SalkStream/Oppo

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jsalk

SalkStream/Oppo
« on: 3 Dec 2012, 05:20 pm »
The new Oppo BDP 105 was mentioned recently in an un-related Salk Circle thread.  What caught my attention was that, in addition to all the features of previous Oppo  models, the 105 also featured a DAC that could function independently of the transport.  In other words, it could function as a stand-alone DAC.  And, supposedly, it could handle bit rates as high as 24/192. 

The question in my mind was whether or not the USB input to this DAC was USB Class 2 Audio compliant.  There are quite a few DAC's in the marketplace that will play 24/192 material.  But many of them are not USB Class 2 Audio compliant and require special drivers in order to handle bit rates over 24/96. (I should note that all Windows computers require special drivers since the Win USB implementation does not have the bandwidth required for higher bit rates.) 

I found one document that seemed to indicate that the 105's USB DAC was USB Class 2 Audio compliant.  But Oppo's documentation specifically indicated that while no drivers were required for MAC computers, drivers were required for other systems and not available for Windows 8 or Linux.  I found this a bit confusing.  The fact that no drivers were required for recent MAC computers seemed to indicate that the USB DAC in the 105 was Class 2 Audio compliant.  But if that were the case, no drivers would be required for an up-to-date Linux system either.

Since our StreamPlayer is based on Linux, it seemed to me that no drivers should be required for use with it if it was truly UBS Class 2 Audio compliant.  But there was only one way to find out.  So I ordered a unit.

There are a reasonable number of great USB Class 2 Audio DACs available these days.  But they tend to be expensive.  Ayre makes one for about $2500.  The Wavelength DAC I often use is $3500.  My modified AVA DAC probably runs about $1900.  If the Oppo BDP really is USB Class 2 Audio compliant, it would be quite reasonably priced at $1200.  Plus, you get a great transport for Blu-ray, SACD, etc. thrown in on the deal!  So it was worth investigating.

The 105 arrived on Friday and Saturday I tried running it through its paces.  First I used the Oppo itself to play files from my music server.  This worked as expected.  So I next hooked up a StreamPlayer and hit "play."  I received an error "trouble opening audio device."  I could see that the StreamPlayer recognized the "Oppo USB Audio" device, but for some reason could not open it.  This was quite disappointing.

Next, I hooked up a MAC to the USB DAC input and played some music.  No problem at all.

This made no sense.  The MAC did not need a special driver.  But it seemed that the Linux-based StreamPlayer did.

Then, on Sunday, I got to thinking.  The StreamPlayer I was using was my very first prototype.  Were the drivers up to date?  The answer was no, they were not.  So I updated the Linux audio drivers to the latest version of alsa, hit play and heard wonderful music!  The Oppo 105 DAC worked perfectly with the StreamPlayer with current alsa drivers - no special drivers required!

I tested the combination with a series of musical selections ranging from standard Redbook 16/44 to 24/96 and 24/192.  All worked flawlessly and seamlessly.  There were no clicks heard as the DAC switched from one format to another (which I have found with some other DACs). 

The combination of the StreamPlayer and the Oppo BDP 105 has been playing continuously for about 24 hours now with absolutely no hickups.  So, it appears that the 105 is indeed USB Class 2 Audio compliant and does not require special drivers with up-to-date Linux systems.  This means it is a perfectly acceptable DAC for use with the StreamPlayer up to 24/192, just as I had hoped.  This totally eliminates the need for a stand-alone DAC for music reproduction in my home theater.  Nice.

One question that was asked in the earlier thread related to the use of the Oppo itself to play music files.  The poster wondered why you would use a StreamPlayer when the Oppo could access and play network-accessible music files by itself.

While this is true, there are a number of reasons why I feel the StreamPlayer/Oppo combination is superior.  I won't bother to get into all of them here, but here are a few worth pointing out.

First, in order to use the Oppo to play music files, you will need to have your TV or projector on in order to use the Oppo remote to make selections.  In my home theater, I would rather not fire up the projector (and put hours on the bulbs) just to play music. 

