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Oppo BDP-95 and unRAID


abernardi

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Hi all,

  I'm rebuilding my stereo and home theater, or at least planning it out.  I'm looking for the cheapest way to get audiophile stereo while also having it serve as a very good HT.  Currently the Oppo BDP-95 is an incredible value and it's in the experimental stages of functioning as a DLNA compatible device.  In fact I'm considering using it AS my preamp all together.  My understanding it that the drive itself supports Bluray, DVD, CD, SACD, DVD-A, avi, divx, gif, jpg, mka, mkv, mp3, mpg, png, vob and wma.  It also will play files directly from an attached USB or eSATA drive but I'm not clear which formats it supports (I think the same as a disc).  And then it will support NAS with DLNA.  Here's where unRAID comes in.

  Natively via a network it only supports jpg, mkv, mp3, mpg, pcm, png and vob (I know I'm mixing codecs and containers.  It won't support other codecs than the ones listed in the supported containers), so it's very limited.

  I don't know much about DLNA, so I'd appreciate some help.  I think media servers like Twonky and Mediatomb will transcode to supported codecs on the fly, right?  And these can be installed on unRAID?  If so, this could be a very neat media solution.  My music is mostly in Apple Lossless, some mp3 and mp4 for music.  My video is all over the place, lots of codecs.

  The BDP-95 is great because it has an analog 7.1 output that has already done all the decoding necessary (including dolby TrueHD and the DTS equivalent).  I want to connect this directly to an amp, bypassing a preamp.  Volume can be controlled via the Oppo remote.  I can stream all my media from the unRAID via ethernet or wireless and a DLNA server.  Then I can play my other blurays, SACD's and DVD-Audio from the Oppo itself. 

  I'm trying to avoid a preamp because I like the idea of going as direct as possible and avoid a lot of high cost cables and electronics.  I didn't believe in all the hype around jitter for many years but I'm now finding that it actually is a huge problem for sound quality and I believe the more direct the better.  I also think ethernet can avoid the jitter issues encountered in the USB>S/PDIF>DAC stages.

  If this is at all feasible, the big problem I see now is organization.  I'll have to use my TV as a monitor to play music.  And I hear the DLNA interface structure is clunky.  Again, this is a realm I don't know about.  Do these media servers like Twonky also produce a user interface, like XBMC for example?  Or is it simply making the files available to the Oppo?  OR is there a way I can just stream these files to the Oppo straight from my Mac using iTunes, Songbird, Decible, etc for music, and XBMC for video? 

  Also the BDP-95 has separate higher quality stereo only outputs, but I haven't found any info if the stereo L/R outputs will double as LF and RF for HT.  And while we're at it, the front L/R speakers I'm considering are really expensive and getting a center channel to match would really be cost prohibitive, so I want to do a phantom center which means sending the center channel info to the LF & RF.  I know good HT processors can do this, but like I said, I'm trying to avoid that.  OK, my eyes are crossing and my brain is getting slushy at this point.  Anyone playing with this stuff have any advice?  Am I on a feasible track here?

 

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I think you need to sit back and take a long hard look at what you really want to achieve.  You seem hell-bent on going for the Oppo.  While I am sure it is a good player, I feel that you are hurrying to reach a solution without understanding how all this would really work.  There's a lot to this.

 

On the one hand you talk about a good quality player, then you talk about codecs all over the place and then you talk about creating a phantom centre speaker - both of which are the complete opposite of a quality based approach in my view.  

 

Then you talk about jitter, but I think you may have read too many forums or magazines and not understood enough about how stuff really works (most hi-fi magazines prefer to ignore physics and system / hardware design issues when it comes to talking about this kind of stuff).  Ethernet and USB have nothing to do with the amount of jitter in any direct sense.  They can influence it, but only if the design of the software or hardware at the DAC end of the chain is poor.  If the design is good, then the DAC will not care how it gets its data.  You cannot say that one interface method is better or worse than the other - there are too many other unrelated variables.  

