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Mathematics of DAC droop correction

Posted 29th June 2012 at 06:09 AM by abraxalito

Here's one of the clearest articles I've seen which explains the background and a couple of solutions to DAC roll-off.

Flatten DAC frequency response | EDN

Both the solutions proposed compromise the dynamic range. My own solution, a hybrid analog/digital approach relies on DACs being cheap - I've termed it 'LAID' which stands for 'Longitudinal Array of Inexpensive DACs'.
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Prototype MOS DAC

Posted 23rd June 2012 at 09:22 AM by abraxalito

The prototype is listenable now, but a bit too much background noise/hum pickup to do serious listening. It needs an on-board post filter and amp, which I'm working on now. In the meantime, here's the pics - the DAC itself is built of 5 'dac-sleds' each with a stack of 4 chips. The 'sleds' are then arranged around the central tower holding the resistor ladder. A separate board handles the timing logic and 18 tap delay line.
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Evolving NOS -> MOS

Posted 9th June 2012 at 08:13 AM by abraxalito

Fixing the NOS droop has the undesirable side-effect of making the imaging components worse - HF gain can't be increased up to 20kHz and then suddenly taken away above 22kHz

In the spirit of taming the near-ultrasonic emissons of a NOS DAC, I'm currently playing with an MOS design - where 'M' stands for 'minimal'. I've been wondering if the attractiveness of the NOS sound will still be preserved if I go to 2X OS in order to fix up the ultrasonics. No practical analog filter can have a sharp enough band edge so a digital one it does have to be...

A DSP implemented digital filter comes at a price - that of throwing away some bits (I'm still using only 16bit DAC chips - TDA1387) so I'm now exploring using a transversal filter (no DSP) to carry out 2X OS. The LTSpice screen grab shows the architecture I'm playing with - a 19 tap delay line feeding 19 separate DACs. The DACs are shown on the right as current sources and their individual weightings are...
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DACalito - transversal modification of DAC-AH Lite

Posted 30th April 2012 at 07:46 AM by abraxalito

Plenty of audio DIYers have discovered what an excellent modding base the DAC-AH Lite is. I'm a latecomer to the party, but better late than never here's my contribution to the art of DAC-AH-alikes.

Most of the mods I've seen focus on the output stage, some upgrade the PSUs. Here's yet another variant - change the DACs. The TDA1545 is pin compatible with the TDA1543 so I swapped out 8 TDA1543s and replaced them with 8 DAC-stacks made up of 5 TDA1545s each. 32 DACs in parallel produce the normal NOS output, the additional 8 DACs are fed from a two-stage delay line (16 74HC595s) to correct for the zero-order hold. I/V conversion is done passively and differential - 1.3ohms in each polarity. The post I/V stage is a pair of AD605s giving a true differential output. In between the two is a passive filter made up of TDK ferrite beads and NP0 capacitors.

How does it all sound? - well of course one is always biassed when describing one's own offspring, but in a word...
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Using Audacity to do NOS droop correction

Posted 29th April 2012 at 04:36 AM by abraxalito

If you have a NOS DAC (like a Metrum) and are curious to hear how it sounds with the zero-order hold corrected, here's a fairly simple way to try out my 3-tap filter using Audacity.

Load up the file you'd like to process and make two duplicates (select original and use Ctrl-D) - we'll call them A and B. We need to apply delay and gain to A and B which we do with Audacity's time-shift button (in the group of 6 tool buttons to the right of the transport buttons) and the 'Effects - Amplify' feature. A is shifted one sample to the right, and B, two samples right. I've shown how this looks with a mono chirp signal in the first image.

The gain is input into Audacity in dB so 0.15 becomes -16.5dB and 0.026 is -31.7dB. These are the gains for A and B, respectively. A needs to be inverted too - use 'Effects - Invert'. The second screen grab shows how it looks after these operations (I hid the device toolbar to give more space for waveforms).

Having processed...
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First measurement of NOS droop correction

Posted 27th April 2012 at 07:13 AM by abraxalito

Here's a ten discrete tone test waveform played back into my Sony PCM-M10 then FFT'd in Audacity with 512point FFT.

Audacity reports lower freq tones at -18.6dB and the highest (17.3kHz) at -18.9dB - a droop of 0.3dB. This might be in part my passive (LC) reconstruction filter which I have yet to characterize separately. So it appears to work
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Flattening the NOS droop

Posted 14th April 2012 at 04:13 AM by abraxalito
Updated 14th April 2012 at 04:48 AM by abraxalito

Having been a fan of NOS DACs now for something over a year I've decided it was high time for sorting out their most serious drawback - the roll off in the HF. This is an unavoidable result of using a zero-order hold function to reconstruct the original (impulse) samples. Droop exists even with oversampled DACs, its just at its most severe in NOS.

One of the most popular ways to flatten the response is to add on some kind of analog filter with a rising response (to 3.16dB @ 20kHz). A first order shelving filter can't quite cut it though so an LC tank circuit has been employed by a few. This needs to have a moderately high Q to achieve the correction.

I've played around with inductors to achieve this and haven't much liked the resulting sound. Whether this was due to the particular inductors I was using I didn't experiment. Admittedly they were very cheap ones. In general though when I've used high Q circuits in crossovers I haven't much liked the colouration...
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ARM's cutest baby now has an even less hungry sister

Posted 16th March 2012 at 03:45 AM by abraxalito

Cortex-M0+ Processor - ARM

Just 11uW/MHz at 90nm so under 1mA current draw when running at 100MHz Freescale says they'll be first to show working silicon but I bet NXP will end up shipping the real volumes.
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The end of Moore's law

Posted 26th February 2012 at 05:28 AM by abraxalito

Of late I've been enjoying snacking on this book EDAgraffiti which is a romp through various aspects of the economics of semiconductors. Recommended for those who are interested not just in the technical side of the digital revolution but also the commercial perspective too.

One comment from the book jumped out at me, which was a prediction made by Clayton Christensen a few years ago about the end of Moore's Law. He's reported as saying the following at an engineering conference organised by Cadence. Moore's Law will come to an end when the semiconductor industry tries to deliver more capability than the mainstream requires at a price which is higher than the mainstream wants to pay. 450mm wafer processing technology and EUV lithography pretty much do seem to fit the bill here.

This article on The Inquirer is saying pretty much the same thing - gaming and video transcoding have kept the push for faster PCs alive but even in those applications demand is now...
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Anyone notice parallels here with Intel?

Posted 23rd January 2012 at 01:25 AM by abraxalito
Updated 23rd January 2012 at 01:27 AM by abraxalito

Could Kodak's demise have been averted? | Technology | The Observer

My best bet for why Kodak is history comes towards the end of this relatively short piece:

More insightful analyses point to the fact that Kodak had a near-monopolistic grip on a market that was giving it a 70% margin on its products and processes, and that therefore the people who ran the film part of the business were the ones who carried most weight in corporate discussions.
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