Second, the Oppo interface is like a directory browser.  The process of selecting music with the remote is slow and cumbersome compared to scrolling through albums, artists, etc. on an iPad (for example).  I tried using it and it does work.  But I find it crude and clumsy and would not be at all satisfied with its use on a long-term basis.  It simply can't compete with an good MPD client like mPad or the like.

When used with the StreamPlayer, the Oppo 105 can also be put in "direct" mode.  This supposedly improves the DAC performance by shutting down all the circuitry not required (video circuitry for example) and eliminating a lot of RF interference in the process.  I have not tested this, but you obviously couldn't use the Oppo alone in this mode since you would no longer have access to an on-screen display.

An unrelated observation I found strange (but did not verify) is that the documentation on the DAC section seemed to indicate that the USB port was the only port capable of 24/192 reproduction. S/PDIF and optical are only spec'd to 24/96.  I only mention this as a side note since my concern was only with USB anyway.  I just thought it was worth pointing out.

OK, how does it sound?  Well, I should note that most of the DACs I have preferred in the past have used Wolfson chips.  The Oppo uses Sabre chips which are also considered cutting edge.  In the past, I have read many comments from individuals who liked the detail of the Sabre chips, but found them to be a little bright and thin, somewhat lacking in the bass department.  Never having spent any time with them, especially in direct A/B comparisons, I can't say whether I agree or disagree with this assessment. 

I had read these same comments about the DAC implementation in the BDP 105.  So I don't know if my first impression was based on sound quality or the fact that I had read comments to this effect in the past, but I did sense that the sound was somewhat on the thin side. Most owners who made these comments seemed to feel things improved quite a bit with a bit of break-in.  So I will not pass judgement here at this point and leave the StreamPlayer/DAC combination playing 24 hours per day for a few days before I revisit the system.  Later I will conduct a few comparisons with other DACs.

We now have an ABX switch that will allow us to directly compare two different (volume-matched) sources (two DACs for example), with two amps and three sets of speakers and instantly switch back and forth.  When I have time to test it, I will be able to directly compare two DACs in the same setup in order to determine how the various DACs compare in terms of sound quality.

I'll have to find time to conduct these tests later...

- Jim




adydula

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Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #1 on: 3 Dec 2012, 07:22 pm »
Hi Jim!!

Glad you finally got an Oppo!!  LOL....

I mucked around with the earlier OPPO's the BD 83SE and had access to a PC via ethernet and the Oppo's capability to allow access to files on another device running via DLNA etc....I had flac files on a pc and used this ability to connect to it using Asset UPnP (DLNA compatible).

Asset is a UPnP (DLNA compatible) audio server, UPnP is a method of sharing media content between devices. Typically audio files are stored on a computer, server or NAS, multiple audio devices around the home network can play audio from the UPnP server (devices such as Linn DS, XBox 360, PS3, etc).

http://dbpoweramp.com/asset-upnp-dlna.htm

Back then I had to run code on the pc to convert the flacs to CDA to play, the oppo didnt support flacs back then...and the interface with the Oppo to the files on the UPnP server was very crappy to say the least....no artwork and very cumbersome to say the least.

When I saw your method of finding and playing this really impressed me.

I eventually went the route of a seperate HTPC with JRiver and do use my 58" plasma for a display to read across the room and a seperate USB DAC etc...Access to 5000+ files is near instanteous with Jriver.

Its nice to see Oppo allowing you to use the DAC's in this unit if you so desire...

Look forward to your testing and how it sounds compared to the other dacs you have been using...

All the best
Alex

« Last Edit: 4 Dec 2012, 02:26 am by adydula »

Frans

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Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #2 on: 3 Dec 2012, 07:24 pm »
Outstanding write-up Jim!

I own an OPPO BDP-105 and am hitting on those exact conclusions about its clunky file management trees. OPPO lacks an iOS app so your StreamPlayer pros are correct.

The question on my mind is that when/if OPPO releases a viable music library management client for iOS (or a third party such as iPeng), will this eliminate most benefits of the Streamplayer? If not, what are the benefits (or opportunities) in this scenario?

