Recommended Settings and other knowhow for HiFi players/playback

Discussion in 'HDD Media player(RTD 1619DR)' started by Nice Monkey, Feb 26, 2021.

  1. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Not so many HiFi fans are using their Zidoo media players for music and use other mostly far more expensive players for high quality music playback often still in Stereo (2CH) but occasionally in Multichannel (MCH). Obviously recommended settings will be Zidoo specific but most of this post content is HiFi player model and brand neutral.

    Client/Server library/transcoding products like Roon, Emby, Jellyfin, Plex etc are specifically strong in search features and music library displays and playback. This topic is not about all that for now, but it may be added later as support for those is gradually added/improved.

    HiFi media players always include an additional high quality DAC panel taking over the function of the integrated standard DAC of the SOC: X20 Pro, UHD2000, UHD3000, Neo S, Neo Alpha and Neo X are the Zidoo HiFi models (in order of audio DAC quality) released thus far. Made specific reports/reviews for the Zidoo UHD2000, UHD3000 and Neo X models which are all complementary to this general HiFi topic:
    UHD2000: http://forum.zidoo.tv/index.php?thr...ng-the-uhd2000-compared-to-z9s-usb-dac.78722/
    UHD3000: http://forum.zidoo.tv/index.php?threads/practical-experiences-using-the-uhd3000.86061/
    Neo X: http://forum.zidoo.tv/index.php?threads/practical-experiences-using-the-neo-x.89868/

    HiFi players will at least play standard audio, HD Audio and also (some) exotic Audio formats:
    - Standard Audio: up to 16 bit 44.1 / 48 kHz PCM plus DSD64
    - HD Audio: Up to 24-bit 176.4 kHz / 192 kHz PCM and up to DSD256
    - Exotic Audio: up to 32-bit 768 kHz PCM and up to DSD1024


    HD Audio definitely can sound better for good sources. The quality gain with 24-bit is bigger than just using higher sampling rates as a general rule.
    The exotic formats look impressive but it is very doubtful if they actually sound anything better. Mostly these just eat up more resources. Anything beyond PCM 24-bit is e.g. unrealistic as DAC's dealing with that simply can't be build yet. Even true 24-bit reproduction is still a real challenge today.
    Most DAC's are restricted to 2CH but DAC's also exist for 5.1/7.1/11.1 MCH music & HT audio.

    How do you hear the SQ difference on a good setup?
    • The sound will be crispier
    • The total sound stage will be perceived a lot closer to listening live (from left to right)
    • You will be able to hear individual instruments and sense where they are a lot better
    • You will enjoy music on lower volume levels with igual satisfaction
    It is not about the frequency spectrum. Any decent setup should be able to get that right.

    This guide is divided in chapters and is highly recommended for those both listening to pure 2CH and MCH combining an all in one Music setup with a Home Theater setup.

    Index:
    Chapter-1: Recommended Zidoo settings:
    Chapter-2: Zidoo Music Player specific peculiarities and need to know:

    Chapter-3: Truly enjoying MCH music playback!
    Chapter-4: SACD & DTS-CD formats and playback
    Chapter-5: DVD-Audio & BD Pure Audio formats and playback
    Chapter-6: Using alternative Music Player App's

    Chapter-7: Using Music Streamer App's
    Chapter-8: What about MQA?
    Chapter-9: Internal versus External USB DAC

    Chapter-10: How an excellent DAC build is recognized!
    Chapter-11: Client/Server applications like: ROON, JRiver, Plex, Emby and Jellyfin


    Recommendations are based on my own hands-on experiences using Z9X with an External DAC, UHD2000, UHD3000 and Neo X players. Bugs, problems, inconveniences and wishes are not to be commented in this post. There are enough other places for doing so.
    Comments, reactions, questions and corrections on its content are very welcome.


    Chapter-1: Recommended settings:

    Don't get confused as there are multiple places for Audio Settings which are all overlapping:
    - Home => Quick Setup
    - Zidoo Controller => Quick Settings
    - MP6 Setup => Decode
    When changed in one place they are changed accordingly in other menu's. The fact that they are grouped differently may cause some confusions at first.

    Quick Setup settings => Audio
    HDMI Output (only on some models): As needed for Video to work in all desired modes.
    HDMI Audio: RAW (in MCH HT mode) or LPCM2Channel (in 2CH Music mode) *1
    SPDIF Audio: Mostly Off (=Close)
    Downmix for AC3: Off *4
    Downmix for DTS: Off *4
    Sampling rate control => Digital Output: Native sampling rate up to 24-Bit / 192 kHz (=via HDMI/Internal DAC)
    Sampling rate control => DAC Output: Native sampling rate up to 24-Bit / 192 kHz (=via External USB)
    USB Audio: Off (On when using an external DAC only)
    USB Audio => DSD mode: DoP (in combination with USB audio set to On) *2
    Passthrough AMP compatibility mode: Off


    Quick Setup settings => DAC Audio (for HiFi models only)
    Source In: Toggle as desired *1
    Filter properties PCM: Linear with fast roll-off *3 (HiFi and Neo models)

    Filter properties DSD: Low Pass at 47 KHz (Neo models only)
    DAC Volume: 0.0db (or calibrated to same music level using HDMI RAW which is -5.0db for me) *5
    XLR port Polarity: Normal

    MP6 => Settings => Decode (all duplicates to using Quick Setup!)

    Digital Output: Native sampling rate up to 24-Bit / 192 kHz (=via HDMI)
    DAC Output: Native sampling rate up to 24-Bit / 192 kHz (=via external USB)
    DAC switch: As desired On/Off (=shortcut Internal DAC On/Off)
    Filter properties PCM: Linear with fast roll-off *3 (HiFi and Neo models)
    Filter properties DSD: Low Pass at 47 KHz (Neo models only)
    USB audio => DSD mode: DOP *2

    *1 Using the player in 2CH mode using an Internal or External USB DAC this setting needs to be toggled too. Switching DAC On/Off then HDMI Audio will change RAW/LPCM2CH automatically.
    Toggling USB Audio On/Off won't do this and it needs to be done manually. The AMP input port needs to changed designated HDMI and Analog ports manually too. It may be convenient to use a remote facilitating macro's for this. Personally assigned the green remote button to switching DAC Audio (Off, Internal, External). A pop-up is produced and the DAC icon on the UHD3000 frontpanel will reflect the change.

