Sunday, 20 May 2018

A Look at the Oppo UDP-205 & The Great Audiophile Debate AK vs. JA of 2005.

Oppo UDP-205 and Black Panther.
Although I have already collected quite a bit of objective testing results from the Oppo UDP-205, I have not had the time to analyze the data or constructed the graphs and charts due to time constraints. Rest assured, the number, graphs, and charts will come :-).

At the time of this writing, I see that while the UDP-205 is in very short supply if even available any more (excluding the speculative price gouging on eBay of course), the UDP-203 is still available.

Today, as a start, let's just spend some time talking about this device and the features. By now there's no mystery since reviews over the last year have been thorough such as from TechHive and Audioholics. Oh yeah, even The Absolute Sound put in a review. In fact, the Audioholics review provides some excellent data on the performance of the Oppo UDP-205 versus its sibling the Oppo UDP-203.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, when I heard about the announcement that Oppo Digital was going to exit the audio/video hardware business, I put in an order for the Oppo UDP-205 4K Blu-Ray player. This is what arrived:


Honestly guys, I'm not much of an "unboxing" kind of person :-). No, I don't watch those countless videos on YouTube with people opening packages and showing off how something was shrink wrapped or surrounded in foam. Nothing wrong with "pride of ownership" I suppose. Having said this, Oppo is well regarded in terms of the user's opening experience. The UDP-205 arrived securely protected by a double box. When you open it, there's a color printed sheet that announces the product and features (not shown). As you can see above, the player was wrapped in a black reusable Oppo labelled fabric bag which can be used when you go grocery shopping :-). Thick foam packaging material on the sides to keep the contents snug inside the box.

Then there's the black accessory box with contents taken out and the relatively thick and well-written printed manual (manual PDF found here):


There's a good back-lit remote control with all the usual functions (it's plastic so not one of those metal remotes that can double as personal protection device). A generic looking but "premium" HDMI cable is also included which obviously is capable of 4K/60fps/HDR (I'm actually using it right now to connect to my receiver - no problems). Batteries and a rather thick stock power cord included.



Well, there she is. The machine itself. Of course this is a UHD Blu-Ray player which plays almost any disk format you can throw at it including DVD-A and SACD. The only real exceptions are the long-dead HD-DVD and HDCD decoding has been dropped in this generation. IMO, dropping HDCD is no big deal since software options to decode HDCD to 24-bit audio is available if one wants to do that quite easily (check out dBPowerAmp). The front of the chassis is the "standard" Oppo look. As you can see from my previous shots of the BDP-105, it looks quite similar. Notice that the BDP-105 in the bottom right has 2 ports - both a USB and HDMI 1.4 input. In comparison, Oppo has taken out the front HDMI input but has left the USB2.0 input with the UDP-205.

The UDP-205 drive mechanism appears to be very well built. The tray opens smoothly and is quiet during playback. Without audio playing in my room but fed a disk to spin up, I can hear the drive spinning with a low hum, very little audible "head seek" sound during loading of data like the Blu-Ray menus. Data transfer speed seems fast - UHD Blu-Rays load up quite quickly. Menu navigation likewise is very responsive.

As you'll see below looking at the back of the machine, there is now one single HDMI 2.0 input so you can connect another 4K/HDR device and switch between the inputs. Another update over the BDP-105 are the rear USB ports are now 3.0.


Here's a closer look at those rear ports. Notice the ethernet is now 1Gbps speed. Like in the BDP-105, looking from the back, the left side consists of stereo outputs - both RCA unbalanced and XLR balanced. You can see the USB2.0 DAC input along with the usual S/PDIF TosLink and coaxial. Like the Sonica DAC, the USB2.0 DAC input can decode up to 768kHz PCM and DSD512. As I've said before, I doubt any music will ever be released in these ultra-high bitrates as there are no benefits for homo sapiens (even 24/192 is overkill). The only benefits from this kind of sampling rate are to extract funds from the na├»ve, bolster audiophile bragging rights and for the hobbyists who want to do one's own digital upsampling (as previously discussed).

Notice the presence of 2 HDMI outputs. One for the full HDMI 2.0 video stream to your receiver / TV, and the other being HDMI 1.4 audio only for those who want to play audio with lower jitter. This is an interesting, rather unique step taken by Oppo to appease the audiophile community!


