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TOPIC: nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue

nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 3 weeks ago #16492

  • Jim the Oldbie
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Howdy Folks,

Apologies for the delays to the 1 or 2 people out there who may still be interested in this project. This will be an attempt to wrap it up.

After a lot of fooling around, I now have a setup that realizes the Full Gonzo concept; that is, a full-active, multichannel setup utilizing two miniDSP nanoAVR HD boxes running in parallel from an HDMI splitter into two AV receivers. Unfortunately I've encountered several non-trivial difficulties with this approach, some of which have yet to be fully resolved. Because of this, I have strong reservations about actually recommending this setup to any sane people out there. But as we all know, the word "sane" describes only a small subset of the audiophile gearhead community, so for the rest of us, here's how it works. :o)

First, I should stress that there is no way this rig can be described as user-friendly. To use just one popular metric, I'd estimate the Wife Acceptance Factor at somewhere around -42, for example. As was briefly discussed early on in the original Full Gonzo thread, there are 3 main issues to deal with, described below in no particular order:


1. Master Volume Control

In its normal configuration, nanoAVR feeds its 8 HDMI audio channels into a single AV receiver, providing the usual 5.1 or 7.1 full-range + sub setup with lots of extra tweakability. In one alternate mode with which some of you may be experimenting (I'd love to hear details if you are!), the above configuration is modified to drive a 2-, 3- or 4-way full active stereo setup. So far, so good. But dual 8-channel HDMI requires dual AVRs, and some way to control the volume of both units synchronously. My less-than-elegant solution so far has been to simply point a single remote at both receivers! This actually works pretty well, so long as I don't:

A. Try to aim through my big feet on the coffee table (thus blocking the IR beam to the AVR on the lower shelf), or
B. Hold the volume button down. This will cause the 2 volume settings to go out of sync, sooner or later (usually sooner).

My first attempt at a workaround for the above was to try an IR repeater with "blaster bugs" attached to the fronts of each AVR. It seems to have eliminated problem 'A', but has had no effect on 'B'. This puzzles me, because my two AVRs are almost identical, basically 5.1 and 7.1 versions of the same model. Either there are small firmware differences between the units, or there's something asynchronous about the timing of the individual remote auto-repeat routines that can't be compensated for externally. Either way, I've had to resign myself to individual button-presses to raise & lower the volume, which can certainly be tedious at 0.5 dB per step. Eventually, this might be a good candidate for an Arduino project. All I need is a remote that will auto-repeat individual button presses. Hmm... Maybe someday.

As a final caveat on this topic: I'm sure the fact that my receivers are the same make & model series is the only reason this mash-up works at all for me. I doubt it would even be worth trying with two receivers of different models, never mind different manufacturers.


2. HDMI / HDCP / EDID Headaches

This one was almost the show-stopper. I started out using stuff I had in the closet, namely a 1x2 HDMI splitter. This forced me to connect things mostly in series; by that I mean, splitter to 2 nanoAVRs, each connected to its own AVR, each of those connected to a video device (TV on one receiver's HDMI out, projector on the other). I doubt I could have lived with this for very long, since it didn't work as often as it did, and there was no rhyme or reason to one or the other. Very frustrating. Still, when it did work it sounded GREAT!, so I scratched my head a bit more and decided to see if I could simplify the EDID yellow-brick-road I'd inadvertently created. I ordered this 1x4 splitter from Amazon:

www.amazon.com/J-Tech-Digital-JTDPH0104-...mmable/dp/B00DP6XYMW

This unit is different in 3 ways: First, it obviously allowed me to put the video in parallel or side-by-side with the audio, thus presumably clarifying the EDID paths a bit. Second, it lets you preset the generic EDID it presents to the upstream gear, providing even more stability to the ridiculous HDCP handshaking voodoo ritual. Finally, it comes with a remote control(!) that, among other things, has a RESET button! This last feature alone has transformed the whole deal from unusable to actually pretty tolerable. Even if something glitches, when switching from one type of audio stream to another for example, and I lose part of the audio somewhere (and it does still happen), one or two presses of the magic RESET button and all sins are forgiven. And it's not like I have to do this in the middle of an album or movie or anything like that; it's just an occasional brief bit of drama when switching from one to the other. At this point I can live with it.