I'd compare this to the pros of a Logitech Squeezebox Touch with its ability to consume radio streams and its built-in and mobile/tablet external apps and dedicated PC-server, although Logitech canceled this device with no viable hardware replacement. :duh:  That's a hole in the market on the lower-end which I will be surprised if someone else doesn't run with it.

DACs are becoming ubiquitous and the real challenge becomes how to manage, access, and store all that content.


audiotom

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Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #3 on: 3 Dec 2012, 07:58 pm »
thanks for the detailed write up Jim

I also had an Oppo 105 arrive this weekend

will look forward to your findings
I mainly bought it for blu ray video and sound upgrade (I have two BP83s)
would be great if I could intergrate a huge part of my music files on the HT when I don't feel like firing up the big rig

fortune teller - I see a stream of sound in your future

Cheeseboy

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #4 on: 3 Dec 2012, 08:35 pm »
Jim,

Thanks for the post.  I was thinking about the OPPO 105 myself and was interested in getting a reveiw from someone with some good ears on thier head.  I'll look forward to hearing your extended listening impressions.  It would be great to be able to take the swiss army knife approach to blu ray, DAC and cd to save some money until I have more of it. 

Steve

Big Red Machine

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Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #5 on: 3 Dec 2012, 08:53 pm »
There's nothing like the SalkStreamer for speed of use and just holding an iPad in your hands and having lightning quick access to your tunes.  It is amazing how quickly you can change songs with that thing.  Ten times faster than the lag with a Squeezebox.

I'm thinking a Modwright modded Oppo with the streamer would be the absolute king of the hill set up.

pstrisik

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Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #6 on: 3 Dec 2012, 10:39 pm »
Could someone post some screen shots of the ipad music jukebox interface or, even better, a video of it in action?  I use a Dune for music streaming but the music interface is lousy and is only on big screen - not to mention general audio quality issues.

I've actually been looking at the new PCH A-400 to replace my Dune (when the initial bugs get worked out) given its apparently well functioning jukebox and ipad/android control apps.  But I'm sure that would be a step down from the SalkStream in audio quality, even if the PCH is setup in bitstreaming mode to a freestanding  DAC.

With a dedicated audio streamer, I would keep the dune for video.

What is the price of the SalkStream, btw?

.......Peter

Nuance

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #7 on: 4 Dec 2012, 02:47 am »
This is great information, Jim, and I look forward to your results.  I've been meaning to pick up a new BR player and was planning on going with the Oppo BDP-103, but if the DAC in the 105 is worthy, perhaps I could ditch my PS Audio Digital Link III and just as the 105 as an all-in-one solution (paired with a SalkStream Player, of course).

I am anxiously awaiting your further listening impressions.

Big Red Machine

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TJHUB

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #9 on: 4 Dec 2012, 03:25 am »
Jim:  Are you certain the OPPO is truly USB Class 2?  I ask because the ALSA driver is capable of identifying the DAC device's capabilities and will automatically down sample the bit rate and you can't tell it's happening. 

I experienced this using a similar device to the SalkStream and a DAC that was not USB Class 2.

PETE6737

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Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #10 on: 5 Dec 2012, 03:08 am »


I'm thinking a Modwright modded Oppo with the streamer would be the absolute king of the hill set up.
[/quote)

I think you're on to something!

TJHUB

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #11 on: 5 Dec 2012, 01:15 pm »
Jim:  Are you certain the OPPO is truly USB Class 2?  I ask because the ALSA driver is capable of identifying the DAC device's capabilities and will automatically down sample the bit rate and you can't tell it's happening. 

I experienced this using a similar device to the SalkStream and a DAC that was not USB Class 2.

I found that the 105 is USB Class 2.   :thumb:

Nuance

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #12 on: 5 Dec 2012, 01:34 pm »
^Cool!  Where did you find your info?

DGCURTIS36

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #13 on: 5 Dec 2012, 02:54 pm »
I found that the 105 is USB Class 2.   :thumb:

I am also interested in how you determined that the USB is Class 2 because my Oppo 95 has a USB port as well.

srb

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #14 on: 5 Dec 2012, 04:09 pm »
I am also interested in how you determined that the USB is Class 2 because my Oppo 95 has a USB port as well.

