Music in the Round #93: miniDSP & Ripping SACDs Page 2

There are many other DACs to consider in that price range, and many readers will already have favorites. If so, the U-DIO8 is the way to maintain your sound quality and your preferred sound quality when making the move to multichannel. Nor is there any shortage of choices for those who can spend more.

Enter Mytek HiFi's Brooklyn DACs. My experience of using them for multichannel sound goes way back to Mytek's implementation of a similar scheme of stacking DACs originally based on a proprietary ASIO USB driver (footnote 5), and, more recently, based on the use of a "virtual audio device" function built into MacOS. In both cases, the physical link was a USB hub, and because USB does not employ a discrete audio clock, linking the DACs' clocks was necessary. This requirement is obviated by the U-DIO8, which extracts the clock from the audio data and sends it to each of its S/PDIF outputs.

Given my experience with the miniDSP so far, I wasn't greatly surprised to hear that the Brooklyns à trois sounded no different hooked up to U-DIO8 from how they sound with their clocks linked. They offer a highly precise, detailed sound, with good bass and excellent reproduction of space. In clock-linked mode they can deliver PCM resolutions up to 32/384, DSD up to DSD256, or MQA, none of which is currently possible with the U-DIO8. That being noted , did I prefer the Mytek-miniDSP combo to the exaSound e38? I still don't know. Most of the time I prefer the e38, but the cooler sound of the Myteks is more appealing with certain recordings, particularly for the Brooklyn's various choices of digital filter.

Finally, I set up three Benchmark DAC3 HGCs, which, like the Myteks, are really digital preamplifiers with multiple analog and digital inputs, and are capable of higher PCM sampling rates and DSD. Benchmark has promoted using their DACs in this fashion, albeit with a PCi soundcard, so I anticipated no problems, and had none. The DAC3 HGCs lit up, locked instantly, and produced some of the most glorious multichannel sound I've ever heard from my system. Superficially it was very similar to what I hear with the exaSound e38—wide range, balanced, and dynamic—but it was also notably if subtly more detailed in the highs.


This was accomplished without brightness or etch; my reading of Benchmark's publications leads me to believe that they would ascribe this to their apparently obsessive pursuit of low noise levels. The noise specifications of the exaSound e38 and the Benchmark DAC3 HGC are both excellent, though there is a 3dB difference in their A-weighted signal/noise ratios: respectively, 125dB vs 128dB. Both levels should be inaudible, and I hear no noise per se from either—but the Benchmarks' more delicate treble contributes to my perception of the ambiences of recording venues, particularly in multichannel. A setup of one miniDSP U-DIO8 and three Benchmark DAC3 HGCs would cost $6884, a price I find appealing, coming as it does between the exaSound e38 ($3850) and the Merging Technologies NADAC+ ($12,000).

I hesitate to suggest that a trio of three different DACs would do the job—you can't be confident that they'll all have the same I/O latency, or that their individual clocks will behave identically from the start and/or over the long term. I can't even be absolutely certain that three units of the same model of DAC off the same production line will behave identically. I can say that, based on my weeks of listening, all four of the matched trios I tried behaved well.

As I mentioned, neither higher resolutions nor DSD are possible with the miniDSP U-DIO8, but despite my appreciation for those options, I play almost everything at 24/192 or 24/176.4, in order to use Dirac Live EQ, which for me has greater sonic appeal than higher sample rates.

Finally, there's the matter of volume control. This can be accomplished with a multichannel preamp, but that's another niche in which the choices are few. Alternatives are to control the gain with the music-player software, or with the direct analog inputs on a good pre-pro or AVR. In addition, some DACs that include remote control of volume will track nicely when using one remote for three DACs, the Benchmark DAC3 HGC being a good example.

The immediate impact: With a single inexpensive device, miniDSP has suddenly and effectively created dozens and dozens of multichannel DACs to choose from. Three or four samples of any DAC with an S/PDIF or AES-EBU input can now, together, act as a multichannel DAC when connected to a single miniDSP U-DIO8. All of those who've been complaining about the mere handful of multichannel DACs available: your time has come. The miniDSP U-DIO8 is as indispensable to multichannel audio as a cream filling is to an Oreo.

Ripping SACDs with an Oppo universal player
Only days after the July 2018 issue of Stereophile hit the streets, several readers e-mailed us about a passing comment in my column about using Oppo's BDP-103 and BDP-105 universal disc players to rip SACDs for my file server, asking for details. They knew about the older method of using an ancient model of the Sony PlayStation 3 to do this, but hadn't gone that route because of the difficulty of finding the right PS3 and the complexity of setup. I've used two old PS3s for ripping the DSD content of SACDs, and found that once I got it all set up, the process was relatively smooth. But using an Oppo is much easier.

I haven't written about any of these methods because they occupy a gray area of copyright protection, and in my general ignorance of such issues I'm loath to expose Stereophile and myself to legal action. All I'll do here is convey some information already readily available on the Internet, and provide links to the necessary programs and apps, none of which we will offer or host.

