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Old 17th July 2016, 02:46 PM   #1
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Default Soekris: Sonics? Comparisons to? & Other Stuff

Ok.

Let me try to express this properly.

It's a bit complicated and multi-faceted.

At this point I'm casting about for a new DAC.

I've been using a PCM63 based dac with a x-coupled Jfet/Mosfet buffer for years - it sounds very good. I listen via a very clean signal path, only a passive discrete"L" attenuator between it and the amp(s). Speakers can be Quad 57, Acoustat III (modified), wide range horns (~250Hz --->~14kHz) with high bass driver + BEAR Labs Quadripole subs (using Crown MacroTech 2400). Amps usually are my Symphony No.1 amp or BEAR Labs SE Mosfet amps (with the Quads mostly). Friends bring tube gear over, so I have that reference point. Easy to hear what "guest" amps, or other gear is doing... very. A rather relaxed and natural sound, not "hot", not "bright".

So, I'm looking at the Soekris 1102 thread, back when it started. Thinking, hmmm, interesting. Forgot about it. Until a few days ago. Then I realized that I had missed everything, and that there were now assembled boards for it. Also had come across the Schiit stuff, and some others that seem innovative.

I also see that Soekris is making a DAC product complete as well, same basic topology, all-in-one with a discrete output buffer (surprising).

I'm wanting to get a handle on both the sound and if it is worth the effort to DIY.

Frankly reading quite a lot of the thread(s) it seems like the Soekris DIY build is not simple and is complicated by things like thumps, outboard uproc controllers, displays, upgraded power supplies, etc, etc. That makes it a BIG project costing maybe 2-3x the board itself. That puts the hardware cost in range of some commercial DACs, before considering the time it might take to build it up.

Then, I'm thinking maybe I can slam the 1201 into a box with bare bones supply run it "naked" and see... but what will that sound like compared to the fully decked out builds?? How much difference? Any?

And sonics, what's the diff between V1,2 and now V4??
Does V4 not need the muting circuit??

But then too, I have no way that I know of to get an audition with the commercial DACs either. Or the Soekris for that matter!

The other thing that I think I noticed is that the absolute values of the specs and the look of the FFTs are not utterly spectacular at all?? Seems to me that I recall seeing an order of magnitude lower THD values from previous generation chip DACs?? Am I imagining this?

So, I am hoping for a discussion regarding all of these factors. Especially, IF you're running a Soekris DAC, I'd really appreciate hearing your sonic impressions - hopefully in the context of your system, listening preferences/experiences, and possibly comparisons with other units.

Anyone have a built up unit they might wish to sell or ship for an audition?
(I'm in upstate NY, just in case you are not that far away (NYC <---> Boston)

Looking forward to hearing more...


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Old 17th July 2016, 11:32 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bear View Post
Ok.

Frankly reading quite a lot of the thread(s) it seems like the Soekris DIY build is not simple and is complicated by things like thumps, outboard uproc controllers, displays, upgraded power supplies, etc, etc. That makes it a BIG project costing maybe 2-3x the board itself.
_-_-
Not sure it's likely to cost that much. Most of the major modding was done on v1 boards and incorporated into v2 and 3. I run v3 stock minus the opamps and it sounds fantastic. I don't recall much talk of upgraded power supplies being necessary, unless you get into battery-powered mods. Maybe you mean increased capacitance - but that has been addressed in the newer versions.

You just need a basic DC power supply, parts for input choice (caps, connectors and resistors, etc are cheap), and optional volume pot.

Most complicated part IMO is the upgrading firmware/filters. Thank goodness randy has such great directions.


As for the sound of the soekris, I would describe it as refined, relaxed, open and natural in its presentation. It REALLY needs warm up time, so best to keep it powered. I have a 2.1 channel setup with diy MTMs and Wiener TPA amp. I've been playing with sources and have heard the soekris via usb to spdif, an sd card player, and now a RedNet 3 (ethernet).
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Old 18th July 2016, 01:41 AM   #3
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subscribing.
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Old 18th July 2016, 02:03 AM   #4
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I'm curious to know more about your current PCM63-based DAC. For example is it being used NOS or in conjunction with a digital filter? Is there passive or active I/V?

