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    Looking for quality KIT DAC

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    Maintarget

    Posts : 208
    Join date : 2013-02-10

    Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by Maintarget on Mon Feb 17, 2014 1:54 pm

    Couldn't be happier with my kit built ST-120 with 265 hours (Thank You Bob!)
    I have convinced myself that I need to upgrade from my USB DAC to something of higher quality and was wondering If anyone has any first hand experience with a kit DAC that they would recommend/share it would be greatly appreciated.
    I'm looking to assemble an entire kit built audio system so I'm looking for the same high quality that Bob & Roy supply.
    Thank you

    arledgsc

    Posts : 330
    Join date : 2012-11-30
    Location : SF Bay CA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by arledgsc on Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:15 pm

    Besides the low-price Ebay kits there doesn't seem to be much available in the good sound, good value category that I know.   ANK sells high price DAC kits but never heard one or known anyone that purchased one.  But have a look....

    http://www.ankaudiokits.com/

    sKiZo

    Posts : 1287
    Join date : 2013-04-01
    Location : Michigan USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by sKiZo on Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:04 pm

    Ever look inside a DAC? Here's my Maverick TubeMagic ... whole lot going on inside there, and you need a magnifying glass to see some of the SMD stuff.



    Really can't see any positive side to building your own DAC ... just way too much going on in there to make it a DIY project. What you can find is just basic assembly and eminently non-tweakable. Also, you need some special equipment to even consider working with SMDs ...

    Now what I'd REALLY like to see is a TUBE kit DAC ...  pirat 


    baddog1946

    Posts : 304
    Join date : 2010-02-03
    Location : Costa Rica

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by baddog1946 on Mon Feb 17, 2014 8:21 pm

    GAMMA II DAC
    I built one of these a few years ago and it is bulletproof. The DIY site has all the details to get the kit and full instructions online. I use it as my main (non USB) DAC with a toslink cable but it has all types of connections. Very good qualty.

    http://www.amb.org/audio/

    sailor

    Posts : 269
    Join date : 2011-04-04

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by sailor on Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:48 pm

    The best chip I know of is the ESS Sabre ES9018. I know of 2 ways to get a DAC with this chip There may be more but very expensive. The first is to assemble one from parts from Twisted Pair. About 7 to 800 dollars.
    http://www.twistedpearaudio.com/digital/buffalose.aspx
    Or you can do what I did and buy an OPPO Bluray player which has 2 of these chips plus a separate stereo analog output with it's own dedicated power supply. This will set you back about $1,200. This is the way I went. I sold my Audio note CD play and had most of the cash necessary to purchase it.
    This player has flipped the high end Blurays on there heals. $1200 may sound like a lot but it is in the league of the $6,500 to $8,000 players.
    http://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-bdp-105/

    deepee99

    Posts : 1260
    Join date : 2012-05-23
    Location : Wallace, Idaho

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by deepee99 on Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:54 am

    sailor wrote:The best  chip I know of is  the ESS Sabre ES9018. I know of 2 ways to get a DAC with this chip There may be more but very expensive. The first is to assemble one from parts from Twisted Pair. About 7 to 800 dollars.
    http://www.twistedpearaudio.com/digital/buffalose.aspx
    Or you can do what I did and buy an OPPO Bluray player which has 2 of these chips plus a separate stereo analog output with it's own dedicated power supply. This will set you back about $1,200. This is the way I went. I sold my Audio note CD play and had most of the cash necessary to purchase it.
    This player has flipped the high end Blurays on there heals. $1200 may sound like a lot but it is in the league of the $6,500 to $8,000 players.
    http://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-bdp-105/

    And then, if you really want to make that Oppo sing, for another mere $2.500, ModWright has this little tweak,
    http://modwright.com/modifications/oppo-bdp83-and-bdp83se-mod.php
    replete with tube rectifier in the tube-regulated (two 12EM&-type) stand-alone pwr supply, and a pair of 6SN7 drivers for the audio out.
    Reputedly blows the doors off any optical playback on the market.

    daveshel

    Posts : 148
    Join date : 2011-11-06
    Location : Tucson AZ USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by daveshel on Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:36 am

    DACs are truly the bane of my audio experience. About 8 years ago, I tried to buy one from Frank Van Alstine. I have and love my Van Alstine tube rig (Ultimate 70 and Super PAS Three) and solid state rig (OmegaStar 170 and OmegaStar Pat5) and wanted a DAC. He had a used model that seemed like a deal at around $700 as I recall. I couldn't get it to work with whatever optical player I had at that time - I don't remember what it was. I was trying to use an optical output and I wasn't getting any sound. Frank quickly lost patience with troubleshooting and had me send the unit back, upon which he declared the DAC was fine and I was an idiot. UPS was the only winner - I lost what may have been a good deal and Frank lost a customer.

