Marantz HD-DAC1
Feb 16, 2021 at 11:04 AM Post #1,081 of 1,094

Bernard23

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A quick browse of other forums is a bit more balanced, but not much.
 
Feb 16, 2021 at 3:34 PM Post #1,082 of 1,094

Bernard23

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Back on topic, I'm using my Marantz via USB 3.0 and the Marantz drivers, however I found some old optical cables, and my laptop that i sometimes use with the Marantz has an optical sp/dif output, which I used before the DAC manufacturers got async USB mode sorted out. I've lost the 3.5mm jack adapters, but before I buy a replacement though I'd ask if anyone uses the optical connection? How does it compare, and does it remove that very low background hum?
 
Feb 16, 2021 at 3:46 PM Post #1,083 of 1,094

milkdudd

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Back on topic, I'm using my Marantz via USB 3.0 and the Marantz drivers, however I found some old optical cables, and my laptop that i sometimes use with the Marantz has an optical sp/dif output, which I used before the DAC manufacturers got async USB mode sorted out. I've lost the 3.5mm jack adapters, but before I buy a replacement though I'd ask if anyone uses the optical connection? How does it compare, and does it remove that very low background hum?
I use optical to connect my audio engine B1 Bluetooth device. I can't tell you sound quality exactly because the Bluetooth already loses some compared to my USB direct connection. I can tell you it functions without fail is it should. I think you should check what sampling rates are supported over optical if you listen to high res
 
Feb 16, 2021 at 4:57 PM Post #1,084 of 1,094

Bernard23

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Good point on sample rate. Highest is 96k from tidal, which from memory is OK over optical.
 
Feb 18, 2021 at 5:37 PM Post #1,086 of 1,094

Bernard23

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Well, here's a thing. I expected the optical in to be inferior to USB, since latter has been well implemented by most manufacturers with their own drivers, and certainly in the past with my CA dacmagic plus that was the case, but I swear that the Marantz via optical is more detailed, and has a fuller bass presentation. Of course, it could be entirely down to my laptop that simply works better in this config, but I don't know enough about W10 architecture to understand why that be.

EDIT: a bit more time, an connecting both up so I can quickly switch between the two, and probably no difference that I could reliably detect. Both sounds great

On a slightly different topic, I noticed that my unit runs cooler than it did when I first got it, unless that's because I'm listening louder and any class A circuits have less drain heat to dissipate.
 
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Feb 18, 2021 at 6:01 PM Post #1,087 of 1,094

milkdudd

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Well, here's a thing. I expected the optical in to be inferior to USB, since latter has been well implemented by most manufacturers with their own drivers, and certainly in the past with my CA dacmagic plus that was the case, but I swear that the Marantz via optical is more detailed, and has a fuller bass presentation. Of course, it could be entirely down to my laptop that simply works better in this config, but I don't know enough about W10 architecture to understand why that be.
Curious if you have the ability to connect with a USB on the go cable using an Android device as your source. That's what I'm doing and to me the results are spectacular. Right or wrong I've always considered it better to use a source that's not plugged into the wall when possible. Do you keep your laptop plugged in while listening? If yes, curious if unplugging it and running it from the battery would improve sound quality. Probably not but it's an easy test. Also, while I know probably half of those on this form will disagree with me, I'm convinced the quality of cables, even digital cables makes a difference. What kind of USB cable are you using?
 
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Feb 18, 2021 at 6:22 PM Post #1,088 of 1,094

Bernard23

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Curious if you have the ability to connect with a USB on the go cable using an Android device as your source. That's what I'm doing and to me the results are spectacular. Right or wrong I've always considered it better to use a source that's not plugged into the wall when possible. Do you keep your laptop plugged in while listening? If yes, curious if unplugging it and running it from the battery would improve sound quality. Probably not but it's an easy test. Also, while I know probably half of those on this form will disagree with me, I'm convinced the quality of cables, even digital cables makes a difference. What kind of USB cable are you using?
Not tried battery vs mains from laptop, good point and one I recall from years ago. I rarely use my laptop anymore for streaming music, it's now usually from a desktop PC in my office. I do know that LG V30 is improved when running from battery, there is a hum loop somewhere when charging.
I use a mix of generic cheap amazon USB cables, and a boutique (aka expensive) one I bought years ago, makes no difference to my ears which one I use. A good DAC configured correctly should be impervious to cable type, making the choice irrelevant, in theory. I would say your ears don't lie, but they are capable of doing that, and often. In my day job I've spent more than a few hours at schools and colleges in our outreach programmes how poor our senses are at quantifying things consistently.
 