    *2 Data to USB DAC's can be send either in Native DSD or DoP (DSD over PCM) formats. As many interfaces and drivers are designed for handling PCM only DoP was developed as a bypass. There is minimal overhead associated with DoP but overall it is more commonly supported. There is absolutely no impact on the sound reproduced with DoP as it is only a data container. If working with both methods then Native DSD may be selected.

    *3 Digital filters is a tough above all mathematical topic. The filters are needed to remove undesired side effects of Digital => Analog PCM conversions. The conversion produces secondary sounds in the inaudible spectrum but still can lead to fatigue and other undesired hearing effects for some persons. Specifically listening via headsets may reveal filter differences. The default filter has the lowest effect on the audible curve but experimenting with them may be a nice exercise (ES9038 has 7-filters but ES9068 has only 3).
    There are also simple Low Pass filters for DSD included by the SABRE DAC's
    (ES9038 Pro has 4 but ES9068 only 1) and are therefore only configurable with the Neo models.
    Expensive DAC's/AMP's typically use DSP (Digital Signal Processor) chip based proprietary digital filters.

    *4 You need these settings to be turned ON if your AMP/TV only supports original standard definition DD (=AC3) or DTS formats as used originally on e.g. DVD's. You may need it also if you are using S/PDIF as this interface does not provide the essential additional bandwidth for high definition DD and DTS versions like DTS-HD / DTS-X or Dolby True HD /Dolby Atmos.
    Warning 1: The setting will enforce the core/embedded part of advanced formats to be used which are mostly present but not always. MakeMKV e.g. may remove the Dolby Digital AC3 embedded backward compatibility part.
    Warning 2: Not all TV's support DTS even in SD format.

    *5 For HiFi models like UHD3000 and Neo series the internal DAC output volume will always react to the remote control volume buttons ignoring this setting. Using HDMI RAW will disable volume control for HDMI output but not for DAC Analog output (except last FW with gapless playback). This may be confusing at first.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2022 at 10:20 AM
    Drummerboy1962, toshu, mirror and 2 others like this.
  2. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Chapter-2: Zidoo Music Player specific peculiarities and need to know:

    Playing SACD in DSD/PCM format

    From FW 6.4(7).42 up the following conversions are made with sampling rate-control set to "Native format output" for both HDMI output and USB output choices:
    - 2CH DSD64/DSD128/DSD256/DSD512 output all at 172.4/24 bit 2CH PCM
    - MCH DCD64 outputs at 172.4/24 bit MCH PCM.

    2CH or MCH as selected by the Audio button when playing SACD ISO's only.

    Native /DoP DSD is supported via USB output to an External DAC or using the Internal DAC with HiFi models.

    Using Neo Alpha via the 2nd HDMI Audio/DSD port native 2CH/MCH DSD output can be enjoyed.

    Other MP specifics
    Since FW6.0.90 Zidoo implemented MP Stereo gapless playback on all platforms for playlists/folders containing tracks with the same sampling-rate only. This is ON implicitly and can't be switched off.
    On UHD3000 and Neo HiFi models one can chose to play the same way using "native sampling-rate" or at a specified re-sampling-rate. When doing the later all tracks will be down or up sampled to that specified rate and next be played gapless as a whole.
    Gapless is not supported for MCH output neither in PCM nor SACD.

    Since FW6.1.05 Zidoo added full audio support for external USB DAC's. It will now pas: Audio with Videos and Music in all formats including DSD for SACD sources. It is now also possible to switch it on/off USB Output without requiring a re-boot of the player.

    When finding problems or inconveniences be aware that Zidoo will start playback differently when using MP6 library selections or doing so via file selection with Media Center. Already ran into various problems in the past which were present only using Media Center to start playback.

    Zidoo (media player) HW restrictions
    What is asked for often is DD/DTS 5.1 or 7.1 ==> PCM 5.1 or 7.1 conversion which is not allowed and is never available as it requires decoding subject to licensing. Decoding DD/DTS in any format is simply not implemented only passthrough. When buying an AMP/Soundbar for movies make sure DD and DTS standards are supported all the way up to DD Atmos and DTS:X to avoid disappointments.
    Indeed some Blu-ray players include this as these include also MCH analog outputs which would be totally useless without DD/DTS decoding facilities/licenses being included.

    It is neither possible to output L + R channels directly from MCH sources via a DAC instead down-mixing will always be done. The SABRE DAC's do have a "L + R / Downmix" output choice setting capability but no option is enabled for it by the Zidoo FW.

    My Philips TV (likely some others too) will interrupt Audio multiple times after being switched off (put into standby) doing several EDID HDMI handshakes during the first 15 minutes or so. Only unplugging makes it really shut up. Setting "DAC Output to Internal" with HiFi models using analog RCA/XLR output via the AMP it doesn't interfere.

    The multiple Audio Output options:
    • HDMI (Dual output on UHD300)
    • S/PDIF Optical and Coaxial
    • USB (for 2CH audio via an External DAC)
    • Bluetooth (+AptX and LDAC HiFi modes on Neo models)
    • Analog L/R/V ports on the SOC (L/R available on none HiFi models).
    • Analog XLR/RCA ports (with HiFi models)
    HDMI, S/PDIF and standard RCA Analog (not the HiFi DAC) will work in parallel. It is a pity only one selected output can be set active for all others as these be disabled/off/closed implicitly. This unlike BD disc players typically having all working in parallel.

    Using S/PDIF and its limits with Optical and Digital outputs
    S/PDIF is specified up to 16-bit 44.1/48 kHz with 24-bit being optional only. It also only supports the original DD/DTS variants as typically available on DVD. With BD it was replaced with HDMI and still available only for backward component compatibility.

    When possible to use either S/PDIF Optical or Coaxial then always go for Coaxial as it it far superior as strange as that may sound: It allows longer cables, may allow higher rates and above all has far less clock jitter for superior sound. The S/N ratio is not an issue with coaxial.
    S/PDIF specifications have a grey area for higher bitrates if supported by both ends above all with Coaxial. S/PDIF as implemented by Zidoo seems to support those too?

