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Output DSD from Your Universal Disc Player to Your DAC
Mass market universal disc players typically use cheap, mass market DACs. Consequently, their output stages aren't good enough to satisfy an audiophile who wants the best possible sound from SACD. SACD-licensing rules don't allow you to stream the unencrypted digital output from DSD tracks to an external DAC via S/PDIF outputs, even if your player internally converts the DSD to PCM.
Make the most out of the DSD data stream from your universal disc player by decoding and processing the signal with the DAC of your choice. The GeerFab Audio D.BOB (Digital BreakOut Box) extracts DSD from SACDs and PCM up to 24/192 from Blu-ray Audio discs and outputs the data to an external DAC. And it does this legally, of course, keeping HDCP fully intact.
Comparing DSD tracks with Redbook CD tracks, using an Oppo UDP-105 player and a high-end DAC, Kalman Rubinson notes in Stereophile, "I consistently felt that DSD via the D.Bob had more generous ambience and smoother treble. That's a sighted comparison leading to a subtle, subjective distinction, so I prefer the conclusion that DSD via the D.Bob was at least as good as direct CD playback and probably better."
"With this box in your system," Rubinson concludes, "You'll probably also be using it to play audio from your CDs, DVDs, DVD-As and Blu-rays, too. I unearthed a few 24/96 and 24/192 stereo DVD-As, as well as a couple of CDs, and through the D.BOB, all of those PCM sources sounded fine."
Why You Need the D.BOB
Why do you need the D.BOB? As Bruce Kinch notes in his positive-feedback.com review, "Most audiophile DACs could do the DSD data stream full justice if only they could access it, but a SACD player will not output DSD over S/PDIF, Toslink, or USB. By design."
Kinch goes on to explain, "As the better AV receivers sprouted multiple channels, the HDMI cable was introduced to transfer everything via a single cable in the digital realm (including DSD). And that is the backdoor through which Eric Geer figured out how to extract the DSD data stream and output it via S/PDIF coaxial or Toslink optical to the DAC of your choice, and still be fully HDCP compliant."
Using the D.BOB with Chord's Qutest DAC, Bruce Kinch notes, "With the D.BOB, the Qutest renders SACDs with a purity that makes one immediately aware of what even good CDs can lack."
How the D.BOB Works with Your Gear
For your universal disc player to work with the D.BOB, your player must output DSD64 and up to 24/192 PCM via HDMI. If there is only one HDMI output, the D.BOB includes an HDMI pass-through for player menu settings and other video uses. Use the HDMI OUT on the D.BOB to send video to a monitor or TV.
For your external DAC to work with the D.BOB, the DAC must accept DSD via the DoP protocol through S/PDIF Coax (preferable) or Toslink inputs. The D.BOB does not have a USB output. The mini-USB on the D.BOB is for firmware updates only.
"The D.BOB fills a void that desperately needed filling. It not only simplifies source selection when playing higher-resolution discs, but also delivers consistently high-quality audio when attached to a current-generation DAC or DAC/preamplifier."
- Steven Stone, The Absolute Sound, October 26, 2020
"I loaded the Oppo with a recent SACD of pianist Romain Nosbaum playing a selection of 'Saudades' by Spanish and Latin-American composers (SACD, ARS 38 287). It's a delightful hour of charming, witty music, played with panache and nicely recorded. I had been enjoying this recording in multichannel via a ripped file on my server; played in stereo direct from disc, via the D.BOB and my Mytek Brooklyn DAC, it lost a little ambience (relative to multichannel) and gained a little focus. When I compared the stereo DSD file with the D.BOB disc playback, there was little to choose between. With more complex music, such as the spritely and elegant Sextet Op.142 by Ferdinand Ries, performed by the Franz Ensemble (SACD, MDG 903 2136-6), the stereo-file-to-D.BOB comparison was still a draw.
"I also made comparisons between the D.Bob's S/PDIF output and the direct connection from the Oppo to the Brooklyn with the same recordings, but since the Oppo (like other players) does not support DSD via its S/PDIF output, I was comparing the DSD tracks with the Redbook CD tracks. Even so, the differences were small once the levels were matched. I consistently felt that DSD via the D.BOB had more generous ambience and smoother treble. That's a sighted comparison leading to a subtle, subjective distinction, so I prefer the conclusion that DSD via the D.BOB was at least as good as direct CD playback and probably better.
"With this box in your system, you'll probably also be using it to play audio from your CDs, DVDs, DVD-As and Blu-rays, too. I unearthed a few 24/96 and 24/192 stereo DVD-As, as well as a couple of CDs, and through the D.BOB, all of those PCM sources sounded fine."
- Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile, April 27, 2020
"With the D.BOB, the Qutest renders SACDs with a purity that makes one immediately aware of what even good CDs can lack. And in use, the D.BOB is dead silent other than quiet relay clicks when it locks on/off the signal.
"For many old school audiophiles (like myself) who prefer curating their own music collection and listening with album notes in hand, the improvement in sound quality the D.BOB provides is rationale enough-why rely on the player's outmoded DAC? "
- Bruce Kinch, positive-feedback.com, Issue 109
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