 

You also seem very unclear on what DLNA servers do.  They do not present the user interface that you play media with.  That is the job of the media player (Oppo in your case).  Some servers can transcode.  Some do it much better than others.  The server does influence the search criteria that the player can use however.   DLNA is hyped up to be a one-size-fits all solution.  The reality is than many DLNA devices really do not work that well together, especially if your range of codecs falls outside the basic MP3/WMA/AAC kind of area.  You indicate that DLNA is in an "experimental" stage on the Oppo.  That hardly seems like a good reason to choose it as the heart of your system.  I would want to know that it was already capable of what I would need it to do rather than relying on the hope that the developers will finish the job in the way that you would like.

 

Do you need to use DLNA at all?  Some players can simply access files on a share using protocols like Samba/CIFS or NFS.   And yes, you can install DLNA servers such as Twonky on unRAID, if that's what you want to do.

 

I'm sorry if this all sounds rather negative, but I think you need to do some reality checks and a lot more research.  I know that Oppo product some good products, but I don't think you should rush at this.  You will likely be disappointed if you do.

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I think I understand what you're saying, but I don't fully agree with you (of course you're right that I've been reading too many posts and magazine articles, that's for sure!).

 

Firstly, I'm not intending to rush into anything.

 

I also think I do have a basic enough understanding of jitter and the problems you can run into sourcing media from a computer and how expensive it can be to get a clean, accurate data stream to a DAC or getting a DAC that can create an accurate analogue signal. I'm not an engineer but I have read up on it.  My aim here is to do this relatively inexpensively.  I didn't realize that a good DAC didn't care how it gets its data.  I've read posts and reviews talking about the importance of getting an accurately clocked signal to the DAC and how that improves performance even in the best DACs.

 

I also like to play with bleeding edge on the cheap, I'm not looking for this to be a perfect solution out of the box, and it may never be.  I don't know what the Oppo is capable of, and neither do a lot of other people who are trying to get their media through it, but it's fun to see how far you can go with little investment.  So I don't agree with you that I don't know what I want to achieve.

 

And yes, I don't understand how this all works, I thought I made that clear in my post.  DLNA is new to me and I wasn't sure what the scope of it's performance was.  So thanks for the clarification. 

 

As for the quality of a phantom center channel, I've heard several excellent systems with phantom centers.  Some would argue that with some speakers it's preferable.  I think Magnepan only recently came up with an acceptable center channel speaker. 

 

As to codecs, I work with many, too many, different formats.  Frankly it's annoying and time consuming, a real bottleneck.  But it's what we have and I'm trying to find the simplest way to deal with it.

 

And as for doing research, that's what I'm doing here, hoping some fellow audio lovers are mulling over the same questions or have had experience with this.  I don't digest dull white papers or wikis very well, I learn better through conversation.  It's more enjoyable that way too.

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Firstly, I'm not intending to rush into anything.

 

Sorry - I got that impression from your writing - maybe it was just the writing style.  It's good that you are taking time to investigate.

 

I've read posts and reviews talking about the importance of getting an accurately clocked signal to the DAC and how that improves performance even in the best DACs.

 

Ok - here it depends where you start looking at the details.  Ethernet and USB data are sent in bursts with other stuff filling out the time between the bursts of data.  So whatever is receiving the data must be able to adequately buffer the data.  Where the DAC clock comes from is a system dependent thing anyway.  The clock could be close to the DAC (close in the architectural sense) so that the DAC effectively controls much of the timing (this can work for local media).  Or in a few cases the DAC has to adjust slightly to keep in step with an externally supplied stream - this situation is much harder to control.  Of course, a stable an accurate clock is highly desirable, and at the DAC hardware, the lower the jitter the better.  My point was that DAC clock jitter is typically in the realm of nano-seconds.  Ethernet and USB jitter can be many orders of magnitude worse (microseconds to milliseconds) so there has to be a lot going on between the source feed and the DAC which means that the source type should have little or no influence.

 

And as for doing research, that's what I'm doing here, hoping some fellow audio lovers are mulling over the same questions or have had experience with this.  I don't digest dull white papers or wikis very well, I learn better through conversation.  It's more enjoyable that way too.

 

I have to agree with you there.  You can read so much, but like you I find that I need to explore many avenues for different types of information before I settle on a solution.  I can't remember how many server platforms I tried before I settled on unRAID, but it was quite a lot.

 

I looked up the Oppo player that you are considering - it seems like a very good device.  Out of my reach financially, sadly.  I wish you well with your investigations.

