Modifying A Component

Several people commented on yesterday’s post about the modified OPPO BDP-103 that I will be taking to Chicago for use in our demo room. They complained that I’m using a piece of equipment that is unavailable to attendees. I should have explained the situation more carefully. Yes, I’m going to using an OPPO machine that is capable of outputting multiple S/P DIF, high-resolution, digital streams but if you want to accomplish the same thing, you can. But it will cost you more than the price of the player itself.

I actually heard from a reader that owns the OPPO BDP-103 add-on module called a Vanity 103 HD, which suits his purpose perfectly. If you want to get high-resolution, multichannel digital audio from an OPPO 93 or 103, the Audiopraise HD Vanity series modules can do it. They are pricey…$1000 for the 103 version. That’s more than the cost of the BDP-103 by itself and very close to the price of a BDP-105, which has high-resolution DACs built in.

Here’s how the company describes the modules:

“High-resolution multichannel digital output modules for OPPO BDP-93 and BDP-103 with re-clocking and advanced DSD processing.” I love the inclusion of the “advanced DSD processing” line…as if anything could improve the flaws of DSD.

You can read the whole spiel at the product page of their website by clicking here.

I could have opted to purchase a module from Audiopraise and accomplished the goal for our demonstration room at AXPONA but I wanted to save the $1000. However, it is a real option for those looking seriously at high-resolution, multichannel output. While not state-of-the-art like the Benchmark DAC2 HGC converters that we’ll be hooking up to the OPPO 103, the OPPO-105 with its ESS Sabre DACs does a very good job of conversion. This would be my preferred route.

The multiple S/P DIF streams should be connected to a single state-of-the-art multichannel Benchmark DAC8 (I keep bugging John at Benchmark to put this in motion…no luck yet!). As it is, we’re challenged by the need to turn the volume up or down on multiple DACs. Level matching is critical in delivering the 5.1 surround mixes as I intend them. Using the volume output on the OPPO remote control is less than ideal. I should ask the folks at OPPO how they handle volume. There’s a right way and a wrong way.

The wrong way is to digitally reduce the amplitude by using fewer bits of the total available. In fact, John Siau of Benchmark shared with me his analysis of the TIDAL service. You know JAY-Z’s new acquisition that purports to deliver “high-resolution” audio streams, when they are really CD-spec (and that’s a step up from Spotify). But if you turn down the volume you’re reducing the number of bits. Listening to 10 or 12-bits compromises the dynamic range. Ideally, you want to have the TIDAL incoming stream at full volume and turn down your preamplifier.

I’m still crazy trying to get a few hundred pounds of stuff to Chicago in 4 packed bags. See you in Chicago.

Dr. AIX

Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

10 thoughts on “Modifying A Component

  • April 21, 2015 at 1:40 pm
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    I’m not clear on why you’re going through all this rather than just using HDMI LPCM out of any Oppo. About the only thing I can think of is that HDMI may require having a video display turned on at the same time.

    Isn’t the 105’s multichannel analog output as good as the Oppo standalone DAC?

    I’m very happy with my 93’s analog outputs, and that’s not even Oppo’s “A” line of player!

    Reply
    • April 22, 2015 at 7:14 am
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      The outputs of the OPPo HDMI would need to connect to an HDMI input multichannel DAC with sufficient fidelity to meet my JAS definition. There isn’t one…even the specs on the SP-3 by Bryston doesn’t measure up.

      Reply
  • April 21, 2015 at 4:31 pm
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    It’s not like your breaking one of the ten commandments but it does make me a bit uneasy that you had to use custom built-modified components to do your demo. There have to be at least a half dozen ways to produce your demo using very HQ off the shelf components. Yea you would have to make a compromise on your choice of the SOTA DAC or maybe Player but probably only you would be aware of the sound difference. You are going to catch some flack over this and the demo needs to come across as something a little less demanding than needing specially built hardware. JMHO, I’m on your side of the surround tech and would like to see it gain wider acceptance.

    Reply
    • April 22, 2015 at 7:15 am
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      Sal, read yesterday’s post for an explanation. There are commercial mods that do the same thing that anyone can purchase. The other way to do this is with a HTPC, which we will also have at the show.

      Reply
  • April 21, 2015 at 5:12 pm
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    Would something like this be helpful for your volume control issues?:
    I don’t know if MSB still produces it but it might be worth a look.

    Best….Carlo.

    Reply
    • April 22, 2015 at 7:17 am
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      Interesting piece…I suspect it probably would.

      Reply
  • April 21, 2015 at 6:17 pm
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    Hey Mark,

    This all sounds really interesting, and maybe if you “keep bugging John at Benchmark to put this in motion” might actually get somewhere. At least John’s latest application note says something:

    Who knows!

    Anyhow, I truly wish I could be at the Axpona to hear that rig, sounds really great.

    I had actually been thinking of getting a 5.1 setup lately, but aside from your recordings and what Morten Lindberg is up to – and perhaps Jonas Niederstadt from Carpe Diem if he will release some more multichannel recordings – there’s little to justify the investment right now. I’ve always been a detractor of surround and having more than two speakers and a bunch of cables lying around. I had actually thought of a Genelec 5.1 setup, the smaller active speakers with DSP. Are those a workaround to getting a listen to your recordings if the files were to be downloaded. Excuse my ignorance, but I’ve always been a stereo guy and know little or close to nothing about how to connect and work a multichannel setup.

    Enjoy that show, I’m sure you’ll have a load of fun and your rig is certainly going to be in a league of its own at Axpona.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • April 22, 2015 at 7:17 am
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      John emailed me about his article. I haven’t had a chance to take a look yet, but I will. I think I really challenged him with this setup.

      Reply
  • April 21, 2015 at 8:18 pm
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    I am not really understanding what you are doing. The Oppo 103 and 105 have DAC chips and play surround sound. I think what you are doing is taking the digital surround sound stream and running it through your DAC thereby bypassing the Oppo DAC chip. Is that right?

    I have been wondering whether I could use the 103 as a transport to put the digital stream of two channel SACD’s into my PS Audio PerfectWave DAC. I don’t like the sound I am getting from my SACD’s using the 103. The 105 (which I also have) sounds much much better when playing SACD’s. I never thought of playing a surround sound SACD through an external DAC.

    Reply
    • April 22, 2015 at 7:21 am
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      I need more performance than the native OPPO units can provide…the Benchmark DAC2 is among the very finest converters at any price. I don’t know about the DSD/SACD abilities in the digital domain. You might want to check out the Audiopraise piece.

      Reply

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