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I finally connected everything up and started playing around with it today. It took a while for everything to jell, but I finally got it all working - first just with iTunes and 2-channel, then with Audirvana+ and HQ Player in multi-channel. (I've got the current, latest versions of each on my system.) I'm using Core Audio because I couldn't get ASIO to work. My set-up is as follows: Mac Mini USB connected to the e38 with analogue IC's connecting to the analogue multi-channel inputs of my pre-pro.
As mentioned in the subject line, I'm not a happy camper, for a number of reasons:
- There's a noticeable hum now in my system - it was barely audible before, but now it's appreciably louder.
- (This is the most bizarre.) Some multi-channel files play fine - notably, the files which I've downloaded from BIS, and also one file which I'd ripped with DVD-Audio Extractor. OTOH, the files which I've downloaded from Chandos have the sounds going to the wrong channels! (Some type of full range signal is ending up in the sub-woofer, while the Right-Front and Left-Front speakers don't play anything at all - Go figure!).
- In general, even on the BIS files which do play fine, I just don't hear any any improvement over the previous SQ (with the Mac Mini connected directly into my pre-pro via HDMI) - and certainly not $4,000 worth. (The reason this previous set-up became unsatisfactory is because the video synchronization between the Mac Mini and the pre-pro became increasingly unstable. The current connection, with the Mac Mini video directly connected to the TV via HDMI is once again completely stable.)
Fortunately, Exasound has a 30-day money-back guarantee (less shipping), and I'm planning to send it back, unless I get some kind of revelation in the next week or so.
Sounds like this product wasn't ready for prime time.
"Big man, pig man, ha ha charade you are.
You well heeled big wheel, ha ha charade you are."
I am not discounting any of Chris' travails but there have not been any such issues with any of the 3 exaSound DACs that I have used nor have either of two of my friends who own exaSound DACs. They have been absolutely stable and reliable with HQPlayer, ROON and/or JRiver.
Of course, we are all using them with Win-based servers (including a bootcamped MacMini), not MacOS.
It is a little tricky to get going because there are so many variables to consider and the documentation is dense and spare at the same time. I would leave it out of the operations and just run the e38 from Audirvana or whatever you prefer.
Once that is stable, you can insert HQPlayer.
My remaining problems with HQ Player are more at the annoyance level rather than at the fundamental level. ;-)
My comment had nothing to do with HQPlayer. It was directed at the inability of Audirvana (something I have not used in years) to use ASIO in order to access HQPlayer.
In the last couple of days I've done some further experimentation and a couple of problems I mentioned in my OP for this thread have been mitigated (or at least I have workarounds for them).
Regarding the hum problem, although it's not solved quite yet, I will try to obtain an antenna isolator to see if that improves things.
I've now gotten ASIO to work with both two-channel and multi-channel files. I began by re-starting the computer and re-checking all the settings. (Believe me, I had the settings exactly as shown in the documentation, but they didn't begin to work until after the restart.) After the initial success in playing a two-channel file, I played a (BIS) multi-channel track - also successful. I then tried a Chandos multi-channel track. Oops! - same problem as before, with the wrong signals going to the wrong channels (even though the BIS multi-channel track was fine in this respect). All these multi-channel tracks I had tried up until this time were AIFF format files, but I still had many of the original Chandos downloads in their original FLAC format, so I tried the Chandos FLAC tracks: success again - the right signals are going to the right channels! So obviously, something was happening when I originally converted the FLAC files to AIFF - but it was something that only affected the Chandos FLAC's, not the BIS FLAC's. Crazy! And whatever this was, it seemed to play fine using Core Audio without the exaSound drivers. But in any case, I think I'm probably OK now on this score - I'll just have to remember to use FLAC files rather than AIFF's. I have STILL not tried any DSD downloads yet - I'll try those later today or tomorrow.
One other item to note is that when I had HQ Player set to upsample the files to 382K, I'd get hiccuping drop-outs every now and then. I've now changed the upsampling to 192K and everything I've tried thus far is sounding fine (i.e., no drop-outs). I'm still a little surprised by this, since the processor in my Mac Mini (Intel core i7, 3 GHz) is the fastest that Apple currently offers for that model. I can probably live with 192K, but I was hoping to try a DXD download or two, and I'm now thinking that maybe this may not work too well, given what happened with the 382K upsampling (?).
In addition, HQ Player seems a little shaky sometimes compared to the way it used to be: if I pause in the middle of a track and then try to play another track, it won't play the new track immediately, and it takes a couple of iterations of selecting and hitting the play button for the new track to play. This is OK - I can probably live with this, but I hope the problem is temporary.
