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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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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Thanks for responding. Do you have a recommended way of connecting? I tried a Logitech 4 port USB 2.0 powered HUB. The SDAC is not detected. Thanks again!
spaceranger
Ummm...I am sorry that the way I suggested does not work. ūüė≠ I hope you to find the way!
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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hi there,how does it sound,highs lows and clarity and detail,regards
You pair with o2 amp?
Choosing between this or the Topping D10 Dac, does anyone have a comparison between the two? Thanks
Kaiwyn
I have both and I find the sound difference to be minimal. I like the D10 because of its better connectivity, where as file format support is less of a concern but it does support more formats over the SDAC. The SDAC tho has a nicer form factor and stacks better with my Liquid Spark. You can't go wrong with either. I would characterize the SDAC as smoother overall, with the D10 more crunchy. Think about which kind of peanut butter you prefer and make your decision.
ALLCAPS
Thanks for the fast reply! :D
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?
edhahaha
About the same.
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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Don't buy into the jitterbug and stuff. Like you said you don't have any noise such as hiss, hum, or static... don't buy silly things (imo).
verifonix
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.
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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thank you for testing that! i ordered the OL Switcher from JDS Labs. I love those folks, and they do custom engraving on all their products for free. Might hurt the resale value but ... super awesome :)
something like this:
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malaprop
Perfect!
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
Does anyone know if this can be used as a stand-along DAC?
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not quite a hundred, right? check out this combo unit that's live now for 150 - best intro everything you need price that i'd probably get if i didn't have a hybrid tube amp https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-o2-sdac-dac-amp
malaprop
oh thanks!
Anyone knows how the Topping D30 compares to the Sdac?
tsuid1
I'd like to know too.
I have an O2 amp and a Micca Origen G2 for a DAC. Is there any merit in getting this?
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So far I like the DAC I'm still burning it in but it's pairing well with the O2 amp. I agree it doesn't pop on the high end as well as some other's I own but that's not necessarily a bad thing for this price range.
The only irritation I have with it is a bit of distortion on busy bass percussion and/or reverb. For instance on rock songs - Bon Jovi has never met a reverb he didn't like so the distortion is very pronounced. Most of the hair bands from that era sound the same except for GNR the dac sounds very clean on there songs. Elvis is also very clean as he didn't use bass percussion. Most of the jazz and blues rips I have sound clean as well.
I've ordered a new USB cable and a jitterbug to see if that helps or is it something inherent to the dac. I might even change the jitterbug out for the iFi iPurifier3 I have on my main rig as a test but that's getting a bit crazy as it's $50 more than the dac.
Brad.Clarkston
A small update - adding the jitterbug alone cleared up the distortion caused by the stock USB cable that was sent with the DAC. The percussion's are crisp and the reverb is clean. Nothing to do with the DAC itself.
Adding the better USB cable feels like it opened up the treble and bass. More than likely it's just filtering noise better on both so it's easier to hear. 'Shoot To Thrill' is back to it's AC/DC goodness.
i have a topping TP30-MARK2 but im not happy with the dac, if i use the RCA out from this DAC and connect it to the RCA in on my amp, how significant would the improvement be?
Has anyone tried this with a raspberry pi and something like moode? It should obviously work, but maybe someone could share their experience?
mingus2112
You'll probably need a separately powered USB hub to even make it work, but even then interference on such a small board might impact sound quality. You can add a USB filter if it really is an issue.
mingus2112
It works pretty well. Audio via ethernet is inherently cleaner that usb (power noise) or toslink (jitter) so a Roon setup via a pi can be better but more expensive.
Michael's post says this:
"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."
Am I correct in interpreting this as a fancy way of saying it has relay muting? I like the look of the SDAC, but my previous problems with popping noises on USB powered dacs have me skeptical.
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harrisonjr98
I had random popping and clicking with my SDAC. I would unplug it and it would temporarily go away. I ended up buying the Schiit Wyrd ($99) and it solved my issues. YMMV
I had random popping and clicking with my SDAC. I would unplug it and it would temporarily go away. I had to do this frequently. I ended up buying the Schiit Wyrd ($99) and it solved my issues
i have been waiting for so long. It's finally back!! .....after my Topping D10 arrived......
