Question Tidal streaming from PC to Marantz PM6006 amp (need PCM input), improving my system

green-gf

Well-known member
Mar 5, 2016
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10,520
A few questions here, 1) streaming from PC to my Marantz PM6006 amp that's got digital inputs (not USB though); 2) amps with USB input; 3) thoughts about improving my system in other ways. Really appreciate any comments.

1) Streaming from PC to my Marantz PM6006 amp
I'm running Tidal (i.e. CD / studio quality streaming) on my desktop computer (decent Lenovo machine with Windows 11) that I use as a media player in my living room, experimenting with improving the sound quality.

My system also consists of a HRT Music Streamer II+ (from around 2010, well reviewed back then, originally £330), good Chord cabling, KEF iQ5SE speakers (2008, good reviews). My PC has an ageing soundcard – Asus Xonar DSX with S/PDIF as an alternative to the USB DAC. I figure that the Marantz DAC should be a big step up from the HRT so really hope to be able to use it, though I'm also reading negative comments about electrical distortion, including at https://forums.whathifi.com/threads/marantz-pm6007-to-laptop-connection-dilemma.120392/ (partly similar question to mine here, that attracted a small number of replies).

I bought a the PM6006, having researched sound quality but not the challenges of connecting to a PC. I plugged my soundcard S/PDIF into the amp, and (of course, I now realise) got silence (available output formats offered in soundcard settings: DTS, Dolby Digital, Microsoft WMA Pro). Checking the amp manual I find that it will only respond to Linear PCM signals via the optical and coax inputs. Is there a way to get good quality PCM out of my PC into the Marantz? I've got nowhere through Google Search for “windows PCM”, “PCM soundcard”, etc.

I've seen there's USB devices with PCM output, but they seem low quality and I expect they'll give poor results. Any comments? A possible exception, though the manual doesn't make it clear whether output would be PCM, is Behringer U-Control UCA222 (old, manual refers to Windows XP) - https://www.gear4music.com/Recording-and-Computers/Behringer-U-Control-UCA222-USB-Audio-Interface/AML?origin=product-ads&msclkid=906a08bf3d331e94113c6aaa52d4969b&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=PLA | All Products | Remarketing&utm_term=4584001427933243&utm_content=All products

Looks like sticking with USB DACs and connecting via RCA is the way at the moment, until they become more mainstream and part of the budget market?

2) Amps with USB input
Finding amps with USB input isn't easy when doing a Google Search. Via What Hifi I've found Cambridge CXA61 (£750!) but not others yet, especially at sub-£500.

3) System improvements
I'm not hearing a particular step up at the moment from my NAD 315BEE (2007) amp when beginning to use the RCA connections on the Marantz. My previous KEF Cresta 30 (2002) gave good results too, as did my Hot Audio DAC (handmade Canadian brand that seems to have disappeared). So I'm not finding any obvious leaps in quality with the upgrades I've made, perhaps that would require big bucks... or better hearing!

Perhaps I should be focusing on the DAC for improving system quality. I've looked at Chord DACs, though even used ones from 2013 are £400. Plus the Audiolab M-DAC for a similar price.

Your help and comments would be very much appreciated.
 

green-gf

Well-known member
Mar 5, 2016
5
0
10,520
thanks for your reply - that message on another chat (someone else's) came through after I posted this.

In the meantime I've discovered some other things that might be of use to others.
1) The Douk U2Pro is recommended in the previous message. The Topping d10s is an alternative, of probable higher quality, though neither reviewed here on What Hifi. See reviews at https://www.head-fi.org/threads/douk-audio-u2-pro-ddc-poorman-ddc-for-an-affordable-clean-digital-signal.958462/ and https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/topping-d10s-usb-dac-and-bridge-review.14859/

2) Asus Xonar DSX soundcard - I'm sure there's loads of owners of this out there (not!), but just in case - PCM output is available with this, using the Asus utility rather than the windows driver / settings. Need to read manual (note to self)!
 

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