The following instructions are adapted from several websites (thank you, grill and haggis999) and describe just one way to do it—the easiest way, I believe. The original and most detailed source of information on this topic is the thread initiated by Ted B.'s original announcement on

You'll need to download and install two packages of applications. The first is an AutoScript package, that is installed on a USB stick. This will put your Oppo player into a state in which it will follow ripping commands sent from your computer. The second package is ISO2DSD, an efficient and handy graphic user interface (GUI), provided by Sonore, that will control the ripping of the SACD's entire contents to an ISO disc image file, as well as the extraction of multichannel or stereo track files to a playable format.

Following are the step-by-step instructions:

1) Connect your Oppo UDP-103 or UDP-105 player to your local area network (LAN), following the instructions in the player's manual. Write down the player's IP address. Make sure your computer is connected to the same LAN.

2) Copy the unZipped AutoScript folder to the root folder of a USB stick.

3) From Sonore ISO2DSD, download the iso2dsd_PC_v7 file (or the one appropriate for OSX or Linux). Put the unZipped files into a root directory on a drive of your computer. (Make sure the drive has lots of space; SACD ISOs are large.)

4) Turn off the player's Auto Play/Resume Modes and power down the player. Insert your prepared USB stick. Turn the player on again. The disc tray should open automatically.

5) Insert an SACD in the tray and close the tray. Wait until the player recognizes the disc.

6) Run iso2dsd_gui.exe from your computer. At top left of the menu that then appears, select "Server Input." Then, under "Output Mode," select "Raw ISO." In the IP Address Port window, enter your player's IP address (from Step 1). Click "Execute." The ripping process will start within few seconds.

7) When the app reports "Done," eject the SACD. To rip more SACDs, repeat from Step 5 or click "Quit."

8) Remove the USB stick. Reboot to return player to normal use.

The result of this ripping will be an ISO file containing everything on the SACD. While this will be playable with the JRiver Media Center or FooBar players, it's better to extract the individual tracks as DSF files. This, too, can be accomplished with ISO2DSD:

1) At top left, select "File Input."

2) Under "Channel Mode," select "Multi" (multichannel) or "Dual" (two-channel).

3) Under "Output Mode," select "Sony DSF." (footnote 6)

4) Click on "Convert DST to DSD."

5) From the list in the "Select Files Port" window, select the filename of the ISO you want to convert.

6) Click "Execute." The extraction process will begin in a few seconds.

7) Repeat as needed.

This all may sound complicated, but in practice I found that it became almost automatic. I have a USB stick that I've devoted to getting my Oppos in the mood to rip, and a dedicated 2TB external hard drive for ISO2DSD, associated files, and ripped ISOs and DSFs. Later, for listening, I move the ISOs and DSFs to my NAS. This process also works with certain Pioneer and Cambridge Audio players that use the same Mediatek chips as the Oppo 103 and 105. A similar process, recently described on, permits ripping with a number of recent Sony BD players. Unfortunately, Oppo's final universal players, the UDP-203 and UDP-205, are not suitable.

Finally, I want to acknowledge: Mr. Wicked, the masked man who first discovered a way to rip SACDs; Ted Brady, who's been essential in getting these processes out to a grateful public; and Sonore, for developing the ISO2DSD software, which lets us avoid the complexity of multiple user scripts.

Next Time in the Round
I'm going to eliminate my preamps and try running the three Benchmark DACs into three Benchmark power amps. I'm also expecting two new pre-pros from familiar sources—we'll see which one arrives first.

Footnote 5: See footnote 1.

Footnote 6: "Output Mode" also offers these options: "Philips DSDIFF," "DSDIFF Edit Master," and "Raw ISO." "Sony DSF" will get you easily playable files that accept metadata tags. You can also rip directly from SACD to DSF files, but for various reasons, most users prefer the two-step method


rt66indierock's picture

The interface sounds like a simple answer to a problem. I can't wait to try one. Thanks

Did you consider you may be cruising along enjoying the scenery and everybody else at Stereophile is off the rails?

See you at RMAF.

JR_Audio's picture

Hi Kal. A nice write up. I enjoy reading your multi channel efforts. At AES conventions, I have listened to some really good surround setups, but at HiFi shows, you will find mostly (or nearly only) 2 channel playback (leaving AV setups aside). Multi channel audio is (when done right), so easy for the ears (your brain has by far less work to recreate a sound stage from phantom sources). And one further step into realism would be wave field synthesis, that I have heard at some AES and at some “Tonmeister Tagungen” and they deliver a very realistic sound stage. Juergen

AB's picture

Thanks for telling us about this new product. It opens up a lot more options. I am currently using an Oppo BDP105D for MC streaming from NAS and although it is good, I feel the need to improve on its sound and convenience, my old and temperamental Sony SCD-XA9000ES stills gives me the best sound from SACD or CD, giving me more detail and air than the Oppo, whether from flac, DSF or SACD.

Can you give an opinion where the Oppo sound fits in to the various DACs you listened to with the miniDSP U-DI08?

