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    Default Audio DAC

    So its been a very long time I'm working with Hobby electronics and stuffs and I am very interested in audio equipments too. Recently i was given a task to make a 600ohm headphone driver, i can simply make it by taking the audio from computer's analog out and amplify it and use a different power source, maybe some linear voltage regulator(low noise) or li ions. Or I can assemble a DAC for the job to get done.


    Now I believe many of bg members are using aftermarket DACs for their speaker or headphones. honestly i dont have long experience with those so I cant really compare the internal DAC with the external ones. It would be really helpful if u guys give me some insight about the quality, are they really worth? and how much is the quality difference?

    I have theoretical knowledge about most DACs, i just wanna know the quality and how do u feel about it?

    hope im in the right place.

    Thanks all in advanced.

  2. #2
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    You have definitely read NwAVGuy's blogs right? His Objective2 amp and ODAC should be where I'd start if I were you.

    BTW, asking here about difference in internal and external DAC will only lead to debates, as most of us cannot hear the differences between the DACs alone. Also good DAC's are supposed to be audibly transparent so there aren't much colorization for that. Without colorization, most of the improvement a better DAC makes in terms of SNR and Harmonic distortions doesn't matter for average users.

    But for PC motherboards, most mid and low end ones uses integrated CODEC chips, which replaces the DACs. They are not great, but just OK, and paired with the below average circuit design, op amps and noise isolation, I'd say for real audiophile grade quality, they should not be used. Only few high end motherboards and aftermarket soundcards can be considered good as a DAC and can be paired with external AMPs (which I guess you want to do). But others may differ from my opinion.

    - - - Updated - - -

    BTW, why is it in Console Gaming?

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    Any External DAC will provide much better clarity than internal built in DAC that comes with MB.

    I'm using my hdtv's DAC which is far better than the one that is in my MB atm. But having a decent set of speakers is just as important as having a good source.

    For avg users like me the most noticeable difference is in the mid frequency which just feels lively. The low, mid and highs are well separated.
    Something I can't describe in words since i'm not very well attached with technical terms used in audio science.

    @redwan hasan u can come over at my place. We can do a blind test with your favorite songs.

    n btw a good DAC will make u stick to it.

    @Swapnil correct me if i'am wrong. Every piece of electric device that can putout sound from digital data has a DAC in it.
    Last edited by minitt; January 7th, 2015 at 21:39.

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    Quote Originally Posted by minitt View Post
    @Swapnil correct me if i'am wrong. Every piece of electric device that can putout sound from digital data has a DAC in it.
    CODECs have DSPs and DACs integrated on one single IC. The realtek chips on our motherboards are CODECs, which processes the audio effects as well as converts them to analogue. On the other hand dedicated sound cards have seperate DSPs and DACs. The DSP handles all the audio effect, then gives the digital audio signal to the DAC through an SPI or I2C bus.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Also, the codec not only processes the audio effects, but also the other audio stream decodings as well. But in the end it is still a DSP+DAC because on the dedicated cards this is also done by the DSP chip.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by minitt View Post
    Any External DAC will provide much better clarity than internal built in DAC that comes with MB.

    I'm using my hdtv's DAC which is far better than the one that is in my MB atm. But having a decent set of speakers is just as important as having a good source.

    For avg users like me the most noticeable difference is in the mid frequency which just feels lively. The low, mid and highs are well separated.
    Something I can't describe in words since i'm not very well attached with technical terms used in audio science.
    And about that, not only your HDTVs DAC is the factor here, the acompanying electronics are more important factors. I believe the difference of mid frequency you mentioned are not the credit of the DAC chip, but of the OPAMPs your HDTV is using on the analogue output section.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swapnil View Post
    You have definitely read NwAVGuy's blogs right? His Objective2 amp and ODAC should be where I'd start if I were you.

    BTW, asking here about difference in internal and external DAC will only lead to debates, as most of us cannot hear the differences between the DACs alone. Also good DAC's are supposed to be audibly transparent so there aren't much colorization for that. Without colorization, most of the improvement a better DAC makes in terms of SNR and Harmonic distortions doesn't matter for average users.

    But for PC motherboards, most mid and low end ones uses integrated CODEC chips, which replaces the DACs. They are not great, but just OK, and paired with the below average circuit design, op amps and noise isolation, I'd say for real audiophile grade quality, they should not be used. Only few high end motherboards and aftermarket soundcards can be considered good as a DAC and can be paired with external AMPs (which I guess you want to do). But others may differ from my opinion.

    - - - Updated - - -

    BTW, why is it in Console Gaming?
    yes I have seen that and also saw the mayflower's one that was originally designed by this NwAVguy and bunch of other manufacturers ones.

    while comparing i will obviously compare apple to apple that means just flat audio output from either the pc or lappu through a headphone amp vs a dac connected to pc or laptop's usb or digital output.

    now I understand that the SNR and THD should be better as the dacs cost huge but is it really worthy?

    If I can ground the circuit properly and use high quality opamp I can get similar quality right?

    CODECs are just compressor decompressor u will still need DAC right? and obviously pc motherboard comes with that unless you wont be able to output any analog signal, but surely this are not as sophisticated as external dedicated once.

    I'm kinda confused here!


    no idea y it is in console gaming, i just clicked on general discussion now im seeing its in the console gaming -_-

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by minitt View Post
    Any External DAC will provide much better clarity than internal built in DAC that comes with MB.

    I'm using my hdtv's DAC which is far better than the one that is in my MB atm. But having a decent set of speakers is just as important as having a good source.

    For avg users like me the most noticeable difference is in the mid frequency which just feels lively. The low, mid and highs are well separated.
    Something I can't describe in words since i'm not very well attached with technical terms used in audio science.

