Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by Hands, Mar 3, 2017.
Good thing I'm not in a grouchy mood.
Currently listening to a DIY build of the Audial AYAII, modded with jensen transformers for XLR output and capped with NOS Black Gate capacitors, Oscons, Wima blacks, Panasonic FC and Elna Silmic II. Good thing it was 220V or I'm sure someone else would've snagged it
It sounds wonderful! Comes quite close to the top of the line Holo spring in detail. Bass is tight, not flabby or boomy whatsoever. Mids are ridiculously sweet sounding, I've seen TDA1541 described as polite and midrange focused but wow this thing doesn't sound polite to me. The mids do have a sweet/romantic touch. Almost real at times.
On low level detail I can hear the noise floor crop up and then when more (louder) information needs to be rendered the noise floor transforms into musicality, not sure that's the TDA chip or the analog implementation but I love how noise just seems to appear when there is basically no digital information, and then gradually turns into sweet sweet music when the silent moment ends. Really makes me think of vinyl, when you reach the end of a track.
Too bad Audial DACs nowadays cost upwards of $2k. I got this baby for an honest price used and it wrecks pretty much any NOS DAC I've heard budget-wise. The spring still seems more resolving with blacker background, but for listening to older classics, vinyl rips and live music this Audial is really breathtakingly accurate sounding to me. Really impressed.
The "Model" DACs should better render spacial cues, nuances, and ambient effects over the Holo Spring, but you're right that they'll never sound as clean or black. Haven't heard the Aya but I know specs aren't nearly as good as the Model.
Yes, exactly! The staging and spacial cues are very delta-sigma like (which it isn't). Considering it is non-oversampling that is really something special, some long lost TDA magic, perhaps really glad I gave this DAC a chance.
A micro detail monster however, this is not. But that's perhaps expecting too much for a 16-bit (1998-era) chip it's very non-fatiguing though on the other hand which I greatly appreciate.
Has anyone here tried dddac 1794?
The guy seems extremely knowledgeable. The website is well documented. There is also an active diyaudio community page running nearly 1000 pages long. Some of the feedback, he had incorporated into the current design. It is capable of upto 192khz sample rate and the electronics supporting it also support a bandwidth of 96khz (the low pass filter doesn't roll off everything suddenly after 20khz).
Also, what type of music do you try on your NOS DACs? The big point of NOS is to be able to have a transparent view of high sample rate music, like 192khz content, or to be able to use your own custom oversampling technique like using hqplayer without it going through another layer of oversampler. This is assuming the low pass filter on the NOS dac is not super aggressive.
That's one perspective, the desire to filter roll on a high power CPU with assurance the DAC isn't double-dipping.
Some of us use NOS without any filtering in the chain even with a majority 44.1K library. Drawbacks applenty but it has it's thrills. I haven't had a NOS DAC in years but I still crave that forwardness sometimes. Music wise I like it for anything that isn't dependant on spotless clarity or vast atmospherics. Metal to chamber music to bluegrass. Orchestras or albums with mass amounts of studio effects can fall short of expectations.
That's a huge assumption and a design problem with NOS. For 44.1kHz content, if the analog LPF is not aggressive, we will get poor reconstruction / aliasing. What will the NOS design assume? Will the NOS DAC be able to switch the path of the LPF to gentler ones appropriate for higher sampling rates?
Software oversampling and feeding a DAC 176kHz will override the hardware digital filter for a x4 OS DAC. DXD or 352kHz will do the same for a x8 OS DAC. Even 176kHz will largely override the effects of the hardware digital filter for a x8 OS DAC.
Well, I was thinking along the lines that, an aggressive low pass is a compromise to make 44.1khz content listenable. It would be cool to have an adaptive filter for different sample rates, but I guess that will come with more compromises than benefits.
I have happily using a Model S USB DAC for about 10 years now. It was upgraded to the latest version in 2014. It is simply amazing, it just plays music, so natural and engaging. I have a hard time finding any faults wit the way it sounds . The only drawback is the lack of inputs besides the USB.
After all these years, I never felt compelled to upgrade, especially to a S/D dac. But now with all the R2R dacs hitting the market, I ofter wonder if it is it time to upgrade? Based on the comments on this thread, it would seem that Audial dacs, and in particular the Model S, still holds their own.
I'd like to use the Model S in a 2-channel system with my TV for both music and TV/movies. The lack of any inputs to the DAC besides USB makes the integration very challenging.
I have read many posts on this forum to try to get an idea of what dacs may rival the Model S in sound quality. From what I can gather, there are very few that can rise to the challenge without spending silly money.
Hand, or others familiar wit hte Model S, may I ask what dacs I should try to audition? Other than the Schiit dacs, I am sure what to try? Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
You could always consider the latest generation of the Model S or equivalent and run SPDIF instead of USB. Get a good SPDIF source like a DigiOne Signature or Pi2AES.
Another option is something like a Metrum Pavane, Adagio, Onyx, or Jade, but probably only if you're using XLR output.