    The remaining Music Player FW limitations and my bypasses based on FW 6.4(7).42
    Converted my most popular DVD-Audio to HD FLAC to bypass the MLP decoding limitation. Obviously missing the DVD menu and extra's then. Occasionally still use my OPPO for that everything else the Neo Alpha does better. For some BD-Menus (including Pure Audio BD's) need to use my baby Dune.

    Potentially a Zidoo can unpack/decode MLP including 2CH/MCH from a DVD-Audio ISO. It requires far less CPU power that doing so for SACD ISO including DSD => PCM. It is just a matter of seeing the need and spending the effort. A new SOC is totally irrelevant for Music Player. Only a bigger/faster CPU would help to facilitate more features like an equalizer.


    Chapter-3: Truly enjoying MCH music playback!

    MCH Music is already relative old and started in the early seventies with Quad LP's (4-channels). After the introduction of the SACD MCH 5.0/5.1 is moved to SACD as optional tracks next to the standard 2CH. Maybe developed and marketed too early in time by Philips/Sony? Producing DAC's that could handle the DSD format well did not really exist yet and very few people were having a quality 5.1 audio setup for truly enjoying MCH music. This caused a lot of debate if DSD was really superior to PCM (CD) <=> DSD (SACD). Now 30 years later this all changed as not only the quality of the DAC's and AMP's improved but also the clock circuitry used with it made many improvements steps. The accuracy and phase jitter of the clock oscillators feeding a DAC was found to play a huge role in sound reproduction. For the excellent SACD format it seems that these innovations just came too late which is a real pity as the quality difference is a lot easier to perceive today. With my setup all my visitors can hear it doing A/B blind tests.

    It is my practical experience that you can only squeeze out maximum quality
    HD MCH 5.1 sound using a consistent choice of speakers (same brand and even model range). Using a mixed bag of speakers for front, center and back channels never gives satisfactory audio results. It may result very acceptable for movies (getting those effects) but definitely not for top quality music reproduction. I know it is a big temptation to use simpler/cheaper speakers for center and back channels, but frankly you should not do so when targeting for MCH 5.1 music listening too. Learned it myself the hard way changing my speaker setup in various steps. Realizing that music from all speakers continuously overlaps that should not appear to be much of a surprise is it?

    There is a curious parallel between MCH Music and 3D Video as both formats keep disappearing and making a come back each time with a newer technology. For music we first saw Quad LP => MCH SACD => DVD-Audio => BD Pure Audio.
    DTS-CD is an oddball as it is mostly standard 14/16-bit 48 kHz DTS audio but yes in MCH obviously. It was seen as a more affordable alternative for MCH SACD as these could be played on many standard DVD/BD players. Came across a curious collection of Quad LP recordings transferred by a studio label to DTS-CD's which still sound amazingly well. This despite the age of the original analog recordings. You may also find some original Quad LP analog recording transfers to DVD-Audio and even BD Pure Audio.

    Today mostly BD Concerts with 2CH and/or MCH DD/DTS/LPCM HD audio tracks on them are actively produced by the big labels. Really enjoy the MCH sound on various SACD / DTS-CD / DVD-Audio / BD Pure Audio albums myself. On some regular CD's the DSP provided up-scaling to DTS/THX 7.1 with my HT AMP produces pretty nice results too.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2022
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  3. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Keeping your fancy/quality older AMP restricted to HDMI 1.3/1.4 passthrough:

    1) Video needs to be limited since HDMI 1.4 can only handle 297 MHz bandwidth.

    You can try these settings:
    Display/HDR: Auto
    Display/Color Settings/4K 50~60Hz: Priority YUV420 8BIT
    Display/Color Settings/4K 23~30Hz: Priority YUV422 12BIT
    Display/Color Settings/Non-4K: Priority YUV444 8BIT
    Display/Color Settings/HDMI Range: 16-235
    Display/HDMI Mode: Auto

    It does not work with all HDMI 1.4 AMPs, but feel free to give it a try. Also EDID may cause a problem here (some which can be solved with EDID spoofing).

    2) Another way to achieve the same goal using HW:

    VAX01202 HDMI eARC Audio Extractor & Splitter

    https://feintech.eu/collections/non-office/products/vax01202-hdmi-earc-audio-extractor-splitter

    This unit offers 2 solutions:
    - The very familiar splitting Audio and Video using 2 ports one being a dedicate Audio only port.
    - Using the eARC of a new TV and directing that output to a dedicated Audio only port.
    This may work with any HDMI 1.3/1.4 capable AMP.


    Chapter-4: SACD & DTS-CD formats and playback


    Introduction to the SACD disc basics and options

    SACD discs are commonly Hybrid with a normal CD top layer for backward compatibility playback on standard CD-players and a second SACD layer (DVD type data layer) for SACD playback in DSD64 1-bit 2.8MHz sample format on specifically SACD capable players.
    There are a few DSD128 (5.6MHz) and even rare DSD256 (11.2MHz) original studio SACD's with higher sampler rates. There are floating around some (non) professional LP => DSD conversions at higher DSD rates too.

    The SACD layer has mostly 2CH (=Stereo) tracks but may optionally have MCH (=Multi Channel 5.1) tracks additionally. So a HW based SACD player lets users then select CD, 2CH or MCH playback for those albums having all three on them. The exact content/playback capabilities are always displayed on the disc and labels accordingly. To make bigger contents fit on the SACD layer this may be compressed using DST (Direct Stream Transfer). MCH SACD albums always use DST compression to make them fit on the DVD layer.

    SACD's sales almost came to a hold by now with just a few small labels still producing them for very specific target audiences.

    ISO/DSF/DFF file formats of SACD
    Ripping an SACD results in an SACD ISO container with the DVD layer(s) content only. The CD-layer is never part of it. Obviously that layer can be ripped using normal DAE (Digital Audio Extraction) tools if desired too. The SACD ISO contains all 2CH and/or MCH DSD tracks with or without DST compression as the final result. It is not possible to distinct the various options used without opening the container.

