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At last... (Audiolab) - part I

Discussion in 'audio' started by sq225917, Aug 5, 2010.

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  1. SteveS1

    SteveS1 I heard that, pardon?

    Do you know any Minerva owners? If it's the DAC2 you are on about then it's priced pretty much right imo. More than DA10/DAC1 territory? Fair enough, it sounds better than either.;)
  2. oceanobsession

    oceanobsession pfm Member

    Does anyone know if the ess chip is the 9018 variety yet ?
  3. Space is the Place

    Space is the Place pfm Member

    Anyway lets get back on topic, fingers crossed John W will post some pictures of the Dac!



    Pics are from Hercules over on the DIY Forum.
  4. Cereal Killer

    Cereal Killer 432 Point5

    Yerp and I'm looking forward to getting/trying one too, at £400 or £500 it's looking like it'll put a few noses out'a'joint. :)

    From the pics i see it's a SPMS?.. Also can you give details of what it's made of? IE, chipsets/dual diff?, filters, DSP chip, how the volume controls implemented and is the balanced circuit a proper balanced/choked/transformer type?
  5. Space is the Place

    Space is the Place pfm Member

    No there is a transformer out of shot.

    Go to this thread Spacey, it will tell you all you ever need to know and more! :D
  6. Cereal Killer

    Cereal Killer 432 Point5

    Bludclart, 680 posts, 68 pages me thinks I'm not that much of a nerd. Can you summarize it for me....Please :D

    Glad it's got a transformer.... Autobots, ready to rollout.
  7. Pete the Feet

    Pete the Feet pfm Member

    lb for lb Toblerone's are very expensive but very good.
  8. Space is the Place

    Space is the Place pfm Member

    Yeah i can summarise...

    Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away John Westlake sets out to design his own Dac which outperforms more expensive Dacs and is better than the best version of the old Dacapo.

    Two earth years later Audiolab takes up the design and makes it, forgetting to launch the Dac, but inadvertently launching the latest technology (some say derived from alien technology) something called a 'CD' player that plays, wait for it...silver disks!

    this is the future you divs!

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2018
  9. Cereal Killer

    Cereal Killer 432 Point5

    Decept-to-cons (hi-end ones) are a coming. Earth must be saved at all costs, the Matrix of power must be destoryed, in the wrong hads it will eat Earth's sun.....

    Still 3 weeks of summer break left .......:)
  10. Jonathan Ribee

    Jonathan Ribee Unavailable at present

    Awesome 80s video.
  11. Space is the Place

    Space is the Place pfm Member

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2018
  12. technobear

    technobear Ursine Audiophile

    Yes, but then so does a Beresford Caiman and that is only £220 :D
  13. SteveS1

    SteveS1 I heard that, pardon?

    Must be a massive improvement on the previous version then. :D
  14. sq225917

    sq225917 Bit of this, bit of that

    Was the version of the Weiss before that one even worse?

  15. sq225917

    sq225917 Bit of this, bit of that

    Ask him.
  16. Cereal Killer

    Cereal Killer 432 Point5

    China, but he checks in here now and again. ;)
  17. jackbarron

    jackbarron Chelsea, London

    I am also interested in how the new Audiolab CD players stack up against a Naim CD5, although I no longer have Naim amplification.

    I had a couple of demos of the NAIM DAC when it came out. I already had a Beresford DAC and bought an EAR integrated amp instead.

    I'd like to upgrade the Beresford and wonder if either the Audiolab DAC or a CD player will do the job well.

  18. JohnW

    JohnW pfm member

    Mind sharing some of what you guys are smoking? Oh yes - Many thanks for attaching those movie clips, now I cannot open those pages from China… So sorry if I’ve missed some questions…

    Ill try to answer all questions, again sorry if I’ve missed some:-

    Asking me for my opinion on Naim Amps, would be askin to sending me walking down the streets of Baghdad wearing an American Baseball Cap and an "I love America Tee shirt!!!" Guys I have kids, a Family!

    Short Story, Chapter 1 – A young designer’s first introduction to the “World of Hi Fi”

    Many MANY years ago there was a 19 year old kid who thought he had developed a class leading DAC. Week after week the DAC’s performance was hone and tweaked until it’s young developer was 100% certain it was the very best he could design. Eager to show the world his creation, the young DAC designer would take his DAC to the local HiFi shop in sunny, peaceful Crystal Place to compare against the “Established” competition. These trips only served to convince the young designer that he was indeed on the correct path… The verdict was always unanimous amongst those who had a chance to listen, yes indeed, the young designers DAC outclassed the competition.

    Then one rainy day, 2 boxes arrived at the HiFi dealer from a company call Naim – Naim’s very first CD player the CD1. The young design had never seen so much raw excitement from a grown man, the local HiFi shop owner almost ripping the cartons apart – before the shop's front door had closed behind the back of the delivery driver, the Naim CD was plugged in and warming up…

    The young designer sat down with the shops owner and started to listen to the Naim CD1 - with his own DAC at hand for comparison… The listening session served yet again to the young designer, that his design was really heads above the competition… Sound stage, left to right, and with Depth, Clarity around each instrument, Clear Bass lines, no hint of a mumbling Bass "drone", clear Treble, no need to dive for cover in pure fear for ones hearing…. While the Naim was muffled and constrained by comparison, while struggling to define sound stage and instruments – Bass line sounding the same no matter what was being played…

    The young designer turned around with a big smile across his face – then the Shop owner said speaking of the Naim “You see, clearly superior” – the young designer then realised that he would never win…

    Sadly, the young designer in pure despair was banished to serve the rest of his life in the depths of Asia… (Without food that was destined to stay in him longer then half an hour at a time).

