Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by k4rstar, Jun 21, 2020.
good point, TDA1543 is also very sensitive to the power supply
Just saw your loaner thread for this. So you prefer this over Yggdrasil. Can you specifically site the main differences/improvements you feel this DAC brings over Yggdrasil? Does it best Yggdrasil on both dynamics and expressiveness in the mids? I’m assuming it does based on the above, but just trying to be clear. Also how would you describe it tonally compared to Yggdrasil?
Also, you had originally loved the BorderPatrol DAC, but then earlier in this thread said it was lo-fi. I think this uses the same TDA chip if I’m not mistaken, but you feel the implementation is obviously far superior that it is definitely not lo-fi? Would you considering it highly resolving of low level info and “plankton” etc? Just want to understand the primary qualities you feel that make this great, esp compared to Yggdrasil, which is a known quantity to me. Also I would be using it primarily on speakers, and soundstage and that low level stuff is super important for me. Imaging somewhat as well, although Im not all that fussed with slightly diffused images, as long as the stage is expansive and open with lots of microdetails going on. I might be interested in the loaner.
Edit: made a number of edits to my initial reply sorry.
the 'lo-fi' comment about the Border Patrol was a jest, I was referring to what other people unfairly thought of it without trying it
I still like the Border Patrol DAC, it's just not a great value. the chip is the same, but the abbas implementation is definitely far superior by virtue of actually having an output stage, which gives life and energy to the sound. the lackadaisical nature of the Border Patrol is its shortcoming and I imagine why people would not like it. but this has nothing to do with NOS or the TDA1543.
about comparison to the Yggdrasil, it's really best for you to try it for yourself, you could put it into better words for yourself and others who care about the qualities you mentioned. for me, I first listen for tone, tone, tone and dynamics. I could not really tell you about soundstage and 'plankton', these are not measuring sticks I use, in fact a lot of the times I am listening to mono recordings, and sometimes only with one speaker. so, I am more concerned with having 'presence', even during passages of silence, than other audiophile descriptors. in my opinion the 'soundstage' of Schiit DACs is something utterly contrived and it can sound really cool or it can be quite distracting. I think I mentioned this at some point earlier in this thread.
for resolution, I don't use modern recordings or remasters and listen for small details or things like that. I am more concerned with playing historical recordings, sometimes even pre-war, and having them 'unfold' in a way that they simply do not with modern devices focused on 'high resolution'. if these sound right, then so do modern recordings, but not vice versa (this is for example why I returned the ZMF Verite headphones right away). it's easier to demonstrate in person, trickier to explain.
also, my friend Jesper has just made a thread on his abbas DAC and transport over on WBF, you can check it out: https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/abbas-dac-2-1-se.31754/
Is there a reliable way to know what my previous DACs were using under the hood? I had a MASH CD player in the early 90s, but beyond that I'm not sure what exactly I was listening to. It seems possible that whatever we were using in our formative years could have an impact on preferences today. I still have a soft spot for over saturated tapes.
I'm especially curious about this DAC! It's not exciting, but it did lead me to try a Vali 1. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000095IMS?tag=9-0-20
I have a question for this very august and incredibly opinionated group...
I'm interested in hearing what all the fuss is about, in the system that I use every day, with my own ears, in a place where I can swap back and forth in an unscientific manner and please my damn self. If I am going to dip my toes into this comparison, what should I choose as my first R2R, with my real world budget? The obvious answer would be the Bifrost 2 - I currently use a Modius, and keeping the Unison board at least constant would keep me in the same zone. But is there another R2R DAC in the neighborhood of $500 (meaning, DEFINITELY NOT over $1000 and less is better) that I should be using to evaluate my own version of R2R vs. D/S at a first order of approximation? And I realize that on the face of it it's a stupid question because of all else besides the DAC architecture is going on with power, opamps, ladadadadadadida... but what would you do if you were me and wanted to have some experience here vs. reading all of this fun and just lurking & wondering?
[Edit: and if I should just ask this in the General Advice Thread, I'll do it - still figyuring my way around here]
You already answered your own question. The bifrost 2 would be my first recommendation.
abbasaudio DAC0.1SE Impressions
Thanks so much to @k4rstar for sharing the abbas DAC. While I was very much obsessed with audio in the late 80s, I was living in a pure analog house and completely missed out on experiencing the TDA series of chips. Until this week, I'd never knowingly heard a NOS DAC.
Coming from a Yggdrasil A2, the first listen was disorienting. As I mentioned in the loaner thread, it was similar to trying on a new pair of glasses. Sounds didn't come from the directions my brain expected them to, which made me dizzy and a bit sick to my stomach. I have never had this kind of thing happen with audio before! However, just like new glasses, my brain got accustomed to the new presentation, but A/B tests were not helpful.