    Later I bought an expensive Shanling optical player that was reputed to have a good DAC onboard. I'm still using it and I think it sounds good, but then again I've never had an opportunity to compare it with an outboard DAC. I've been looking at the current crop of inexpensive USB DACs and may try one, but I have my doubts.

    The Twister Pair option looks very complicated to even buy, and the OPPO looks like it does a whole lot of things I don't need. It looks to me like you would need an amp with balanced inputs to take advantage of its best sound. I'll have to study these options further, but at first blush neither seems a viable option.

    corndog71

    Posts : 444
    Join date : 2013-03-19
    Location : It can get windy here

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by corndog71 on Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:28 pm

    Check out DACs by Schiit and Musical Fidelity for great sound at reasonable prices. Audio Advisor carries them.

    Captain Coconut

    Posts : 209
    Join date : 2009-10-13
    Age : 64
    Location : Great White North

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by Captain Coconut on Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:53 pm

    daveshel wrote:DACs are truly the bane of my audio experience. About 8 years ago, I tried to buy one from Frank Van Alstine. I have and love my Van Alstine tube rig (Ultimate 70 and Super PAS Three) and solid state rig (OmegaStar 170 and OmegaStar Pat5) and wanted a DAC. He had a used model that seemed like a deal at around $700 as I recall. I couldn't get it to work with whatever optical player I had at that time - I don't remember what it was. I was trying to use an optical output and I wasn't getting any sound. Frank quickly lost patience with troubleshooting and had me send the unit back, upon which he declared the DAC was fine and I was an idiot. UPS was the only winner - I lost what may have been a good deal and Frank lost a customer.

    I bought a preamp from AVA which was okay, but whenever I had questions, he would answer in a very distinct condescending tone. I sold it and never looked back.

    daveshel

    Posts : 148
    Join date : 2011-11-06
    Location : Tucson AZ USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by daveshel on Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:51 pm

    Captain Coconut wrote:
    I bought a preamp from AVA which was okay, but whenever I had questions, he would answer in a very distinct condescending tone. I sold it and never looked back.

    I'm happy with my AVA electronics, except for this nagging feeling that the SS gear sounds better than the tube rig. This may be the speakers (I use stacked/double Advents on the SS and they don't work very well with tubes) or the rooms. I have been wanting to try a tubesforhifi preamp but haven't had the spare $$ to pull that trigger, then maybe a VTA amp but I'm kind of reluctant to sell the AVA stuff first - and not sure where I'd sell it. CL here in Tucson doesn't seem to move much expensive gear and I don't want to mess with the evil auction site and its eviler payment system...

    Laminarman

    Posts : 110
    Join date : 2009-12-30

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by Laminarman on Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:08 pm

    corndog71 wrote:Check out DACs by Schiit and Musical Fidelity for great sound at reasonable prices.  Audio Advisor carries them.

    Once I finish my SP14 I'm planning on trying the Schitt Bifrost and the Musical Fidelity V90DAC ($299 at Audioclassics.com). They sell a lot of the V90's and said I could take one home to compare. The unit Skizo uses also looks mighty appealing.

    stewdan

    Posts : 160
    Join date : 2010-03-07
    Age : 78
    Location : Houston Texas

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by stewdan on Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:16 pm

    Hi Dave -- Stacked/Double Advents??  Don't sound good with tube electronics???

    I have 4 pairs of the Large Advents (Original,A2,A3 and A4) all hooked up as single pairs to different tube amps (Fisher 500C Reciver, ST70/VTA, ST120) and they sound wonderfull.

    Back in the 60's and 70's I had a pair of the Original Large Advents hooked to my ST70 and it also sounded very good.  When the ST70 was retired. I hooked them up to a Pioneer 150WPC Solid State Receiver (SX1250) and they sounded better, but I always attributed that to 100+ WPC as opposed to the 25-30 WPC of the ST70.

