Flawless USB HiRes Playback with the Marantz SA-14S1 and Foobar2000

One of the best things about the Marantz SA-14S1 is its USB-DAC (USB-B) plug in the back. It’s one of the reasons I opted for this model, besides the fact that I’ve always been a Marantz guy.

What I wanted to do was seemingly simple. Because I rip all of my music (regular CDs, SACDs … and even some LPs) to my PC’s harddisk, and because I have quite a few HiRes downloads, I wanted to permanently connect my notebook to the SA-14S1 via my favorite player, Foobar2000, to play the best of them at a mouse click.

Once you figured it out, it’s deceptively simple, but until that point, it can be frustrating.

Here’s how it works, and I’m also posting this as a reminder to myself as the two sources I consulted (a post on computeraudiophile.com by Ned Kelly and Michael Lavorgna’s instructions on audiostream.com) to get it all running might well be up in smoke when the next Windows re-installation orgy rolls around and I have to set all of it up again.

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Step 01:
Install the Marantz USB-DAC driver, which can be downloaded from the Marantz homepage. Once installed, you need to select it in File -> Preferences -> Output as the output driver to use. Note: Interestingly enough, on my machine that driver only showed up once the Marantz SA-14S1 was connected and running. No idea why (and quite baffeling), but when you complete the next steps, it becomes obsolete anyway.

Step 02:
Dowload the ASIO output plugin for Foobar2000 from the foobar website. Make sure to copy the foo_out_asio.fb2k-component to the Foobar2000 “components” folder! For those interested, heed the notice on that download page: “Please note that this component is meant for systems where ASIO is the only available output method. It is highly recommended to use the default output modes instead of ASIO. Contrary to popular “audiophile” claims, there are NO benefits from using ASIO as far as music playback quality is concerned, while bugs in ASIO drivers may severely degrade the performance.

Step 03:
Download the SACD decoder plugin for Foobar2000 from sourceforge.net, unpack the downloaded .zip-file and run the ASIOProxyInstall.exe file. This “[…] decoder is capable of playing back Super Audio CD ISO images, DSDIFF and DSF files. Direct DSD playback for compatible devices.

Step 04:
Once the ASIO install is completed, copy the foo_input_sacd.dll from that same download to the Foobar2000 “components” folder.

Step 05:
Activate ASIO by going into File -> Preferences -> Components to select Playback -> Output -> ASIO where, in the list of drivers, you select “foo_dsd_asio“. If you double-click that entry, you will be able to select the Marantz driver (Marantz USB Audio, for example) in the new window’s “ASIO Driver” dropdown. Select “DoP Marker 0x05/0xFA” as the “DSD Playback Method” in the same window. At the end, make sure that the “64-bit ASIO drivers” checkbox is ticked if you are on a 64bit system.

Done.

Step 06:
There are a couple of settings you can play with; for example, in Tools -> SACD I set the ASIO driver mode to “DSD” and, when I stumbled over 3-channel tracks that didn’t run on my stereo setup, I selected “stereo” as the general output mode. All of these and other settings might vary on whatever system you have and it does help to familiarize yourself with the various ASIO and SACD settings.

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Finally, just because all of this works with this particular Marantz driver on this notebook doesn’t mean you don’t have to take a different route on whatever your gear of choice is.

As I am writing this, every single HiRes file I’ve played in the background has the corresponding correct display on my Marantz SA-14S1. All the sample- and bitrates are displayed accurately.

To put it into the words of Dr. Okun from the movie Independence Day:

The neatest stuff has only happened in the last few days. […]. But since these guys started showing up, all the little gizmos inside turned on. (laughs) The last 24 hours have been really exciting.

Cool stuff.

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and deus62.com is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

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