Detail, staging accuracy, and staging width are far better from the Yggdrasil. However, the abbas has a cohesion to it that all of my other DACs lack. There's a rightness to the full audio band that's difficult to describe. I can't stop thinking about it. The mids are distinctly natural. I'm curious if it's possible to get the best of both worlds? Is this what the Holo and Metrum DACs are trying for? I'm going to end up buying another DAC, aren't I?
I've owned the original Holo Spring and a Metrum Onyx. They were indeed trying to get to that happy medium, but I kept going back to my Yggdrasil A2. Next, I got a Sonnet Morpheus. It is a better try and indeed it was my preferred DAC with ecp DSHA-3F and ZMF Verité closed until now, even though it lacks a bit in dynamics relative to the Yggdrasil. I just got a fully loaded Holo Spring 2, and even though it's probably still breaking in, I can already say that it gets closer to that combination of detail/staging/dynamics with a coherent, natural tone than the previous DACs. Same headphones, but Phonitor XE amp, which is detailed and accurate, but less engaging than the 3F.
Having just lived with a Pavane over the last few weeks your description here regarding NOS as 'rightness' is bang on the money and there is a strange artefact of stepping into the NOS world which is hard to shake, which kind of has me yearning. And I think that artefact is there because as you quite rightly say these NOS DACs are 'like trying on an a new pair of glasses' and it's exciting to realise that there's this whole different world of audio interpretation (if I can call it that) out there that isn't part of the DS gene pool.
Kudos to @k4rstar for loaning it out and your impressions.
Oh, and my point was to try and sample the Pavane for the best of both worlds, if time and budget allows.
My NOS TDA1541 DAC journey maybe of interest to those who have some DIY inclination.
The breadboard above is probably the most economical route to a NOS TDA1541. The PC board, power transformer and miscellaneous parts are available from eBay. More details here.
I preferred this breadboarded DAC in stock form over my Adcom GDA600 (BB PCM63) which made me decide to keep on track with a TDA1541 based DAC project .
To my ears, the best sound I got was when I bypassed the analog output section and replaced it with a tube circuit.
This is the first generation Arcam Delta Black Box. Finding one might be a long shot but it's worth considering for those who aren't comfortable with vacuum tubes.
This DAC has a DC coupled Class A discrete circuit analog output stage (no op amps and coupling caps to roll ). After bypassing the SAA7220P filter (NOS mod), much of the upper range harshness was tamed.
thanks very much for your thoughts @dubharmonic I am glad you got something of value out of it
in my not so humble opinion the rightness you mention comes from honesty of tone and honesty of transients. note I say honesty and not accuracy, some will understand the difference
I already said this above but I do not think of music in terms of an accurate stage or image, I learned to naturally let go of such desires in sound reproduction and was rewarded with greater musical ecstasy in exchange for fewer sonic special effects. but I understand that for some people it's an important part of the illusion, especially if you are so used to it.
detail - if you could provide some examples of what you mean, this term can refer to a lot of things
width of scene - this is largely a function of the digital transport. keep in mind the Yggdrasil has a more sophisticated (or more complicated, depending on how you want to view it) digital input section and will do more with less, so to speak.
again thanks a lot for keeping an open mind and trying it out, the whole point of this thread and the loaner was to make even one person have an 'aha' moment. so far so good
The digital transport used was the Pi2AES. Is this a poor pairing, in your opinion?
I really should have been more specific in my last post. The Yggdrasil's detail and staging characteristics are more pronounced. They're easier to identify. The breathing of the performer is more noticeable, and different instruments occupied distinct spaces. I don't mean to suggest that this is true to the source, or even necessarily desirable. "Better" was the wrong word to use! The enhancements come at the cost of increased wrongness, if that makes any sense.
I cant really comment on the pi2aes because I haven't tried it, other than to say I had exactly one experience with networked audio that made me WTF so hard I avoid it now. the performance of something like a raspi solution can only be judged so far in a vacuum. when you talk about connecting audio devices to ethernet its kind of crazy what can have an affect on performance.
my source is an old mac computer which is not connected via ethernet, I use wifi when streaming and turn if off when listening to local files.
I agree with your second paragraph
Do you have anything else that you can compare it to? A PC or Mac with a SPDIF solution? FWIW, the Pi2AES rivaled the CD transports I've used (Theta Data III, modded Marantz). In my experience a good SPDIF transport is a good SPDIF transport regardless of DAC. The remaining elements are a matter of synergy and personal preferences in regards to the sound of the transport, tiny things like soundstage, transients, fluidity, haze (or lack thereof), fine detail, and background, etc. In this sense, the synergy elements are less make or break, but rather final tuning.
