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Old 20th January 2013, 09:38 AM   #1
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Default About tube DACs?

I'm interested on building a DIY tube DAC, and I would like to hear some experiences and comments on best possible balanced tube DAC kits.

I have owned balanced MHDT Havana previously, and I thought that it was a good DAC for the price. On my opinion, it's strength were quite smooth, relaxing and analog sound, but it also lacked a bit on resolution and dynamics compared to high end commercial DAC's such as EAR DACute. Acoustic music sounded great, pop/rock etc. not so much.

What I'm looking for is a tube DAC kit that would sound quality wise be a clear step up from MHDT, but wouldn't cost quite as much as those high end commercial tube dacs.

So, are there any good balanced tube DAC kits that would match my requirements?
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Old 20th January 2013, 10:58 AM   #2
Julf is offline Julf  Europe
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As the only part in a "tube DAC" that actually uses tubes is the final audio amp stage, I suggest combining a fully solid state DAC with a valve pre-amp - DAC technology is still evolving rapidly, so you might want to replace your DAc in a a couple of years, but amps (especially tube amps) have not changed much in the last 30 years...
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Old 20th January 2013, 12:12 PM   #3
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Thanks for your suggestion Julf, but that's not an option for me. I'm going to use fully digital "pre-amp" + processor with digital volume control, so DAC will be connected directly to the power amp. Hypex NCore is one interesting option for a power amp.
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Old 20th January 2013, 06:59 PM   #4
Loren42 is offline Loren42  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlliumPorrum View Post
Thanks for your suggestion Julf, but that's not an option for me. I'm going to use fully digital "pre-amp" + processor with digital volume control, so DAC will be connected directly to the power amp. Hypex NCore is one interesting option for a power amp.
So, what is the point of the project? Are you trying to add some sort of coloration (a.k.a. distortion) to the signal chain?
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Old 20th January 2013, 07:08 PM   #5
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No, Im trying to get best possible sound for "reasonable" price. And pretty much all the best DAC's that I have heard have been using tubes.

So basically, the answer to your question is: I'm trying to minize transistor based coloration & distortion from the signal chain, since it seems to be worst kind of coloration for me.
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Old 20th January 2013, 07:25 PM   #6
Loren42 is offline Loren42  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlliumPorrum View Post
No, Im trying to get best possible sound for "reasonable" price. And pretty much all the best DAC's that I have heard have been using tubes.

So basically, the answer to your question is: I'm trying to minize transistor based coloration & distortion from the signal chain, since it seems to be worst kind of coloration for me.
Just my opinion, but the least coloration in the chain would probably be a well designed solid state system.

I think that tubes can be right up there, too, but require more engineering to get the same level of performance. That same "level" is simply inaudible amounts of distortion.

That being said, the real advantage of tubes is going to be in the power amp. Tube power amps act more like a current drive amp. Solid state is a voltage drive.

The difference between the two is really in the speaker and its impedance curve. No speaker has a flat curve, so with a solid state amp operating at the speaker's resonance it delivers less power as the speaker impedance rises.

Tube amps do the opposite; as the impedance goes up, the power does as well.

What this translates to is more bass and high end treble with a tube amp versus a solid state amp for the same given input signal.

All this assumes that both the tube amp and the solid state amp are of equally good quality.

Back to the original point, I would just be more focused on finding the best DAC I could afford and not worry about topography.
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Old 20th January 2013, 07:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loren42 View Post
That being said, the real advantage of tubes is going to be in the power amp. Tube power amps act more like a current drive amp. Solid state is a voltage drive.

The difference between the two is really in the speaker and its impedance curve. No speaker has a flat curve, so with a solid state amp operating at the speaker's resonance it delivers less power as the speaker impedance rises.

Tube amps do the opposite; as the impedance goes up, the power does as well.
You can do this with solid state too, and keep your tiny THD, good frequency response without dropping 10 grand in output transformers, and all the other benefits solid state offers like cost and efficiency. That said, you'll be whacking up the damping factor either way if you go current drive.
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Old 20th January 2013, 07:36 PM   #8
Loren42 is offline Loren42  United States
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Originally Posted by Marine Boat View Post
You can do this with solid state too, and keep your tiny THD, good frequency response without dropping 10 grand in output transformers, and all the other benefits solid state offers like cost and efficiency. That said, you'll be whacking up the damping factor either way if you go current drive.
Good point.
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Old 20th January 2013, 07:44 PM   #9
cotdt is offline cotdt  United States
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I don't think there has ever been a discrete tube dac. It would take a good number of tubes to do all that digital processing, but it is doable.
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Old 20th January 2013, 07:53 PM   #10
jrenkin is offline jrenkin  United States
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Originally Posted by cotdt View Post
I don't think there has ever been a discrete tube dac. It would take a good number of tubes to do all that digital processing, but it is doable.
"Doable" or "theoretically possible"?
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