Mid-Level DAC recommendation

Hey guys,

Been searching around the last couple days for an answer and was hoping you could get me pointed in the right direction.

I am looking to build a DAC that will uplevel my 2 channel music. We currently stream from an nvidia shield so USB support is desirable. I would also like it to have balanced outputs. Budget is sub $500.

I have built a couple amps but this would be my first DAC.

Hoping you can point me to a few threads or to some sites that have kits. I found the JLsounds stuff but am sure there are other options out there I am just not seeing.

Thanks for taking a look.
 
$50 USB supported DACs have top notch sound quality these days. Reroute the remaining money on the quality of speakers and room acoustics because that's where the audible gain can be made. You don't have to take my word for it, just look up DAC double blind tests and you will see what I mean.
 
The JLSounds stuff you found is very well designed, likely well worth the cost.

Other outfits associated with the diy forum include Allo, Twisted Pear, Iancanada, and some other ones I know less about.

Do you know what sample rates you want to be able to play, if you care about ability to play DSD format, if you like ladder dacs, ESS dacs, AKM dacs, etc. The different types all sound different and have different feature sets.
 

diyiggy

Member
2019-01-16 12:22 am
Nvidia shield... do you mean the android tv box with nvidia video processor ?

Not sure it has an output usb port for music ?:confused:. Is it not only hdmi ?

500 bucks gives a lot of choices, second hand included. Anyway such stremears must be noisy so you need for music a silencer usb noise thingy or change the way you stream music if you don't need images. For the TV stufs and this price I will go myself towards something simple and good enough, you can add on the list : Ifi stufs, Fostex, Cambridge, kef, etc...not sure diy will bring more in that context. But a good dac stays a good dac and will bring more of itself after when you will invest in a hifi streaming source (instead a all in one box as Nvidia shield)

Or in your budget, think about a hifi streamer + a dac where noise management is hifi wanted... so as said IanCanada or Allo stuffs if diy way for instance.

That just my humble opinion. The bzlznced outputt is shorten the choice list.
 

BrianL

Member
Paid Member
2002-03-29 5:19 am
USA
Not to discourage you from a DIY project, but there are any number of good DACs available already built with great specs and prices at $500 (or less). I, too, would like to do a DIY design, but it's hard for me to justify vs. other pending audio projects and the great cost/performance of some of the ready-built units. For example, Topping and SMSL, both in China, make DACs with excellent specs. Most can be purchased through Amazon, easing concerns about ordering from an unknown vendor halfway around the world. Check audiosciencereview.com for reviews of many DACs in all price ranges.
 
Measurements mean nothing, if not supported by listening tests. Besides,

Topping? Nah! My Topping D30 is beaten by a Sony Vaio laptop internal (Realtek!) chip. There is no advantage in increasing sampling rate above 48kHz due to high jitter and opamps are suspected fake. You are not receiving from Topping the same goods it was sent for tests.

Having said above about $130 DAC, I am happy with Nobsound 8x TDA1387. The cheapest R2R you can get, it is for $42:
Nobsound Mini HiFi Sound Card DAC TDA1387 USB 8X Audio Decoding Headphone Amplifier DTS/AC3 Coaxial Optical Digital Output-in Headphone Amplifier from Consumer Electronics on AliExpress
 
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Measurements mean nothing, if not supported by listening tests. Besides,

Topping? Nah! My Topping D30 is beaten by a Sony Vaio laptop internal (Realtek!) chip. There is no advantage in increasing sampling rate above 48kHz due to high jitter and opamps are suspected fake. You are not receiving from Topping the same goods it was sent for tests.

Having said above about $130 DAC, I am happy with Nobsound 8x TDA1387. The cheapest R2R you can get, it is for $42:
Nobsound Mini HiFi Sound Card DAC TDA1387 USB 8X Audio Decoding Headphone Amplifier DTS/AC3 Coaxial Optical Digital Output-in Headphone Amplifier from Consumer Electronics on AliExpress

TDA1387 is junk. If you think Topping is fake, why do you not think a DAC that’s been obsolete for at least 20 years but somehow in huge supply in Chinese products is not fake? I mean, it’s total crap anyway even if they aren’t counterfeits.
 
