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Old

Schitt's flagship DAC uses a not-for-audio DAC chip.

Posted 7th March 2015 at 07:43 AM by abraxalito
Updated 17th August 2015 at 10:38 AM by abraxalito

The Schitt Yggy DAC has already created something of a stir over on Head-Fi amongst those who've heard pre-production prototypes. Its of interest not just because of the pre-launch buzz but also because the designer (Mike Moffat) is one of the long-time seasoned guys in the field. He says this is the best practical DAC he knows how to build. And its priced ISTM very reasonably given the amount of tech it embodies ($2300) - the DAC chips come from ADI and are $64 a piece on the manu's website. He's using 4 of them but says he had to address the glitching of the DAC without using a sample-hold which sounds like ***.

The chip is the AD5791BRUZ which ADI designed for industrial/scientific/medical applications rather than for audio. Datasheet attached.

Having looked over the DS what strikes me as interesting is that this is a 20bit DAC (1ppm) yet the 1kHz THD performance (p4) isn't anything to write home about (-97dB) and that figure is given at a very low sample rate...
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Old

TDA1387 octal DAC looks like a good modding base

Posted 15th January 2015 at 11:55 PM by abraxalito
Updated 28th August 2015 at 01:16 AM by abraxalito

Thanks to Matthieu (Malefoda) for the heads up on this. It looks distinctly like a DAC inspired by the DAC-AH - note not only the 8 DAC chips but also the PCB layout closely follows that design's. The price on Taobao is about half the AH (368rmb) so I shall be ordering up one or more to have a play. Matthieu found it on another website with prices in USD, here - http://www.cart100.com/Product/42124644877/.
Note there are two options here (blue, black) - the cheaper one is a kit of parts I believe, the more expensive ($84) the finished unit. Going on the translation of the Taobao page, the kit does not include the transformers, mains switch or the case.

Update : here's the summary of the mods so far, for details go to Malefoda's thread linked in the comments.

1) Re-route the output ground so the opamp filtering caps aren't subject to injected CM noise from the destination component (amp or pre).

2) Reduce the supply voltage to the output opamps...
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Old

Revisiting mods to the Lite DAC-AH

Posted 12th January 2015 at 01:57 AM by abraxalito
Updated 12th January 2015 at 02:07 AM by abraxalito

Last night the battery of my I2S source ran out so while it was on charge, I unboxed my last remaining Lite DAC-AH to have a listen to that, fed from my (mains powered) QA550 wav player. I'd bought 3 DAC-AHs a few years back when I was playing with them.

The differences between the stock DAC-AH and the Ozone Pagoda were apparent in the areas of soundstage depth, dynamics (especially at LF) and coarseness at higher levels. So this got me wondering what would be the lowest hanging fruit in terms of mods to it. My procedure before had been to implement everything I could think of before having a listen - this way its not possible to know which mods are the most effective ones and which can be omitted.

This time I'm going to be a bit more disciplined for the purposes of discovering which mods deliver the best bang for the buck. The first one I'm going to try is a passive LC filter between the DACs and the AD847s. Here's the schematic for it - its using the cheap and...
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Old

New year, new DAC

Posted 31st December 2014 at 07:36 AM by abraxalito
Updated 3rd August 2015 at 12:50 AM by abraxalito

Here's the 'Ozone desktop pagoda' DAC for 2015.

A single TDA1387 feeds a 3 inductor quasi-elliptic filter followed by AD8017s as buffer-amps. The large ferrite cores in the base do the bal-SE conversion. The power supply is 4 * AA NiMH cells which should in theory last for a whole day's music.

The design is really a 'MkII' version of the Ozone portable where the AD815 buffers have been replaced to allow a more compact construction and lower power draw without the constraint of being able to drive IEMs directly. Whereas the portable used a stack of 1387s due to the choice of 7mm TDK inductors, this one's using pot-core chokes giving a much higher working impedance and hence higher output levels from just the one DAC chip. The desktop footprint is about that of a CD.

Update : I found some bargain Jamicon caps on Taobao which give the tower more elegant proportions, as well as improving the supply impedance to the buffer-amps and giving more breathing...
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Old

Design ideas for Aune M1 DAC card

Posted 15th November 2014 at 02:51 AM by abraxalito
Updated 19th November 2014 at 05:43 AM by abraxalito

I'll outline here some thinking in choosing the major building blocks (aka ICs) for this card - any comments welcome as this progresses.

First up the DAC chip will be the TDA1387 initially. I don't know for sure that the output from the ARM/Xilinx card is I2S but I'm going to verify that fairly soon. There's nowhere near enough room for the passive shunt I've adopted previously so the bass performance probably is going to have to suffer. I shall pay considerable attention to the power supply arrangements though in an attempt to make up for the LF lack.

