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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 3 weeks ago #61481

  • PeterRSorenson
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Thank you so much in advance for helping me sort this out!  It is greatly appreciated! I have a small professional studio highly sound treated, with HEDD type 20 monitors.  It is a very revealing listening environment, unforgiving of gears audio limitations.

The chain that I wish is my Mac Mini serving Roon => USB to Minidsp SHD => Coax to Schiit Gunigir DAC => XLR to Schiit Freya + w some exotic tubes = XLR to the type 20s.

When I use this chain the audio is pretty darned lame.  Yes all the SHD tools are amazing fun, but it sounds like I am running through a $200 DAC.

When I simply remove the SHD out of the chain.  Running USB from the Mac Mini directly to the USB input of the Shiit DAC.  It sounds as it should. Frigging amazing.  Like taking Winter ear muffs off. The difference is a huge night and day.

----

The only think I can think of is the USB implementation of the SHD is older and not so good?  The Schitt is running their newish "Unison" USB board that is galvanically isolated among other things.  Supposed to be better than a coax input connection.

I really want to keep the SHD and figure this out.

----

Is there any other way (besides volumino) that I can get a clean digital signal from my Mac into the SHD?

Again grateful for the assistance!



 

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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 3 weeks ago #61483

  • overcoat
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I don't use Roon but I'm not sure why you've said "Mac Mini serving Roon => USB to Minidsp SHD".

It's my understanding that Roon is a music server and the SHD is a Roon Ready networked media player, so they should be communicating over your network rather than using USB.

Ben

www.minidsp.com/applications/audio-streaming/shd-roon-ready

Edit: you should really consider trying the SHD XLR straight to your HEDD Type 20. That's similar to what I did, getting rid of a separate DAC and preamp, and the difference was night and day especially once I got Dirac dialed in

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Last edit: by overcoat.

Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 3 weeks ago #61485

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Hi Ben and thanks for the help.  Appreciated.  Roon has a server core that needs to be run somewhere.  I like running Roon (streaming Quboz) on my Mac because I have the big screen, and as well from that big screen I can also run Amazon HD, and Spotify.  I don't like Volumino ( The streaming UI on the SHD) because it's a bit unstable, and I don't care for the UI, in comparison to what I can have on the Mac.  The Mac runs the rest of my studio/office so there it is :-).  Roon core on the Mac, Roon endpoint inside the SHD.

I for sure agree the fewer things in the audio chain the better,  I did run the SHD (driven by my MAC via USB)  directly into the Type 20s, but there were two problems. What I thought was happening is the DAC inside the SHD which measures really well (Audio Science Review), Was not nearly as revealing as the $1300 Schiit Multibit DAC. Sounded OK, but to me having gone thru a ton of DACs it sounded like a $200 Dac.  Circling back I am now thinking that the USB was causing the sound issues and the DAC was better than I thought.  The second issue with bolting it up directly, is the Pre-amp section of the SHD just plain doesn't have the magical sound of the Shitt Freya + with my exotic tubes. So that's a $1000 preamp with about $400 in carefully chosen tubes.  .....  So on your suggestion I will try hooking it up directly again, but this time feeding it from the Mac via the SHDs network port.

So today, I did figure out how to connect the SHD to Roon on my Mac.  A tiny bit if futzing and the Mac/ROON was recognizing the SHD.  Playing great into the Schiit DAC via a proper OHM coax cable. Then through the tube pre-amp.  What was cool was I was able to switch back and forth between Amazon HD from the Mac to the DAC via USB, and Quobuz streamed through the SHD via its coax output into the DAC.  Was able to A/B.   So the SHD did sound worlds better receiving its digital stream via ethernet. Worlds better than receiving its' stream via the SHD USB port.  Worlds better.  So major lesson learned there.  But although the SHD did sound very pleasant and almost bright. The mid-base notes not as well defined. It still was generally not nearly as revealing as skipping the SHD and running straight into the DAC.  But you know I have a very unforgiving/revealing system.

So my conclusion for now is the SHD is great audio in a not so critical audiophile two channel circumstance.  I think maybe it's is just plain doing too much inside there subtlly affecting the signal path.  Home theater or an untreated room for example.

My question now is does MiniDSP make something that has a lighter touch on the signal path?   I still need to custom high pass my monitors and low pass my subs.
I would also love to play with dirac, but not at the expense of hurting the signal quality of the audio.

Thoughts Ben?









 

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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 3 weeks ago #61486

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And tomorrow I will run your exact experiment. Which will give a final pass on the USB vs network signal path question. As well as running purely from network only through the SHD Dac to monitors question.  I remembered that I have an XLR switcher so I will be able to A/B.

Cheers

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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61569

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And tomorrow I will run your exact experiment. Which will give a final pass on the USB vs network signal path question. As well as running purely from network only through the SHD Dac to monitors question.  I remembered that I have an XLR switcher so I will be able to A/B.

