Recommended Settings and other useful stuff 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 posts content is HiFi player model and brand neutral.

    HiFi players always include an additional high quality DAC panel taking over the function of the integrated standard DAC of the SOC: X20 Pro, UHD2000 and UHD3000 are Zidoo HiFi models released thus far.
    HiFi players will at least play standard audio, HD Audio and also (some) exotic Audio formats:
    Standard Audio: up to 16 bit 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz PCM
    HD Audio: Up to 24-bit 176.4 kHz / 192 kHz PCM and up to DSD128
    Exotic Audio: up to 32-bit 768 kHz PCM and up to DSD512

    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 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 MCH music and 7.1 HT audio.

    This guide is divided in chapters and is usable for both listening to pure 2CH and 7.1 MCH for those combining a Music setup with a Home Theater setup.

    Index:
    Chapter-1: Recommended settings:
    Chapter-2: Zidoo Audio playback specific peculiarities and need to know:

    Chapter-3: Truly enjoying MCH music playback!
    Chapter-4: SACD & DTS-CD formats and playback

    Chapter-5: Internal versus External USB DAC
    Chapter-6: Using alternative Music Player App's
    Chapter-7: Using Music Streamer App's
    Chapter-8: DVD-Audio & BD Pure Audio formats and playback

    Chapter-9: How an excellent DAC build is recognized!
    Chapter-10: What about MQA?

    Recommendations are based on my own experiences using FW 6.3.2 on Z9X and UHD3000 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 HD Audio Output: Off *4
    Sampling rate control => Digital Output: Native sampling rate (=via HDMI/Internal DAC)
    Sampling rate control => DAC Output: Native sampling rate (=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: Linear with fast roll-off *3
    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 (=via HDMI)
    DAC Output: Native sampling rate (=via external USB)
    DAC switch: As desired On/Off (=shortcut Internal DAC On/Off)
    Filter properties: Linear with fast roll-off *3
    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 (ES9038 has 4) included by the SABRE DAC's but Zidoo does not have a option included to select those.
    More expensive DAC's/AMP's typically use DSP (Digital Signal Processor) chip based proprietary filters.

    *4 You need this setting to be turned On if your AMP only supports original basic DD and DTS formats as used originally on DVD's. You need it also if you are using S/PDIF as this interface does not provide the essential additional bandwidth for later DD and DTS versions like DTS-HD / DTS-X or Dolby TrueHD /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. will remove the Dolby Digital embedded track.
    Warning 2: Not all TV's support DTS.

    *5 For HiFi models like UHD3000 the internal DAC output volume will always react to the remote control volume buttons overriding 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: May 13, 2021 at 7:46 PM
    mirror, pcristi and Mabon like this.
  2. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Chapter-2: Zidoo Audio playback peculiarities and need to know:

    Zidoo RTD platforms have CPU limits reached when converting DSD => PCM for HDMI output. Also applies to USB if USB output is set to DSD => PCM conversion (which I would never use).

    This results in the following conversions made. Sampling rate-control set to: Native output for both HDMI output and USB output:
    DSD64 outputs as 176/16 bit PCM
    DSD128 outputs as 88/16 bit PCM
    DSD256 outputs at 44/16 bit PCM
    Putting out 16-bit was reported by me as a flaw as it should be doing 24-bit. Handling 24-bit in software is always nasty as processors work with 16, 32 or 64 bit registers. I am therefore not sure that this will ever come? DSD via HDMI is the better solution to look for instead.
    In effect higher resolution SACD's will be converged to lower resolution PCM as a consequence. Fortunately these are very rare (not counting private LP conversions).
    Using an Internal or External DAC obviously no conversion needs to be done and higher resolution SACD formats result in potential better audio then.

    Since FW6.0.90 Zidoo implemented MP gapless playback on all platforms for playlists containing tracks with the same sampling-rate. This is default and can't be changed. On UHD3000 one can chose to play the same way using "native sampling-rate" or 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. Personally I am an audio purist and not a fan of re-sampling and opt for the first method. Anyway gapless is above all important for complete (live) albums and those inherently all have the same format in my collection.

