miniDSP SHD DAC w/DIRAC Live

AVUser001

AVUser001

Full Audioholic
About to pull the trigger on a miniDSP SHD to serve the duties of Streamer/DSP/DAC/PreAmp , in my 2 channel system in office. This coupled with a power amp, will replace my Marantz SR7010.

Why this, at over $1K?
  1. DAC measured really well at ASR , placed at the top bracket, with SINAD of 111db and .0003% THD+N. Reported jitter/noise below -120db, so not an audible concern.
  2. Dirac Live 2.0 room correction. DIRAC License included. UMik-1 included in price(although I have this already). Dirac was key for me.
  3. Preamp. Volume Control. Remote Control. Can directly feed a PowerAmp. (Analog o/p 2v RMS unbalanced, 4v RMS balanced )
  4. Has both Digital & Analog Inputs & Outputs. So if needed, can just operate this as a streamer/DSP with Dirac and feed the digital o/p to another higher performing DAC, in the future. This is an outstanding DAC by itself, so I dont need another DAC, but just provides that option if required.
  5. Network Streamer w/dedicated processor. open source Volumio , Roon endpoint. Seems Airplay works too, although not officially documented.
Did look at a bunch of alternative DACs and solutions(AVR,Integrated Amp,Stereo receivers etc) , but this proved to be the most feature packed & performant, that included top of the line room correction.
Almost bought a RME-ADI2 - measured better, fantastic feature set, Preamp, parametric equalizer, great build quality & support etc..(still could buy ;-)) , but miniDSP edged over it, with DIRAC and streamer.
Another option was to buy mniDSP Studio version , all digital input/output ..and feed a DAC. But for $300 more, might as well buy SHD that includes a high quality DAC.
Other DACs considered:
Topping models( Topping DX7 Pro - measured better and Cheaper..fallback option) , Okto research DAC8 Stereo DAC , Matrix Element ( measured better).
NAD C 658 is another I looked at, that checks all the boxes in terms of featureset including DIRAC, Streamer, DAC,PreAmp etc , but a bunch of negative reviews all over the forums and no measurements I couldnt find. Nice thing about that is the future upgradeability via MDC modules..but ruled out.

Now I've also been trying to get the Mac version of Dirac Live for Studio working. I have installed it ( both Dirac Live app + Dirac Live Audio processor plugins) and my JRiver can detect the audio plugins (VST) , but for some reason Dirac seems to have gotten greedy and not exposing a trial version. Dirac Live processor for MAC Costs $349..,while its included in miniDSP. Have reached out to them ..also their latest version is presently not tested with Mac OS Catalina. If I can get Dirac working on my MAC , will allow me to apply the correction filters , right at the source ( JRiver, Audirvana) .,as opposed to relying on downstream DSP/DAC's room correction capabilities. Also the Dirac processor works at a higher sampling frequency(192 Khz) on MAC, versus lower(48,96Khz) at miniDSP..,shouldnt be a big deal, but main advantage I see is being decoupled from DAC( additional options).

Yes I could just do REW with IIR filters imported or Audyssey(which I was doing for years with D&M AVRs) , but seems like Dirac live is more streamlined..yet to play with it, but only hearing positive things about it, compared to others. My sub-optimal listening room definitely needs room treatment + room correction.., Right now, I'm not doing enough justification to the Focal Electras.. but they've been very forgiving so far and I'm enjoying them every bit..,just not the 3D soundstage I heard in the demo room! There's a parallel project underway with room treatment which I'll share once done. Hardwood floor(now treated with a thick woolen rug that helped) and early reflections from glass doors all around doesnt help the sound stage or my ears! . There's also the speaker boundary gain on the left due to tight placement near fixed bookshelves...

Still need to get "the" power amp to pair with this..,to replace the AVR.., but for now, I will just feed into the Analog input of the Marantz (in pure direct , no dsp) ..,once I get the miniDSP.
 
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AVUser001

AVUser001

Full Audioholic
bummer - just spoke to one of miniDSP dealers locally. Seems its still not fully certified with Mac OS Catalina ., the Dirac Live component. He's pressing them for an ETA.
I have a thread directly with Dirac as well on that..,no ETA yet.

So on hold!
 
AVUser001

AVUser001

Full Audioholic
Mac OS Catalina , now supported by miniDSP & Dirac Live. Order placed and awaiting arrival.

Meanwhile, I have been playing around with Dirac Live for Studio( Dirac Live Processor) on my Mac.., Its cool and have posted below the amplitude/frequency response, reshaping the target curve a bit & Impulse response . Looks like still some bugs to be worked out by Dirac..,for eg, the Dirac Live will only recognize the Dirac Live processor plugin, when I play a track in Jriver. Looses connectivity to Dirac database, intermittantly.
Also have been trialing Audirvana, just for the fun of it..,it too recognizes and works with Dirac Live processor.