Kal Rubinson's picture

Can you give an opinion where the Oppo sound fits in to the various DACs you listened to with the miniDSP U-DI08?
I have not used any Oppo as a DAC in quite a while but it is a relevant question. When there is an opportunity to try it, I will.

AB's picture

Thanks Kal.
A lot of people must be familiar with Oppo players, so they make a good reference point when trying to get an impression of the performance of DACs and other equipment in reviews.
Thanks for all the reviews over the past years, they have been invaluable in helping me with my multi-channel music system.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Here's a link to instructions for ripping SACDs with certain Sony SACD players.

jeffhenning's picture

When I was assembling my latest system a couple years ago, I was using an Oppo BDP-103D as a front end into a Parasound A23 amp and KEF LS-50's. While the gain staging wasn't perfect, it did sound really good.

After using that set up for a few months, I got an Emotiva XMC-1 surround processor. The sound improved. A good part of that may be the lower noise from improved gain staging. My impression was that there was more going on. Recordings seemed better resolved by the XMC-1.

Bottom line: a BDP-103 is really good, but it's no replacement for a dedicated DAC or processor. Not surprising since most of the money went toward the video processing.

Whether I'd feel the same about their BDP-105 with its beefed up analog outputs is another story. I bought the 103 with every intent of hooking it up to a processor. It made no sense to spend the extra $700 for the 105's audio circuits when I wasn't going to use them.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Bottom line: a BDP-103 is really good, but it's no replacement for a dedicated DAC or processor. Not surprising since most of the money went toward the video processing.

I will not dispute your observations but I do not accept that argument at all. One might say exactly the same about the XMC-1 referring to its video processing, DSP and HT codecs.

jeffhenning's picture

Kal, I have no wish to get into a flaming session so I'll keep this brief.

An Emotiva XMC-1:

• Has no video processing - all of its HDMI facilities are pass-thru so, on that count, it's a giant HDMI hub and the Oppo units are small hubs (I started out using the 103 as the center of my AV system)

• Has no more or less support for HT codecs the 103

• Has no DSP other the Dirac Live room correction and tone controls and all the heavy lifting for room correction computation is done by a computer, not an on-board CPU

• Has balanced outputs while the 103 has none

• Costs 5 times as much as a BDP-103 and, even though it has way more outputs, it doesn't surprise that they sound better

My observation was made after listening to the old configuration during unpacking, system planning and a 5 minute break to add the XMC-1 so the sound of the 103 was fresh in my ears.

Kal Rubinson's picture

OK. I guess I should have known that since I reviewed the XMC-1 a while back.

OTOH, I generally do not buy that argument anyway, especially with regard to significantly different types of equipment, e.g., a universal player vs. prepro.

doak's picture

An FYI for those interested in SACD ripping:
The Pioneer Elite BDP-80 can be used to rip SACDs with the same instructions and software cited for the Oppo machines.
I’ve done this successfully and know first hand that it works well.

stevebruzonsky's picture

For years now I've ripped SACDs both 2Ch and MCh tracks and I've got over 800 Mch albums alone on my server. About 5 years ago I had Small Green Computer build a custom CAPSv3 HDMI (and USB out for 2Ch) music player, initially using JRiver MC, and for past years using ROON. My current setup is a Sonic Transporter i7 ROON Core, Sonore Signature Rendu SE, Berkeley Audio Alpha USB to Digital AES/EBU, to Theta Digital CBIV-A for 2 channel; and the Sonic Transporter i7 ROON Core with CAPSv3
(with an AMD Sapphire video/HDMI card) for MCh music. Although MCh music from my server out through CAPSv3 sounds very good, my 2Ch USB music simply sounds much better almost live at times!

Right now the Trinnov SSPs (pricey) are ROON Ready and my understanding is they will handle at least 5.1, perhaps 7.1, simply with the ethernet interface thanks to ROON. And Theta Digital is just starting to work on upgrading for the next Casablanca version to be ROON Ready and once I have this I will be able to ditch the Sonore Signature Rendu (2Ch USB), Berkeley Audio Alpha USB Converter, and CAPSv3 in favor of straight ROON Ready ethernet connection from SonicTransporter i7 (ROON Core) to hopefully some day sooner than later Theta Casablanca V (next model to come out). At CEDIA I talked with DCS, as their new 2Ch DACs all are ROON Ready, and they tested ethernet vs USB and said it was NO CONTEST, ethernet is much better sounding!

This is the future! EXCITING! When this occurs, not only will the ethernet connection to the CBV Roon Ready sound even much better for my already glorious sounding 2Ch, but as MCh will ditch the poorer sounding HDMI connection (no one manufactures a more audiophile output HDMI card) my MCH will sound as good as my sterling 2 CH!

Of course, blu ray and 4k discs are still stuck with HDMI. If only someone would develop a ROON for 4k blu ray to handle both audio and video with the appropriate hardware, all over ethernet. I imagine it will happen some day but father into the future. Even Kaleidescope and its hard drive/streamer for 4k blu ray uses the antiquated HDMI connection!

This is the future! EXCITING!