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The Audio-gd Compass (Was: Designing an alternative to the Zero DAC/amp) - Page 2

post #16 of 7724
For the Unit -
Two separate boxes, hopefully each with a dual mono design would be nice and hopefully not too expensive.

The DAC -
Must be handsome and with a thick aluminum front and a few very tasteful LEDs. Look at the most expensive items in this head-fi market...they all look like a million bucks. Very simple front with no ugly Chinese fontwork. USB Dac is optional but popular, coax/optical in. Invest in some nice jacks.
It doesn't have to upsample, I like the design of the Moodlab Concept, no oversampling.

Separate box -
A matching, well made headphone amp. An expensive volume pot, plenty of aluminum, a few custom switches for gain, cross, whatever. No op-amps, a real amp section would be nice. Make balanced an option for the whole setup. Have neutrik headphone jacks, cuz they make me happy. Dual mono design of course.

Do your homework on selling these things. A US shipper would be nice, to speed things up, with a real phone number and real customer service, I love Darkvoice stuff already and my amp isn't even here yet, but dealing with China is cumbersome and emails take days to get answered and mailing costs are high. Sell them all direct from your website...I hate fancy manufacturers where you have to email them and haggle to get one. Build a crapload of them, and start the selling. Sell them on a nice ebay store, too.

The Stello product series is beautiful and ideal. A stack of good looking aluminum boxes, nothing tacky, the right features and performance.
post #17 of 7724
The notion of designing a head-fi oriented company from the ground up with the perfect DAC/amp for a perfect price just reminds me of how many problems the chinese head-fi market has. They have so much talent and potential, but they just need the right angle and presentation.

Go to audiophilechina.com and see all the different brands, they're solid items but need some work.

Most of the designs look solid - stuff like the Zero DAC has been a smash hit around here because it delivers the goods for a low price. But work on presentation...lots of people judge books by their cover...I can at least learn a few things about what something might be like by how the outside looks, although of course I look inside the unit and listen to what others have to say. Make your website look better than audiophilechina.com, hire two people that speak perfect english to man your phones and website and answer emails instantaneously - reputation is built when communication is good, and people will love your company even before they get your good product.

With a good product and distribution in the right way, a new DAC/amp offering could be the next big thing here, and I love that the company is taking suggestions straight from us. So many companies have tried to please us, but we can learn from their mistakes since none of them have been absolutely perfect.
post #18 of 7724
A DAC with a high performance chip like the ESS Sabre8 Reference (ES9008) (or Wolfson WM8741) would be nice, with proper switch between inputs (S/PDIF Coax / Toslink / USB), proper coax 75ohm implementation with BNC connectors, and really making an effort for the USB input to be good and not just functional like many do.

Looks would not be my main concern, because the finishing touch that make amps look like a million bucks usually cost a lot to be done right, I would prefer that money be spent in the build quality as in durability and proper design/implementation of every aspect of this unit, and the components of course.

Those wanting a very good looking front plate, make it optional. I only mention the front plate because the rest of the unit, even the Stellos are very simple ALU boxes, nothing exceptional is needed in that regard.

Priced as low as possible, a group buy effort could be arranged to make this possible, keeping the cost as low as possible, this way we enable Kingwa to order components in quantity from his suppliers at lower cost.

I understand the idea of a ZERO done right, it's just not what I am looking for atm, I have no interest in an amp, but I am very interested in something with a better chip/performance than the ZERO, even the heavily modded ones. The goal with the ZERO was never the amp, just an extra.
post #19 of 7724
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeW View Post
Is a frankenzero really that much cheaper? once you buy HDAM and caps? The DAC100 is only 265 /w an HDAM in it.
That's how I put the calculation together as well. Even if the DAC-100 cost you 10-20 USD more, then you still do not risk to mess up the whole thing. Plus the fact you would have to order almost everything seperate and end up paying a lot of money just for shipping.
post #20 of 7724
hmm, RCA out isn't too convenient to use as a headphone amp.
post #21 of 7724
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaMnEd View Post
A DAC with a high performance chip like the ESS Sabre8 Reference (ES9008) (or Wolfson WM8741) would be nice, with proper switch between inputs (S/PDIF Coax / Toslink / USB), proper coax 75ohm implementation with BNC connectors, and really making an effort for the USB input to be good and not just functional like many do.

