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  • Need DAC & Stereo Amp Idears

    I recently built some speakers that I'm happy with, but I want to get a little more out of them when listening to music than my AVR provides. I was thinking of spending around $400, something like a Schiit dac for $100 and then DIY an amp. I've never DIYd an amp before though so I know nothing about it. I'm not opposed to just buying an integrated amp.. I've been looking at one by Sound Artist that seems to review well in the limited reviews I could find. At any rate I appreciate all feedback for options around that price point. The source will be Amazon HD, so maybe play that thru a Pi although initial searches show Amazon won't make that easy on me.

  • #2
    Not sure how much power you need etc., but Hypex makes nice DIY amp boards in the UCD series that might suit you. You'll also need a power supply. They offer switchers, or you can build a normal supply. The resulting amp is pretty high performance, a friend has used these for years:

    https://www.hypex.nl/product/ucd180-oem/53
    Francis

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    • #3
      A DYI amp is not always very cheap. Things like the power supply are killers. I have always started with an old chassis so I had the transformer and heat sink. They can kill you in shipping. Just ordered a couple diodes. $1.49 and $9 shipping. Adds up quick. Have you ever laid out and etched a board? Materials add up quick.

      You have lots of options. Here are a few:

      I suspect the differences in the DAC are smaller than you might think. That said, my main music system is a "Muse" Bur-Brown DAC. I compared it to a PS and was not sure I could detect a difference using my Grado headphones, though it was cleaner than my high end Denon AVR at the time. I run a SMSI DAC on my computer and it is pretty easy to hear an improvement over the on-board DAC of my PC. Some high end sound cards are very good though. I have a not-too-old NAD CD player that gives access to it's internal DAC which is quite good. ( I should sell it actually)

      Have you considered using the AVR for the DAC/preamp and just add a higher quality power amp for the main channels?

      Might I suggest a used amp, either an integrated or just a power amp and add a volume control. Even the little e-bay preamp boards are actually not bad at all. Any unit over about 7 to 10 years old will likely need re-caping as electrolytic caps dry out over time. True for all electronics. There are some very sweet vintage integrated amps, but will need caps and probably pots. You best really now what you are doing though. I just love the feel of the old switches. Solid. luxury.

      Some may suggest the new class D amp boards, put in a box, add a preamp or just volume control, power supply etc. I am not a fan yet.

      No idea on the quality of the two units you suggest. Never heard of them. Look OK by their WEB.

      Another idea is a used higher end AVR. One without the newest uber-K switching. I had a Rotel that was first gen HDMI, and it was a very good amplifier. A clear step up over the Denon I had. Anthem, Arcam etc. Even some of the larger Marantz were actually quite good. Old enough to need re-capping though.

      Check out things like Emotiva. They have a DAC/integrated and a couple smaller power amps. Mail order with a return policy. A friend who was a professional studio engineer swore by their amps. I had their first generation AV preamp and it sounded fine, just had some software bugs in their auto EQ. If I had to replace my current main system ( Nak pre, Muse DAC, my own amp) I might try their stuff.

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      • #4
        You can build a first watt f5 for about $500 with a nice case and power supply. To my ears it sounds quite a bit better than and Emotiva. For a dac , how about an Auxiliaries dragonfly?

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        • #5
          I was looking at Hypex, by they don't seem to make getting a hold of their boards easy. Know if a source? I saw an interesting project using ice power boards, I think that's what it was, for able $300 that looked pretty easy.

          Buying an old amp and recapping it sounds intimidating to me.

          I have thought about just putting an amp on zone 2, but if I'm not sure how good the dac is in the AVR. I'll check out Emotiva.

          Thanks!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ugly woofer View Post
            You can build a first watt f5 for about $500 with a nice case and power supply. To my ears it sounds quite a bit better than and Emotiva. For a dac , how about an Auxiliaries dragonfly?
            I have looked at first watt, but I think I want a little more power.. around 100w @ 8

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            • #7
              I use a First Watt J2 for my horns, but they need maybe 25mW to get loud.

              Yeah, the Hypex is a pain to get. My pal ordered them from Hypex and had them shipped here. There may be an easier way now.
              Francis

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              • #8
                https://www.parts-express.com/search...er*&PortalID=1

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                • #9
                  I'm looking at a page on the jungle website, chip amp with bluetooth, remote, DAC and a 24V 6A power brick. $100. Little chip amp watts, but interesting.

                  OTOH, I've DIY'd two stereo amps from classdaudiodotcom. Toroid, power supply and amp boards, you do the rest. Very easy.

                  $40 Alps potted aluminum box volume control available everywhere but PE.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by djg View Post

                    OTOH, I've DIY'd two stereo amps from classdaudiodotcom. Toroid, power supply and amp boards, you do the rest. Very easy.
                    That door looks promising. Which kits? What did you think of them? You still using either one? Thanks!

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                    • djg
                      djg commented
                      Editing a comment
                      He has changed the model numbers since my purchase. Still the same higher power board and big cap power supply. Many say these are dated. I used two for L/C/R and horn sub in my HT for years. Quiet, trouble free. Par Metal case, PE bits like RCA in, IEC AC socket etc. Very doable once you sort out the toroid wiring.

                      If you looked at his site you've seen he has more complete kits and built amps.

                  • #11
                    Hmmmm...

                    https://www.ebay.com/p/9010835118?iid=372157550559

                    Francis

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                    • #12
                      Some pics of the smaller of the two I built. Neither in use since the great downsizing.

                      Click image for larger version  Name:	classd 2.jpg Views:	0 Size:	59.6 KB ID:	1452959

                      Click image for larger version  Name:	classd 3.jpg Views:	0 Size:	59.7 KB ID:	1452960

                      Click image for larger version  Name:	classd 4.jpg Views:	0 Size:	111.6 KB ID:	1452961

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                      • #13
                        Check out audiosciencereviewdotcom for comprehensive very technical reviews of a LOT of DACS. There are some real bargains to be had in the $100-200 range.

                        I think I hear a difference - wow, it's amazing!" Ethan Winer: audio myths
                        "As God is my witness I'll never be without a good pair of speakers!" Scarlett O'Hara

                        High value, high quality RS150/TB28-537SH bookshelf - TARGAS NLA!
                        SB13/Vifa BC25SC06 MTM DCR Galeons-SB13-MTM
                        My Voxel min sub Yet-another-Voxel-build

                        Tangband W6-sub

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                        • AudioSQ
                          AudioSQ commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I've been on there a lot the past couple of days.

                      • #14
                        The OP is looking for more performance than his AVR, so a chip-amp is not going to cut it. Even I will give a nod to the better class D over the chip-amps.

                        DIY is not cheap unless comparing high end to the boutique no-value uber high end with a fancy name. You can't beat volume in manufacturing electronics. I used to be in that business so I know what stuff costs.

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                        • #15
                          Decades ago I designed and built a couple of solid state stereo power amps, and while both performed very well and I was very pleased with them, one with 35 wpc/8ohms and the other with 200 wpc/8ohms, neither was cost effective. I didn't use boutique components, either. The higher-power build cost me about $1100, which upset my wife at the time, but she felt much, much better after I bought her a $1200 diamond tennis bracelet!
                          Paul

                          Originally posted by tvrgeek View Post
                          The OP is looking for more performance than his AVR, so a chip-amp is not going to cut it. Even I will give a nod to the better class D over the chip-amps.

                          DIY is not cheap unless comparing high end to the boutique no-value uber high end with a fancy name. You can't beat volume in manufacturing electronics. I used to be in that business so I know what stuff costs.

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