Massdrop x Grace Design Standard DAC Balanced
Massdrop x Grace Design Standard DAC Balanced
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Product Description
Following the success of the Massdrop x Grace Design Standard DAC, we’re excited to release the much-requested balanced version. It’s the least-expensive small standalone balanced DAC on the market, designed to complement high-end balanced amplifiers like the Massdrop x THX AAA™ 789, the Massdrop x Alex Cavalli Liquid Carbon X, and more ... Read More

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CEE_TEE
3108
Collaborations
Aug 15, 2018
Stickied
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Last year, Massdrop worked with Grace Design to set the new standard in entry-level objectivist DACs. Measurements and a price that beat OtherDACs… With the success of the single-ended version and the release of our balanced amplifiers (Massdrop x THX AAA 789 & Massdrop x Cavalli Liquid Carbon X), the community has been asking for a balanced DAC. Working with Michael Grace, Eben Grace, and Jamie Krapohl at Grace Design is always a real pleasure. From discussing potential features and learning technical considerations behind design choices to mocking up and fitting the I/O on the rear panel, specifying and developing the DAC with them is a special experience. This new balanced version matches our balanced amplifier aesthetic, has a footprint compatible with our larger amplifiers as well as the Objective 2 amplifier, and is accessible- resetting the bar for performance and functionality for a standalone DAC at this price point.
What excites me about this one: -People are going to love the USB connector :) -Small enough to be very compatible with many different system set-ups -How it looks on top of our THX or LCX amps -All the stuff crammed into that back panel…making the dual 3-pin XLR fit! -Coax SPDIF option (great for CD players or USB-to-SPDIF converters) -USB 2.0 to support more filetypes, very high resolution -Great for output into powered speakers while using digital volume control on your computer
I just keep checking out the back:
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We’re waiting on the production pilot to produce the official graphs but we may share the development measurements soon. There will be a couple of units floating around for some impressions in a couple of weeks… DROP DETAILS The drop starts Friday, August 17. Shipping is free within the U.S. and reduced for international buyers. We will be capturing payments at the end of August to get the production started.
Aug 15, 2018
Pierre111
349
Aug 23, 2018
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If I may, i didn't want to create a whole debate and it seems to confuse people, in effect I was just pointing that the differential output of the DAC chip doesn't tell any info if the output of the unit is Balanced or not. In fact it doesn't matter either they use both output to create a symmetrical and impedance matched pair to ground (a balance signal). The unit is not a preamp, not an amp, it's the very first stage of the analog audio chain so if the output is balanced it's a balanced DAC. the differential output of a dac chip matters if you connect it to something after it with a differential input A balanced output is different and it's not less balanced or pseudo balanced, it's balanced, regardless if they use both output of the chip or one. We can debate if something is truely a balanced design if it has analog inputs and outputs, we can then debate if the signal stays symmetrical troughout, if a XLR connector has just been put there for convenience, etc. but in this case it's just an output. You may be interested to know if they indeed used both polarity inverted output of the chip or if they used used a switched capacitor but there is not one method that is less balanced than the other. It's the very begining of a chain in a balanced configuration, and this balanced signal in all case is being generated after the chip. I was just pointing out that checking if the chip has differential output is not the right argument to say this DAC is fully balanced. In fact it can only be fully balanced or not at all.
Aug 23, 2018
Banetbob
7
May 13, 2019
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When is this scheduled to ship?
May 13, 2019
Michael_Grace
367
Grace Design
Sep 13, 2018
Stickied
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Hi All, Following is a bit of info on the new SDAC balanced. There is some description of the new features and circuitry, design intent, and preliminary measurement data. The SDAC Balanced DAC is based on the digital to analog converter design in the SDAC. See my post on the SDAC which outlines the design philosophy and technical details and is all relevant to the SDAC Balanced: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-grace-design-standard-dac/talk/1806625 (Please note my opinion on the role of the actual DAC chip in overall converter sound as I think there is much hype and judgment about which chip a product might use and how it will sound because of that choice.) Here I will discuss the addition of the SPDIF input, balanced analog outputs, and USB Audio Class 2 operation. Here I will discuss the addition of the SPDIF input, balanced analog outputs, and USB Audio Class 2 operation.
