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New year, new DAC

Posted 31st December 2014 at 08:36 AM by abraxalito
Updated 3rd August 2015 at 01:50 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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Design ideas for Aune M1 DAC card

Posted 15th November 2014 at 03:51 AM by abraxalito
Updated 19th November 2014 at 06:43 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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New .wav player from Aune looks very interesting

Posted 11th November 2014 at 02:26 AM by abraxalito
Updated 15th November 2014 at 10:27 AM by abraxalito

Thanks to jambul for alerting me to this one - 赵宇为作品 - Aune M1 便携式播放器测评报告 [Soomal·数码多] (link is in Chinese but its mainly for the pics).

Notice that although its using the PCM1793 chip the D/A and analog circuits are all on a daughter board. This gives rise to the possibility of engineering a daughter board with a much better DAC chip (think TDA1387) and improved head-amp...

Street price here is around 800rmb (80, $130) so I shall be ordering one to have a play.

Update - looks like I'm rather slow to catch on, Taobao already has somebody's alternative DAC-AMP card, which appears to be selling fairly well, here :

I've now placed the order for the M1, hopefully it'll arrive tomorrow and then I'll follow Dave (EEVBlog)'s advice : 'don't turn it on, take it apart'. The main question I want an answer to is how...
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At last, NXP has a low-end, low-power Cortex M4

Posted 8th November 2014 at 02:46 AM by abraxalito
Updated 8th November 2014 at 03:00 AM by abraxalito

NXP's ARM offerings I find to be the most power efficient and I've searched for a long time for a current-sipping M4 which is available in a lowish pin count package. Up until now the best offering in that realm has been STM's F411 with 13mA @ 100MHz. NXP's latest offering the LPC54100 beats that by a healthy margin, turning in a sub-10mA draw at the same clock rate. There's also a dual-core variant with a 100MHz M0+ with around half the current requirement. Respect - the fly in the ointment though is only 2 SPI peripherals which don't support TI mode. Pricing looks great at $2/10k.
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Aiming for maximum isolation

Posted 2nd November 2014 at 03:42 AM by abraxalito

Getting isolation from the mains supply is an on-going challenge for me. Here's my latest stab at getting as close to a battery as I can currently manage - a ferrite line-output trafo soon to be pressed into service as a low-capacitance isolation transformer.

The back story is that I'd heard that split bobbin trafos were the way to go for the best isolation from the mains. Having just acquired some for chipamp-drive unit interfacing I was curious to check out their credentials. I measured around 20pF interwinding capacitance which is about the lowest of any mains trafo I've checked. Of that it seems that the majority of the capacitance is directly between the windings, a smaller amount is due to coupling via the steel core (which of course is conductive). So then I figured that even if the windings could be moved infinitely far apart the steel core would be the limiting factor in reducing the capacitance.

Air core trafos are a possibility but then they're hopeless...
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My latest infatuation - transformers

Posted 25th October 2014 at 09:11 AM by abraxalito
Updated 6th November 2014 at 11:51 PM by abraxalito

I've found that some of the el-cheapo trafos (18rmb each) at a shop at the local electronics market are of split bobbin construction. This makes bodging up an audio OPT from two mains trafos a fairly straightforward matter.

I bought some with 9-0-9V and others with 0-12V secondaries. Then I disassembled them (fortunately they're not varnish dipped) and swapped out the 220V primary bobbin for the secondary of the other one. This gives me a trafo with 18V on the primary and 12V on the secondary, a step down of 1.5:1, impedance ratio of 2.25:1. So it makes a 4R drive unit appear as 9ohms to the chipamp.

