Does digital connection really make sense?


I wanted to ask if it really makes sense to connect the Denon SC5000/SC6000 units through their digital output, if it would really improve the sound quality, if, finally, i think, regardless of the mixer, the output is analog and we cannot avoid DAC/ ADC or ADC/DAC/ADC?

How about the following comparison about sound quality?

Case 1: x1850 digital connection.

Case 2: x1850 analog connection.

Case 3: A&H Xone:96 (analog mixer & connections).

For me it is a ‘hard’ question - In theory yes, if using a digital mixer, audio quality should be better (or closer to the original record) using a full digital path, avoiding DA/AD conversions. BUT in real life the results may be a little different, as the ‘colouration’ (don’t know if it is the correct word) added by some mixers in conversion processes may sound more pleasant to the ears. I have a XONE DB2 (full digital mixer) and I prefer the sound with analog inputs over the full digital path. Placebo effect? I don’t know, but I use the analogs. With other mixers, the final result may be different.

It’s there, so why don’t use it… Every extra AD/DA conversion adds noise or imperfections to your signal. It may even reduce latency. On the other hand, you will have 2 master clocks connection, so I guess the mixer has to resample anyway.

Yes, in the end the mixer outputs it’s analog signal, but it’s still a DA/AD conversion less.

IMHO, 99.99% of the DJs and people on the other side of the DJ gear don’t actually care. Plus garbage in garbage out x2 in the digital realm. I understand that the keeping the whole path digital then digital out to a DSP for the PA for a large venue or event makes sense and lets the gear be installed correctly. But I’d rather see Dante maybe with a SPDIF connection in future gear.

I haven’t heard once someone on the dance floor or at a festival actually say “You know what Muffy, I wish the DJ had used SPDIF for their connections. I swear the signal sounds degraded, what a shame our night is ruined now”.

Like I said, IMHO.


You’re so right

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You may or may not hear a difference. At the very least, if you’ve already got a digital mixer, then using the SPDIFs frees up the line inputs for other uses. On digital Pioneers and the MP2015 that are fixed at 96khz, or the old X1700 and new X1800 when set to 96khz, to me and everyone I’ve used the Denon Prime players with, they sound a little more precise and clearer connected with the SPDIFs than using the line inputs on those mixers. ADC has come a long way, after all, even though it’s harder to do than DACs. With the DB4 that is digital but running at 48khz, it was sort of a toss-up. I personally prefer improved clarity and precision of SPDIF with it, but the highs are admittedly a little more delicate if you go through good quality DA to its AD stages with line level on the DB4. The PPD 9000 is also 48khz but can’t accept over 48khz SPDIF, and sounds nice connected analog, though not quite as clear as any other players connected with SPDIF to it.

The Prime players are compatible with higher sampling rate files than its 96khz SPDIF out and may even be running at a high oversampling internally prior to their SPDIF outputs, so there may be some utility to using the analog connections. Currently, we don’t know if the rate sent to the DACs is the exact same as what’s sent to the SPDIF on the Prime players. The installed player DACs are definitely capable of using higher rates than the SPDIF is. There is such poor-quality low-pass filtering (and probably other audio processing) going on in their firmware, however, that I have a hard time believing running 192khz sampling rate files on any of Prime has much benefit. Using the analog outputs might simply skip another sample rate conversion stage (bumping down to 96khz from a high oversample), but it also might not. Pure speculation. For all I know, internally they currently run at 96khz and everything is immediately converted to that.

Regarding the Xone 96, it’s not going to hold a candle to the clarity of the digital mixers (except for maybe the X18xx line… and even then it’s a stretch comparison), so if you’re using the 96, then you’re doing so mostly because you like its tone, right? You might even prefer its lower clarity to mask the distortions Prime players impart on the audio and to avoid the Prime mixers’ own signatures. If you want the best clarity and accuracy, though, you’ll need to check out the MP2015 using digital connections or something like an Iso420 with analog connections. Next in line I’d say is the X1700 for clarity, followed by the DB4 and the Pioneers. You might even prefer the DB4 connected either analog or digital with Prime players, as it’s a very analog-sounding digital mixer… like a more detailed, refined analog Xone mixer. Everything else behind the MP2015 and Iso420 are probably going to be variously coloring and doing unique stuff to its sound that you may or may not like compared to if there was nothing in the signal path.

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Two things:

  1. You don’t need to rely on the quality of the DAC on the player and mixer as you should be getting a bit perfect replication.

  2. Digital Cables are cheaper than shielded RCA cables to eliminate interference.

I supose really that question depends on what music you play. Sometimes digital stuff can sound "clinical " not that gentle warmth we had with vinyl for modern edm yes digital for old skool say sixties beatles stuff no because the sound is already slightly tainted.

It also depends on the speakers and how much they have been hammered. And the positioning of them. Its not just a case as a lot of clubs do just hang them round the venue. They all need to be balanced together to get the right sound. I haveplayed many many venues where the previous dj thought the idea was to make peoples ears bleed by turning the subs up to max… nice for DnB but not nicefor “traditional” wedding party stuff

That actually happened to us once on a Pioneer front end with Funktion One sound system and were like “We know this should be sounding better than that” and it was connected with the lines. Immediately things just snapped into focus when we moved them to the SPDIF. I think that’s because not all sample rate conversion and DAC to ADC is the same quality. Funktion One is also voiced more for midrange phase accuracy and massive dynamics, and thus anything you can do to improve detail clarity is useful. The Hanpin players have pretty mediocre digital to analog stages, for instance, and I’ve never preferred the way they sound using the lines compared to SPDIF on any digital mixers that could do both. There’s also wildly varying implementations of SRC.

