Build Your Own Macho CDP: Part 2


After a few hours, I just couldn't stand it anymore. The built-in DAC of the CDPRO2 sounds just like normal DACs, meaning it has that typical "digital sound". That's the consequence of listening too long to your non-oversampling DAC! Once you get hooked to the non-os sound, you just can't turn back to conventional DACs anymore.

So, very quickly, I whipped up another non-os dac, based on the TDA1543 again. It's the same circuit as the RM20 DAC. So I'm back to "intrepid mode" again! And this time it's easier as I2S signal is readily available. But I still need to make those darn connectors... (when I was done, I destroyed more connectors! I used up ALL my connectors, including those meant for the display supply. DIYers Asylum, here I come...)


As usual, built the power supply first. I found some ferrite inductors salvaged from some junk equipment. Hey, might as well put it to good use. Also, it looks sooooo macho.


Aha! Here's the DAC! Built "deadbug" style. The huge groundplane also functions as heatsink for the super hot TDA1543. The 3 parallel components form the parallel resonant filter. I know I can't listen to this DAC without this resonant circuit but I still see a lot of folks on the Internet complaining that this DAC is dark sounding. Let me shine you some light: Install just these handful of components and you won't be in the "dark" anymore. Serious!


Finito! Compared to previously, there's now an additional power trans for the DAC. The huge one at the back. Yeah, I'll eventually replace those tiny ones beside it with their bigger brothers too. In front, is the non-os dac power supply and the dac itself. Then 2 huge honking 10uF GE plastic cap for DC blocking duties. Now you understand why I built it on plywood? And I'm already running out of space!

Okay! Now what do I hear! Mama mia! Aye caramba! [Insert favourite foreign expression of similar enthusiasm.]
I hear INCREDIBLE separation. Voices, instruments are distinct and individual and you can follow them as they go through the motion. I mean, when they get loud, they don't "mesh" together like before. I get lower bass too! I used to think that my Hammers is the bass limit but it isn't! It's the Marantz! (Adios to subwoofer project.) Then I'm hearing detail I never knew existed! On the beginning of one track, I'm suprised to find the singer breath into the mike before singing. I never knew this before! I never heard this before, damnit! And some of the little spatial cues are remarkable. For example, on Jennifer Warne's "The Hunter", after the accordion intro on "Lights of Lousianne", the seagull is like out of this room! And of course, the very nature of non-os is there, for all to hear. Very natural, very real. (Adios to turntable project.)

All in all, I feel that the CDPRO2 transport has "transported" the performers to my room! But there's definitely room for improvement, though the bar has been raised considerably. My brief experience with TDA1541 (but not through the CDPRO2) showed that this DAC chip has even more potential. It has a GLORIOUS, LUMINOUS midrange. But this guy needs 3 power supply and has such low output, I will need another gain stage (and more transformer, more power supply... oh my.) I mean, at present, the simplicity of the system is very very attractive. CDPRO2 - TDA1543 DAC - Etude "12B4" Preamp - Simple EL84. There's only 3 gain stages between DAC and speakers! But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's enjoy the music for now.

And build a proper chassis.