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Feb 19, 2021 at 6:59 PM Post #1,089 of 1,094

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Conclusion: made no discernible difference, so well done Marantz, but for the ££ you would expect that.
 
Feb 20, 2021 at 9:12 PM Post #1,090 of 1,094

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Here's on odd thing, I subscribed to qobuz again, tried it briefly a whole sho but didn't continue as tracks missing etc. So many people think it's better than tidal, plus it's 25% cheaper so thought I'd try it out. Configured it to wasapi exclusive, same as Tidal and musicbee and I noticed the relay click partway into some songs, and discovered that on a significant number of songs, it's not playing at the correct resolution. So a hi res track starts off at 96k but will jump down to 44k about 10s into the song. Some 44k tracks are streaming at 96k, and if the resolution changes from track to track, the dac is about 5s into the song before it changes the rate over. I checked again with tidal, and it plays 44k as 44 masters as 96 or 88, and the rate change is done as the track starts up, not partway in. Most odd, and I'm sure it didn't do this in the trial period last year but albeit on a different computer. Anyone else notices this behaviour with qobuz?
 
Feb 21, 2021 at 4:29 PM Post #1,091 of 1,094

JHern

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Here's on odd thing, I subscribed to qobuz again, tried it briefly a whole sho but didn't continue as tracks missing etc. So many people think it's better than tidal, plus it's 25% cheaper so thought I'd try it out. Configured it to wasapi exclusive, same as Tidal and musicbee and I noticed the relay click partway into some songs, and discovered that on a significant number of songs, it's not playing at the correct resolution. So a hi res track starts off at 96k but will jump down to 44k about 10s into the song. Some 44k tracks are streaming at 96k, and if the resolution changes from track to track, the dac is about 5s into the song before it changes the rate over. I checked again with tidal, and it plays 44k as 44 masters as 96 or 88, and the rate change is done as the track starts up, not partway in. Most odd, and I'm sure it didn't do this in the trial period last year but albeit on a different computer. Anyone else notices this behaviour with qobuz?

After our previous discussion about Audirvana I've been looking at other sources, including streaming. Long story short: I moved to Japan just after streaming really took off, but once here I found that Japan IPs were blocked ("not available in your region"). Of course I tried VPN but the streaming services seemed pretty good at sniffing those out, as well. So I gave up and went back to my personal (CD ripped to AIFF) collection instead. Fast forward to now...it seems that most streaming services are available here, and I didn't even know it until you mentioned the Qobuz option in Audirvana.

OK, so I launched a Qobuz trial first, and it was working at times, but then I started to encounter errors. Sometimes the song would play fine, other times it wouldn't play anything. It isn't my network, we have plenty bandwidth. So it really does seem glitchy. I didn't bother to dig deeper, because there were other options...

So then I started a trial with Tidal, this was really the first time I've heard of this service. I had seen mentions of a "tidal" something in the past, but I never knew what people were talking about. I signed up for the higher level plan and logged in via Audirvana but then I downloaded the Tidal App (also to iPad and iPhone) and have mostly been playing through that.

Basically, it sounds fantastic through the HD-DAC1. Perhaps I need to spend more time listening through Audirvana again, and look for some detailed differences in quality, but at the moment I've not even thought about playing through anything else. When I do make a more detailed listening comparison, I'll post more thoughts here.
 
