Multichannel audio endpoints

I am putting together a home theatre and I would like it capable of playing multichannel audio from Roon. I have decided on a Marantz preamp (AV7706). Is it possible for this preamp to act a streamer? Would it be better to get a streamer and use the Marantz as a DAC? Or get a streamer/DAC and just have the analogue outputs go into the Marantz? Whichever way I go, I am having trouble finding choices, so I would appreciate any recommendations for electronics. Thanks much.

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Since the Marantz cannot host Roon core, it cannot act as a multichannel streamer with it. It can work as a multichannel DAC connected to the Roon core (e.g., Nucleus+) by HDMI.

@birnbaum — I have an AV7704 and play Mch to it from Roon (initially on PC, now on NUC) via HDMI. If you are in a position to connect your Core to the prepro via HDMI that would be the simplest.

Alternatively if you have any wireless endpoint that you can connect via HDMI to the Marantz, I believe that would work.

I’ve had my NUC connected via HDMI to my Denon 8500H receiver with good results for Multi-Channel Flac files but was frustrated because Roon doesn’t play DSD files over HDMI.

I recently added an exaSound Rood Ready S88 for MC playback. The S88 has RCA/XLR 7.1 outputs, connects to the RCA 7.1 analog inputs on my receiver, and streams 8 channels over my network. Also via USB but I haven’t tried that yet.

I see that the Marantz you listed has the same inputs.

Its not inexpensive, but it resolved my frustrations over playback options and works very well for me.

The problem you mention with playing DSD over HDMI is not a Roon issue. No device is allowed to send DSD digital to another device unless the receiving device has the Sony authorized handshake firmware to ensure the DSD is not copied illegally. This restriction has been around since the beginning of SACD and DSD, which is why SACD players only have analog out or if they do have digital, will not send DSD digital out unless it is to one of their own DACs which they can ensure does the Sony rights protection properly.

I know there is a valid reason why it doesn’t work, but I don’t understand it. My OPPO 205 will play the SACD’s over HDMI with the receiver showing the input is DSD and doing the D/A processing. Apparently OPPO and Denon have the handshake exchange working.

Not an issue anymore with the MC streaming dac in the loop. Thanks for the info.

@birnbaum – thinking about this some more, I would definitely suggest that you consider moving your Roon Core to a NUC running ROCK (I had the impression that you are not currently running your Roon Core from a NUC – maybe I’m wrong) and connect the NUC via HDMI to the AV7706.

The advantages, IMO would be:

  • a NUC is small enough to be able to place unobtrusively near the AV7706 and therefore easily connect via HDMI
  • the experience running Roon Core from an always-on NUC “appliance” should be greatly improved over running it from a typical (Mac/PC/Linux) computer
  • you won’t need to look into a streamer (and will probably spend less on a NUC than you woudl have on a streamer)

For thoughts beyond that (such as whether native DSD is a consideration for you) I think we’d need to get more information from you

Hope that helps –

@Mike_LC – A quick question, if you don’t mind. When running the output of the S88 to the analog inputs on your 8500H, do you still have bass management capabilities? And if so, do they occur without a DSD → PCM conversion being triggered?

(According to my limited understanding, even if bass management can be done on the analog input at all, it will trigger conversion to PCM. That’s what’s been deterring me from looking further into a way of getting DSD into my Marantz.)

Any information appreciated – thanks!

It is my understanding that using the analog inputs on the receiver bypasses the receivers internal processors, including bass management, and is routed straight through to the amps. My OPPO 205 has its own bass management capabilities for the analog outputs.

The Denon does have a function to boost the low frequencies (0db 5db 10db and 15db) that only works with the analog inputs. I used that with the OPPO for SACD’s to recover the 10DB of bass that gets lost.

The S88 does not require any bass enhancement, what’s in the music is there in abundance. 2 channel and 5 channel provides very good bass in the full range B&W 702 S2 tower and center channel speakers, and the .1 channel pushes the JL Audio subs. I don’t need the low frequency adjustment at all. It would be too much bass and I love the pristine sound provided by the S88 with no DSP.

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You’re correct. What you did with the Oppo and the Denon only works because both units comply with the Sony copyright standards and it only works over HDMI because HDMI itself has copy protection built into the transport protocol. When Sony launched SACD, they were very concerned about people ripping their SACD and making them available for free on Napster or other music pirating sites. So they implemented very strong copy protections that ensure (almost) that there is no way to rip an SACD.