TDA1387 is junk. If you think Topping is fake, why do you not think a DAC that’s been obsolete for at least 20 years but somehow in huge supply in Chinese products is not fake? I mean, it’s total crap anyway even if they aren’t counterfeits.
Nope. Suggestion that my Toppings is fake is false. This is an original Topping factory product, bought from an authorised supplier, but it comes with 30c no-name oscilators instead of expensive SiTime, CapXon caps instead of Nichicon and most probably fake opamps. I do say fake opamps, as there is no other reason for so poor sound quality. Otherwise look how new revision had been made, there are user supplied photos, I can make my own, there are no different: Hardware Teardown of Topping D30 DAC | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum

This DAC compete poorly even with Realtek chip. What else I can say?

But Nobsound sounds good. It's a my main DAC at the moment.
 
Nope. Suggestion that my Toppings is fake is false. This is an original Topping factory product, bought from an authorised supplier, but it comes with 30c no-name oscilators instead of expensive SiTime, CapXon caps instead of Nichicon and most probably fake opamps. I do say fake opamps, as there is no other reason for so poor sound quality. Otherwise look how new revision had been made, there are user supplied photos, I can make my own, there are no different: Hardware Teardown of Topping D30 DAC | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum

This DAC compete poorly even with Realtek chip. What else I can say?

But Nobsound sounds good. It's a my main DAC at the moment.

You didn't answer my question, maybe you missed it -

Where do you think these new TDA1387 chips are coming from? It was discontinued at least 20 years ago.
 
You didn't answer my question, maybe you missed it -

Where do you think these new TDA1387 chips are coming from? It was discontinued at least 20 years ago.
I didn't miss your question, I tried to address damages made by your purely demagogic statement:
TDA1387 is junk
TDA1387 is not junk. It is a true multibit (R2R or more precise I2I - if that matters) converter, successor to the acclaimed TDA154x series. It is easier to implement due to the I/V conversion referencing to the ground, not a Vcc. It takes less space and power and it can be paralleled in numbers in order to reduce distorsions and noise (8x in my DAC and many more in this project): Grossly parallel multibit DAC adventures

The chip is not bad, it sounds natural and better than TDA1543, but it came to the market in the wrong time when the industry started looking for cheaper solutions.

Now is a time to answer your question. It is not worth to manufacture fake chips when the cost of the chip is just couple cents. These chips were used in Sound Blaster Awe PC sound cards and manufactured in millions, now there are comping from recycling facilities. Happy?
 
TDA1387 is not R2R
Strictly speaking I2I, as I wrote in my previous post. Both (I2I/R2R) are ladder type and principle of conversion is exactly the same, just a different way to sum ladder components. For low distortions R2R resistor values must be laser trimmed or self-calibrated, in I2I the current sources.

I saw the same in many places. Some will pickup a keyword R2R without understanding and repeat it all over again.

Added: Did you see the review of Phi DAC by a forum member? It looks like a R2R DAC, isn't? lingDAC - cost effective RBCD multibit DAC design
 
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Nvidia shield... do you mean the android tv box with nvidia video processor ?

Not sure it has an output usb port for music ?:confused:. Is it not only hdmi ?

500 bucks gives a lot of choices, second hand included. Anyway such stremears must be noisy so you need for music a silencer usb noise thingy or change the way you stream music if you don't need images. For the TV stufs and this price I will go myself towards something simple and good enough, you can add on the list : Ifi stufs, Fostex, Cambridge, kef, etc...not sure diy will bring more in that context. But a good dac stays a good dac and will bring more of itself after when you will invest in a hifi streaming source (instead a all in one box as Nvidia shield)

Or in your budget, think about a hifi streamer + a dac where noise management is hifi wanted... so as said IanCanada or Allo stuffs if diy way for instance.

That just my humble opinion. The bzlznced outputt is shorten the choice list.

This was awesome advice. Thanks for that! Looks like some really interesting options.