Q: What does the different DAC model number mean? Do they indicate different performance levels? ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ A: No, the DAC model numbers correspond to implementations of specific DAC chips.
DAC 1.0-…1.1 PCM56
DAC 2.0…2.4 TDA1541
DAC 3.0…3.2 TDA1541
DAC 4.0 …4.2 PCM58
DAC U…U1 (PCM63)
DAC Z…DAC 0.1…0.11 TDA1543
We can only say about a pair of 2.0 and 3.0 that the third version is a level higher than the second. In other cases, these are independent lines, each on its chip. Only the SE index indicates the unique sound properties of the device.
Q: What does the ‘SE’ designation indicate for a product?
It is an index corresponding to special sound requirements. The SE series is distinguished by its glossy black panel. Products with a similar index require more time to assemble, adjust and tune the sound. The SE series devices use more expensive components - Black Gate capacitors FK, PK, F, STD, Audionote Tantalum non-magnetic and niobium resistors, exotic parts of the 30s; also, transistors in stabilizers are more carefully selected. The principle of Anton Stepichev's contours is applied to a greater extent. Resistors in the converter undergo special processing. While setting the voice on any device of the SE series, non-standard techniques are also used. All of this allows devices from the SE series to demonstrate an extreme difference in sound from standard boards and kits. The sound tuning of the special series takes place in several stages. The run requires up to 100 hours, and many changes are made in stages. It's impossible to do in mass production conditions.
Q: Which DAC chip offers the best sound?
A: This is a difficult question since all the listed chips are decent digital-to-analog converters with their qualities. The chip must be considered a puzzle piece in a large mosaic; it does not play by itself. The power supply, output stage, and selection of components - everything significantly affects our impressions of the final sound, sometimes as much as the chip itself can. However, I will try to describe the characteristic sound features of each chip I commonly use in my converters. ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ ᅠ ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ ᅠ
PCM63 is characterized by a sweet, velvet voice and creates the illusion of analog sound with warmness and softness. Since this is brought to every recording, it is a matter of taste. The PCM63 works well with a solid-state output stage and many valves. There is no linearity adjustment for the chip, and it is becoming more challenging to get the best class of PCM63 (K, K2, Y grade) chips. The accuracy level of conventional examples is often far from the stated 20 bits. ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ
PCM58, even without a grade, has the highest accuracy at low levels, thanks to the adjustment of the four most significant digits. However, the voice of this chip is thinner, a few dry, and graphic. This chip, for my taste, requires an output stage with a specific sonic signature. Other advantages include a wide, deep sound stage and a low level of THD. This chip, for my taste, requires only a tube output stage. ᅠ ᅠᅠ ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ
PCM56 is one of the second generation's most musical and underrated burr brown chips (the first is PCM52, PCM53, PCM54, and PCM55). PCM56 has the cleanest spectrum of all multi-bits, well-defined sound boundaries (somewhat softened in PCM63), a specific linearity setting, and confirmed 16 bits. Of the sound features - is velvet bass. At low levels (second only to pcm58), but the sound stage is not so wide and deep as PCM58 offers.
TDA1541 is the most mysterious and most difficult chip to implement. It can sound different, sometimes creating the illusion of resolution lack, and sometimes, on the contrary, annoying with an excess of details. Due to DEM cells, a tube clock, and three supply voltages - all these factors create many degrees of freedom and complicate the harmonization of the device. However, the exact condition makes it possible to create an engaging, exciting, sound-varied DAC that can combine different advantages of other chips. Frightening realism, soulfulness, energy, and softness, depending on the musical material. Do not forget, however, that the Philips chip is only 16 bits, as it is a 1984 product. This IC lacks the precision of PCM58 and the sweetness of PCM63, and sonic boundaries are not as clear-cut as the PCM56. But it can convey the intonations of the human voice and micro-dynamic nuances so convincingly that you instantly forget about some of the shortcomings. For this illusion of live sound, listeners probably idolize TDA1541 in the most successful implementations. If you are not a zealous fan of graphs and digits but prefer to enjoy music, then the TDA1541 will suit you. ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ
Q: Why do you never use Analog Devices chips such as AD1865 or AD1892?
A: I used to count the sound of AD1865 as slightly more synthetic than the sound of Burr Brown chips, but now we offer DAC 5.0 with this converter, and I am glad to tell you that I have overcome this issue. Please pay attention to this fact - AD1865 is powered by a tube rectifier. World's first!
Is it possible to buy DAC as a board kit?
We offer finished devices with a unique sound setting. It is not a set of parts, and the assembly process is something like with a violin. Imagine that you've ordered separate plates, ribs, neck, and strings from a violin maker and decided to glue a well-sounding violin yourself. Second point. We sell cheap KITs like DAC 2.2 but don't equip board kits with expensive parts. Black Gate capacitors, Tantalum resistors, and many other elements are only installed in finished products of the SE line.
How the order is processed.
There is always some processing time between payment and shipment; the more complex the device, the longer this time interval. The selection of the elements, and parts significantly impacts the method of manufacturing boards. Vintage components are purchased in auctions in small quantities, so making many copies in a mass production style is impossible. All panels and devices are assembled by hand in several stages.
The assembly is carried out using vintage American KESTER solder. Washing is carried out in a special environmentally friendly solution, VIGON, made in Germany. The second washing cycle is an environmentally friendly detergent. The build cycle turns out to be quite cumbersome, but this is the only way I have found to make some very good-sounding devices, providing a balancing act between single copy production and mass production, with its limitations.
Rules of order
We provide a warranty for all assembled PCBs, devices and kits, but the warranty is limited to 1 year. Warranty is valid if the PCBs and devices don't have mechanical damage that were received cause of delivery, and no changes of the configuration. Defective PCBs covered by the warranty will be exchanged for new one or repaired.
The shipment is discussed with the customer.
2. In case of damage caused by mail. If the board (or device) is damaged during shipment, repair or replacement of the device is free of charge, and the buyer pays only return shipping costs. We guarantee that any device will be re-assembled, refurbished, or repaired. If recovery is impossible, we will make a new device.
If the device damage is caused by delivery - please contact us and and attach some photos.
3. All finished products of any level are non-returnable. The exception is for items sold on our eBay store, where I have to provide a 30-day return period. If this rule is unacceptable to you, please do not place your order here!
Also, please note: Dissatisfaction with the sound is not a valid reason for returning the product!
4. We are no longer upgrade or modernize previously sold devices.
5. All products agreed, approved, and paid for are not subject to changes during the assembly process. Please ensure you include all your inquiries when placing your order. Changing a prepaid order (for example, your order from a preamp to a DAC) is also impossible.
6. Everything that can be done will be done, and more. The only thing we do not do is compete with other companies. We offer a sound that is different from all other propositions.
How to place an order
When ordering, you need to write a list of devices, and a full delivery address (Your phone number, full name, city, region, ZIP code, and country), and expect a response with confirmation of the ability to complete the order, payment options, delivery options, and all other details. If you have any unique options, questions, and desired product features (connectors, cable lengths, tubes), please also write them in the letter. If this affects the product's price, the price will be adjusted. We will discuss all possibilities.