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Owen_Electric
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Hooking up a dac

I have a yamaha tsr series reciever that is powering two klipsch epic cf 2 speakers. I almost always use itunes from my pc connected to the reciever via hdmi. i currently am playing the music at a 24bit/192khz rate, but am still hearing distortion and a lot of harshness. i am planning on getting the MF M5si integrated amp, but have also been thinking of getting a dac. the MF V90 dac looked real nice, but how am I going to hook that up to my system without losing any sound quality from the hi res hdmi, or am I just making stuff up? I am unfimiliar with optical and coaxial cables, so compatabitly issues that I am not aware of would be nice to be pointed out as well. thanks

mtymous1
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Qs About Your Components, Library, and Connections
Owen_Electric wrote:

I almost always use itunes from my pc connected to the reciever via hdmi. i currently am playing the music at a 24bit/192khz rate, but am still hearing distortion and a lot of harshness.

What kind of PC are you using? Does it have only HDMI out or other audio-capable connections (not including the 3.55mm jack)?

Which receiver do you have?

Is your library mostly 24/192 or a mix of bit-depths and frequencies?

Which file format(s) are you playing in iTunes?

Since all of the TSRs are network-capable, I would recommend streaming your library through the AVR to see if that makes a difference in playback.

Owen_Electric
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Info

I am using a custom PC with Win 10 (link for specific parts: https://pcpartpicker.com/user/Owen_Electric/saved/8Ktd6h) I also use an HP pavilion laptop using Win 10 that is up to date with hardware made around 2016 when I bring my speakers outdoors.

I use the Yamaha TSR-7810

I set playback on the iTunes store to be 24/192 so I am assuming my whole library will be that quality. As far as I am aware, downloaded music straight from iTunes comes in the AAC file format.

I don't hear any difference from streaming rather than using it downloaded.

The reason I have been using an HDMI is because I had a nice one lying around, and decided it will make a good fit for sound.

mtymous1
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A few tidbits

1. While you may have your iTunes set 24/192, it doesn't mean that your content is playing back at such. Be sure your settings for the on-board audio are also set to 24/192 in the OS.

2. AAC does not support 24/192. Additionally, none of the content you buy from crApple is high-resolution material. You're only as strong as your weakest link, so even though your settings may all be at 24/192, your content likely isn't encoded as such.

3. In terms of sound quality, HDMI is inferior to coax and optical.

That said, I recommend trying a few things first before rushing out to buy more hardware and/or components:
1. Use the coax and/or optical outputs instead of HDMI.

2. Disable any compressed music enhancers on your Yamaha AVR.

3. Instead of using your custom-built machine to play music, use the built-in streaming features of your AVR. Your Yamaha can stream DSD (up to 5.6 MHz) using DLNA.

4. Try playing files from a USB stick.

5. Download some sample high-resolution files (http://www.hdtracks.com/hdtracks-2018-hi-res-sampler and https://www.nativedsd.com/homepage/samplers) and see if you can actually hear a difference.

There are more suggestions to tweak, but those are the higher priority and bigger-bang-for-the-buck suggestions to implement before running out and buying more hardware.

Owen_Electric
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iTunes

I have been doing a lot of research on getting good sound from iTunes, considering my family has a membership for the music like would be found on Spotify. I have found that some songs are only sold in 14/44.1 but some people have found a way to get 24/192? The information I have found is very conflicting to the truth. Also, the properties of the downloaded files are saying VLC MP4 Audio file rather than AAC. Also, it appears as though HDMI is better than optical from what I have found.

To test if I was even downloading the music at 24/192 (my settings in playback) the file stayed the same size from 16/44.1 to 24/192 proving it was not playing at a higher quality. Although, I did change my os from 16/48 to 24/192 which was one problem I could solve.

I disabled one music enhancer on my AVR, but didn't hear a difference.

Streaming directly from my AVR didn't want to work no matter what I tried.

Those HQ tracks did sound very good on my speakers, so I am missing out on something. Although, the treble sounds harsh even the HQ tracks, but that may be due to my AVR or Klipsch CF-2s.

mtymous1
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Streaming via DLNA
Owen_Electric wrote:

Streaming directly from my AVR didn't want to work no matter what I tried.

Actually, you want to stream TO your AVR, FROM your computer. You'll need to set up a media server on your computer that supports DLNA. Here is a list that compares various media server solutions and their features: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_UPnP_AV_media_servers

(FWIW, I recommend Universal Media Server.)

