Q: What do the different DAC model numbers 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….2.3 TDA1541
DAC 3.0…3.1 TDA1541
DAC 4.0 …4.1 PCM58
DAC U PCM63
Only in the case of DAC 2.x and 3.x series are higher model numbers considered a level higher than lower ones. For example, DAC 2.3 is an improvement over DAC 2.2
Q: What does the ‘SE’ designation indicate for a product?
A: SE products have special sound properties. SE products require additional time to tune and assemble from a selection of limited or exotic vintage parts. They offer a different standard of performance compared to regular serial products or PCBs. SE products feature: A special enamel front panel More expensive components such as Black Gate capacitors, Audio Note tantalum non-magnetic resistors, other carefully selected vintage parts Anton Stepichev’s contours principle is applied to a greater extent (see Philosophy section for more information) Resistors are specially treated for most harmonious sound Several stages of sound tuning requiring up to 100 hours of component run-in
Q: Which DAC chip offers the best sound?
A: This is a difficult question to answer, since all of the listed chips are very decent digital-to-analog converters with their own character. The chip must be considered as a puzzle piece in a large mosaic; it does not play by itself. The power supply, output stage and selection of components all significantly effect 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 of the chips I commonly use in my converters. ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ ᅠ
PCM63 is characterized by a sweet, velvet voice and creates the illusion of analog sound with warmth 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 also with many valves. There is no linearity adjustment for the chip, and it is becoming more difficult to get the best class of PCM63 (K- grade) chips. The accuracy level of conventional examples is often far from the stated 20 bits. 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 certain sonic signature. Other advantages include a wide and deep sound stage, a low level of even harmonics. This chip, for my taste, requires only a tube output stage. ᅠᅠ ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ
РСМ56 is one of the most musical and underrated Burr Brown chips of the second generation (the first being РСМ52, РСМ53, РСМ54). PCM56 has the purest spectrum of all multibit converters, good localization of instruments, very simple linearity adjustment (honest 16 bits), deep and tight bass.
TDA1541 is the most mysterious and likewise the most difficult chip to implement. It may sound wildly different, sometimes creating a sense of lacking resolution, while other times annoying with extraneous detail. The configuration of DEM (Dynamic Element Matching) cells, a DEM tube clock generator, and various power supply configurations complicates the harmonization of the device. However, this also allows us to create an interesting, diverse sounding DAC, which can combine the different advantages of other chips. Frightening realism, soulfulness, dynamics, depending on the musical material. Do not forget however that the TDA1541 chip is only 16-bit since it is a 1984 product. This chip lacks the accuracy of PCM58 and the sweetness of PCM63, the edges of sound are not as clearly delineated as in PCM56, but it can convey the intonations of a human voice and microdynamic nuances so convincingly that you instantly forget about its shortcomings. It is probably for this illusion of ‘live’ sound that listeners adore successful TDA1541 implementations. If you are not a fan of beautiful numbers and graphs, but prefer to simply enjoy the music, then the TDA1541 will suit you perfectly. Do not forget that there are versions of the chip with a crown, and even with two crowns (indicating increased linearity at low level), so there is something to play with in search of the perfect sound. ᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ
Q: Why do you never use Analog Devices chips such as AD1865 or AD1892?
A: The sound of their DACs is sort of synthetic to my ears, I don’t like it. The voice of the AD1865 for example has a kind of synthetic tint, as opposed to the warmth and naturalness of PCM56. Please take this as my humble opinion, and not an absolute truth!
How the order is processed.
Most products including assembled devices and boards are made to order and
assembled only after payment is received. Rarely, items will be sold ready for
shipment, and this will be indicated in the product description.
There is always some time gap between payment and dispatch, the more complex the device, the longer this time interval. The selection of the element base has a significant impact on the method of manufacturing boards. Vintage components are purchased in auctions in small quantities, so it is impossible to make many copies in a mass production style. All boards and devices are assembled by hand in several stages.
SE products take even longer to assemble than standard products due to the methods used. Resistors and capacitors are installed after only determining the direction of the best sound, and resistors get a special treatment applied for best sound. Then there is preliminary quality control of the PCBs, measurements, washing, drying, varnishing, drying again, installation in the case, sound tuning, run-in time, applying paint to all threaded connections, packing, and finally shipping.
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 so far this is the only way I have found to make some very good sounding devices, providing a balancing act between one-off production and mass production, with its limitations.
Rules of order
1. We provide a warranty for all assembled PCBs, devices and sets limited to
one year, and is valid only if the boards and devices do not have any traces of
soldering, modification or tampering with the structure. Defective boards
covered by warranty are exchanged for one in working condition or repaired.
The cost of shipment under warranty depends on a number of conditions and
is discussed with the customer.
Пересылка зависит от ряда условий и обсуждается с заказчиком.
2. In the event of damage caused by mail, if the board (or device) is damaged during shipment, then repair or replacement of the device is completely free of charge, and return shipping costs are paid by the buyer. We guarantee that any device will be re-assembled, refurbished or repaired. If recovery is impossible, a new device will be assembled.
3. All finished products, of any level, are non-returnable. The exception is for items sold on our eBay store, where I am required to provide a 30-day return period. Dissatisfaction with the sound is not a valid reason for returning the product. If this rule is unacceptable to you, please do not place your order here!
4. We are no longer engaged in upgrading and modernization of previously sold devices.
5. All products agreed, approved and paid for are not subject to changes during the assembly process. Please ensure you know what you want when you are placing your order.
6. It is not possible to change a prepaid order (for example, to change your order from a preamp to a DAC). Please ensure you know what you want when you are placing your order.
7. Everything that can be done will be done, and more. The only thing we do not do is compete with other companies. We offer our own sound that is different from all other good sound options.
How to place an order
Please send us a message through the Contact Us section of the site. When ordering, you must indicate in your message a list of desired products, the AC voltage in your region, and your full delivery address including phone number. Expect a response with confirmation of our ability to complete your order, including payment and delivery options. Please make sure to indicate all the details and desired features of the product (such as connectors, cable lengths, tubes) and we will do our best to accommodate. Please note custom requests may affect the price of the product.