And on the right side looking from the rear are the 7.1 RCA outputs for analogue multichannel output. Standard IEC power connector with AC voltage switch for international use.


Remember that last year, I had already measured the Oppo Sonica DAC which is also based on the ESS ES9038Pro DAC chipset and probably similar analogue circuitry so that will already give us an idea of the level of performance to expect. The UDP-205 has two ES9038Pro chips - one for high quality stereo decoding and the second one is fed multichannel data for the 7.1 output; remember that each ES9038 is capable of 8-channel operation. As for the main processor that runs the screen GUI, menu, etc. it's the MediaTek MT8581 with quad ARM Cortex-A53 @ 1.3GHz and Mali-T860 MP2 GPU. The GPU is a 650MHz part doing the heavy lifting with HDR processing including HDR-to-SDR and HEVC hardware decoding necessary for the high-resolution video.

In terms of 4K Blu-Ray performance, it looks great. I'm using the latest firmware - UDP20X-56-0224 (March 2, 2018 release). One of the additions Oppo made to this version can be found in the HDR menu:


There are now four HDR-to-SDR modes to choose from. A few weeks back, someone asked about comparing the HDR-to-SDR conversion on the UDP-205 to computer sofware (madVR). As you can imagine, it would be hard to compare reliably given the HDMI 2.0 digital copy protection and inability to "rip" images to compare, plus now with 4 modes, there will be some variability and perhaps a different "optimal" mode for any specific movie.

Because this machine has a more powerful processor inside, it can handle MQA decoding (the lack of computing power prevented the Sonica DAC from being fitted with MQA firmware). As I mentioned previously, the MQA decoding currently only can be applied to the media plugged into the USB-A ports and MQA-CDs. Unfortunately (so far) the USB-B input from a computer or streamer will not decode MQA. This means you can't just plug your computer streaming Tidal into this unit and expect full decoding.

Oppo claims that although the device has been discontinued, they will continue to offer firmware updates for a time. If there is one feature I hope Oppo can implement for UDP-205 owners, it would be to complete the MQA capability by supporting decoding from the USB-B DAC input. Of course while I'm far from being an MQA supporter/believer, I do believe it would be a nice final "icing on the cake" feature to implement as Oppo AV rides off into the sunset at the top of their game having already partially provided MQA support. From a user perspective, USB-B input decoding is without doubt the most important simply because other than Tidal streaming, there's just little MQA content.

Having said this, there are caveats I hope Oppo remains mindful of in order to do it right:
1. Please make sure MQA filters are ONLY applied to encoded music and not to standard PCM input! 
2. Make sure MQA does not sacrifice other features.
The first point is important because subjecting standard PCM input to MQA filtering would be using suboptimal settings and adding frequency and time-domain inaccuracies. It would also be rather silly if incorporating MQA results in loss of features (like what happened with iFi's firmware update and loss of the advertised DSD512 and 768kHz PCM). I'll go into more details when I show the measurements, but I can tell you that the current set of digital filters programmed into this machine is excellent - don't mess this up with MQA filters unless specifically intended while decoding!

Subjectively, using my Raspberry Pi 3 Touch with piCorePlayer connected to my Logitech Media Server running in a Linux VM hosted in Windows Server 2016 using standard USB to the Oppo UDP-105 played through the stereo XLR output to:
Emotiva XSP-1 pre-amp --> dual monoblock Emotiva XPA-1Ls --> Paradigm Signature S8 v3 speakers with SUB1
The analogue output simply sounded transparent. Backgrounds are silent, frequency response is full, sound is clean with no audible distortion. Details/"microdynamics" sounded well nuanced. I enjoyed Rachel Podger & Brecon Baroque's recent The Four Seasons (2018, DSD64 from SACD). Spent an evening reliving some of Leonard Cohen's works (The Best of Leonard Cohen, Live in London, Old Ideas, You Want It Darker) - beautiful rendering of his signature bass-baritone in those later recordings. Then there's the highly "produced" pop sounds of the Finnish a cappella group Club for Five's You're The Voice (DR8, 2009) with the typical modern compressed sound and the processed artificiality one comes to expect (still sounds good though for what it is similar to the likes of Pentatonix).

