Newbie Q, advantages of diy DAC
Oct 27, 2008 at 10:13 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 37

ls206

Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 13, 2008
Posts
87
Likes
0
Hi,
I've had a little search and wasn't too successful (I think because so many posts contain "DAC").
anywho...

At the moment I use my PC for music and my files are imported as ".wav"
I have a Creative x-fi soundcard which is connected to an amp.
I may be wrong, be the sound card has a DAC chip on it. (if that makes sense)

Are there any advantages to building a USB DAC instead of the soundcard?

I've also read about software to feed the soundcard/DAC an "un-touched" sound signal. If you have any info about this I'd be interested to know.

Thanks for reading
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 11:31 AM Post #2 of 37

tomb

Member of the Trade: Beezar.com
Joined
Mar 1, 2006
Posts
10,521
Likes
746
Almost any DIY DAC is less money. An Alien DAC can be built for perhaps $35, a BantamDAC for less than $25. Both are certainly better than any motherboard-based sound card.

Typically, the noise is less with a USB (offboard) DAC than many sound cards in the noisy environ of a PC. Some better sound cards are shielded against this noise and perform quite well, but are not going to compete with a DIY DAC on a bang-for-the-buck basis.
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 11:57 AM Post #3 of 37

ls206

Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 13, 2008
Posts
87
Likes
0
Ah I see, I'll have a look at those.
I've just found a thread comparing (hypothetically) the Alien DAC and a modded x-fi card.
opinions seem to suggest the the sound card will offer a better sound. Are there any DACs that are significantly better than the Alien or is mostly preference?

Cheers.
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 2:50 PM Post #6 of 37

JamesL

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Dec 5, 2007
Posts
1,214
Likes
16
Quote:

Originally Posted by tomb /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Almost any DIY DAC is less money. An Alien DAC can be built for perhaps $35, a BantamDAC for less than $25. Both are certainly better than any motherboard-based sound card.

Typically, the noise is less with a USB (offboard) DAC than many sound cards in the noisy environ of a PC. Some better sound cards are shielded against this noise and perform quite well, but are not going to compete with a DIY DAC on a bang-for-the-buck basis.



Second is very true.. the first is very misleading Tom.
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 3:30 PM Post #7 of 37

rds

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
May 4, 2008
Posts
2,045
Likes
30
Quote:

Second is very true.. the first is very misleading Tom.


I'm pretty sure he means a diy dac costs less than its commercial equivalent. Not that all diy dacs cost less than all commercial dacs.
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 5:49 PM Post #9 of 37

ls206

Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 13, 2008
Posts
87
Likes
0
I think tomb meant performance:cost was far greater for a diy dac.

I think I prefer a dac with its own power supply as I have no real need for portability (usb powered)
would I be wrong to assume that a DAC+power supply will generally produce a better quality sound than usb powered?
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 5:51 PM Post #10 of 37

JamesL

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Dec 5, 2007
Posts
1,214
Likes
16
Quote:

Originally Posted by rds /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'm pretty sure he means a diy dac costs less than its commercial equivalent. Not that all diy dacs cost less than all commercial dacs.


I was referring to the first and second paragraphs. Not the first/second sentences.
I certainly do agree that they are great for the price, but when you tell someone that they can build a alien dac for $35 and a bantam for $25, then that does get misleading.
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 6:15 PM Post #11 of 37

tomb

Member of the Trade: Beezar.com
Joined
Mar 1, 2006
Posts
10,521
Likes
746
Quote:

Originally Posted by JamesL /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Second is very true .. the first is very misleading Tom.


That's a heck of an accusation, James. How so?

The price of that Musiland SVDAC05 is ~$140. Add to that the cost of changing out opamps and caps, and it could quickly become more expensive than some pseudo-DIY pre-builts that are prevalent around here, not even figuring the ones I mentioned.

Further, please note that I said "motherboard-based sound card." That does not state an expansion-card sound card.

I'll stand by both statements, James.

Lastly -
Quote:

Originally Posted by JamesL /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I was referring to the first and second paragraphs. Not the first/second sentences.
I certainly do agree that they are great for the price, but when you tell someone that they can build a alien dac for $35 and a bantam for $25, then that does get misleading.



