Ultra High-End DAC designs for DIY?

steaxauce

Member
2008-01-24 9:47 pm
Hey guys,
I'm in need of a very high quality DAC, and I'd like to build it myself for the experience and to save money. I need it to handle 16 or 24 bit signals and 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, and preferably 176.4 and 192 KHz sample rates. I will be interfacing it with my computer and using it to play back music including hi-rez files, and a piano sample library (my piano keyboard will be interfaced with my computer). With this in mind, the DAC needs to do a good job of rejecting jitter, and it would be best if it could accept input via USB, Firewire, Ethernet or some other protocol, but this is not a necessity: If necessary, I can purchase or build an s/pdif or even I2S interface for my computer. I will be using this DAC with the ExtremA Power Amplifier in a nearfield monitor setup, and I'm not sure about the preamp yet. It'd be great if I could integrate that into the DAC, but that of course would also need to be of very high quality. I'm going to set my budget for the project at $2000 for parts, max.

Thanks!
 

kevinkr

Administrator
Paid Member
PigletsDad said:
Look at the twisted pear site; they have some kits.

Seems like a hot tip.. Should answer the need of the original poster I would think, and my newly found need. :D

I took a look at the site based on your recommendation since I am about ready to give up on the Zhaolu dac I've discussed on another thread, and these modules look very interesting. I'm thinking the COD mono option, the spdif receiver and the metronome..

Anyone using this combination of hardware?

Is the Wolfson spdif receiver better than the CS8416 which at moment might be a big part of what I don't like in the Zhaolu?
 
PigletsDad said:
Look at the twisted pear site; they have some kits.


They look very nice. Would you call them "Ultra High-End" or just " Extremely High-end" ?:)

My personal feeling is that "Ultra High-end" dac is significantly outside the abilities of most diyers. No project based on ready made commercial solutions and app notes really stands a chance.

So, sadly, there seem to be no particularly ambitious diy designs. I really like the originality of ECdesign's dac and the complexity of Peufeu's ethernet dac but while the first does not meet the required design criteria, the second (afaik) is not quite finalised.
 
uwe beis' DAC

Might I suggest the DAC made by Uwe Beis - see www.beis.de -and go to the electronics section. It accepts sample rates from about 30 kHz to 192 kHz.

Personally I would not consider it a high-end DAC as it is - but I assume that the basic digital design is sound - and it can be surrounded by other opamps, filtering components, and better power-supply components - all which may improve the sound.

Good luck with your project ;-)

Regards,

Jesper
 
Re: uwe beis' DAC

gentlevoice said:
Might I suggest the DAC made by Uwe Beis


This dac is quite similar to Zhaolu, which retails for around $130. No amout of fancy componets, tube output stages, battery power, etc can turn it into a silk purse.

Realistically, i think the best use for $2000 is to buy a used Wadia for around $1500 and use the rest of the budget for mods. Not to mention it will retain more value than any diy project.
 
Cauhtemoc said:


What they have to offer is far from ultra high-end.

True enough, but as analog_sa said there aren't really any diy options that would fall into that category. I followed Russ White's Opus thread and the products do seem solidly engineered, the WM8804 apparently outperforms the CS8416 in some key respects, and they offer a current output dac module in addition to the Opus module - it seems altogether a significant step up from the Zhaolu I am currently using which many rave about (and I no longer do - see that thread.)

I think the advice to buy a used Wadia is a good tip, but I will say that my mid/late '90's PS Audio Ultralink II HDCD decoder was thoroughly outclassed by my now less than impressive Zhaolu (and on several sources) so be aware that there have been real improvements over the last 10 yrs or so and be very careful to get something that has stood the test of time or that you can try before you buy. I wouldn't recommend that Ultralink II to anyone today.
 
How about the ESS Technology Sabre Reference DAC if you can get hold of the DAC chip in low volume. Dustin Forman, the designer of it, is a member here. This DAC is a commercial chip offering, so you would need to incorporate your own choice of digital receiver, (A)SRC, and I/V filter if you are looking for a complete DIY solution.

Either way, the specs on the DAC chip surpass everything else on the market by a very big margin, so if you can come up with a suitable design to incorporate it, then you are at the cutting edge sonically.

Alternatively, maybe you can ask Dustin Forman for an evaluation board. The thread has the info to link to the ESS Tech web pages with an abundance of technical information, as well as Dustin's own assistance in the thread with some people's questions.

See the thread: here
 
steaxauce said:
With this in mind, the DAC needs to do a good job of rejecting jitter, and it would be best if it could accept input via USB, Firewire, Ethernet or some other protocol, but this is not a necessity: If necessary, I can purchase or build an s/pdif or even I2S interface for my computer.

I would like to know more about building a 12s interface for the computer, i mean to extract digital audio directly in this format, not through usb conversion.
 
Re: Re: Ultra High-End DAC designs for DIY?

Telstar said:


I would like to know more about building a 12s interface for the computer, i mean to extract digital audio directly in this format, not through usb conversion.


There have been some discussions about getting I2S off soundcards. It probably doesn't get any more direct than this. Or any simpler. Short cables though.
 

tinitus

Ex-Moderator R.I.P.
2005-11-24 1:47 am
Fore my television I have a rather cheap terestial digital receiver with a harddisk
The harddisk I use solely fore recording taped live jazz concerts, transmitted from 3sat in Schwitzerland, well I have some very rare rock recordings too
Quality is quite good to outstanding, music is superb...schwiss people seem to have very good taste

This makes me wonder where the weak link is in a digital audio chain
I suspect the major problem is still the studio recordings, the recording gear and the producer, as it has always been...the secret of the quality of my harddisk recordings can only be explained with "good sound live recordings"

Most modern music sound awfully supressed/compressed, no matter what you do :dead:
 
To the OP, I'm definitely not putting my DAC (ezDAC) in the "ultra-high end category" (not even close), but I do put up all the schematics and board designs online for anyone to look at. I dare say - judging from the amount of e-mail I've received over the last year or so - quite a few folks have done that and learned something. (I was just as clueless as yourself before I took up the project.)