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Deltec / DPA

Discussion in 'classic' started by Tony L, Nov 20, 2015.

  1. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Time for an all purpose Deltec thread as I've just landed a DPA PDM3 at a bargain price from teh eBays:


    My figuring being that Deltec always had a reputation for making really good digital kit and even though this one didn't make much of a splash at it's original £2650 price tag it has to be a pretty damn decent DAC for 300 quid! I'm very much liking it so far; big, clean, open, absolutely grain/glare-free and just not putting a foot wrong at all to my ears. This is a fairly recent Deltec, from the period they briefly reemerged about 5 years or so back, the date stamp on the bottom is 2009. It is pretty basic spec wise from what I can establish, e.g. iso not asynchronous USB and the high-res available on the coax and optical inputs aparently tops out at 24/96, but these factors don't concern me as I play CDs and my HD music library is exclusively 16/44 red book. I've got it hooked up to my Rega Apollo R via a 75 Ohm coax lead and I'm very much enjoying it so far. Sounds very decent optically from my Mac too.

    Anyway, just starting this as a general purpose Deltec/DPA thread, e.g. amps, cables, DACs, anything, rather than specifically about this DAC as I know there are quite a few users here and it's the sort of thread we should have!
    Nytechy likes this.
  2. Mr Tibbs

    Mr Tibbs Infinitely Baffled Member

    Always liked the DPA stuff with their innovative designs and top quality build. Obviously a coverless shot of your new DAC is almost mandatory ...

    Mr Tibbs

    ps - I'll save you the bother;

  3. martin clark

    martin clark pinko bodger

    A brief history of products:


    - though I need to update this with the products of the last five years!

    DPA50S pre and 2 x power amps in daily use here ... and a few other bits on storage.
  4. NeilK

    NeilK pfm Member

    Thick film op-amps anyone?


    Still one of the best pre-amps around?
  5. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    One of my friends had one of those preamps from new with a standalone Deltec phono stage, PSU and the matching power amps. Really nice aside from the power amps didn't seem to like his AE1s and kept blowing up. He later ended up using the Deltec pre with a Krell KSA100, which worked very well. A very nice preamp as I recall. Looks great too, almost Quad 22-ish somehow.
  6. muzzer

    muzzer Numb Nut

    Colin at Chevron Audio knows a lot about these dacs Tony and can modifiy them to sound even better.
    I think he can modify a cdp to take advantage of the Deltran clock link which would be well worth doing..
  7. martin clark

    martin clark pinko bodger

    Neil's pic is the early 50S preamp with onboard phono stage.

    Later, DPA turned this case into a line-stage only with offboard PSU (the middle two knobs are re-purposed for balance controls - one gain trim per channel) - and also added a standalone phono stage to the range of products - the offboard PSU had two +/-18Vdc pre-regulated outputs to accomodate these.

    I have examples of both preamps, and use the later one (modified with gain dropped to 2x gaining another pointless -10dB of S:N ratio, actually nearer -15dB by removing the unneeded balance facility too). It remains utterly superb.
  8. DuncanF

    DuncanF pfm Member

    Have to give a wry smile to the bolded bit! I had a Renaissance CD player in the 90's. A wonderful sounding CD player that knocked spots off more expensive rivals I compared it to at the time. All IMO, of course.

    But the build quality was shite. It went back for fettling at least three times in the first year. Oh, and a mod to stop an ear piercing howl when put on standby with the amp not muted. And as I recall the remote came with batteries from Tesco. I took a look inside after one return trip to the factory and it was not pretty....

    That may have been early days/early production at DPA and later stuff may very well be built better. But I think caveat emptor if you are buying this stuff now.

    Having said that, it is the one piece of kit I wished I'd kept from a sound POV, but it was just too unreliable.
  9. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I will at some point remove the 'warranty void if removed' security stickers on my PDM3 and see if what is lurking within matches the rather neat looking pictures. It certainly sounds the part, I'm really liking it a lot.
  10. davidsrsb

    davidsrsb pfm Member

    Not so different to Marantz HDAM modules.
    One thing that was special from DPA was two layer pcbs and getting grounding right. I don't understand why high end Japanese equipment persisted with single sided boards covered in jumper links - you will always end up with poor layouts
  11. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Here's a shot of my PDM3 minus it's case:


