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DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

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DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by CLH on Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:13 pm

After using several cd players, including the Marantz cd7300, Marantz SA11S1,I started to use outboard DAC, in 2007 bought the Promitheus Audio DAC below:

The original innards of the DAC, the Op-amps were replaced with the Bursons discrete transistors modules in 2008 below:


The Bursons on 2 tiny pcbs can be seen together with additional power supply and filter caps. Liked the sound - analogue sounding and lively, to me it was better than the Marantz SA-11S1 which sounded "soft", so I was living happily with it with the vintage TEAC VRDS-10 as transport for a couple more years until the receiver chip CS8414 went 'kaput'. Got the chip replaced by our Nicholas Chua but it "went" again in a few month's time. The pcb tracks were in bad shape so I decided to leave it alone and move on. This time I embarked on the well received (another local) DIY Paradise "Monica 3" with "Mojo" - got it online after a short wait as it was 'out of stock' for sometime in 2009.


So in goes the Monica 3+Mojo into the same wooden box that once housed the Promitheus Audio DAC, the output transformers on the right were not used though.

Then need to get 'fresh' after using NOS dacs for sometime now (with TDA1545A) and with all the hype about high resolution digital, decided to 'jump' all the way to 32bit dacs - none other than the ESS Sabre 9018 chip, at that time, end of 2010 the DIY Buffalo II from Russ White seem most promising. So got hold of it and together with its Legato I/V board and Placid power supply board was purchased and built up.

So, in goes the latest dac board into the original wooden box, out goes Monica 3.

But this time, we go one step further, cut a rectangular hole in front, install LCD display panel, DIY microcontroller with software codes from blogs, is able to display the sample rate (SR) right up to 192kHz - great satisfaction! And best of all it sounds best among all the dacs I had so far, very detailed, extended lows and highs, minimal siblance, clean and quiet.


Now, I play not only cds thru' the TEAC, but also HD digital music via 'Foobar2000' and Musiland USB to this 'new' dac all the way up to 24bit 192kHz - enjoying every bit of it...... Laughing
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kp93300 on Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:28 pm

Hi
I have the promitheus dac and monica / mojo / Black crow and qls 550 sd card player.
Also thinking of getting the DIY Buffalo.
How much is the total cost?
Can you post some close up photo to see how difficult to assemble it ?

thanks
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by CLH on Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:40 pm

Hi kp93300,

Below is the picture of all the items as received from Russ White, it includes the Buffalo II, Legato I/V and Placid power supply boards and components. Notice that the Buffalo II board is already fully populated and pre-soldered.


And below is a closeup of the Buffalo II board. This is the latest with Crystek 100Mhz clock. The Legato has balanced outputs.


You can get the prices from : http://www.twistedpearaudio.com/digital/buffalo.aspx
For me, the whole thing above + Arduino microcontroller and LCD display = RM1400 roughly in parts cost.
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by tycham on Sat Apr 02, 2011 9:22 pm

When is the next stampede? Look like have to stay up at 1 am in the morning to join the stampede. What a Face
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by benzene on Sun Apr 03, 2011 12:28 am

kp93300:
Try to get the Trident regs as well. Pretty good.
I'm using Placid Power Supply for Buffalo module and Placid Bipolar PS for IvyIII, volumite for volume control, and the Trident regs. The assemble is quite easy except the fine tuning of the resistance and output voltage. Personally i can't do those and got my friend to help.
I followed the above recommendation from a forumer in diyparadise, (NicMac).
Heard some prefer Legato and some prefer IvyIII.
I got mine running for almost a month now. Good sounding DAC.

tycham:
When you decided to stay up and buy the Buffalo, make sure your internet connection is smooth and keep hitting the refresh button till you see the "Add to Cart" button appears. I only got mine after few times of trying Smile

CLH:
I'm interested in the Arduino microcontroller and LCD display as it's very versatile. Is it hard to assemble it as i don't know about electronics.
Thanks.



Last edited by benzene on Sun Apr 03, 2011 12:29 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo)

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by CLH on Sun Apr 03, 2011 6:59 am

tycham/kp93300:
If I remember correctly, the Malaysian time at 'cut-off' is around 9pm and not 1am? When its a few hours before closing you can know exactly what time it will be in Malaysia since there is a 'count-down' clock. As Benzene said, you have to hit "add-to-cart" within seconds of closing and finalize payment - I paid using Paypal, since it will be sold out in under one minute of closing.