The X1700 has the best SRC I’ve ever heard in DJ equipment, and seemed to enhance 44.1khz SPDIF inputs when the mixer’s set to 96. Behind that I’d put the Texas Instruments hardware-based SRC dedicated chip solutions in the PPD9000 and MP2015 that just plain work and sound fine but don’t make anything prettier. Then you’ve got a mess of techniques that new Denon, A&H, and Pioneer seem to be using… sometimes better in various respects to the analog stages you could swap to, sometimes worse in ways that motivated the other connection. Again, with the X1800 I’ve never found the analog connection better if I could use either. However, people were complaining about the V10’s SRC when it was first released and it was interesting that Pioneer for the CDJ-3000 made that a moot issue by putting their new players at a fixed 96khz. The new CDJ only supports up to 96khz files, so it’s very unlikely you’d ever see any benefit running their new players into 96khz digital mixers using analog connections… I don’t care how good the DAC and ADC stages are.

It seems that outside the better SRC types, though, SRC can be a little more clinical sounding while preserving clarity better, and with good enough DAC to ADC you can get softer, more organic treble if that’s important to you. It’s like even average DAC to ADC (but better than what Hanpin is using, obviously) can do more gradations of treble quality than fair SRC that will instead do a one-size-fits-all treble attack, if that makes any sense. And it’s easier to do great SRC in post than in realtime, though there’s plenty of lousy non-realtime post processing SRC, too. DAC to ADC, though, is certainly going to impart more noise and certain other types of distortion, but in some situations you might find that less objectionable to what a particular SRC stage is doing if the rates aren’t matched up. YMMV. In my case, I’m usually trying to get the most clarity per dB I can wring out of any setup with less regard to how natural it sounds to allow for more ear-friendly volumes.

Here’s an interesting link to compare various techniques for SRC from 96 to 44.1 used in CD mastering.

By the way, if the sound system is processed with a DSP for crossovers, delays, etc, has a digital input, and you’re installing a digital DJ mixer and/or digital main sound board, at the very least it makes sense to put the system processor at the same rate as the digital mixer and connect the two digitally.

Thank you all for the answers.

Sorry for the terminology and technical concepts that have been used here in the explanations that are beyond my understanding.

For me to understand, please, what could have more quality?

The same audio track played in:

  1. Serato through the sound card of a x1850 mixer, which I understand to be a DAC/ADC from the mixer itself, or…

  2. A Denon SC5000 analog output connected to a x1850 mixer, so that the DAC/ADC conversion is done by the SC5000 unit itself?

Without going too in depth here, Serato through the X1850 as you are doing one less AD/DA conversion prior to the final DA conversion (Unless outputing a digital signal from the X1850).

It comes down to the quality of converters and cables. It’s such a small difference that only a handful of people in the crowd will notice. So, it’s fun for all of us to argue and talk about, but not something that becomes relevant in the average DJ environment.

That, coupled with DJ’s who have no understanding of gain staging/levels. I can’t tell you how many DJ’s I’ve taken over for who had everything in the red.

Ah yes. A DJs favorite color.

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In both cases, you should have the communications between this gear happening digitally. There is zero benefit having either case connecting analog or some other gear in between if the X1850 can talk to your computer fine for Serato over USB and that’s the mixer you choose to use.

Set the computer and the mixer to the same sample rate for USB with Serato. With the SC5000 and the X1850 without Serato, connect them with the SPDIF… preferably with the X1850 at 96khz. Maybe if the X1850 is set to a lower sample rate for the Prime player, you might roll off some of the SC5000’s ultrasonic grunge, you get some extra effects on the mixer, and maybe the mixer might even perform slightly better, but you’re probably getting other SRC artifacts bumping down to 96khz. I just put the mixer at 96khz to match the Prime players.

Assuming you’re connecting USB or SPDIF, which will sound better, Serato or the SC5000? Probably Serato, as Prime’s got some muddy-sounding processing with a bunch of intermodulation distortion going on. If you put Serato at 44.1khz and your X1850 at 44.1khz while using the SC5000 as controllers, it will probably have better sound quality right now until InMusic improves the player firmware in this regard. But who knows, you might prefer the SC5000. If you get the X1850 and you already have Serato, then you can try both. If you don’t want to mess with a laptop, then that’s already made your decision for you.

This is precisely the question.

I currently have a Mixars Quattro and I want to change the mixer.

I’m in doubt between the x1850 or the Xone:96.

This is why I was asking if the DAC converter in the SC5000M unit was of sufficient quality that it wouldn’t be noticeable when connected analog to the A&H Xone:96, should I go for it.

Or, on the contrary, the Denon x1850 mixer would be more recommended to connect it to the SC5000M units through SPDIF.

The SC Prime player DACs are not a weak link in the chain. You could prefer the veil the Xone 96 might slather over the players’ IMD and the Xone’s extra gooey punch, or you might prefer the physical and arguably fairly precise (at least compared to an analog Xone) sound of the X18xx line. Neither is a strident-sounding mixer, though, so you don’t have to worry about that, but also neither is a particularly elite level of definition and clarity, either. I wouldn’t get the X1850 because it’s going to sound wildly better than the Xone or Mixars, rather I’d get it for the integration & convenience with the Prime players or because you plan on using the extensive other features & effects on the Prime mixer. If you don’t want any of the benefits of the X1850 in the above and/or you really love the Xone analog filters, then get the Xone.

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Thank you very much for the explanations, your time and advices.

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