3. Programming Multiple miniDSP Units

Here's another one that started out almost insurmountable but got a lot easier. The basic issue here is that the nanoAVR software plugin was not designed with the idea in mind of using more than one unit in a single system. Because of this, several operational details which are normally taken for granted became almost impossible. First & foremost: The Adobe AIR platform (on which the plugin is based) apparently does not officially allow for multiple instances of its apps to run simultaneously. For me, this seemed to mean that I'd have to connect & make adjustments to one nanoAVR box, then quit that one, reconnect & adjust the other, and so on & on. Okay, not an ideal situation, but still doable.

But wait! Not only could I not talk to both boxes at once, but the plugin has no way of allowing the synced Configs to be stored in separate locations! So as soon as I quit one box, then restarted the app & connected to the alternate IP for the other box, the plugin would try to sync the Configs from the first box into the second! This was obviously not gonna work. My initial workaround was to actually load the plugin on TWO SEPARATE LAPTOPS, running simultaneously, each with its own data storage area, talking to its own nanoAVR. At least this solved the first problem, allowing me access to both boxes at once, but still - TWO SEPARATE LAPTOPS!! Sheesh - this was getting a little too geeky even for me! But then I found this little game-changer:

github.com/chrisdeely/AirAppDuplicator

This guy has written a small Adobe AIR app that allows you to duplicate & run multiple instances of your own AIR app, each with its own storage directory! Perfect. Now I'm back to a single laptop where (in Windows at least) I can happily Alt-Tab back & forth between one half of the rig and the other. I still have to be mindful of which IP I'm connecting to with which instance of the app, in order to keep the Configs straight, but this hasn't been too difficult. Again, not an ideal situation but I can live with it.

To summarize: This system is kind of like owning an old MGB sports car. When it's running well, it's heaven on earth - but every few hundred miles I have to pop the bonnet and tinker with those dual carburetors. Personally, I don't really mind; it's well below the level of intruding on my overall enjoyment (as I mentioned, the sound is _wonderful_), and besides, I enjoy an occasional bit of tinkering anyway. But as always, your mileage may vary. :o)


-- Jim
Last Edit: 2 years 3 weeks ago by Jim the Oldbie.
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 3 weeks ago #16517

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Jim.

What a great thread full of very valuable feedback! :-)
We're going to read it few times to make sure we can brainstorm a bit over here with the engineers o see if there would be one way to make it simpler..

- Master volume could maybe have a "trick" with a linking feature.. Need to think this more.
- HDMI/EDID. That's a lot of HDMI devices on the path and that splitter may struggle to send all that info up/downstream during a handshake. I'm guessing that you're running the latest firmware on your side for the nanoAVR (just in case)
- Dual Adobe Air apps: This one is a bit tricky since it's indeed the architecture of the product. Your setup is quite "Full Gonzo" as the title says.. :-) We didn't engineer it the same we did for the PWR-ICE series where all units are IP addressable and their configurations are "downloaded" from the unit itself at boot up. Not sure if there is a workaround to be honest.. That app is really neat though, thanks for the link!

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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 3 weeks ago #16520

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devteam wrote:
Jim.

What a great thread full of very valuable feedback! :-)
We're going to read it few times to make sure we can brainstorm a bit over here with the engineers o see if there would be one way to make it simpler..

Hey thanks guys, I appreciate the thought, but please don't waste too much time on it. I understand this is not the normal intended use of your product(s). I may end up being the only one silly enough to try it anyway. Besides, it really is working reasonably well at this point.

- Master volume could maybe have a "trick" with a linking feature.. Need to think this more.

Trick with a linking feature, hmm.... Hey! I think I've got it! :oD (see attached pic)

- HDMI/EDID. That's a lot of HDMI devices on the path and that splitter may struggle to send all that info up/downstream during a handshake. I'm guessing that you're running the latest firmware on your side for the nanoAVR (just in case)

Yup, latest firmware. I'm thinking there may be a few things to try at the source end (HTPC) that might cause a bit less confusion at the HDMI splitter. For example I think that Foobar's WASAPI implementation might be responsible for some of it. Just a hunch at this point, though. Meanwhile, it's working much better than it was!

- Dual Adobe Air apps: This one is a bit tricky since it's indeed the architecture of the product. Your setup is quite "Full Gonzo" as the title says.. :-) We didn't engineer it the same we did for the PWR-ICE series where all units are IP addressable and their configurations are "downloaded" from the unit itself at boot up. Not sure if there is a workaround to be honest.. That app is really neat though, thanks for the link!