Benzene:
Since you have used the Volumite, the Arduino works the similar as a digital volume control only it has more functions including input selection, filter selection etc as it can read/write into the registers of the ESS9018 chip. I got all my info from : http://hifiduino.wordpress.com/category/arduino-code/
and emails with the developer/blogger himself. All you need is the Arduino Uno board from local : http://www.rocketscream.com/shop/products/development-tools/boards-kits
and get the LCD display 4x20(row x characters) anywhere, Pasar Road or eBay (they are all China made if its about RM50), get an encoder (for the volume control, I use optical/mechanical encoder from RS) and follow the instructions and download the software codes from Hifiduino blog. Below is the photo of the prototype when testing the LCD and codes without connecting to the dac yet. You can see that the sample rate SR is zero, and the digital phase lock loop indicate "No Lock". Only be careful when connecting to the Buffalo II board and remember that the Buffalo also has its own microcontroller which must be unplugged when using the Arduino controller.
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kp93300 on Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:48 pm

CLH AND Benzene,
What are the areas of difference in sound between monica/ mojo dac and the Buffalo ?
It is not too expensive for the buffalo and you have to short the - and GNd to get standard RCA output ?

regards

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by tycham on Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:51 pm

Thanks guy for the info.
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kwwong on Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:53 pm

I have tried supplying HiFace with external power before feeding the signal to BII, result is positive. I can hear it is cleaner and louder. Here is some pictures.





Good thing of this mod is you don't need to open up the HiFace and mess with wiring inside.

The regulator I use is LM317.

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by benzene on Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:22 pm

CLH:
Thanks for the info, sounds technical to me Smile
Shall ask you for advice if i proceed to that route...

kp93300:
You can get a Buffalo and it's a keeper. Buffalo provides both SE RCA output and XLR balanced output. You don't have to short any wire. PM me if you want to compare both DACs.


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Buffalo II DAC (Sabre ES9018)

Post by CLH on Tue Apr 05, 2011 5:21 pm

benzene wrote:CLH:
Thanks for the info, sounds technical to me Smile
Shall ask you for advice if i proceed to that route...

kp93300:
You can get a Buffalo and it's a keeper. Buffalo provides both SE RCA output and XLR balanced output. You don't have to short any wire. PM me if you want to compare both DACs.

Benzene : you are welcome, anytime I will share info with you. The display is more of a fancy thing but also gives confirmation of your source resolution as in pixs below.

kp93300 : Yes you get 'proper' single ended (SE) as well as balanced outputs (both can be used at the same time)when the BII is used with either Legato or IVY line stages. I use the Legato, some use the BII output direct out, I don't know how or whether they use SE or balanced to drive their amps.

kwwong: Your mod on USB power supply is good. I now use the USB to power the Musiland 01-USD but intend to do the same as you later.

With digital output direct from TEAC VRDS10 to BII the SR=44100 exactly. From PC via Foobar > Musiland USB > SPDIF to BII, the SR are not exactly accurate as in below pictures, playing files of different resolutions. Even the ipod dock (Onkyo NDS1) digital out is 44104 hz. But since the figures are always constant, i.e. it does not fluctuate from time to time, its okay (44.1, 48, 96, 88.2, 192kHz):



So far, I think there are only a few Buffalo II dacs locally - any others who would like to share theirs? I know one (kww on LYN forum) whose BII drives tube linestage.


Last edited by CLH on Sun Jun 19, 2011 7:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kwwong on Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:22 pm

CLH, I am the same kww as of LYN, you are Dexsam right? Looking at the equipment and wooden casing I think you are.

I just do the power mod for my HiFace. After I saw a lot of good review of it. next I will try to supply the LM317 with 12V dry cell battery instead of bridge rectifier and trans.

If compare the same CD and rip with EAC -> play with HiFace + power mod, still not as good as my Sony 338 top loading playing original CD. But if I play 24bit/192kHz song downloaded from net with HiFace, the feeling is just 'wow', I never heard that with my CD player before. But I can't compare it with CD player as I don't have the same album or it play 24bits.

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by flyfly on Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:05 pm

Why never try build a DAC board with TDA1541A board ler....then lampizator it right away...i wish to continue by not sure where to get those tubes...my project got stuck some how.. tongue
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kwwong on Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:15 pm

flyfly, I have done that, BII sound better to me.
Using same 6n2p tube.

TDA1541 is about 30yrs technology, while the sabre is latest tech. Now there is more source in 24bits or even 32bits, we have to move forward.