 

Les.

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Thanks Les,  I want to commit to you that I will stay off the 6moons website all day tomorrow because I feel like an addict right now. :-\

 

At the moment I'm in a "wait and see" mode.  The only purchase I need to think about right now is this pair of speakers I'm pretty jazzed about...

 

I had been auditioning lots of speakers over the last few months and it was mostly disappointing.  Then a couple of weeks ago I was at one shop, about to leave because I wasn't crazy about what I was hearing, when this guy who was listening with me asked what I was looking for and not finding.  I said I wanted something that sounded real, like the sax player was in the room (we were listening to a solo sax at the time).  He nodded and said, "Follow me, I want to show you something."  It turned out he was the owner of the store (I thought he was just a customer like me).  He took me into another room in the back and said "This is my personal playroom."  He put on the disc we had been listening to on the other speakers and BAM!  The sax wasn't in the room, it felt like I was transported into the room the sax was playing in.

 

This guy ruined me.

 

I was about to give up and just get a little cheap system, lots of bang for the buck and move on.  But this just stopped me cold, I felt like I couldn't enjoy music again!  I know it's crazy, but I got bit.  Of course this was a highly customized system that I couldn't even guess how much he had invested in.

 

So I looked over the system and it was mostly recognizable high end equipment, McIntosh, Krell...tubes and solid state...active crossover...fancy cables with lifts, etc...but the speakers I didn't recognize.  He said that was because he and his partner had made them.  They were a unique design influenced by the "Heil Air Motion Transformer".  It's kind of like a ribbon tweeter, but much more efficient and handled frequencies from 500Hz up!  He also had a 7.1 theater set up with these which was also impressive.  Anyway, I'm rambling here, sorry.  The upshot was that they made a few prototypes, the business never got off the ground, he had a few extra pairs they had been futzing with as surrounds for the theater and he named a price that was almost achievable.  So we'll see.  He's retiring in the next few months and there are only a few of these in existence, so I guess I should make a decision soon.

 

So that's when I started searching out solutions that could put me in the ballpark of his system, or somewhere in the neighborhood at least.  While music servers aren't new, they are still a maturing technology, particularly as it trickles down to the point where we can do it with an iPad or iPod.  I don't remember what kind of server he was running in his theater but it was pretty sophisticated, yet it didn't sound as good as when we popped in a CD.  I'm not a physicist, but maybe these DACs have an easier time with a good CD transport than a file server that wasn't necessarily designed to be really really stable.  Apparently they're only recently understanding how even low level jitter can adversely effect the sound.  One article I was reading claimed that even 3 - 5 pico-seconds could have a measurable effect, and it's more noticable at higher bit rates, so your hirez files are particularly susceptible to jitter.  The science is beyond me and it could just be a lot of mumbo jumbo to sell garbage to people like me.  But I do know that what I heard in that room was better than I thought sound reproduction could get.  And I work with sound professionally, and have heard many reference systems.  Nothing sounded that real.  So... you know, it's intriguing.

 

Anyway, let's see how to bring this back around to our beloved unRAID... hmmm.

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I feel your pain.  When you see / hear something you know is just so good - you've just got to have it.

 

Anyway, let's see how to bring this back around to our beloved unRAID... hmmm.

 

For me unRAID is a case of "it just works".  Sure, I've tweaked it a bit.  I have added multiple instances of Twonkymedia server to serve different content to different types of device.  I had three instances running once with three different sets of files and databases for streaming to different types of product (because I could, I guess). Now I'm back to one, and also running Firefly (a.k.a. mt-daapd) to stream audio to my Roku SoundBridges, as well as regular shares for video files and general data storage.  It's powered from an APC UPS and just sits there doing its thing, potentially for month after month, without me having to touch it.  I just bought a couple more unRAID licenses so that I can build a complete backup server to further protect the data and so that I can hack around on a spare server without risking anything.

 

Les.

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I also have a UPS on the unRAID.  It's saved my butt a few times.  I'm going to have to move it into another room at some point when I get the sound system up and running.  The best place for it is the pantry, but it's a small closet and there's no good ventilation.  As it is, it gets pretty hot on very warm days.  More stuff to figure out!

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