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Old 22nd February 2013, 07:47 PM   #1
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Default DIY amp/DAC with better measurements than O2/ODAC?

Question is quite simple... I am trying to get more information about available amplifiers and DACs and as a very happy desktop O2/ODAC combo owner I am curious if there are any other great-measuring amplifiers and DACs available on the DIY scene. They must be neutral and technically excellent (more than O2 and ODAC), of course!

Benchmark DAC2 HGC looks exciting but the price is high, especially in Europe...

Thanks for any information!
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Old 22nd February 2013, 08:18 PM   #2
opc is offline opc  Canada
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Hi MHOE,

As a shameless self plug, you could take a look at the headphone amps I offered under the "The Wire" moniker.

They are similar to the O2 in that they were designed from a very technical/objective perspective, but unlike the O2, they are a cost-no-object based design. That's not to say that they are very expensive, just that performance always came first in the design.

They do measure significantly better than the O2 headphone amp, and measurements are included in the thread. They also deliver significantly more output power and better drive into low impedance loads.

I've got an ES9012 based DAC in the works that will also measure quite a bit better than the ODAC, but it's probably another few months off.

Regards,
Owen
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Old 22nd February 2013, 08:25 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by opc View Post
Hi MHOE,

As a shameless self plug, you could take a look at the headphone amps I offered under the "The Wire" moniker.

They are similar to the O2 in that they were designed from a very technical/objective perspective, but unlike the O2, they are a cost-no-object based design. That's not to say that they are very expensive, just that performance always came first in the design.

They do measure significantly better than the O2 headphone amp, and measurements are included in the thread. They also deliver significantly more output power and better drive into low impedance loads.

I've got an ES9012 based DAC in the works that will also measure quite a bit better than the ODAC, but it's probably another few months off.

Regards,
Owen
Thank you very much for your recommendation, Owen! Are you planning to release your work as a single amp/DAC combo unit? And do you have a rough estimate about its price?
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Old 22nd February 2013, 08:52 PM   #4
jcx is offline jcx  United States
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the O2 design explicitly adopts a "good enough fo audio" at a low price philosophy - not intended as a exercise in pushing specs to technology limits

likewise Vout DAC chips are "good enough" by his criteriea but most flagship monolithic audio DAC chips are Iout - and I/V conversion keeps analog circuit designers and tweakers happy with more scope for external circuit design arguments
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Old 25th February 2013, 11:04 PM   #5
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Do like the Benchmark units, but at £1000+ they are a touch expensive... More than happy with the sound of the ODAC, especially feed into one of opc's The Wire se-se. The O2 sounded not to far off The Wire, then I figured out I'd messed up the input side of The Wire. That small difference just opened up to Gand Canyon size proportions once sorted.

@ Owen. Is the DAC your working on to be a commercial/pre-built offering, or possible another addition to "The Wire" stable?
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Old 26th February 2013, 02:07 AM   #6
opc is offline opc  Canada
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Originally Posted by MHOE View Post
Thank you very much for your recommendation, Owen! Are you planning to release your work as a single amp/DAC combo unit? And do you have a rough estimate about its price?
It will most likely be two separate units... one headphone amp and one DAC.

There's just too much variability on the headphone side to keep everyone happy with an integrated unit. Some want fully balanced output and input, some want SE, some need more power for planars, and some prefer lower noise and much less power for IEMs. Some want to use the head amp for vinyl or other analog sources.

The cost is also still a little up in the air at the moment. The original version of "The Wire" could be built for a little less than $80 and I will probably keep that option open (selling bare PCB's) but a fully assembled, tested, cased and "tweaked" unit in a case will likely be a few hundred.

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the O2 design explicitly adopts a "good enough fo audio" at a low price philosophy - not intended as a exercise in pushing specs to technology limits

likewise Vout DAC chips are "good enough" by his criteriea but most flagship monolithic audio DAC chips are Iout - and I/V conversion keeps analog circuit designers and tweakers happy with more scope for external circuit design arguments
All very true, and every type of design has its place. It's hard to fault the ODAC or O2 in any way as they are very well documented, well designed, and very low cost for the performance you get. The only place I tend to disagree with the design is the overwhelming influence of price, and the fact that performance is indeed given up to save what amounts to the price of a coffee in the morning. It's quite a lot of trouble to build your own gear, so I feel like if you're going to put in the effort, you might as well spend a tiny bit more and know that you've got the best possible performance that can possibly be achieved. That's just my take on it though, and the "good enough" argument is also pretty solid.

Cheers,
Owen
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Old 10th March 2013, 07:36 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by opc View Post
It's quite a lot of trouble to build your own gear, so I feel like if you're going to put in the effort, you might as well spend a tiny bit more and know that you've got the best possible performance that can possibly be achieved. That's just my take on it though, and the "good enough" argument is also pretty solid.

Cheers,
Owen
I second your stated philosphy here. Commercial vendors often have to count dimes and quarters, but any DIY project worth the effort should not be subject to such coin pinching constraints.
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Last edited by Ken Newton; 10th March 2013 at 07:38 PM.
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Old 10th March 2013, 08:45 PM   #8
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The thing is many diy attempts at building an excellent amp have resulted in worse performance and higher cost than the O2.

The "highest performance and cost is no object" philosophy only works if you can objectively quantify performance improvement due to whatever change.
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Old 10th March 2013, 09:52 PM   #9
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Default Cost can be an object

I don't think he's so much saying that cost isn't an object, but more that the lowest possible cost should not become an objective itself.
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Old 10th March 2013, 10:08 PM   #10
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Either way, what I wrote still stands.

Nwavguy posted: "Unless you have really rare headphones that need more than 7 Vrms, or more than 200 mA peak current, the LME49600 has no audible advantages over the O2 design."
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