You're welcome - this app may come in handy for other less-Gonzo setups too. It works so well that I'm considering this part of the problem solved.

-- Jim
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 3 weeks ago #16528

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:D

Thanks Jim for the update, all good info.
I am not miniDSP support.

"You must ask the right questions." - Dr. Alfred Lanning's hologram.
-> Have you read the User Manual??
-> Have you drawn and posted a diagram?
-> Have you posted a screenshot?
-> Have you posted your config file?
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 3 weeks ago #16546

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ahahah.. that Linking feature is just priceless! Worth going on the Photo Gallery... ahahaha
MiniDSP, building a DIY DSP community one board at a time.
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 3 weeks ago #16552

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devteam wrote:
ahahah.. that Linking feature is just priceless! Worth going on the Photo Gallery... ahahaha

Hee! (And just in case anyone's wondering: It doesn't work worth a damn.) :oD
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16570

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Hey Jim,

I just discovered this thread, thinking about a similar project like yours. My imagined setup would be:
OppoBDP - HDMI Splitter - NanoAVR x2 as XO - 7.1HDMI DAC like this one (www.essenceelectrostatic.com/product/evo...i-multi-channel-dac/) - diy AMP

That way, I would not have your volume regulation problem, but volume control in 1st place could (maybe) go wrong...any idea?

What is dont get so far: Is it possible to route the signal through NanoAVR of one input channel to two (or all) output channel? I mean: If i solve the DAC problem after the AVR, can I use it as stereo 4-way crossover?


Edit:
Small additional input: OppoBDP105 has 2 HDMI out, which can be used parallel OR seperated by sound and video.
Last Edit: 2 years 2 weeks ago by Rumble. Reason: add info
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16571

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Rumble wrote:
I just discovered this thread, thinking about a similar project like yours. My imagined setup would be:
OppoBDP - HDMI Splitter - NanoAVR x2 as XO - 7.1HDMI DAC like this one (www.essenceelectrostatic.com/product/evo...i-multi-channel-dac/) - diy AMP

I've looked at that Essence unit too. It would be nice to be able to replace 2 big AVRs with a couple of these little guys, but for my needs it has a few question marks:

1. How is bass management handled on this thing? No mention of it at all in the ad blurb or anywhere else I can find.
2. Sound quality/ noise/ distortion/ any specs? My low-end Yamaha AVRs do surprisingly well in this regard; I'd be hesitant to replace them without some more data.
3. Last but not least, no master volume control at all.

That way, I would not have your volume regulation problem, but volume control in 1st place could (maybe) go wrong...any idea?

Not sure I understand this one. There would be no volume regulation problem with the Essence unit(s) because there is no volume control. The only level control in this setup would be the IR master volume feature on the nanoAVRs. Unfortunately this feature is impossible to use in a dual-nanoAVR scenario, because there is no _indicator_ of where it's set, so no easy way to keep the 2 settings synchronized.

What is dont get so far: Is it possible to route the signal through NanoAVR of one input channel to two (or all) output channel?

Yup, this is done in the Routing matrix in the plugin software. For example, on my rig each of the 5 main inputs goes to 3 outputs: bass, mid, and tweet. You can also do the opposite, that is, mix multiple inputs to a single output. I have the 5 main inputs mixed down to 3 subwoofers - left, right, and center. (the .1 or SUB input is routed to all 3 subs.)

I mean: If i solve the DAC problem after the AVR, can I use it as stereo 4-way crossover?

Sorry, you lost me again. :o/ If you have an AVR, you don't have a DAC problem, since there's a DAC in the AVR? And yes, you could conceivably use a single 7.1 AVR/ nanoAVR as a stereo 4-way system. Just be aware that the 8th output on a 7.1 AVR (the Subwoofer output) will probably be bandwidth-limited in some way, even if the receiver's bass management is switched off. This could interfere with your 2-channel plans depending on your required crossover points.

Edit:
Small additional input: OppoBDP105 has 2 HDMI out, which can be used parallel OR seperated by sound and video.

This would probably reduce your HDMI headaches.