One other annoyance I still have is that, now that I've been using ASIO, I can't seem to get the exaSound app to return to Core Audio - I go up to the drop down menu, and try to switch from ASIO to Core Audio, but ASIO stays checked no matter what I do. I was hoping that this would be a really simple process, so that if I wanted to listen to something on, say, youTube (or if I wanted to use Audirvana again), I could just switch back to Core Audio as needed. But switching doesn't seem to be as simple as I expected it to be.
Aside from that, the audio quality of the ASIO playback IS now more in line with what I was expecting. So I think overall, unless something doesn't work with the DSD playback (and I may still try DXD too), I'm probably OK with the way things are progressing.
I had to restart anytime I switched Players w/Exa.
Maybe choosing AV+ under Device first will enable switching to Core Audio.
Or simply restarting.
I have to do that with the gear I have now sometimes.
Maybe That's a Mac thingie too.
In general, even on the BIS files which do play fine, I just don't hear any any improvement over the previous SQ (with the Mac Mini connected directly into my pre-pro via HDMI) - and certainly not $4,000 worth.
Digital audio is the one part of audio which I've noticed virtually no relationship between price and performance..... Always audition before you fork over the dough.
As I mentioned, I still plan to play around with it (i.e., audition it) for another week or so.
But if you are playing them through core audio, you are not hearing what the e38 can do.
What about ASIO doesn't work?
What are the symptoms?
I remember having to choose it in a drop-down menu,
in the upper right side of the computer screen.
One is on the exaSound drop-down menu, and the other is on the HQ Player preferences. I've got them both selected and it's just not working so far - it (HQ Player) either crashes or doesn't play at all. I'll have some more time for experimentation today. I did get an e-mail back from George in support with some suggestions to try.
Thanks for the advice in any case.
I do not know what that is. You install the ASIO driver and it is installed. The only options are display and uninstall.
On my computer, once it is installed, I can see it listed in Roon, in HQPlayer, in MUSO and in JRiver.
On the Mac, once you've done the initial exaSound SW installation (which involves a re-start of the Mac), there's an exaSound drop-down menu that appears (up near the upper right-hand corner of the screen) which gives you your choice of various parameters, e.g., Core Audio (part of the Mac OS) or ASIO (licensed from Steinberg Technologies). Then in the HQ Player preferences, you have the same choices Core Audio vs. ASIO (if an ASIO driver has been installed - which it is via the exaSound SW installation) - so if you've selected ASIO on the exaSound drop-down menu, you have to make sure that ASIO is also selected in the HQ Player preferences. The only way I'll be able to play music via ASIO is with HQ Player, since Audirvana+ and iTunes don't support ASIO (at least on the Mac), and I don't use any of the other products you mention.
Call George, describe your set-up in detail.
He should be able to help.
I had no problem with the ASIO in 2ch, Exa E20/22.
My tube system has hum that I have to put my ear right on the speaker grill to hear, none on SS System.
Is there a dimmer on your circuit?
Good Luck, don't give up before talking to George.
Would a Multi Ch Amp have less prospect of ground loop than mixing amps/int amps?
I have no hands on experience with a system like yours.
1. I have used the e18, 128 and e38 with quite a number of sources and DACs. Hum/noise has never been an issue.
2. Multichannel files can be a little sticky to get going with a new DAC in that the order of the files, which should be standard and common to all devices, is not. You should be able to configure your hardware/software to suit.
3. I wish I could offer more but I have never used the exaSound DACs with MacOS. In addition to PCs and dedicated Linux-based servers, I use it with MacMini running Win7/Bootcamp and that works fine.
I have no experience with this dac but read the manual carefully. There might be some setup issues going on. Try other cables to address the hum issue. Also lift the ground of the dac. Also call them about these issues
I like to believe I've read the manual carefully too - but it just doesn't make sense that some files (always associated with a certain download site) play correctly, while others don't. Anyway, I'll give myself another week for further experimentation. ;-)
I am also suspicious of not being able to get Asio to work. The manual talks a lot about the benefits of using Asio with this dac. I would also try to run down this problem
Unfortunately, I don't have as much time today to play around with things, so further experimentation may have to wait until tomorrow.
Exa is one of the very few (nearly the only?) DAC makers that provides an ASIO driver for Mac these days. 99% of others use the driver built into Mac OS (or Linux). Windows is natively UAC1 only and limited to 24/96 w/o the ASIO driver so DAC makers must provide one for Windows.
A question for Exa might be, will their DAC operate as a UAC2 device w/o the ASIO driver.... or will it revert to UAC1 and it's limitations.
Their own ASIO driver is supposedly one of their claims to fame, but if you can't get it to work the DAC will not function to it's full potential.
As for hum, more channels means more cables which means greater potential for ground loops and hum. Balanced interconnects can help in these situations even in non-studio environments like home audio. If you have any video gear in your setup like a cable tv or satellite box the potential for hum is even greater. If you have any video gear, try disconnecting it just for grins and see if the hum is minimized.
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