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TOTALDAC DAC

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by khaos974, May 12, 2011.
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  1. juanitox

    it" sunday , birds are singing .  and i don't want any fight with you arnaud so i excuse me i was rude in my previous posts , it"s just hifi anyway . 
    yes vincent gis a brilliant engineer and the magic of his dac despite of the excellent naked vishay resistors implementation reside in his FPGA decoding / buffering and filtering secrets.
    i only regret that with the success   he stop the offers of  TOtalDaC A1  and the A1 DAC card alone .  
    at 1800 euro it was a very nice offer for DIyers like me to build a ultimate R2R dac .  
    on the other side the AN dacs ( DAC 4.1 kit ) in my case .  offer the opportunity to build a very good R2R dac with a full tube rectified and regulated power supply and with different transformer level for I/R conversion and tube output stage .  i must admit that the simpler CS8414 receiver on the AN digital board can compete with the modern FPGA of the Total dac.
    different approach for both company but at the end very good analog sound for both ..
    PS i'm french too and i like when french company succeed like Totaldac or Devialet but it doesn't mean i can't criticize them..
     
  2. arnaud Contributor
    Ok, I see where you're coming from now, and agree the converter board would have been nice to leave for sale to diyers. You could always ask vincent, it might not be impossible?

    For clarification, I checked with him about the differences between A1 and D1 boards and he replied 1st thing in the morning (as usual :) ):
    - actually A1 board ( http://www.totaldac.com/ready_dac.htm ) also used 0.01% precision resistors but a different kind and vincent confirmed the current vishay sound better to
    - he said also the resistors are far from the only difference between the 2 boards, "multiple other components were changed on the board"
    - the lower stage board (invisible in the published pics) is completely different

    Cheers,
    Arnaud
     
  3. arnaud Contributor

    An update dating back from fall 2015 with pics of the prototype board: http://www.hificritic.com/blog/-audio-note-makes-a-dac-yes-the-converter-itself
     
  4. astrostar59

    Hi Arnaud
    I have spoken to one of the 2 guys who were developing this discrete DAC board. They are from Croatia, and one of them got a top job in Hove working for Peter I was told. This was over a year ago and I have heard our seen nothing since. I think the issue may be getting the accuracy of the resistors if Peter is going to use his now Tantalums. I read Audio Note bought a measuring machine to do that, but IMO they need a laser cutter or a way to manufacture those resistors to the 0.1% accuracy required.
     
    It will also be interesting as to how they price this 'new' DAC. If it is a lot cheaper it will kill the DAC 5 sales. If it is above 20K then what do they do about the lower models. The logical thing to do may be have a discrete board fitted in all the level DACs from 3 up.
     
    The other thing is I don't think the discrete boards need a tube line stage, as the I/V conversion is not required and the current can be fed straight off the board? 
     
    All this is not relevant to me as I can't afford a new Audio Note DAC at 20K a pop. 
     
    My interest in the TotalDAC was from hearing how the discrete boards improved the sound, but I am thinking of staying with my DAC right now. The entry to R-2R from DS is quite big, better IMO, certainly different. What would be interesting is a comparison between a bunch of R-2R DAC to see how they rank or understand the differences. It may be not that big I am thinking.
     
    One of the weakness in the Audio Note approach is they completely ignore Jitter, like it doesn't exist. TotalDAC use a 10mS delay to resolve that, others do it a different way. I have an external USB / SPDIF convertor and external clock that seems to do the job, and I get a very smooth treble, no digital artefacts which are the result of lack of Jitter control. I have no idea if Lampizator do anything about Jitter? This aspect IMO is why some DACs are so transport sensitive.
     
    Audio Note actually ignore PC audio completely and promote using their own transports or buying a combo DAC/CDP. It is quite possible they have something in that combo product to resolve Jitter, but the standalone DACs don't seem to have anything.
     
  5. cladane
    Hi,
     
    Reading the comments posted in the thread, I would point out that DAC engineering those last years has evolved a lot and it is true now that internal topology can be very different (various DS, FPGA + R2R, FPGA + out stage,...) but I find that sound rendering has no more concern (characterization) relying on the topology.
     
    Listening at DACs like Audiomat Maestro 3, TotalDAC D1, NAGRA HD, CHORD DAVE, PSAudio, AQUA La Scala, VIVA Numerico, ... all very analogic/transparent sounding and chips or not chips, that is the question ...?
     
    Actually, DAC sounding is know how relevant.
     
  6. astrostar59
    Interesting point. I have different experiences though, which is par for the course I guess for this hobby. Chips or chip less, I am thinking in the right design discrete should be better, but then old style AD1865 can sound damb good as well.
     