SPDIF Unlike asynchronous USB audio, a SPDIF (or toslink or AES3) signal contains an embedded clock that must be recovered by a receiver circuit. The quality of that recovered clock can vary widely depending on many factors. The design of the PLL (phase locked loop) used to synchronize the internal clocks for the d-a converter is critical to achieving high fidelity sound reproduction. The SPDIF receiver in the SDAC balanced is the AK4117 which is a solid performing hardware receiver circuit. The intrinsic jitter of the AK4117 PLL is not bad but since it is designed to acquire lock rapidly the PLL loop filter will not allow it to reject jitter in the audio band. For this reason we use a two stage clocking system with a second PLL that re-clocks the recovered clock from the AKM receiver. The second stage PLL is an extremely quiet digitally synthesized clock that has a loop bandwidth of 1Hz. This means that any incoming jitter on the SPDIF line that is above 1Hz will be attenuated dramatically to where it will not be able to produce any audible artifacts in the audio. To measure the effects of jitter on a DAC we send a relatively high frequency tone through the DAC and look for jitter modulated side bands in an FFT plot. I will upload a pictures of this that shows the output of the SDAC balanced reproducing an 11.025kHz tone with and without 1UI (177nS) of sinusoidal jitter. The SPDIF input is transformer-coupled for complete ground isolation. Note that the SPDIF interface maximum sample rate is 192kHz BALANCED LINE OUTPUTS The AK4452 DAC uses switched capacitor output filters (following the delta sigma modulator) which provide an inherently balanced signal at the output pins. From here, the balanced signal is sent to a fully differential output filter/driver amplifier. This amplifier has differential inputs and balanced outputs. Specifically this circuit is a fully differential multiple feedback 2nd order low pass filter with a Bessel response and a corner frequency of 100kHz. The fact that it is fully differential guarantees that the positive and negative phases leave the box with almost perfect amplitude matching (around +/-0.002dB). The Bessel response is chosen for the best phase response. The balanced outputs have a 300 Ohm output impedance (150 Ohms per leg) and produce exactly 2x the output voltage of the unbalance outputs at 4.34Vrms in to a 100k Ohm load. The unbalanced line outputs on the 3.5mm stereo jack operate simultaneously to the balanced outputs and put out 2.17Vrms in to a 100k Ohm load. All inputs and outputs feature robust ESD (electrostatic discharge) production. A note on balanced vs. unbalanced signals: First of all, there is no inherent difference in fidelity between a balanced and an unbalanced signal. Under ideal conditions both signals can carry identical information. It is the factors of the real world where there we can differentiate (pardon the term!) between the two. As many probably already know, balanced line signal transmission with a differential receiver can reject common mode noise. The amount of rejection is known as the common mode rejection ratio (or CMRR). An unbalanced interface is prone to noise caused by ground potential differences between a DAC and a downstream device. This can be caused, for instance, by a setup where a computer is connected to a DAC via USB, the DAC is then connected to an amplifier, and that amplifier is connected to earth ground. If the computer is also connected to earth ground then you have a ground "loop" and current will flow through the audio cable ground between the DAC and amp causing noise. A balanced interface can reject that noise but the design of the balanced driver and receiver circuitry can cause degradation to the signal in the form of distortion and amplifier noise. So you see there is no black and white way to evaluate whether balanced is better or worse in a given setup. Ideally the DAC would have a galvanically isolated (ground isolated) USB interface which would break the "loop". Galvanically isolated USB is expensive and unfortunately not in the budget for the SDAC. So in this case, if there is going to be a potential for a ground loop, a well designed balanced interface can really help. The CMRR of the receiving device will determine how well it will reject noise. USB Audio Class II For those with high resolution files the SDAC Balanced will play PCM sample rates up to 384kHz and DSD 256 This is driver-less operation on Mac OSX and current versions of Windows 10. For older versions of Windows USB I mode is required and then sample rates will be limited to 96kHz. Here are some performance plots and measurements from our pilot build of SDAC Balanced DACs. These figures are actual measurements. Guaranteed performance specifications will be more conservative.