    Individual tracks can next be extracted from the full SACD ISO in DSF or DFF file format. Both are maintaining the original DSD 1-bit sampling format of the ISO. DSF (Sony) does not facilitate DST compression but DFF (Philips) does optionally. Having a DSF track you can be sure it is not compressed with DST anymore and only DSF supports tagged meta data making it the most popular extraction format. Going for DSF if your media player does not support ISO is therefore also my recommendation.

    SACD ISO's with just 2CH tracks on them are mostly not DST compressed but when combined with MCH also those 2CH tracks are always compressed to reduce the total disc size. A MCH album would be 4x the size of an equivalent 2CH album without using DST compression!
    MCH albums normally also have 2CH tracks on them but there are a few very rare exceptions known (mostly classical concerts it seems). 2CH and MCH tracks hence need to be extracted individually. You can't see if a DSF or DFF file is MCH or 2CH and neither if a DFF file uses DST compression or not. If all Stereo (2CH) tracks aren't very short but the album is still around 1 Gbyte (ISO's or DFF's) then it probably is DST compressed.

    It takes roughly 3x the total duration to extract a DST compressed SACD ISO to DSF or to DFF with DST decompression selected versus direct extraction to DFF with DST left untouched. MCH is 3x 2CH regarding size and it takes proportional resources to extract those tracks. So extracting a MCH DST track takes 9x the processing power compared to a 2CH uncompressed track! This is important to realize as it all needs to be done real time using media players in software which many can't cope with or not cope with well resulting in distorted playback if supported at all.
    DST is indeed very effective in size reduction (album reduced with roughly a factor 2.5). But even using DST some long MCH albums may still not fit on a single DVD layer. These may then use dual DVD layers for just the SACD tracks skipping the Hybrid CD compatibility layer as the consequence. Not a very common format but have a few of those myself (resulting ISO > 4.7 GByte).

    Media player (restricted) SACD/DSD capabilities
    Most music player platforms and player APP's don't support DST at all or are not doing the decompression well real time. This is often not stated clearly as DST in fact is hardly ever mentioned at all anywhere and is e.g. never indicated on the SACD disc or labels. Some HW based players may NOT support MCH tracks for exactly that same reason without stating so explicitly.

    Music players claiming support for SACD/DSD will all at least be capable to playback DSF files and will mostly also play uncompressed DFF files. Many have problems with compressed DFF and only a very few can handle (compressed) ISO's correctly. Standardizing on DSF is therefore a popular method for many, this despite the far bigger size compared with compressed ISO/DFF. Personally I always only keep/play the original ISO's.

    Most media players including Zidoo (except Neo Alpha) don't support native DSD output via HDMI and will convert DSD streams to PCM streams real time when played. HiFi media players with advanced onboard DAC's will output DSD directly when switched to Analog Output using such DSD capable DAC like all Zidoo HiFi models. As an alternative an external USB DAC can be used reaching the same goals with similar or even better SQ quality. External DAC's can be found from cheap to extremely expensive. These mostly will be 2CH but MCH USB DAC's can be found too (but never cheap).

    Only a few media players, but fortunately including Zidoo, can play MCH ISO's. When switched to DAC Analog output the need for DSD=>PCM conversion disappears. Only the very first Zidoo HiFi model X20 Pro did not support for native DSD.
    There are currently no Android based HiFi media players known to me including MCH DAC's so that method restricts output to 2CH (Stereo) playback only.

    DTS-CD various formats and playback

    As mentioned before this is an odd-ball within music album formats. Despite not being a lossless format they still often do sound remarkably well. Not that many were produced and in contrary to SACD most with Pop music albums instead of Classical music and Jazz. The format is mostly DTS 5.1/5.0 16-bit at 48 kHz but some may be 20/24-bit, be sampled at 96 kHz or have other number of channels like 6.1 or just 4.0 coming from a QUAD LP.
    The DTS-CD format hence also re-uses the DTS-ES and DTS 96/24 codecs used by DVD/BD movie players. A DTS-CD uses a CD physical data layer as its carrier. It is always a single layer disc with single/album or individual DTS tracks on them. In the case of a single/album track a matching CUE sheet is always included.


    In contrary to several Music Players APP's and BD-disc players the Zidoo MP6 Music Player also handles DTD-CD including processing CUE sheets. Since FW 6.3.50 I don't have any DTS-CD specific format examples anymore which won't play.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2022
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  4. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Chapter-5: DVD-Audio & BD Pure Audio formats and playback

    Both DVD-Audio and BD Pure Audio albums are seen by the media player as movie files and processed by the Video Player and not the Music Player. They will also show up under HT4 as a consequence. Many music lovers aren't even aware of the existence of these specific music only albums on DVD and BD and just know the far more popular DVD-Video and BD concert type of albums. This is a mistake as some excellent album releases do exist for both of these formats.

    Menu processing is specifically critical to be 100% correct as these albums typically have more complex menu structures being active during total playback. The actual way menu's work and expected playback/selection control varies a lot between albums as it is not standardized in any way. Occasionally it may be a real puzzle at first to find your way around playing some albums.

    Warning: When playing these albums using an External USB DAC be sure to set Audio Output to 2CH LPCM for downmixing. This is not done automatically like using the Internal DAC with HiFi models.

    DVD-Audio albums
    I know of no Android based media player supporting DVD-Audio today. If ever added by Zidoo it will be an unique selling-point. The first thing to be aware of is that most DVD-Audio discs similar to SACD disc carry a compatibility mode for playback on common DVD-Video players.

    In contrary to DVD-Video concert albums a real DVD-Audio album does not include live videos with the titles. There may be be some supplementary material in DVD-Video format on it though. The DVD-Video compatibility mode typically also includes Standard Audio quality 2CH PCM and MCH DD and/or MCH DTS tracks. This may confuse some believing that the DVD-Audio album is fully supported by their DVD-Video standard player. Also people ripping DVD-Audio albums often just rip the part contained in the well-known VIDEO_TS folder.
    To complicate/confuse matters further there are also some DVD-Video albums with only static pictures plus audio tracks on them which some refer to as Audio DVD (being really Audio Only DVD-Video) albums. These obviously will play on any DVD player but never carry true lossless audio. At best these include MCH 24/96 DTS audio which sound wise may come close.

