Massdrop x Grace Design Standard DACsearch
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Massdrop x Grace Design Standard DAC

Massdrop x Grace Design Standard DAC

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(41 reviews)
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Stickied
Hi All, I thought I would provide some technical details about the SDAC design that are not evident by reading the specifications. When Massdrop approached us to design a USB DAC that could provide equal or better performance than the ODAC Rev B or Schitt Modi 2, but be more affordable than our m9XX, we jumped at the challenge. The SDAC contains mostly new circuitry for us and there was not much we could reuse from previous products we have built in the past. Successful DAC design begins with the understanding that a DAC chip is in essence a mixer. The output from a DAC is a mix of four primary inputs: 1) Digital audio data 2) Clock Jitter 3) Power supply noise 4) Analog circuit distortion. Modern delta-sigma DACs have vanishingly low noise and distortion so the "sound" of a DAC is really less controlled by the actual IC selected for the design and more by the quality of the clock, power supply, and analog amplifiers. Also, to a lesser but significant degree, passive components like capacitors and resistors in the analog signal path. The SDAC employs asynchronous data transfer from the USB host, which allows for the use of fixed crystal oscillators rather than phase locked loops (PLLs) or digital clock synthesis. A low noise fixed crystal oscillator is the lowest jitter sample clock and there are two in the SDAC: One 22.5792MHz crystal for 44.1kHz and 88.2kHz sample rates, and one 24.576MHz crystal for 48kHz and 96kHz sample rates. These are located very close to the DAC. I should note that asynchronous mode allows for the use of a high quality clock but it is not intrinsically better. It is certainly possible that there asynchronous designs out there that use low grade clocks and therefore are not benefiting from asynchronous mode. The power supply for the DAC is designed for very low noise and good noise rejection. This is critical to the overall performance and is not easy to do given the constraints of USB bus power operation. There are separate voltage regulators for the DAC, processor, and analog circuits, which minimizes interaction between these circuit areas. The analog output circuits are based on very low noise and low distortion amplifiers. With harmonic distortion below -120dB, they are well below the distortion floor of the DAC. The SDAC is direct coupled with no capacitors in the signal path, which gives low frequency response that is perfectly flat and free of phase shift. Following is a list of some of the technical features of the SDAC:
  • XMOS X200 USB streaming controller operating in asynchronous transfer mode.
  • IDT XLH series oscillators provide and exceptionally stable and low noise sample clock for DAC. 12kHz to 20MHz phase jitter is 750fs. Note that the jitter below 12kHz is generally more important in audio applications but the 12kHz-20MHz specification is commonly used for specifying oscillators so it is useful in comparing to other clocks. In the SDAC the clock jitter artifacts are well below the DAC noise floor so they are essentially irrelevant.
  • AK4452 DAC provides 32 bit internal processing , 115dB dynamic range, and the same architecture as the AK4490.
  • Output amplifiers are Burr Brown OPA1652. These are extremely low noise low distortion FET input amplifiers with excellent output cable drive capability. Note that the output impedance is set at 150 Ohms so the SDAC is not intended to drive headphones. While it will not harm anything to do so, the fidelity will not approach what is possible with a good headphone amplifier.
  • The negative audio power supply is generated with a switched capacitor circuit that operates synchronously to the audio sample rate to eliminate any possibility of power supply related spurs in the output spectrum.
  • DAC power supply is regulated with the TPS793 low noise linear regulator to reject any contamination from noisy USB power.
  • 4 layer FR-4 circuit board with careful attention to high speed digital layout, power supply grounding, and low noise analog signal routing.