Feb 21, 2021 at 4:48 PM Post #1,092 of 1,094

Bernard23

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After our previous discussion about Audirvana I've been looking at other sources, including streaming. Long story short: I moved to Japan just after streaming really took off, but once here I found that Japan IPs were blocked ("not available in your region"). Of course I tried VPN but the streaming services seemed pretty good at sniffing those out, as well. So I gave up and went back to my personal (CD ripped to AIFF) collection instead. Fast forward to now...it seems that most streaming services are available here, and I didn't even know it until you mentioned the Qobuz option in Audirvana.

OK, so I launched a Qobuz trial first, and it was working at times, but then I started to encounter errors. Sometimes the song would play fine, other times it wouldn't play anything. It isn't my network, we have plenty bandwidth. So it really does seem glitchy. I didn't bother to dig deeper, because there were other options...

So then I started a trial with Tidal, this was really the first time I've heard of this service. I had seen mentions of a "tidal" something in the past, but I never knew what people were talking about. I signed up for the higher level plan and logged in via Audirvana but then I downloaded the Tidal App (also to iPad and iPhone) and have mostly been playing through that.

Basically, it sounds fantastic through the HD-DAC1. Perhaps I need to spend more time listening through Audirvana again, and look for some detailed differences in quality, but at the moment I've not even thought about playing through anything else. When I do make a more detailed listening comparison, I'll post more thoughts here.
I suspect that the Qobuz issue is a revision update glitch, and they know about, as lots of noise about in the forums. The interesting thing about audirvana is that it's supposed to do the MQA unfolding, bearing in mind that the Marantz doesn't have that capability, and I'm not sure it's even a positive unless the DAC does it. I tried all of the filters, and upsampling tricks that were suggested, and I really couldn't hear anything better whatever setting I tried. There might have been some really marginal differences, but none I could consistently differentiate.

I've given up the idea of replacing my Marantz just yet with some of the latest hero kit from China, most of the bench tests I've seen are static, not dynamic loads. There is a reason why the HD DAC1 is so heavy, it's got a huge mains transformer and supply rail capacitors in there, that these other much smaller boxes simply don't have. The quality of the imaging and acoustic space suggest that the DAC implentation is very good indeed, but i can't measure that, and I can't find anyone who has. I also know that the bright / lean Grado sonic profile works really well with it, there is so much energy in a rock drum kit, the impact and dynamics is impressive
 
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Feb 22, 2021 at 4:35 AM Post #1,093 of 1,094

Bernard23

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My experience with this device over the last several years has been truly enjoyable in every way. It makes me seriously doubt the usefulness of that extremely negative series of measurements on the Audio Science Review website.

I originally bought this unit as an open box from Music Direct, but it refused to play 24/192 files. Marantz replaced it under warranty with a brand-new unit that has worked faultlessly ever since.
I've gone back and read through most of this thread for background reading, and whilst I know you have since changed your system, and that there are other comments about the ASR review, but it should be noted that Amir's review is of the HD AMP1 not the DAC1. It is not the same design, they don't even use the same chipset.

I also notice lots of comments (not from you I should add!) about the HD DAC1 being warm, and some bold statements about it not being neutral without any quantitative evidence. Someone back in the mists of time probably writing for a popular magazine bereft of analytical data that a Marantz unit was warm sounding (without really knowing what that means, but possibly harmonic distortion, this is what some SMSL DACs use in their different filter settings) and now that reputation has stuck! The unit is rated at 0.0012% THD, your phones will be orders of magnitude worse than this.

There are better measuring DACs and better measuring amps for less money now than the Marantz was new, but this doesn't make it a poor performer overnight, and of course assumes that we can all hear these improvements reliably and consistently. I'm resisting changing it, I've been down too many expensive rabbit holes in the past where a lot of ££ in truth gives you very little gain. I've learnt over the years to pay little attention to subjective reviews, and also realised that I've been ridiculously hypnotised in retailers listening rooms convincing myself that I can hear a couple of minor improvements that justified a large £££ investment.
 