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Frequency response @ 96kHz Fs: DC-20kHz +/-0.03dB Frequency response @ 129kHz Fs: DC-48kHz +/-0.4dB All distortion measurements are with a 22-22kHz bandwidth THD+N% @ -0.15dBFS 44.1kHz 20Hz 0.0016 100Hz 0.0011 1KHz 0.0007 10KHz 0.0008
THD+N% @ -0.15dBFS 48kHz 20Hz 0.0018 100Hz 0.0012 1KHz 0.0008 10KHz 0.0007
THD+N% @ -0.15dBFS 88.2kHz 20Hz 0.0016 100Hz 0.0011 1KHz 0.0007 10KHz 0.0006
THD+N% @ -0.15dBFS 96kHz 20Hz 0.0018 100Hz 0.0012 1KHz 0.0008
10KHz 0.0006 THD+N% @ -0.15dBFS 176.4kHz 20Hz 0.0016 100Hz 0.0011 1KHz 0.0007 10KHz 0.0006
THD+N% @ -0.15dBFS 192kHz 20Hz 0.0018 100Hz 0.0012 1KHz 0.0008 10KHz 0.0006 Dynamic Range (A-Weighted) 115.4dB Dynamic Range (Un-Weighted) 112.3dB Crosstalk @ 1kHz, -10dBFS -120dB Crosstalk @ 10kHz, -10dBFS -112dB IMD CCIF, -6.03 dBFS, 19/20kHz, 24/96k 0.00015% IMD SMPTE -2 dBFS, 24/96k 0.0012% IMD SMPTE -6 dBFS, 24/96k 0.0008% Linearity @ -90dBFS +/-0.025dB Maximum output unbalanced 2.17V Maximum output balanced 4.34V
Sep 13, 2018
zep483
292
Jul 20, 2019
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Didn't know you responded for @Michael_Grace ...
Jul 20, 2019
verifonix
594
Jul 20, 2019
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Dear lord do you see a mention of MQA anywhere at all on the entirety of the product page? Can you put two and two together, or do you need Michael's help with that...?? MQA = not supported man, unless you do software unfolding.
(Edited)
Jul 20, 2019
zep483
292
Jul 20, 2019
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Man I'd really like this thing if it had an Ethernet port and MQA... unfortunately it has neither, nor a remote :( I guess I'm going to wait for the SMSL M500 to come out. That has MQA at least... Any chance @Michael_Grace is gets an MQA firmware update soon? I'd rather get this if so...
Jul 20, 2019
Z0d1Ac
168
Jul 20, 2019
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lol why does it need mqa? that's for low bandwidth streaming. Not like this has bluetooth or anything just play a regular file like flac or something......
Jul 20, 2019
jmc207
1
Jul 20, 2019
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I'm wondering if XLR to RCA adapters can be used with the balanced output connectors? I know it has the mini unbalanced out but I'd like a more robust connection. Thx!
(Edited)
Jul 20, 2019
rawrus
38
Jul 20, 2019
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yes but you wouldn't get a balanced connection. you will get a more robust connector
Jul 20, 2019
jmc207
1
Jul 20, 2019
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Thx. All of my equipment input jacks are RCA only, I don't need a balanced connection. Just looking for a stronger way to hookup my current RCA cables. Thanks again, John
Jul 20, 2019
MidnighTempest
139
Jul 19, 2019
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Question: So this only have 1 DAC? If so its not TRUE BALANCE correct?
Jul 19, 2019
Scio_Me_Scire
72
Jul 19, 2019
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Can you guys put this DAC in the ARIS R2 box so we can stack it with your other amps? I'm gonna have an aneurysm looking at mismatched box sizes thanks!!
Jul 19, 2019
Okeeks
3
Jul 19, 2019
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Yay!
Jul 19, 2019
PrestoCG
13
Jul 19, 2019
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Getting this instead of a SU-8. Hopefully it works out.
Jul 19, 2019
engineer177
21
Jul 19, 2019
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Less expensive and matches with the THX 789 better :)
Jul 19, 2019
jaydunndiddit
2343
Jul 19, 2019
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Sonically, they're both VERY similar. If I wasn't at risk for losing my audiophile membership card, I'd flat out state that I truthfully can't discern any difference between them. But, as an audiophile, I must insist that the SU-8 is clearly more superior because reasons 🙃
Jul 19, 2019
jaydunndiddit
2343
Jul 19, 2019
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Got my SDAC Balanced from the first drop and it looks wonderful with the full Drop stack.
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Oh, and it sounds pretty good balanced via optical mated to the THX 789 😁
Jul 19, 2019
Lisasonictower
130
Jul 20, 2019
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My guess is it’s not cool or desirable to mess with the signal whilst many are on the path of everything needs to be perfectly flat and if not then I’m not listening to how the artist intended. Yawn
Jul 20, 2019
GuNStArHeRo
31
Jul 20, 2019
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BIG YAWN 😴
Jul 20, 2019
coresplinter
2
Jul 19, 2019
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I was debating if I should wait for some reviews first... but I guess the decision was made for me fairly quickly :D
Jul 19, 2019
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