Amplitude-Frequency response , Measured & Corrected. There was a big bump in the LF(35-60Hz), know where its coming from, but eq'd now.
1583379291541.png


Impulse response (corrected) - far from ideal - I will repeat the test, maybe I'm doing something wrong(or just unresolved reflections - no absorption on early reflections from glass doors , both sides).
1583378006918.png


But I noticed , overall volume has reduced going through Dirac Live....I can toggle back and forth and see the difference significantly. I'll repeat it from scratch and repost. Mixed feeling,so far!
 
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DJ7675

Audioholic
Congratulations on the SHD. I have a studio and the shd both. A great value for what you get for sure, and all in one device. Either add an amp or active speakers... done. I believe reduced volume is normal as I believe with Dirac engages it reduces volume to create headroom for the eq.
 
AVUser001

AVUser001

Full Audioholic
Thanks..
have received the unit. Been busy with few things , including a new amp purchase(to replace my Marantz AVR) to go with miniDsp, moving furnitures, acoustic curtains against glass door etc. Will be taking measurements as I go along.I need to elevate/tilt-up my speakers as well..
 
T

twylight

Audioholic Intern
Second on the SHD - best investment I have made in audio. I am going to sell a ton of gear over replacing everything in my 2 channel setup. ASR needs to state what is below audibility and put that on the graphs - they ripped the SHD for some -124db noise...which is pretty not relevant, but I get its imperfect because of that.
 
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twylight

Audioholic Intern
oh also harmony has the codes for it so I can use a more serious remote than the weak minidsp one it came with
 
D

DJ7675

Audioholic
Second on the SHD - best investment I have made in audio. I am going to sell a ton of gear over replacing everything in my 2 channel setup. ASR needs to state what is below audibility and put that on the graphs - they ripped the SHD for some -124db noise...which is pretty not relevant, but I get its imperfect because of that.
I didn’t get that as the takeaway from the review. My takeaway from it is nearly perfect from a measurement and audibility standpoint. There was a little lack of care on the jitter test but it was below any reasonable threshold of audibility.
From the ASR review:
”Fortunately the highest level is below -120 dB so not an audible concern. But what a way to ruin great response of this DAC. I wonder if they had someone else design the DAC portion and they did not test it when in the same box as the DSP and display subsystem. These issues could have been avoided for the most part with some care.”
I agree “ruin” is a bit strong, bu the point is it is below audibility. By ruin my takeaway is from an engineering/measurement standard of measuring perfectly. In my opinion there just isn’t a better box that does what it does.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
I didn’t get that as the takeaway from the review. My takeaway from it is nearly perfect from a measurement and audibility standpoint. There was a little lack of care on the jitter test but it was below any reasonable threshold of audibility.
From the ASR review:
”Fortunately the highest level is below -120 dB so not an audible concern. But what a way to ruin great response of this DAC. I wonder if they had someone else design the DAC portion and they did not test it when in the same box as the DSP and display subsystem. These issues could have been avoided for the most part with some care.”
I agree “ruin” is a bit strong, bu the point is it is below audibility. By ruin my takeaway is from an engineering/measurement standard of measuring perfectly. In my opinion there just isn’t a better box that does what it does.
I don't completely disagree with you, but Amir could lay off some of the negative hyperbole in his reviews. It makes them seem kinda... tainted? I think his language is overly critical across the board, but I do value what he's doing for the audio community.
 
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DJ7675

Audioholic
I don't completely disagree with you, but Amir could lay off some of the negative hyperbole in his reviews. It makes them seem kinda... tainted? I think his language is overly critical across the board, but I do value what he's doing for the audio community.
Audibility of measurements is certainly a topic with seemingly quite a lot of different opinions on. It seems to me that he operates on the "guaranteed it is not audible" side of things which I believe is at -116db I believe. Anything at or better than that is guaranteed to be inaudible. That is his standard, but many others come at it from a different perspective which is "what is not audible in my room/environment, with my ears". That is an entirely different number. Many of the members there have a very different number in mind when looking at SINDAD for electronics. Seems like I have seen some very well respected people with a threshold of around 80. For me, in my much less educated opinion.. give me something with at least CD lossless quality SINAD of -96db. But I can understand those that want to be certain noise/distortion is not audible in their gear and that is ok too.
Basically a long way of saying it depends on what you are looking for... something you don't think is audible to you in your room/ears or not possible to hear.
 
