If you want to get high-resolution audio out of a DVD or Blu-ray player, you would hook up the optical or coax digital output of the unit and connect it to an external DAC, right? Well, actually not. The output of those optical outputs would be limited to 48 kHz because of restrictions specified by the format specification…which are driven by the record labels. They don’t want us to have access to the “master quality” files.
But never fear. Where there’s a will there’s a way. It turns out that it is possible to peel the 96 kHz/24-bit REAL high-resolution data stream from the HDMI connection. I tried this a while back with a box from monoprice but unfortunately I couldn’t get it to work with my Oppo BDP-83. I contacted the monoprice support people and was assured that the unit would handle 96 kHz/24-bits but it wasn’t lighting up the 48 x 2 indicators on the front of my Benchmark DAC2.
After talking to a few informed friends, I learned that not every DVD or Blu-ray player works with these audio extraction boxes. By this time, I had returned the monoprice box and purchased a Kanex Pro HAECOAX Audio De-Embedder unit for about $66 from Amazon. It’s a really small square unit that has an external power supply, HDMI in and out, an indicator light and a switch that selects between the 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio streams.
I tried this box on the HDMI output of the Oppo BDP-83 player that I have in my office and I got the same result. So I switched to trouble shooting mode. Perhaps it’s not the extraction box but the disc player that’s causing the problem. So I took the Kanex Pro box and Benchmark DAC2 into the studio and connected them to the output of another Oppo Blu-ray player…this time a BDP-95, the 3D capable second generation machines equipped with the Sabre DACs.
Finally, I got the 2X blue light on the front of the DAC2 to come on. The high-resolution 2.0 channel stereo mix from my Blu-ray discs can be converted using an external DAC using the HDMI output instead of the S/P DIF coax or TOS Link jacks. My plan is to transfer a few of my tracks to analog tape using my Nagra IV-S and send them around to the reel to reel community and see if they enjoy first generation recordings made from digital sources.
And that’s what I did at my booth at the CES show. I connected one of the HDMI outputs from the same Oppo BDP-95 to the KanexPro box HDMI input and the HDMI output to the HDMI input of the Sony flat screen video monitor that Sony supplied to all of the vendors in the HRA room.
I used an inexpensive regular 75 Ohm video cable to connect the output of the Kanex box to one of the S/P DIF inputs on the Benchmark DAC. You know the ones…they have yellow RCA connectors on the end and usually come bundled with DVD players. I was very surprised that my choice to use a cheap cable to get the digital bits from the KanexPro unit to my DAC was noticed by more than a few individuals. These folks insisted that I replace the $.50 cable with a “high quality” digital interconnect. They were absolutely certain that the fidelity of my system was suffering because of the cheap video cable.
What do you think? Will an expensive coax cable, USB or HDMI cable affect the sound output of an audio system?