I have yet to see any technical justification for why a discrete R2R DAC should beat an IC. IC DAC designers are in general far more knowledgeable about their art than the designers of the discrete DACs, who tend to rely, at least in part on appeals to use of boutique components (Vishay resistors in the case of the TotalDac). Resistor matching would seem to be much better when all the resistors are co-located (as on a die).
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Old 18th July 2016, 02:22 AM   #5
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sure, it's old school, with the standard PCM-63 and the Burr Brown filter chip that was supplied at the time, going to an I/V opamp converter then to that discrete buffer. Crystal 8414 (?) input receiver.

I'm in agreement that the laser trimmed resistors on a chip are doubtless almost perfect. But I think the justification for the R-2R in the Soekris design - from what I have gathered trying to read through some of the threads - is in terms of the 28bits of depth and the flexibility of being able to download various filters in firmware. Oh, and the ability to accept a variety of input types and formats...

There are other designs that use exotic AD chips (which one was that??) two of them with some sort of "glue" to make them extend to the extra bit depth...

Regardless, personally I only care about the resulting sound.
And here, part of my reservations come because there are multiple "mods" that allegedly "improve" the sound. A double edged sword. On one hand, IF the stock unit is on par with or maybe better in some areas and not in others with my old PCM63 dac, THEN I'm interested a whole lot more than if the stock unit is less good to my ears, and then I have to try to do "stuff" to bring it up, and hopefully beyond my old DAC.

But where does it stack up compared to current commercial DAC offerings - keeping in mind that I've not been impressed in the past by almost all commercial DAC offerings. In that I would tired quickly of their "sound".

I am guessing that NOS is best with "hi-res" source, maybe the highest res??

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Old 18th July 2016, 02:32 AM   #6
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There are areas of weakness that you can address - deleting the BB filter chip and the opamp-as-I/V which will enhance your listening experience, based on my own experience with DACs over the past few years.

Audio-gd has recently released a 'NOS' version of its multibit DACs which is getting subjective praise over on Head-Fi. The chips used are close cousins (PCM1704 or 1702, not exactly sure) of your PCM63. Indeed Mike Moffat of Schitt I understand considers PCM63 to be the pinnacle of the multibits, subjectively. So I for one wouldn't ditch the '63 in favour of a discrete R2R until I'd been convinced it would be superior.
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Old 18th July 2016, 02:35 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by abraxalito View Post
I have yet to see any technical justification for why a discrete R2R DAC should beat an IC. IC DAC designers are in general far more knowledgeable about their art than the designers of the discrete DACs, who tend to rely, at least in part on appeals to use of boutique components (Vishay resistors in the case of the TotalDac). Resistor matching would seem to be much better when all the resistors are co-located (as on a die).
I agreed on that, unfortunately I don't have chip making equipment and a laser trimmer, and all that do have discontinued making those R-2R DAC chips as they're not cost effective anymore at the low quantities nowadays....
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Old 18th July 2016, 02:36 AM   #8
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Ok.

Let me try to express this properly.

It's a bit complicated and multi-faceted.

At this point I'm casting about for a new DAC . . .
Randy,
Great topic that is well aligned with things I've been thinking about lately. Over the years, I've built lots of DACs - TDA1541a non-oversampling, ES9018 based on the Buffalo III kit, inexpensive ES9023 (Subbu/JP based), and an old PCM63 DAC with asynch sample rate converter, NPC5842 digital filter, AD797 IV, and JFET/MOSFET discrete output buffer. Surprisingly, for redbook, nothing beats the PCM63 DAC. So I'm wondering if any of the newer DACs out there can knock the PCM63 off of its perch. I'll be watching this thread with great interest.
---Gary
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Old 18th July 2016, 02:39 AM   #9
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Quote:
I agreed on that, unfortunately I don't have chip making equipment and a laser trimmer, and all that do have discontinued making those R-2R DAC chips as they're not cost effective anymore at the low quantities nowadays....
Understood. For DIYers and lowish-volume manufacturers there do seem to be ample quantities of discontinued DAC parts around on the secondary markets.
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Old 18th July 2016, 12:33 PM   #10
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As long as Søren is looking on, may I ask a few questions?

Briefly, in terms of the practical changes what has changed V1 --> V4?
Or another way, why would one want a V4 if one had a V2?
Are there "mods" to the circuit that were suggested that became incorporated, that if one had the earlier version one would likely want to do?
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