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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Like many of you I have upgraditis. My current system while functioning properly is in need of help, but I'm not sure if now is the proper time. I have a compilation of products that allows me to listen to music and watch DD/DTS DVD's.


Here's the rub though. There have been many discussions about digital outs on DVD Audio or SACD players. For the most part these discussions have been excellent and informative. I believe I understand the camp that believes that analog outs are better/superior to digital outs. BUT, I am worried that if I upgrade now I will be getting an interim product.


Discussions with industry and online as well seem to indicate that like it or not digital output is a matter of when not if. This means that while current generation players and preamps/receivers will continue to function properly, you may miss out on some functionality such as expanded bass management.


In a perfect world, I would be able to buy a DVD-Audio/SACD/DVD-V, CD player right now with digital outs. I would also have a preamp capable of accepting these inputs and more from Firewire/IEEE1394. Same goes for a HD capable TV.


The arguement against digital outs usually says that manufacturers are worried about the ability to make perfect digital copies of DVD-Audio/SACD. While true, I don't buy it. I don't see people selling bootleg DVD videos.


I believe this has more to do with royalties than anything else. So Sony vs. the world continue to battle it out in yet another format war. Let's face it, most people don't know about, never heard of, nor care about DVD-Audio/SACD. The market, while it might possibly grow in the future, is slim to say the least. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Then again I could be wrong.


So I'm hesistant to buy a new preamp, DVD player, or HDTV right now. The problem is I want these updated products. However, as someone who has had to implement auxiliary products to keep up with certain formats I would like to and might just have to wait it out a little longer for things to shake out.


My .02, please let me know what you have heard or what boat you are in as well.
 

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Well let's talk about a few things about which you are confused:

Quote:
I believe I understand the camp that believes that analog outs are better/superior to digital outs. BUT, I am worried that if I upgrade now I will be getting an interim product.
In consumer electronics, everything is an interim product ;-)


Seriously, right now, unless you have something along the lines of the Accuphase setup, or the Sharp One-bit setup for SACD, or get the MSB modifications for DVD-AUdio, Analog output is your ONLY access to high-resolution sources in all their native glory.

So it is superiour to a downmixed digital output at this point in time. It's about the best available signal.


The rest of your arguments about when/if are relatively valid -- and something that we've been saying for a while. Unless you have really deep pockets, the only way you're going to be listening to the high-res sources at this time is analog.


Expanded bass management when we go digital? Sure -- but it'll be costly because most existing receivers / processors lack the DSP MIPS to do realtime MLP decoding and bass managment. The same holds true for time alignment in the digital domain. Short term solution for bass management? Outlaw Audios ICBM.


I understand you're sitting on the fence. You aren't an early adopter. Some of us are.


I too would prefer a digital connection, I have 13 pairs of analog ICs in my system, and would love nothing more than to get rid of a bunch of them in favor of a single digital connection to carry the DSD or DVD-A high-res stream.


Regards,
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
First of all, damn, damn, damn, I composed a lengthy reply a minute ago and used the spell checker and the next thing you know the window shut down.


Thanks John for your reply. I would like it if you would expand upon the lack of current generation DIP's to process bass management in real-time. Not aware of that.


Here's an example that a lot of people use to explain the current state of audio. It's like a computer, if you buy now then soon after there will always be something better. I don't totally buy into that since all the format on the video and audio are pretty well set. Sure we can talk about 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 or whatever, but it's DVD in either DD or DTS for video and CD, DVD Audio or SACD for audio.


As you ascertained, I am not the earliest of the early adopters, but I'm not far behind. I bought my first DVD player two years ago. They had been out, what, a year or so. It was and is a Panasonic DVD-A110. It's fine, but nothing great. Like most folks I started out life with vinyl and cassettes playing through a receiver. Later branched into components what was fine too.


