There is a lot to unpack and I need a little time to digest your very generous response. I hope to have some time during the week to do a little research. Unfortunately, I know very little about all these issues so the learning curve is steep.
I just got a Nucleus and I have a legacy equipment not Roon Ready and I am not sure how to get the best audio from them
Well, I’d start by plugging the Marantz into your network, using the Ethernet port on the back of the preamp. It should then show up in Roon as an Airplay-connected endpoint, and you should be able to play music on it. Or with the HDMI cable from the Nucleus. I think both will be limited to 24/48 resolution, but it’s an AV amp, that’s what it’s designed for anyway.
Hi Bill - I have done a little checking since I was told my Marantz 7702mkII doesn’t have a USB connection, but it does appear to on the front of the unit that allows a USB memory device or an iPod. It was manufactured before Roon, but I have been told that it would work for my Nucleus and from what I have read on replies made to my issue the consensus seems to agree that a USB connection would allow for hi Rez files to be passed through the Marantz unmolested so to speak. Does this make sense to your significant understanding of how Roon might work with the Marantz given this new information? Grateful as always for your views. Steve Hoff
Steve, that USB connection (technically, it’s called a “downstream” port) is the wrong kind. It’s made for, as you say, a storage device of some kind. It will not accept music streamed from a computer or other streamer via USB Audio. The Marantz does not have an “upstream” port, which is what you’d want to use a USB connection.
HDMI or Ethernet are still your best first steps.
Steve, are you using that preamp for surround sound or other video purposes? You say you’ve got those two rocking amps and some B&W Diamond speakers – is it just stereo?
I knew I asked the right guy! Thanks as always.
It is also set up for surround sound but when I listen to music I just use the 2 Channels.
If I wanted to connect my Nucleus to my Bryston 7B amps and B&W speakers independent of my Marantz preamp, could I do it by adding a Roon Ready DAC with a volume control that didn’t need a preamp even though the amp and speakers are not Roon Ready and still get a superior sound?
I am doing some homework and learning just enough to be dangerous as you can probably tell. Steve Hoff
Yes, you could do that. Whether or not you get a superior sound is another matter, depending on a lot of things.
I use USB to a Topping D70 DAC which goes straight into my power amp, for instance. I use the analog side of the DAC as a preamp.
There is an issue with digitally controlled preamps. Bad code or resets or bugs might cause them to turn on with full volume and ruin your speakers. Many recommend putting a passive preamp in between the DAC and the power amp. See this thread:
To the OP:
While there is an orthodox answer (see below), there is no universally correct answer to your question. While I don’t have a Nucleus, I do have a Marantz 8802A pre-pro, so I can relate to your situation.
Let’s start with the basics: you’re getting sound out over HDMI, so that’s a good start. What type of files are you playing with Roon? FLAC? MP3? AAC? Apple Lossless (ALAC)? WAV? AIFF? Something else?
As other replies have indicated, your Marantz should accept up to 192/24 PCM over HDMI. It will take up to 7.1 channels, if you like multichannel music. You can configure this by clicking on the gear icon next to the Nucleus HDMI output on the Audio Settings page. If you’re playing WAV/AIFF/FLAC/ALAC, you’re aiming to get the signal path indicator (next to the skip backwards playback control) to glow purple. This indicates that Roon has a transparent, bit-perfect path to your pre-pro. Glowing green indicates that Roon (or some other software) is modifying the audio before it gets to your pre-pro. Amber/orange, if I remember correctly, is what Roon shows if you’re playing a lossily compressed file, e.g., MP3 or AAC. Ignore the discussion of DSD for now; set Roon to convert it to PCM.
If you’ve gotten the purple signal path indicator on a losslessly compressed or uncompressed track, how does it sound to you? If the answer is good, then you can either declare victory for the time being, or continue to explore, but exploring will entail additional purchases. If you have dropouts, clicking noises, or similar very obvious problems, then more work is needed.
For various technical reasons, HDMI isn’t the audio interface you’d design if video wasn’t an issue. If you wish to continue exploring, the next simplest approach would be purchasing a USB/SPDIF converter, USB & SPDIF cables (I won’t touch the great cable debate here), and use one of the SPDIF inputs on your pre-pro. You may or may not hear a difference, but if you hear a very dramatic difference, then it’s probably related to a pre-pro setting. If it sounds the same, a little better, or a little worse, then you’re probably making a fair comparison.
The orthodox answer is to purchase a streamer with a SPDIF output to use with your pre-pro. DIY solutions start at ~$100, packaged solutions in the $300-400 range, and go up (sometimes way up) from there.
