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Old 19th June 2010, 12:43 AM   #1
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Default Digital Guru's -- Please suggest a DAC

I've spent some time reading about various DACs and am pretty overwhelmed. So many chips and interfaces, and it seems new stuff comes out every day. I am just looking for a good sounding, well-thought-out unit.

My system:
Mac Mini music server
Homebuilt SET tube amp
Fostex full range speakers
I listen to mostly acoustic folk and classical music.

My constraints are:
Budget: <$250
Must accept TOSlink and/or USB input
Must output line level (~2Vp-p)
Transformer, tube, I/V, or JFET output would be cool, but I'm not a total op-amp hater.

I enjoy some DIY, so I am not adverse to mods or chassis building, but I would like to stay away from soldering/de-soldering SMT components. Possibilities i've come across are:

Twisted Pear Buffalo
DAC TDA1543*4+WM8805 NOS USB, Optical, Coaxial input - eBay (item 220622700283 end time Jun-25-10 08:26:56 PDT)
*w/ output cap upgrade.
NEW TDA1543 NOS 8.0 DIR9001 tube 6DJ8 6922 DAC - eBay (item 140411531801 end time Jun-26-10 18:48:36 PDT)
*not sure if this one is any good?


What others do you suggest?

Thanks!
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Old 19th June 2010, 04:03 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by roundel325 View Post

What others do you suggest?
I'd suggest different speakers. Way bigger gains to be had than DACs.

Sheldon
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Old 19th June 2010, 08:17 AM   #3
qusp is offline qusp  Australia
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but he doesnt list a dac at all, surely getting a dac in a system with none has more improvement than new speakers where there is some, IMO getting new speakers will only serve to expose the flaws in the mac mini as dac
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Old 19th June 2010, 11:39 AM   #4
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Yes, I'm currently running the audio into the amp via the mini's headphone output jack and would like to see what kind of improvement I can achieve with an external DAC. Better impedance matching would also be achievable (my amp is 50k input impedance), which I think might bring sonic gains. I'd hope to steer this thread away from the advantages and disadvantages of full-range speakers. I'm happy with their for performance for the types of music I listen to.

Jared
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Old 19th June 2010, 12:12 PM   #5
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This one also looks intriguing. I think I spy a transformer output stage, but they don't mention it in the description. Looks like older versions had opamps that people liked to upgrade, but this one could be pretty well sorted out of the box.

LITE AUDIO DAC-AH, 96/24Bit HI END Mini DAC - eBay (item 390199214095 end time Jun-20-10 13:38:31 PDT)
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Old 20th June 2010, 03:37 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qusp View Post
but he doesnt list a dac at all, surely getting a dac in a system with none has more improvement than new speakers where there is some, IMO getting new speakers will only serve to expose the flaws in the mac mini as dac
Sure, but the difference between the best and worst digital source is really small compared to the range of sound quality in speakers. After messing in audio for nearly three decades, I head for the speakers first because they are the low hanging fruit.

Once you get your speaker house in order, then I used to head to the turntable because that was the next thing, but digital has wiped that out for most of us. Next, I'd head to the preamp, then the power amp and finally to the digital sources. But that's just the way I roll, not necessarily the "right" way.

Sheldon
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Old 20th June 2010, 04:00 AM   #7
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I'd suggest different speakers. Way bigger gains to be had than DACs.
Before you can even think of asking that question, you need to ask for more specifics about the speakers. It is possible to build a seriously good loudspeaker using Fostex drivers.

dave
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Old 20th June 2010, 04:10 AM   #8
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Try Creative EMU-0404 USB, some said it's async.
You may disappointed in its analog output quality, but once you supply the DAC AK4396 & crystal oscillator with a clear power( battery is the best choice), and replace the 4 coupling caps with high quality one (such as Wima MKP10 10uF), it could beat US$5000 CD player!
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Old 20th June 2010, 07:44 AM   #9
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Sheldon,

I just stumbled across your website with the writeup of your recent DAC build. That is the most elegant build I've seen. Very nice! What is the output impedance and output voltage of your design?
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Old 20th June 2010, 03:25 PM   #10
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I would suggest to look away from NOS and TDA1543 (even 8 of them in parallel)... but hey, it's your money.
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