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Old 24th November 2015, 01:47 AM   #1
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Question A multi-channel interface from PC - the Missing Link

I decided to start a new thread on this, as I have noticed that a lot of members are struggling finding a current viable solution to this matter in regards to streaming multi-channel sound out from our PCs to our Twisted Pair Audio products.

My goal for this thread is to get this information consolidated here, maybe even with some build links, photos, etc, to help others figure out what would work best for their given build be it Buffalo or Opus.

I personally would like to find a solution that would work for both 1 eight channel configured Buffalo III DAC, 4 two channel configured Buffalo IIISEs, or even 8 monos for the dreamers out there. I would imagine that the interface for all these arrangements (including Opus) should be the same: at least Eight I2S lines.

These are the options I know of so far:

1 - MiniDSP USBstreamer: Does not seem to be the best "match" out of the box. But it sounds like it can be used with the Cronus Re-clocking module and one of the Isolator modules if one was willing to "modify" the USBstreamer. I personally do not feel too comfortable doing a mod like that, but others of You might be.

2 - USBPAL: Requires a "licensing" scheme.

3 - Tapping I2S lines off a PCI-e Sound Card and using Teleporters: I know some people have done this with the Asus Xonar DX cards, and I am sure it can be done with the newer Asus Essence STX cards, using the daughter board pin outs:

xonar deluxe pin outs

If on a budget, one could buy just the 2 channel version Essence and run their DACS off the daughter board pins (2 - 6 channels) and use the main channels of the Essence for subs or surrounds.

My concern with this option are the drivers and if I am doing the Buffalo an injustice running off the 24-bit I2S lines and opposed to 32-bit.

Also, I am wondering if there are any other CURRENT PCI-e sound cards that would work like this.

4 - Cronus Re-clocker: I read that this module has multi-channel capacity. Are there other options other then MiniDSP? Maybe something with BeagleBoard?

I am not the most savvy understanding everything about jitter, clocks, ground isolation and the such. This is the main reason I bought a kit. I wanted a proven design I could assemble, and learn as I go, and if I so desire, try out different I/V stages.

Having said that, it seems people are pretty fired up about the possibilities with the Cronus Re-clocker modules. How much of an improvement does it offer over tapping I2S lines with the Teleporters?

thoughts anyone?
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Old 24th November 2015, 02:57 PM   #2
miero is offline miero  Czech Republic
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- I2S transfers 2 channels at once, so it should be enough to have 4 I2S lines for 8 channels
- ES9018 in Buffalo DAC accepts only 32 bit I2S. but it might contain only 24 valid bits
- Cronus is only for I2S sources that can be slaved from external clock; source must not use its own clock if it is connected to Cronus.

I'm not sure how you define the "PC", but if it is enough to have Linux operating system, then it can be done using BeagleBone Black and Hermes-BBB. See the link below.
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http://bbb.ieero.com/
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Old 25th November 2015, 11:09 PM   #3
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Post Time for more research...

Thanks for the clarification, Miero.

Quote:
Originally Posted by miero View Post
- I2S transfers 2 channels at once, so it should be enough to have 4 I2S lines for 8 channels
Cool, 8 channels is enough for my current needs of running either a 4.4 system or 2-way mains 4.2 system. However, I am open to the possibility of having more channels, say for future multi-way FIR cross-overs for a 7.1 system. I am sure others may be interested in these possibilities also, if any are available.

Quote:
Originally Posted by miero View Post
- ES9018 in Buffalo DAC accepts only 32 bit I2S. but it might contain only 24 valid bits
I will need to double check that Asus Essence Card. Possum on the Twisted Pair Forum posted that the Asus Xonar card worked for his Buffalo quadraphonic rig.

USB to I2S for Buffalo III multichannel - General Questions - Twisted Pear Audio Support

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Quote:
Originally Posted by miero View Post
Cronus is only for I2S sources that can be slaved from external clock; source must not use its own clock if it is connected to Cronus.
This is an area I am not too knowledgeable in. It is actually hard to say if I want a source clock or not, considering I am running multi-channel, multi-way DSP sound from JRiver. My main concern is that my speakers remain in time with each other. (see specifics to my system below).

Quote:
Originally Posted by miero View Post
I'm not sure how you define the "PC", but if it is enough to have Linux operating system, then it can be done using BeagleBone Black and Hermes-BBB. See the link below.
I have considered a Linux OS, but due to the multi-use aspect of my HTPC (games, video editing, graphic arts, surfing, etc), I think Linux is going to be way too "tweaky" esp for my family!

But it is good to know that BeagleBone Black is a multi-channel option for those users that have a Linux based PC.

My system in a Windows 7 OS, which I will soon be "cornered" into updating to Windows 10 as Mircosoft will be discontinuing support for 7 next year. I really wish I could go Linux, but it is just not user friendly with a lot of the software and games we play.

I use JRiver as my player and run all my FIR filters thru its DSP engine. JRiver also works for games and streaming video online with its WDM driver. For this application I use IIR filters to avoid audio latency.

My personal goal is to get my configured 8 channels of audio out of JRiver, preferable ASIO, to my Buffalo configuration.

