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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
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Old 20th November 2018, 06:00 PM   #31
Markw4 is offline Markw4  United States
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@Greg, Since people want to know, how would you compare Katana at its best with the sound if you only use 5v power supplies, any number of them? How about if adding an okay but not great +-15v supply? What about without the isolator?

Probably these are the kinds of questions readers are interested in. I will try to address as many of them as I can over in the 'ES9038Q2M board' thread. ES9038Q2M Board

However, I don't think my best power supplies are probably as good as your best supplies. The best I could probably muster here would be the supplies I use for my modded ES9038Q2M dac.

The main problem with trying to do it that way is that I'm not sure how fast I could switch between the modded ES9038Q2M dac and Katana in order to compare them. I may be limited to comparing them one at a time to the DAC-3 if direct comparison isn't possible. I'll have to see what I can figure out for that.
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Old 20th November 2018, 08:02 PM   #32
soundcheck is offline soundcheck  Germany
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ernesternest View Post
I'd rather be happy about an effective way of powering the Katana
Until now Allo did just half the job. Katana is just half a product/solution without PS.
A pity they didn't manage to get Nirvana ready on time.
That would have made at least a complete Allo "solution" and live for a lot
of people much easier. Something people could have taken as reference to get started.

Of course you can buy these $11 Allo SMPS!?!? That's what Allo seems
to be using all along.
Then why people start building their very own solutions all over the place.
Let see where all this ends. This thread shows quite well how things
are developing.

As soon as I get the DAC in my hands, I'll attach my to me well proven
and reasonable iFiiP+capbuffer solution with heavily shortened cable to it.
What I need to find out first though are the best spots to solder the power wires to
the boards (nope no USB-C!). If anybody has done it already - let me know.
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Old 22nd November 2018, 12:51 AM   #33
Greg Stewart is offline Greg Stewart  United States
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
Been work-busy, will have some responses in the next day or so.

In the meantime, Mark, can you list the post numbers of the relevant posts that describe your power supply setups in your 'ES9038Q2M Board' thread. I'm trying to avoid reading 3000+ posts to find those posts.

THANKS!

Greg in Mississippi
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Old 22nd November 2018, 02:54 AM   #34
Markw4 is offline Markw4  United States
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@Greg,
The general purpose 5v supply is an LT3042 board with pass transistor. It has a 22uf Cset, and fast start up option.

For +-15 volt power I use a dual stage regulator that is LM317/337 followed by LT1963/LT3015 regs for the 2nd stage. I also have a relocatable bank of Wima film caps I can put anywhere. Right now it is on the +-15v supply output with about 110uf on each rail.

On my dac board I use some LT1763 regulators to drop the externally supplied 5v to 3.3 for things like clock, VCCA, and DVCC. I also have some .053ohm ESR, 10,000uf caps on the +-15v rails. Since that stuff is all the my dac board it is not available for Katana. However, I could probably rig something equivalent. AVCC is treated very special, but of no use to help with Katana.

Also have on hand a couple of low ESR 5v super caps, ~330mf. Not currently in use though.

The basic supplies I would try with Katana to start with include some 5v wall wart types, one of them IFI. Also have one linear 5v supply with some basic regulator like 7805, don't remember. Also have a linear variable output dual rail supply, the + rail used to be LM317 and I upgraded it slightly, but don't recall the part number off hand. The negative regulator is an LM337. Those kinds of things would be what I would tend to play around with for Katana unless somebody told be I needed to use better. I kind of figured most people would probably not go to much more in the way of custom supplies that these, since I think most people are probably interested in Katana to get a better DAC, yet somehow keep costs reasonably contained.

Pretty modest, I imagine, compared to what you have been using.

Last edited by Markw4; 22nd November 2018 at 03:07 AM.
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Old 22nd November 2018, 08:36 PM   #35
Greg Stewart is offline Greg Stewart  United States
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
@Markw4,

Thanks for the power details. I think you have some fine starting points for powering your Katana when you get it. My 'gut feel' minimum for the 'best' sound would be at least a 3-supply minimum (5V RPi, 5V DAC / Isolator / Microprocessor boards, +-15V Op Amp board). It sounds like you can do that setup easily with what you have. One key thing that works for me... keep the final output of each supply as close as you can manage to the driven board, like I did with the +-15V regulators mounted right on top of the Katana. IMHO, that is always a good practice, especially for digital circuits.

You asked about 'the sound if you only use 5v power supplies, any number of them?'. I hadn't sat down and seriously listened to my current 3-5V supply setup with/without my separate +-15V supplies yet (I did do that comparison quite a bit in the previous supply tests AND with the various iterations of Katana as Allo developed the 1.2 upgrades), so I did last night. The result was interesting. First, using the on-board +-15V DC-DC supplies, the basic character of the Katana is preserved. It still sounds like the same DAC, though with some downgrades. BUT those downgrades to my ears and in my setup were significant AND very similar to what I'd heard before. Compared to the separate +-15V supply setup, the backgrounds became less black and transparent with subtle details obscured or missed altogether. Bass extension, impact and definition was also diminished. Micro and macro dynamics were both diminished.

