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New Audiolab DAC - Page 33

post #481 of 878


Originally Posted by avl06 View Post

Couple of questions - 

Any advantage in using XLR out over RCA to connect to a headamp (V200)?

How do you upgrade firmware on the mdac? I can't find reference to how to do this anywhere in the manual or audiolab website

It would be balanced which is supposed to be better, but purely from an electrical point of view balanced cabling is more of an advantage on long cable runs. Some people find it sounds better though and anyway it can't hurt if you have the outputs & inputs to use them. Some balanced amps will only be able to leverage their strength if the input is balanced as well, not sure about the V200.


Audiolab completely dropped the ball, they mention it in the manual but then don't follow up on their site. The original designer of the M-DAC, John Westlake, hangs out on the Pink Fish Media board and has been providing help, and with other members, access to firmware updates and the BitPerfect test files etc. The PFM board tends to split threads after the post count reaches a certain point, so for now we're at VII: MDAC first listen (part VII) There will probably be more in the future and you can read the older ones for some interesting info as well.


You can go backwards from the latest post to find the most recent updates, but I did one summarizing the links and AFAIK there hasn't been a major update yet (the final 1.0 firmware or the LakeWest custom one w/ dimmable display etc.) only an experimental A/B test version.

post #482 of 878

I've been using the integrated headphone amplifier for two weeks with HD800 and I still have absolutely no urge to get an external amp even though I could.

post #483 of 878

One of the main reasons I picked the M-DAC among similar-proced options is the fact that the designer of it and his programmer are so active & supportive when Audiolab dropped the ball.


In light of that, for anyone who interested, the thread splitting is now up to Part X since it is so active... More importantly this post contains the link to the latest beta of the Lake*West custom firmware, hosted on Dropbox for now.


I myself have done all the upgrades successfully using a Windows 7 virtual machine via VMware Fusion 4, it literally took less than a minute. Standard disclaimer for everyone: of course it IS a beta, so YMMV and it's at your own risk.


Besides more subtle changes (like workarounds for bugs in the ESS Sabre chipset, refined filter options) it includes added options like selecting the power-on input (incl. Last Used)


More importantly: a Dimming option that turns down the OLED brightness considerable after a a little while of inactivity while still displaying the usual info, and a "Suppress" option that dims it further and replaces the screen output with a discrete, static LakeWest logo (great for listening in the evening, wouldn't want any distraction from my beloved tube glow wink.gif)


In short: worth checking out! There is no central documentation, so you'll have to wade through the latest thread(s) where pretty much everything has been asked and clarified...

post #484 of 878

Oh, and as far as listening goes: using my ATH W3000ANV directly from its headphone output (Class A) is a great experience, and one of the few times where even I could hear a difference compared to my current rig (a CA DAC Magic 100 into a Woo WA2).


In a classical Britten piece, the (very) low drum roll at the beginning sounds more like an undefined rumble on the combo, while straight from the M-DAC it's an actual roll with fast individual beats. It's pretty subtle but I'd be able to tell every time. Now whether it's a Tube vs. SS thing in general or just my setup, I have no way of testing since I don't have a SS amp to compare...


I'm really looking forward to running the M-DAC balanced into my soon-to-be-shipped WA22 and hear where that'll take me!

post #485 of 878

Quick, and perhaps silly question. Does the volume control on the MDAC apply to both the headphone out levels and the preamp out? or does it just control the headphone amp portion?



post #486 of 878

The setting is user-adjustable. Please see p.21 of the manual.


By default, Volume Control affects both (and one of the major reasons I chose the M-DAC over others since my (out-of-reach) headphone amp does not have remote-controlled volume and some albums require adjustment...)


By following the steps in the manual, the preamp out will be fixed level at 0dB. So with no headphones plugged in, no adjustment. If you plug in your headphones, the headphone amp section takes over and is still adjustable. To clarify: in either case (fixed or adjustable) the preamp out is disabled when headphones are plugged in.


Keep in mind that since the volume adjustment happens in the digital domain, on a 32-bit range no less, the impact on sound quality is non-existent for all intents and purposes. All the fixed-level setting does is permanently turn the volume up to 0dB, which you can achieve by turning up the volume with a press on the remote control. There is no other sonic improvement or benefit. All this according to the designer himself.

post #487 of 878
Another question for any owners of the MDAC: does or can the volume control adjust the spdif outs as well as the analog or just the analog ?

post #488 of 878

There is no clear answer in the manual (essentially: pass-through or not?), and I haven't tried myself since well, why would someone plug one DAC into another and further alter the digital signal? I think the signal would be adjusted since it happens in the digital domain. I'll see if I can rig something up with my other DAC when I have a moment, I'm curious now. On a related note: either port can be re-configured to be used as clock master instead of S/PDIF out.


