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Kevin Kendrick
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26/07/2019 11:30 pm  

I'm looking for suggestions on a small desktop DAC. Fairly certain the DAC chip built into my workplace's computer is crap and I would like to upgrade if it's not going to cost an arm and a leg. Haven't done a lot of searching but stumbled across this one from SMSL, was wondering if anyone else has it or has heard good or bad about it. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KLRDVGX/?coliid=I2U3VUF68D1LWV&colid=1M3GFGMBZR839&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

Another option that seems to get good reviews is the Dragonfly Red. But, it's twice the price of the SMSL unit, is it worth it?

To clarify, any suggestions would need to be a DAC only, the amplifiers will already be built into the speakers. Will share those here at a later date. Thanks for you input.


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123Toid
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27/07/2019 1:09 am  

I haven't used either.  But I have used a few SMSL products in the past and have always felt they were worth what they were asking.  I haven't had a bad experience with their products yet.  So i know this isn't very helpful, but I thought I would at least let you know I have had good experiences with their products.


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Speaker Builder
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27/07/2019 2:42 am  

Based on my experiences...

1) Anything from Audioquest  is going to be wildly overpriced crap.  They make their living by lying to their customers about the effects of wire and selling re-branded Bling items that can be had with off-brand names for 1/3 the price (or less).  Stuff like this Extremely Expensive Power Cable Demo just wrecks havoc with my bullshit meter.

2) USB DACs can be very good. With standardization of line levels, the decoder steps for a given bit depth are very predictable so you should expect them to all sound more or less the same.  Once you get over the "crap threshold" (about $30 in this case) just about any separately powered DAC will work just fine.

3) USB Powered DACs generally suck. Not because they can't deliver good sound, they can... but because of what goes on when the USB port is being initialized and plug and play is loading the drivers from the device. I have a shoe box about half full of these things I've pulled out of systems over the years... and almost all of them do the Klunk, HUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM, Snap, Crackle and Pop dance when starting the computer or bringing it out of sleep mode.

4) I've always had good luck with SMSL's stuff, but you should pop the covers since they do tend to cut corners on part values. For example: I've had a couple of the SA-50s here that came with a 24 volt power supply and 25 volt bulk capacitors on the boards. I swap them out because to be properly safe the caps should be rated for 35 volts, 50 is better. If any one of those 25 volt caps was at the bottom of it's tolerance (typically + 100%, - 10%) 24 volts would cause it to short and/or burst, like  This.


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Kevin Kendrick
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27/07/2019 9:58 am  

Appreciate the feedback guys. Douglas, popping the cover has never been an issue for me, but I'd have no idea about what to look for.  If I buy one of the SMSL's, I'll open it up and post a picture. If you see anything that looks suspect, please let me know, thanks.


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Speaker Builder
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27/07/2019 10:24 am  
Posted by: @kevin-kendrick

Appreciate the feedback guys. Douglas, popping the cover has never been an issue for me, but I'd have no idea about what to look for.  If I buy one of the SMSL's, I'll open it up and post a picture. If you see anything that looks suspect, please let me know, thanks.

Hmmm ... If you are going to mess with building this stuff, you really do need to learn a bit about electronics. Nobody is expecting you to design amplifiers or anything like that but you should at least be able to identify the parts and check for obvious problems.  Maybe give All About Circuits a try.  

This is the insides of an SMSL SA36 amplifier. The arrows indicate the bulk capacitors, which are connected directly across the power supply...

smsl sa36

Note their rating ... 2200 uf, 25 volts ... The voltage rating on these capacitors needs to be at least 20% higher than the power supply voltage to be safe. Now the SA36 ships with a 12 volt power supply so that's OK, 100% safety margin.  However the SA50 was shipping with 25 volt caps and a 24volt supply, which is clearly not safe.

This is a "Day One" issue; a design flaw. When you get this kind of thing, there's no point exchanging the unit because you'll just get another one with the same problem. So, out comes the soldering iron and in go the proper parts.... 4700uf, 35volt caps in the case of the SA-50.

Other things to look for are cracked solder joints, poorly soldered wires, parts that get hot... things like that.

For another example of a Day One problem, check This  In this case I ended up drilling the Tweeter and putting in screws.  Seriously who would glue a speaker into a cabinet???

 


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Kevin Kendrick
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27/07/2019 11:41 am  
Posted by: @douglas-blake 

Hmmm ... If you are going to mess with building this stuff, you really do need to learn a bit about electronics. Nobody is expecting you to design amplifiers or anything like that but you should at least be able to identify the parts and check for obvious problems.  Maybe give All About Circuits a try.  

 

 

Point taken and you're probably right, but for now, I depend on reviews, advice, and/or the expertise of others like yourself. If I ever get bored of designing and building speakers, I'll delve into the electronics side of things deeper. Thanks for the input.


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Speaker Builder
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27/07/2019 5:20 pm  

Okay, now I understand how this got off the rails... and yes I do owe you an apology.

I seem to have you conflated with another poster who is working on a project here as well... This is clearly my mistake and I am sorry to have troubled you with it.

Still, I would encourage you to learn a little electronics. You might be surprised how handy it can be.

 

 


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Kevin Kendrick
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27/07/2019 11:40 pm  

@douglas-blake

No apology necessary. I was a little testy today and shouldn't have responded as I did. I agree with you 100%, more knowledge of electronics can never be a bad thing, especially in this hobby. I deleted some of my replies to you and hope we can start fresh, not looking to upset anyone here. Take care. 


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Speaker Builder
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28/07/2019 1:19 am  

@kevin-kendrick

Miscommunications happen.  No worries.

Now about that DAC ... have a look at this one ...  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G28C7TS

I haven't torn one of these down to know the quality but a friend has one that sounds pretty good to me.


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Kevin Kendrick
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29/07/2019 11:27 am  

@douglas-blake

Thanks Douglas. This does look like a great unit. I like the fact that it can act as a pre-amp yet still has built in amplification for headphones. Multiple input options was another nice feature.

Have a buddy from another forum that reached out to me and let me know he had a DAC sitting in his closet not being used, offered it to me for free, couldn't pass that up so I emailed him a freight label. I may still bring in one of these FOSI units just to see how it compares.  Thanks again. 


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Speaker Builder
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29/07/2019 11:36 am  

@kevin-kendrick

No worries.

Let me know how you make out.


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