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Thread: Cheap DAC working well

  1. #1
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Cheap DAC working well

    Just for fun I decide to spring for an eBay DAC, priced low with shipping included, from seller 'good.feedback' ... see here. I was particularly interested in getting 24/96 or better hi-rez capability.It's amazing what you can get for cheap this days in the case of DACs. Diminishing returns kicks in early in case of these devices.

    My old Assemblage 1.5 DAC is pretty decent, though strictly a 16/44.1 device. It features the the Burr-Brown PCM1702 20-bit "ladder DAC" fed by the venerable Cirrus Logic CS8412 receiver. The output is complex, each channel having an I/V and buffer stage, and each stage utilizing a dual opamp, (total of four dual opamps). I rolled the original opamps for stacked pairs of Texas Instruments of OPA627's.

    What impressed me with the eBay DAC, other than the price, is the use of the older but well-regarded Burr-Brown DIR9001 receiver, noted for its jitter tolerance, and the relatively modern (though not latest) Wolfson WM8740 DAC. The WM8740 is 'delta-sigma' device, (as opposed to the PCM1702 'ladder' typd); it has 128x oversampling, (not upsampling), and can handle 24bit & 192 kps. The output, analog stage utilizes a single dual opamp.

    Contrary to the eBay blurb the device needs a 9 volt AC, (not DC), supply, not included. Fortuitously I had a 9 VAC, 1 amp wall-wort lyng around. The good news is that board includes all its own linear rectfiers and regulators, so finding a regulated power supply (to replace a switching or unregulated wall-wort) isn't an issue.

    The board has a USB input but I won't use this, instead using S/PDIF from my M-Audio Revolution 7.1 sound card.

    Overall the sound is excellent with clarity and air perhaps even better than my old Assemblage. The sound is free of blatant colorations and an grain or grunges that I can identify. The high treble might seem a tad bright to some people who prefer a chocolate-coated tube sound, but I wouldn't call it "harsh". I might try swapping the OP275G opamp for a stacked pair of OPA627's which might mellow the sound a bit, but it's not urgent.



    Will update after more listening.
    Last edited by Feanor; 05-12-2011 at 05:09 AM.

  2. #2
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    Great find and it deserves to be put it in one of your signature green cases. Gawd I love the ebay stuff from China.

  3. #3
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    There are bargains out there

    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    Great find and it deserves to be put it in one of your signature green cases. Gawd I love the ebay stuff from China.
    Thanks, PG.There are bargains out there but separating the wheat from the chaff is mostly good luck though. I bought another cheap DAC year or so ago that I wrote up here on AR; it wasn't awful but turned out to be less good than my old Assemblage DAC.

  4. #4
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Update #1

    I've been listing to this DAC now for several days playing a variety of music but relying on my reference set to tell me what's going on. BTW, my reference set include both great an not so great recordings; the not so great category includes records with particular problems, i.e. not all-bad.

    I did roll the supplied OP275G opamp for a stacked pair of OPA627's. Thus modified I have no reservations about this modest DAC it better than my old Assemblage DAC, especially in resolving power. It's tonal balance is neutral which I mean in the sense of having neither inaccurate nor pleasant colorations. Plus the new DAC will play hi-rez. I tested both 24 bit / 96 kHz and 24 / 88.2 and both sounded great.

    Regarding the opamp swap, according to my impression the OPA627's yielded a subtly mellowed sound that will appeal to most people. However the OPA227 is relatively expense in opamp terms and if the goad is a really cheap (but effective) DAC, the ~$30 extra for this "pricey" opamp should considered optional. (You can buy stacked OPA627's on eBay from several sellers, e.g. Gigawork, here, who sold me mine.)

  5. #5
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Feanor, I've been considering the WM8740 DAC along with the Muse TDA 1543 x 4 for my secondary system and for my son's system. The Muse can be had for as low as $38. I might just buy both and see which one sounds better. I will use this upgraded linear power supply for the Muse if I decide to buy it. http://www.amazon.com/Pyramid-PS3KX-.../dp/B0002JTD2K

    Muse DAC-

    http://www.digitalaudioreview.net.au...-x-tda1543-dac
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  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    Feanor, I've been considering the WM8740 DAC along with the Muse TDA 1543 x 4 for my secondary system and for my son's system. The Muse can be had for as low as $38. I might just buy both and see which one sounds better. I will use this upgraded linear power supply for the Muse if I decide to buy it. http://www.amazon.com/Pyramid-PS3KX-.../dp/B0002JTD2K

    Muse DAC-

    http://www.digitalaudioreview.net.au...-x-tda1543-dac
    BR, the Muse should be terrifically god for the money -- and in it comes in a case. A linear, regulated power supply ought to be an improvement over a SMPS.

    Many people claim to prefer the older, "ladder" DACs such as the the TDA1541 or 1543 over the delta-signa DACs that are more prevalent today. Then again some don't, claiming the 1541/1543 don't have quite as good resolution.

