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Current Crop of R-2R DACs

Discussion in 'DACs' started by edwyun, Jun 1, 2017.

  1. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    I get that, but it's EXACTLY the same, even the owner posted a pic with several other r2r boards, and the others were different to a good degree, but his was exact copy of one in question. But heh it's probably why it's so cheap, not a ton of R&D since using "off the shelf" design
     
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  2. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    Funny thing is they made it worse (so the original designer says) by using some inferior chips in place of what the Hibiki board was using...
     
  3. Decibel_116

    Decibel_116 AK Subscriber

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    That would partially explain the price then...
     
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  4. fredgarvin

    fredgarvin AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'd probably spring for a Modi MB before waiting six months for an unheard R2R, although all of the reviews are good. Since I'm not streaming I'm not in a rush to buy one though.
     
  5. gvl

    gvl Super Member

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    I'd stay away from both.
     
  6. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    I know everyone has a budget but I tried lots of lower level DACs below $350 and they were all similar. Wasn’t until I jumped up to the Soekris starting at $600 that I could tell a bigger difference.

    Just personally I’d try to save up to hit that higher end models before I kept trying entry level DAC’s
     

     

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  7. gvl

    gvl Super Member

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    How many of those were multibit?
     
  8. automojo

    automojo OurBandCouldBeYourLife Subscriber

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    Nice followup article on the RTR Audiospring in this months Stereophile.
    I have to say, I find much of the same with the Dac Box S Fl after thorough warmup.
    I have to agree, why waste money on upsampling filters.
    I think the simplicity of the Project, and good quality parts is why it sounds so good.
    Even at full list, it's still less expensive the the majority of NOS Dacs.
    Even though is uses the same chip as the Muse, the supporting cast obviously is why it's more open, balanced and refined.
    As mentioned, I have no need to explore farther.
    46+ years of building, testing listening to hifi, I see more of a chance going backwards, or merely sideways.
    It eliminates most of the draws back to digital music, without creating any new issues.
    And frankly that's what most people find they want over a period of time...especially those of us that grew up on l/ps. Except for being a pain to clean store and play/setup, a good l/p pressing holds it's own against digital, and excels in many ways, especially if you enjoy extended listening. That's why I transferred my fav l/ps to reel tape. Much easier to deal with, and less fiddling. I soon discovered in many instances the sound was improved over l/p on it's own.
    The FL really reminds me of l/p's I recorded on reel tape back in the day. That added drive and open smooth dynamic sound reel tape gives you. Hard to explain unless you have heard it, it's different then even the 'best' l/p sound.
    Again, the key is full warm up. It's very much 2 different dac's, cold and warm. And they way it fully warms up is by having program material going through it, not merely being left on. The difference is startling for sure.
    It would be a interesting comparison to the more expensive DAC's perhaps if the chance arises.
    Much of this really depends on what your looking for in digital playback. Lot's of gimmicks, shaping, altering abound. That's the reasoning in the up sampling, filter options etc.So it's really hard to say the more expensive unit really "sound" better with broad brush strokes. Especially given the wide range of systems. But you don't know till you try.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
  9. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    The only Multibit under $350 is Modi, Schiit's entry level. As much as i've read about Bifrost and Gungnir, thought not worth trying Modi, since i was going to spend $600+ on next DAC.
     
  10. gvl

    gvl Super Member

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    Perhaps the difference you felt because you tried a multibit DAC for the 1st time vs. Delta-Sigma in the past, and the price differential wasn't a direct cause. I find I like multibit sound better than delta-sigma, or at least I attribute subjective differences to a different DAC architecture. That said same as you I only have relatively inexpensive and not the latest DS DACs to compare to, I'm on lookout for a good delta-sigma unit so that I can confirm or disprove my theory that multibit sounds better to my ears.
     
  11. BillWojo

    BillWojo AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    gvi, I'm curious to hear your findings. My Pioneer DV-79AVi uses a Delta-Sigma DAC, the PCM 1738 and it was my best performer till I came across the Parasound D/AC-1000 to use with it. I wonder how a current Delta-Sigma DAC would hold up.
    It's telling that an early 90's DAC would beat out a 10 year old CDP though. The Pioneer DV-79AVi was part of the Elite line and considered extremely good in it's day. I have all the settings optimized for CD play back with all of the video circuitry shut down.
    Just picked up another Parasound off of Ebay, had to have a spare.