-- Jim
Last Edit: 2 years 2 weeks ago by Jim the Oldbie.
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16582

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1. How is bass management handled on this thing? No mention of it at all in the ad blurb or anywhere else I can find.
Good point! I have no idea, I will send them an email.
2. Sound quality/ noise/ distortion/ any specs? My low-end Yamaha AVRs do surprisingly well in this regard; I'd be hesitant to replace them without some more data.
The only (small) further info I found:
....The Evolve DAC has very low THD, .0003%, with S/N of -120dB....
www.essenceelectrostatic.com/evolve-hdmi...hannel-dac/#comments (Scroll down to bottom. Seems to be the engineer or someone related.)
3. Last but not least, no master volume control at all.
Sadly right. :(

That way, I would not have your volume regulation problem, but volume control in 1st place could (maybe) go wrong...any idea?

Not sure I understand this one. There would be no volume regulation problem with the Essence unit(s) because there is no volume control. The only level control in this setup would be the IR master volume feature on the nanoAVRs. Unfortunately this feature is impossible to use in a dual-nanoAVR scenario, because there is no _indicator_ of where it's set, so no easy way to keep the 2 settings synchronized.
This is bad explained:
I could use the volume control of the OppoBDP. The problem is, I have no idea about the bit loss of the digital volume decrease. Maybe it could be avoided, if the player volume is increased and the NanoAVR has -20dB or more at the output.
I mean: If i solve the DAC problem after the AVR, can I use it as stereo 4-way crossover?
I ment the NanoAVR insted of AVR. Hope its logic now. You already answered it. Thanks!

Two other things I got in mind:
- Is it possible to open the NanoAVR and connect both IR receiver together? So you reduce the receivers to one and (hopefully) get the similar signal to both NanoAVR at the same time. I have no idea how, but maybe its just a little wiring.
- What about the NanoAVR App? There is a volume control too and if I see it right, its possible to connect to more than one. Not sync, but maybe that helps somehow.
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16585

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My understanding is that the volume control on the Oppo works only on the analog output (unless it has changed in a recent firmware update?). You could test it with your existing AVR.
I am not miniDSP support.

"You must ask the right questions." - Dr. Alfred Lanning's hologram.
-> Have you read the User Manual??
-> Have you drawn and posted a diagram?
-> Have you posted a screenshot?
-> Have you posted your config file?
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16590

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Rumble wrote:
1. How is bass management handled on this thing? No mention of it at all in the ad blurb or anywhere else I can find.
Good point! I have no idea, I will send them an email.

Thanks man. I been meaning to do this but too lazy. :o)

The only (small) further info I found:
....The Evolve DAC has very low THD, .0003%, with S/N of -120dB....

Hmm... Those numbers sound good to be true. Something smells funny about this site. First, those specs are from Bob Rapoport, who is not an engineer but rather a marketing guy (uh-oh). Also, and more importantly, it looks like the exact same box can be had for about half the price (minus the slick-looking web page of course):

Well, cusswords!! I can't get the link to post. Anyway, it's on Ebay. But I guess the no-volume-control thing makes this one a non-starter anyway.

I could use the volume control of the OppoBDP. The problem is, I have no idea about the bit loss of the digital volume decrease. Maybe it could be avoided, if the player volume is increased and the NanoAVR has -20dB or more at the output.

Ah! I see what you mean now. I used to be more concerned about digital volume control until I used it for awhile with my miniDSP 4x10. Now it seems OK to me, as long as the overall gain structure isn't too messed up. However, what you're describing is a little different, since the scaling would occur quite a ways further upstream than usual. But I see John's reply might have put the kibosh on this idea as well anyway.

- Is it possible to open the NanoAVR and connect both IR receiver together? So you reduce the receivers to one and (hopefully) get the similar signal to both NanoAVR at the same time. I have no idea how, but maybe its just a little wiring.

I've thought about this too, but balked at the prospect of immediately voiding the warranties on 2 expensive little boxes. Also, even with some sort of hard-wired link between the IR receiver sections, there would unfortunately still be a couple of ways that the volume settings could go out of sync. And since there's no easy way to check this short of firing up the plugins, it just seems too problematic to me.

What about the NanoAVR App? There is a volume control too and if I see it right, its possible to connect to more than one. Not sync, but maybe that helps somehow.

I'm afraid the not-sync part is the problem here. It is possible to connect to both boxes simultaneously, but not to _control_ them both at the same time. It's still necessary to flip back & forth between the plugins to make adjustments. Not a big deal for tuning sessions, but too much hassle for everyday volume control.