    Looks real neat to me and as just as the promo pictures. The little bit of yellow electrical tape top left is covering a fairly hefty link wire that I think is the voltage selection, so I guess is there for safety reasons (mains voltage). Certainly not a botch as I had a peep at the very neat link beneath. The two vertical boards, which I assume are the analogue output boards, have been sprayed blue, I assume to disguise their workings, i.e. no component labels visible. A little annoying as it may make servicing a lot harder if there is a fail in the future. All looks very decent to me, but I'm no electronics specialist. It certainly works! This thing really does sound superb IMO.
  12. James Evans

    James Evans Bedroom Bodger

    Was tempted to get one of those at that price. I bought a SA1 power amp off the same seller, also way below retail, and was very impressed with it.
  13. DavidY80

    DavidY80 Not RoHS Compliant

    They look like thick film boards, but it's hard to see from the photograph.
  14. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I should have taken a pic from a better angle (it's all back together and in the system so I can't be bothered now!), but here's a full res crop:


    Looks to me like Deltec's usual little surface-mount components and a couple of ICs all painted blue after assembly.
  15. DuncanF

    DuncanF pfm Member

    Just to be clear, my Renaissance was born earlier than 1995. I suspect it would largely have been put together by hand, rather than SMD automation PCBs .... So a big difference from the latest stuff.
  16. John_73

    John_73 pfm Member

    Very nice DAC Tony. I have a somewhat earlier DPA PDM1 series 2, and it too sounds superb - very incisive, but in that 'master tape' type way, rather than ear bleeding. Very well laid out internally too. I don't think DPA/Deltec ever released a so-so DAC.
    Wish mine was in as good condition as yours (it looks new!) - it needs a bit of T-cut magic to bring it up a visual notch or two.
  17. Svein

    Svein pfm Member

    I bought a Deltec The Little Bit MkI here for around £40 delivered. It sounded good from the start, very enjoyable. After recommendations from another thread on this forum I replaced the two large caps with Panasonic - eeuhd1v222 - 35v - 2200uf. The diameter and height (12.5x25mm) are the same as on the original caps, handy as there is not much space between them on the motherboard. The recapping certainly lifted the performance a notch or two. Pictures taken before recapping to remember polarity.

  18. NeilK

    NeilK pfm Member

    Tony - looking at the interior of your PDM 3 the layout is similar to the PDM 1.2;


    - what do you think of the sound now you've had the DAC a while?

    I've had a lot of dpa kit, I really regret letting go of a lot of it, but that's how things go I guess. In the late '90s/ early '00s I had a variety of their DACs - Little bit / bigger bit / PDM 1.2 and 1.3. I should never have sold the "bigger bit", a lovely DAC.
    My more recent dpa sources included an enlightenment DAC (24 bit, non philips transport) and a variety of E-DACs of which I liked the SX 64 best, sadly I never managed to buy any of the reference DACs but heard a '256(?) which was most impressive. I didn't own a T1 transport but by all accounts I'd have been surprised when I opened the case!
  19. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Yes, it looks remarkably similar, which makes sense as the earlier ones had a superb reputation. I guess mine is much the same analog circuit tacked onto a more modern digital chipset. I assume the PDM 1.2 was based on some variation of the Philips bitstream chip? The PDM3 uses a AK4397 32-bit DAC chip.

    As to sound I'm loving it, it has certainly raised the game of my system. It has that 'stupidly expensive digital' thing I recall from dCS etc of not sounding digital at all, there is just no glare or edge, not even a hint, it just sounds natural. It achieves it without rolling-off or blunting the treble too, i.e. it's not a contoured or warm sound though it certainly digs deep at the bottom. It is exceptionally clean, open and detailed, but without sterility. I've not tried any high-res or anything yet so can't comment on that, I'm just running it hooked to the coax out of my Rega Apollo R and it is sounding superb.

    I have a feeling the Rega is a rather good transport as there is none of the 'dead in the water' thing I've heard with some CD/DAC combos in the past, and there wasn't with Rega's own DAC either. It's a good rythmic sound to my ears, neither pushing or dragging. I've not spent much time with the USB or optical inputs beyond a quick check that they work, so no real comments there yet. It is just half of my CD player as far as I'm concerned, though it is so good that if I do ever migrate more seriously to computer audio I'd likely get an iFi iLink or something like that to add asynchronous USB rather than go DAC shopping, but that's just not an issue as I've zero interest in subscription streaming and I've a large CD library I love.
  20. NeilK

    NeilK pfm Member

    My PDM 1.2 had the SAA7350 device, I think your description of the "dpa sound" is spot on.
    For those who like cables .... I was very fond of the "black slink" interconnect and "black 16" speaker cables, expensive but very good indeed. Selling the speaker cables at one of the little bumps in life's road has always been a great regret of mine!

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