    It is back to the 4 old subjects IMO
     
    1. R-2R (I like this type of digital topology, though I admit it can be bad or very good depending on the implementation.
    2. Jitter and how the incoming data is handling it, the chaos it can do to the sound can not be underestimated.
    3. The power supply. I have come to the realisation that supplying really clean and fast reacting power has a big impact on the way the DAC sounds. Shunt and tube regulated is my favourite, but I am sure SS and Toroids can work (if designed well and over spec'd.
    4. The line board (or the pre-amp). A DAC is basically a pre-amplifier with a DAC board in it. A pre-amplifier has a lot of thought and care gone into how it sounds, the DAC line board and power supply needs that same care (and budget), maybe more so as the signals are tiny are fragile.
     
    One thing that is fascinating is how some recent DACs are managing to extract good sound from a basic source (such as the Dave). It must come down to post processing and sound tailoring? However it is done it is a nice move for the modern system i.e iPhone/Streamer/PC audio. Too many great DACs are incredibly sensitive to the source (probably jitter) and it makes it a ball buster getting the most out of them. Personally I would hate having to spend tons of cash on a CDP. A great pre-built streamer can be had for much less.
     
  7. cladane
    Agree with points 2.3.4
     
    Point 1: Topology. Not really now essential.
     
    Best example on 3.4 : Audiomat and their DACs which always used latest DS chips but HUGE alim (until 1 Farad !!) and rock solid discrete stages (10 bipolar transistors on each channel). NAGRA on the Classical uses 9 bipolars each channel.
     
    Point 5: ratio Signal/Noise. Rob Watts says that he understood that the brain is more and more tiny sounds accurate when noise decreases. The DAVE is rated -145db.
     
    TotalDAC multiplies the resistors array 100-200-400-600 to decrease noise.
    NAGRA HD is rated -150db.
     
    Chips or not Chips: not anymore the question. Well, price at this level of implementation, yes ):
     
  8. astrostar59
    I am not sure.
     
    DS and oversampling does impact the SQ. It aims to increase dynamic range and perceived resolution, but the apodization and filtering to remove artefacts and ringing can ruin the sound, make it more 'digital'. R-2R with no filtering and bit perfect input to output can beat the some of the best DS implementations if the drawbacks are recognised as in limit to bit depth and such. MSB and others with bigger budgets handle 354 and up or course. I am old school and only interested in pure RedBook. That is until I see true high res music for the same price as RedBook.
     
  9. cladane
    I wasn't arguing on HiRes superiority but saying that topology even for RedBook playing was not more a mandatory criteria.
     
    Of course R2R (as TotalDAC) is notoriously 'analogic' in sound reproduction but listen to the NAGRA HD DAC and let me know if upsampling doesn't play RedBook giantly.
     
    Landmarks on DAC technology are changing.
     
  10. castleofargh Contributor

    when you say r2r with no filter, not even a low pass?
     
  11. astrostar59
    Yes. There are R-2R DACs that avoid this completely such as Audio Note.
     
  12. cladane
    Not exactly zero filters is suitable.

    R2R DACs are known to show a drawback as a decreasing frequency response (until 3db at 20khz).
    TotalDAC has in its FPGA a programmed Finite Impulse Response filter which works only on high frequencies.
    This FIR is switchable.
     
  13. astrostar59
    Hi Guys
    Where does the TotalDAC Dual sit in the DAC heavyweights?
     
    I am chewing over a new TotalDAC dual or a used MSB Platinum IV or used C1 CH Precision (though the later is new so hard to find used). I did consider a used Audio Note DAC 5 Special but that DAC design is now very long in the tooth and the unit I saw was 8 years old.
     
    I have read as many bad reviews of the MSB as good ones. The negatives are always 'too cold' 'clinical' or 'over detailed', 'not realistic'. The positive reviews seem to wow over MSB but maybe that is the DS to R-2R change over? I am not sure MSB are non oversampling actually. They are a ladder DAC but seem to oversample / upsample everything and have a filter which I don't like.
     
    So any of you TotalDAC owners heard the MSB stack or the C1. I am thinking the Lampi Big 7 would be a real close run thing, but for some reason I don't like the build quality of those products.
     
    Any insight would be great. I may audition a C1 in a few weeks to see where my Audio Not DAC 4 sits, maybe it is a close call and not worth the move?
     
  14. nepherte
    I've only heard the MSB Diamond V at RMAF 2015. I thought it sounded very good. It's rather hard to compare them with my Totaldac, which I only use with headphones (as opposed to the speaker setup that was used with the MSB). Hence, I cannot say which one is better. What I did pick up is that the sound signature of the Totaldac is more organic (earthly if that makes sense?).
     
  15. paul79
    I went through many DAC's, and once I got a Totaldac, I was done listening to other pieces. Very right sounding stuff from Vincent, and I never get tired of listening to it.
     
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