I will attempt to upload a fft plot showing the SDAC passing a 10kHz sine wave. Notice that there are no visible jitter sidebands (spurs that appear evenly spaced on either side of the fundamental tone). The line at 20kHz is the first harmonic at -92dB. The level of the noise floor suggests that the upper limit of random jitter in the SDAC clock is around 1.5ps at any given frequency. If anyone has questions let me know. I will try to check in here as time permits... Cheers, Michael
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Hi harrisonjr98, Both the 3.5mm and RCA jacks are wired in parallel. That means they both have the exact same signal. The output impedance of the DAC is about 150 Ohms. If you plug each output in to an amplifier there will be virtually no loss in signal level. However, if you plug headphones in to the 3.5mm jack there will be signal loss on the RCA. For example, if you plugged 150 Ohm headphones in to the 3.5mm jack that would make a voltage divider of .5 so you would loose 6dB of signal. This will not hurt the SDAC but the 3.5mm output was never intended to be a headphone amplifier. It is best to use an external amp. Hope that makes sense, Cheers, Michael
Simple math V=IR r1:headphone (32 Ohms) r2:amp (10kOhms) 1/r1 + 1/r2 = 1/R = (r1+r2)/(r1*r2) R<32 Ohms 2V=2000mV=62.5mA * 32 Ohms over 62.5mA! _______________________________________ r1:amp (10kOhms)   r2:amp2 (10kOhms)   1/r1 + 1/r2 = 1/R R = (r1*r2)/(r1+r2) R=5kOhms 2V=2000mV=0.4mA * 5kOhms only 0.4mA! _______________________________________ 62.5 mA = 0.4mA *(almost)156
Stickied
Hi Everyone, Good news! The Massdrop x Grace Design Standard DAC has arrived at the warehouse in New Jersey, and is now being prepared for shipment. We are on track to meet our estimated ship date of December 12. We’re looking forward to everyone receiving the SDAC!
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I think that post is for last years shipment. 48Weeks ago post. probably shouldn't be stickied anymore.
Michael-Q
D'oh! I missed the "STICKIED 48W". My bad! But yeah, he should really remove that sticky. Anyway, thanks!
This vs. Jds Labs OL DAC ?
(Edited)
Will this work well stacked with a Bravo V2 w/ golden lion ECC82? Running HD6XX and HD58X.
(Edited)
Hi can I connect this directly to my android phone from USB C to micro? How much current will it draw out? Will it kill my battery fast? I'm wanting to connect this to the Objective 2 for Spotify directly from my phone for a rig at work.
can best be combined with a magni 3 or any min 1w per channel amp to afford a quite satisfying mid-fi setup. totally sounds more organic than those forced up weirdos with high-end chips and features but without any principal design or expertise. great entry level processors for at least head-fiers.
Audio n00b here. I have powered speakers that take a 3.5mm. They have their own headphone out jack. Should I plug my speakers into RCA (with an adapter cable), or the 3.5mm out? I also assume I should continue plugging in my headphones to the speaker's headphone jack, correct?
syxbit
You can plug your speakers into RCA or 3.5 Jack. RCA is generally better but I don't think you will hear a difference. Then you can continue using speakers as a headphone out. And as Michael_Grace said "Both the 3.5mm and RCA jacks are wired in parallel. That means they both have the exact same signal. The output impedance of the DAC is about 150 Ohms. If you plug each output in to an amplifier there will be virtually no loss in signal level. However, if you plug headphones in to the 3.5mm jack there will be signal loss on the RCA. For example, if you plugged 150 Ohm headphones in to the 3.5mm jack that would make a voltage divider of .5 so you would loose 6dB of signal. This will not hurt the SDAC but the 3.5mm output was never intended to be a headphone amplifier. It is best to use an external amp. Hope that makes sense,"
Very random/uneducated question but does this have a balanced 3.5 mm output or only the l/r outputs? There's another port in the photos but my dumbass needs to make sure...
Truthworm
This is Unbalanced DAC, hence the 3.5mm also unbalanced. For balanced SDAC https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-grace-design-standard-dac-balanced/ But SDAC-B also only have unbalanced 3.5mm.
Is this a good DAC to combine with the Sennheiser HD58X? I mainly want to use it for gaming.
Bl4d3runn3r
A DAC is separate from an amp. Some units are a combo DAC/Amp but this is a DAC only. It takes a digital input and outputs the analog signal needed for human ears. Headphones cannot be plugged into this. You need an amp in between the DAC and your headphones.
When searching in this thread as to whether the outputs work simultaneously, I came across this: "the 3.5mm jack is a pass through connection so when you plug another set of headphones into the DAC the RCA connection looses voltage and cuts it's output in half to make the 3.5mm work - I'm sure I butchered that explanation. Not an optimal method. Better to get a processor that can handle multiple outputs. " What does this mean? Do they not output at the same level if they're both being used at the same time?
anyone have a setup that uses a standalone dac, amp and mixer. i am looking to get a mixer but wanna make sure I can use my dac.