    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. The Zidoo engineers seem to be using MP6 always?

    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. Decoding DD/DTS in any format is not implemented only passthrough.
    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.

    There are multiple Audio Output options:
    - HDMI
    - S/PDIF Optical and Coaxial
    - USB (for an External DAC)
    - Bluetooth
    It is a pity only one selected output can be set active. The others need to be disabled/off/closed.
    It is reported that HDMI and S/PDIF can work in parallel. Did not try that myself.


    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 HD MCH 5.1 sound quality 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. If your family members will allow you to bring in to your home a full set of such speakers is another topic. Using a soundbar may then be a valid compromise.

    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. 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.
    For clarity I am using my OPPO UDP-203 for MCH Music playback of MCH DSD SACD and DVD-Audio albums as playback of those is not facilitated (yet) by Zidoo players.

    Hint: One can manually extract MCH SACD tracks to MCH DSF and via MCH DSF => MCH FLAC conversion next play them with MCH PCM sound (24-bit 88.2 KHz recommended). I was using myself the excellent XRECODE3 program for that task prior to getting my hands on an OPPO.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2021 at 12:19 PM
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  3. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    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 neither.

    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 the original ISO's.

    Most media players including Zidoo unfortunately don't support native DSD output via HDMI and will convert DSD streams to PCM streams real time when played. Only HiFi media players with advanced onboard DAC's will output DSD directly when switched to Analog Output using such DSD capable DAC like the 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 this time including Zidoo can play MCH ISO's in fact playing then the 2CH tracks from those. Zidoo Music Player has distortion problems playing MCH ISO's when converting these to 2CH PCM via HDMI specifically due to the need for DST decompression. Using UHD2000 and UHD3000 HiFi models there are no such performance problems. When switching to DAC Analog output the need for DSD=>PCM conversion disappears which reduces the processor load enough to get into the safe zone. The X20 Pro model did not support native DSD.
    There are currently no Android based HiFi media players known to me supporting MCH DAC's so that method restricts output to 2CH (Stereo) playback only.

    The new RTD1619 SOC's are technically capable to do MCH DSF => MCH PCM output as that total load is only marginally above MCH SACD/DSD ISO => 2CH PCM playback. Using appropriate drivers MCH DSD via HDMI could potentially work too?

    DTS-CD format and playback
    As mentioned before this is an odd-ball within music album formats. 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 (14-bit used) at 48kHz but some may be 20-bit or have other number of channels like 4.0 coming from QUAD LP. The DTS-CD format just re-uses the DTS-ES codec used by DVD and BD movie players.
    A DTS-CD uses a CD physical data layer as its carrier. It is always a single layer disc with single or multiple DTS tracks on them. In the case of a single track a matching CUE sheet is always included. Despite being a lossy format they still often do sound remarkably well.

    In contrary to many Music Players APP's the Zidoo MP6 Music Player also handles DTD-CD including processing CUE sheets. A very few DTS-CD albums will play only 2 channels and a sporadic few albums will only produce noise. Never found the why of that as my OPPO has no problems playing any of those.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2021 at 5:35 PM
  4. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Chapter-5: 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.

    When it comes to costs the price/performance with an integrated DAC HiFi player wins easily as relative (very) good DAC's are included above all with the new UHD3000. Even buying the entry level Z9X with an equivalent quality external DAC will always be more expensive.

    The sound quality and functionality
    For me support of DSD is a basic requirement and for that reason went myself for an external DIY-kit ES9038PRO based DAC about the time X20 Pro was released. It simply did not match my criteria.
    Next UHD2000 using a XMOS internal USB interface and having a Linear PSU came out. This brought build and sound quality almost on par but amongst others still missed the option to connect other sources to the DAC. The DIY-kit had next to USB-slave also S/PDIF coaxial and optical inputs.