Cheers

Did you try this and what was your conclusion please?
 

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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61573

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Hi gray, Yes I did. So here is my personal opinion. The question here in my mind, is; Is the issue with the SHDs USB implementation, or possibly with it's DAC?

Running the SHD from the Mac Mini => SHD ethernet port => using the SHDs Dac => Directly to the HEDD type 20s did the best clarity of the SHD as a stand alone device.

But three things (that are separate), as I have run a number of DACs directly into my monitors in the past.  My RME ADI & Schitt Gumby. You know it's a clear signal path, but I gotta tell you kids, never has all of the complex detail as when I place the Schiit Freya+ running some tricky tubes in the middle.  So to this test, best result using SHD alone as the use case. But not a final solution.

Next test. Kind of about the SHD internal DAC? Mac Mini => SHD ethernet port in => SHD coax port out ti the Schiit Gumby => Directly to the HEDD type 20s. Not suprising The Gumby is a much much better DAC than the internal DAC of the SHD. Which really isn't a fair hit on the SHD. The SHD is a superb do all Swiss army knife for $1,300, incredible value.  I subjectively rate the SHD internal DAC equivalent to $400ish Topping and SMSl DACs that I have owned.

Finally, regarding the clean through the SHD direct to the monitors test.

It still didn't sound nearly as good as:  The Mac Mini => Gumby USB => HEDD Type 20s.  

My final opinions; Shocked me how good the Gumby USB implementation is, I had no idea.  You know you read about this, but I didn't give it any creedence. No matter how I tried, and I tried, simply removing the SHD out of the path completely, worlds of difference sound improvement. Running Mac Mini => USB out to the Gumby => XLR out to the Freya + with killer tubes ==> XLR out to the HEDD Type 20s. Kinda blows my mind every time I fire the rig up.

I still believe (opinion) that the SHD has a big issue with audio coming in via the USB port, and using their USB port for digital audio in brings everything down after it.  Ethernet port for digital audio in is the only way to go with the SHD.

And that the SHD has only a 'milk toast' DAC in it. (I don't care what Amir says. The man never critically listens to the gear he sticks on his analyzer.)


My studio has an OCD 36 count em sound blankets up, double carpets, every single piece of equipment on IsoAcoustics feet, the 2 monitors & the audio gear stack on three separate 200lb concrete block stacks. Not pretty, a focused work place. But an OCD deader than a doornail listening environment. You can only hear maybe 5% of what the room is. The audio that the gear is actually producing cannot hide from ears in any way.

If the SHD was in a less exacting environment? Untreated living room or studio?  With less revealing monitors (or amp & speakers)?  Heck maybe everything I just said would be meaningless.  And the SHD would be the ticket to Nirvana.

Just humble opinions.




 

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Last edit: by PeterRSorenson.

Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61587

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My question now is does MiniDSP make something that has a lighter touch on the signal path? 

 

No, I think the SHD remans the best quality miniDSP.

What signal processing are you currently applying with your SHD? Just high and low-pass filters? Have you also made measurements to optimise time/phase alignment with your sub? You should also try running Dirac Live, although do experiment with the frequency range over which it is applied as you may well prefer it only run over the low bass range - I do.

What ultimately matters is whether the result with the SHD and all the above applied is better than the sound without the SHD used at all, not whether the SHD may have a slight negative impact on the sound when you aren't taking full advantage of it's functionality.

I briefly had some Hedd Type 07 Mk II speakers at home and I'll just mention that from measurements I could see that applying Dirac Live slightly degraded the impulse response from what the lineariser achieved, which isn't surprising to be honest. I didn't keep the speakers long enough to test what I may think of this in terms of any audible impact though. For me the Hedds just sucked all lfe/enjoyment out of music which is why they went back, and which may be why you've found yourself liking tubes in the mix actually.
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Last edit: by Ultrasonic.

Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61591

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Hey thanks Ultrasonic!  Really I appreciate your thoughts. And am grateful for them.

Im considering one of the versions of the FLEX where it's digital in digital out, without an internal DAC getting in the way? To attempt the cleanest path to DIRAC. I'm noodleing on how to best get the signal into the FLEX from my Mac Mini. Not trusting Minidsp's USB implementations. I'm thinking about running the signal through some kind of USB cleaner upper gadget (Galvanic isolation etc) placed between the Mac Mini and the Flex.

Yes the HEDD Type 20s are the most 'squeegee clean' (Darko's term) transducers/amp I have had to date in my studio. Although this week I am installing a pair of Purity Audio 6.5" drivers swapping out the original HEDD 6.5" drivers. Because the Purifys seem to have the lowest distortion ratings in the worldish maybe for a 6.5"? And I am hoping that because they have a very long throw they will better take the bass beatings that I give my HEDDs. Just an experiment.