So JDS Atom + SDAC when?
Waiting for the balanced dac.
I have big troubles with my newly arrived SDAC. It has always one or two annoying glitches some seconds after the playback starts and it crashes after some time (using Foobar, with either Wasapi or Kernel-Streaming). Since there is no driver involved or only a generic one, it must be the hardware itself, since I have many DACs which make no problems at all with the same PC or setup. Is there a dedicated driver for the SDAC to bypass the IMHO suboptimal driver connection?
alohka
I checked the SDAC with another computer, running Windows 10 - and it works flawlessly... Since the other computer was running Windows 7 it may have problems with that. But I guess there might be problem with similar drivers: I have a XMOS driver (which works perfectly for the Topping D30 for example) installed on the Windows 7 computer which may interfere with the interface of the SDAC.  Did somebody made a similar experience?
Just got the SDAC, finding no difference in sound as compared with the fioE10k. using it with the massdrop O2 amp and sennhd6xx headphones. Is it my ears not audiophilic enough? :) cables connecting SDAC to amp makes a difference in sound? thank you for valuable comments.
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Thanks for reply. I don't see that comment. So even if i am outputting it to o2 amp, it means it is not meant to be used like that?
KrisBali
The SDAC was meant to be a dac. It is meant to be connected to an amp, be it a headphone amp or power amp ( for speakers).
(Edited)
Say I have a RCA to 3.5mm connector. can I just use this without an amp at diminishing returns?
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Thanks for the reply. I guess ill wait for the DAC/AMP combo again.
Skylit
You can't control the volume. Which means you would be better with your computer's audio output.
(Edited)
Do you guys know if I can plug this DAC directly in my mixer (Yahama MG12XU) to get my Tidal music in my mix? Not the ideal setup but I need the mixer for streaming... and I also want the best possible audio quality!
ZavierKonz
Also want to add that, if this setup is possible, I would plug my headphone amp in the stereo out on my mixer to plug my headphones.
Is there any difference between the ODAC and the SDAC?
Mark_M
The SDAC performs better and is cheaper. Whether the performance improvements are audible is up for debate, but the cost savings are not.
" just tested it, the 3.5mm jack is a pass through connection so when you plug another set of headphones into the DAC the RCA connection looses voltage and cuts it's output in half to make the 3.5mm work - I'm sure I butchered that explanation. " Hey everyone! Earlier in the week I read the above comment and had a bit of a question about it. I was wondering, is the power loss here just when both outputs are plugged in or only when they're both on? I was looking at grabbing one of these to have both my speakers and headphone amp plugged into at once, switching one on and the other off when need be, but if it reduces in quality when doing so, might I be better off looking for something else? Cheers!
I'm pairing this with a Magni 3 amp but not sure how to connect it to work with the SDAC. Would I be correct to connect RCA from Magni to SDAC, then usb to PC? Or would I need some sort of adapter? (I'm a beginner)
Kaiwyn
Your method is probably the default way to connect the SDAC to the Magni 3. So PC —> Use USB —> SDAC then SDAC —> Use RCA —> Magni 3 inputs
mindbender9
I'm not so noobish after all! Thanks for confirming that for me :)
Choosing between this or the Topping D10 Dac, does anyone have a comparison between the two? Thanks
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I like crunchy peanut butter... but I think I'll like the smoother SDAC :-) Seriously, I also was trying to decide between the two, but I'm impatient, and the SDAC is dropping now, so I joined the drop. Your impressions though don't give me any immediate buyer's remorse. Thanks!
waynesworld
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
I have one, don't use it much, but can't picture selling it (since my sister's name is Grace, and this is a sweet DAC).
Can you recommend a good speaker amplifier to pair this with?
I'm thinking of building some computer speakers to surprise my parents.
Edit--- if there's no super suggestions, I may build a matching enclosure for a chipamp 2.1 system. I have spare African blackwood.... just that it may not have any heatsink properties
anyone knows how this compares to the new released modi 3?