    The real DVD-Audio tracks are put into the AUDIO_TS folder and requires a specific DVD-Audio compatible player to be read. The audio files are typically LPCM in 2CH and/or MCH in HD formats: 2CH up to 24-bit 192kHz and MCH up to 24-bit 96kHz. To make these fit on a DVD9 the LPCM tracks are lossless compressed with Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP) requiring a DVD-Audio compatible MLP codec for playback. Support on media players is possible by adding that MLP decoder. Performance and HW wise not a real problem but licenses is as it can't be send RAW to an AMP bypassing that problem.

    Sound is typically excellent and also including MCH. Have some albums both in SACD and DVD-Audio formats making it a challenge to actually establish a clear preference. The recording/mixing/mastering proces in either PCM or DSD format is the most important factor here resulting in minimal audible differences on the final result. This if audible at all.

    BD Pure Audio albums
    BD Pure Audio is very similar as also this format has lossless HD audio tracks combined with menu's and no video tracks. BD Concerts albums are to be regarded movies as there is no difference in video or audio formats being used for those.
    Like DVD-Audio also BD Pure Audio files are played by the Video player and not by the Music Player but in this case standard audio codecs can be used as the BD has enough capacity to store these without the need for any type of compression. Files are always HD in 2CH or MCH formats using lossless LPCM, DD or DTS codecs. This makes BD Pure Audio support relative easy apart from the requirements on correct BD Menu processing.

    The Zidoo BD Menu option mostly can process these albums but with regular exceptions. Using playback without BD menu will mostly result in the playback of just the longest track and not the full album!


    Chapter-6: Using alternative Music Player App's

    Next to using the bundled Zidoo Music Player also other Android based players can be used. A basis requirement for HiFi deployment is that they must support HD Audio PCM tracks and also SACD tracks in some format. Unfortunately these App's are almost always purely intended to be used on Smart Phones. Controlling these app's is therefore an important aspect to look at.

    Standard Zidoo Music Player 6 (=bundled MP6 FW 6.1.05)
    When connecting it reports nicely the brand/type of DAC found and which PCM (not reporting DSD) formats are supported by it.

    USB Output (On/Off) and DSD modes (D2P/DoP/Native) can be changed without needing a reboot or removing the DAC. This when using both MCH HT via HDMI and 2CH DAC via USB.
    Using Music Player 6 obviously integrates nicely using the standard remote control or the Zidoo Controller APP for controls. This FW also supports Gapless Playback.
    I understand MP6 is (still) picky which DAC's are recognized. I think it is pretty safe to presume all XMOS and Amanero based USB DAC's will work?

    USB Audio Player Pro (=UAPP with FW 5.9.8)
    This APP was tested on my Zidoo Z9X, UHD3000 and Zidoo Z9S successfully. No OS or platform compatibility problems found. It will also work without an USB DAC being attached but it was designed specifically for that deployment. Installed it on my Z9S without it using the default Android Audio driver included (=48 kHz 16-bit output for all source formats).

    With UHD3000 UAPP will find the Internal DAC for PCM output including HD PCM formats. For DSD sources that capability is not detected reverting to DSD => HD PCM conversion instead.

    Findings:
    - Paid the license (about € 7,-) via the Google Play Store and it got activated automatically.
    - Support for almost all Stereo HD Audio sources including DSD/SACD formats makes this APP also special. Currently only missing support for DST compressed DFF files.
    - For optimal sound quality the "bit-perfect option" option should be chosen for HDMI and USB output as it disables any Digital Sound Processing (=DSP) to happen. It is an equivalent for HDMI RAW output using MP6.
    - For getting Master Quality Authenticated (=MQA) codec playback an additional module needs to be purchased and installed. See the MQA chapter for details.
    - It next does not play DTS-CD's, DVD-Audio or BD pure audio albums as a Video Player is needed for those.
    - Integrates several popular streaming services: Tidal, Qobuz, Google Music, Shoutcast etc
    - The players UI needs some time getting used to using a remote control. It e.g. uses all 4 corners for scattered controls. For some specific operations a mouse function is required. The Zidoo cursor mouse works in principle here but a pointer mouse is much easier to use and also allows swiping. My RF mouse works without conflicts with UAPP running on my UHD3000 using its Internal DAC and makes control easy enough.
    - All sources are played truly gapless which is always nicer and essential for live recordings!

    The player is around for several years already and is praised for the sound it can produce. True gapless playback for formats supported seems stable including CUE sheets. It also has an active forum and ongoing software development.
    http://www.extreamsd.com/index.php/products/usb-audio-player-pro
    It for sure is my most popular alternative on UHD3000. If it only would support DSD without conversion to PCM too it would even be nicer. That works only using an External DAC.

    HiByMusic (FW3.3.0_International_build_5511)
    Added this player because of its quality and being absolutely free to use.
    It is the makers intention to be used with their own server database and their own DAC's.
    - It has very extensive playback capabilities including all common HD PCM formats and all SACD DSD formats even including DST compressed DFF and obviously ISO.
    - It handles CUE Sheets, DTS-CD's (Stereo output) and can also will play Gapless when selected.

    Hiby Music in fact is a real alternative to USB Audio Player Pro with even wider native audio format support (DST DSD and DTS-CD included). The big real drawback is controlling the HibyMusic UI which will only work via touch/mouse field actions. Any standard IR/BT remote is absolutely useless with this APP.
    There is an option though to run HibyMusic just in Server mode on the Zidoo and HibyMusic in Client mode on a smartphone. That way the Storage and the Audio Playback (via USB DAC + AMP) of the media player is used controlling the UI integrally via the smartphone.
    Getting that Client/Server setup to work via BT was not exactly hassle free. It e.g. uses a special UAT profile with BT which required WiFi on both sides to be turned off. The stability of client/server mode is definitely far lower than using the APP directly.

