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Old 14-09-2014, 10:27 PM   #1
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Discussion on DAC(Digital to Analog Converters)

I have been researching alot into DAC(AKM/Crystal Semiconductor/ESS/Ti/Wolfson) and here's some interesting quotes I found from Charles Hansen(Founder and Designer) of Ayre Acoustics

As time went on, the main demand has been for smaller, cheaper DAC chips with lower power consumption. This is due to the iPod craze. There is still a market for high-performance audio DAC chips, but there are only a handful left. All but one (the Burr-Brown PCM1704) use some form of a delta-sigma design that typically has only one to six bits, and relies on oversampling and noise shaping to attain reasonable performance.

In general, the more bits it has, the better the performance will be. However with a ladder DAC, all of the bits beyond 18 or so are called "marketing bits" as there is no audio-grade ladder that can exceed 18 bits of resolution. For example when Burr-Brown replaced the "20-bit" PCM1702 with the "24-bit" PCM1704, not one single specification changed. The only difference was that you could feed it digital words that were 24 bits long.
source:
Q&A with Charles Hansen of Ayre Acoustics | AudioStream



The Analog Devices AD1955 is essentially similar to the Burr-Brown devices. The Cirrus Logic CS4398 has a switched-capacitor analog stage, which in conjunction with an internal op-amp provides a voltage output. I have never been a fan of op-amps. The AKM AK4396 is similar to the Cirrus Logic part except that it has a patented method (6,693,574) of canceling some of the out-of-band noise created by the sigma-delta modulator. Some people, particularly Alex Peychev of the now defunct APL Labs, loved this part for that reason.

None of these parts provides any better low-level resolution than the Burr-Brown parts.
The ESS9018 is all the rage these days among certain people. The DAC section itself performs comparably to the PCM1792. However, the chip has a smorgasbord of other functions built in -- asynchronous sample rate converter, programmable digital filter, 8 channels of DACs (for easy design of a 7.1 channel receiver), and a multi-input S/PDIF receiver. Consequently, this part is expensive -- nearly 4x the price of the PCM1792. Since I don't need those other functions I don't feel that it offers a good value for my needs.
The AK4399 is similar to the AK4396, but is a "32-bit" part. This was probably the first of the "32-bit" parts. The specs are not improved over the 24-bit parts, it is simply a marketing gimmick that produces little, if any, audible improvement.
source:
Oversampling: Who Does It Best? - Page 5
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Old 14-09-2014, 11:53 PM   #2
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Really boils down to individual experience, sound preference, music genre taste, mood and a whole lot of other marketing stuff that are "internalized".

In my own personal experience, it boils down to the tuning and architecture implementation, to deliver the final output. Every thing in-between can a topic of debate or discussion, will amount to nothing if the output doesn't fit the user's taste.
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Old 15-09-2014, 12:14 AM   #3
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Really boils down to individual experience, sound preference, music genre taste, mood and a whole lot of other marketing stuff that are "internalized".

In my own personal experience, it boils down to the tuning and architecture implementation, to deliver the final output. Every thing in-between can a topic of debate or discussion, will amount to nothing if the output doesn't fit the user's taste.
Essentially it boils down to: One man's meat is another man's poison

I am just wondering how much $$$ must one invest before one is nearing the summit of high fieldity. It's just that at the highest end of audio gear, most of the time you are just paying for the design of the casing(aesthetics) more than anything else.

e.g. The sonic performance between DX100 vs HM901 vs AK240 vs Fiio X5

And between HD800 vs LCD-X vs PS-1000e

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Old 15-09-2014, 01:37 AM   #4
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imo too component level liao. may or may not be meaningful to judge a product quality. just like what kenz said, final output still matters.

eg what centrance mentioned in this page:
CEntrance » Blog Archive » Inside DACport, by Popular Demand


"DAC design is not about the parts, but about the overall circuit design, down to the power supply, the neighboring components, and the individual traces on the PCB."
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Old 15-09-2014, 01:56 AM   #5
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imo too component level liao. may or may not be meaningful to judge a product quality. just like what kenz said, final output still matters.

eg what centrance mentioned in this page:
CEntrance » Blog Archive » Inside DACport, by Popular Demand


"DAC design is not about the parts, but about the overall circuit design, down to the power supply, the neighboring components, and the individual traces on the PCB."
Well I am thinking interms of Audio GD DACs:

All of the Audio GD DACs have the almost same type of beefy power supplies/circuitry/dsp/usb/production quality and all. Thus it now all boils down to the "DAC chip" level for the sound signature.

http://www.audio-gd.com/Products-EN.htm

They offer 3 different types of DACs inside their current DACs:

1) ESS Sabre 9018
2) Wolfson WM8741
3) Ti/Burr Brown PCM1704

Now pondering whether to bite the bullet for the more expensive R2R dac or stick with cheaper sigma-delta dac.


http://www.head-fi.org/products/audi...7/reviews/8087
http://www.head-fi.org/t/693798/thou...late-ice-cream

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Old 15-09-2014, 07:47 AM   #6
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Well I am thinking interms of Audio GD DACs:

All of the Audio GD DACs have the almost same type of beefy power supplies/circuitry/dsp/usb/production quality and all. Thus it now all boils down to the "DAC chip" level for the sound signature.

