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Old 05-23-2014, 11:18 AM
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Default Headphone users, DAC listeners- REPORT IN!

Hey all, I just submitted my second order to the lovely Schiit Audio. Yes, you say the name just how it is spelled, yes, it is a joke.

For those of you not familiar, they make an awesome $99 DAC based on the AKM4396 chip. You have a choice when ordering between USB and optical input flavors and the USB input variety has a very nice asynchronous clock. I already own one such DAC in the USB flavor (the Modi, as it is called) and have just ordered a second.



Why?

I want to end the USB vs. optical debate once and for all! (OK, that probably won't happen. I think this will be a relatively fair comparison, however.) I will update this thread with subjective listening tests as well as an overview of my test system and material. Please feel free to suggest recordings- and I don't mean just "audiophile" recordings. I use recordings with unique properties: such as being recorded in mono, or in an interesting venue, etc. Just post names, I will find them of course.

I will post lots of pictures and I encourage discussion.

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Old 05-23-2014, 11:23 AM
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Well, Schiit, I am def interested in this test.
Yes, lots of pics please!
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Old 05-23-2014, 11:37 AM
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Schiit Modi USB receiver datasheet:

http://www.wakamatsu-net.com/biz/cm6...sheet_v0-8.pdf

The C-Media 6631A (Rev. A? Same specs...) is what I found under the hood of my own DAC. Seems to be a well regarded chip, found in a lot of high end USB DACs from overseas. (Which are reportedly quite good, though you'll never catch me buying hi-fi direct from China.)
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Old 05-23-2014, 11:42 AM
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I'll have to take a peek under the hood into the optical variety as well and see what they are using as an optical s/pdif decoder. The analog sections are the same, respectively. The DAC is of course same. The one discrepancy that may effect sound is the difference in power supplies. The USB variety runs off of the computers +5v but it does have internal regulation. The optical DAC takes low voltage AC from a wall-wart, rectifies it, then uses a couple small power supplies to make the voltages the internal parts require. To reduce discrepancies, I have designed a simple +5v linear power supply to use with the USB model- it simply bypasses PC power and injects +5v into the cable. I noticed slight differences in sound as well as interference when using my laptop +5v on battery vs. on an AC adapter. The custom PS is dead flat and doesn't seem to effect the sound detrimentally.
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Old 05-23-2014, 11:53 AM
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Some early power supply build pics. The current design is different, featuring more smoothing capacitance on the input. I have also added a high-Q ceramic cap to the input and output on the recommendation of one of our own members, Brandes.cm! Many thanks to him for assisting me with the power supply build and with my other various questions.

Input board, full wave rectifier and a big 'ol capacitor


Input board point-to-point


Output board


Output board (mostly) point-to-point (only using traces for Com and Vin)

Bad quality, I know. I will update the thread with current pics.
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Old 05-23-2014, 11:57 AM
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Optical PCB
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Old 05-23-2014, 12:01 PM
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If anyone would like to donate a decent S/PDIF cable because they feel that is important, I will PM them my address. Otherwise, I will probably just use a cheap-o since I have never been able to spot the difference with fancy cables in a blind A-B. I simply prefer coax RCA construction and shielded data cables with ferrite chokes on the outside. Never had any noise issues.
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Old 05-23-2014, 12:16 PM
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Old article, but interesting reading for anyone curious about the subject of DACs. This article sheds some light on how manufacturers evaluate an IC from the creation of an engineering sample.

The D/A diaries: A personal memoir of engineering heartache and triumph | EE Times
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Old 05-27-2014, 09:25 AM
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Tracking says my Schiit is out for delivery...

stay tuned!
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Old 05-27-2014, 10:03 AM
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Things I am going to listen to (officially) for this comparison so far...

Following this format:

(Artist) Cake - Fashion Nugget (Album)

Steely Dan - Two Against Nature

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie - It Might As Well Be Swing

Eminem - Relapse, Relapse: Refill

Boston - Third Stage

More to come! Please make suggestions!
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