But things started getting murky with home theater. I bought a Rotel piece that was only Pro Logic. Soon thereafter DD came along. So off to the same store to buy another Rotel with 5.1 inputs. Later bought the DVD player, extra amp and outboard decoder. Still have this setup and it works fine.


But it isn't state of the art or even close now. And I've got a bunch of black boxes in my stereo cabinet. Now, don't get me wrong, like most guys I like electronics and usually the more the better. But the bottom line is that I'm worried if I bought a Ref 30 or the new Outlaw 950 I wouldn't be totally satisfied a year from now.


Why? My worries or question really boil down to when the digital outputs will arrive. I am concerned about this not only from the player standpoint, but probably more-so from the preamp side. Somewhere along the line the TV will be upgraded, but I'm not too worried about that right now.


Thoughts, comments?
 

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See, if you spelled purrfectly you'd never need to use the spell checker ;) I'm human, I make typos, and this isn't a paper I'm writing, or a review being published :p


It's very simple about MIPs. It takes nearly all the DSP horsepower on current products just to do the MLP decompression. There are insufficient MIPs to do the MLP unpack AND do bass managment in real time.


My guess? Probably 6 months or so before that becomes a non-issue from the DSP manufacturers, and another 6 months after that before its available in consumer electronics pieces.


DVD players came out in 1997. I've owned for 3+ years, so I'm at the tail end of early adoption on DVD-V. I am an early adopter for DVD-A (happenstance) and haven't yet purchased an SACD player I can call my own. Not that I prefer one over the other... they're both capable of extremely good reproduction. I'm just waiting for the right multi-channel player to come along ;)


The current state of digital audio isn't like a computer, it is a computer. A DSP is nothing more than a special purpose computer. Modular architectures are starting to become the norm, and heck some of the best DVD players on the market utilize DVD-ROM drives. And just like with computers, it's obsolete about a week after you've bought it ;)


The problem with the increasingly digital nature of our setups is that the rate of change is very rapid. Yesterday's state of the art, is this years budget special that's horribly outdated, which makes it very tough for the average person, let alone the afficianados.


Regards,
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I still don't understand why real time bass management is an issue, but I'll take your word for it. How is that they can do real-time bass management for DVD- Video, but not DVD Audio? I assume it's related to the greater data that must be processed. But as you said that will soon be solved.


I wasn't aware of the processing power issue, but to me the real issue isn't that or the ability to make "perfect copies"; it is all about royalities of one form or another. And I don't care about that, I just want what I want.


So it appears that all things will be different in a period of 6-12 months? If so, then I can probably hold out since I feel that there are other issues that will need to be resolved and by then it might just happen.


What do you expect to happen in terms of connectivity with regards to preamps in the near future? I guess, in my uniformed mind, I expect that something like Firewire/IEEE1394 to become the standard and to make connecting various input devices much easier.


I still don't buy the computer analogy, except for the processing power though. The formats are there, it's all about connectivity. Yes, DSP chips will become more powerful, but unless they actually improve the sound then what's the point?


I listened to a CD in DPL II and DTS Neo6 the other day and was not impressed. Just give me the capability play DVD in video and audio and I will be happy.


Thanks and sorry if this message is a bit incoherent, but the football game just ended and the toddies flowed.


RAL
 

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RA:


Because the DSP requirements are much higher. The MLP algorithm is quite complicated. There are various strategies employed to get the compression level high enough for 6 channels of 24/96, all of which have to be accounted for, then 6 streams of PCM output for the DACs to decode. By the time this is done, there are insufficient cycles to do Bass Management.



Delving deeper into things... It's not that DD or DTS are "simple" algorithms, but they have as little as 1/20th to 1/4 of the data to operate on (384 to 1536kb/sec) whereas MLP for a 24/96K datastream averages around 6000 kb/sec, and peaks out at 9000+kb/sec. So you have to operate on a larger amount of data in the same window of time. DSPs are rated on Millions of Instructions per Second. By having a much larger datastream to operate on, you've effectively cut the power of the DSP down drastically.