And when I applied this to the output of the bass/mid of my chipamp (residing in the Phenix active speakers, its a TDA7265), apart from it sounding quieter I suddenly realized how much power supply noise I was still listening to. Incredible

So if you want to know if your chipamp PSU decoupling is really up to snuff, see how much difference a 1.5:1...
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Taobao has a TDA1387 DAC (apparently)

Posted 23rd October 2014 at 03:33 AM by abraxalito
Updated 15th January 2015 at 02:19 AM by abraxalito

Its rather difficult to work out whether there's a line-level output here or if the phono sockets are inputs to the LM1875 amps. The TDA1387 is a plug-in module for the USB-input DAC section which might feed only the amps. Anyone who's good at reading Chinese, please contribute in the comments

Update - seems one particular vendor has quite a range of TDA1387 DACs now, all very affordable. The cheapest is this one (48rmb kit, 88rmb built in my limited understanding) - 09.2083.i41769520252&id=41937738376&pvid=402c7a10-8221-4bca-82c0-99c1c511877f.
This one has 8 chips, I guess its a tribute DAC to the DAC-AH -
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New active speaker on order from Taobao

Posted 26th September 2014 at 03:49 AM by abraxalito
Updated 6th October 2014 at 03:44 AM by abraxalito

This one has dual TDA7265 chipamps and a nice 60VA toroidal trafo which should give better regulation than the normal EI type. Four electrolytics for the main PSU is encouraging. The opamps are socketed so opamp rolling is on the cards...

Update - received the speakers now. A quick listen showed the typical lack of dynamics opamp sound. After all they're only NJM4558s in there. So I shall re-jig the XO for TL082s by scaling up all the impedances and biassing the opamps into classA. Already all the through-hole caps have come out ready to be replaced by SMT types. The topology tends to suggest this may well be a clone of the D1010 which I'm already familiar with.

Update2 - modded the XO board but so far left the amp board 'as stock'. Mods are 11k resistors to VEE for classA bias, opamps swapped to TL082s, TL431 shunts installed to give +/-5V (from the regulated +/- 12V), plenty of 3,300uF caps across the supplies, 220uH inductors filtering from the shunts, impedances...
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Revisiting active speakers - HiVi D1010

Posted 21st September 2014 at 01:07 AM by abraxalito
Updated 24th September 2014 at 03:51 AM by abraxalito

Back in 2010 I spent many hours tweaking the D1080s with very satisfying results. However now with my Ozone variant DACs I have a far more transparent source than I did then and would like some demo kit which does the DAC justice whilst being fairly compact, portable and not too complex to mod. In 2011 a new smaller and even cheaper model arrived - the D1010 which has undergone some very minor modifications and is now in its mark IV incarnation. Like its older and bigger brother, its also a true active - it uses LM1875 clone ICs for the 100mm bass/mid and a tiny IC amp with a clip-on heatsink powered from a separately regulated supply for the 20mm tweeter. A fairly decent foundation for some extensive hot rodding.

On first connecting a pair of these up to the original portable Ozone (that's the one in the tea canister) I was impressed by the LF soundstage bloom that was reproduced but less than overwhelmed by what happened to the HF. Ragged would be a fair approximation, rather...
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I found some more suitable EDLCs

Posted 25th August 2014 at 07:09 AM by abraxalito
Updated 26th August 2014 at 08:52 AM by abraxalito

Many hours can be whiled away trawling through stuff on Taobao - most recently I've been browsing the selection of electrical double layer caps (aka EDLCs, supercaps).

I looked at supercaps many years ago when they first showed up in the Farnell catalogue, initially they were designed for back-up memory purposes and always had very high ESRs so weren't much good for power supplies where any kind of current is needed. That seems to have changed and now the caps are finding their way into all kinds of energy storage applications where high pulse currents are required. ESRs have dropped to where they're attractive for audio applications which call for a really stiff power supply down to low frequencies.

The current crop (in the pic) are made by Samwha (a Korean firm) and are really nice and affordable here - 4.5rmb a piece (about $0.70). That's for a 2.7V 100F size which comes in a 22mm diameter can, 45mm tall. A 7cap hexacap packs about the same energy and roughly...
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