AdrianL
The D10 is a great DAC. You shouldn't be disappointed.
sucram65
yeah all dac sounds the same anyways /s
She has returned for a second drop. Nice to see because I'm pretty sure this used to be the rarest Massdrop product before this drop. Glad I sold mine a few months ago for a nice profit when they were still sought after for being so rare.
Please make another drop for this.
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@CEE_TEE I saw the SDAC+Balanced drop but it doesn't have single-ended connection. I have an Massdrop O2 Headphone Amplifier and was hoping I could finally get an SDAC to have a nicely matched stack.
g4bsamurai
Hi g4bsamurai, The balanced SDAC does have a small 3.5mm output jack that is SE you can use to your O2. Just need a 3.5mm to RCA cable like this one: https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-3-5mm-2-Male-Adapter-Cable/dp/B01D5H8JW0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1534700325&sr=8-4&keywords=3.5mm+to+rca
Are we ever getting another drop of this? Or a V2? Or, something?
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There wasn't a time limit, I'm just glad they're back. The SDAC is a great deal for a starter standalone dac imo. This one is a winner, especially at the price point. I've shared this an the O2+SDAC (which I purchased second hand a while back) on my Facebook and Twitter.
Tell the people in the lab at Grace and at Massdrop that I said they knocked it out of the park!
TaylorD
I will! Happy listening!
Please release this soon.
Desibidu
Okay- it's back!
Is there a drop in 2018?
roadster1500
Yessir, right now!
Can we expect this drop again or soon ?
Desibidu
SDAC has returned...
Please bring this drop back!
ohshitgorillas
SDAC back!
Can this just drop again? I can't wait anymore.
bunkbail
Sorry it took a while!
Probably best DAC under $100... When will it drop again? Everyone gonna need one of these.
hug.h
Dropping again, thanks for your vote!
Will this drop anytime soon? I am new to audio. Would like to buy an AMP and DAC to pair with ATH M40X. I need to buy a DAP... thinking of getting the Fiio X1 II. I will also use with my IPAD and Galaxy S7 sometimes. This or the jdslabs or mayflower dacs? Which of the 3 is the better one? And each of them have more options for RCA or USB, etc. Is a wall powered dac better compared to usb powered, why? For the AMP, is the Massdrop Objective 2 good or should I go for any of the jdslabs or mayflower AMP's or Amp/Dac combos?
https://www.jdslabs.com/products/176/ol-dac/ (USB or optical) https://www.jdslabs.com/products/46/standalone-odac-rev-b/ (Standard or RCA) https://mayflowerelectronics.com/odac-rev-b-stand-alone/ (3.5mm or RCA)
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Measurements shouldn't drive you. I vastly preferred the sound of the ODACrev1 to the revb and also to the Grace m9xx, and the m9xx had vastly superior specs. The human ear tells all. That said I am curious as to how this dac sounds but apprehensive because I don't need a dac. I found general resolution slightly better with the m9xx, staging better on the ODAC which is more important to me, YMMV.
Uzuzu
Well of course audio is very subjective, but when it comes to sourcing an Odac, it's much harder, so measurements help one determine whether or not they can expect something to be within striking distance of another.
I personally find the SDAC quite resolving when compared to Akm 4490 equipped DACs, at least the few that I've tried and I've found it sounds better than the X1s's DAC and the DAC in the Shanling M0.
Granted, my sampling is pretty small, but my ears tell me that the SDAC sounds great and is plenty resolving for my current tastes. Though an upgrade would always be welcome, right now I'm focusing on headphones and Amps. Since the dac is have is, for my own purposes at the moment, good enough.
Bur of course all of my suggestions were just that, suggestions. Of course 80 dollars isn't a significant investment imo, and I like the SDAC so much, I bought the Standalone, O2+SDAC second hand and joined the drop for the SDAC-Balanced.
But that's wholly my own opinion and I admittedly don't know too much as I only got into this hobby not very long ago.
can u connect it to a mobile phone? note 8 for example.
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KrisBali
Your looking for something with a battery like this --> https://www.amazon.com/A3-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier-Black/dp/B00Z9BIODA.
Brad.Clarkston
thanks! :) unfortunately it ranges 0-150ohms, I intend to use it with hd6xx., 300 ohms.