And directly to your suggestion. You are right. After years of trying to get the cleanest signal and the most uncolored sound (within my humble beat used gear when I can - not even slightly a rich guy budget).  I grudgingly have been dragged to the belief that the place within a system chain, for the addition of color and life, is in the preamp. And in particular a preamp with very carefully chosen tubes. Not expensive tubes, just the 'right' ones. Just my personal opinion.

BTW time alignment with the subs with the SHD was a real education, that is a real deal thing and I want it back. As well having complete control over the crossovers was the biggest revelation of the SHD where I got schooled.  I have always believed (been led to believe) that crossovers are a, how do I describe it. A specific place. where the two speakers match. A point where one speaker starts and the other stops. Logical right. Man that ain't necessarily true. The slopes are really different for each driver. I got schooled there.  The HEDDs crossed best with a long slope beginning at about 60. I was never fully convinced that the HEDDs needed to be crossed at all.  For my subs it was the craziest thing.  When time aligned, they were best crossed up above at 200ish with a really dramatic slope. Illogical but true.

As well, this often talked about idea that 'take away' (cut off) the bottom load of the monitor gives it better things is bull. Yea it will play louder for sure (and in theory maybe you bought yourself a bit of dynamic headroom), but you also just tossed away ALL of the lower subtly that that driver might be able to do. Sounds good in theory, but you are definitely throwing things away. 

The delay / crossover tools of the SHD are powerful, and I hope to find a way to get them back. :-)

Cheers, and thank you!

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Last edit: by PeterRSorenson.

Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61592

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As well, this often talked about idea that 'take away' (cut off) the bottom load of the monitor gives it better things is bull. Yea it will play louder for sure (and in theory maybe you bought yourself a bit of dynamic headroom), but you also just tossed away ALL of the lower subtly that that driver might be able to do. Sounds good in theory, but you are definitely throwing things away. 

In my personal experience I disagree with this particular point but I'd simply encourage everyone to experiment as we both have and to go with whatever they find works best for them.

Re. your other comments there is also an all-digital SHD Studio, which to be honest I was wondering why your hadn't bought to begin with. That said, if you're using the digital output of your SHD then the signal won't be passing through the on-board DACs at all so I wouldn't be confident you'd notice any difference. It would all come down to whether the inclusion of the DACs and analogue output section affects the digital output in some way that degrades the final result.
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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61593

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Interesting thread. 

I'm using mine to send a digital signal to the SHD (from a Mac mini). After applying Dirac, I'm using the digital out to my Dynaudio active speakers. I'm only actually using the dac of the SHD to feed a sub via XLR.

So presumably using ethernet is the best path for that and any use of USB is troublesome.

Unless of course, there is some benefit for using the USB, either from the Mac or internal cabling on the SHD.

USB seems a can of worms!
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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61594

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I'll add that I don't think I've ever tried sending music via USB to my SHD. I'm surprised it doesn't work well but for music I exclusively use Qobuz and Radio Paradise. (I use other inputs for TV, movies and gaming.)
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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61595

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Hey thanks Ultrasonic. I appreciate the opportunity to think this through.

To your point of should I have gotten the SHD studio or the FLEX?  Well going into it my first intention was to experiment with crossing over the subs, using all four XLR analog outs. And that meant getting the SHD. I thought about that for a long time when looking at the Minidsp choices. Funny one of the big learnings resulting was if you run an external dac SHD coax out for the monitors tops. That external dac creates a significant delay, when running to the SHDs internal dac running xlr to the subs. So I learned a lot about matching the sub delay adjustment on the SHD. That was a cool education.

So there is the practical issue with going all-digital with the SHD Studio or FLEX. And I say it with a smile. Then would I have to run two dacs! To get four channel crossover/dirac coolness out to the monitors and the subs. So the OCD way would be to double up on my Schiit Gumby dac by getting another one used for $800. Then the delays and voicing would be identical to monitors and to subs. But man that is so hyper OCD. But heck then I think the sub doesn't need a good dac, right?  Just throw a cheap one on for the subs.  But then I think...if I'm crossing subs like I was before with the HSUs at 200, that's smack in real audio music territory where matching voicing becomes a real thing.

Cheers

 

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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61596

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Funny one of the big learnings resulting was if you run an external dac SHD coax out for the monitors tops. That external dac creates a significant delay, when running to the SHDs internal dac running xlr to the subs.
 

This may be more due to the specific external DAC you've chosen rather than it being universally true that an external DAC leads to significant extra delay compared to the internal ones. For info. the only time I've used the digital outputs on my SHD has been when connecting to active speakers with built-in DACs: the Hedds I mentioned above and also some Edifier S3000 Pros.

Re. your other comments I think most would agree that a cheaper DAC could be used for subwoofer signals without any audible loss in quality.
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Audio quality problem with the SHD USB implementation? 3 months 1 week ago #61646

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I'm using an SHD Studio and don't hear any difference between USB audio and network streaming audio, both sounds fine.
But my operating system is Windows 10.
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