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Old 6th February 2007, 03:41 AM   #1
sbrtoy is offline sbrtoy  United States
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Default USB interface NOS DAC??

Have just gotten bitten by the DIY bug after building some gainclones and would like to build a NOS DAC with a USB input. I have checked out several threads on this but all seem either to lack some component or sound quality, or as in the case of Peter Daniel's DAC a USB input. (built some of Peter's gainclone kits and the quality was first rate)

Please don't try to convince me not to build a USB DAC, I am fully into hard drive based audio, have some other usb/pc gear already so this is for a second system. (Have Modded Squeezebox into modded Benchmark, am demoing Empirical offramp turbo as well).

Could anyone provide some reference to one they have actually built and what they feel the sound quality and parts quality are like? Also if it has the option of balanced outs that is a plus, not too worried about cost but don't want a money pit either, let's say $200 limit for parts not including enclosure as a max.

Thanks in advance for all of your help!
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Old 6th February 2007, 04:26 AM   #2
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Here... Ill give you where i am on this.

http://www.audiodiylab.com/shop/prod...products_id=45
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazin...logy_chime.htm
http://www.myexposition.com/diy/usbdac/overview.html
http://www.ecp.cc/HPDAC.html

I found two things that have stuck out at me.
1. the best gear uses transformers to decouple the ouput from the DAC
2. I can't seem to find a USB DAC chip that does 24-bit.

For me 24-bit is important - it lets you play SACD DVDCD audio, as well as audio recorded above 24-bit without downsampling to 16-bit. Most people wont care about this at all, but I have some personal recording done at 24-bit so I do.

If all you want is a USB powered 16-bit dac then it's easy as pie... look above. If you want a 24-bit version it's a little harder.

Milo
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Old 6th February 2007, 05:19 AM   #3
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In addition to my HPDAC (linked above) I did this one too: Tda1541a Nos-usb-dac and this one: http://www.ecp.cc/NOS-USB-DAC.html

You should also look at Scott Nixon's boards if you don't want to design your own.

If you stick to the I2S input chips (TDA1543 and TDA1541A) it is really easy. If you want to use something else (TDA1545, AD1865) it is a bit more work.

A final option is a usb to spdif board. The advantage there is that you can use a transformer to couple the spdif signal which is a great way to eliminate computer noise. Check out Hagtech's board http://www.hagtech.com/hagusb.html
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Old 6th February 2007, 05:59 AM   #4
dddac is offline dddac  Germany
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You can have a look at my site as well. complete descriptions and downloadable circuits for DIY dacs (including USB -> TDA1543)

my site

have fun,
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Old 6th February 2007, 02:07 PM   #5
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I've got the AW-D3 usb dac kit from Audioworkshop.com. Reasonable price and decent quality parts. Gives the option of 2 dacs, a Burr Brown which can be used as a headphone amp and a TDA 1543 nos. To me the Burr Brown just has the edge on my M-Audio 'Audiophile' soundcard. Detail is very good. Noisy if you use the 5v from the PCs usb though. No noise problem if running from a laptop on battery. I power the nos dac from the same PC psu that powers my modded T-Amp. Did try cutting the usb 5v line and using external power but it wouldn't play.

The nos dac has a pleasant analogue type of sound but is less detailed than the Burr Brown. Some rock recordings sound better on the Burr Brown. I did an ABC blind test with some friends using Nina Simones' version of 'I put a spell on you'. 2nd up was the Burr Brown and they preferred it to my M-Audio soundcard. As the intro was playing on the nos dac they said the Burr Brown was better but when she started singing they changed their minds.

Many usb dacs use the PCM2706 family of chips and there are a few posts here reporting troubles with it freezing when mains appliances switch on and off. It's been driving me crazy, I now turn the fridge off before starting a movie.

Like you I'm into PC audio. Maggie, Charlize and Monica arrived today from DiyParadise along with Yeos' usb controller. It uses a PCM chip so I might have the same freezing problem. Am using Maggie (transformer volume control) right now and the AW-D3 still freezes.

It evens freezes with a laptop running on battery if the laptop is close to my desktop Dell. I shut down the Dell, no joy. Pulled the mains plug from the Dell and then the dac running from the laptop on battery was solid, no freezing at all.

I don't want to use a battery powered laptop as an audio server so am going to have a go at fixing the freezing problem. Hopefully Yeos' usb controller will give me less problems.
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Old 7th February 2007, 02:06 AM   #6
sbrtoy is offline sbrtoy  United States
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Default Thanks

Thanks for the feedback, lots of ideas here in your posts. I do agree that finding 24bit designs seems out of reach, but this is not so much a priority to me.

I have looked at the Hagerman kits before but too much $$ for this project, want to keep under $200USD for parts not including chassis. The DDDAC looks very interesting but is a bit more than my budget will allow for the project as well.

I am particularly interested in the DDDAC and the Audio DIY labs kits as they seem pretty simple and do what I need of them. I noticed that the Audio DIY Labs kit used Dayton capacitors, not sure of whether in their use they are very critical, but I know these performed just so-so when used in speaker building so wasn't sure if these would be something to upgrade or not, or perhaps just buy the board and populate with better parts??

Any comments specific to this design?
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Old 7th February 2007, 02:40 AM   #7
sbrtoy is offline sbrtoy  United States
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Default Power

oh, also many have recommended battery power to get away from the noisy computer power supply. The Nixon dac seems to have USB power only and no separate battery supply, but the website is not very clear. Any others that have a battery supply and preferrably balanced outs?
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Old 8th February 2007, 01:12 PM   #8
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I'm happy to report that the usb converter from diyparadise hasn't frozen on me. The acid test was using a mains voltage controller I got from Maplins. When used to lower the output of a 400w heating element I never got more than 20 seconds before my AW-D3 froze. Yeos' converter was solid with the mains controller running for almost an hour. Been up all night listening and listening. Bliss.

Monica2 sounds real good even though the Blackgate N caps are said to need 50+ hours of burn in.
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Old 18th March 2007, 09:12 AM   #9
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Actually, looking at the usbdk board on the website (and reading the description) it looks like the usbdk takes a 12v DC supply, rather than USB powered.
I'm hoping to shove one of these in a box along with T-amp of some kind, all from a 12v supply
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Old 18th March 2007, 10:38 AM   #10
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I'm looking at the Scott Nixon usbdk instead of the Monica2 because I read that the Monica has an insufficient output for the T-amps. Is this to do with the TDA1545, or the specific design? ie, does the Scott Nixon usbdk have the same problem?
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