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So when I go to Schiit’s Modi 3 webpage and select Multibit as an option, you’re saying that I’m buying an existing/older model instead of the Modi 3? I honestly didn’t know that. Still sounds great, but I haven’t heard the SDAC yet. For the price, the SDAC might be the best deal in a DAC out there.
mindbender9
Yes, only modi3 has been refreshed. Modi multibit is still on the modi2 infrastructure (I did hear modi multibit has received updates via firmware upgrades, but those aren't user-upgradeable, only if you bought it after feburari 2018, which sucks for people who bought it before that date!)
Is there any benefit from having the SDAC and O2 amp separate in a "stack" as shown here instead of the combo unit?
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Your confusing multiple issues. I never had hiss/hum/static that's just a basic faulty cable issue that's easily fixed. I had a sound stage reverb issue that the jitterbug did in fact fix.
Please do not spout rubbish about a product you've obviously never tried. The Jitterbug does what it is supposed to do. Way to many independent audio industry people have verified and tested it for it to be a conspiracy hoax.
Brad.Clarkston
You are absolutely deluding yourself. Independent audio industry people, you mean paid reviewers? Let me sum it up for you.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/digital-audio-jitter-fundamentals.1922/#post-50607
" I have tested the Jitterbug it does absolutely nothing. "
" Stereophile made their measurements with the same results (no difference to speak of). "
As you say, the Jitterbug does what it is supposed to do: make you spend unnecessary money to fool yourself into imaginary improvements. Congratulations, you got played.
So I just bought one of these because I've already got an amp, and I want to upgrade from onboard audio. But I've got no experience with DACs or any other audiophile gear, so I don't really know how to gauge how good this is. How does this really compare to other DACs in it's price range? I just read Grace Design's comment about how it doesn't reach its full potential when driving a headphone amp, but is it really that bad? Sorry for my newbiness :)
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Mono vs stero. The MA400 is primarily made to be used in mono mode (single channel) in a studio environment for instruments. It will work but you would be happier with something like the Lepai LP-2020TI for $10 more it's made for audio playback.
I bought the LP-2020TI after Steve Guttenberg recommended it over at CNETS "The Audiophiliac" website. It's a great little amp for $35. Not at good as the O2 but it should be at twice the price.
Brad.Clarkston
Thanks man, I'll have a look
Can it drive headphones directly? it seems the same output of dragonfly red...
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Can you elaborate?
FabioRocks
This is a DAC, a dragonfly red outputs a 3.5mm output that already has been amplified by a built-in mini amplifier. This SDAC has no amp, you would need the SDAC/O2 combo also available on massdrop.
The DAC i'm using right now has only a single output. I'm using a 3.5mm to 2x 3.5mm splitter, but I think it's giving me some background noise over my headphones. Q: on SDAC can i leave both outputs plugged in all the time, i.e. one (probably RCA out) to my headphone amp > headphones, and the other (3.5mm > RCA adapter > RCA cable) to my stereo amp > floor speakers?

less important, how much more unicorns will enter my ears if i spend 2.5x amount and buy a Topping D50 as a dedicated headphone amp?
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Perfect!
" I just tested it, the 3.5mm jack is a pass through connection so when you plug another set of headphones into the DAC the RCA connection looses voltage and cuts it's output in half to make the 3.5mm work - I'm sure I butchered that explanation. " Quick question, is the power loss here just when both outputs are plugged in or only when they're both on? I was looking at grabbing one of these to have both my speakers and headphone amp plugged into at once, switching one on and the other off when need be, but if it reduces in quality when doing so I might be a bit better off looking around for something else. Cheers!
So I am debating between this, Topping D10 or JDS Labs OL DAC. Any input from the community?
RyCan
OL Dac or SDAC
Just picked up this DAC and waiting shipment.
Does anyone one know what shape the micro usb plug on the cable is ?
I want to buy an aftermarket micro usb to usb cable but i'm not sure what tip it has or wether there is/or it is a generic one.
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I wish this used the USB2.0 B jack instead of USB mini. It would make the jack more sturdy.
Mark_M
Whatever works best for the application. I trust the specification that micro plug is more suited for frequent cable usage by design.
As a musician / audio guy who wishes to use it as a monitoring tool, I just want to make sure it's reliable, in ways that it'll always work, even if part breaks it is easily replaced and start running again in no time.
Has anyone been able to test if this is compatible with the PS4?
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Using a usb input or using the optical input?
Sorry. My mistake. It is the ability to play surround sound through usb that they have gated. The audio works in stereo