I'll try to build an analogy for you.


Take a program like Solitaire. It runs great on something as slow as an old 486 computer. Now take the latest version of Adobe Photoshop. It simply does not have the horsepower to run this program.


Sounds like a crazy comparison, but that's the best I could come up with off the top of my head.


Regards,
 

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Quote:
I still don't buy the computer analogy, except for the processing power though. The formats are there, it's all about connectivity. Yes, DSP chips will become more powerful, but unless they actually improve the sound then what's the point?
It does improve the quality, if you need bass management. I think you may be confusing two different issues. The DSP power is not the reason there is no digital out for DVD-Audio. That is solely dependant on copy protection approved by the studios. It turned out to be very convenient for the studios that the current digital outs do not have the bandwidth to carry DVD-Audio, mandating a new connection specification. It makes it easier for them to stall on the digital out.

John's point on the DSP power was that even if there was a digital out right now, the current DSP's in receivers could not do the MLP decompression AND Bass Management. And, Yes, DVD-Audio has much more data to process for Bass Management which needs more MIPs. To use another (computer) analogy, it would be like trying to run Quake3 on an old 386. Yes, it could render the graphics, just not real time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks guys for your responses. I appreciate your understanding of the inability of the chips to properly perform bass management now. Another thing I think I am gathering is this (and feel free to correct me):


The current digital cables used for instance by DVD players cannot handle the bandwidth? If so, then the only option for a digital connection from a DVD Audio/SACD player to a receiver would HAVE to be Firewire or equivilant. Yes? No? Maybe?


If that holds true then things are actually starting to get clearer. So what is left to be resolved? Well, the studios or whoever need to agree to digital outs. BTW, who exactly is in charge of not allowing digital outputs right now anyway? Is it the studios? I would think that there must have to be a committee or working group.


Once agreed on digital output then the receiver/preamp manufacturers would need to improve the chips in their products to handle the extra horsepower needed.


So we end up with preamps/rec's with firewire in several places and improved processing power. Hmm, sounds good to me. Certainly at this time the players themselves could incorporate bass management. While I have no idea if current chips could do this, I'm sure that it is only a short period before that level of power is reached and it shouldn't be a terribly expensive thing.


Have I got it or am I misconstrueing things?


Thx


RAL
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by John Kotches



In consumer electronics, everything is an interim product ;-)


John, this is a positively Churchillian statement. In fact, in years to come, when we look back at the Second Great Format War, I think this may catapult you to Churchill-like status.


We'll be talking then of Kotchian statesmanship. "As Kotches once said . . .


We were here. He walked among us.


Nick :cool:
 

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RAL,


No, the cables themselves are not an issue. (Well, there may be a bitrate problem with Toslink opticals.) Certinly 75 Ohm coaxial cables can handle whatever bitrate is thrown at them. The technical problems are in the digital electronics needed to process the audio datastream.


The legal problems are indeed with the studios. They do not want it to be possible for just anyone to make perfect copies of their high resolution audio and video products, whether SACD, DVD-A or HDTV.


Right now, the only digital DVD-A player and pre/pro combination that can actually be purchased is made by Meridian. The studio licensing bodies approved Meridian's proprietary encrypted digital interconnect.


It does seem likely that IEEE 1394 (aka Firewire aka iLink) will be the favored digital transport method in the next few years. Most studios have already agreed on an encryption method for that interconnect and several IC manufacturers are busy producing the chips for it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks Seldon, although I admit the confusion isn't apparently ceasing. Here is what I think I know so far.


1. The studios don't want perfect copies so they are against digital outputs of signals such as SACD DVD-A and HDTV.


2. The processing capability most, if not all, chips cannot handle real time bass management for things like DVD-A.


3. Meridian has a processor and DVD-A player that can handle this digitally.


This begs the question since #1 & 2 make sense then why does #3 exist? I'm aware that Meridian was deeply involved in the development of MLP, but so?


