MHDT Labs: R-2R NOS Tube DACs

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by luckbad, Feb 13, 2016.
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  1. EricGC
    Why stick with USB? I heard it's not best for audio?

    I have compared Toslink and USB on Pagoda. Toslink is far better.

  2. Turn&cough
    For those of us who owned the Paradisea back in the day and who have since moved on to upsampling DACs (in my case a modded EE Minimax) what can be expected from the Orchid?
  3. Luckbad
    Only option at work is USB.

    That being said the Schiit Eitr recently came out and gets my highest recommendation.

    It's the best bang for the buck USB to S/PDIF converter you can buy, full stop.

    I'm still using an ESI Juli@ XTe PCIe card at home but I'm considering switching to the Eitr there as well to free up a slot on my PC. Not sure I should sell the ESI because they're rare now (TI stopped selling a necessary part).
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  4. Luckbad
    I'm having trouble deciding whether I prefer my modded Atlantis or the Orchid.

    I want to prefer the Atlantis since it's so customized, but I might actually like the Orchid better. And I only need one of them!

    Some kind of unfortunate news for those looking to buy an Orchid: there is a ~2 month backorder on a part necessary for the Orchid, so anyone who doesn't get theirs soon might have a wait on their hands.
  5. EricGC
    I read this from their website:

    What the hell? What if I want optical?
    If you want a crappy optical output that has jitter problems like no tomorrow and likely cannot do 24/192 reliably, you’re free to find a different USB to SPDIF converter that offers optical output.

    Why optical output is bad? I compared Optical & USB from Mac mini to DAC, Optical is far better. Not sure how the converter will improve?

  6. Luckbad
    Optical is objectively worse than Coax. I don't think they're saying Optical is always worse than USB.
  7. Luckbad
    Updated my Atlantis -> Atlantis+ conversion gif to include the new Atlantis+. @humzebra has the original Atlantis+ and I couldn't convince him to sell it back to me, so I have new one now.

    Differences between the previous Atlantis+
    • Both BNC and RCA now have the Murata transformer (was just on the RCA input)
    • Red PIO caps instead of Silver, which significantly increases the visual color palette of the output capacitors
    • Black chassis for major sonic improvements?!!?!?
    • 1 less cap because it's based on the current Atlantis PCB which removed a cap... no idea why but it's gone.

    WTF is the Atlantis+? It's an MHDT Labs Atlantis with a bunch of mods (in order of audible change).
    • Tube is a NOS Russian 6N26P (really improves extension)
    • Output capacitors are Russian K40Y9 1uF/200V (paper in oil)
    • Main power caps are ELNA SILMIC 2200uF/35V instead of Nichicon Fine Gold 3300uF/35V
    • All 100uf Nichicon MUSE caps replaced with Elna Silmic II 100uf/35V
    • RCA/BNC digital input now use Murata DA101C transformer instead of cap input
    • Digital input cap: 0.01uf WIMA FKC instead of SMD 0.01uf
    • Audio grade fuse: 1A 250V slow blow
    • Larger toroidal transformer (honestly, there is no audible benefit to this unless you have a balanced MHDT DAC... stock is already overkill):
      • 53VA
      • I/P:0-115V 0-115V 50/60Hz
      • O/P:15V-0-15V 0.7A
      • 8V-0-8V 2.0A
    shultzee likes this.
  8. EricGC
    Did you have a chance to compare Optical/Toslink (directly from home PC to DAC) vs USB->S/PDIF via EItr?

    I am quite happy with my current setup: Mac Mini (Toslink) -> Pagoda -> Amp, I hear more details than through USB connection. Not sure how it will improve by a converter.

  9. Luckbad
    The differences are easily discernible, primarily with regard to noise floor.

    If you play a high res 96 or 192kHz file of silence, you can hear hiss from TOSLINK far earlier on a volume knob than the Eitr via USB.
  10. Luckbad
    After way too much A/B testing, I decided I like the Atlantis+ better than the stock Orchid. The Orchid has a more open soundstage even stock, but the modded Atlantis is more engaging and romantic.

    I started modding an Orchid. So far, that means:
    • TDA1541A R1 upgraded to a late production TDA1541A Taiwan chip (1998)
    • Tube changed from GE 5670 to 6N26P
    • Output caps changed to paper-in-oil K40Y-9
    • Fuse swapped to "audio grade" fuse that I had an extra of from the Atlantis+ (I still can't seem to hear fuse differences. Shrug)
    I'm not sure if I've changed enough to call it the Orchid+, but I'm calling it that anyway because I'm the one who's typing. It also came stock with most of the cap upgrades that were applied to the Atlantis+ so they didn't need replacing.

    The more expansive soundstage remains intact, which is the main thing I was worried about.

    The Orchid+ is definitively better for Rock in my opinion, based on my limited experience, and to my particular taste (thanks, @schiit). I'd honestly likely prefer the Gungnir Multibit for Rock because it's the only genre I still prefer oversampling for, but I can't afford two nice DACs at home.

    Classical and Jazz trade blows, but the more expansive symphonic music goes to the Orchid+. The Atlantis+ wins with intimate female vocals or calm acoustic guitar.

    Overall, the Orchid+ is a bit more versatile than the Atlantis+ and is a small step up from the stock Orchid. It has the lovely euphony of the TDA1541A. Realized to its full potential? Hard to say. Maybe the Audial Model S is better, but I don't own one and can't directly compare them.

    I also have a TDA1541A N2 chip on the way. It's supposed to be some sort of oddball late production chip that measures somewhere in the S1/S2/1998 range.
  11. JoeDoe
    Well after today I'm back in the club fellas! Paired with my Blackgate-equipped MAD ear+, my ps1000s are SINGING.

    thanks to @Luckbad forthe hookup on the modified Atlantis.

    Any of you guys have any nice tube spares? Would love to get hands on a Tesla, WE, or Bendix. pm me if you do!
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
    Luckbad likes this.
  12. JoeDoe
    Also, for my purposes, I prefer to listen via the USB input on the Atlantis. Are any of the USB de-crapifiers worth their salt with these guys? I haven't seen much written about the tech behind The USB input, so it's hard to gauge on the pre-purchase end.
  13. Luckbad
    I'm 3 months into MHDT Labs Orchid ownership and I'm still loving it. I believe this is the best MHDT has to offer, at least to my taste.

    I've also finished up with upgrades/mods and don't have any current plans to mod it further.
    • TDA1541A R1 upgraded to a late production TDA1541A Taiwan chip (1998)
    • Tube changed from GE 5670 to 6N26P
    • Output caps changed to Jantzen Audio Superior Z-Cap (2.2uF 800V) from MHDT-branded
    • Power caps changed to Epcos Sikorel (35V 3800uF) from Rubycon
    • RCA input transformer changed to Murata DA101C
    • Fuse swapped to "audio grade" fuse (1A 250V slow blow)
    • Toroidal changed to one from an older Pagoda because I had it and swapped it... didn't make a difference, so I just left it in. If I do any significant mods in the future, it will likely be to isolate the toroidal transformer from the rest of the unit (maybe change to a different transformer in the process. We'll see).
  14. slex
    Luckbad is the casing for Orchid same size as Pagoda or smaller like canary?
  15. Luckbad
    They're all the same size. The balanced DACs are bigger and the older DACs are smaller, but the Canary, Atlantis, Stockholm, Pagoda, and Orchid are all the same size.
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