Audyssey is pretty good) and can make a huge difference to the sound quality - probably the biggest upgrade you can make

Last edited by thebrieze01; 06-05-2020 at 08:28 PM.
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post #9 of 12 Old 06-05-2020, 07:41 PM
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There are many ways to do the same thing and I would agree with everything thebriez01 pointed out.

That is the good news, we all have options sometimes choosing is a bitch because there are so many good options.

I went through my long process trying different options ( my choices were based on fewer dollars ) but I have enjoyed the process.

I enjoy my music and often just sit by myself and listen to my albums, of course a nice glass of wine helps

enjoy the process and the music

Jim Meader

Audirvana on Win 10 PC, USB out to SMSL SU8 DAC, XLR out to Crown XLI 1500 amp, full range signal sent via RCA to 12 inch Klipsch sub, Audirvana accesses FLAC Music files on USB Drive
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post #10 of 12 Old 06-05-2020, 09:16 PM
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How to get maximum from my FLAC files? (equipment setup help)

JimMeader summed it up pretty well. There are lots of choices, and you need to figure out what’s important - for example minimal cost, one box solution, gradual upgrades over time, best SQ, flexibility, user interface etc. to help you choose among the options

Any digital system will have the following pieces.
Source -> Transport -> Endpoint/streamer -> Dac -> amp -> speakers

Very often components will combine multiple functions into one, which can help reduce (or sometimes increase) cost. There’s also Room correction (Audyssey/Dirac) if that’s important to you - it was vital for me.

In your case the source is your HTPC and flac files, it could also be a streaming service like Tidal. And you’ll likely use the Dac and amp in the AVR,

The options in my post above focused on the Transport and endpoint/streamer

If your HTPC is near your AVR, you could minimally use something like Roon or Audirvana (much cheaper, potentially better SQ, not as nice user interface), and need nothing else. (Maybe a USB to spiff converter)

If you want a separate endpoint (better SQ, more flexibility), you have a few more choices to make - see my post above.

The Blusesound Node 2i is also a good minimal solution, since the built in transport (BluOS) is free and has a decently functional user interface. If you decide to add Roon later, it can act as a Roon endpoint. It also supports MQA and hi res, if you get into those file types.

Last edited by thebrieze01; 06-05-2020 at 09:24 PM.
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post #11 of 12 Old 06-11-2020, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PunisaAudio View Post
Hello guys, amazing people here!
I need some advice. I love my stereo music, but I'm not sure if I'm doing it right.
This is my setup:
HTPC with FLAC files on internal HDD --> HDMI cable to Marantz SR6013 AVR --> connects to 7.1 surround and TV, but as we're talking only stereo here the main speakers (L and R) are Mirage FRx Seven (subwoofer is Yamaha YST-SW1500)

How do I play my files? I usually turn on my PC and play them with foobar2000. How's the sound? I like it, but I'm constantly thinking about ways I could upgrade it
Other ways I tried:
- playing files via HEOS app (built into AVR) where HTPC is used as a music server
- building an external player with Raspberry Pi and ALLO - Boss DAC (connecting with RCA cables to AVR), playing via VOLUMIO
- playing flacs from USB external drive connected to my AVR USB port

Which way sounds better? To be honest, I don't know, maybe my ears are not trained enough
I've read that for best results audio mode on my Marantz AVR should be either "direct" or "pure direct". I usually use just direct because in pure direct my subwoofer is not working (and I love a good bass).

Would you say that one route is better then the other or are they mostly the same soundwise?
Any other ideas to try? Would I improve my sound if I plugged in an extra amp that would serve only the main speakers? (I have a Yamaha A-S300 that I do not use at the moment).
Or would the biggest improvement - as I've read - come from changing front speakers?

I'm really trying to learn, but sometimes information can get overwhelming
Thanks for any advice guys and stay safe!
If you haven't run Audyssey yet, that will be the best short term thing you can do to improve sound. Dynamic Volume off and I would have Dynamic EQ off, too. Both Direct and Pure Direct turn off any audio processing, including bass management, so I don't understand how you would be getting sound out of the sub with two-channel audio with Direct. The vast majority of people will not get the best sound out either of the Direct modes, that would require a near acoustically perfect room and full range main speakers.
If you serve your files directly to the AVR or use the USB input the receiver is unpacking the files and playing the content at whatever resolution it is. I have attempted to use the USB input on my Denon 8500 and found it was not able to handle to amount of files on my HD well, but otherwise worked fairly well. I have not tried to serve to it.
If you have a PC connected via HDMI/SPDIF the player you are using will unpack the files and send LPCM to the receiver. If you are using the default Windows audio driver this will convert any file to a set resolution. This resolution can be changed but has to be done manually. A better option is to use an output mode that allows the PC to deliver an unmodified bitstream, like WASAPI. This eliminates any effects, etc. added by the audio driver and eliminates any System sound, which could be good or bad depending on your preferences. Supposedly, this mode can be used with Foobar, but I've never been able to figure out how. I do use it with JRiver, but that has to be purchased.
Using an audio mode like WASAPI should mean there is no practical difference between the sound of using HDMI from a PC or serving/USB. Preference will likely come down to ease of use.
The biggest part of achieving the sound you want, whether that be "most accurate" or something else, is likely to be the room (physical treatments/correction like Audyssey) and the speakers/speaker placement.
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post #12 of 12 Old 06-11-2020, 06:00 PM
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Heya,

HTPC + Foobar2k output to AVR via HDMI is as simple as it gets for a PC really. Unless you just want another GUI to access everything where you see lots of flashy album art and stuff, then I would potentially look at something like Kodi maybe (though its more for movies, but works for music too; again only if you want a flashy GUI).

On your AVR, simply set it to "stereo" when you're wanting to do a 2 channel setup. No fancy processing. You will not hear any quality difference between direct, pure direct, etc. Just set to stereo, no processing, no nothing.

You'll get far, far more of a quality maximizing effect from room treatment, room correction and EQing your system to your liking.

Very best,
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