After the DAC, passive I/V will follow and then a filter using the TDK 7mm inductors I've used previously. I've slotted them into the gap between the PCB and the case and there's just enough height available. Since space is at a premium I'll experiment with a 3 inductor design - the stop band attenuation will suffer but probably I'll add a secondary LC filter at the output to make up for that somewhat. The secondary...
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Old

DAC filter for discrete buffer

Posted 14th August 2014 at 11:44 PM by abraxalito
Updated 22nd August 2014 at 03:56 AM by abraxalito

Here's the next experiment - a higher working impedance anti-imaging filter which allows operation without any active voltage gain stage following it. Its also one you can build with Mouser parts - Fastron make inductors suitable for this - substitute their 27mH for the 30mH for only a modest degradation in the FR. Or add a Panasonic 2.7mH in series with the 27mH if you'd like to go the whole hog.

The frequency response is -3dB at 18.5kHz and about -55dB by 24.1kHz. Passband ripple is <0.3dB.

Update - after winding all the coils I realized that I don't have a system right now to slot a full bandwidth DAC into - mine at present is fully activated. So to test out the buffer design's audible qualities I need to build a limited bandwidth DAC (for my bass/mid, up to 3.5kHz). Hence another version of the bass/mid LPF is called for, with the highest possible working impedance. Turns out I can wind a 125mH coil with wire which doesn't break too easily (0.13mm dia)...
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Old

Cheapest 32bit CPU to date...

Posted 22nd July 2014 at 07:22 AM by abraxalito
Updated 22nd August 2014 at 04:17 AM by abraxalito

These Cortex M0 modules are 14rmb on Taobao, just over $2 a pop, with more number crunching speed than my first ever PC (40DMIPs).

The CPU is the STM32F030, a 48MHz devuce with limited I/O (I2C, SPI) in a 20 pin TSSOP. The going rate for this chip is 2.4rmb ($0.40).

I have an idea to build a DAC with a handful of these little beauties carrying out some of the filtering.

Update - a price drop just happened on Taobao to a similar board, now down to 9.9rmb - http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=...32&ns=1#detail

Pic attached of this mind-numbingly affordable board.

Aliexpress has the boards I bought now, priced at $6.20 but this includes 'free' shipping - http://www.aliexpress.com/item/stm32...701304725.html
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Old

First prototype PCB-based hexacap

Posted 21st July 2014 at 11:59 PM by abraxalito

Seeing as building hexacaps with wire is very time consuming, I'm investigating ways to get the production cost down. Here's my first attempt at a PCB hexacap, using 2oz copper - I did the layout on EasyEDA - Web-Based EDA, schematic capture, spice circuit simulation and PCB layout Online

Once I've ironed out the minor errors on the groundfill I'll make the PCB public so anyone can order up their own. There are 127 caps on this board giving a 50Hz capacitive reactance just under 8mohms.
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Old

Tweeter DAC

Posted 22nd June 2014 at 04:24 AM by abraxalito
Updated 25th June 2014 at 05:49 AM by abraxalito

Hexacaps have their limitations - they provide a great low impedance for lower freqs but according to my LCR meter, turn inductive for frequencies in the mid-single digit kHz. Which is about the lower edge of the passband for a tweeter. So what to do to get a low impedance power supply to a DAC chip from 4kHz and up? Here's my first attempt - there are 7 TDA1387s each sandwiched between two low ESR 4700uF lytics. Sandwiching them together is an attempt to get the inductance as low as possible - the loop area can't practically get any smaller than this. Getting the wires in has tested my patience and that's even before powering the beast up....

Update - well I could have been knocked over with a feather - this worked first time I plugged it in. So now I'm thinking about how to build a markII version, considering if I can get more decoupling close in....
Oh I'm now not sure that my bandpass tweeter filter is really delivering the goods as per its simulation. Connecting...
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Old

Stack-a-DAC filter module taking shape

Posted 28th April 2014 at 01:27 PM by abraxalito
Updated 29th April 2014 at 12:36 AM by abraxalito

I'm prototyping this baby which will probably be the first Ozone board to go to PCB layout. It implements the 10th order Chebyshev filter shown earlier and is intended to be mounted atop a 'hexacap' passive shunt. The DAC stack in the centre is made up of six TDA1387s. Input will be I2S and output unbalanced audio 40mV RMS.

Update - over on a thread about AD815 Eldam asked about the inductors - how many I need to buy to get the values in the schematic - so I'll talk about that a little here.

I have bought a big reel of 1k pieces of these 680uH inductors. The price was around $100 but I think I probably should have paid a little more as although the reel is marked up as TDK, they might well be fakes. I suspect that because their appearance isn't as professional as some 1mH parts I bought earlier from another seller. Added to that is the spread of values - having measured at least 100, only one has shown up as 680uH (within 10uH). The rest have varied from 800uH...
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