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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
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Old 15th November 2018, 05:40 AM   #11
ktham is offline ktham  Canada
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For my builds i use the GlassWare Audio Design LV-Regulator Kit and also the Bipolar-Low Voltage Power Supply. Transformers not included.
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Old 15th November 2018, 05:43 AM   #12
Markw4 is online now Markw4  United States
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Understood about power quality, but it sure would be helpful to get a better idea of what it needs. It would be easy for me to hook it up to LM317/LM337 type power. I could also maybe do LT1963 type regulation, or LT3045x regulators. I could put them all in series too I guess. It would be helpful if I knew what I need to do in advance rather than having to experiment with it. Of course, the easy way out would be for me to use what Allo recommends or what I can find on-hand, and just say the dac didn't come with power supplies or much recommendations so I will test it and compare it with the other dacs here as I expect most users would be powering it.

Although that would easy, and it might be how other users would power it, it still might not be a very fair test. I am trying to make a really good sounding modded dac, and and if Katana does not come out well enough in the comparison I would feel much better about recommending that people buy Katana if I knew both how it sounds as most people would power it, and how it sounds at its best. Maybe I won't be able to do the latter, don't know. For one thing, I would expect that high quality external 15v power can only help so much. The dac board is probably as critical as the output stage board. The dac board has the very critical AVCC supplies, and other supplies that need to be very clean such as for the clocks, and the other dac chip analog and digital power inputs.

In case it turns out I can't get it sounding its best, may I ask your opinion about the best you had Katana sounding? As good as TP? Almost? Where would you say it sits in your rankings?

Last edited by Markw4; 15th November 2018 at 05:48 AM.
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Old 15th November 2018, 06:04 AM   #13
Markw4 is online now Markw4  United States
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Greg, Wanted ask you about one other thing re Silent Switcher. I have a couple of those and although they are pretty good, I have found that it can matter a lot depending on how they are powered. If powered from a switch mode 5v supply, ground conducted and radiated noise can work its way up to the load. It can just sort of bypasses the regulation and filtering on Silent Switcher, something that can be confirmed by tracing the noise along the wiring using a battery powered shortwave radio tuned to maybe a couple of MHz. Therefore, I would only recommend using SS if powered from a linear supply. Not sure how you powered the one you tried using with Katana?
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Old 15th November 2018, 08:10 AM   #14
matthiasw is offline matthiasw  Germany
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Hi Greg,


how does Katana compare to your TPA and Soekris DACs if you use similar high quality power supplies on all the three.
Thanks


Matt
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Old 15th November 2018, 04:00 PM   #15
randytsuch is online now randytsuch
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Greg
So I know lifepo4 are better supplying power directly into the circuit, adding a reg in front will degrade them. But to me the question is how does a lifepo4 or supercap based PS compare to your Jensen cap MP Audio reg supplies?

The more I think about it, the more I think supercap is the way to go for a 5V PS. Lifepo4 is a compromise at 5V, much better at 3 to 3.3V.
Caps should care less about the voltage, as long as you don't exceed their rating. For a battery, 2.5V is way down on its capacity curve.

So once the dacs go on general sale, if I actually follow through (lol), current plans would be to build some simple 5V linear regs to feed supercaps to power the pi and dac. And the salas for +/- 15V.

Ian put out a schematic for a supercap board in one of his threads, its a pretty simple board.

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Old 15th November 2018, 05:46 PM   #16
Bigun is offline Bigun  Canada
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Stewart View Post
@Markw4, I think any expectation that one can get a $250 DAC that rivals ones costing $1000 and more is unrealistic. One gets what one pays for.
Well, my experience is quite different. In fact, Audio is one of those areas where I'm firmly convinced you do NOT get what you pay for, unless you place a very high value on thick Aluminium plates and brand names that is:

http://www.bryston.com/products/digi...io/BDP-Pi.html

I'm hoping to assemble an RPi music source as a high quality source for my main listening pleasure. It's not obvious when there are lots of choices. What I want to hear about is the HAT DAC that has been very well engineered, with on-board scrubbing of power supplies etc. so that I don't have to baby the thing with very expensive external parts. It should not need more than a solid supply. If I learn that all sorts of tweaks and expensive support circuits are required for a HAT DAC then I lose interest very rapidly in the quality of it's design. Sure, there are those who just have to tweak and are convinced they have gained some 'audible' improvement that makes them happy - I'm not looking to pour cold water on anybody's fun in that regard, just looking for a solid solution.

Is the Katana a well engineering product ?
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Last edited by Bigun; 15th November 2018 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 16th November 2018, 08:04 PM   #17
toonjanssen is offline toonjanssen  Netherlands
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Katana with or without Isolator?
What are the specs of the new isolator v1.2? and is the SQ better with the Isolator?