Hearing it in the DC-DC converter mode I would say that it is a good DAC. Hearing it with my +-15V setup, I'd say it was a great DAC.

With the separate +-15 supplies, I was hearing some things that I'd rarely heard before...

- The super-low rumble of bass synths mimicking thunder at the beginning of Gino Vannelli's "Storm at Sunup".

- The sense of multiple overlapping recording spaces of the instruments in the intro to Michael Franks' "Popsicle Toes" with that sense of space changing when the vocals start.

- The delicacy yet threatening urgency of the guitar in David Sylvian's "When Poets Dreamed of Angels" along with the reverberation tails of the bass whacks during the instrumental 2nd half.

- Being able to hear and distinguish the different horns in each section on Maria Schneider's Evanescence.

Instruments and voices were all clearly delineated and I could focus on any one or just listen to and enjoy the interplay between them and the whole.

Listening to it in the DC-DC converter configuration, knowing what I was missing, I just wanted to make the comparisons I needed to confirm the differences and get back to the separate +-15V supply configuration. In that latter configuration, I just wanted to keep listening.

Yup, powered well, it is REALLY, REALLY GOOD! To me, surprisingly good! That doesn't invalidate how good it is with more common supply setups and all of the comments published so far. BUT it can get VERY GOOD!

On isolators, I had done some comparisons when I first received a Katana with the new Isolator. AND I also did an extensive set of comparisons right after both Ian's and Allo's isolator boards first came out over a year ago. I found adding the isolators IN ALL CASES quieted/blackened the background and allowed me to both hear the subtlties that were available from the subject DAC and get a much better sense of the music. That was true in all of my earlier comparisons and was true for the Katana too. IF one wants to hear the 'best' from the Katana (or from any RPi setup), you want to use an isolator. That is even true feeding something like my Soekris' that already have a level of isolation and reclocking built into the base board. Of course, that means a separate supply for the RPi. AND note that in all of my isolator comparisons, I already had a separate RPi supply in the non-isolator mode. So it was not adding another supply that caused the improvements.

BUT your other question stands Mark. What we don't know at this point is what level of +-15V supplies (and 5V ones) are needed to produce a good fraction or all the 'best' sound from the unit. Allo has done a lot to filter the raw DC coming into each regulator stage, so lesser supplies may sound better than they would without that level of care. My personal experience is that the better the supply, the better the sound. AND that one could get better sound from the Katana than I'm currently hearing. BUT to help understand that answer somewhat, I'm considering a set of down-scale power supply trials (over the next few months) based on what I have here, can easily make, and/or beg-borrow. Note that all of these will be in what I consider the minimum 'best' configuration... 3 5V supplies for the RPi, DAC / Isolator boards, and Microprocessor boards and a separate +-15V supply... and I plan to use my modified K&K supply for the RPi in all cases. My current thinking is:


- Basic supplies... 2 5V iFi iPower (if I can borrow a 2nd from someone, I'm not going to buy another!) OR 2 modified Jameco 5V/1A linear regulated wall warts OR 2 basic Allo 5V supplies (if I can borrow those).


- Good supplies... my raw DC supplies as outlined in an early post, but using 2 more basic (LT3080/3083) 5V regulators instead of the paralleled LT304x setups.


- Great supplies... my full supplies as outlined above OR 2-4 Uptone Audio LPS-1.2 for the raw DC.


- Alternative supplies... 2 5V direct Ultracap supplies float-charged from the modified Jameco 5V/1A linear regulated wall warts OR Uptone Audio LPS-1s/1.2s.


- TBD supplies... Nirvana and/or whatever Allo ultimately releases for the Katana, assuming I can borrow one.


- Downgrade potential... all of the above using 1 instead of 2 5V supplies for the Katana DAC / Isolator / Microprocessor boards.


To be clear, I don't intend to buy any or build much for these... got other projects to do too! BUT using some of the other supplies I have here or can likely get, I hope I can provide some sense of the differences one will get from various levels of supply setups. AND do remember, I had done ALL of my listening to the Katana during Allo's 1.2 development period using what I thought would be the best supplies... 3 Uptone Audio LPS-1.2s with post-regulation plus the +-15V supply outlined above. That configuration is very good and I expected it to be the best... yet my current one beats it. Always something to learn!

Greg in Mississippi
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Last edited by Greg Stewart; 22nd November 2018 at 08:43 PM.
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Old 22nd November 2018, 09:12 PM   #36
Greg Stewart is offline Greg Stewart  United States
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
@Soundcheck and @ernesternest, thanks for your replies. AND Soundcheck, you've reached a milestone... only 3 degrading / denegrating / demeaning put-down words/phrases, a new low-record for you. I applaud you! Even ErnestErnest only used 2. Be better, do better!

