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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone,

I have a Late 2014 Mac Mini connected via HDMI to a Yamaha RX-V373 receiver which is driving a pair of Polk Audio Monitor 5 speakers. The Yamaha's HDMI out goes to my TV and I can sit on the couch with my wireless keyboard/mouse and life is good. I'm using Audirvana to playback my collection of FLAC files local to the internal SSD. A hunch tells me adding a decent DAC, maybe a Modi 3+, would improve the sound quality. I could plug a DAC into the Mini via USB and pass the RCA stereo analog output into the Yamaha's "CD" analog input where I now have my CD player.

First question - I've read a lot about the possibility of the Yamaha's analog inputs down-sampling the signal and or processing it through the internal BurrBrown DAC, effectively rendering the external DAC useless. It does have a "straight decode mode", from the user manual - "When the straight decode mode is enabled, each speaker produces its own channel audio signal (without sound field processing)" which doesn't explicitly say it will bypass the internal DAC or seem to be as good as the "Pure Direct Mode" on higher end models which claim to turn off more circuitry in an attempt to pass the signal through cleaner. Is the DAC worth adding to the signal chain? I feel as if there will either be a clear audible difference or no difference at all.

Second question - If I were to add a DAC, the Yamaha's input would have to be switched to "Audio 1" for the RCA inputs and I'd lose the video from the HDMI channel. I could plug the Mini's HDMI directly into the TV but then would have to switch both the TV input and receiver input each time I want to change inputs to a game system or cable box, defeating the purpose of the receiver. I don't have a multi-function universal remote yet. I can't find a way to set the analog inputs as the primary output for the receiver and still get video through HDMI.

Any help is much appreciated, maybe there is a better solution or equipment I am unaware of!
 

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If you find a place to buy the DAC with a generous return policy, you can try and see for yourself, as your ears are the final judge.
Some AVRs allow you to have the video come from HDMI and audio from an optical or analog input. I don't know if/how your specific receiver does that.
Additionally, some Yamaha receivers have a capability called "Scenes" where you can set a specific input combination and DSP processing and store it under one of several scenes.
I'm not very familiar with it, but it may be possible to set a scene up for audio/video from HDMI and one for video from HDMI and audio from another source (if the capability exists on your receiver).

First question - Is the DAC worth adding to the signal chain? I feel as if there will either be a clear audible difference or no difference at all.
Second question - I can't find a way to set the analog inputs as the primary output for the receiver and still get video through HDMI.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If you find a place to buy the DAC with a generous return policy, you can try and see for yourself, as your ears are the final judge.
Some AVRs allow you to have the video come from HDMI and audio from an optical or analog input. I don't know if/how your specific receiver does that.
Additionally, some Yamaha receivers have a capability called "Scenes" where you can set a specific input combination and DSP processing and store it under one of several scenes.
I'm not very familiar with it, but it may be possible to set a scene up for audio/video from HDMI and one for video from HDMI and audio from another source (if the capability exists on your receiver).
@philpoe The scene idea worked like a charm! I set a scene with the AUDIO 2 input and enabled HDMI control via the receiver settings. It enabled the HDMI passthrough but at first was showing just the smart TV apps.. once I disabled ARC it used the HDMI output from the receiver and now I have audio from my CD player (soon to be a DAC) and video from the mini. Going to pull the trigger on the Modi 3+ and see if I can hear a difference. Will report back, thank you for the help!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@philpoe The scene idea worked like a charm! I set a scene with the AUDIO 2 input and enabled HDMI control via the receiver settings. It enabled the HDMI passthrough but at first was showing just the smart TV apps.. once I disabled ARC it used the HDMI output from the receiver and now I have audio from my CD player (soon to be a DAC) and video from the mini. Going to pull the trigger on the Modi 3+ and see if I can hear a difference. Will report back, thank you for the help!
After adding the Modi 3+ into the signal chain.. I can confirm there is a difference in sound quality to my ears and the ears of others. The Modi seems to have opened up the sound field and allowed for a wider stereo image. This is most evident to me in the higher frequencies, guitars, vocals, and horns sound brighter. Even with the DSP effects of the receiver being turned on, I still think there's a sound difference. For anyone in my situation running their setup through a receiver, I would recommend adding a DAC.
 
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