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Old 14th February 2012, 06:44 PM   #1
Franfj is offline Franfj  Spain
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Default Small cheap USB DAC, any recommendation?

I am looking for a small cheap DAC, what I'm planning to do is to fix it in a small TA2020 Amp to hopefully avoid the high noise coming from my Macbook Pro Jack Socket.

What I need is USB connectivity (no need of optical or coaxial inputs), low price (about 10€ will be fine, I don't plan spending more than the cost of the amp in the DAC)…

I have had a look and found cheap DACs based on PCM2704 like this
Click the image to open in full size.
http://www.ebay.es/itm/MINI-PCM2704-...0#ht_573wt_970

Opinions about them? Any other better option for that price?

I hope that using a separate DAC instead the Macbook jack output will reduce the noise that it produces…
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Old 28th February 2012, 06:05 PM   #2
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In my experience with computers and sound, if your problem is a ground loop, sometimes even having a cheap usb dac (particularly one powered by the USB bus), won't eliminate noise.

You may instead want to try a good ground loop isolator. Parts express has one that has been measured to have flat response from 20-20khz. Other good ones exist on Amazon, etc. You can make one using 1:1 transformers, if you wish.

edit: if you unplug your macbook from the power supply, and the noise substantially diminishes or disappears, you can almost certainly fix this with a $10 isolator.

Last edited by neebster; 28th February 2012 at 06:08 PM. Reason: Left out a detail, don't want to overpost
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Old 28th February 2012, 06:40 PM   #3
Franfj is offline Franfj  Spain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neebster View Post
In my experience with computers and sound, if your problem is a ground loop, sometimes even having a cheap usb dac (particularly one powered by the USB bus), won't eliminate noise.

You may instead want to try a good ground loop isolator. Parts express has one that has been measured to have flat response from 20-20khz. Other good ones exist on Amazon, etc. You can make one using 1:1 transformers, if you wish.

edit: if you unplug your macbook from the power supply, and the noise substantially diminishes or disappears, you can almost certainly fix this with a $10 isolator.
Thanks for the reply

Mmm, with the Macbook unpluged I get the same noise (even with headphones and the macbook unpluged is audible) so I think that is not a ground loop problem (and is not like a 50hz humm, is more like a med-high frequency white noise).

Considering that, do you think that using an external DAC will improve sound?

Thanks
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Old 28th February 2012, 06:57 PM   #4
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Hi!

I have the same problem with the analog-stereo-output on my old (but beloved) IBM TP T22. It's this "white-noise" kind of sound, which has nothing to do with a ground loop. An isolation transformer would not help. I would recommend buying a nice USB-DAC, or, try to use a volume pot between the stereo-output and your amp. At moderate to even high volumes the noise-level is hardly notable. Only without a pot (when adjusting volume only via the digital notebook volume control) the noise is always there, regardless of the digital volume level.

For USB-DACs: I really recommend the KingRex UD-01. Even the stock version sounds quite sophisticated. To go for something really inexpensive might not be a long term solution.

Regards - Martin
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Old 28th February 2012, 07:36 PM   #5
jrenkin is offline jrenkin  United States
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Try the twisted pear USB converter, it is designed to output SPDIF or IS2, but has a quite acceptable DAC chip for analog output, too. It would be a flexible option in the future.
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Old 28th February 2012, 08:37 PM   #6
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Check out this site:

NwAvGuy

First rate information on inexpensive USB DAC's.
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Old 28th February 2012, 10:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Franfj View Post
Opinions about them? Any other better option for that price?
Without an OpAmp on the output, it will behive very badly on any low impedance (like headphones). I don't think your amplifier input impedance is too high either.
"Naked" PCM 2704 is garbage IMO.
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Old 28th February 2012, 11:55 PM   #8
Franfj is offline Franfj  Spain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrenkin View Post
Try the twisted pear USB converter, it is designed to output SPDIF or IS2, but has a quite acceptable DAC chip for analog output, too. It would be a flexible option in the future.
Looks interesting. The other models mentioned are out of my possibilities at the moment.

I will try to increase the what I could pay for something like this and try to get other options...

Any "good" USB DAC + Headphone AMP under 60$?
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