Over the years, I have heard people claim that there's an ESS "glare" to the sound of Sabre DACs. Heck, some people even complain that this "digital glare" is present in most delta-sigma converters. Can't say I've ever heard of such a problem with machines using chips from ESS, TI/Burr-Brown, and Asahi Kasei (AKM). Having previously heard DACs with tube output stages including a modded Oppo BDP-105 a number of years ago with someone who preferred the sound with the mod (he better prefer that sound... cuz he spent more money on the mod than the machine itself!), I suspect some audiophiles simply do not like the "sound" of transparent devices. Like film grain in movies, some audiophiles seem to like an extra bit of noise or maybe even order harmonics added. Of course, this gets into the territory of subjective preferences. I have no qualms about noise and distortion in the service of the artist. Overdriven guitars can sound great, DSP effects that add noise and distortion can make music more interesting, heck, even the occasional vocal AutoTune is fine! These can be artistic choices, but I have no need for the audio reproduction hardware itself throwing off all kinds of frequencies or adding noise absent in the original recording (as previously expressed). Only then can I consider my equipment to be capable of "high fidelity" in the service of reproducing the sound recorded in the digital data. By definition, "transparent" gear will not impart its own sound and that's what we're getting with the Oppo UDP-205. We'll discuss further and more specifically when I post the measurements...

While the Oppo Digital company is winding down, I suspect the name will be spoken of for years to come as a reminder of a time when fairly priced products were made at a level of quality far above most competitors. Remember that there are plans for one last batch of the UDP-205 to be made available in the next month or so. Keep an eye out if you're interested, probably will sell fast.

--------------------

Speaking of "going out on top", congrats are in order for Tyll Hertsens and his fantastic articles at InnerFidelity over the years. As you may know he announced his retirement this week. Although I'm not a huge headphone fan, I always enjoyed his humor, writings and of course excellent headphone measurements. Sounds like quite the adventurous retirement!

In other news, it is sad to hear of Arny Krueger's passing recently. I know he raised quite a ruckus on rec.audio.* back in the Usenet days (1990's). There was also this debate with Stereophile's Jon Atkinson in 2005 dubbed "The Great Debate: Subjectivism on Trial" (wow, 13 years ago!):



Nothing much has changed fundamentally in the debate between objectivists and subjectivists over the years - check out the segment around 25 minutes arguing about power amplifiers for example.

The discussion at 29 minutes I think is also very important - as Arny points out, the psychology/consciousness of the listener affects subjective evaluation the moment the reviewer takes up the task of critically trying to characterize sound quality (and ultimately expressing it in an article). Perhaps the realization that one will have to write about the device will itself change the relationship one has with the gear.

Ultimately, on the subjective side, Jon Atkinson's rationale essentially boils down to his anecdote at 10:00 when he was 30 years old in 1978 at Hi-Fi News. He claims that he took a blind test between a solid state Quad 405 vs. a tube Michaelson & Austin TVA1 and could not differentiate between them. So he sold his Lecson solid-state amp and bought the Quad 405. The story goes that over the months, he "hated" the "unlistenable" sound of the solid-state Quad 405 in his system thus began his "conversion" (his "Road to Damascus moment") into the belief that "there must have been something wrong with the test" - blind testing failed him. By about 13:30, he says "there's something going on here and we don't know what it is" and "there's something about the audio equipment ... which isn't fully characterized by testing".

Obviously, this is an anecdote and like most subjective evaluations or "witness accounts", we'll just have to take it at face value and accept that for him, at that time, with his equipment and with that specific Quad 405 amp (a rather ugly / beautiful / ok looking device), he eventually "lived happily ever after so to speak" with the M&A TVA1 (with its nice glowing tubes BTW). Like eye-witness accounts, one could of course be wrong (~1/3 of eye-witnesses are wrong). Sure, he might have a point about long-term blind listening but I know of nobody in the audio press doing such a thing (which IMO would be a reasonable next step for Mr. Atkinson instead of the dramatic "Road to Damascus" epiphany from someone who described himself as "rabidly" objectivist at one time [14:20]). Remember folks, this was 1978. Have not testing methodology of amplifiers advanced significantly, not to mention much better speaker testing and the rest of the audio playback chain? Has he tried to reassess his belief in the last 40 years? As the editor of the largest audiophile magazine in an age where the Industry is primarily catering to subjective views, could the person at the helm have been of any other persuasion?

I see that Atkinson repeated the anecdote at the recent AXPONA 2018 talk describing that he had the Rogers LS3/5a speaker at the time (12:00 in, the blind test is dated as 1979 in this talk). Also, as usual with subjective talk, others like this fellow disagrees with JA's take on the Quad 405 amplifier sound describing low noise with a "warm, detailed and three-dimensional" mid-range - who to believe as neither have measurements? :-) [Here are some measurements BTW.]

