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Active Bi-Amping/Tri-Amping FAQ


Chris A
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5.1 active xo setup?

 

After using the previous USB to AES converter for a few weeks now with the XD4080 I am sold on the idea.

 

I think my dream system would be to use a multichannel PCI-e card on my PC with several AES outputs with the goal of adding another XD4080 when a cheap one comes up.  Seems there are a lot of PCI-e cards to choose from like this one: http://www.lynxstudio.com/product_detail.asp?i=16

 

Does anyone know if these multichannel AES cards show up in windows as multiple audio devices or as a single multichannel digital I/O device?  If they show up as a single audio device under device manager, I'd eventually like to ditch my home theater processor too and do 5.1 the way I am doing stereo.

 

Home theater processors aren't flexible and get outdated too quickly (and honestly their performance can't match Dirac on a PC anyways).  Even KODI's digital volume control sounds excellent when using WASPI.

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11 hours ago, etc6849 said:

Does anyone know if these multichannel AES cards show up in windows as multiple audio devices or as a single multichannel digital I/O device?  If they show up as a single audio device under device manager, I'd eventually like to ditch my home theater processor too and do 5.1 the way I am doing stereo.

This is interesting.  I knew the day would come soon when multiple AES output cards would show up.  The rationale: digital-only until the output of the crossover(s).  This simplifies everything.  For me, when 5.1 AES showed up (as you've shown), then the AVP isn't really needed.  The money can be put into the active crossovers, loudspeakers, and perhaps better power amplifiers.

 

11 hours ago, etc6849 said:

Home theater processors aren't flexible and get outdated too quickly (and honestly their performance can't match Dirac on a PC anyways)

I'll have to try out Dirac at some point. 

 

Right now, all my PCs are laptops (i.e., they have built-in UPSes and can't accept PCIE cards).  I also need to upgrade my working laptop soon. 

 

Hummm, decisions, decisions.

 

Chris

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  • 3 weeks later...

My preference with bi-amp or tri-amp arrangements is that all the amplifiers be the same, so they are precisely synchronized. Yes you can mix and match from your amp collection, big bass amp and little tweeter amp for example, or SS bass amp and tube tweeter amp, and it will probably work well enough in most circumstances. Occasionally when I read about someone giving up and reverting to their simple old passive crossover, I can't help but wonder if something did not match up properly in their random equipment experiment.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok just an update, I got everything connected and put in the xovers and slopes. WOW!!! Is about all I can say what a difference everything is clearer and the bass has much more authority!!! I am not using any filters yet and it already sounds better than before!!! Looking forward to measurements and adjustments!!! Huge shout out to Chris A. for all his help and insight!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd increase the relative gain on the bass bin channels by at least 5 dB--maybe as much as 10 dB.  I'd split the relative gains by -5 dB on the compression driver channels, and increase gain on the bass bins by 5 dB.

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7 hours ago, canyonman said:

Hey Chris,

Here is a little update on my progress dialing things in, I am liking very much what I am hearing things are starting to come together nicely!!!

Ok here is where I ended up at after today, all done with 300 hz and up. Next 300 hz and down..

left and right pic.jpg

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"Does anyone know if these multichannel AES cards show up in windows as multiple audio devices or as a single multichannel digital I/O device?  If they show up as a single audio device under device manager, I'd eventually like to ditch my home theater processor too and do 5.1 the way I am doing stereo."

 

I believe they show up as a single device w/multiple channels. That would be the same way a multiple channel usb device works. I am trying a usb device with DAW software and a multi band mixer  that can be routed to different outputs. eq can be on each putput (as well as delay, etc.). Haven't had enough time to work through it all yet...

 

Bruce

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What I found out is it depends like you say.  RME AES HDSPe is the one I got a decent deal on (almost $1k though), and it lets you select which you want inside the ASIO hammerfall GUI (multichannel or multiple stereo devices).

 

The sound quality of the RME is top notch, and for me, the additional expense for the RME card and another XD4080 was worth it as I sold my XMC-1 on ebay for $1700.  Using JRiver Media Center and the beta Dirac Live VST plugin now, and wrote code in my home automation system to control volume in the RME mix panel.  Of course, I only playback on my PC (as before), but the RME has 16 digital inputs too, so there really aren't many limitations except lack of ATMOS software decoding.

 

On ‎6‎/‎3‎/‎2017 at 10:05 PM, Marvel said:

"Does anyone know if these multichannel AES cards show up in windows as multiple audio devices or as a single multichannel digital I/O device?  If they show up as a single audio device under device manager, I'd eventually like to ditch my home theater processor too and do 5.1 the way I am doing stereo."

 

I believe they show up as a single device w/multiple channels. That would be the same way a multiple channel usb device works. I am trying a usb device with DAW software and a multi band mixer  that can be routed to different outputs. eq can be on each putput (as well as delay, etc.). Haven't had enough time to work through it all yet...

 

Bruce

 

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On 5/3/2017 at 10:18 AM, canyonman said:

Ok so all the guys who are tri amping, what type amps are you using on your tweeters??? Name brand, how much power, tube or ss???

Amp with the lowest noise floor available is likely the Benchmark AHB-2 amps.  Very pricey though, best dealer price I've seen was still almost $2700.  I love mine and it did add that last bit of performance to my setup.  I scored some used ones, but still not cheap.  I hate hiss though.