    BillWojo
     

     

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  12. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    Let us know your findings! like you I much prefer my R2R in a "almost NOS" mode. I'm very happy with the Soekris for now, so I won't be looking for a while. unless I find some hidden gem at a estate sale or goodwill to try out dirt cheap :D
     
  13. gvl

    gvl Super Member

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    It is more of a long-term goal, so probably not any time soon. I sort of made up my mind on a ES9038PRO-based DAC for comparison, there aren't too many of those new and even fewer on the used market. One of these days... I have a Parasound D/AC-1000 as well and find it to be very good and resolving but occasionally harsh and not as holographic as say Metrum DACs. It was my favorite DAC until I pulled the trigger on that spensive Metrum... I suspect that Parasond's SPDIF input has too high intrinsic jitter plus the DF1700 digital filter isn't the last word in oversampling technology. It's not getting much love lately but I'm keeping it with a plan to add an async USB input and bypass the DF1700, so basically make it NOS but not for the sake of the NOS itself but rather to be able to oversample externally in software using a quality filter such as SoX or those in HQPlayer and have the DAC chip clocked from a quality osciallator.

    So far my "multibit experience" includes a TDA1543 DAC from Starting Point Systems, Schiit Modi Multibit, Parasound D/AC-100, Denon DCD-1520 CD player, Metrum Musette and Pavane. DS includes Arcam rDac, Centrance DACMini CX, Emotiva Little Ego. I still have all of these except the Schiit which I somehow didn't care for. I would probably say that DS sounds cleaner than multibit but there is always that hint of digitally processed sound. Multibit is technically inferior to DS so maybe it is the colorations that I like, who knows.
     
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  14. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    Personally, I would save your money for the Audio Note DAC 0.1x (my review should be up relatively soon - a month as it has been submitted awaiting editing and photos) or the Border Patrol SE. Both are $1350.

    With these R2R based chips (the TDA 1543) and high quality output and valves and no digital filters (and no analog filters in the AN) some of the weaknesses don't exist in these price points.

    I have only heard the Border Patrol once and it was excellent but I have had the DAC 0.1x for several months and the upper notes on piano are exceptionally ethereal and easily better any CD player I've owned over the years. There is nothing especially tubey about it either as the tube isn't used as a "buffer" following OP amps like a lot of cheap tube DACs - if the tube DAC has an OP amp it really probably should be avoided.

    My lesson in audio has been this - you can buy 5 different $400 DACs over 3 years all of which sound mediocre - you spend 3 years listening to mediocrity and dole out $2000 and sell them all getting $1300 back OR you buy the $1300 DAC and get much better sound for the 3 years and don't waste all your time screwing around with stuff that doesn't reproduce music properly. Border Patrol and the DAC 0.1X are IMO entry level for NOS players but for most people they are final DACs.

    Too many times I have tried to save money buying something cheap or because there was a "deal" on the item and I always end up regretting it and getting the more expensive thing that I wanted in the first place and lose more money having to get rid of the "deal"
     
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  15. automojo

    automojo OurBandCouldBeYourLife Subscriber

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    Well, IMHO your using fairly large brush strokes here. Their are a number of variables, systems, program materials, etc that make some things sound 'better' to the user or not. Not only that, what are your listening goals.
    I think far too many get their ideas from publications.
    Audio is a hobby, you don't need to justify how you go about it, or expenditures.
    It's a learning experience, just like life.
     
  16. gvl

    gvl Super Member

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    I can't see myself spending 4 digits on a TDA1543 based NOS solution, sorry.
     

     

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  17. automojo

    automojo OurBandCouldBeYourLife Subscriber

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    Sure.
    It's nice to have units you can rotate.
    I have a audio buddy that has 2 Metrum Octaves we are working a trade on. He has one of my FL's, and interested in another small piece of gear. As he mentioned, the Octave is very transparent, but lacks the analog/tube sound the FL has.
    We both have modded ESS AMT3's as well
    I agree with him, the remastered Beatles Rubber Soul has never sounded better then it does on the FL...
    That's one cool advantage, we have similar systems, but different ears!!
    I enjoy having a number of different dac's.
    If you have the money to spend, who really cares?
    I budget a certain amount each year, just like guys do for any other hobbies, snow mobiles, four wheelers, cars, boats, fishing, hunting, the list goes on. It's a expense, not a investment. Well, hopefully in good sound!! But it's also learning experience.
    I agree, in part with a earlier post, the Schiit's house MB sound, well not to my liking...
    The bottom line is how it sounds to you, and your system.
    Just because a DAC has a opamp, even a good one, is a negative, for example makes little sense.
    A lot of audio speak, comes directly from marketing people,...it's pretty easy to see...
    Too bad, because a lot of good sounding products are by passed, for simple, reasons such as op amps, or what ever.
    The same type of reasoning, and marketing, why vintage 70, then 80's then 90's gear was found unacceptable....
    The good news is, if you find these sleepers, they are bargains.
    For me a case in point is H/K late 80's/90's amplifiers and preamps...
    Whatever, but sticking to the sound is the important part, because it makes it easier for others to see if such a component is a good fit or not in their own system.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2018
  18. automojo