T

thebrieze

Junior Audioholic
Is there a correlation between his SINAD numbers and other measurements, and how a component sounds subjectively? For example, if two components (let’s say preamps) measure similarly well (SINAD above 120 dB) will they both sound similar - subjectively? What about sonic signature of components?

I’m trying to understand if his measurements can effectively replace the subjective style reviews? (Ignoring advertising bias etc of reviewers for now)
 
AVUser001

AVUser001

Full Audioholic
Second on the SHD - best investment I have made in audio. I am going to sell a ton of gear over replacing everything in my 2 channel setup. ASR needs to state what is below audibility and put that on the graphs - they ripped the SHD for some -124db noise...which is pretty not relevant, but I get its imperfect because of that.
Yes I think he later clarified its inaudible and so irrelevant. This is one of the top measuring DACs easily , that can double up as Streamer/Preamp, with multiple digitial/audio I/Os...w/Dirac included.
 
AVUser001

AVUser001

Full Audioholic
I don't completely disagree with you, but Amir could lay off some of the negative hyperbole in his reviews. It makes them seem kinda... tainted? I think his language is overly critical across the board, but I do value what he's doing for the audio community.
Agree, he seems to be a perfectionist and calls out everything (which is good mostly...but some who dont pay attention to details can come out with a tainted negative impression..,which is not the case here, at all ). for who cares about -120db noise?
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
Is there a correlation between his SINAD numbers and other measurements, and how a component sounds subjectively?
SINAD is the reciprocal of THD+N, so yes there is 100% correlation. If you know THD+N in dB, the SINAD would be numerically the same but it will be a positive number while THD+N in dB is a negative number.

You can of course convert THD+N in % to SINAD by calculation, or use an online calculator such as the one linked below:

For example, if two components (let’s say preamps) measure similarly well (SINAD above 120 dB) will they both sound similar - subjectively? What about sonic signature of components?
SINAD 120 dB is 0.0001% THD+N
SINAD 80 dB is 0.01% THD+N
SINAD 65 dB is 0.0562 %THD+N

Some may argue 0.0562% THD+N is audible but I doubt too any reasonable audio "experts" would worry about the audible difference between 0.01% (SINAD 80 dB) and 0.001% (SINAD 120 dB) THD+N

Amir is critical of anything less than 95 dB mainly (just my take, you have to ask him) because he can't understand why if a $100 headphone amp, DAC, even an Apple dongle can do it, yet a $5000 AVP, or a $999 AVR cannot do it.....for what reasons?

I’m trying to understand if his measurements can effectively replace the subjective style reviews? (Ignoring advertising bias etc of reviewers for now)
If you believe in science and logic, you would not likely believe in the sound signature thing that some people believe were there by design as intended by the manufacturers. No engineers will be able explained how they can design for a particular sound signature that is discernible by humans, yet will measure flat in the audible band, and with distortions of any sort below 0.01%. Science or not, it is not even logical, if they know of a sound signature that everyone likes and can design/implement it, they probably deserve a Nobel price right?
 
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thebrieze

Junior Audioholic
SINAD is the reciprocal of THD+N, so yes there is 100% correlation. If you know THD+N in dB, the SINAD would be numerically the same but it will be a positive number while THD+N in dB is a negative number.

You can of course convert THD+N in % to SINAD by calculation, or use an online calculator such as the one linked below:



SINAD 120 dB is 0.0001% THD+N
SINAD 80 dB is 0.01% THD+N
SINAD 65 dB is 0.0562 %THD+N

Some may argue 0.0562% THD+N is audible but I doubt too any reasonable audio "experts" would worry about the audible difference between 0.01% (SINAD 80 dB) and 0.001% (SINAD 120 dB) THD+N

Amir is critical of anything less than 95 dB mainly (just my take, you have to ask him) because he can't understand why if a $100 headphone amp, DAC, even an Apple dongle can do it, yet a $5000 AVP, or a $999 AVR cannot do it.....for what reasons?



If you believe in science and logic, you would not likely believe in the sound signature thing that some people believe were there by design as intended by the manufacturers. No engineers will be able explained how they can design for a particular sound signature that is discernible by humans, yet will measure flat in the audible band, and with distortions of any sort below 0.01%. Science or not, it is not even logical, if they know of a sound signature that everyone likes and can design/implement it, they probably deserve a Nobel price right?
Thanks for explaining the relationship between SINAD and THD - Very helpful

I get objective measurements (I’m an engineer) but aim still learning to interpret Amir’s measurements. So maybe I can try asking my question slightly differently.

Subjective qualities (sound signature, harsh, fatiguing, bright, warm, laid back, imaging, soundstage etc) are intuitive and I can relate the terms to what I am hearing - hence popularity of subjective reviews. The downside of course being in the subjectivity of those terms.