If you have not heard the debate, enjoy the dialogue and decide for yourself which of the two "debaters" won out. In the last couple years, it certainly has been fun interacting with arnyk over at the Squeezebox Forum and through PM. Whether one agrees with his positions or not, he certainly had a deep fund of knowledge and experience. RIP Arny.

By the way guys, notice in the Oppo UDP-205 picture I showed at the top, I bought the Black Panther 4K UHD Blu-Ray. The movie looks great on the 4K format. It was filmed in "almost 4K" resolution with the Arri Alexa XT Plus in 3.2K, it features Dolby Vision HDR (as well as HDR10), and the audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD with Atmos. That's about as good as we can get at this point in terms of the technology. Great looking image quality with excellent blacks, color saturation and shading. Sounds great as well. Recommended disk and movie.

Hope you're all enjoying the music and movies!

33 comments:

  1. Archimago - I value your work and writings highly! But you crossed a line here:

    That Quad 405 is rather beautiful!

    Please correct your erroneous statement about its design. Thank you ;)

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    1. Absolutely. I had a Quad 405 for 26 years. Aesthetically and audibly, it delivered the goods.

      Delete
    2. :) Reminds me of the in-circuit emulators we used on my very first, straight-out-of-college engineering job.

      Agilent? Puh-lease.

      Delete
    3. LOL. Mea clupa - such is subjective evaluation :-).

      Okay friends, I have changed the text as you see above.

      Gimme Names - so the real question is how did this amp sound to you? "Unlistenable" or "delivered the goods"?

      Delete
    4. C'mon guys..

      Since there is no absolute definition of beauty, when someone describes something as beautiful/ugly it is an implicit personal opinion. No need to have authors correct statements!

      Delete
    5. Hey ianrt,
      I'm sure the guys are speaking humorously (hey, at least that's how I took it).

      Besides, it gave me the opportunity to have fun with "striking out" the text :-).

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the link to the Quad 405 pdf. Reading the first page I couldn't stop laughing - that was 1976, and the text is nearly 100% THX latest (patented) AAA amplifier feedforward error correction marketing bla.

    In 2018 there is simply nothing new to discover in audio. Everything has been there before already...

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  3. Apart from his stylish debates in online communities, I thought Arnold is also an important contributor to the born of RMAA. The early versions of RMAA are basically an automated set of Arnold's pcavtech website benchmarks, even the rating criteria (poor...excellent) are very similar. Of course we also need talented developers (Russians?) to realize Arnold's ideas.

    How funny today's audiophile gadgets usually omit the ADC so that you can't make any measurements and distribute recorded files for further analysis and listening tests.

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    1. Thanks Dtmer.

      If not directly, certainly Arny's incessant push for blind testing especially ABX reminded us of the importance of testing claims ourselves. Despite the caveats, bugs and headaches with RMAA (eg. they still haven't fixed 192kHz graphing issues in the latest 2018 release), it really has opened up opportunities for us all to get involved in understanding what's happening with our devices if one doesn't mind spending a bit of time of course...

      Delete
  4. Hello Arch,

    After having been stung by the Sony HAP-S1, whereby every input does not necessarily drive every output as I had naively assumed, do you know if the UDP-205 can drive the multi-channel outputs from content on a LAN-connected music server?

    It would be a disappointment if the only way one could enjoy multi-channel content from the UDP-205 is via spinning disc media and/or HDMI. I don't know if multi-channel is going to be the next big thing in music, like Mark Waldrep insists it should be, but if it is, I think that you're right its chances of being distributed on spinning discs aren't all that strong.

    I think we might be multiplying probabilities with that one:

    50% (multi-channel) * 50% (spinning discs) = 25% (multi-channel being a market success on spinning discs).

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    1. Hi Allan,
      Yes, multichannel playback is indeed doable from the gigabit LAN input on the UDP-205.