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by tycham on Thu Apr 07, 2011 8:31 am

flyfly wrote:Why never try build a DAC board with TDA1541A board ler....then lampizator it right away...i wish to continue by not sure where to get those tubes...my project got stuck some how.. tongue

Try this guy. He might have some spare.
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by mllum88 on Thu Apr 07, 2011 10:25 am

CLH,

Your project looks fabulous. I have built many dacs some with purely point to point wiring on veroboard. My metal work skills are absolutely useless and my projects look nothing like the project you have shown.

All I care about is that it works and sounds good. One of my favourites is a non oversampling ad1860. Will one day try to upload pics if I can find the time to take the pics.

Incidentally flyfly, lampizator's SRPP stage is very common and appears everywhere. I tend to use NOS Raytheon 5755's in a mu follower circuit. It sounds fabulous The schematic and values are as per Doede Douma's phonodude (but only the first stage of the phono preamp). See http://www.dddac.de/ click on phonodude

Incidentally, ebay is a good source for Russian tubes if you want to go lampizator's way. He uses 6N2p twin triodes. These are easily and cheaply available on ebay. Less than USD$4 per piece. I usually buy in multiples of 10 and with shipping comes out to less than USD$50.



Thanks


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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by sss333 on Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:55 am

other than 6N2P, u can always use any tube u have or u like to build the SRPP. 5687, 12au7, 6N3 and so on. Just need to change the voltage and cathode resistor (bias).

1541A NOS sound musical to me but the difficult part is the right implementation to unlease it potential.

A lot commercial TDA1541A did not fully release the potential of 1541A, that's why most of them are melow musical, but less punchy, less transparent and seems roll off top and bottom.

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kwwong on Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:55 pm

At last got my trident set last week.
Installation is quite easy.

First impression is vocal improvement, feeling is like upgrade a 2D to 3D TV.



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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by sph on Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:06 am

I like the glow of the LEDs!

I have the Monica3+mojo2 DAC. I like the performance of it.
Have not heard the Buffalo but I would like to try it out (if anyone is kind enough to let me audition it).

It appears quite a chore to buy it online (doing the "stampede").

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kwwong on Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:20 pm

Sph, been some time they didn't do pre-scheduled stampede preorder for BII, instead they open it up randomly. In diyaudio, there is mention BIII is coming out.
If you want to know you like the BII or not, best is to test it in your own system. Where are you from? What preamp you use (active or passive or integrated amp)?

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Buffalo II DAC (Sabre ES9018)

Post by CLH on Sun Jun 19, 2011 9:01 am

My BII is now completed with the addition of ADUM1250 - bidirectional i2c isolator to fully isolate the microprocessor (Arduino/Atmega chip) from the Buffalo dac. This chip is on the copper colour small pcb beside the BII pcb. Notice also that the on-board controller chip (stock 8 pin IC) has been removed from the Buffalo II pcb. The dac's 32-bit digital volume can also be controlled with Apple IR remote but I always leave it a -0dB and use amplifier volume control instead.

The Arduino now can set the parameters of the DAC, and with the latest software version 8.0 (from Hifiduino, with thanks), it has added settings:
1) Filter : besides Sharp/Slow, it has PCM, 50, 60 or 70kHz
2) Quantizer : 6bit true differential, 7, 8 up to 9 bit
etc. See the photo of new display layout with added parameters.

Remaining mod : Add Trident regulators (like kww), btw, Kww how do you manage to get them, I tried but couldn't order for months..... Sad

Any others who built their dac with BII - care to share their experience & result? Maybe we could all bring ours together for a session ........




Last edited by CLH on Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:38 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo)
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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kwwong on Sun Jun 19, 2011 12:12 pm

Would love to have a session like that.

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kwwong on Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:17 pm

Finally the duo-mono BII with trident is done. Here are some picture to share.

The red color are tubes, the green LEDs are tridents shunt power supply


I can't stop staring at the LEDs when first turn on, it is a huge relieve when everything is working after so much work. After feed music to it the green LEDs never attract me anymore. I just sit there and enjoy music until I forgot to watch lee chong Wei vs Peter gade


drunken drunken drunken


Last edited by kwwong on Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:53 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : add in more description)

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kp93300 on Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:36 pm

Hi Kwwong,
impressive work !
I wonder how does it compare to commercial high end dac costing more 10K

regards

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Re: DIY - DAC : How mine evolved

Post by kwwong on Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:52 pm

Kp93300,
Audited some higher end DAC, but is the whole system, didn't have a chance to just swap out DAC only to compare. There are some mention of it in DIYaudion but I don't remember which page, there are 143 pages in it http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/twisted-pear/160782-buffalo-ii.html sure you will find some pointer in there after read all of it.

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