    My old Assemblage DAC uses the Burr-Brown PCM1702, a 20-bit ladder DAC, and is a very decent sounding DAC though it won't handle 24 bit source and is, to my ear, not quite as resolved as my cheapo DAC with the Wolfson WM8740.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    I see a day when expensive dacs are a thing of the past. With digital music becoming more popular and the designs of dacs becoming more common among most peoples systems in order for music for digital players like portable players, or computers I will think that dacs will come down in price to a point where almost anyone could afford one if one wants. If you look inside a Dac the circuit designs are rather simple mostly consisting of chip sets made by Ti, or Burr Brown or Cirrus and put together with good quality op amps and power supplies that don't have to be huge to power these circuits even though some brands insist on big power supplies for quality and balanced power. I think we will see a day when dacs as good as separate ones are common to be incorporated in preamps and receivers or prepro's as a common feature because digital music is not going anywhere and the quality of digital music is just getting better and more defined as the bit rates get higher and sampling rates get higher we will see some awesome quality come out of digital in the future and I think dacs will be more commonplace and the price per quality will only get lower.

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  8. #8
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by harley .guy07 View Post
    I see a day when expensive dacs are a thing of the past. With digital music becoming more popular and the designs of dacs becoming more common among most peoples systems in order for music for digital players like portable players, or computers I will think that dacs will come down in price to a point where almost anyone could afford one if one wants. If you look inside a Dac the circuit designs are rather simple mostly consisting of chip sets made by Ti, or Burr Brown or Cirrus and put together with good quality op amps and power supplies that don't have to be huge to power these circuits even though some brands insist on big power supplies for quality and balanced power. I think we will see a day when dacs as good as separate ones are common to be incorporated in preamps and receivers or prepro's as a common feature because digital music is not going anywhere and the quality of digital music is just getting better and more defined as the bit rates get higher and sampling rates get higher we will see some awesome quality come out of digital in the future and I think dacs will be more commonplace and the price per quality will only get lower.
    Yeah, could be. There is not much fundamental reason why you couldn't get a near SOTA DAC for, say, $300 if it's made enmasse. For that matter there is much reason why you couldn't make near SOTA preamplifier for say, $500, or with DAC built in, $650. Such equipment could give you 99.8% of what you'd get from equipment costing 10x as much.

    I think we will have to look to Asian manufacture to get this, however. The high-end North American and European brands will compete for that extra 0.2% at diminishing-return prices.

  9. #9
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Bill, what enclosure do you use for the Wolfson based DAC?. I would like to buy it along with the Muse. I have 3 other systems that could use a cheap DAC, so I will give both a shot and see which one sounds better. Thanks!

    Larry
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  10. #10
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    There's actually no enclosure

    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    Bill, what enclosure do you use for the Wolfson based DAC?. I would like to buy it along with the Muse. I have 3 other systems that could use a cheap DAC, so I will give both a shot and see which one sounds better. Thanks!

    Larry
    Larry, there is actually no enclosure. Unfortunately the thing doesn't lend itself well to enclusures: (a) it doesn't have holes in the PCB to accept standard stand-offs, and (b) inputs and switches are fixed on opposite ends of the board so you would need a very precise size of case size to fit it.

    What I did is cut and glued thin wood shims to each side of the PCB with 'Goop', then glued those to a 1 x 4 piece of pine for the base. I added three small silicon rubber 'feet' to the pine base.

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  11. #11
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Thanks, it looks like you did a good job there with the stand.. If i buy the DAC, I just might see how creative I can get with some plexiglass to make a cover for the unit in addition to a wood stand.
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  12. #12
    Forum Regular winston's Avatar
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    Beautiful, good job "Feanor" hey if looks could kill

    man that project looks like something from (Maple shades stores) instead of a DIY effort. no kidding

    http://shop.mapleshadestore.com/Fini...epartments/47/
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  13. #13
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by winston View Post
    Beautiful, good job "Feanor" hey if looks could kill

    man that project looks like something from (Maple shades stores) instead of a DIY effort. no kidding

    http://shop.mapleshadestore.com/Fini...epartments/47/
    Ha! Thanks, Winston. Those Mapleshades are pretty nice and the prices are too crazy. On the other hand my DAC's mount was free from scrap material.

  14. #14
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    how does this compare with vdac or dacmagic?

  15. #15
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lreinstein View Post
    how does this compare with vdac or dacmagic?
    Unfortunately I haven't heard either of these DACs so I can't comment on the sound, but I'll a couple of brief comments on other aspects.

    The V-DAC II, the Dacmagic, and the "cheap", eBay DAC all offer USB as well as S/PDIF input. The V-DAC II has as asynchronous USB interface that ought to reduce incoming jitter. (Personally I use only the S/PDIF.)