Looks would not be my main concern, because the finishing touch that make amps look like a million bucks usually cost a lot to be done right, I would prefer that money be spent in the build quality as in durability and proper design/implementation of every aspect of this unit, and the components of course.

Those wanting a very good looking front plate, make it optional. I only mention the front plate because the rest of the unit, even the Stellos are very simple ALU boxes, nothing exceptional is needed in that regard.

Priced as low as possible, a group buy effort could be arranged to make this possible, keeping the cost as low as possible, this way we enable Kingwa to order components in quantity from his suppliers at lower cost.

I understand the idea of a ZERO done right, it's just not what I am looking for atm, I have no interest in an amp, but I am very interested in something with a better chip/performance than the ZERO, even the heavily modded ones. The goal with the ZERO was never the amp, just an extra.
At least from my point of view, Damned's was able to stay close to what the Zero currently delivers. Some others "I want this and that" just get too far away from the Zero and it sounds like that some of us try to create the "dream dac" - all in one box, all features, BEST sound for less then what a fully modded Zero costs
I would place the order right now if that is possible, but we need to be realistic and don't get too far from the Zero.

But maybe thats just me...
post #22 of 7724
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx_23 View Post
hmm, RCA out isn't too convenient to use as a headphone amp.
The RCA out would be for the dac/pre-amp part of this unit, like the ZERO.
post #23 of 7724
Quote:
Originally Posted by smuh View Post
At least from my point of view, Damned's was able to stay close to what the Zero currently delivers. Some others "I want this and that" just get too far away from the Zero and it sounds like that some of us try to create the "dream dac" - all in one box, all features, BEST sound for less then what a fully modded Zero costs
I would place the order right now if that is possible, but we need to be realistic and don't get too far from the Zero.

But maybe thats just me...
I agree with smuh here as well. While I don't know what the costs of some the suggestions are going to be, things like 2 separate units and premium faceplate/build quality are going to ramp up the costs. Making this well over the budget. Whats good about the zero and hopefully this dac/amp is that it had a high performance/price ratio for a budget dac. So i guess what I'm trying to say is providing suggestions are fine; but try to remember what the purpose of this amp/dac is, and that is to provide an alternative to the fully modded zero DAC with better QC, hopefully a better sound at a similar price point. So please make suggestions that are within reason for a budget dac/amp
post #24 of 7724
Ideally the price would be set "a bit" above what a tweaked ZERO with all the kinks costs (HDAM, better components and QC), we do have to realize that the basic ZERO cost what it costs because of the lacking QC and thousands of units sold, I do not think we are about to order xx000 units, so, the price will probably always be considerably above the tweaked ZERO costs.

Almost all over here purchased the ZERO (or considered), but with upgrades, the stock unit is nothing special, really, even at it's price point better or equally good are available now, so I think starting at the previously mentioned price range would be ideal, but only Kingwa can access what that would cost and look like really.

Personally I would make a better DAC chip a condition, we've seen what that chip can do for the most part with the ZERO and it's mods, so that was pushed quite far. If the chip where to be the same, I'd be better of with the DAC-100 Audio-GD already sells (shares the AD1852 the ZERO unit uses), I'm not looking for that, personally, nor I think it would make much sense for Audio-GD to design another unit with that chip.
post #25 of 7724
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx_23 View Post
hmm, RCA out isn't too convenient to use as a headphone amp.
No, the RCA out will be for the DAC, the headphone amp will have a headphone socket obviously.