    How do you have the Stacked Advents connected to your tube amp?  I recall that the stacked pair should be connected in parallel (+ to + and - to -) which drops the impedance to 4 Ohms, so you would then use the Ground and the 4 Ohm Connectors on the amp, not the 8 ohm connection).

    Is this how you have it wired??

    Let us know,
    Stew

    daveshel

    Posts : 148
    Join date : 2011-11-06
    Location : Tucson AZ USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by daveshel on Tue Feb 18, 2014 4:41 pm

    stewdan wrote:
    How do you have the Stacked Advents connected to your tube amp?  I recall that the stacked pair should be connected in parallel (+ to + and - to -) which drops the impedance to 4 Ohms, so you would then use the Ground and the 4 Ohm Connectors on the amp, not the 8 ohm connection).

    Is this how you have it wired??

    Let us know,
    Stew

    Always parallel. I was reading a thread the other day (on AK I think) where several posters were preferring series. This would mean the top would be out of phase with the bottom, which I think would destroy the synergistic effect.

    I tried the U-70 on the stacks a few years ago and they sounded kind of muddy as I recall. It could be that the Van Alstine mod isn't particularly tube friendly, but I have since read others describing similar results with various ST-70s, so I'm surprised to hear that you had good results. Also both of my SS amps are known for their ability to work well with very low impedance loads, and I've read that the Stacked Advents can sometimes present loads much lower than 4 ohms.

    I'll have to give it another try at some point, but at the moment the banana plugs on the Advents have fixed spacing that won't fit on my U-70. But I soon hope to redo the floors in the current tube room, which means moving all my equipment into the current SS room ,so I'll be revisiting some alternative combinations.

    sailor

    Posts : 269
    Join date : 2011-04-04

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by sailor on Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:55 pm

    One of the main problems of DAC has been jitter. The slight differences between the external clock and the chip. The reason the top of the line ESS chip is so much better than everyone else is because it has it's clock built on the chip so jitter is eliminated. Most chips cost about $2 for the chip the ESS is in the $70 range. Modright would not waste there time modding the player if it wasn't something special to begin with. One other advantage of the OPPO is because it has 2 chips. One for the 7.1 movie. and a separate one for dedicated audiophile stereo [the analog section of stereo section is where it is modded]. I am also able to pull the sub woofer off the 7.1 and have it roll off at what frequency I choose at 24db per octave. I then hook this to my old preamp so I have a remote volume then to my Adcom GFA555 then to my 2-18 inch subs. Doing this allows me to play my stereo CD and add the exact amount of sub bass I want. Did I mention that a good quality Bluray move can be down right scary with this combo as the speakers are very efficiency and can reach above 125db.

    stewdan

    Posts : 160
    Join date : 2010-03-07
    Age : 78
    Location : Houston Texas

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by stewdan on Tue Feb 18, 2014 9:03 pm

    Hi Dave ---- re, the Advents and Tubes.

    The single Advent pair hooked up to the Fisher 500C Receiver is being driven by 35 WPC (7591 Tubes which have a similiar pin-out to the EL34) is smooth and definitely "non muddy".

    The pair that I have hooked to the ST70/VTA (EL34 Tubes) is definitely "non muddy" and sounds very smooth and definitive.

    The pair that I have attached to Bob's ST120 (6550 Tubes) plays thru one of Roy's PAT4/SP12 line PreAmps with a very good solid state phono preamp and no matter what the source is (Tuner,CD,Phono or Tape), definitely does not sound muddy.

    What tube amps were you using when you had the Stacked Advents attached?
    Were these 35 WPC amps or something much larger?

    Stew

    Maintarget

    Posts : 208
    Join date : 2013-02-10

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by Maintarget on Wed Feb 19, 2014 11:43 pm

    I have been looking at the Audio Note Kits but not actually hearing one first would be an expensive gamble I'm not willing to take, I found an interesting web site with a kit built DAC that I had considered but in the end the same problem as the ANK
    http://www.computeraudiophile.com/blogs/mbrennwa/dddac1794-no-ordinary-dac-329/
    As far as assembled product I have considered the Schiit Gungnir if nothing else I like their business model and honesty
    After researching and wading through all the sales crap and gimmicks finding a quality DAC has turned out to be a real PITA.
    Thank you all for the responses.