Last edited by toonjanssen; 16th November 2018 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 16th November 2018, 08:07 PM   #18
toonjanssen is offline toonjanssen  Netherlands
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Default Katana with our without Isolator V1.2

What are the Specs of the new Isolator and what are the differnets in SQ.
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Old 17th November 2018, 06:47 PM   #19
Greg Stewart is offline Greg Stewart  United States
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
Default Some responses...

@ktham, thanks for the tip on those Glassware kits. I'll add them to my list of useful low-cost power supply kit alternatives. Compared to the K&K kits, I might personally lean towards the K&K units due to the all-in-one design, the included transformer, their 'charge-slope lowering resistor', and their use of the Linear Technology LT3083/3080 regulators, which I found to be a sonic upgrade in supplies powering computer peripherals (HDDs, SSDs, small processor boards such as the RPi) over more standard 317/337-styled regulators including the Linear Tech versions. But the difference is not huge and these units will be good alternatives.


@Markw4, my takeaway from the 'limited' power supply trials I did is that the Katana will work with virtually any compliant supply setup... but that it will respond well to whatever improvements one cares to throw at it. That is a bit surprising to me given how much effort Allo has spent working to make it sound as good as it can when used with low-cost supplies. BUT the differences I've heard so far are pretty marked. IF I were starting from scratch and did not want to go the multiple-paralleled LT3045 route ala' MPAudio, I'd do something with Linear Tech LT3080/3083 or the LT1963 you mentioned (I've had great results with the LT3080/3083 in a number of builds and have some LT1963 here to try, but have not yet). A 3 5V rail supply with these (using the LT3080 from a fully separate raw DC supply for the RPi rail) and a +-15V supply using the Salas, Sparkos, Belleson, or new Dexa discrete regulators should sound spanking! The 3 5V supplies could be as simple as 3 of the K&K Audio, Twisted Pear Audio, AMD, or Glassware kits.

As for where the Katana compares to my other really good digital setups, I have to hedge and say it is in the same strata as my top units... my 2 Twisted Pear setups, Ian's prototype ES9028Q2M DAC, and my modified Soekris. I hedge partly because I haven't done a lot of direct comparisons between them (most of my limited listening time August-October was comparing various versions of Katana). AND because I have a number of planned tweaks and upgrades to both the TP and Soekris setups that I expect will lift them some (though I don't have any planned mods to the Katana). Also they each sound a bit different from each other. I am pretty sure I could distinguish each in a blind test (not that I am into such), but I am also comfortable saying all are good and musically satisfying for me.

The Soekris and TP setups DO all use the exact same raw DC supplies as I'm running on the Katana and described earlier in this thread... I built 2 digital-source 'power-bases' on a couple of bamboo cutting boards with 8 raw DC supplies providing 9 different rails with various selected high-quality connectors for the various rails. The 2 'power-bases' are somewhat different in that the later one uses 4 separate toriodal transformers for the 4 main DAC supplies instead of the 2 Hammond transformers with dual secondaries as described above, but they interface to the digital source gear in the same ways using the same connector sets.

You can see pictures and some details of some of these builds in these:

Ian ES9028Q2M w/Ultracaps: ES9018K2M, ES9028Q2M, 9038Q2M DSD/I2S DAC HATs for Raspberry Pi

Twisted Pear setups starting at this post: Asynchronous I2S FIFO project, an ultimate weapon to fight the jitter

Modified Soekris starting at this post: Soekris' DAC implementations

A picture of my SDTrans384 -> Soekris setup with one of my power supply setups towards the end of this post (the other pix are of the reference system of the Japanese designer of the SDTrans384 SD Card Player): FORGETTING the Digital to Analog conversion part, what is BEST Digital source? - Page 8 - General Forum - Computer Audiophile

On the Silent Switcher, I only tried it once with a generic 5V SMPS supply... didn't need to repeat that. The iFi iPower 5V was better, though I preferred one of my modified Jameco 5V/1A linear-regulated supplies. I got the best results from the SS powering it with an Uptone Audio LPS-1.2. AND I did not try it with the Katana (sorry I wasn't clear about that). I did those comparisons on a stock Dial DAC on an RPi -> IsolatorPi -> Kali stack. Even at it's best with the LPS-1.2, the same raw linear supply I used on the Katana feeding a +-15V pair of simple shunt regulators was a significant step up. With any use of the Silent Switcher, I'd put the Dial near the top of my 'mid-fi' setups most of the time. With the good linear supply, I'd put it at the bottom of my 'hi-end' setups, again most of the time.

I HAD planned to try the Silent Switcher as a +-15V supply for the Katana, but the sonic differences I heard between using the on-board DC-DC supplies for the +-15V versus my linear +-15V supplies was similar, if not as large in magnitude, as I heard on the Dial DAC. Based on that, I don't believe the Silent Switcher +-15V would be an upgrade over the on-board DC-DC converters.



