Supposedly the 1541 is one of the oldest dac chips, is it worth the trouble to build a DAC with it? ( I have read that some folks think it is still the best out there.)
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2/27/10 at 9:22pm
dsavitsk, if I remembered right you have mentioned there are better NOS chips than the 1541, do you mind share some "secrets"? and what is the main limitation of the 1541's?
I'm a big fan of the 1541. But are you thinking of scratch building a DAC with it? That sounds intense. Here is the schematic I'd use. Thorsten is less involved in DIY today, as he is now designing for AMR! (last I knew)
If you are looking for a less involved project, there are several TDA1541 PCB's on ebay. Or, my personal take to is buy an old CD player that used the chip and convert the DAC to NOS (non oversampling) mode. There are plenty of fairly pedestrian Philips and Marantz Models that used the chip. (They circuits are identical, the made in Japan Marantz's are purported to be better than the made in Belgium Philips models). Magavox CD players from the late 80's are Philips players too. Look through this list to figure out which players have the 1541.
I can find them for $10-40 on craigslist (just got a Magnavox 582 in great shape for $10). I'd look for the later players with the 1541A and a CDM 4 transport, but if you can find an early machine cheap, go for it. All of the mid-fi Philips players had similar parts quality. Some models just had more functions that you should disconnect anyway (variable output levels, extra control logic, etc). The Marantz CD-40 is simple, for example, where as the CD-50 and CD-60 have progressively more stuff. The basic mods are free: pull out the muting transistors, disconnect the extra junk, and convert to NOS.
If your budget is a little higher, I would strongly suggest getting a Rotel 855 or 955 (the latter is newer with the A chip). They run around $100, but are a much better value: robust power supplies with Black Gate caps, film decoupling caps on the 1541, etc. Basically, for another $50, you get a huge upgrade in parts quality. There are even nicer machines with the 1541 (the high end Philips, audiophile units like Arcam, Revox, etc). I'm not sure they are worth the $$ over the Rotel. And, keep in mind that old players are a gamble. You will find units with shelled out transports and lasers. If you aren't interested in NOS (the mod is too complex) there are some incredibly well made high end Sonys out there. (227ESD, etc).
I know that you may not be interested in shiny silver discs. I have pondered getting a USB to I2S converter and trying to hook it up to one of these old players to just use the DAC. I haven't tried it yet though. If you do play shiny discs, the nice thing about these old machines is that the transports are quiet, unlike most newer reasonably priced machines. No matter what, they are good cheap fun. Save those 1541s from the dump!