Finally got my XMC-1 yesterday which I ordered on April 30 (doesn't this seem like a long time?). I thought I'd share my first impressions. The main reason I bought this SSP was to provide high quality 2.1 channel audio playback with bass management integrated into my 7.2 channel home theater system. Japanese receivers just don't sound good enough for 2 channel audio and the boutique brands are too expensive and often have no available room correction.
So far I've tested 2.2 channel audio with only rudimentary set-up of speaker distance, levels, cross-overs, and stereo subwoofers. No surrounds hooked up and no Dirac yet. I've tested the USB and HDMI inputs using DVD-A iso's, SACD iso's (DSD converted to PCM), CD-Rez, and Hi-Rez FLAC files. For playback software I used J.River, Foobar and Kodi (XBMC). I did all of my playback testing on a HTPC. Sorry, I don't use those (obsolete?) shiny discs anymore.
Comparing the XMC-1 to my high quality 2 channel pre-amp (Stello Ai500), I was very impressed. The XMC-1 had a very dynamic sound, with great clarity, a nice soundstage and imaging. The bass was very punchy and the subs (Rythmik E15HPs) blended very well with the main speakers (Aerial Acoustics 7T).
If I had to chose between the HDMI and USB inputs I would give the HDMI a slight edge. Both inputs produced excellent sound but the USB input produced very slight popping or clicking sounds when switching from track to track manually. Interestingly, this effect became more pronounced as the size of the music files increased. It was most pronounced with the SACD iso files, better with the Hi-Rez FLAC files and almost completely imperceptible with CD-Rez FLAC files. The HDMI input was always flawless with all files.
Next step is to hook up the center and surrounds and set up Dirac this weekend. I have a few questions that I was wondering about:
1. Because I bought the Dirac Live update, is there any point in trying the Dirac LE first?
2. Regardless which playback software I use, my display shows 24 - 44.1 for the bit-rate and sample rate when I play standard 16-44 FLAC files. I've triple checked the audio settings in all three players and Windows 7. Sample rates are always correctly displayed with any of the hi-rez files. I've got the latest 3.0 firmware. Does anyone else have this issue? Any suggestions? I'm trying to figure out if this is a XMC-1 issue or if I'm doing something wrong.
3. Finally, will Dirac be available with multi-channel PCM inputs (eg. DVD-A or SACD)?