şÍ§Ó*µ响

They offer 3 different types of DACs inside their current DACs:

1) ESS Sabre 9018
2) Wolfson WM8741
3) Ti/Burr Brown PCM1704

Now pondering whether to bite the bullet for the more expensive R2R dac or stick with cheaper sigma-delta dac.


“Nothing more, sonically, I could ask for.” - Currawong’s Review of Audio-gd Master 7
Thoughts on a bunch of DACs (and why I hate chocolate ice cream)
think the Chord Hugo has elevated the game beyond the implementation of "off the shelves" DAC chips like Wolfson, ESS, Burr Brown, Cirrus, Ti and what have you with their AIO chip.
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Old 15-09-2014, 12:53 PM   #7
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I agree the most with kenz.. while the chip has some determinant, it does not dictate what the eventual sound is like. The implementation is more important.

Personally I wouldn't get Audio GD, but that's because of hearing experience rather than specs.

There is no 'summit' of high end. It is a journey and you'll never reach the end.. you just have to choose where you want to drop off. There are DACs costing $10 to $100k.. as you go higher end, there are less and less off-the-shelf chips being used.. dCs, emmlabs, chord, etc all use their own proprietary methods.
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Old 15-09-2014, 01:47 PM   #8
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I agree with Quest.
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Old 15-09-2014, 03:04 PM   #9
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Problem with Audio-GD is that it's one man churning out millions of designs in very short times... I don't really think that's a very good style of business to buy into.

At the end of the day, happy can liao. Focus too much on the chip and you miss the jungle for a tree.
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Old 15-09-2014, 05:26 PM   #10
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Problem with Audio-GD is that it's one man churning out millions of designs in very short times... I don't really think that's a very good style of business to buy into.

At the end of the day, happy can liao. Focus too much on the chip and you miss the jungle for a tree.
Audio GD is like buying from a hand soldered company:


source:
The Flagship Audio Gd: PCM1704 based Ref 7.1

However on the other side of coin is that Audio GD is a company that is constantly improving their product line, and pretty much value for money(production $ into internal components vs exterior aesthetic).

As much as I am a "newer tech is always better" person, I think audio quality is all about good electrical design and along with good component materials.

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Old 15-09-2014, 05:52 PM   #11
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think the Chord Hugo has elevated the game beyond the implementation of "off the shelves" DAC chips like Wolfson, ESS, Burr Brown, Cirrus, Ti and what have you with their AIO chip.
No matter how good sounding or how well designed filters on the hugo might be:

The overall build quality of the Hugo leaves me totally unimpressed from a durability stand point:


They make Ibasso look like Swiss Made.(yes thats how poorly made the hugo is, especially when you consider the price it is sold at)


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Old 15-09-2014, 09:43 PM   #12
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Ben Zwickel of Mojo Audio

We’ve found that the power supply makes the biggest difference in any component. Even the most modest of chips and circuitry can have exceptional performance with the right power supply. Performance is influenced to a greater extent by the power supply than by any other factor. When it comes to DAC chips, however, this is a bit of a complex topic. To oversimplify, DAC chips can be divided into two major categories, modern single bit closest approximation DACs and vintage multibit R-2R ladder DACs. In my experience, each does different things better, and I have not yet heard a DAC chip that does all things correctly. The modern closest approximation DACs have better extension, better dynamics, and lower background noise, whereas the vintage R-2R ladder DACs have better time, tone, timbre, and emotional content.

A significant part of our recent prototyping has been about searching for a modern DAC chip that would give us the best of both worlds. So far we have not found one that does.

Of course modern DACs play modern formats like DSD and native high-res files. However, I would estimate that over 90 percent of all recorded music available today is only available in 16-bit digital, so personally I prefer a DAC that is optimized for 16-bit as opposed to one that sounds amazing with a handful recordings done in modern high-res formats.
An Interview with Ben Zwickel of Mojo Audio - Page 6 of 6 - Dagogo | A Unique Audiophile Experience
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Old 15-09-2014, 09:55 PM   #13
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The overall build quality of the Hugo leaves me totally unimpressed from a durability stand point:
Labour cost very high in UK. Everything use high end components + 50% profits = SG price will end up $3+k.

Nobody will buy le.
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Old 15-09-2014, 10:41 PM   #14
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Labour cost very high in UK. Everything use high end components + 50% profits = SG price will end up $3+k.

Nobody will buy le.
I can understand if they skim cost on the exterior casing of the hugo. However the input jacks look horribly cheap and fragile, like your S$20 usb soundcard you find at challenger. Even my PC motherboard onboard soundcard's jack looks more well made/durable. This is totally unacceptable in a S$2k priced product, even for S$200 product. All they need to do is increase the price by S$100-$200 to use abit better jacks, I also won't mind.

Consider a <S$200 soundcard from Asus has better jacks:

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Old 15-09-2014, 11:21 PM   #15
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Haha not to join in the "fun" but really would like to comment about the apparent exterior built quality of the hugo. To me it looks and feels like those soundtech av splitter standard. Sound is another thing.

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