And if manufacturers have agreed on an encryption system to be used with Firewire/IEEE1394 then what's the holdup? BTW, I was not aware that they had actually come to an agreement on that issue, but my lack of knowledge doesn't count for much.


Thanks and I look forward to your reply.


Ashford
 

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:D


Churchillian?


:D


I just said it for a laugh, although it least in some respects I do in fact resemble old Winny..... I'm overweight, Winston was overweight. That's probably the only way I compare with him ;)


But glad to see my comment was taken in the spirit it was given!


Regards,
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Why is it that Meridian can output digital signals and others can't?
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by John Kotches
:D


Churchillian?


:D


I just said it for a laugh, although it least in some respects I do in fact resemble old Winny..... I'm overweight, Winston was overweight. That's probably the only way I compare with him ;)


But glad to see my comment was taken in the spirit it was given!


Regards,
Actually, John, there was a grain of seriousness to my post (not the Churchill part . . . sorry). There's a balance to be struck between early adopting every possible device, and "waiting" for the ultimate. I thought your comment sized up very well why waiting is just as crazy as early adopting everything.


Nick :cool:
 

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RA,


More food for your acronym soup.


Meridian's digital output is an encrypted digital link, to which only they have the keys in their product. The call the technology MHR (for Meridian High Resolution).


So the way they are getting around is a proprietary encrypted link between the components of their digital theatre.


Regards,
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
John, yeah pretty soon the alphabet soup will look a bit jumbled. So Meridian has an extra spicy encryption code for their products. Well, what does it do and why would it or a similar encryption method be adopted by everyone else?


Seems like it would be a good licensing money maker for them. And I'm sure it's only a matter of time before that happens. But then what do I know?


Thanks and if you would care to 'splain a bit more about their technology, I would listen.


Ashford
 

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Quote:
Well, what does it do and why would it or a similar encryption method be adopted by everyone else?
MHR is exclusive to Meridian. They have no plans to share it with anyone. This keeps it more secure. It actually does more than just encrypt.


They had no choice but to develop their own encryption until a standard interface is ready. The reason is their main speakers only accept digital inputs. They make systems that go digital from transport -> processor -> speaker. Their processors only work in the digital domain so analog makes no sense to them. It would have been much cheaper to use a standard interface, but one does not exist today.


With the 800 series, the MLP decoding is done inside of their DVD-A player and the speaker delay and bass management is done in their surround processor.


I believe the 598 DVD Player will do all internally. The 598 will be sometime early next year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Sspears, thanks for your reply. I didn't realize that all of their products/speakers were powered and thus required this type of input.


Even so, what's so special about the way they encrypt their machines that allows them to pass muster while others can't?


Thanks


Ashford
 

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My guess is that Meridian did it in order to keep their customers happy and because they had an employee who had the skill, knowledge and contacts to be able to write the necessary code. There are very few people who can do this, and they get paid very, very well. Meridian charges high-end prices for their high-end equipment, so they can afford to do it. Since this gives them a significant marketing advantage for only a few years, there's very little incentive for them to make it available to anyone else.


Most digital audio manufacturers purchase pre-programmed DSPs. They don't write their own firmware. Apparently many of the manufacturers who use Motorola chips are still waiting for Motorola to produce THX-EX, DTS-ES and DPL-2 decoders, for example. (Supposedly they're just starting to ship.)


Those audio companies don't have the resources to produce their own encryption products, either. Since the Firewire encryption chipsets are already in the pipeline (from Sony and TI, at least, according to their Web pages), it also doesn't make sense for anyone to even think about starting their own development projects at this late date.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I thought the hangup was encryption. I also thought that a single method or process of encryption was required by the manufacturers.


This appears to be incorrect. So what exactly are the manufacturers requiring as far as encryption to be able to output digital signals.


Thanks


Ashford
 
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