@Randytsuch, honestly I have not directly compared the use of Ian's trial Ultracap supplies against my AC-connected supplies AND I've only used one on one DAC, Ian's ES9028Q2M prototype. BUT the 3.3V Ultracap supply was a significant lift above using a good (LT3042) regulator fed from an Uptone Audio LPS-1.2. AND I have compared that style setup to the AC-connected supplies (with various regulation schemes) and generally for low-current digital circuits (isolators, Kali, low-power-consuming DACs) the LPS-1.2 beats my supplies. In a very few situations I found I got slightly better dynamics with the AC-connected supply, though slightly higher noise (such as with my modified Soekris DAM1021s) and stick with them there. OTOH, with the thought that my upgrade to the PS Audio P15 AC regenerator may have improved the relative 'goodness' of the AC-connected supplies, I need to redo those comparisions.

Still, used direct in that one application, the Ultracaps are a walk for me compared to either my AC supplies or the LPS-1.2s through a regulator. OTOH, I did see John Keny's comments on TirNaHiFi that for him there were some tradeoffs between Ultracaps and LiFePO4 direct and he's not yet settled on which he prefers. Watching that closely.

What this is leading me to is that I will need to expand the trials and comparisons of various power supply schemes powering the Katana to include non-direct Ultracaps and LiFePO4 setups, using various float-charging schemes. I do have 3 of Ian's trial Ultracap boards here, so I can do the 2 Katana 5V supplies using them float-charged by LPS-1.2s as a comparison point. AND actually also do the same using LiFEPO4 (though they'd have to be 2 in series at 2.5V each... not likely at their best).

AND I want to also look at how we can derive some relative ratings of various schemes tested by different people, since we'll all want to do some different alternatives.



@toonjanssen, I do know Allo had to revise the isolator to make it bi-directional for the I2C signals. AND they revised it to work with the Katana DAC board for power. BUT your questions are better asked on the main Allo.com thread.


Finally, @Bigun, I'll reply to you later... sorry, running out of time now!

Later!

Greg in Mississippi
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Last edited by Greg Stewart; 17th November 2018 at 07:00 PM.
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Old 17th November 2018, 08:48 PM   #20
Greg Stewart is offline Greg Stewart  United States
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
@Bigun,

On the Bryston BDP-Pi...first, I think Darko's review laid out the value proposition of the BDP-Pi very well. They are selling something that is MUCH more than a basic RPi setup, including a power supply, a custom multiple-mode output board, a substantial and pretty case, a nice screen, and very functional custom software they will have to support for many years. Many will want and value those things. I don't. AND I can DIY, so it's not a product that is useful to me. And apparently you don't either. Cool. Be kind to those who can't or don't care to DIY like we do, value products such as that, and can and will buy them.

Also, Bryston is a company that sells through distributors and retail outlets, which in my experience means a 5x-6x markup over the cost of the parts & components plus labor to produce the product. So $250-$300 in parts and components. Seems like they've done a pretty good job in sourcing to get it to that price level. AND I bet they will lose their shirts on product support for that unit... just IMHO.

So I disagree... there is value in that unit. I don't need that value and wouldn't buy one. BUT I won't put the unit down either.

On whether the Katana is a solid and well engineered unit... AFAIK, there are no units out there that can't be improved by bettering the power supply. SOME at a pretty atmospheric price level cannot be improved much, but I expect units like that to be in the $6,000-$10,000 range or more. Read the review series I linked-to in this post on the main Katana thread:

New FIFO buffer for RPI/SBCs

The reviewer got good upgrades adding $1,000-$2,600 power supplies to $2,200-$2,500 DACs, making them strongly competitive with 5,000-$10,000 DACs.

I consider both Mytech and iFi to be companies that know how to engineer good products.

I would not expect Allo to do in the $260 Katana what these companies can't do in their DACs costing 10x more.

Is it the Katana a well-engineered product? IMHO, yes. Of course there are avenues of improvement, but none within its current or any realistic price increase that will make it immune to differences in power supplies. AND of course, it is sold both without any power supplies AND with a number of options on how you can configure and connect those supplies, you have a lot of options. You get to choose how good you want to make it!

With power supplies, you get what you pay for. The cost of power supplies is one of the largest components in the cost of higher-end audio gear. Back in that series of reviews, read the comments from Ayre on the differences between their $5,500 QX-8 and $10,000 QX-9. MUCH of it is in the power supplies. AND take a look at those supplies in the Denafrip Terminator, one's I'd drool over, a $4,300 unit produced in a low-cost supplier country.

Please don't take this response as a diss or a put-down. It is not. AND my experience is that there is no equipment out there cannot be improved by better power supplies. AND that will cost $$$.

Later!

Greg in Mississippi
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