I’m sure Amir’s measurements likely explain all those terms, but measurements are not intuitive until you understand them and can correlate them to the subjective terms. - that was the essence of my question.

I understand harshness and fatigue can be explained THD+N, SINAD and distortion. While spinorama/FR curves can explain the tonal quality of speakers.

1. What are the other (subjective) factors that affect sound quality, and what corresponding measurements should I look at, to understand those qualities.

2. Different take on the same idea. Let’s say Amir measures a speaker to be nearly flat FR and great specs. Yet the manufacturer may have higher end lines of the speaker that arguably sound better (Revel F series vs Be series for example). What part of the measurements would indicate these improvements?
 
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downbythepylons

Audioholic Intern
Been debating between the SHD and NAD 658....
The mini has digital outs to repLace the dac if needed but looks very complicated....the NAD bluesound is user friendly but you are wedded to its internal dac....
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
Thanks for explaining the relationship between SINAD and THD - Very helpful

I get objective measurements (I’m an engineer) but aim still learning to interpret Amir’s measurements. So maybe I can try asking my question slightly differently.

Subjective qualities (sound signature, harsh, fatiguing, bright, warm, laid back, imaging, soundstage etc) are intuitive and I can relate the terms to what I am hearing - hence popularity of subjective reviews. The downside of course being in the subjectivity of those terms.

I’m sure Amir’s measurements likely explain all those terms, but measurements are not intuitive until you understand them and can correlate them to the subjective terms. - that was the essence of my question.

I understand harshness and fatigue can be explained THD+N, SINAD and distortion. While spinorama/FR curves can explain the tonal quality of speakers.

1. What are the other (subjective) factors that affect sound quality, and what corresponding measurements should I look at, to understand those qualities.

2. Different take on the same idea. Let’s say Amir measures a speaker to be nearly flat FR and great specs. Yet the manufacturer may have higher end lines of the speaker that arguably sound better (Revel F series vs Be series for example). What part of the measurements would indicate these improvements?
A lot to digest. I can give 1 example I recently stumbled across when I was looking at info on Ascend Acoustics Sierra Ribbon tower with a RAAL ribbon tweet. The designer, Dave Fabrikant set out to see if he could determine from objective measurements why the RAAL ribbons sound subjectively better than the well regarded SEAS NrT dome tweeter in the stock model and found some correlations.

This link is pulled directly from their website. It's a pdf file that I think might help answer some of your questions. It's a set of detailed measurements with explanations.
Detailed information about the RAAL ribbon tweeter upgrade
 
J

JDD

Audiophyte
Hi all I’m putting together a 2-channel system and very new to this technology.
Can you advise if the miniDSP SHD supports 2 stereo powered subs with 2 channel mains? I have 2 REL T/7i and an analog McIntosh MA6600 integrated amp which has preamplifier out and power amp in. I’m assuming that the analog input from the preamp of the MA6600 can also be routed through the 2 subwoofer channels.
Also, can you also use REW to create curves and upload those files? Can multiple curves be saved and easily switched as needed?
All DSP functionality, crossovers, Dirac Live 3 and streaming is quite a feature set.
 
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DJ7675

Audioholic
Hi all I’m putting together a 2-channel system and very new to this technology.
Can you advise if the miniDSP SHD supports 2 stereo powered subs with 2 channel mains? I have 2 REL T/7i and an analog McIntosh MA6600 integrated amp which has preamplifier out and power amp in. I’m assuming that the analog input from the preamp of the MA6600 can also be routed through the 2 subwoofer channels.
Also, can you also use REW to create curves and upload those files? Can multiple curves be saved and easily switched as needed?
All DSP functionality, crossovers, Dirac Live 3 and streaming is quite a feature set.
I was in a similar place a few years ago as you. I had an MA7900 and I decided I wanted to add room eq. Purchased an DDRC24 (basically a minidsp 2x4hd with dirac). With it I could add room eq and a sub. After reading that the minidsp 2x4hd had a relatively poor dac, it let me to the SHD which is really good. But the SHD is a dac/crossover/manual eq/dirac all in one box... basically a full preamp. This made me basically have 2 preamps... in the McIntosh and the SHD. Decided this was redundant and sold the ma7900 and got a McInotsh Amp (MC252) instead to go with the SHD. To answer your question though, yes the can loop analog out of the mcintosh into the shd and the shd will do the eq and crossovers etc and loop back into the mcintosh. I decided this was a bit complicated as there is 2 volume controls etc. It can work, but I found it to be complicated.
I am surprised that McIntosh hasn't realeased an integrated with Roomperfect that is in their high end home theater units...
 

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