    ONKYO HF Player (FW 2.7.0)
    This is a real alternative player to be used with external USB DAC's. Worked straight with my setup too. For HD playback the license is € 9,50 for SQ playback it is free (with minimal advertisements).
    Also this APP is really designed for Smart-Phones and needs also to be controlled using a pointer-mouse, which next works just fine. Differences are:
    - There is also the free version reducing playback to SR but still handling all albums including SACD DSF and DFF.
    - Very smooth on the controls and actions. Playback is gapless.
    - No support for SACD ISO directly just DSF and DFF (not DST) track formats.
    - Can toggle USB DAC or HDMI outputs via setup which is nice.
    - Can real-time convert PCM to DSD which I have never seen before!
    There is still development for this player but no forum.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2022 at 10:28 AM
    Dawciowski likes this.
  5. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Chapter-7: Using Music Streamer App's
    Today streaming has become mainstream and should be included by any serious music player. There are many alternatives here both implemented in HW and/or SW. Services offered by your HT AMP or your Smart TV may already do the job for you but there are many other platforms offering some or many Streaming Music Services in paid or free formats.
    tried Spotify myself which was working fine. There is also a slew of for free radio station services.

    The Zidoo platform as-is still remains remarkable poor in this area. You may look at adding UAPP as a good platform to get a wide collection of above all integrated paid music service services.
    Only the Neo models offer an excellent alternative by
    running the streaming music services on a mobile platform like a smartphone or tablet and stream the audio via BT LDAC to the Neo's BT enabled DAC input. Works with Android 8+ by default using any music APP.


    Chapter-8: What about MQA?

    The new Zidoo HiFi players support Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) codec based music titles. Decoding on those models is done in HW using the DAC ES9068 chip by UHD3000/NEO S and using the XMOS UA216 chip with the NEO X model.
    No MQA support with Music Player on the other Zidoo models! An installed APP like UAPP may add it in SW though which misses some goodies then (in theory).

    This MQA codec is owned by Meridian and was mainly developed by Bob Stuart.

    Zidoo is also officially MQA certified:
    https://www.mqa.co.uk/partners/zidoo

    What MQA is all about and how it actually works is a not so simple and I leave it up to the readers to look it up themselves.
    https://www.mqa.co.uk/ http://bobtalks.co.uk/blog/mqa-philosophy/mqa-authentication-and-quality/#
    It is also very controversial for many. I limit myself to a condensed description mainly provided to understand my way of testing and comments made.

    The claim is MQA will improve the reproduction quality above CD level using minimal additional bandwidth and provides provenance for the origin/source.

    MQA Provenance
    GREEN = Signifies the output as an MQA File.
    BLUE = Signifies MQA Studio. Approved in the studio by the artist/producer or verified by the copyright holder as accurate to the original recording.
    MAGENTA = The MQA stream is pre-decoded and the unit is operating as a renderer.


    MQA has the following characteristics:
    - It uses a FLAC version of the 16-bit CD as the basis for the MQA extensions. This can be played on any FLAC capable player, but obviously without any benefits of MQA. The resulting audio has easily identifiable high-frequency noise occupying 3 LSB bits, thus limiting playback on non-MQA devices effectively to 13 bit. MQA claims that nevertheless the quality is higher than "normal" 48/16, because of the novel sampling and convolution processes
    - The first step is adding corrections to the original mastering. What this exactly is and how it works remains obscured to me. Obviously it would have been better avoiding them in the first place. It may be abused by the industry too by rushing the mastering process as errors can be compensated later via MQA updates!
    - The second step is expansion of samples to 24-bit at the same or higher sample-rates. I call this smart up-sampling. This up-sampling can be as high as to 384 kHz but mostly is 88.2/96 kHz.
    - The third step is provision of the Digital to Analog conversion with DAC specific parameters. This is totally obscure for me and obviously kept in the dark as it seems to be brand specific.

    The first 2 steps can be done by any certified MQA player in software or hardware but the third step can only be done by MQA HW enabled players.

    Regarding 2 claims it is easy to see that an MQA title is far smaller than a 24-bit 88.4 kHz HD FLAC and provenance source identification works on the Zidoo implementation just fine too. So much for the easy part

    I raised myself 3 questions regarding the SQ which I tried to verify by listening:
    - A MQA title sounds the same as the original CD when played on a non-MQA capable player. For the time being I give this one the benefit of the doubt. Did not really do listening tests for it yet.
    - The MQA produces a similar SQ than an HD FLAC at 24-bit with equivalent output sample-rate. In my experience that is not really the case. I do prefer the native HD version in several cases, did not encounter an example with the reverse being the case so far. On the other hand on many albums it is very difficult to hear a difference. So it at least reaches the goal improving SQ using minimal additional resources.
    - The MQA sounds better that the original CD. Some do really sound nice so the potential is there for sure. Found an MQA demo album with a whopping output at 24-bit 352.8 kHz with classical music on it sounding very well.

    How well UHD3000 performs compared with other MQA enabled players was not tested by me. It just all worked well and no MQA related playback flaws were found. MQA by the way is only enabled when audio output is switched to DAC output.
    MQA can be implemented in various ways of which I have seen: APP SW (USB Audio Player Pro) in the DAC chip itself (ES9068) or the XMOS interface (UA216).

    MQA Conclusion:
    How useful MQA is for a stationary media player is a good question as bandwidth and file size are not real considerations for these. The goal of reaching a better SQ with minimal additional bandwidth can be confirmed so it is practical for mobile listening and streaming services.
    Maybe MQA will become the next popular standard and MQA streamed albums will get a good price/performance compared with true HD FLAC alternatives? I see it more as an market push rather than as a real customer goody.


    Never harms to have the MQA capability on board!
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2022
  6. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Chapter-9: Internal versus External USB DAC

    We will look here at main aspects:
    - Conveniences
    - The sound quality and functionality


    Conveniences:
    This choice got a new dimension with FW 6.1.05 as it added full USB DAC support including HD PCM Audio and DSD output both also being supported by MP6. Last but not least turning USB Output On/Off does not need a reboot anymore.
    Before this FW the convenience of changing between 2CH Music and MCH HT modes was an important motive to go for an Internal DAC. This next to using the standard Zidoo Music Player with the convenience of using all remote control options including Zidoo Controller in an easy way. Using other Music Players (see Chapter-6) is a possibility but also comes with pro's and con's. These points became now a far less important aspect of the choice.