    sailor

    Posts : 269
    Join date : 2011-04-04

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by sailor on Thu Feb 20, 2014 12:12 pm

    I sold my Audionote for a reason. The OPPO is better than anything Audionote sells and a lot cheaper. My Audionote rolled off the highs starting at 2,500 hz down about 15db at 20,000hz. My local dealer would do nothing about it as he said it was working fine. I contacted the owner of Audionote and was informed that Audionote did not publish specifications and therefore did not guarantee them. He said if I was unhappy to take it back to the dealer who in turn refused to do anything. I kept the emails that I received as proof, and the dealer has missed out on about $12,000 in equipment sales because he didn't take care of me. I could tell you a lot more but lets just say I do not recommend Audionote products.

    arledgsc

    Posts : 330
    Join date : 2012-11-30
    Location : SF Bay CA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by arledgsc on Thu Feb 20, 2014 12:22 pm

    FWIW as I wade through the world of digital audio I am finding low jitter sources have the biggest influence on sound quality - relatively speaking of course.   Lowering jitter is the next great frontier for digital audio.  If you are after USB computer audio then choose wisely in that area.

    I sold my Audionote for a reason.
    Great info!

    Luddite

    Posts : 235
    Join date : 2009-02-04
    Age : 66
    Location : Texas

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by Luddite on Thu Feb 20, 2014 3:08 pm

    daveshel wrote:


    Always parallel. I was reading a thread the other day (on AK I think) where several posters were preferring series. This would mean the top would be out of phase with the bottom, which I think would destroy the synergistic effect.

    I tried the U-70 on the stacks a few years ago and they sounded kind of muddy as I recall. It could be that the Van Alstine mod isn't particularly tube friendly, but I have since read others describing similar results with various ST-70s, so I'm surprised to hear that you had good results. Also both of my SS amps are known for their ability to work well with very low impedance loads, and I've read that the Stacked Advents can sometimes present loads much lower than 4 ohms.

    I'll have to give it another try at some point, but at the moment the banana plugs on the Advents have fixed spacing that won't fit on my U-70. But I soon hope to redo the floors in the current tube room, which means moving all my equipment into the current SS room ,so I'll be revisiting some alternative combinations.

    There shouldn't be any out of phase issue with series wiring. Jumper the positive terminal of one cabinet to the negative terminal of the other cabinet and connect the speaker cable to the open positive on one cabinet and the open negative on the other cabinet.  Repeat this for the other channel.  This will present a nominal 16 Ohm load to each amplifier channel with all drivers being in proper phase.

    Best Regards,
    Charlie

    mazeeff

    Posts : 116
    Join date : 2014-01-06
    Age : 61
    Location : Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by mazeeff on Thu Feb 20, 2014 3:12 pm

    arledgsc wrote:FWIW as I wade through the world of digital audio I am finding low jitter sources have the biggest influence on sound quality - relatively speaking of course.   Lowering jitter is the next great frontier for digital audio.  If you are after USB computer audio then choose wisely in that area.
    Great info!

    I concur. Jitter is often misunderstood, and many DAC's do not handle Jitter very well. Quite often, the high frequency jitter is filtered, but the low frequency jitter (or wander) is not. The Nuforce brand of DAC's do a good job of jitter reduction. Also, it is interesting to note, that playing a song on a CD generates very low jitter, whereas playing the same song through a SPDIF interface generates considerably more jitter.

    daveshel

    Posts : 148
    Join date : 2011-11-06
    Location : Tucson AZ USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by daveshel on Thu Feb 20, 2014 3:47 pm

    mazeeff wrote:
    I concur. Jitter is often misunderstood, and many DAC's do not handle Jitter very well. Quite often, the high frequency jitter is filtered, but the low frequency jitter (or wander) is not. The Nuforce brand of DAC's do a good job of jitter reduction. Also, it is interesting to note, that playing a song on a CD generates very low jitter, whereas playing the same song through a SPDIF interface generates considerably more jitter.