Feb 28, 2021 at 8:21 PM Post #1,094 of 1,094

JHern

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There are better measuring DACs and better measuring amps for less money now than the Marantz was new, but this doesn't make it a poor performer overnight, and of course assumes that we can all hear these improvements reliably and consistently. I'm resisting changing it, I've been down too many expensive rabbit holes in the past where a lot of ££ in truth gives you very little gain. I've learnt over the years to pay little attention to subjective reviews, and also realised that I've been ridiculously hypnotised in retailers listening rooms convincing myself that I can hear a couple of minor improvements that justified a large £££ investment.

Well said! I completely agree with this, hi-fi is too often full of hot air. An entire field of hyperbole and poetry has developed around it, but this is understandable with the high dollar figures involved...it is marketing. I'm a semi-professional photographer, and we see the same dynamic in that market.

While quantitative tests are welcome, they only apply to exact (transparent) sound reproduction as the primary aim. But numbers and measurements cannot tell the whole story, the thing that matters is how it is received by the ear. (There is a famous anecdote from the 1960s: US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara spent all his time collecting reams of data and mountains of papers the supposedly showed the war in Vietnam was going very well for the US.) A focus on data alone can really miss the ground truth, and fail spectacularly. This is true in every domain of human experience.

Additionally, the best sound engineers don't produce music specifically for 6-figure audio systems. As always, the vast majority of listening occurs through low-brow sources. It makes no business sense for engineers to focus on producing a product that leaves most listeners out of the experience. They must always have in mind the way that most people (i.e., customers) consume their product. If you do pick up better audio gear, then you can hear their tricks. You can hear exaggerated color and texture that they've mixed into various tracks in order to produce a sound that is still exciting to listen to through more pedestrian sources...but which comes across as more frantic in hi-fi sources. Their bag of tricks goes well beyond the well-known crude "loudness wars" of the 1980s, and just like they did in the past, some of them over-do it. But imagine the challenge of being an audio engineer whose job it is to make a recording that is both pleasing to crude sources as well as rewarding for those who like hi-fi? In some cases, audiophiles may hear something they would rather not, and they might knock it down as excessive brightness, or something else.

Many people say "oh but you can tweak it with equalization" but I think there are serious limits. For one, equalization at the listening end is only applied to the entire mixed recording. If you're trying to color one instrument or voice in a certain way, then the same is applied to everything else, and may be detrimental to other tracks in the mix. What we'd actually like to be able to do, if it were possible, is to tweak individual tracks prior to mixing. Wouldn't it be fun to get the original tracks unmixed, and then play with those using all of the fun digital audio tools available today? I do some recording myself, using a Scarlett 4Pre, and I have to say that having total control over the mix is super fun!

Still, coloration of sound is inevitable, a fundamental part of the art, and this is something that Marantz realized and embraced long ago, in a tasteful way that has garnered a particular market sector. Different recording artists, different engineers, different amp and speaker/HP makers, have all imposed some element of their own flavor on the subject. And that flavor is what we savor. The "Marantz house sound" is a famous and successful example (even if that triggers the ultra-purists).

DACs are perhaps the only exception. The one thing we surely don't want to hear are digital anomalies, that isn't "good color." Nobody likes it, and no artist or producer or engineer ever intends for that to be part of the sound signature. Digital junk is ugly. Same is true for digital photography, while people enjoy the "grain" of analogue film, almost nobody likes the digital noise produced by over-driven digital camera sensors (I've seen a couple rare exceptions, where a photography used it to artistic effect, but this is rare).

So, is the DAC-1 good enough to eliminate hearable digital noise? It is for me. And I like the amp section, I have to say that even though I really like the "Marantz sound" in general, this one actually has somewhat less Marantz coloring to my ears. But that could be a combination of my sources and cans, and I need to try more.

To that end, I recently picked up a pair of cherry condition used Ultrasone Edition 8 HPs for a great bargain, and they are more revealing than any of my Audio-Technicas (ATH-A900X, ATH-ES10, and ATH-W1000Z). The Edition 8s sound great through the DAC-1, I'm listening to Tidal through Audirvana for a little while again to develop a good solid impression, and then I'll switch it up again.
 

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