    Both the V-DAC II and the Dacmagic employ use asynchronous upsampling while Cheap DAC does not. Argueably asynchronous upsampling's principal benefit is jitter reduction. Further in case of the Dacmagic, it has a Texas Instuments DSP device that is supposed to "eradicate" jitter.

    Both the Dacmagic and the Cheap DAC employ the Wolfson WM8740 DAC, however the Dacmagic uses two of them in a dual differenential, (i.e. balanced) configuration. Without being an expert, I say this might improve noise and some other specifications. It also facilitates balanced, (XLR), outputs which is nice if your amp as balanced inputs.

    The V-DAC II uses the Burr-Brown DSD1796 DAC. This model doesn't have a balanced internal configuration nor balanced outputs.

    The Dacmagic and V-DAC II are more sophfisticated DACs overall than the Cheap DAC hence their higher prices are easily justified. Whether the ultimate sound quality of either is better in a given situation than the Cheap DAC isn't clear. Nevertheless I'd say that both the Dacmagic and V-DAC II are excellent values and I would have choose one or the other if I'd had a little more cash at the time I bought the Cheap DAC.
    Last edited by Feanor; 10-04-2011 at 08:15 AM.

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    Forum Regular filecat13's Avatar
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    Feanor

    You are a bargain hunter extraordinaire.

    Thanks for opening these trails for us.
    I like sulung tang.

  19. #19
    Forum Regular filecat13's Avatar
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    BTW: I tried to get posts 16 and 17 removed as WTF is that? No luck so far.
    I like sulung tang.

  20. #20
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Loosing its legs?

    I'm afraid this bargain DAC might be loosing its legs. I'm starting to hear slight 60 Hz hum and buzzy overtones come in from the device. I'm pretty sure such behaviour portents a power supply failure. The board has its own PSU, (apart from a 9 VAC transformer), so the only option is to replace the whole thing.

    Well perhaps I got what I pay for or just as likely, it's just a fluke, but either way I'll be looking for a new DAC. Right now I've reverted to my old Assemblage 1.5 but only handles 16/44.1 and I want to be able to handle up to 24/192.

    Right now I'm considering a couple of options:
    1. Musical Fidelity V-DAC MkII with asynchronous USB and (undefeatable) upsampling to 24/192
    2. Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11, non-oversampling and defeatable tube output buffer.
    Last edited by Feanor; 01-29-2012 at 09:04 AM.

  21. #21
    Forum Regular winston's Avatar
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    hello Feanor, sorry about your project loosing its legs man

    last year I was in 'Toronto' for a few weeks, during that time I visited all my (old posse) they're all (audio fanatic's)

    "and I have to say that apart from them hauling me all over the 401 every day" they all seems to be on the same page dac-wise with (Grant Fidelity DAC-11) and also the Beresford TC-7520 DAC - Headphone Amplifier - Preamp in their systems,

    from an Objective point a view, they're two nice sounding dac's and I was very impress with what I hear... (just some more options, and good luck with the new project)
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  22. #22
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by winston View Post
    hello Feanor, sorry about your project loosing its legs man

    last year I was in 'Toronto' for a few weeks, during that time I visited all my (old posse) they're all (audio fanatic's)

    "and I have to say that apart from them hauling me all over the 401 every day" they all seems to be on the same page dac-wise with (Grant Fidelity DAC-11) and also the Beresford TC-7520 DAC - Headphone Amplifier - Preamp in their systems, from an Objective point a view, they're two nice sounding dac's and I was very impress with what I hear... (just some more options, and good luck with the new project)
    Thanks, Winston. I haven't made up my mind at all, but right now I'm leaning towards the MF V-DAC. I'm not as inclined to the smoothing effect of tubes as a lot of people are.

  23. #23
    You play. I listen. Enochrome's Avatar
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    Sorry about the DAC issue.

    What DAC chip does the V-DAC have? I heard the V-DAC is great in the midrange department.

    In the GF-DAC-11 non-oversampling feature does that mean that it does not upsample? Are you disregarding the GF's ability to bypass the tube out for a straight DAC out because the V-DAC seems better or you just don't like the bypass feature?

  24. #24
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Thanks, Winston. I haven't made up my mind at all, but right now I'm leaning towards the MF V-DAC. I'm not as inclined to the smoothing effect of tubes as a lot of people are.
    You would be hard pressed to tell that the DAC-11 had a tube buffer. The tube out is neutral and detailed. The SS out has a brighter sound and slightly more forward.
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    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
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  25. #25
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    You would be hard pressed to tell that the DAC-11 had a tube buffer. The tube out is neutral and detailed. The SS out has a brighter sound and slightly more forward.
    Well your observation is consistent with the general vib. The DAC-11 is cheaper, i.e. not so much the price but the fact that it's shipped in Canada which avoids brokerage, etc. I can't find any local or Canadian online seller for the V-DAC.

    On the other hand Emotiva is clearing their XDA-1 on clearance for $250.

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