    The recent UHD3000 once more improved the DAC clock circuitry and got a Hybrid PSU. That PSU despite being a good advance in fact does not improve sound as such. It just improves heat and noise aspects of the chassis as a whole. It also got an external USB DAC input which by far is the most important input. This moved me over the threshold and went for the integrated DAC HiFi media player. Regarding sound the actual difference is minimal with a slight preference for UHD3000 but above all on S/N ratio my external unit scored far better.
    http://forum.zidoo.tv/index.php?threads/practical-experiences-using-the-uhd3000.86061/

    Obviously there are better external DAC's than the one build-in with UHD3000. 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 UHD3000 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-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.

    Others
    Neutron Music Player seems to be another good player with the required HiFi features but was not tested by me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2021
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  5. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Chapter-7: Using Music Streaming App's

    Installed Spotify and that worked. Did not try other streaming services myself.

    The Tidal APP is reported to be working too and so is using UAPP for streaming service supported by that APP integrally. If purchased as an option also MQA will work correctly with Tidal under UAPP making MQA available that way for all models! Using UAPP as the basis also has the integral advantage of external USB DAC support for those services.

    Roon works functionally as claimed by Zidoo but runs into a problem as the platform seems not to be certified (yet) by Roon. Seen the formal claim to be supported it has been put by me on the bug-list.


    Chapter-8: 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 UHD3000.

    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 songs. There may be be some supplementary material in DVD-Video format on it though. The DVD-Video compatibility mode typically also includes lossy 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 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.
    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 PCM or DSD is the most important factor here resulting in minimal audible differences.

    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-9: 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 that one.

    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 is not an improved XU208 regarding clocking but adds MQA as a DAC feature.
    Some designs even use the XMOS chip combined with an Altera CPLD chip which is a dedicated clock stabilization chip avoiding any kind of jitter.

    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 as XMOS is doing for USB.

    Digital Filters
    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.
    What differentiates standard DAC (SABRE, AKM, Brown Burr etc) chip based units mostly from (very) expensive DAC's is the use of the internal DAC chip provided digital filters rather than deploying a custom designed DSP based proprietary digital filter. It is very challenging to hear the difference as each new SABRE version of their ESS series DAC's improved and added more digital filters to choose from.
    Be aware those digital filters are for PCM => Analog conversion only. For DSD => Analog conversion only simple low-pass filters are used instead.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2021 at 7:46 PM
  6. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    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.


    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 often 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.

    Some stereo DAC designs may also use 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 by using 2 chips.

    The DAC impact on the sound doing A/B blind tests
    a) For average quality CD's played in MP3/FLAC format the audible difference is limited.
    For good recordings it will be perceptible/reproducible doing blind checks easily. For very good recordings the difference may sound amazing even more for HD PCM recordings.
    b) For most SACD played in native DSD the reverse is true. Most will sound noticeable better using a good DAC (and far better than the CD). Also the difference between tracks converted to FLAC and the native DSD tracks of the same recording can be heard clearly.



    Chapter-10: What about MQA?

    The new UHD3000 supports Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) codec based music titles.
    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
    The MQA 'Studio' (blue light) gives confirmation directly from mastering engineers, producers or artists to their listeners. A second level, 'MQA' (green light) is available to indicate that although the stream is genuine, provenance may be uncertain or that it is not yet the final release. There are also Pink /Magenta albums with a still for me unknown definition.

    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.
    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: May 10, 2021 at 1:02 PM
  7. Nice Monkey

    Nice Monkey Well-Known Member Beta test group

    Reserved
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
  8. OlivierQC

    OlivierQC Well-Known Member Beta test group

    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 Active 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 Active 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 Beta test group

    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
     
  14. cyber201

    cyber201 New 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 Beta test group

    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
     
  17. boxerfan

    boxerfan Active Member

    Nice & detailed write up!

    Thanks for sharing...
     
  18. cyber201

    cyber201 New 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
     
  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 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.
     

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