    automojo OurBandCouldBeYourLife Subscriber

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    I guess in a nutshell is what I'm trying to explain is it's more helpful to describe how a component sound, and how it fits in your system, rather then good, or bad, unless it actually is totally unacceptable.
    I realize it's a human tendency for sure.
    The glass half full theory works well here....
    But I do agree, for example a 4k TDA DAC, seems hard to fathom. And how those construction differences equal the ending result in it's sound.
    Seems most manufactures have those DAC's figured out fairly well. It's more of the supporting cast, and seemingly a quad based (or more?) design is the proper way of extracting the best from this chip. A good power supply as well, obviously.
    But, as others have noted, the lower output of some of these DAC's doesn't work well with some preamps.
    But then, you just never know...….synergy.....
    Again, lot's of variable to consider.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2018
  19. RGA

    RGA Super Member

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    And I think this is the biggest problem in digital audio today - that it is not at all about sound quality of music playback - but which is the latest processing chip and which decodes the greatest number of bits. I have a DAC with ESS Sabre 32/192khz that sells for $500 more than either of the TDA 1543 NOS DACs. And both of these walk all over my "modern" DAC for the business of playing back music - interestingly even on my hi res computer files FLAC and 24/192khz those recordings ALSO sound vastly better on the Redbook capable NOS DAC.

    But the on paper appearance the NOS DACs are a tough sell. Audio Note is one of the biggest and financially well off makers in the industry and they basically have a cost no object resource behind them. DAC Chips are dirt cheap. In fact older ones cost more and AN wanted to use the TDA 1541 as they prefer that chip to the TDA 1543 but there was no supply and it's tough to run a business if you have to go to the recycling center to get dead machines and pull the chips from them, test them and then manage any sort of supply chain. So Audio Note bought 20,000 chips of the next best thing (TDA 1543). Ditto the even better AD 1865 chip found in all of their better machines. Their Top DACs with the AD 1865 (max 18 bits) coupled with their CD Six transport has a combined price of $245,000US. And they get those sales from the folks who wasted their time with Bricasti, MSB, TotalDac, dCS, Chord, EMM Labs, etc. Granted that's a ludicrous number no matter how good it is but CD on these machines mop the floor with SACD, Vinyl (albeit not all) and computer files. Very few people though will have the opportunity to hear CD played back on that system though much less afford it so I suppose it's a bit moot.

    They have researched and designed with every chip on the market. It is a choice to go with sound quality over the easy sale of a numbers games selling the highest number of bit rate, the highest number of watts, the highest weight of the turntable.

    I find it somewhat intriguing that Audio Note does so very well selling DA Converters (all but the 0.1x have no USB input) and most are 5 and 6 figures. The 0.1x has been selling for 13 years - and it will be people like me with 32/192khz ESS Sabre DACs that will be trading this sort of thing in for the NOS stone age DAC because the sound is so unquestionably superior - it's not about sound then - it will be about your bias that something with a lower number and older tech could ever be superior to the new gadget. If one can get passed that bias one might have a stereo that reproduces music properly.

    Anytime companies spend a lot of time blathering about diamond tweeters, bullet proof woofer materials, the latest chip selection for the DAC and spend lots of money on shiny glossy pamphlets - it means the sound in the room isn't actually convincing.

    I remember way way back when all the no nothing hack reviewers were raving about the MSB Gold DAC - the latest and greatest chip technology and a reviewer compared that to an AN Kit for like 1/2 to 1/3 the price. And it wasn't pretty - and it still isn't pretty. I auditioned the $50kUS MSB and thinking wait - the DAC 3.1X (at $9k) sounds a lot lot better - because it sounds like music. Audio Note came out with NOS R2R CD replay - and they've been selling it since 1995 at some pretty hefty and not so hefty price points. They got CD right where everyone else in the entire industry got it dead wrong. 23 years later other engineers are now running around copying the AN approach. I find it satisfying because I was ranting about this as far back as 2002 when a $3k AN CD player completely embarrassed the top of the line Meridian and LINN Sondek (yes the one for over $20k). People always complain there are no negative reviews in audio - well here is a comparison http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0200/anmeetsmsb.htm
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
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  20. gvl

    gvl Super Member

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    Measured performance is not my (main) issue with these DACs. It is just I can't see how a filter-less TDA1543 NOS DAC can cost 4 digits. If I pay that much for say Metrum Amethyst I know at least that real engineering took place in designing and manufacturing its 24-bit DAC ladder modules, including custom FPGA programming. Same goes for Soekris units. Take the Border Patrol DAC, what do you see? Some off-the-shelf pieces wired together per cookbook sans the filtering dressed in a pretty case with an "audiophile" stamp on it. Sounds good? Maybe if the TDA1543 NOS colored sound pushes your buttons, but then so do several other TDA1543 DACs that can be had at a fraction of the cost.
     
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