I am wondering if BeagleBone Black can be configured to daisy chain off my windows PC. JRiver does have a Linux version. If that could be ran on the BeagleBone, and the media streamed from my Windows PC, that could be another option. As You can tell, I really have no idea what BeagleBone is, so time for some research...

In the meantime, I would like to continue to explore options for a Windows Based PC, as I believe there are others who are interested also.

Miero, how is your system set up? Are You running Multi-channel?
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Old 26th November 2015, 01:43 AM   #4
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Post Some findings...

BeagleBone seems pretty interesting. It is well documented setting it up as a stand alone music player. But I am not finding any information setting this "open source" board up as strictly a "link" between my PC and Buffalo III. I would think that it could be done. However, this seems to be the "long way around" to achieving my goal.

I also looked into the Asus Essence STX sound card. It would appear that the Essence internally works in 24-bit. However, the input PCI-e signals to the card can be either 16-bit or 32-bit:

Asus ASIO Control Panel

So if I was to go this route, I would be looking at a lot of bit changes: Source: 16 or 24-bit ---> 64-bit DSP ---> 32-bit PCI-e ---> 24-bit IS2 ---> 32-bit Buffalo (if possible). I as far I understand, the Buffalo will adept to any incoming bits on the IS2 inputs, but is limited to 24-bit if using S/PDIF (stereo only). Again, this does not seem "ideal".

At this point, I am debating on assembling my Buffalo III as a two channel kit with S/PDIF. I can get the Asus Essence, ran my subs and surrounds off that, and run my main channels thru S/PDIF to Buffalo III. Definitely not ideal but at least doable until a working multi-channel solution is available...

There has to be a way to do this that is reliable and does this DAC kit justice.

I welcome anyone to share their successful build regarding this matter.

Thanks,
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Old 26th November 2015, 02:09 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miero View Post
I'm not sure how you define the "PC", but if it is enough to have Linux operating system, then it can be done using BeagleBone Black and Hermes-BBB. See the link below.
Thanks miero, very helpful. I didn't know this was possible.

From mieros BBB webpage:

"The BBB has 4 serializers and each one is capable to generate:
- one stereo I2S channel
- one mono DSD channel
- one stereo SPDIF channel

Using the "serconfig" option the different serializers can be enabled
and thus allows to change channel number and its offset.

Possible values for each serializer:
M ... I2S/DSD mode
I ... I2S only mode
D ... DSD only mode
S ... SPDIF only mode (exclusive, cannot be combined with I2S/DSD) -- Notice: does not work in botic5
R ... record mode (I2S only)
- ... disabled serializer

Examples:
MMMM ... 8ch I2S output or 4ch DSD output (default)
I--- ... 2ch I2S output on mcasp0_axr0 pin
-I-- ... 2ch I2S output on mcasp0_axr1 pin
--I- ... 2ch I2S output on mcasp0_axr2 pin (old default)
---I ... 2ch I2S output on mcasp0_axr3 pin
DD-- ... 2ch DSD output on mcasp0_axr0 and mcasp0_axr1 pins
MM-- ... 4ch I2S output or 2ch DSD output on mcasp0_axr0 and mcasp0_axr1 pins
--MM ... 4ch I2S output or 2ch DSD output on mcasp0_axr2 and mcasp0_axr3 pins
S--- ... 2ch SPDIF output on mcasp0_axr0 pin
-S-- ... 2ch SPDIF output on mcasp0_axr1 pin"
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Old 26th November 2015, 01:59 PM   #6
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Does BBB have enough power to do linear phase filters and other heavy processing on 8 channels?
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Old 26th November 2015, 02:16 PM   #7
miero is offline miero  Czech Republic
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Check this thread: LADSPA filters for digital crossovers on the BBB
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Old 26th November 2015, 02:17 PM   #8
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thanks miero
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Old 2nd February 2016, 07:46 AM   #9
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Question Found another PC option: Pink Faun I2S Bridge

For those of us not willing to part with our PCs, what do you guys think of this option? (scroll to the lower half of the screen for English)

I2S Bridge

a TNT review:

[Review] Pink Faun I2S Bridge - Computer to DAC Interface

This is basically a PCI-express card that outputs I2S via HDMI cable to a DAC capable of I2S. 2 and 8 channel versions are available. It mentions having its own power supply (still looking for pictures of that) and its own internal clock. Just need a raw HDMI socket to hook into the Buffalo I2S inputs. Bear in mind, the HDMI is mainly used in this case as a means to transfer the audio signal, it is not tied down by HDCP limitations. Phew! This seems to work on a similar concept as the teleporters, but different in that it only "transmits" with no "receiver" on the DAC side.

It only supports up to 32bit/192kHz, and only has drivers for Windows 7 and 8.1 (hopefully 10) systems. It sounds like they are working on Linex drivers.

It is a little pricey and a challenge to source (esp the 8 channel version) , but this seems like one of the best possibilities so far.

Would this interface well with the Buffalo?
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Old 3rd May 2016, 10:24 AM   #10
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I have used ExaU2i i in a mulitchannel setup with great success for the last 6 years. I run one Buffalo II for the stereo channels and one Buffalo III for 6 channels (8 channels in total). Volume is controlled with a Arduino board (with a IR remote and knob).

Unfortunatly the ExaU2i is not in production any more but it might be possible to ask exaSound Audio Design > Home for one.
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