    Having a single box doing it all obviously has its merits: Less space occupied, less cables and just one box to control are the direct advantages. Regarding control an External DAC has the advantage of having its dedicated front display giving you direct insight which formats are being reproduced. Unfortunately most don't show the sample-size (16 or 24 bit mostly). You hardly need a remote control with an external DAC once the initial setup has finished. The only reason for having/using one would be on/standby selection provided it is supported by that DAC.

    A recent external DAC to consider would be the Gustard DAC-X18 (or Gustard DAC- X16) having a build very similar to the one used by Neo X at a very affordable price. Combining it with a standard model media player gives price/performance a very attractive and competitive combination for sure. The more expensive X26 model has even a better build but if that can be heard in practice?

    The sound quality and functionality
    No need to compromise here anymore with the Gustard DAC X18 which should bring a close sound quality compared even with Neo X. For X16 I have some doubts about the quality of the PSU section, analog amplifier section and it is not using the ES9038 PRO. Using 2 cheaper ES9068AS DAC chips for left and right is controversial. Is more of a real alternative for an Neo S.
    Combining X18 with a cheaper model Zidoo without DAC will be cheaper but miss the excellent Front Panel and Headphone outputs of a Neo X. It will also miss the slightly better sound output via HDMI of Neo X due to using better motherboard components.

    Obviously there are better external DAC's than these. If you want to go down that road you should be prepared to spend some serious money. They will at least cost the same amount as an Neo X but several times that amount is more likely. Going for MCH DAC's is an option too but be aware these require an AMP with discrete 8 or 12 analog channel inputs which have become fairly exclusive by now with matching price tags.

    Chapter-10: How an excellent DAC build is recognized!

    The PSU
    A good linear PSU with all quality components being used and well oversized is the basis for any HiFi DAC. It mostly will have at least independent stabilizer sections for Analog and Digital circuitry. Using multiple toroidal transformers looks impressive but if sized properly a single unit will do nicely too. As current drawn by the DAC will be very constant independent AC feeds from a single transformer will avoid cross influence adequately. The brand positioned here as providing the best fully shielded transformer is Talema, obviously it got cloned too by some Chinese brands.
    For top results the PSU is actually best kept external as an independent unit. Some brands like NAIM are overdoing this a bit by having an optional external PSU for their already very expensive streamers/DAC's costing more that the unit itself. It is extremely subjective to hear the audio effect using these.

    Analog section for RCA and XLR outputs

    This is all about using even better (more precise and stable) components, better designs all combined with stable PSU's and analog circuitry. The Op-AMP's used can differ a lot in quality and price. Mounting good quality amp's is essential. A simple 3 Op-AMP design (1 for RCA and 2 for XLR (left+right) is the minimum but more advanced designs will use 6 or more for balanced outputs.

    Clock circuitry
    The actual clock timing results to be very critical as apparently the human ear can detect very small variations. This is not only about clock accuracy and stability but also about clock jitter. This requires top quality crystals to be used, the oscillators used for clocking may be specific for 44.1 and 48 KHz multiples and may also be temperature compensated for ultimate stability.
    The next problem is how to transfer the data in such a way that the precise clock is leading for the actual transfer. For external DAC's XMOS/Amanero USB audio processors are used to interface USB with the DAC.
    Digital Audio over USB => XMOS/Amanero => DAC => Analog RCA/XLR.
    This method is far superior to SPDIF support or internal IIS as it has a higher peak throughput and more important provides an extreme stable clock jitter free interface. The recent XMOS XU216 not only doubles XU208 regarding processing power but also adds MQA as a DAC feature and offers buffering for SPDIF interfaces.
    Some designs use the XMOS chip combined with an Altera CPLD chip which is a dedicated clock stabilization chip reducing any kind of jitter as an alternative to using relative expensive femto (10 exponent -15) precision clocks.

    For those which still doubt about the impact of clock circuitry just as an illustration: Many including some on this forum claim that some good UHD/BD disc players produce better sound than a Zidoo or other media player using just another HDMI port on the same HT AMP playing the same movie or music album. How can this be possible?
    Using the same build-in DAC/AMP sound is only influenced by the HDMI Clock for transfer. HDMI uses embedded clocking were the clock is actually derived from the data received. This in effect can influence the sound on a quality audio setup as it will feed the DAC synchronized to the clock of the source. The SOC of media players is not really known to include top design clock circuitry and components so many UHD/BD players may in fact beat them there. So yes that OPPO/PIONEER/SONY etc may in fact sound better via HDMI as strange as it may sound.
    If the AMP itself does the sound decoding local content via USB then it can in theory/practice sound better too. Very expensive AMP's like McIntosh use custom HDMI interfaces doing a similar thing for HDMI as XMOS does for USB.

    DAC brands and using multiple DAC chips (2CH and MCH)
    The (very) expensive players/DAC's typically use custom chips but the more affordable one's use typically standard DAC chips from a few well known brands: AKM, Burr Brown (TI now), Cirrus and SABRE. The latest generations are coming from AKM AK4499 and SABRE ES9038PRO which both are excellent with a small preference for AKM by some. The most popular MCH DAC for sure is the AK4458 used in many AMP's and BD-players. Cheaper units will often use an old Burr Brown (now TI)
    DAC which became very cheap but still is reasonably good.

    Expensive DAC versions also may use 2 ESS9038 Pro chips being one for the Left Channel and the other one for the Right Channel. SABRE ESS series DAC's all are 8-channel capable but to compensate design tolerances for 24-bit conversion DAC designs often bundle 4 or 8 channels to as single output. This averages out build tolerances to a certain degree. Hence the deployment of one or two chips for stereo output only. Full HT 8-channel DAC's may even use 4 SABRE chips for exactly that same reason. We see this design above all in top of the line UHD-BD players with discrete 8-channel analog outputs.

