DAC Delta Sigma or R2R/NOS?

ecelo

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I am about to build a new DAC, but I am undecided whether to use Delta Sigma technology or R2R - NOS. I've heard conflicting opinions and can't decide which option to choose. I have listened to an R2R DAC and the reproduced sound seems much more natural to me than an anonymous Delta Sigma. Is it just my impression or is there really a better sound using a DAC with this old technology? Thanks to whoever will help me in choosing.
 

MediumRare

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If you’re building one it will be for fun; all competently built DACs sound identical. Instrument grade DACs are available for $150. R2R is very hard to build competently but would be more fun. Like a wooden boat instead of a fiberglass one. Get all the facts here: audio science review.com
 

Papioaf

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There’s a really good explanation of the history and background of the two concepts (DSD vs. PCM: Myth vs. Truth) posted on the Mojo Audio website. I’m unable to post the link (for good reasons), but believe it would be worth your effort to find and read it.
 

highstream

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One place that you might get some get some thoughtful opinions is from Lampizator and other brand users on What’s Best Forums. Although I’m not sure that they still are building both, Lampi has done so in recent years and customers could order one or the other per their sound preferences (no all dacs sound the same discussion there). Mine is a delta sigma version and I really like it, but have never compared the two (I don’t think the Direcstream dac I had was R2R and don’t know what the PrimaLuna is).
 

ecelo

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Thank you all for your information. The idea I got is that the sound produced by one system rather than another is very subjective and therefore independent of the technology used. I will probably opt for the "old" solution which as MediumRare said it might be more fun to have a boat built in wood rather than fiberglass. To respond to highstream, the PrimaLuna is a tube amplifier.
 

highstream

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Thank you all for your information. The idea I got is that the sound produced by one system rather than another is very subjective and therefore independent of the technology used. I will probably opt for the "old" solution which as MediumRare said it might be more fun to have a boat built in wood rather than fiberglass. To respond to highstream, the PrimaLuna is a tube amplifier.
I misremembered: the PL was a preamp. As for sound being independent of technology, most developers would not agree, which is why they tend to subjectively and technically favor one type of design over another and experiment a lot, playing with hybrids as well.
 

ddude003

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PrimaLuna is a brand that includes a tubed preamp, tubed power amps, tubed integrated (read pre and power) as well as a tubed DAC... The PrimaLuna DAC uses a Burr Brown, now owned by Texas Instruments, PCM1792A & SRC4192 DAC and upsampling... The DirectStream by PS Audio converts every input signal, both PCM and DSD, to single-bit, high sample rate 20X DSD signal. Use of a FPGA rather than an off the shelf DAC chip... One might also look at the Chord DACs which are also FPGA based with an interesting Delta Sigma architecture twist and pulse array analogue output stage...
 
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highstream

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This thread link might be of interest for background research, that is, for looking up some of the big gun dacs to see what they use. The Select is a good place to start. https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/best-dacs-comparison-test-result-my-subjective-opinion.25584/ Btw, this thread exposed me to a lot of names I was unaware of and ultimately got me to look more closely at Lampizator, I found a used unofficial Golden Atlantic to replace my Directstream, which I liked but felt had a digital sound that fell short of what I was looking for.
 

DonH57

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I am not sure what you mean by "build". I have "built" DACs in the sense that I designed DAC ICs (mostly, not many discrete designs) at the transistor level (albeit mostly well above audio frequencies). I am guessing you mean to buy the interface and DAC chips, and perhaps design and build your own output filter and buffer? Will you design your own PCB's and such?

Performance will generally be much, much higher for delta-sigma designs. The early issue have been solved for many years so if you want the absolute best performance something like an ESS DAC is likely your best bet. R2R (which are usually segmented, not purely R-2R designs) DACs are getting hard to find these days and will have higher distortion and noise though probably inaudible for the most part. Still, they have the "nostalgia factor", and if you find you prefer them by all means go for it. Soekris (IIRC) has some interesting designs available as boards.

Be aware that the output filter and buffer (often an I-V converter incorporating the anti-imaging filter followed by an output driver) are critical and probably contribute the most to the "sound" of a DAC.

If you need more basic info about the technical differences, I have a series of introductory articles on ASR (Audio Science Review) that describe conventional and delta-sigma DACs, as well as introductory articles on sampling and such (that I assume you are past if you going to design your own DAC).

FWIWFM - Don
 

highstream

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If you look at the list of dacs I linked, R2R or hybrids are among the top in that listener's comparisons, including the $90K plus one.
 

DonH57

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If you look at the list of dacs I linked, R2R or hybrids are among the top in that listener's comparisons, including the $90K plus one.
Sorry, I meant to quote the OP, was not responding to your post. I usually have little interest in other listener's comparisons; too often too biased and all that jazz. And I am certainly in no position to afford a $90k DAC. As I said if he -- or you -- feel R2R sounds best then by all means go that way. It could well be the extra noise and distortion adds some sense of "realism" that listeners prefer, though most of the time it seems to be preconceived bias against whatever is newest. This gets into the usual "I don't care how it measures or what you know about engineering, it is how it sounds to me" argument. I was in the "every atom in the cable matters" camp many years ago until a little more knowledge, and a number of DBT/ABX studies, showed me I was imagining waaay more than I would ever have believed. OTOH there has been some research showing a little bit of distortion is preferred by some listeners, such as Pass' work on 2HD. Me, I loved my old tube amp, but never considered it more accurate to the source, just sounded nice.
 

ThetaII

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R2R for me every time ..until I hear a delta or otherwise that sounds better than my DAC. Of course it isn't only dependant on the technology used but it's implementation. However, I would definitely disagree with the statement that all competently built DACs sound the same - seems a crazy thing to say to me ...but some people will only accept theoretical science and not believe their ears.
I await the backlash :p
 

DonH57

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R2R for me every time ..until I hear a delta or otherwise that sounds better than my DAC. Of course it isn't only dependant on the technology used but it's implementation. However, I would definitely disagree with the statement that all competently built DACs sound the same - seems a crazy thing to say to me ...but some people will only accept theoretical science and not believe their ears.
I await the backlash :p
I did not say that. However, I do not trust my ears without reservation, either. And I am an engineer, so my science is applied, not just theoretical. Differences are readily measured, less readily heard, but certainly possible. IMO/IME.
 

ThetaII

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If you’re building one it will be for fun; all competently built DACs sound identical. Instrument grade DACs are available for $150. R2R is very hard to build competently but would be more fun. Like a wooden boat instead of a fiberglass one. Get all the facts here: audio science review.com
Hey DonH57, I was a bit provocative, but my comment was in response to the above, not your post :)
 

ddude003

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You can do some interesting things with your source music files with utilities like SoX, Roon, HQplayer, Audirvana, PGGB, iZotope, etc... Bypassing internal upscaling and filtering with possibly better algorithms and adding EQ for room correction...
 
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