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Old 9th July 2013, 10:39 PM   #1
get-lit is offline get-lit  United States
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Default Affordable I2S DACs?

I'm looking to change up the audio chain in my 8 channel home theater to something like this...

Click the image to open in full size.

The CV-505 would extract the audio from the HDMI. I would tap into its I2S lines and connect them to the miniSHARC DSP to control the in-room response and volume. Connected next via I2S would be the DACs, eight of them, each located at the speaker with Hypex nCore NC400 amps (EP4000 for sub).

The problem is, it's difficult to find affordable DACs that can connect via I2S, so I thought I'd give this forum a shot. I'm looking for affordable DACs having >=120dB SNR and <=.001% THD, otherwise I'd just stick with my Xonar/HTPC solution.
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Old 9th July 2013, 11:23 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by get-lit View Post
I'm looking to change up the audio chain in my 8 channel home theater to something like this...

Click the image to open in full size.

The CV-505 would extract the audio from the HDMI. I would tap into its I2S lines and connect them to the miniSHARC DSP to control the in-room response and volume. Connected next via I2S would be the DACs, eight of them, each located at the speaker with Hypex nCore NC400 amps (EP4000 for sub).

The problem is, it's difficult to find affordable DACs that can connect via I2S, so I thought I'd give this forum a shot. I'm looking for affordable DACs having >=120dB SNR and <=.001% THD, otherwise I'd just stick with my Xonar/HTPC solution.
I don't want to be the fun police but I've got some bad news.

Two problems I can see up front that I think should be addressed first:

1. Tapping lines for i2s is a Very Bad IdeaTM IMHO
2. Reading a DAC chip datasheet specs as would be commonly seen on computer soundcards and cheap DACs gives very little indication of their actual performance in circuit.

Additionally, 'affordable' is subjective. It'd be best to define it more accurately in terms of your project budget if you want anyone to try. I expect 'affordable' to mean cheap as possible ... in which case the analogue and PSU stages of the DAC you chose will limit the DAC chip from meeting your specs.
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Old 10th July 2013, 04:11 PM   #3
get-lit is offline get-lit  United States
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Thank you for the response. I'll look around for another method for 8channel HDMI->I2S. I'll give the CV-505 a shot if I don't come up with anything. Others have done this with the CV-505 a few years back and I have one on hand.

The Asus Xonar Essence XT measures better than it's advertised specs. In 24/192 mode it has a flat response, noise around -150dB, dynamic range around 150 dB, THD+Noise around 145dB in the mids/highs, and they can be upgraded from there. The card's documentation shows a simple process to confirm the specs, by doing sweeps while looping the output into the input. Here's some measurements. This sounds better than a NAD M15 receiver I tried which is why I don't just go that route, and even $8k receivers don't spec nearly this well. The Xonar card combo is around $300, so I was hoping to be able to get the same 8 channels of comparable SQ from dedicated I2S DACs for around a grand total, give or take, with some sort of DIY project here. They don't really need to be mono blocks as in the diagram.

EDIT: There are several affordable DACs I've seen here but no specs...

Last edited by get-lit; 10th July 2013 at 04:14 PM.
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Old 10th July 2013, 05:07 PM   #4
azimut is offline azimut  Italy
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DAC-24192-ULN, 24Bit/192KHz DAC, I2S Input, Ultra Low Noise Regulator Circuit
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Old 13th July 2013, 08:05 PM   #5
get-lit is offline get-lit  United States
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Thanks azimut. Those units seem to spec much lower but I know that's not always reflective of how the sound actually compares.

I've been reading up to try and narrow down the list and I've become quite interested in the Buffalo III. Any idea how the DAC-24192-ULN would compare to the Buffalo III?
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Old 13th July 2013, 08:52 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by get-lit View Post
Thanks azimut. Those units seem to spec much lower but I know that's not always reflective of how the sound actually compares.

I've been reading up to try and narrow down the list and I've become quite interested in the Buffalo III. Any idea how the DAC-24192-ULN would compare to the Buffalo III?
The DAC-24192-ULN and the Buffalo III are in to totally different worlds.
The DAC-24192-ULN is an entry level, lew end DAC and the Buffalo III is
a top level DAC. There is really no basis for comparison.
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Old 14th July 2013, 03:49 PM   #7
get-lit is offline get-lit  United States
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Thanks Avro for the clarification. From what I gather, the Xonar Essence XT is at the same level as mid level external DACs. My speakers and the nCore NC400 amps are very revealing of the source and DACs would be the last upgrade for me, so I'll have to save up for something like the Buffalo.
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Old 14th July 2013, 06:59 PM   #8
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Thanks Avro for the clarification. From what I gather, the Xonar Essence XT is at the same level as mid level external DACs. My speakers and the nCore NC400 amps are very revealing of the source and DACs would be the last upgrade for me, so I'll have to save up for something like the Buffalo.
Don't forget the buffalo requires and external I/V. There are many solutions, but the NTD1 is considered by many to have best sound quality.
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Old 15th July 2013, 12:35 AM   #9
get-lit is offline get-lit  United States
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I can't seem to find any info about the NTD1 nor where to acquire them. Just see something about them maybe being made by OPC. Can you point me in the right direction?
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Old 15th July 2013, 12:59 AM   #10
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