BTW, the next firmware update is up, with further refinements in the preset source selection, and a fix for a major USB bug in the new OS X Mountain Lion that results in drops and clicks... I'm always amazed how on the ball John and Dom are in figuring issues out that few have even run into, never mind understanding the reason behind them and adding a workaround at THEIR end (!!) until Apple fixes the issue (which, knowing them, will take some sweeeet time...) Other companies (like Cambridge Audio from my own experience) are the opposite: even when given multiple cases of an issue, the reply is usually: works for us in the lab and then maybe there's an update every half year or longer...


This release is also the first one that can be done straight from OS X via the terminal; no Windows, BootCamp or VM required. Haven't tried it yet myself but another member confirmed it as working on Lion.

post #489 of 878
The reason I ask is because my powered monitors have an optinal spdif or aes/ebu in. I am currently using a TC Electronic BMC-2 with them and it does let you control the volume of the spif out, and like the MDAC it first runs de-jitter on the incoming digital signal.
This is beneficial in 2 ways. First, its a harware level volume attenuation, if you were to control it via software instead theres a possibility of the OS or the Software your running to crash and send a full 0dB passthrough that could possibly damage the speakers. Also its supposedly better to do so on a hardware level as it doesnt damage the signal/sound as much?
Second would be to avoid double conversion, all digital/DSP monitors do this. So in case of mine, if i were to use analog balanced out from the DAC, there would be a D/A at the DAC stage (obviously), then the monitor converts that to a 24/96 signal and applies any DSPs selected (freq. trims usually), then sends it to the class D amp/x over which finanlly converts it back to analog at the last stage before sending the to the drivers.
I am looking to set up the MDAC on an additional rig instead of buying another BMC-2 plus a usb to spdif converter (no USB on the BMC-2).
If you or someone else can confirm whether the MDAC is able to manage the volume for the digital outs that would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. I have emailed Audiolab as well as a few resellers with this inquiry about a week ago, no reply thus far :/
post #490 of 878
Originally Posted by TheGrumpyOldMan View Post
why would someone plug one DAC into another and further alter the digital signal?


In this instance the first (M)DAC isn't being used as a DAC but as a USB to s/pdif converter, adding to it's versatility. Many DACs don't have USB inputs or have substandard ones so these converters are necessary.

Edited by grokit - 7/28/12 at 11:15am
post #491 of 878

OK, had a little time this evening and remembered that my little Fiio E17 that I usually only take out for travel has actually an S/PDIF in, and of course a headphone out... rummaged for a matching optical cable and the result is: NO volume adjustment. I dusted off my Valhalla too and hooked it up to the RCA out to make sure I wasn't in pre-amp mode (only been using headphones so far...) and that one did indeed have adjusted volume.


On a sidenote:

1) the Mac version of the firmware updater worked like a charm on my MacBook too (still on Lion).

2) the amp section of the M-DAC is more than a match for a small dedicated headphone amp like the Valhalla, esp. when it comes to low-impedance phones like the LCDs, even though it obviously was quite a bit more challenged than with my W3000s (which sound very nice actually)



Originally Posted by grokit View Post

In this instance the first (M)DAC isn't being used as a DAC but as a USB to s/pdif converter, adding to it's versatility. Many DACs don't have USB inputs or have substandard ones so these converters are necessary.

That'd be one pricey converter for my budget tongue.gif But in the rarefied world of HiFi, where I just saw a $15000 DAC reviewed eek.gif, that's probably pocket change for something like the M-DAC price relegated to a one-trick pony...

Edited by TheGrumpyOldMan - 7/28/12 at 10:21pm
post #492 of 878

Starting to fill in my backlog of pics, so for those interested in some M-DAC "insights" rolleyes.gif:


Since my first one was DOA, I took it apart and tried to reseat the cabling based on John Westlake's advice but alas to no avail, so I put it carefully back together and returned it. As per my earlier post, the vendor was really good about it. At the time I was eyeing the (rather more expensive) Wadia 171 instead and seems some HeadFiers didn't have much luck with those either. Also looks like stocks are not so short anymore in the US, except for the silver "unicorn" one. Anyway haven't taken the new one apart (yet), may do it for the upcoming upgrade since I'd have to ship it to Europe otherwise.


From the top: The ribbon connector to the control panel is located in the bottom right, next to the black heatsinks.




Also see the note along the left edge, showing it's licensed from LakeWest, designer John Westlake's company who has been so helpful in every respect, and who, with his programmer Dominik, keeps tweaking and improving the firmware and hardware and thus is instrumental in my great appreciation for this kit...


From the side (the power section?):




The control/front panel: The ribbon connector is on the far right, the ethernet jack towards the top right is for diagnostic purposes.



Edited by TheGrumpyOldMan - 8/16/12 at 2:09am
post #493 of 878
Thanks for the info Grumpy
post #494 of 878



Nice photos! Thanks!

post #495 of 878

The M-DAC just won the EISA's European D/A Converter 2012-2013 award (EISA) Well-deserved in my opinion too biggrin.gif

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