I DO have to ask, why do you feel what I've done and shared is nonsense? Oh, that's right, you spent the time & money to build up a set of supplies similar to mine and have compared them to bypassing the RCA jacks and found the RCA jacks were a MUCH larger upgrade than really good supplies... or not, right?

Uh, I started this thread with the title 'Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...' for a reason. It's not about 'getting a minimal acceptable SQ out of the Katana' or 'what's the cheapest I can power the Katana and still get acceptable sound for me' thread. Based on what I hear, the Katana will respond well to the best power one can give it. In my setup and to my ears, it seriously rivals and in some areas beats the best setups I have here, most of which are powered by the exact same raw DC supplies.

YMMV. You may have a different opinion. Ok then, start your own thread. AND I promise I won't come in and troll your thread with put-downs.

Also, do I need to point out to you Klaus that you are an expert in computer audio, especially Linux-based? SO the 'what RPI and what OS and what OS setup' is right in your area of expertise!

AND I would guess I'm pretty good with power supplies (though I'd never consider myself an expert there... just a talented and lucky amateur). SO the supplies I used were an 'easy win' for me... I have them here, they have served me well for many other setups, and it was just a matter of making an adapter or 2.

BUT let's talk about what are easy wins for you, as they still fall in the realm of 'Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...'.


Quote:
Originally Posted by soundcheck View Post
<SNIP OUT THE PUT-DOWNS>
1. I'd start with what RPI and what OS and what OS setup to use
2. I'd discuss how to get rid of this awful USB-C powering scheme
3. I'd discuss removing these cheap RCA sockets
4. I'd discuss what grounding scheme to apply
<SNIP THE REST OF THE PUT-DOWNS>

Klaus, what DO you recommend for an OS / Player setup? Details we can all reproduce, please?

AND for those of us who can't easily hard-wire our Katana to our amp inputs, which do you suggest?

Then you posted this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by soundcheck View Post
<SNIP>
What I need to find out first though are the best spots to solder the power wires to
the boards (nope no USB-C!). If anybody has done it already - let me know.
I haven't done that yet. Based on my past experience, those should both make worthy upgrades, as bypassing the USB-C on the Boss 1.2 did, though not huge ones.

I can help here. On the Katana, for the DAC / Isolator boards, I would solder underneath the DAC board to the protruding pins of the separate power socket.

On the Microprocessor board, I'd solder onto the + & - pins of the Supercap... the polarity is labeled on the board AND the top strap of the Supercap has a '-' on it, if you look closely. Do be aware that this bypasses the protection diode that ensures reverse polarity does not destroy the unit... you do this at your own risk.

I hope that helps. Please let us know the results.

Greg in Mississippi

P.S. Klaus, your comments on 'half a product/solution' are more generic to the Katana, I'll respond in the larger Katana thread.

P.P.S. I haven't tried the Katana's balanced outputs yet, but suspect they MIGHT provide a slight improvement. 'MIGHT' because the extra stage to sum the balanced DAC output is another of those apparently great Sparkos OpAmps AND as @Markw4 said in the main Katana thread (as I remember), the balanced out might not be as balanced as desired. I do need to try this, all of my current top amps are native balanced and I have 2 balanced attenuator setups.
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Last edited by Greg Stewart; 22nd November 2018 at 09:39 PM.
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Old 22nd November 2018, 10:21 PM   #37
Markw4 is offline Markw4  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Stewart View Post
In my setup and to my ears, it seriously rivals and in some areas beats the best setups I have here...
Please clarify in what areas it beats the best setups you have there. That might be helpful information for me here.
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Old 23rd November 2018, 12:03 AM   #38
Greg Stewart is offline Greg Stewart  United States
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
@Markw4, sure. BUT I'll want to take some time to reacquaint myself with the sound of some of these others... and give them time to fully warm up, several of my builds (Soekris, 2 of 3 of my Twisted Pear setups) have Black Gates and they take a few days to re-stabilize.

I've got the prototype ES9028Q2M DAC from Ian using a float-charged direct Ultracap supply warming up now.

Greg in Mississippi
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Old 23rd November 2018, 12:13 AM   #39
drpro is offline drpro  United States
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
Greg the Jameco 5v 1a wall warts you convert, are they the Arndt switchers that are about 4-5usd?
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Old 23rd November 2018, 01:42 AM   #40
Greg Stewart is offline Greg Stewart  United States
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Getting the best out of Allo.com's new Katana DAC...
Nope.

This one:

DDU050100H4660: Jameco Reliapro : AC to DC Power Supply Wall Adapter Transformer Single Output 5 Volt 1 Amp 5 Watt : Power Supplies & Wall Adapters

I have also modified the 12V/1A version.

Nothing too exotic... Better diodes & filter caps before & after the regulator, add an AC filter cap & transformer ringing snubber, & shortened output wires with my standard plug on the end. I also build a simple C-L AC filter that I use with up to 3 of the units to give them a full C-L-C AC filter when I use them with digital networking gear. No magic, very low tech mods, the hardest things are opening the case & Dremeling the inside of the case so the AC filter C & snubber fits.

Greg in Mississippi
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