The intent behind this suggestion is to rule out connectivity issues that stem from the computer in your delivery stream.

mtymous1
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DACs are not connected via HDMI
Owen_Electric wrote:

...have also been thinking of getting a dac... but how am I going to hook that up to my system without losing any sound quality from the hi res hdmi, or am I just making stuff up?

Owen_Electric also wrote:

Also, it appears as though HDMI is better than optical from what I have found.

Not sure where you are finding that "HDMI is better than optical" in terms of sound quality, especially since HDMI produces more jitter than optical does.

I am unaware of any DACs that utilize HDMI for either input or output.

Owen_Electric
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Optical

I have no issue buying a nice optical cable, so I will throw one in the amazon cart, and also if I plan on getting a dac in the future, I can actually utilize it.

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Universal Media Server

That makes much more sense. Is there any way I can up my files to be something at least similar to FLAC or change it from 16/44 to 24/192?

mtymous1
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Upscaling
Owen_Electric wrote:

Is there any way I can up my files to be something at least similar to FLAC or change it from 16/44 to 24/192?

Upscaling files is something that some software, DACs, and receivers can do (like the Compressed Music Enhancer feature in your TSR-7810). Lots of debate about it, but in your case the fact remains that once bits have been discarded from the source and a new compressed file results without them, you cannot restore the original bits.

Generally speaking, an upscaled file won't sound as good as a file with higher resolution provenance. There is also no SQ benefit by converting a lossy file format (where the bits were already discaeded) to a lossless one.

More on file formats:
https://www.audiostream.com/content/computer-audio-101-file-formats

Owen_Electric
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New Solution

Because everything stored in iTunes is low quality, I have been searching for CDs. I have found tons of CDs from the 80s and 90s that I had left laying in the back room. I ripped a few in the AIFF format to my iTunes library, and they sound great. I guess I will try to use the CDs whenever possible, but any recent pop/country song that comes out will have to stick to the LQ sound. And when it comes back to it, should I purchase a DAC for an opitcal connection from my PC to the AVR?

mtymous1
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Other New Solutions
Owen_Electric wrote:

Because everything stored in iTunes is low quality, I have been searching for CDs. I have found tons of CDs from the 80s and 90s that I had left laying in the back room. I ripped a few in the AIFF format to my iTunes library, and they sound great. I guess I will try to use the CDs whenever possible, but any recent pop/country song that comes out will have to stick to the LQ sound. And when it comes back to it, should I purchase a DAC for an opitcal connection from my PC to the AVR?

I wouldn't use iTunes, nor would I rip to AIFF since it takes up too much space. (Refer to the link above on file formats.) Use Exact Audio Copy and rip to compressed FLAC (http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/). Plenty of better playback options instead of iTunes, too.

I would suggest trying out a lossless streaming service as opposed to downloading lossy files from iTunes. Here are a few suggestions:
https://www.audiostream.com/content/computer-audio-101-streaming

If you want to continue purchasing downloads, check out these hi-res download sites:
https://www.audiostream.com/content/resources-hi-res-music-download-sites

With respect to the question on DAC connection, the best way to connect a DAC to the PC is via USB. The MF V-90 you are considering only has a an RCA output, so that's how you'd be connecting to your amp.

FWIW, you should consider an amp upgrade (like the M5si, but NOT another AVR) if you want to use an external DAC - I don't think you would get much in return if you were going to connect your DAC to an AVR, especially the V90 since it only goes to 24/96 via USB. Both the V90 and your AVR use Burr-Brown chips. Your issues seem to be more about source quality and delivery stream -- I recommend you resolve those issues and optimize first, before considering any new purchases.

(Since you have a custom-built PC, you could also consider upgrading your machine's DAC with this: https://www.stereophile.com/computeraudio/asus_xonar_essence_ststx_soundcards/index.html
...but only if you want to keep your PC connected to the AVR. This negates the need for a USB connection while also giving you optical / coax / RCA output options. I have a Xonar Essence STX and an STX II and they both sound wonderful!)

Owen_Electric
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iTunes

What's wrong with iTunes when it comes to sound quality? It's an ease of access for me to put them in that library with my other downloaded songs. I need to keep my iTunes subscription because of playback on my families phones. I am not worried about storage, so as long as there is no SQ difference, I have no problem with AIFF.

HDtracks is my go to for downloading new music at this point. Much better than iTunes.

I was planning on getting the MF M5si anyways, so if a DAC is not necessary, I won't plan on getting one.

Can I use the STX 2 for headphones and output to my hifi system?

mtymous1
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iTunes...