    @redwan hasan u can come over at my place. We can do a blind test with your favorite songs.

    n btw a good DAC will make u stick to it.

    @Swapnil correct me if i'am wrong. Every piece of electric device that can putout sound from digital data has a DAC in it.
    some people say its just the placebo effect. Internal audios built right into the mobo are very good this days, my old motherboard has a SNR of 108dB I believe.

    that would be great, I have to ponder more on this before I do anything hmmmm

    - - - Updated - - -

    Well my goal is to get pure clean audio and driving a 600Ohm headphone. And making audio device is a huge challenge because everything needs to be perfect, the PCB, proper ground connection, the signal ground and the output ground, have to use better soldering wire, have to isolate the thing from getting interfered from other devices, have to use audio grade stuffs, so this might not be even possible in that case a DAC of maybe 300$ might come in handy.

    first I need to know is it really worthy or not.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by redwan hasan View Post
    yes I have seen that and also saw the mayflower's one that was originally designed by this NwAVguy and bunch of other manufacturers ones.

    while comparing i will obviously compare apple to apple that means just flat audio output from either the pc or lappu through a headphone amp vs a dac connected to pc or laptop's usb or digital output.

    now I understand that the SNR and THD should be better as the dacs cost huge but is it really worthy?

    If I can ground the circuit properly and use high quality opamp I can get similar quality right?

    CODECs are just compressor decompressor u will still need DAC right? and obviously pc motherboard comes with that unless you wont be able to output any analog signal, but surely this are not as sophisticated as external dedicated once.

    I'm kinda confused here!

    Well my goal is to get pure clean audio and driving a 600Ohm headphone. And making audio device is a huge challenge because everything needs to be perfect, the PCB, proper ground connection, the signal ground and the output ground, have to use better soldering wire, have to isolate the thing from getting interfered from other devices, have to use audio grade stuffs, so this might not be even possible in that case a DAC of maybe 300$ might come in handy.

    first I need to know is it really worthy or not.
    CODECS on general sense always refer to compressor decompressors, but in case of audio codec chips they are a bit different. They are simply a complete collection of all audio related components on a single package including DAC, ADC, DSP and also the actual CODECs. And the CODEC chips used in the motherboards and laptopas are decent enough, maybe not like the high end DACs from TI or Wolfson as they have to implement much more components on a single IC, but not very bad either. The noisy environment of PC motherboard and really bad analogue stage designs in the motherboard makes it terrible.

    And in case of building audio electronics, it will be tough. Not only the solder and PCB quality is the problem, also the design and PCB routings are matter too. You will need better capacitors, matched resistor pairs for each channel and audio grade OPAMPs for start. Then you'll have to maintain not only proper grounding, but also proper power supply and interference compensations. Actually it is easier to make the headphone amp part than the DAC part as the DAC part will have digital and analogue signals in close space.

    But despite all that, NwAVGuy actually managed to make a pretty decent and actual hi-fi amp and dac by closely following the the component manufacturer's (dac and opamp ICs) referenece designs.

    And for the component price, audio grade components costs higher, but not that high. If you think a commercial audiophile headphone amp costing 2000$ means it has very high end components that is not true. The components of it might not even cross 200$, the rest is design cost + and audiophile idiocy. You'd be surprised to hear that there are audiophile grade speaker wires that costs 200$ per meter, and some people actually believe using them has effect on the sound characteristics.

    I'd suggest that you make the Amp first. Make it accept line level input from RCA jacks and give an output gain enough to drive those 600ohm headphones. Try to make it as good as possible. Also make sure that you implement enough safety features for it. An improper DC offset or opamp transient can make make your amp kill headsets.

  7. #7
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    thats what i said there will still be DAC and if the input needs to be worked with ADC is needed too. thats why I said I will use a different power supply.

    yes i know thats why i was confused whether I should make one or not. About the design, yes studied a lot about audio circuits past couple of years and i have successfully made audio amps, decent amps. There is the problem, we can't get decent caps, was looking for nippon chemicon or nichicon caps but we can only get the nippon chemicons, i really doubt if they are real, for the opamp going to use Ti TL082, which can control both channels at the same time.

    for the power supply, like i said before either i will go with low noise, inefficient linear multistage regulator or lithium ion batteries.

    yeah agree with u on that. so i think i will just give it a try, making the amp first and dont worry i wont connect the headphones right away

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by redwan hasan View Post
    thats what i said there will still be DAC and if the input needs to be worked with ADC is needed too. thats why I said I will use a different power supply.

    yes i know thats why i was confused whether I should make one or not. About the design, yes studied a lot about audio circuits past couple of years and i have successfully made audio amps, decent amps. There is the problem, we can't get decent caps, was looking for nippon chemicon or nichicon caps but we can only get the nippon chemicons, i really doubt if they are real, for the opamp going to use Ti TL082, which can control both channels at the same time.

    for the power supply, like i said before either i will go with low noise, inefficient linear multistage regulator or lithium ion batteries.

    yeah agree with u on that. so i think i will just give it a try, making the amp first and dont worry i wont connect the headphones right away
    I would suggest u to drop the whole plan. I'm pretty much sure you will not get the required components and u might end up with half done project unless u know som1 who can import them for u. There are few shops in Nobabpur electronic market 1st floor which sells genuine caps which are taken out of pcbs. To my knowledge thats the only genuine source. But their offerings are really limited.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by minitt View Post
    I would suggest u to drop the whole plan. I'm pretty much sure you will not get the required components and u might end up with half done project unless u know som1 who can import them for u. There are few shops in Nobabpur electronic market 1st floor which sells genuine caps which are taken out of pcbs. To my knowledge thats the only genuine source. But their offerings are really limited.
    i wont start unless i got everything ready in my table
    but i might give the headphone amp a try, see how bad it is.

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