      For 2 channel, it's easy of course - CD/SACD/DVD(-A)/Blu-Ray, S/PDIF (coaxial, TosLink), USB-A memory sticks, USB-B from computer, LAN as DLNA device

      For multichannel - SACD/DVD(-A)/Blu-Ray, S/PDIF (coaxial, TosLink) Dolby Digital or DTS, USB-A memory stick 5.1 FLAC, and LAN as DLNA I can stream 5.1 FLAC (I've tried up to 5.1 24/96)

      I used JRiver to stream my multichannel 5.1 FLAC files. It will be decoded by the analogue outputs as well as passed along to my AV receiver through the HDMI out. I suspect multichannel DSD through DLNA is possible as well but I have not tried since I prefer just keeping my multichannel stuff as PCM for compatibility and since DSP is important for bass management and such in a multichannel set-up.

      Yeah, multichannel is awesome when done right. A shame that not more music available. Certainly if I were to spend a load of cash on "hi-fi" stuff, at least try for 4.0!

      Delete
  5. I saw this blog post from a retailer here in Portland that indicates MQA requires a $50 licensing fee.

    This seems an honest question for the web's most vocal MQA critic (I kid, I kid): would you pay $50 out-of-pocket to have MQA for support on your UDP-205?

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    Replies
    1. Speaking of MQA and filters, it's one of the oldest tricks in the tech play book, and MSFT-101, to release some new-fangled feature that deliberately ruins compatibility with all the legacy install-base, thereby forcing end-users to commit to your solution 110% or not at all.

      Bonus style-points when you can pull it off as a degradation in performance without anyone realizing why. /cough/ Apple.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the link Allan.

      If I had to pay $50 to get MQA decoding, no way I would cough up that cash personally. :-)

      Presumably Oppo and MQA have some kind of arrangement since the UDP-205 already handles MQA-CD decoding and MQA from USB sticks, I gather some financial understanding has been struck already; might as well complete the feature set assuming there is no reason why it cannot be accomplished through a firmware update!

      Delete
    3. Oh wow. I finally read your MQA article to the end. I didn't realize how apropos my "bonus points" comment really was. (Yes, I'm showing my lack of audiophile bonafides -- I care and am interested in audio as a hobby, but it's not my sole, or even primary hobby.)

      It's not surprising Meridian is using a tired old play book to pull-off a bald money and power grab, but it is sad the usual useful idiots are aiding and abetting them.

      Delete
  6. O/T (or is it?) --

    You can hear the difference in network cables? You're like a little baby. This guy can hear the difference in source code language.

    I don't think he's kidding, and I don't think he's complaining about lousy implementations, "... causes different load patterns on the CPU, and on most streamers this makes a sound difference. CPU's generate microwave in certain repetitive patterns, which differ between these formats."

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    1. Ops. Here's his quote on source language, "Also 0.19 and above is C++ based, the > 7 year old 0.17 is C based. Even the language made a sound difference, with no apparant changes in calling the external flac library, except that 0.19 has object based calls, and 0.17 procedural based."

      Dolphin ears.

      Delete
    2. Indeed. That's an amazing feat. I assume it must be intolerable to be standing beside a microwave oven when it's on given the horrible sound those waves must produce?

      We might as well learn from this, so based on Gizmodo:
      https://io9.gizmodo.com/which-animal-can-hear-the-highest-pitched-sounds-498758562

      Highest frequencies audible:
      Human - ~20kHz
      Dog - ~40kHz
      Harbour Porpoise - ~110kHz
      Bottlenose Dolphin - ~150kHz
      Bat - ~212kHz

      Greater Wax Moth - ~300kHz!

      However, microwaves as shorter wavelengths than radio waves. So if a person were to detect microwaves, this means they're able to detect the effect of fluctuations in the 300MHz - 300GHz spectrum! Hmmm... Even the "greater wax moth" has difficulty with hearing that.

      If the claim is true that CPU patterns cause microwave changes and one could hear this, obviously it must not be the waves themselves but rather some kind of much lower-frequency distortion such a thing could create. As usual, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (Sagan).

      Delete
    3. Human can detect frequencies at 400-800THz, it's called visible light, aka sighted tests ;-)

      Delete
    4. heh, ain't that the truth

      Delete
    5. Nice one Dtmer. Visible light. :-)

      The High-End Audio aphorism:
      In evaluating a component's perceived sound quality, the "high-end" audiophile's ratio of auditory to visual contribution is inversely correlated to the suggested retail price.

      I find this particularly relevant for cables, power products, turntables, cartridges, and more recently high-end streaming components.