Roon sending MCH DSD over a network or USB connection is a totally different scenario and while the Exasound is a great solution (I own one and love it), you could have done it with a NUC or even laptop with an HDMI out.

Quick bit of clarification…
It is not the Core which is providing this functionality but Roon Bridge (a part of Core). You can take a NuC (or any PC), run Bridge on it (not Core) and get same functionality without the overhead of Core. I plan to do this at some point using a very tiny passive cooled mini-pc.

I only point this out as there is no reason to move your core away from its “other side of the house deep in the back of the closet” recommended deployment just to get an HDMI connected endpoint into the receiver. There are limitations that it needs to be a PC and you might even need Windows (someone verify) but Bridge alone will do the multichannel thing over HDMI with the right machine / os.

Some points:

  • If you need a bassmanagement, then it doesn’t make send native DSD, because you’ll have in every case (ok, there are some really old systems, which are using complete “analogue filters”, but they are not sounding really well) decoding /transformation to PCM.
    Only trimming the volumed can be done in the analogue area.
  • It’s much easier (and cheaper) to use HDMI (and PCM, DD or dts) and also there you can take a Pi with PicorePlayer and Roon Bridge.
  • I’ve ordered five months ago (and just waiting) the Okto Research Dac 8 Pro, which is much cheaper than the exasound for using it for multichannel DSD, but I don’t need any DSP, because all my speakers are fullrange and I’m sitting in the centre of the circle.

I just put together this convoluted set-up and it worked (Bridge on Win10):

Core(other side of house) → network
→ Old laptop running Win 10 → HDMI
→ Oppo Blu-Ray player HDMI Front/MHL → Coax
→ Rotel Surround Processor (old, has no HDMI)
Rotel decoded as DTS

Remote was my “better laptop”

It worked fine. Even up-converted 5.1 FLAC to 7.1. I didn’t try DSD but I doubt that will work… not sure my Oppo supports DSD over HDMI. When I get more time.

Anyway… I need to go get a cheap MINI PC now. Have had this idea for a long time have just not pulled the trigger / tested it. @birnbaum Thanks for asking the question to get me off my rear to test it.

DSD will work on any 20x model Oppo. Pretty sure the 10x Oppos will handle it as well but don’t have one any more to test with. Since your Rotel doesn’t have HDMI, the Oppo DAC will do the conversion and you can use the 7.1 analog outputs to connect it with your Rotel (assuming it has 7.1 analog inputs). Any digital connection from the Oppo to the Rotel will force a down convert in the Oppo from DSD to PCM due to the Sony restrictions.

Yup yup. That is my DSD plan if it decides to decode it. That’s my SACD path today.

Any bass management (and/or other DSP) requires conversion to PCM (or some form of it) regardless of the device.

And even if/when you do need bass management or other DSP, Roon can do can do it.

While true… My Rotel (one reason I keep it) is that it has a very trick feature I don’t think is common. The Rotel has the ability to sample, or tap, the analog inputs and send them through an ADC. The bass management is applied (digital x-over) and the resulting signal is sent via the LFE outs. The full-range analog signal is then left untouched by any digital section of the processor and passed through to the analog outputs, effectively, leaving the other channels acting as an analog pre. Other than the LFE outs, the other channels are left alone and stay analog input to output. I don’t mind that my subs receive a signal that has an ADC/DAC stage (at least not until I can save up for some RELs and change this whole set-up).

Set all your Denon speakers to small and set Crossovers. Then in bass management set LFE output to SW+Main. Set audio to Direct or Pure Direct. That will give you bass management without any internal A/D->D/A conversion for analog input. Also DSP processing will be disabled. It works for CD input but I’m not sure if for the others. Took me a while to sort that out with a rather average Denon support.

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but not without conversion from DSD to PCM…
And so, there is no need to use an external DAC like the Okto or the exaSound, if you use an AV Pre and you can use PCM through HDMI.

Yes and there’s also no need to abstain from conversion of DSD to PCM when the results justify it (as they often do). So many regard the conversion as major horror but, while the audibility of it is highly unlikely, the improvements wrought by bass management/DSP are usually clearly audible.