I do appreciate your suggestions. This master volume thing is a tricky one. I've given it a lot of thought, and I keep coming back to my 2 little Yamaha AVRs and my 1 remote as the simplest solution, heh.

-- Jim
Last Edit: 2 years 2 weeks ago by Jim the Oldbie.
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16598

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Grinch came by and stole christmas :(

I got a very fast answer. Little fuss but yeah, its his product and job...
Thanks for your interest in Essence and your questions. The Evolve outputs 8 full range channels, there is no bass management.

The sound quality is comparable to our HDACC two channel version, distortion and noise are below the residual level of the test equipment, .003%. The upsampled output of low resolution content like CD, MP3 files, is greatly improved and native Blu-ray Concerts, Pure Audio Discs, SACD, and hi res downloads sound better than any previous generation of content, making your system sound better than you've ever heard it. The uncompressed LPCM soundtrack is a one-to-one copy of the original master recording with full dynamic range and bandwidth.

We use ESS Sabre chips, no jitter.

The analog outputs can feed an older generation AVR with multi-channel inputs and then be driven by the amplifier with volume control by remote. My idea for this came to me because legacy systems dont have HDMI inputs, just analog. Its the perfect add-on to make an older system new again.

The funny thing is, that he comes back to your idea. So it is useless for me. I will rethink the whole thing, maybe I can solve it with 2 8x8 and one VolFP connected to both. But I look forward that one day, my egg laying wool milk pig will pop up! :D
Last Edit: 2 years 2 weeks ago by Rumble.
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16602

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Rumble wrote:
Grinch came by and stole christmas :(

Nah. Look at it this way - you just saved yourself a bunch of money, that's all. :o)

I got a very fast answer. Little fuss but yeah, its his product and job...

Thanks again for doing this, by the way.

Thanks for your interest in Essence and your questions. The Evolve outputs 8 full range channels, there is no bass management.

Hmm... This would be a bad thing for everyone else, but actually a plus for a nanoAVR HD setup. The plot thickens...

The sound quality is comparable to our HDACC two channel version, distortion and noise are below the residual level of the test equipment, .003%. The upsampled output of low resolution content like CD, MP3 files, is greatly improved and native Blu-ray Concerts, Pure Audio Discs, SACD, and hi res downloads sound better than any previous generation of content, making your system sound better than you've ever heard it. The uncompressed LPCM soundtrack is a one-to-one copy of the original master recording with full dynamic range and bandwidth.

We use ESS Sabre chips, no jitter.

Hmm again... The ESS part, if true, is a good sign. Still a lot of market-speak in there, but I guess that's to be expected.

The analog outputs can feed an older generation AVR with multi-channel inputs and then be driven by the amplifier with volume control by remote. My idea for this came to me because legacy systems dont have HDMI inputs, just analog. Its the perfect add-on to make an older system new again.

The funny thing is, that he comes back to your idea.

What's even funnier is that his suggestion won't even work for a conventional setup, since "legacy systems" hardly ever had any _bass management_ (or delay adjustments, or _any_ adjustments besides master volume) on their analog multichannel inputs. Of course we've got _all_ of that (and more) on nanoAVR HD. Hmm...

So it is useless for me. I will rethink the whole thing, maybe I can solve it with 2 8x8 and one VolFP connected to both.

Oops! Sorry man, but I don't think that one's gonna work either. :o/ Still, you've got me thinking about these little black boxes again... There IS a solution to this master volume problem out there, of course. It's just gonna take a little more investigation. I'll report back if anything floats to the surface.

But I look forward that one day, my egg laying wool milk pig will pop up! :D

Hahaha! I plan on plagiarising that one, hope you don't mind...

-- Jim
Last Edit: 2 years 2 weeks ago by Jim the Oldbie.
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16603

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I don't understand, why would you want the DAC to do bass management? The nanoAVR does that rather well.
I am not miniDSP support.

"You must ask the right questions." - Dr. Alfred Lanning's hologram.
-> Have you read the User Manual??
-> Have you drawn and posted a diagram?
-> Have you posted a screenshot?
-> Have you posted your config file?
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nanoAVR Full-Gonzo Scenario #1: Epilogue 2 years 2 weeks ago #16604

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john.reekie wrote:
I don't understand, why would you want the DAC to do bass management? The nanoAVR does that rather well.

Yup, you're correct. That's why the lack of bass management on a box like the Essence is actually a plus in a nanoAVR scenario.

-- Jim
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