The BDP-95 has 2 - USB 2.0 Type A downstream ports that are used for connecting USB storage drives, but does not have a Type B upstream port that can accept a USB audio stream to be used as a DAC.
 
The BDP-105 has 3 - USB 2.0 Type A downstream ports and adds a Type B upstream port with asynchronous USB input to function as a DAC.
 
The confusion about whether the BDP-105 was USB Audio Class 2 compliant (not to be confused with the USB 2.0 High-Speed 480Mb/s transfer rate) came from the BDP-105 support page where it stated for Windows computers to install the downloaded Windows driver and to
 
Select the BDP-105 as your sound output device by setting "Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Sound -> Playback" to "OPPO USB Audio Device 2.0"
 
but then also stated that
 
Currently there is no software driver available for Windows 8 or Linux computers
 
which made it sound like a proprietary driver was needed for USB Audio Class 2 compatibility.  At first Jim Salk could not get his Linux-based SalkStream player to play, but subsequently after updating with the latest ALSA driver (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) it worked fine without needing any proprietary drivers.
 
Steve
« Last Edit: 5 Dec 2012, 06:02 pm by srb »

TJHUB

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #15 on: 5 Dec 2012, 04:54 pm »

DGCURTIS36

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #16 on: 5 Dec 2012, 07:29 pm »
Thanks Steve

Frans

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Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #17 on: 9 Dec 2012, 05:14 pm »
FWIW (and wandering off topic)  - I got off my lazy duff and have set up Jriver 18 to allow me to stream audio directly (using WASAPI Event) to my OPPO Bdp105. Decoding is all done by Oppo, no pc soundcard conversion or down sampling anywhere. I even got 5.1 DTS FLACs to play.

I use my iPad with Jremote to control it, it's lightning fast and sounds great! Easy access to 2TB+ of music. :-)  Easy after setting it all up of course, i can see that the Salkstream approach is a lot simpler and requires fewer steps. as it stands, I can still use the Oppo to manually traverse the file trees, but for the love of Mike, why? Next up I'll set up blu-ray video streaming now that I'm on a roll!

jsalk

Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #18 on: 10 Dec 2012, 03:42 pm »
FWIW (and wandering off topic)  - I got off my lazy duff and have set up Jriver 18 to allow me to stream audio directly (using WASAPI Event) to my OPPO Bdp105. Decoding is all done by Oppo, no pc soundcard conversion or down sampling anywhere. I even got 5.1 DTS FLACs to play.

I use my iPad with Jremote to control it, it's lightning fast and sounds great! Easy access to 2TB+ of music. :-)  Easy after setting it all up of course, i can see that the Salkstream approach is a lot simpler and requires fewer steps. as it stands, I can still use the Oppo to manually traverse the file trees, but for the love of Mike, why? Next up I'll set up blu-ray video streaming now that I'm on a roll!

Frans -

What input are you using for 5.1 DTS Flac files?

- Jim

Frans

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Re: SalkStream/Oppo
« Reply #19 on: 10 Dec 2012, 06:30 pm »
I am going through Ethernet entirely. There are a few settings that need to be set on the audio and video side to disable processing by the PC. This is probably more complicated than needed because I am using a generic DLNA driver until an oppo driver is created. The menus can be a bit much. Let me know if this works, I suspect I forgot one thing. I am using the default library and it all works except for FLAC file tags on the Oppo.

Use Generic DLNA
Add or Configure DLNA Server:
  Conversion: Never Convert
  Encoder: Uncompressed (still validating this)
  Video: Conversion: never Convert (still seeing if this matters)

Media Network / Client Options
  Audio Conversion
    Conversion: Don't Convert Audio
    Encoder: Uncompressed
Image and Video Conversion is also None.

Output Mode
  WASAPI event style

Output mode settings:
  device default
  Open device for exclusive access (checked)

Settings
  Make sure that ALL DSP Studio settings are off.
  Bitstreaming: None

Media Network - enable the server, renderer, and controller