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Cambridge Audio D500SE faulty analog out, probably DAC - asking for advice
Cambridge Audio D500SE faulty analog out, probably DAC - asking for advice
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Old 6th February 2020, 06:26 PM   #1
joydivision is offline joydivision  Portugal
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Default Cambridge Audio D500SE faulty analog out, probably DAC - asking for advice

So, just got this player quite cheap, in very good cosmetic condition and laser/transport seems fine, too. Owner claimed it was working fine with digital out, but no analog out. I don't have a standalone DAC to test, but I believe him ,as all the rest is 100% true. Checked analog out signal path and in fact no audio is coming to the opamp filter stage at all. Just some very, very low static signal (my scope has trouble triggering that waveform for so tiny its amplitude), when amplified on poweramp with preamp, it sounds like static, with very, very low and far away hear something of the music it is playing on the CD.

I googled around and got some schematics, but the important section, the DAC, is not of SE edition ,has a different DAC. This one uses CS4391. I checked all digital signals from transport with my scope and they seem fine (SDATA, SCLK and LRCLK), although with a bit of HF noise on the top of the wave form (but I guess it's normal, they all look quite good), and yes, they do arrive at the DAC. Also, IC seems to be well soldered and nothing measures odd, except for one thing: the resistance from RST pin to +V, was like 200 ohms. When operating, voltage was measuring only 2,78V, which is weird. It has a soft start delay and hardwiring it to +5V made the output static a bit more intense, but nothing solved.

Started to research and found a lot of reports on the internet of the CS4391 failing, especially the lots produced around 2000 (well this player is from 2002...), and people reporting static noises. To be sure, I substituted all three passive components which make the soft start reset circuit, nothing changed and they all measured good.

So, I suppose I can conclude almost 100% sure that the DAC IC is toast??

Also, what is more important: if the IC is fried, which is very likely, the problem of taking it out and soldering a new one arrives, as it is tiny, I'm good at soldering, long years experience and have a good soldering station, but very little experience with SMD work. I mean, I don't say that I couldn't get the stuff needed and try. But there's a certain risk that I might damage some pcb pads and that's a serious problem to fix, some have traces under the IC...

So, I guess I have two options here:
1) get a new CS4391 (or a couple of them, should something go wrong) and take the risk, or, as I was thinking in modding this player for myself,
2) go the total adventure route and build a DIY DAC for this CD player??? What do you think? Has someone done this with this kind of transport (it outputs SDATA, SCLK, LRCLK, but also a normal one wire digital signal + ground, which goes directly to the digital outs on back panel, so there would be two kind of interface available to connect to custom DAC).

There's one thing against building my own DAC board (whatever kind): I was really curious to listen to this player with the original DAC from Crystal, as it got some nice reviews and was curious to compare it against my loved and modded Marantz CD40 (like: modern against vintage )...

One the other hand, a custom made DAC might be much better and make this player far superior? Now an important question: is the transport worth the hassle? I mean, they do have a nice copper box around the servo logic with big, blatant words (and ICs shown for that in schematic seem state of the art of that time) and I do like the front panel (which seems in great shape, no display issues, like they often report), BUT... the KSS-213 is quite basic and cheap, at least when we compare it with the great swing arm transports, for example, and this one seems quite noisy, it even makes some slight ticking noise when the CD runs, like if it was something uneven (don't think it's the CD...). Although seems to read and track fine.

Thanks in advance to all opinions and hints I get, I'm feeling a little bit lost here right now...
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Old 7th February 2020, 05:19 PM   #2
Mike P is offline Mike P  England
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Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: South Yorkshire
For removing multi-legged awkward IC's I use a special ultra-low melting point solder called Chip Quick.

It's expensive but brilliant!

There are videos on youtube showing you how.
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Old 11th February 2020, 11:22 AM   #3
joydivision is offline joydivision  Portugal
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Algarve
Thanks Mike, I'll check that out. At the moment I'm considering if I'll substitute the IC and take the risk, or if I go a (quite creative ) alternative route of buying one of these chinese DAC boards from Ebay, there are some which use the same IC as the D500SE, and then connect the lines of the DAC IC to the Cambridge PCB, bypassing the - probably quite ugly - output stage of the chinese board. Obviously I'd also have to unsolder the dead DAC IC from the board. I suppose this would be the less risky option and would also give the right motivation to start making other mods (with the idea of improvement, obviously ) to the DAC PCB of the D500.
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Old 11th February 2020, 11:31 AM   #4
abraxalito is offline abraxalito  United Kingdom
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Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Hangzhou - Marco Polo's 'most beautiful city'. 700yrs is a long time though...
I'd say its definitely a keeper as a transport. Get yourself an affordable DAC board with an S/PDIF input from eBay/Aliexpress, a suitable PSU and start modding!
I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant - Alan Greenspan
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Old 11th February 2020, 02:58 PM   #5
joydivision is offline joydivision  Portugal
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Algarve
Thanks for your opinion, abraxalito.

I just decided what to do: I just ordered two different DACs (CS4398 and PCM1798) which seem to be pretty good and probably represent an upgrade to the original CS4391 of the player, but it's JUST the IC, they come readily soldered on a tiny PCB which adapts to a DIP socket! This is fantastic, because it will allow me to experiment each of them with my own adaptation for the Cambridge Audio DAC PCB, which means that this D500 will turn into a total playground for mods...
As soon as they arrive and I get some results, I'll share them on here.
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