    About using 2 DAC chips being one for each channel. This looks like a superior design as 100% channel separation and balanced outputs is guaranteed. In practice very critical listeners often experience the dual design though as slightly inferior to a good single chip design using the same brand and model DAC chip. This can in theory be explained by very minor deviations in sound reproduction deploying 2 chips.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2022
  7. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Chapter-11: Client/Server applications like: ROON, JRiver, Plex, Emby and Jellyfin

    Zidoo is clearly moving into this area by gradually adding support for these Client/Server applications existing of a dedicated client or API interface on the player talking to a matching Server. Over time I will most likely expand this topic with details per application.
    These services are above all attractive for the demanding user often with large homes/
    yachts and matching facilities in multiple places both indoors and outdoors.

    One needs to be aware that most of these Client/Server applications are commercial. Charging can be for APP installation and/or monthly fees for server usage which may be
    substantial. Plex, Emby are in principle free in basic form but ask a fee for more advanced features but Jellyfin is Open Source. There are plenty more like: Stremio, PlayOn, OSMC, Media Portal, Serviio etc.


    The typical goodies offered are:

    1. Stable libraries with many features and mostly allowing large to very large collections. Most (if not all) do work for both Video and Music playing services.
    2. The shared Server communicates with multiple clients running on different HW platform brands and often including support for multiple types of Operating Systems.
    3. The Server may be an APP that can be installed by yourself on a platform of choice or rather be a cloud based service needed to be subscribed for.
    4. There is a tendency to include transcoding services to facilitate playing source media formats on otherwise incompatible clients. For Video this may cause a considerable server workload to be dealt with. Zidoo supports almost all Audio and Video formats natively.
    5. You may optionally enable the Server for access via Public Internet. The last is very practical for sharing big(ger) Music Collections.
    6. Contracted services may add streaming services to platforms too.
    7. Some allow for add-on's to be added expanding the basic functionality.
    If anybody found another good table comparing features then I will add the link here:
    https://github.com/Protektor-Desura/Archon/wiki/Compare-Media-Servers
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2022
  8. OlivierQC

    OlivierQC Well-Known Member

    Hello,

    Nice initiative, it should be in sticky.

    I'm an ignoramus and I didn't understand the settings to do on the Zidoo and MP6 that you give above.

    My Zidoo is connected with a toslink to my receiver which has 2 integrated DACs.

    If I want to read a file of this type : [Hi-Res 192kHz 24bit], do I choose RAW or lpcm in spdif audio ?

    By the way, I have connected the toslink to the CD toslink input of my receiver and I don't even have a CD button on its remote to select it if I want to listen to music

    Olivier

    EDIT:

    I found the CD input on my remote, but I don't have MP6 on the TV anymore.

    and if I use hdmi instead of toslink with MP6, the sound is distorted with audio files [Hi-Res 192kHz 24bit].

    Maybe the settings of my receiver are not the right ones to listen to this type of files, I will check.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  9. rozel

    rozel Well-Known Member

    It's really very good - definately a sticky
     
  10. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    @OlivierQC
    Maybe I should add S/PDIF and HDMI sections?

    I presume you use that Pioneer Elite SC-LX704 for it. It actually is a very nice AMP which should do it all.
    Unfortunately no USB-Slave port for digital DAC input just S/PDIF as on most HT AMP's. I always prefer using Coax if available instead of Toslink (higher data rates supported and far less clock jitter).

    MCH is a tricky thing via S/PDIF and mostly not working above all via Toslink. So always start first trying with S/PDIF Output on LPCM2Channel as it uses a far lower bandwidth.
    The last FW actually has big distortion problems via HDMI for hires audio files indeed. Just try an old FW and that should work. Your AMP should work just fine via HDMI with any resolution and 2CH/MCH for PCM too. The AMP will also do DSD via HDMI nicely but the Zidoo won't support that!
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021
  11. rozel

    rozel Well-Known Member

    Maybe I could request a table on the capabilities DSD-wise both for USB and HDMI as I suggested in my post here? It should perhaps reveal what aspects have still to be fixed. We would then end up with a sticky for Audio similar to @Markswift2003 's sticky for Video - imo of course :)
     
    karipu likes this.
  12. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    I think a capability table for: Internal USB, External USB and HDMI is a good suggestion. Will do that!
     
  13. OlivierQC

    OlivierQC Well-Known Member

    Hello Nice monkey,

    Sorry for the delay and thank you for your answer and advice.

    I have removed the S/PDIF cable and I have a coaxial available if needed.

    I will follow your advice and use the HDMI port, I think it will be the best solution for me.

    Hopefully this distortion problem with HDMI will be solved.

    See you soon
     
    mirak likes this.
  14. cyber201

    cyber201 Member

    Thanks for all.
    But How can I download the USB Audio Player pro with UHD3000? The GApps dosn't works

    Thanks a lot
     
  15. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Last edited: Mar 11, 2021
  16. OlivierQC

    OlivierQC Well-Known Member

    Hello Nice Monkey,

    Someone on another forum is talking about ''DLNA MQA'' core passthrough and hopes that one day the Zidoo will be able to handle it.

    Do you know anything about it?

    Thanks
     
    Latch_be likes this.
  17. boxerfan

    boxerfan Active Member

    Nice & detailed write up!

    Thanks for sharing...
     
  18. cyber201

    cyber201 Member

    Hello Nice Monkey.
    I still trying USB Audio Player Pro with the MQA license for playing Tidal Master Music and the official Tidal app for android with my UHD3000.

    The volume with the USB audio player pro is very soft.
    With the Tidal app, the volume Is much more loud.

    Have you any suggestions?

    Thanks a lot
     
    Latch_be likes this.
  19. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Sound level problem only with MQA? You are using an External USB DAC? Any volume controls on the MQA plug-in? You are playing UAPP set with bit-perfect mode I presume. Never tried MQA on UAPP as MP6 does its MQA job very well with HW assistance.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2021
  20. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Strange combination as DLNA is a NAS/Network feature and MQA a codec format. These things should be unrelated. As MQA files just look like a FLAC to the network I don't see anything specific for that.
    Maybe they want to use an external DLNA renderer for MQA using the Zidoo just as a plain player? That way all Zidoo models potentially can play MQA tracks. With UHD3000/Neo players with native MQA playback there is no need for this. I have not become a MQA fan/user myself. Just was curious how it all works and what it brings.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2021

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