The Holo Audio DACs are good options if you want something different rather than better.
Schiit DACs are great if you're OK with oversampling. The Bifrost 2 in particular is a huge bang for the buck.
Beyond that, you're probably looking at DIY options.
Thank you kindly Hands for your comments.
Are you still using the Model DAC? If not, what DAC are you now using?
In general, I prefer NOS. But the Bi Frost 2 is definitely a DAC I should audition and compare with the Model.
What's up with Metrum? Their web site says they are relaunching in August 2020. I did not know they had disappeared.
I no longer have my Model S. Currently I use a DIY AD1862-based NOS DAC, Pavane Lvl 1, and a late-iteration, first gen Bifrost MB.
For Metrum you'll have to go used or look for a dealer that still has stock for the products I mentioned.
Newest Audial with a good source if you want to stay with a highly similar but refined sound. Holo spring if you want a more modern NOS DAC, I loved my spring 2 a lot, wish I kept it. If you can audition a bifrost 2 it might give you all you want at a solid price, but it's an oversampling DAC
Thanks all for helping narrow things down a bit.
My preferred set up is to use (a) an Nvidia streaming box for Tidal, Netflix, Hula and (b) a blue ray player into the TV, and then use the optical out on the TV into the DAC. The blu ray is used exclusively for movies, not CDs. An optical to SPDIF converter could be used, but I think that will only introduce jitter. I realize this is not the ideal input to a DAC, but it is convenient. If someone has a better alternative, I'd like to hear about it.
The Model and Bi Frost 2 both use on-chip resistor ladders, whereas other DACs (e.g. Holo, Denafrips) use discrete resistor ladders. Is there any consensus on the better approach for the D-to-A conversion? I would think the on-chip approach is preferred since resistor values can be fabricated with tighter tolerances.
Anyway, my sense is I should start with ordering a Bi Frost 2 and giving it a try.
I might suggest for dedicated music listening you invest in something like a Pi2AES or DigiOne Signature. You should still be able to leverage Tidal or similar in one way or another, though the method by which you control it and the RPi device may differ from what you do today. Nonetheless, it will act as a headless, wireless music streamer to your DAC, so you can effectively place it wherever you like.
You could then still use some form of optical I/O from other devices to the DAC where sound quality might be less critical, such as streaming Netflix and the like. And if this sounds like a hassle, I'd wager the likelihood of tangible sound improvements, with the method I suggested, will make up for it.
You are correct that, in theory, an IC-based multibit DAC is the way to go, precisely because they can implement laser-trimmed resistors with guaranteed accuracy. Plus, it's all housed in a nice little container compared to openly exposed, discrete resistors.
Discrete resistors in and of themselves can't get anywhere near the same level of accuracy/precision and, as such, require approaches like being matched by hand, calibrated on the fly via other resistor networks or processing logic, different DAC architectures that counteract some of these limitations, and so on.
That's not to say a discrete resistor ladder implementation can't sound good. Some designers have done an excellent job accounting for inherent limitations, creating discrete resistor DACs that measure and sound good. And I happen to have a discrete resistor, 16-bit, R2R DAC right now with 0.1% resistors (not good). It measures like shit but sounds better than you'd think. Point being, it's worth keeping some amount of accuracy in mind, but don't stress it too much if you end up liking something that, in theory or in measurements, suggests you shouldn't.
With the Schiit DACs, you not only get guaranteed accuracy via the precision ICs, but their oversampling filter is arguably one of the better sounding out there (subjectively). You're not guaranteed that with, say, Denafrips and whatever filter they've implemented. Nor are you necessarily guaranteed to like Schiit's filter either, of course. It's just important to keep in mind that there are multiple parts to the DAC puzzle, and they all matter to some degree.
If you're not hard set on non-oversampling, absolutely give the Bifrost 2 a try. And while I generally poo-poo USB, a lot of people really like what Unison brings to the table for Schiit DACs. I personally think it's pretty bad, even for USB, but...you know, whatever, I can see why many think otherwise. Worth a shot either way in case it does the trick for you.
Thanks again Hands for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. I am going to try an experiment with trying to connect my Model S into the system. If it does not work, I will go ahead and order a Bi Frost 2. I have tried to read as many comments and reviews as I can and by most accounts, it is a great little unit. Appreciate the guidance!
@Hands Have you tried passive I/V with the AD1862?
Nope. Haven't had a chance to play around with the I/V and output stage beyond rolling opamps. And it sound surprisingly good with certain opamps, so it hasn't been at the top of my list to try custom stages.
I'm not quite sure what to make of this guy. He seems to be implying that Cees and company have bought Metrum back and will be re-launching in August. But then again, he never really mentions Cees name and hasn't really answered @Clemmaster's question.
@jwr159 - What we do know for sure is that Metrum was bought out late in 2018, messed up with customer service, and went bankrupt in February. If they are back with Cees at the controls, that is good news.
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