- doesn't support FLAC or DSD (important because your AVR supports ALAC only up to 24/96)
- doesn't sell high-resolution options
- doesn't support ASIO
- doesn't support DLNA (important because your AVR supports DSD up to 5.6 MHz over the network)
- doesn't support multi-channel
- imposes DRM.

(That last one has nothing to do with SQ, but it needed to be emphasized.)

You can find plenty of dissertations that rival "War & Peace" in length why not to use it, but will leave that up to you to search.

JA's headphone listening review of the STX can be found here:
https://www.stereophile.com/content/asus-xonar-essence-ststx-soundcards-follow-september-2010

And yes, you can use the STX II for headphones, as well.

Owen_Electric
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Alt

What is the best alternative for iTunes?

mtymous1
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Not alternatives...

...but superior playback applications such as JRiver Media Center, foobar2000, Kodi, and even VLC are good starting points.

JRiver is the most comprehensive of the suggestions and requires purchasing a license, but you can try it free for 30 days. The others are all free. (JRiver and foobar both support ASIO.)

If you really cannot let go of your iTunes crutches, I suggest you get yourself a NAS that has iTunes server features built-in along with the more superior DLNA/UPnP protocol. (The Synology DS218play is a prime example of such a device that will satisfy your AAPL end-clients as well as streaming to your AVR. https://www.synology.com/en-us/products/DS218play)

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Another tweak...

...is to electrically isolate your networked audio, with how-to steps here:
https://www.audiostream.com/content/electrically-isolate-your-networked-audio

For best results, be sure to incorporate the fiber cables as close to the end-point as possible. (The article's author opted to implement near the switch, as opposed to the end-point.)

I have personally implemented this tweak and it delivers the best bang-for-the-buck by far, in my personal delivery stream.

Owen_Electric
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Optical

Optical can carry 24/192, correct?

I bought - https://www.amazon.com/Digital-Optical-CableCreation-Toslink-More-Black/dp/B01JIE0BIE/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=25ft+optical&qid=1554679584&s=gateway&sr=8-8

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Optical
Owen_Electric wrote:

Optical can carry 24/192, correct?

I bought - https://www.amazon.com/Digital-Optical-CableCreation-Toslink-More-Black/dp/B01JIE0BIE/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=25ft+optical&qid=1554679584&s=gateway&sr=8-8

Correct. Of course, your source must be encoded at that sample rate, and all components in the delivery stream must also be capable of the same sample rate.

HOWEVER...

Here are some facts about the MF components you are considering:

V90 inputs are:
1x RCA coaxial connector SPDIF 32-192 kbps (16-24 bit stereo PCM)
2x TOSLINK optical connector 32-96 kbps (16-24 bit stereo PCM)
1x USB type ‘B’ connector - Asynchronous data stream at up to 24-bit/96kHz (Determined by source file/computer settings)

M5si Digital Input:
1x USB type ‘B’ connector - asynchronous data (stream at up to 24-bit/96kHz)

That said, the V90 only goes up to 24/96 via optical.

Also, you won't be connecting the V90 to the M5si via optical - the V90 only outputs via RCA.

commsysman
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System Choices

The Yamaha receiver is crap and so are the Klipsch speakers.

Get rid of those first and then deal with other issues.

The MF amp is excellent, and that will be a huge improvement.

Take the sound out of the analog output jack of the computer (speaker/headphone out jack-3.5mm) and run it to the analog input jacks of the amp.

Use the HDMI for video only as needed.

Owen_Electric wrote:

I have a yamaha tsr series reciever that is powering two klipsch epic cf 2 speakers. I almost always use itunes from my pc connected to the reciever via hdmi. i currently am playing the music at a 24bit/192khz rate, but am still hearing distortion and a lot of harshness. i am planning on getting the MF M5si integrated amp, but have also been thinking of getting a dac. the MF V90 dac looked real nice, but how am I going to hook that up to my system without losing any sound quality from the hi res hdmi, or am I just making stuff up? I am unfimiliar with optical and coaxial cables, so compatabitly issues that I am not aware of would be nice to be pointed out as well. thanks

Owen_Electric
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System

The Yamaha avr is fine for the price tag, and still acts as a decent hub for the MF integrated amp and other external hardware. Every audiophile out there will say that non heritage Klipsch speakers are bright and harsh. While harsh at high volumes, the bright can be tamed by a warm amp. I love the forward sound of the horns on the Epic CF 2 speakers and the bass can be compensated for by a sub.

