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FrankenZERO - A bang for buck exploration with a DIY Heart !

post #1 of 427
Thread Starter 
The long awaited (for one or two people) FrankenZERO project is complete and ready for prime time

After long months of work, testing, listening, testing some more, listening....sigh....here it is......(it's not much to look at, but sure sounds good)

All right let's get on with the heart of the upgrade.......As the subject title states this is indeed a true DIY project aimed at the low cost Zero 24/192 DAC and Headphone amp, the premise of which was/is, to see just how far a small investment in parts would take the little DAC/Amp down the road to improved overall sound quality. That judgement call will be left up to the individual as everyone's mileage may vary !!

The guiding principle of the entire project is to keep costs as low as possible using good quality parts to replace those that are of lesser quality. Add in some strategic bypassing using cheap high quality Russian NOS caps and thats the whole idea. Simple, clean and best of all fairly cheap.

The blue print for this upgrade is what I will share with the Head Fi community at large, free to use, experiment with and hopefully enjoy for some time to come.

With that I give you the illustrated and very crude ( gets the job done it's good enough for me) guide to turning the stock Zero into something a lot better SQ wise for not a lot of money.

Each section is broken down into Phases....of which there are three to complete the upgrade.

Phase 1 Power Supply Sections



Phase 2 Analog/ Logic Sections






Phase 3 Headphone Amp







That's the entire upgrade. Mostly swapping parts with the addition of some number of PIO caps for bypass duty.

For additional specific details feel free to PM me.

End users if they follow this blue print will have a pretty darn good boost in SQ after all is said and done.

A small number of kits (with all the parts needed for the mod) are available from me. PM for details of those.

The release of the actual "how to" info was always part of the plan so others could duplicate (if they wish) the project using their own parts......the caveat being your end result may not be the same. Goes without saying I suppose.

Best Regards to all !!!!

Peete.


EDIT: Please note the PIO caps in the kit are a substitute for the original .047uf 160V K42Y-2 PIO caps. They are hard to source at times as they are getting very popular among DIY circles world wide. It is OK to get either (.047uf 160V or .033uf 500V) value and voltage rating for this mod. The smaller voltage value .047uf cap is physically smaller so it's easier to place on the underside of pcb.

Both will fit.

Obviously better quality caps can be susbstituted for what I've used but your costs rise substantially so keep that in mind WRT why I chose the caps I did....it had/has to be a budget mod. IMO you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the Nichicon PW once bypassed with the K42Y-2 from the far more expensive Fine Gold big brother.

Worthwhile cost effective subs - the 4 x 100uf 25V caps around the dac chip (logic section I like to call it) Sanyo OS-CON are the preferred cap for this spot over all other brands including Black Gate (IMO at least), bypassed of course ( Russian or Sprague Vit Q PIO for all bypass work, the K42Y-2 is a Vit Q clone except better WRT it's overall SQ).
The stock Elna Silmic 47uf 10V output coupling caps in the analog section (16V on some Zeros) upgraded to Elna cerafine 47uf 25V (or 35V depends if you can find a 25V).
post #2 of 427
Phase 1 pic looks really ugly. I can barely see the small print and the yellow lines leading to a component is incredibly hard to see. You can do well by darkening the lines on that pic also.

Other pics looks okay.

Where did you buy the parts? I'm interested in doing this mod but am having quite a hard time looking for them.

Off to snip those additional caps.
post #3 of 427
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doorknob View Post
Phase 1 pic looks really ugly. I can barely see the small print and the yellow lines leading to a component is incredibly hard to see. You can do well by darkening the lines on that pic also.

Other pics looks okay.

Where did you buy the parts? I'm interested in doing this mod (Will be my first DIY with a soldering iron. I should be able to annoy my physics teach enough to help me on this.) but am having quite a hard time looking for them.

Off to snip those additional caps.
In your pic viewer, zoom in a little. Everything will be larger and clearer.
post #4 of 427
Yesterday I had a chance to listen to the cap mod (lots of ELNA, Nichicon, Red German WIMA and silver MICA) of the version 1 ZERO. all I can say about the zero is very nice piece of works.

The transparency become very obvious and I like the way NILS LOFGREN pluck his acoustics, with conviction and weight. The vocal is more natural and overall it is very musical. Bass has more attack and more control.


1. Diode Bypass (reduce noise)
2. Stability and Noise killing mod for digital section (PS bypass replaced with Silver Mica)
3. Ground loop breaker mod (better caps)
4. More capacitance for the main analog stage, from 4400uF to 6600uF
5. More capacitance for the digital stage with Silmic II parallel, from 2000uF to 2330uF and bypass.
6. Cap replacement on analog output stage
7. Film cap replacement with german Wimas near the clock, DAC and supply lines.



post #5 of 427
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doorknob View Post
Phase 1 pic looks really ugly. I can barely see the small print and the yellow lines leading to a component is incredibly hard to see. You can do well by darkening the lines on that pic also.