 

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On 6/8/2017 at 4:29 PM, etc6849 said:

Amp with the lowest noise floor available is likely the Benchmark AHB-2 amps.  Very pricey though, best dealer price I've seen was still almost $2700.  I love mine and it did add that last bit of performance to my setup.  I scored some used ones, but still not cheap.  I hate hiss though.

 

Well thanks etc6849,

I have already found one and it works just fine for what I am using it for...

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1 hour ago, canyonman said:

Well thanks etc6849,

I have already found one and it works just fine for what I am using it for...

 

Please share ;)  How is hiss/noise floor and detail?

 

I'm not sure if I need the 130dB noise floor, but an ultra low noise floor sounds very awesome to me.  

 

It increases the dynamic range and let's me hear just a little more detail.  Very debatable about cost to benefit though, but there was a definite improvement on my system.

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Chris,

The bulk of the work is done I will post my settings later, this is the current trace of where I am now. Just need to decide on a house curve and adjust to the sound I like best, thanks for all your help brother. Oh BTW it sounds awesome!!!

 

Jay

A and B trace.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

New simpler triamp setup!  Custom made (by me): Canare star quad cables, power cables, rack enclosure and speaker cables using Neutrik SpeakOn connectors.  FIR filters and time alignment done using a Xilica XD4080 fed via AES from JRiver Media Center (RME ASIO hammerfall driver, using a RME HDSPe AES‑32 card).

 

This top-end pro gear will beat any consumer gear available (at any price).  At least when compared to any measurements I've seen or reviewers have measured (Audio Precision measurements by Stereophile: https://www.stereophile.com/content/benchmark-media-systems-ahb2-power-amplifier-measurements

 

You would think my old setup using top-end Emotiva consumer gear would have been very good, but I am so glad I ditched the XMC-1 and eliminated the extra D/A and A/D conversions and consumer grade amps.  The difference is literally night and day.
 

The XPR amps were ok, but really cannot compete with the small Benchmark amps when looking at real world performance (S/N and distortion), which are the most important and noticeable to me at this point.

 

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  • 2 months later...

Hi Chris,

 

A month ago, I re-setup my 5.1 system in another room without the sloped ceilings, plus I wall mounted my TV.  The system uses 3 Xilica XD4080's, 15 channels of amplification for tri-amping all 5 speakers, and 5 powered subs (each sub having their own DSP channel and summed to mono using one  of the Xilica XD4080's); and of course a PC running JRiver Media Center and the RME HDSPe AES PCI-E card (16 in/out). 

 

HDMI is used for 4k video playback by running a short cable from the display to the PC's onboard video.  Netflix, PowerDVD for UHD bluray playback, 3D blurays via JRiver, etc all work and send AES out via the RME card.

 

With lots of treatments, the TV setup back several feet from the front speakers, and 5 elevated subs that are each time aligned and level matched, Dirac is no longer necessary for me and likely not worth the 8dB headroom loss.  I can't believe I lived with the sloped ceilings for so long when the room next door is much easier to deal with.

 

The RME card I use can be bought from the US distributor cheaper than retail if they have any open box units: https://synthaxshop.com/collections/open-box-deals

 

I can turn songs down below -89dBU using the RME's TotalMix FX volume control and hear every word of what is said.  For me, AES resulted in less cable clutter too as it lets me have a second rack for tri-amping the rear speakers that is fed off a single AES cable from the front rack (that doubles as a center stand).  I do however, run another cable from the rear rack to the front to carry the mono sub signal back to my front rack.  It is like having a new system with all drivers and subs time aligned and level matched for the main seat.

 

Honestly, consumer grade gear has too many technical limitations like lower peak voltage, poorly implemented volume controls, etc...  I don't think it has any place in systems like ours if you already use and/or don't mind using a PC for everything.  I would seriously consider eliminating the AVP as it is a bottleneck in your system.  Even if someone wants analog input, there are reasonable pro audio ADC's that could send AES into the RME card, and you can redirect the input signals however you want within TotalMix FX.

 

On ‎4‎/‎14‎/‎2017 at 10:08 AM, Chris A said:

This is interesting.  I knew the day would come soon when multiple AES output cards would show up.  The rationale: digital-only until the output of the crossover(s).  This simplifies everything.  For me, when 5.1 AES showed up (as you've shown), then the AVP isn't really needed.  The money can be put into the active crossovers, loudspeakers, and perhaps better power amplifiers.

 

I'll have to try out Dirac at some point. 

 

Right now, all my PCs are laptops (i.e., they have built-in UPSes and can't accept PCIE cards).  I also need to upgrade my working laptop soon. 

 

Hummm, decisions, decisions.

 

Chris

 

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Ellery, as always I learn new things from your posts.  Thanks for your description/link of the PCIe card(s). 

 

I need to do a bill of material for a PC-based system as you describe above so I can budget for it.  I also need to assess whether or not I can make it easy to use by others besides myself...as that is also going to be a requirement.

 

I'm currently planning to do a one-for-one replacement of the four surround  loudspeakers (all except the center channel, which is the configuration that I'm building).  Electronics upgrades will have to follow that activity.  I expect that the upgrade of swapping out loudspeakers will be a big step up.

 

Chris

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