Playing Blu-Ray audio discs on stereo hifi

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Playing Blu-Ray audio discs on stereo hifi

My equipment consists of an Aria S2 valve amplifier driving a pair of Quad ESL-63s. I have recently bought the Decca Ring cycle on Blu-Ray audio and to play it a Philips 3250 blu-ray player because it had stereo analogue outs. But it seems these do not output a high resolution signal - can anybody confirm this (Philips weren't very forthcoming)? And if this is so, how can I realise the hi-res content of this disc to the analogue inputs of my stereo amp?

Playing Blu-ray audio on stereo hifi.

 

You quite possibly need an amp that accepts digital input.

I have heard many blu ray operas sound hard and tinny in stereo through analogue. Yet the stereo sound track has far more body and resolution through digital.

 

Some would say placebo effect, but as the hard cheap and grainy reproduction through analogue was intially an unpleasant surprise, don't think so.

 

Recommendation: use a high quality AV receiver, or a digitally connectable stereo amplifier, solid state, unless you know of a valve amp that accepts digital. Analogue will become or is obsolete for high resolution audio.

 

 

Sleepless

How to get decent stereo out of a BD player

I don't know how true this is, but reports elsewhere suggest that the Blu-Ray copyright owners are actively pressuring the manufacturers of BD players and TVs to either remove audio-out altogether or else degrade the sound quality of the analogue audio signal. The reason is, they're paranoid about illegal copying.

If you want to keep your stereo amplifier/receiver, do what I did - buy an HDMI audio extractor. This gadget is connected to your BD player by an HDMI cable. Output is HDMI to your television and stereo sound to your amplifier. These extractors are inexpensive. I bought mine online.

Sanyo BD players often have a coaxial audio-out plug at the rear: I have one in our spare room, and the coaxial cable is linked to a separate coaxial-RCA converter which I also bought online for not much :-)

I might add that the jury is still out as to how "high-resolution" so called High-Resolution recordings actually are. With stereo you might have got perfectly acceptable results from CDs. If you were to acquire a 5.1 or 7.1 set-up, the multitrack Blu Ray disc would come into its own.

Playing Blu-Ray audio discs on stereo hifi

The particular discs that I am playing are the High Fidelity Blu-Ray Pure Audio discs. These discs are 24/96 remasters (mainly stereo, but all with stereo layer) of Universals back catalogue - so I don't need a 5.1 or 7.1 amplifier. What I need is an output that will deal with the high resolution signal. I have heard that older players with 5.1 analogue outputs did this, does anybody know if this is so? If so I could use the front left and right outputs. Or could I use the digital coaxial output to a 24/96 DAC or a 24/192 DAC - could this handle the 24/96 LPCM 2.0 content that is being output?

Some DVD/BluRay player

Some DVD/BluRay player measurements I've seen do show slightly less than flat frequency reponses for some reason (maybe to enhance the cinema experience?), so there is no harm in having an external dac. However the hum and distortion in your tube amplifier swamp any consideration of how perfect the analog output signal is.

 

Ted

Use the digital coaxial audio out

... on the back of your Philips BD player and feed it to a DAC. The el cheapo coaxial-RCA converter I use with my el cheapo Sanyo BD player includes a DAC by the way.

I regularly enjoy watching the Wiener Staatsoper Live BD of Handel's "Alcina" with Anja Herteros and Marc Minkowski with Les musiciens du Louvre using that "spare room" Sanyo and that converter with the audio passed to a pair of mid-price Sennheiser headphones via an ancient Radio Shack Realistic mini-amplifier I bought in the 1970s. The sound quality is brilliant!

Given that blind tests seem to reveal that people can't really distinguish between 24 bit and 16 bit sound, the only unique contribution Blu-Ray has to offer is multi-channel audio for home theatre systems.

So if your BD + new DAC still doesn't work with your present valve amp, and you don't want to buy a new digital receiver, swap the Wagner BDs for CDs. You probably won't notice the difference.

 

trouble shooting

Finding the answer is not so easy, because there are many possibilities. But let us first get a few misunderstandings out of the way. High resolution in the case of Bluray refers to the digital output, not to the converted analogue output. If you use the analogue output, what you get is what the inbuilt DAC makes of the HR digital signal. I would be surprised if there is a problem here as such inbuilt DAC's (even the cheap ones) have reached a stage of impressive maturity, and certainly from a manufacturer like Philips. You could use the coaxial digital output, and use an external DAC, but I would be surprised if you can detect any difference, let alone the Philips DAC´s inferiority.

So what are the remaing possibilities?

The first is the inferiority of the analogue tape recording, and/or subsequent mastering. In fact, the original master tapes had apparently deteriorated to the extent that they had become unusable, so some later remaster was used. With such technically inferior material to begin with, distributing the music at a digital resulation higher than CD was pointless (even CD was far better than the  tape recording).