Other pics looks okay.

Where did you buy the parts? I'm interested in doing this mod (Will be my first DIY with a soldering iron. I should be able to annoy my physics teach enough to help me on this.) but am having quite a hard time looking for them.

Off to snip those additional caps.
If you download the pic and use a regular viewer it'll be much much larger in size. I had to compromise somewhat with the pic sizes here to remain dial up friendly but also be large enough to be usable. When I uploaded to photo bucket I downsized the originals to 1024 x 768 pixels.....the normal untouched size and resolution pics I can email to you if you want (in a Zip file)

I sourced the electrolytic caps and diodes from Digi-Key Canada and the Russian PIO's from the Ukraine (eBay store called SOVCOM).

I have a limited number of kits assembled for those that don't wish to source their own parts. PM me if your interested and I'll give you more details via regular email.

Peete.
post #6 of 427
If I just wanted to upgrade the DAC section, which part would I do - analog/logic?
post #7 of 427
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by powertoold View Post
If I just wanted to upgrade the DAC section, which part would I do - analog/logic?
The four 100uf caps around the DAC chip upgrade to Sanyo OS Cons/Elna Silmic or cerafine/Black gate etc... of same value and bypass all 4 with a top shelf PIO/Poly box on underside of pcb.....

The power supply really needs work in this unit although the logic section upgrade alone should yield a decent return for money and time invested.

Peete.
post #8 of 427

The FrankenZero Mod

I just thought I should mention that I'm currently reviewing the FrankenZero, completely modded (all by myself! LOL, with guidance from PP) with one of PP's mod kits. Due to some personal delays, I might not be done with the review for a little while longer, but I promise it is coming soon.

I can say at this point, the FrankenZero is one heck of a great sounding DAC/Amp. The DAC section is extremely neutral and dynamic, with all the hallmarks of a superior DAC. My separate headphone amps have never had such an excellent sounding source before! The improvements are very universal, and can be heard with all of my headphone amps, from the MKII to the MKIVse for tubes, and also my MKV SS Headphone amp. The built-in headphone section has been transformed into a real clean and powerful head amp, that is leaps and bounds superior to the stock head amp. I'll have more details in the review, but I thought I should mention that the improvements are very noticeable in my main speaker rig as well. I'm testing the FrankenZero with everything I have, so that everyone can picture what the mods might mean for them.

Doing the FrankenZero mod is a blast, if you are into DIY, and for those with some soldering/electronics experience in the past (like me), doing the FrankenZero mod is extremely rewarding! This is one of those mod projects where you can actually "hear" the differences you have made, which makes each phase of the mod more fun to complete. When the FrankenZero is done, and you've used it enough to mature all the caps, you are left with a real heavy weight contender, for very little cash!

Thanks to the FrankenZero, I've canceled my plans to purchase a high end DAC for headphone amp use. Looking at this mod from an audiophile point of view, the SQ gained by this FrankenZero mod, are nothing short of amazing. Every aspect one might look for in a high end DAC/Amp, is here in the FrankenZero's presentation. I did a quick side by side comparison with my second (HeadFi Deal) Zero, and even my wife could hear the improvements! I see her eyeballing my second Zero, and I know exactly what she is plotting! She wants me to make her a FrankenZero for her home office! Figures!

Hats off and a firm salute to PP for creating one outrageously fun and rewarding mod kit, the FrankenZero!

Stay tuned!
Pench
post #9 of 427
this looks pretty awesome. I was just wondering... whats the best place to pick up all of these parts?
post #10 of 427
Quote:
Originally Posted by xxbaker View Post
this looks pretty awesome. I was just wondering... whats the best place to pick up all of these parts?
THe OP says he has kits for all the parts!
post #11 of 427
Thread Starter 
Thank you mods !!!

Peete.
post #12 of 427
Hi PP,

Can I know do u have the parts for phase 1 and phase 2 mod.

I would like to buy those.

rgds.
post #13 of 427
Thread Starter 
Check your PM box CC

I'm going out for a bit but I'll talk to you after lunch today.

regards,

Peete.
post #14 of 427
Hi PP,

Nice work! Seems it's time for some soldering
I made a caps mod around the DAC some months ago (replacing the caps with WIMA ones) but that was all.
I have now received a HDAM Earth and will take some time to go further.
Would you have some kits left for phase 1 and 2, including the caps for the HDAM mod?

regards.
post #15 of 427
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fremen View Post
Hi PP,

Nice work! Seems it's time for some soldering
I made a caps mod around the DAC some months ago (replacing the caps with WIMA ones) but that was all.
I have now received a HDAM Earth and will take some time to go further.
Would you have some kits left for phase 1 and 2, including the caps for the HDAM mod?

regards.


The whole kit is available..the last Phase really is worth doing and it happens to be the smallest of the 3, at 4 parts.

All caps are included ,including the 1uf for the BA HDAM cap mod.

PM for details. I'll answer later on tonight or Monday.

Peete.
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