Curious, what network solution did you use which resulted in your WTF experience? Was it the Dante?
BTW, the Pi2AES doesn't need to be networked. One can play local files (USB attached stick or drive) from it using the 7" touch screen as the interface. (Local files and Roon / Qobuz sounded the same to me, but I tend to care more about the music and care less about tiny audiophiliac differences these days).
many moons ago I tried to do the whole roon thing, I had a metrum ambre which is a raspi in a case with a spdif board and tentlabs clock.
I found different ethernet cables and switches to sound wildly different. I am audio crazy but it was not my brand of crazy, I didn't want to be like one of those Computer Audiophile dudes comparing modded network switches and custom power supplies, so I sold it
my reference transport now is a modified Philips CD880, I got the computer setup 'close enough' with a studio-grade 2008 Mac Pro and a USB/SPDIF converter.
SPDIF devices in the house are unfortunately limited to a Pi2AES, an EITR, and a really cheap Sony BD player. I have had the best experiences with the Pi2AES.
I’m not claiming that Ethernet won’t impact the sound, but I haven’t noticed it in my system. I’ve definitely heard wireless signals, though.
My most recent stray noise foray was with a new Linn system, which had a very faint hum (seemed a mix of 60 Hz harmonics) if we placed an ear really close to the mid driver when nothing was playing. A Furman PST-8 seems to have zeroed that. In the same house, the PiAES-sourced headphone system is dead quiet when nothing is playing. I put it on another PST-8 just in case. Ethernet is nothing especially fancy, UniFi gear wired together with unmanaged Netgear switches, Blue Jeans Cat 6. I've also used (and will use soon again) Actiontec MoCA adapters to do wired Ethernet over coax that's already in the walls.
Not sure what else I can say besides, I feel it. Multibit engages me sonically in a way that D/S has not been able to. The ease it manages to have in the upper frequencies is mesmerizing. The timbre is very close to what I imagine a real voice is like, might be the output stage on this one. Something I am going to have trouble replacing.
The notes, the micro tones, the drum snares, the kick drum, all the notes as if they are impacting me physically. I heard a few tracks(as many as I could fit in a week due to one-more-songitus) on the TDA1543(Abbas audio DAC0.1 SE). It is so incredible to me I can’t believe we have moved away from Multi-bit to something like Delta Sigma (DS). Multi-bit has so much potential I believe it has replaced by DS for profit and ease.
Why do manufactures insist on promoting the newest chip? It can only be marketing, pro audio seems to understand this and it is about implementation. This implementation has convinced me many things in audio are just toys. The musical reconstruction takes dedication and listening time, not just a AP.
This dac is a testament to they don’t make them like they used to.
Impressions are based on Loaner: abbasaudio DAC0.1
I will only name one album for my impressions
Abbas Audio DAC0.1
On request of @k4rstar, here are my thoughts on the Abbas. Source is Pi2AES, amps were both DNA Starlett and EC Ultralinear, with various headphones used. More stream of consciousness-style, not going to be formal or overly long.
Recognizably NOS. Definitely has that kind of fuzzy, "out of focus" kind of sound. This is neither a good nor bad thing and is up to the listener (yeah I'm taking the Stereophile cop-out).
Might be related to above, but I feel imaging is all over the place. However, images themselves do feel more "substantial" versus something like X-Sabre Pro, which has more paper-thin images (those who have heard the X-Sabre Pro know what I'm talking about).
I believe that there is some amount of treble ring in the lower-mid treble (which can come across as some extra edge or stridency). The Yggdrasil GS has a hint of this (Yggdrasil only really shows this in direct comparison to something like Wavelight which does not exhibit this trait). This is nothing to worry about; it's slight and almost every R2R DAC I've heard exhibits this trait.
Bass is indistinct and a bit bloated, kind of like the HD650 in DAC form in just the bass performance. This doesn't matter unless you still prioritize bass capabilities.
The timbre itself though is quite good. Tones of various instruments are recognizable and the presentation is more akin to the type of presentation where the sound is more blended together rather than super separated.
That being said, I don't think the Abbas excels in textural rendering. A little bit indistinct in this regard. In this, PRaT also suffers.
Might be related to the PRaT, but the Abbas has this kind of 2.5D "wall-of-sound" effect that the Morpheus has.
Overall, this DAC is not for me. Might not be fair though; I haven't heard too many NOS DACs and honestly I didn't like any of them, even the expensive AF Sonnet Morpheus.
^ Sounds perfectly suited to the presentation of the GT102 amp K4 brought to SBAF attention as well. Tried any other tubes with it? I might have a few 6DJ8 equivalents I could send your way if you'll have more time with it / want to test. Or I guess I could always sign up for the loaner (if there's space) and test myself too.
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