The next possible cause for the disappointing sound is a mismatch between the BD player output (2V) and the often higher amplifier sensitivity. If the mismatch is big, you may get clipping on input which produces just what you describe. Do you only need to advance the volume control a bit for pretty loud music?

Third, you may have an amplifer that is too small for your insensitive speakers. This also results in clipping of louder passages such as in Wagner. I recently replaced my old QUAD 303 with a refurbished 606 mk 2  (both driving QUAD 2805 speakers) and on more dynamic music the effect is quite remarkable (not on soft undynamic music). For your speakers, a QUAD 405 mk2 is probably the minimum, and the 606 mk2 would be even better.

Finally, well mastered modern digital BD recordings should sound superb, even through cheap BD players, as I know from experience. Using this advanced medium with such fantastic dynamic headroom to re-issue old analogue tapes that do not even remotely have the dynamic range, frequency response, or low distortion levels to even tax CD seems pretty pointless.

Willem

Trouble shooting.

 

The issue is, have the analogue outputs on recent blu ray players been deliberately designed to degrade audio quality ?

I directly compared analogue and Toslink sound quality, using Sennheiser

Hd800 headphones, on the Nad D320. Same volume, just switching inputs.

To my surprise, analogue won easily. I thought they would be the same.

I previously thought that analogue was inferior. However doubt came about

when simply changing headphone amplifiers connected to analogue, massively improved sq.

The Nad headamp section was threadbare through Hd800's and AKG 702's from previous comparisons to Project and Oxygen O2 head amps.

It was the toslink sourcing that was the problem. The Toslink passed through

the Smart TV. The Pioneer BDP 170 blu ray player does not have optical output, so direct optical link not possible. 

Will try same experiment with toslink equiped older model Pioneer bdp, when time allows. 

Quotes below from Essence and Oppo vs analogue output quality.

 

Oppo's Nathanial Plain. Q+A Interview Audioholics.

While many mass market Blu-ray Disc players are now built with an overly simplified stereo analog output in order to reduce cost, we still build the BDP-103 and BDP-105 with significant investment in the analog audio section. For the BDP-103, we hired the designer of one of the popular BDP-93 aftermarket modifications to help us improve its analog audio. The new design has a warmer, more open and lively sound comparing to the BDP-93. This is achieved by a novel configuration of the DAC chip and a new analog buffer and filter stage following the DAC output. The same designer also contributed to the BDP-105’s analog audio section. 

Bob Rapoport who markets the Essence  external DAC/headphone amp combination, comments from his " Essence " blog,

"There is something about the player DACs that even when using the best parts leaves a lot to be desired, perhaps a form of copy protection that down-rezzes the analog output so you wont want to copy it, the long sought dream of the record labels.  My point of view is why give them a chance?"

Sleepless

I'm afraid this is just

I'm afraid this is just marketing rubbish that tries to create the impression that the output stage of a CD/DVD player is difficult to design or requires "high quality" components. In reality the analogue output stage in a CD/DVD player is extremely simple since it only has to provide modest buffering/level adjustment over the audio range (it is so simple we built the same circuit you'll find in expensive players at high school). Making a player "warmer" is impossible without tinkering with its flat frequency response or adding huge amounts of distortion.

 

I find it hard to believe though that major manufacturers would try and degrade the sound, particularly if they expect their product to be reviewed. As I said earlier, they might occasionally tinker with the sound  -  I think I once saw a review/measurements of a Cambridge Audio Universal Player which looked like it had a deliberate attempt to roll of the high frequencies on some formats faster than usual for some reason.

 

Ted

 

 

 

Yes, vested interests behind those commentaries.

I am basically an audio objectivist. The analogue output may possibly have been

2 or 3 db higher in volume, I didn't notice any obvious difference. This would be caused by variance in the output volume from analogue due to the sensitivity match up to the amplifier, as per Willem's conclusions. Fletcher Munson effect being at play with the " much better " sound. However the first comparisons were in another " rig " , if you like, with a Sony Bdp, with a Dac ,analogue outputs ( they don't now have a Dac ).

The connection to the Nad was through hdmi to tv and toslink to amp.

Analogue to Project amp. Immediately the Nad headamp sounded "dry" on the Akg 702, very audibly so, the Project having much better 'sound stage'

Same result, as it turns out, with Pioneer bdp through hdmi, tv, toslink 

Wonder if there is information loss in conversion from hdmi to toslink, then back to analogue. Denon goes on about everything having to be synchronised by one clock etc, D link. Would be surprising if Pioneer blue ray dac implentation, analogue out, is audibly different from Nad's dac implentation, toslink in.

 

Sleepless

Wicked Cinavia.

 

Need to say Youtube was being used in the comparisons for a good reason/

Blu ray players from 2013 on have Cinavia sound wrecking software recognition.

Designed especially to make analogue and most likely toslink audio not worth copying. Not just video. Ostensibly for degrading high rez multichannel. As

DTS 5.1, so called low resolution sound, usually has uncompressed stereo 48 khz stereo, it should be left alone. Not so, in many cases imho.

Sleepless

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