      Delete
    6. Yeah, I curse you, Arch, for getting me spending time over in the CA forums. I can't stop myself. One could create a blog site just cherry picking posts of audiophiles parodying themselves. Some cat I saw yesterday said he couldn't stand DAC's, he needed his turntable -- um, OK, yeah, I grant they'll sounds pretty differently -- until he built his own. FINALLY it had the sound he was going for -- what?? did he cross wires somewhere, what does that even mean?

      The coup de grace was when he upgraded the caps and they took 400 hours to burn-in... (OK, I have to stop typing now. People are going to hear me laugh.)

      Delete
    7. https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/26040-r-2r-audio-note-dac-41-diy-and-mods/

      Fitting these immediately changed the sound both in character and detail level. Also the dynamics went up a notch as did bass drive and texture. The V-Caps took 400+ hours to burn in, and that was a bit of a nightmare, as the sound is all over the place during that period. Best thing is hang in there, the goodies are coming. At 400 hours the sound was truly magical.

      You might think he was trolling, but does a troll go on for like 5k words and include photos?

      Delete
    8. Hey Allan,
      You're right, that's not trolling. It's passion! :-)

      I'm sure we can all get that sense of joy one feels when doing something and we experience achievement as in the article with the writer replacing his coupling caps and happy with his results. In the big scheme of things, that's better than doing drugs for the "high" :-).

      Having said that and as much as it's good to promote sef-efficacy and experimentation, I think there's nothing wrong with asking why the focus on the coupling caps when there is so much that could be affecting the sound? Why does it take 400+ hours to "burn in"? Is the old AD1865 18-bit NOS chip itself the pinnacle of digital-to-analogue conversion especially when playing 16/44 audio data?

      As a hobby, if at the end of the day, it's really just having fun, then it's great that the writer can express his joy with that Audio Note product and that impressive post. He has achieved what he wanted with the hardware and that's great!

      The "issue" I suppose is whether the opinions expressed and subjective perception "heard" are true in that independent evaluators would also notice the same thing or feel the same way. For example, when he says "Also the dynamics went up a notch as did bass drive and texture" after the cap replacement and burn-in; is this true?

      I guess it's a bit like falling in love and expressing the joy of what we've found... When a friend comes and says "OMG, I met the most beautiful woman in the world!" I think we can all appreciate the subjective nature of that comment... Yeah, he met the most beautiful girl through his subjective lenses and at this time in his life. No need to doubt that. Hopefully he lives happily ever after but things happen and people change. When we head over to his house to meet the girl for the first time, we probably aren't expecting to see Miss Universe though :-).

      Delete
  7. "Like film grain in movies, some audiophiles seem to like an extra bit of noise or maybe even order harmonics added."

    No, if you see film grain that means it is transparent. Not added noise. The film grain is the real film stock being shown. Softening it away is actually obscuring this transparency.

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    1. Hi Stalepie,
      Yeah, indeed a "transparent" video production chain and playback system will show the film grain in all its glory.

      I guess what I wanted to say was about the choice that is made and the subjective preference towards the added elements whether it be the noise from film grain or harmonic distortion from various tube-based audio. Nothing wrong with this of course if it's as the artist intended. Likewise, nothing wrong with a listener choosing the noisier or more distorted option if it subjectively sounds better... Just not exactly the highest fidelity, nor "transparent".

      Delete
  8. JA's epiphany story is really quite a humorous read. I also note that he has the arrogance to think that it represents persuasive evidence. Maybe it is an integral part of the nature that got him to where he is, but that sort of arrogance can really hold back the audiophile who is interested in making progress in his or her hobby. JA's subjectivist positions being a case in point of being held back.

    Firstly, his understanding of the ongoing influence of sighted listening is lacking. Even if the blind test was experimentally valid (it may or may not have been), once he buys the Quad 405 and uses it at home, during that time, everyone around him in the audiophile community is still writing rave (sighted) reviews of the wonder and the thrill of using exotic gear. He keeps reading exotic gear reports and notices that the things they say (sighted) are not the same as the things he experiences at home: they are saying so much more than he is hearing. Furthermore, he continues to audition exotic gear (sighted) and has far more splendid experiences than what he hears at home with his 405. The reason being, the conscious mind cannot overrule the unconscious mind in creating these experiences. The fact that he was (maybe) telling himself consciously that they sound the same, does not overrule his unconscious mind continuing to create strongly different experiences, every time he indulges in sighted listening. This is the mounting dissatisfaction and unhappiness that he reported: not the result of sound waves emanating from the 405 at all.