I am planning on buying the Asus Essence STX 2, as it fits the situation very well. I was previously recommended to get an optical cable, of which I bought. Is it that big of a game changer to use the dac in the stx 2 rather than the one in my avr?

mtymous1
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STX II Specs
Owen_Electric wrote:

I am planning on buying the Asus Essence STX 2, as it fits the situation very well. I was previously recommended to get an optical cable, of which I bought. Is it that big of a game changer to use the dac in the stx 2 rather than the one in my avr?

You can still use an optical cable with the STX II - it just has to be a mini toslink connector at the soundcard terminal. You also have the option to use digital coaxial (RCA connector), as well as good ol' analog RCA. If/When you acquire the integrated amp, you will want to connect the STX II to it via analog RCA.

Asus holds nothing back on all of the STX II's specs:
https://www.asus.com/us/Sound-Cards/Essence_STX_II/

I am unaware of your AVR's specs on electrical isolation, power supply, jitter, SNR, THD, etc., so am unable to make a detailed comparison. Experience dictates that good performers advertise such things, but it's always best to conduct listening tests.

Please post as your upgrades come in and get connected.

(FWIW, I still insist that the best sound you can get from your AVR is to employ its streaming features, and not through its various inputs -- ESPECIALLY NOT via 3.5mm from your computer!)

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Upgrades

So far I have purchased a S/PDIF cable, and a JRiver Media licence (it didn't take very long for the software to grow on me).

The STX 2 is next up on the list, but another problem has arisen. I have 96/24 songs downloaded from HDtracks loaded up onto JRiver, and although my desktop PC is already capable of doing 192/24, my laptop is lagging. It can only output 48/24 and the only listed audio output is the 3.5mm jack. I don't use my laptop nearly as often as my desktop (only for outdoor use), but I was thinking about getting an external dac for it using a USB B input then converting to analog. Is there a good solution to this?

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External DAC

I'm not personally sold on an outdoor space as being conducive to critical listening, but you can certainly use an external DAC for your laptop - there are many (almost too many) options in every price range. However, if one of your use cases is outdoor use, you might want to consider leaving the laptop inside and going with one of the various Fiio players: https://www.fiio.com/player

In additon to being a portable hi-res player, some of them can function as a DAC, headphone amp, and streamer all-in-one. Some even use DLNA which makes things even easier if you were to use your desktop as a media server. (JRiver includes a DLNA server, renderer and controller. The controller can play media from the DLNA server to another copy of Media Center or to a device:
https://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/DLNA)

The players are a lot less bulk than a laptop.

I gotta ask: how are you listening (or plan to listen) to your laptop outside? Outdoor speakers connected to the AVR (or forthcoming amp)? Portable speaker? Other?

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Outdoors

Well, I detach all the wires, and move the speakers out to my back patio/in the car, and hook em up to the AVR just like normal. In the past, I have plugged the laptop into the AVR via HDMI and played the music that way. The only problem I have had with this setup is on cold nights below 40F when the laptop can't handle it. It's a little messy but manages to get the job done very well (especially with no wind).

A reason I am getting the MF M5si is for the power to drive the speakers at as close to concert level as possible for these situations. (Yes, I live in the country).

It's by no means practical, but a hell of a lot of fun.

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Outdoor alternative steps

1. Set up whichever machine that's running JRiver Media Center as a Digital Media Server. (Also ensure this is the machine with all of your music downloads and rips.)
2. Ensure both the AVR and JRMC machine are on the same network.
3. Download Yamaha's MusicCast app to your mobile device of choice and use it as the Digital Media Controller.
4. Since your AVR supports local library AND a plethora of streaming services, listen to your heart's content!

You already have the equipment you need for that use case -- no need to purchase additional equipment unless you want to.

If you don't have an Ethernet solution for your AVR, check out one of these:
https://www.amazon.com/Monster-Power-Connectors-Powerline-Technology/dp/B00S7LEK3W

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Update
Owen_Electric wrote:

I have a yamaha tsr series reciever that is powering two klipsch epic cf 2 speakers. I almost always use itunes from my pc connected to the reciever via hdmi. i currently am playing the music at a 24bit/192khz rate, but am still hearing distortion and a lot of harshness. i am planning on getting the MF M5si integrated amp, but have also been thinking of getting a dac. the MF V90 dac looked real nice, but how am I going to hook that up to my system without losing any sound quality from the hi res hdmi, or am I just making stuff up? I am unfimiliar with optical and coaxial cables, so compatabitly issues that I am not aware of would be nice to be pointed out as well. thanks

A month after your original post, how did things turn out?

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Progress

Improvements have been made. Although, I am still waiting on the STX 2. The MF M5si is also on my mind for a future upgrade.

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