    I think you can all agree, that the morel of this very sad tale is that some people are too afraid to believe in their own judgments, and hear what they are told to hear…

    And finally back to the plot, some more answers...

    No the PSU is linear – 36 regulated PSU rails in the CD with 38 regulated PSU rails in CDQ.

    The CD,CDQ, DQ & MDAC all use the ESS9018, originally in was planned to use the ESS9008 for the CD, but this IC has so many internal design issues, that simply we could not use it. Late in the day we where forced into using the ESS9018 across the range. Dominik and myself worked with ESS to helped identify and resolve issues with ESS’s first generation DAC’S (9006 & 9008) – resulting in the much improved (and now usable) 9016, 9018. Still the ESS DAC range is very hard to work with, with many “work arounds” required to gain stable performance… ESS support is VERY weak – thankfully we could work directly with Dustin Foreman the IC’s designer.

    In my humblest opinion, the ESS DAC’s are really the very best “Off the Shelf” DAC chips you can buy – so it has been worth the extended effort in the long run… but what a bloody headache its been….

    The ESS DAC is used in Balanced Voltage mode, so the analog stage is truly active balanced (using discrete Class A FET input based class A stages – transformers are not used). During the development cycle I originally used bipolar (transistor) based input stages, these resulted in a 134dB Dynamic range (Awtd), but sounded below par (crap) – well in fact it sounded like Audiolab of old, clinical, hard, cold, uninvolving… so I quickly changed to FET inputs pairs (and other tweaks) , reducing the dynamic range to 117dB due to the FET’s more nosey performance – but thankfully the audio quality approached my target… Analogue!

    Using the ESS we are able to design our own filter coefficients – no need for external DSP, the ESS has all the internal DSP processing required – just requires a competent software guy and the use of MATLAB…

    The DQ / CDQ analogue input stage comprises of Gold Relay switch input selection, then converted to a Balanced signal path (all ClassA biased stages are used though out the signal path) – to a Balanced integrated passive switched attenuator for each channel (for Volume control) – then to discrete balanced FET input Hi-Current class A output buffer.

    When using the DAC section of the DQ / CDQ the Gain control can be performed in the Digital domain (User selectable Analogue or Digital Pre-Amplifier), so the internal “Pre Amplifier stage” can be bypassed (Via High quality Gold Relays) for the shortest signal path. No matter how good or bad a Pre-Amplifier is, at can never be totally 100% transparent – so better to do without if possible. To this end, internally the DAC output stage incorporates a FET input based discrete High Current Class A output stage)… The simpler the signal path the better… Bring back the “Needle and Horn” I say…

    When using the CDQ in “Digital Pre-Amplifier Mode”, the unit’s basically an 8200CD but with digital volume control. Dominik and I wanted to add the “Volume control” function to the 8200CD – but guess what the marketing Dept. “STRONGLY” refused… would have only cost 2 extra buttons on front panel – less then US$0.5… wonder why…

    Talking about the history of the digital input support of the 8200CD, well originally there was very firm rejection of adding USB and digital inputs on a “New” CD player from marketing Dept, and CDQ / DQ was not too exist (in fact CDQ was actually panned – DQ was not even on the table) - with the famous quote that I will never forget “We are not a DAC company”… I pushed my own agenda, designed the products behind the scene, and thanks to the publics postings and reception to the products, the Marketing Dept. has “come around” to releasing the CDQ and now DQ….

    But remember we are not a DAC company – well thankfully CD has such a bright future… Please let me find a very hard brick wall so I can bash my own head against it… ouch… ouch… ouch… Oh it really hurts… ouch... hey that's starting to feel good.... Yes - I think I'm going to work in China...

    When we started development of this DAC (recall it was originally designed for our own brand), USB2.0 audio (for 24/192) was not yet conceived – and even to this day (in the mainstream OS systems) only Apple supports 192/24 over USB native - without the need for external software Drivers. As a small Audio based company we could not attain to support software drivers for Windows PC’s and all the instabilities associated with the computers, so we decided only to support 24/96KHz over USB – so alas, USB 24/96KHz is a legacy from the roots of the design.

    Even today, there is still not a stable source for USB 24/192 over USB – until Microsoft build in native driverless support of HiRes USB into Windows, we do not have the resources to support customers PC installation issues – how many times has the installation process of your new product gone smoothly under Windows???

    Thankfully, USB 24/96 is supported driverless on all major operating systems.

    Also, the Digital Optical inputs are only "RATED" to support upto 24/96KHz - although they "May" work with higher input rates, depending on the quality of the Transmitting source...
  19. Cereal Killer

    Cereal Killer 432 Point5

    You sitting on my left John? I'll pass the dutchie then ... :) I'm looking forward to hearing what these sound like. The design and spec looks very very nice indeed.

    PS, 38 regs in one supply, in one box even!! JV would've been turning in his grave :D

    PPS, what's the size of the DQ, any pics ??
  20. Still

    Still he said his naim was ralph

    Bloody hell - for a moment I thought it was a raid!
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