As for the purpose, smuh is right, the idea is to create a cheap DAC + HP amp that sounds good as well which doesn't have the issues the Zero does. Kingwa already has designed some serious DACs, dual-mono, multi-chip and all the rest of that if you want one. I'm not interested in a cheap unit either (I just bought a Northstar!) but I am interested, after all I've gotten involved in regarding the Zero, in being involved in something that's better quality for about the same price or a bit more, and sold by someone who gives a **** about the quality of what they sell. I want to be able to suggest something on the forums that isn't going to be a lottery as to whether it'll arrive dead, with opamps backwards or fry someone's headphones and need upgrades to sound its best.

Back on topic though, for a cheap device, one wants a box similar to the Zero's, which is light-weight to keep the price down, even if it isn't the most pretty. At the moment, all Audio-gd gear has hand-built boxes, which isn't always that great aesthetically. Kingwa mentioned he is looking into manufactured boxes for his products. Maybe we need to go for black (Lavry-style?) as silver looks like crap when it's cheap.

The suggestions, IMO, for mechanical rather than electronic controls is a good one. Keep these suggestions coming. The devil is in the details.

By the way, it has crossed my mind that Kingwa needs a North American distributor. He'd need one that speaks Chinese as well as English though.
post #26 of 7724
If you want to look at possible enclosures have a look here: Hi-Fi 2000 contenitori per l'elettronica, case modding HTPC, Galaxy, rack, DIYaudio, computer cases, knobs,milled Handles, milled fronts, hi-end,

Hifi2000 is an Italian company used by many into DIY Audio, maybe Kingwa can have a look, they have good prices and can do custom jobs, pass that info along if you think it may help Kingwa in some way.

Prices can be seen here: http://www.modushop.biz/ecommerce/index_l2.php (Just for reference, quantity/custom/resell would obviously affect the prices.)

BTW, regarding this:
Quote:
Surface-mount jacks (instead of jacks connected with wires), again for easy removal of components so they can be upgraded or replaced easily.
PCB mounted jacks would be more difficult to remove than something simply connected by wires and screwed to the box, you have that one the other way around.
post #27 of 7724
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaMnEd View Post
PCB mounted jacks would be more difficult to remove than something simply connected by wires and screwed to the box, you have that one the other way around.
I admit I was at a loss for words here, I meant jacks as the Zero has, soldered to the boards, though preferably higher quality ones than what the Zero has. My thought was that the boards, as in the Zero, can be removed easily for whatever reason.
post #28 of 7724
Ah, now I see what you mean .

You will be looking at something like these cardas PCB mount sockets:

post #29 of 7724
I remember kingwa once mention it is difficult, extremely difficult to bring down prices by putting up competitive gear. He is more into quality than quantity.

However if he pursues this path, which makes business sense, I think that would be a breakthrough.

The design and implementation is key to most sucessful unit. More often than not, putting too many options will be difficult, especially for laymen.

To cut the option short, I think the headphone section is better kept intact, but can be swapped out for other upgrade.

The RCA, headphone, alps pot, phono in, bnc uses better component (and they are not expensive, really)

Also buffer output is absolute requirement. that would increase the prices too, but at better sound.


In the end, the price won't be USD 250 delivered, but costs USD 250 ex.

the advocate is in the no of options to end users, how to rank them and cut them off.
post #30 of 7724
Looks like this is heading towards a Dac that sounds almost as good as a DAC100 and a mediocore headamp, for the same price as a Dac100. I dunno, they could easily step on each others toe's. (DAC100/Zero) I don't know why they offer the Dac100 with a OPA 627 for 245$ though. I think they should just discontinue that option, why would you limit the dac so much and take a huge hit in sound quality to save 20 bucks?

I forget DAC100 has USB input, I guess that set's it apart. Also, no one has even heard the DAC100 so who know's how it compares to a frankenzero.
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