    Looking at the Nuforce line, it seems USB inputs dominate. Does this mean using a PC or laptop as a transport, or that everybody is streaming and I'm a luddite still thinking in terms of playing CDs? I wondered if these could be used with an external USB optical drive but I doubt that the USB input would be able to supply power to one of these.

    mazeeff

    Posts : 116
    Join date : 2014-01-06
    Age : 61
    Location : Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by mazeeff on Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:40 pm

    daveshel wrote:

    Looking at the Nuforce line, it seems USB inputs dominate. Does this mean using a PC or laptop as a transport, or that everybody is streaming and I'm a luddite still thinking in terms of playing CDs? I wondered if these could be used with an external USB optical drive but I doubt that the USB input would be able to supply power to one of these.

    Most of the Nuforce DAC's are USB interface to a PC or MAC. Mine is a Nuforce ICON IDO, which interfaces to a Ipod/Iphone. I use a Ipod 5, with a flac renderer. The ICON IDO can interface directly into the ST-70. The ICON also drives my Beyer Dynamics 990 250ohm headphones nicely as well!

    sKiZo

    Posts : 1287
    Join date : 2013-04-01
    Location : Michigan USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by sKiZo on Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:49 pm

    Jitter is often misunderstood, and many DAC's do not handle Jitter very well. Quite often, the high frequency jitter is filtered, but the low frequency jitter (or wander) is not. The Nuforce brand of DAC's do a good job of jitter reduction. Also, it is interesting to note, that playing a song on a CD generates very low jitter, whereas playing the same song through a SPDIF interface generates considerably more jitter.

    My solution to jitter issues on my Maverick TubeMagic was to upgrade to Windows 8 and use an add on card to create a separate USB channel just for my DAC and ADC. Prior to that, all the telltale signs, afterwards ... perfect!

    W8 made some major gains in audio handling with their improved WASAPI engine, rated to be "next best thing to bit perfect".

    The add on card isolates the audio equipment from all the other USB devices we litter our computers with nowadays. Major issues with my Gyro AirMouse and wireless keyboard before the changes.

    "Asynchronous" is touted as the end all of jitter reduction, but the way it's implemented is pretty much a crap shoot. Luck wit dat, eh.

    ** And yes, I do use the USB interface. Never had any real issues that could be attributed directly to the S/PDIF optical - I just prefer the sound quality of the USB, even though it tops out at a lower rate ... Once again, S/PDIF is a standard that's not always implemented well in hardware and tends to be more susceptible to bus interference issues.

    sKiZo

    Posts : 1287
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    Location : Michigan USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by sKiZo on Thu Feb 20, 2014 5:04 pm

    daveshel wrote:
    mazeeff wrote:
    Does this mean using a PC or laptop as a transport, or that everybody is streaming and I'm a luddite still thinking in terms of playing CDs? I wondered if these could be used with an external USB optical drive but I doubt that the USB input would be able to supply power to one of these.

    I don't stream here in the hinterland where online gigs are precious, but I have ripped all my CDs and most of my vinyl to digital FLAC. I still enjoy spinning records, but the convenience of clicking to play has ruined me ...

    A few comments on feeding audio ... Laptop on board audio is notoriously bad for audio playback. Even most PCs tend to suffer severe suckage in that regard. Caveat there is there has been some improvement in recent years, so maybe not as true for more recent machines. Luck of the draw really. If you do decide to go that route, an external breakout box or quality expansion card is recommended. Then again, I tried a couple highly rated expansion cards (E-MU and Xonar) with less than spectacular results.

    USB power isn't really an issue if you go with an external DAC - all the USB port is doing is pushing the signal out to the box. Exceptions there are them cute lil Fireflies and their clones, but those have a very small power draw. I've seen some that have a tap for a power brick - I'd suspect that if they provide that, they have doubts as to whether you should be trying to power it just from the USB port.

    I'd also be concerned with using a USB powered DAC for the reasons mentioned in my earlier post. There's just way too much happening on the motherboard to give you power I'd consider clean enough for audio. The add on card I use has a power tap that plugs directly into the power supply to bypass all that potential interference.

    mazeeff

    Posts : 116
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    Age : 61
    Location : Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

    Re: Looking for quality KIT DAC

    Post by mazeeff on Thu Feb 20, 2014 5:08 pm

    sKiZo wrote:WASAPI engine, rated to be "next best thing to bit perfect".

    Good point. WASAPI is also available with XBMC on Windows 7. It makes a big difference in sound quality. I run a Windows 7 PC with XBMC WASAPI SPDIF into a Onkyo 787 as a DAC/Preamp. Sounds great.

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