One of the most exciting things for us is getting a new DAC. Every DAC is unique, and lately the differences between DACs seem to be getting larger… in looks, sizes, sound, engineering, etc.
Our favorite DAC right now is the Balanced Audio Technology REX DAC. BAT has really knocked this one out of the park, working with one of the brightest minds in audio and bringing their considerable talent and expertise to create a component that melds the classic BAT musical styling with cutting edge technology… It is the best of both worlds! If you can’t tell already, we own BAT gear, we are going to AXPONA with BAT and holy sh!t are we excited to have this in the Wolf Den. It isn’t even broken in yet and it sounds great…
Configuring Media Center
Once the DAC driver has been installed and the system rebooted, you are ready to configure Media Center. If like us, you meticulously study the specs of your DAC prior to purchase, you’ll know most of the answers outlined below.
2 Channel or Multi-Channel?
Maximum sample Rate
Native or DoP
Max Sample rate – 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024
Armed with this information, from the Home Screen, enter Standard Mode by pressing ESC, ESC (press the escape button twice) and press Control + O or go to Tools-> Options to enter the Audio Setup.
Selecting your new Audio Device
The first section in the Option-> Audio settings panel, Audio Device lets you decide where your music is going to be routed. Typically, your setup will not be as cluttered as the image pictured below. Your DAC will be listed below, usually twice. One will have the (ASIO) suffix, and one (WASAPI). Choose the ASIO driver.
From there, select DSP & Output Format It is in this window that some of the most basic, but important settings are found that control how the Wolf sends audio to the DAC.
First up is Output Encoding. Setting Output Encoding is a global setting that will take all of your music, PCM or DSD, and affect how it passes out to the DAC. It can be tempting to want to play around with the settings, but with a good DAC, this shouldn’t be necessary. If you want to try up-sampling to DSD, go ahead, but it takes a very special DAC to realize any benefit.
Next is Sample Rate. It is in this section that we typically will downsample the highest bitrates to something the DAC can handle. For instance. 705k and 768k are typically too much for even modern DAC’s to handle natively. 352k and 384k are typically the upper limits of what DAC’s can handle, so we divide 768k by 2 and arrive at 384k. Likewise, we adjust 705k down to 352k.
NOTE Audio likes clean division, so pay attention to the dividers, try to always divide by 2.
Typically, Channels can be left at ‘Source number of channels.’ However, if you have digitized your SACD collection (get in touch with us if you are interested) you may have some multichannel audio files, and this can produce some weird results in your sound system. Some DAC’s just take all that audio information and pass it through to the L+R channels. Sometimes it can be magical – sometimes not. It all depends on your equipment. (With an Ayre Codex DAC, Natalie Merchant’s Tigerlilly 5.1 channel SACD sounded absolutely magical when squeezed into a Stereo setting). Channels is where you can have some fun if you have more than L+R. If you want your 7.1 channel setup to output 2 channel music through all your speakers, set it here. If your system exhibits weird behavior, set the channels to 2 Channel (Stereo).
It is generally a good idea to save your settings. Should you switch back to an old DAC for A/B testing, it is easy to bypass all the manual efforts you have just done by loading the saved settings. In the bottom right of the DSP window, click the Load/Save button, select Save, and name the file. We typically name it what the DAC’s name is.
The first question- DoP or Native DSD? In setting up DSD, we close out of DSP & Output Format and go a bit further down the Audio Options list. Select the Bitstreaming option and select DSD.
What is DoP? It is a way to get DSD audio to a DAC that hasn’t implemented full Native Bitstreaming capabilities
It involves taking groups of 16 adjacent 1-bit samples from a DSD stream and packing them into the lower 16 bits of a 24/176.4 data stream. Data from the other channel of the stereo pair is packed the same way. A specific marker code in the top 8 bits identifies the data stream as DoP, rather than PCM. The resulting DoP stream can be transmitted through existing 24/192-capable USB, AES, Dual AES or SPDIF interfaces to a DoP-compatible DAC, which reassembles the original stereo DSD data stream COMPLETELY UNCHANGED.
If your DAC is DoP capable, one more step will be necessary to be able to play DSD audio. Click …Device Settings… just under the DAC selection line. Select the DSD Bitstream in DoP format checkbox.
NOTE This pane may look different from DAC to DAC. If This choice is not present, and DSD audio cannot be played, get in touch with us to help you out.
After this setting, Click OK, and then OK again in the Options pane to close the setup. You should be able to play audio at this point. If you cannot get an audio to play, please check this page for a missed step.