Since I made up the BOM for the BantamDAC, I believe I'm fairly familiar with the cost. I've built about a half-dozen Aliens, too - that cost is reasonable if you take a conservative approach. Maybe you're thinking of kit costs which run higher.
wink.gif
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 7:11 PM Post #12 of 37

ruZZ.il

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Mar 26, 2007
Posts
992
Likes
14
Black Gate fever <cough cough> I'm guilty too :p (it's adding all the sources)...

The main advantage that *I have with DIY anything, is that I get to do a lot of it myself.. put it together at least, along with the satisfaction and acquired knowledge, etc. I'm not sure how much money I've saved with diy in the long run. I mean, if I were buying a DAC, I wouldn't buy 3 of the same one just cause I want to use different caps or something. It's just.. fun
biggrin.gif
Though, basically, the price/performance ratio for almost any given DIY device here kicks the commercial performing-equivalents tush.. and some don't even have performing-equivalents..
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 8:07 PM Post #13 of 37

JamesL

1000+ Head-Fier
Joined
Dec 5, 2007
Posts
1,214
Likes
16
Quote:

Originally Posted by tomb /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That's a heck of an accusation, James. How so?

The price of that Musiland SVDAC05 is ~$140. Add to that the cost of changing out opamps and caps, and it could quickly become more expensive than some pseudo-DIY pre-builts that are prevalent around here, not even figuring the ones I mentioned.

Further, please note that I said "motherboard-based sound card." That does not state an expansion-card sound card.

I'll stand by both statements, James.

Lastly -

Since I made up the BOM for the BantamDAC, I believe I'm fairly familiar with the cost. I've built about a half-dozen Aliens, too - that cost is reasonable if you take a conservative approach. Maybe you're thinking of kit costs which run higher.
wink.gif



I really wasn't trying to make an accusation Tom.
I didn't mean to say it was untrue or a lie. I just meant that it was misleading.
I'm sorry if it came off as an accusation.
(you're still a hero in my eyes
wink.gif
)

"An Alien DAC can be built for perhaps $35, a BantamDAC for less than $25"
I was only referring to this tidbit here.
The parts needed to occupy the boards may show up as $25 in the subtotal (considering you get all the parts from mouser), but before you've actually finished building it, depending on the build, you'd still have had to pay for the usb cable/box enclosure/cable/rca plug , hammond case/rca jacks + boards, and shipping from at the very minimum 2 places; likely 3 or 4.

This is considering if you already own flux, a set of tweezers, fine-tipped soldering iron, multimeter, drills, needle files, cleaning agent(alcohol/compressed air)etc... and also considering that you don't get tempted with blackgates and boutique output caps, let alone Pana FM's/Wima MKS(depending on which vendor you choose).

DIY' (ing) is a very expensive hobby, and I think many people make the mistake of approaching this hobby, with their primary motivation being "to save money".

Have no doubt though. I absolutely agree that DIY projects outclass anything in it's price range, in both the budget and high-end range.
I love building things... I was devastated when I had to make the decision not to pursue architecture(financial reasons). But if I wanted to save money, I would have consulted some of the professional builders out here.
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 8:41 PM Post #14 of 37

ls206

Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 13, 2008
Posts
87
Likes
0
yea, I built a couple of cmoy's as an intro to diy audio and found I had to get a fair amount of extras. I hoped I'd learn a lot too, but the cmoy was pretty straight forward I kind of soldered A to B without a full understanding of why.
I've got a book list which I will buy at some point
tongue.gif


Can I assume a DAC with it's own power supply will give a better output than a USB DAC? I have no need for the portability of USB.
 
Oct 27, 2008 at 8:56 PM Post #15 of 37

mwofsi

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 21, 2007
Posts
143
Likes
0
Quote:

DIY' (ing) is a very expensive hobby, and I think many people make the mistake of approaching this hobby, with their primary motivation being "to save money".


Completely agree. I've spent a lot more than I expected.

Definitely not 'having a go' btw Tom B., your efforts and helpfulness never cease to impress.
beerchug.gif
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top