The S/PDIF approach is certainly possible, but I doubt there’s any advantage over simply using the HDMI cable, the way a box like this is intended to be used. And there are more things to go wrong. If the OP wants to mess around with DSD, for instance, S/PDIF would be the way to go, but what would he really gain? The internal DAC in the Marantz would just re-convert it into whatever it uses. Those S/PDIF inputs on the back of the Marantz are there mainly to service old DVD players and televisions without HDMI capability.
Thanks for your valued comments. I am playing FLAC hi-res files from Qubuz and Tidal. I am only interested in playing them back in 2-channel on my B&W speakers. When I look on the path from Qobuz it starts purple and ends up as CD quality identified as Airplay which appears to be the glowing green color you describe. This is clearly better than I had previously been able to achieve, but it does not provide the hi-rez output that I had hoped to be receiving.
After more study, it seems like a separate DAC connected by a USB 2.0 or 3.1 (?) to the Roon Nucleus would be a reasonable step if I wanted to get the full benefit from my streaming services, but it raises another question in addition to price. Would connection of the added DAC to my Marantz allow the Qobuz or Tidal hi-rez file to flow through the Marantz to my legacy amps and speakers? Or would the added DAC be best benefited from by connecting it directly to my legacy amps since I have no analog music files or sources in my system?
Always good to hear your ideas and suggestions Bill. I just responded to ddean and saw your response.
As you can see, I am entertaining what I think is an orthodox solution, but a more expensive one than I had originally considered, by adding an external DAC, but not really knowing how the connection of it to my legacy preamp and speakers should be made, whether direct or through the existing preamp. What are your thoughts?
I don’t see the point of an external DAC if you continue to use the Marantz preamp. If you’re going to go that route, connect the DAC’s output directly to your power amps.
On the other hand, you are now using AirPlay to connect the preamp to the Core. But an HDMI cable would give you better resolution. Why don’t you try that first, before you buy a DAC?
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but in between my music server (similar to your Nucleus) and power amp, I use a single box that combines streamer, DAC, and pre-amp capabilities. I do not have an additional, dedicated pre-amp between the streamer/DAC/pre-amp and the power amp (but could add one if I wished).
The integrated box is a Matrix Element X, which can be used as a network-attached DAC or as a USB-attached DAC (or both). As a USB-attached DAC, it can be connected directly to my music server (a sonicTransporter i9) or to a computer. As a network-attached DAC it works as a Roon-Ready endpoint. I usually control volume (and source selection) with an infrared remote control.
Alternatives to the Matrix Element X (~$3400 new) include less expensive products in the Matrix line, as well as several products by Cambridge Audio (e.g. the Azur 851N for ~$1500 new), Lumin Music, and Exasound.
I’m not claiming you would or would not notice a significant difference in SQ compared to your current set-up. If this approach appeals to you after completing your research, then I’d recommend buying from a vendor with a generous return policy.
My MC streaming DAC gets the signal from Roon over Ethernet. The DAC is connected to a Denon receiver via 7.1 analog connections. For my setup everything connects to the receiver which handles all the switching and drives 13 speaker 2 sub arrangement. Plays both stereo and MC very well. I’m trying to keep my equipment down so I can save for the B&W 802 D4’s
Thank you for your response. It was very interesting and while expensive, it sounds like a product that would work for me, but without knowing if it would improve my SQ justifies your advice to only purchase it from a vendor with a generous return policy. Having been down that road once with Moon-Audio I am now very very careful.
If you want to bypass hdmi and use usb out, you could use a topping d10 dac (about $100) to take usb out from the Nucleus and convert it to coax s/pdif in to your preamp. It will play up to 24/192. It measures well, and using it this way you are simply passing through the usb digital signal to the dac in your preamp (not using the dac in the d10).
The main advantage would be that s/pdif might have less “jitter” than hdmi (basically miniscule noise because of timing/clocking errors/differences). The difference is probably inaudible, though. There might also be other sources of noise getting in to hdmi that would be eliminated via coax.
Another possibility is to use an HDMI streamer like the one reviewed below. This will let you pass all channels of hi-res audio through to the AV preamp, and it’s pretty cheap.
My 2p …
Put a streamer in between Ethernet and SPDIF input of pre pro
Many choices, I use
Posh : Cambridge Audio CXN V2 then coax to preamp
DIY: Raspberry pi \ Riopeee \ Allo DigiOne HAT then coax to preamp
I use both devices , they are hard to tell apart but I have OLD EARS
Both are Roon Ready , the pi is dirt cheap and worth a try , it will be an improvement on AirPlay