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jnxw2 23rd May 2003 11:20 PM

Simple, good quality DAC

I would really like to upgrade my CD player with an external DAC, however I fear that my electronics skills would not be up to anything more sophisticated than building a power supply... Are there any good sounding evaluation boards out there? I did a search and found the Analog Devices AD1853 board, does anybody know if it sounds any good? And finally do you reckon there would be a noticable improvement in sound quality? (I have a $400 Marantz CD player)

Any input is greatly appreciated



Peter Daniel 24th May 2003 12:40 AM

Which Marantz player you have. I found that the best upgrade is adding internal DAC (or modifying the existing one) by omitting digital filtering and connecting a DAC directly from decoder chip with I2S interface (3 wires). As a DAC I would recommend either TDA1543 (only 5 parts really needed) or TDA1541, which I think might be more sofisticated in sound, but I'm not sure yet. Here's the schematic and earlier in the same thread a picture of TDA1543 DAC:

tschrama 24th May 2003 09:50 AM


Both Crystal and BurrBrown (now Texas Instruments) sell evaluation boards. When I started out in this hobby I bought a Crystal CS4397 DAC evaluation board because it was so complete: regulated power supply, receiver, DAC, analog stage with top quality replaceble opamps, connection for outboard filter, receiver or clock. Well that baby get me going on since then, it is still my reference DAC. Expensive : yes 400$, BuurBrown will also be expensive.

But a Marantz may allready outperform it, so it won't be an upgrade. A simple Non OverSampling (digital-filter-less) DAC migth be something fresh, new and different. Both the TDA1541 and TDA1543 can be made to work relative cheaply and a lot of people here have experience with those chips.


jnxw2 24th May 2003 11:18 AM

Thanks for the info, I have the Marantz CD6000OSE. I think that adding an internal DAC is way above my capabilities unfortunatly. The Cirrus and TI eval boards look really good although a bit pricy...

Do you know if they sell them to individuals? Where would I be able to buy one?



rfbrw 24th May 2003 01:37 PM

For the Cirrus CDB4396/4397/43122 evaluation boards try
And for TI do the PCM1704 evaluation board, the DEM-DAI1704, for 494.93 +vat


PMiczek 24th May 2003 05:49 PM

Cirrus/Crystal evaluation boards

Cirrus/Crystal has a lot of information about their evaluation boards on their web site, and there is a locator for distributors in different countries. For the UK,

In the US, Newark Electronics lists most Crystal EVB's as 21-day leadtime. The CDB4396 board is US $150, not sure if that is too pricey for you or not, but my guess is you would spend more than that building one. The CDB43122 is $400.

The supply for the CDB4396 is based on a simple wallwart with AC output, rectified on the board, which looks a bit thin to me (personal opinion only), so if you plan to use it as a DAC with other good audio gear you might consider another option for power. I think this board has provisions for an external +/- supply.

Crystal chips are used in outboard DACs made by MSB,

and for example in a high-end ($6K+) CD/SACD player from Tri-Vista which got a pretty good review in the May 2003 issue of Stereophile. So, I think you would get a pretty good deal starting with a EVB for $150, a box, and a few connectors... :)


rfbrw 24th May 2003 06:46 PM

One more evb to consider. The Wolfson WM8740EV1 for the
WM8740 dac at $199 from but it seems the board is available from at the marginally cheaper price of $185/113.


jnxw2 24th May 2003 10:43 PM

ahhhh thats better, i was getting a bit worried there as i really didnt want to spend 500 on a DAC...

Thanks for all the info, ill check out the sites


mb 26th May 2003 01:12 AM

I was just invited to bring my Channel Islands VDA-1 dac to test on a Marantz 6000SE-KI. The owner wanted to verify if there would be 'subtantial' improvement with the dac. The answer was an emphatic yes. He also tested a Sony player and an Audio Alchemy dac, and the CI was the only item that sounded quite clearly better in soundstage depth, clarity, bass quality and speed.

The CI was not stock, but has the sonic signature of the stock unit, plus perhaps more control and better extreme top end. The mods were not out of the ordinary - diodes + caps. Some tuning by ear (not all mods were synergistic). You might consider this as an alternative to DIY starting from an eval board. Something like the CI is *much* better tuned to begin with than an eval board -- class-A opamp bias, Dale resistor and film caps where it counts, nice case and cosmetics.

miguel2 26th May 2003 01:27 PM

How can we recognize the I2S wires?

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