    Or not *necessarily* due to sound waves from the 405. Because this brings me to my second point. The Quad 405 was a dud. The 405-2 was a worthy classic, because it fixed numerous problems in the 405, but JA's experience in 1978 was years before the 405-2 was released. It used an op amp from the early days of op amps, the LM301, which did not measure well. The high input sensitivity could be overwhelmed by high quality preamps of the day with good output swing, especially but not only valve preamps. And the output stage was excessively current-limited, apparently to protect Quad ELS speakers, to only 3 or 4 amps. So it is entirely plausible to have a blind demo that doesn't stress the amp, hear 'nothing', then take it home and connect it to a more demanding preamp, or exotically demanding loudspeakers, or both, and suddenly you have an amp with issues.

    In my opinion it is a pity that JA has such influence and status in the hifi hobby industry, with inappropriate logic and rationality dominating his preaching for decades.

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    1. Thanks tnargs for the comment!

      Great to have the input from obviously someone "in the know" with regards to these classics and the innards!

      Certainly one very important point is raised about the fact that we are not just influenced by our own minds, but also the comments of others. JA hanging around the audiophile community back in the day would indeed have heard of the "glowing" (no pun intended) reports from whatever the exciting product of the day was, probably tube amps. An inexpensive, perhaps pedestrian (vs. exotic) piece like the Quad 405 would likely not have much "street cred" among the "hip" higher echelon audiophiles of the day :-).

      Delete
  9. Hi Archimago,
    Hi have an OT question: certainly you discussed about that piece after piece, but I was unable to find an "architectural" discussion.
    So, let me go, please.
    I'm discussing (or better: arguing) with some Italian fellows about a could be "archietecture", a bit different to mine (and yours, perhaps).
    The main point is the adoption of HQPlayer to upsample their PCM material to DSD (DSD512!) and the use a Non Oversampling DAC.
    As a consequence the PC must be a real "beast".
    Me, I did this job in a batch way. I did the conversion using JRiver Media Center and with XiSRC and I realized with MusicScope that, if "there is no life over 22.05KHz" nothing is created, as it should be. Since HQPlayer doesn't allow to to the same job I'm unable to say anything about that.
    Anyway: I noticed that the spectrum of the DSD produced by JRiver Media Center is drastically different from the one produced by XiSRC: in http://www.audioxpress.com/files/attachment/2605 they write " The seldom-mentioned dark secret of DSD is the aggressive shaped dither injected into the audio". This is what happens with JRiver Media Center.
    My question is: is this "architecture" worthwhile?
    Needless to say, my "architecture" is just the opposite: on my PC (HYSTOU, i3, fanless) JRiver Media Center does NO up-sampling, which on the other side is made by my DAC (Audiolab 8200CD). WASAPI (event) Exclusive, of course. I have some degree of flexibility, provided by the choice among 7 possible filters.
    Oh! another question: I'm unable to hear any difference among JRiver Media Center and foobar2000 (NO up-sampling), I'm deaf?

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    1. Hey Teodoro,

      By "architecture", I see you're referring to the upsampling and digital filtering process and whether it's handled separately... Either realtime with a fast CPU or even GPU (as per HQPlayer) or offline like what you're doing with JRiver MC. Then there's of course the choice of high-sample rate PCM (eg. 192/384/768kHz)or DSD128+ (I personally do not recommend DSD64 due to ultrasonic noise arising very close to 20kHz).

      Remember a number of months ago, I basically used the Raspberry Pi 3 to upsample with the intermediate phase filter which I think is highly accurate and will easily beat many on-chip filters and even fancy "high-end" devices:
      https://archimago.blogspot.ca/2018/01/musings-more-fun-with-digital-filters.html

      WHAT!? You can't hear difference between JRiver and foobar!? Better turn in the audiophile membership card. :-)

      [Using ASIO/WASAPI, and assuming digital filtering is done without substantial change to the frequency response and doesn't add much distortion, I can't hear the difference between foobar and JRiver either...]

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    2. Hi Archimago,
      thank you one more time.
      My point is that there is people (strongly) stating that after the original PCM (better if only 16/44.1) has been converted to DSD you improve it's quality.
      How this is possible?

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    3. Teodoro, could be because upsampling is better done offline than in real time?

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    4. For upsampling, software + CPU looks better than dedicated chip in DAC.

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