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Ned Kelly

Schiit Loki - DSD-only for 149 USD

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My Loki + Magni combo arrived here yesterday. Initial impression is that it sounds surprisingly good for the price!

 

I will have to try out Magni with some more expensive DACs too. Now I already wonder how Mjolnir would sound like. :)

 

P.S. Works flawlessly on Linux...

 

Is this a case of what (I think) you referred before as DSD being simpler to implement at the DAC side?

Now, Loki would be technically simpler to design and build, comparing to a PCM counterpart?

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Frankly, I think it is a reason why more DAC mfgers haven't gone DSD; they see it as a completely different analog stage design and don't want to compromise their stellar PCM playback.

 

Given how little electronics goes into the Schiit Loki DAC and how little it costs, I don't see a reason to not implement two separate paths for DSD and PCM in one casing.

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As for compromising "stellar PCM" playback, wasn't Ayre's QB-9 DAC PCM playback actually improved after adding the DSD functionality to the DAC?

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Is this a case of what (I think) you referred before as DSD being simpler to implement at the DAC side?

Now, Loki would be technically simpler to design and build, comparing to a PCM counterpart?

 

In this case, Loki is a bit more complex, since it still carries the PCM legacy in data interface and DAC chip while having the more elaborate analog filter for DSD. To me it looks like Loki is DSD version of the Modi. Same USB interface, same DAC chip and same opamp. But it adds analog input, selection switch, one processor to deal with DoP and more complex analog filter.

 

Since the DAC chip has different kind of analog filter optimal for PCM and DSD, making a proper PCM+DSD version of the DAC would mean double analog stages and relays to switch it. The end result would probably end up costing in range $200 - $250? Worse approach would be to keep Modi's analog stage and just adding DSD support to it, some manufacturers would possibly do it that way, resulting in sub-optimal DSD implementation.

 

Now the key question is which one sounds better, Modi or Loki? Does Loki give much better sound for practically same price? I already regret I didn't order Modi just for comparison... Maybe I'll order it later together with Asgard 2 or Mjolnir...

 

Based on my measurements, main areas where Loki seems to lose to more expensive competition is jitter and isolation performance. I measured it connected to my desktop computer, now I'll need to compare how it performs with ARM-based NAA powered from linear PSU...


Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Since the DAC chip has different kind of analog filter optimal for PCM and DSD, making a proper PCM+DSD version of the DAC would mean double analog stages and relays to switch it.

Neah, some just filter the crap out of PCM and DSD, at 30kHz and they are set...

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Neah, some just filter the crap out of PCM and DSD, at 30kHz and they are set...

 

Then it would look like Lavry or Naim DAC...

 

Since Modi has PCM only up to 96 kHz, using 50 kHz filter for both would be OK.


Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Given how little electronics goes into the Schiit Loki DAC and how little it costs, I don't see a reason to not implement two separate paths for DSD and PCM in one casing.

 

Can you say what that would look like?

 

loki pcb front prelim.jpg

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Then it would look like Lavry or Naim DAC...

 

Since Modi has PCM only up to 96 kHz, using 50 kHz filter for both would be OK.

 

Miska,

Can you elaborate on your Naim DAC reference? It sounds like you're not a fan.

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Miska,

Can you elaborate on your Naim DAC reference? It sounds like you're not a fan.

 

They seem to have quite steep analog filter in their 'DAC' product, based on their white paper it is around 36 dB/octave and starts to cut right after 20 kHz, this way they get enough attenuation by the first image frequencies around the PCM1704 DAC chip sampling rate. (their amplifiers also have quite steep low-pass filter right above 20 kHz, but not as much)

 

How their DAC-V1 behaves remains to be seen...

 

I don't have opinion for or against those, they just have their own design characteristics that are a bit different from many others. I've been every now and then considering DAC-V1 + NAP100 for my living room system...


Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Can you say what that would look like?

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]7881[/ATTACH]

 

The board is so small that it would easily fit inside a full-size casing, along with PCM processing board. I assume that sending DSD and PCM signal to the appropriate circuitry wouldn't require rocket science.

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Then it would look like Lavry or Naim DAC...

 

Since Modi has PCM only up to 96 kHz, using 50 kHz filter for both would be OK.

 

Good point.

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They seem to have quite steep analog filter in their 'DAC' product, based on their white paper it is around 36 dB/octave and starts to cut right after 20 kHz, this way they get enough attenuation by the first image frequencies around the PCM1704 DAC chip sampling rate. (their amplifiers also have quite steep low-pass filter right above 20 kHz, but not as much)

That's why most of people decided to do OS, to push those analog filters a little 'further' away. PCM1704 at least doesn't generate a lot of ultrasonic noise like the newer D-S chips.

 

I assume that sending DSD and PCM signal to the appropriate circuitry wouldn't require rocket science.

Like I said, 'DSD only' was IMO 100% a marketing decision. Absolutely their right to do it, and our right to vote with our wallets...

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Like I said, 'DSD only' was IMO 100% a marketing decision. Absolutely their right to do it, and our right to vote with our wallets...

 

 

What it does show is, if DSD can be provided for $149.00 and it sounds good, then there is a lot of DAC's out there costing a whole lot more than they are worth. Any way it's a great entry level product for the person that only has limited DSD material.


The Truth Is Out There

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The board is so small that it would easily fit inside a full-size casing, along with PCM processing board. I assume that sending DSD and PCM signal to the appropriate circuitry wouldn't require rocket science.

 

So something like wedding the Modi or Bifrost to the Loki?

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So something like wedding the Modi or Bifrost to the Loki?

 

Yes. If you think there's any benefit to this separate path approach, why not implement it in a single housing? But like Miska said, the 96kHz Modi and 1X DSD Loki could both use the same filter at 50kHz, so I am not convinced that separating the two would bring any audible benefits. The AK4396 chip is 96kHz PCM and 1X DSD capable.

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.....a great entry level product .......
I quite agree with mav52......

You can call it a 'marketing decision' if you like.....Others may see it as pure genius.

 

Personally, I would never limit my choice of DAC based solely on DSD playback ability.

 

$149, it seems, can answer a Loki of questions for some of us.

.


Bill

 

Practicing Curmudgeon & Audio Snob

 

....just an "ON" switch, Please!

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That's why most of people decided to do OS, to push those analog filters a little 'further' away. PCM1704 at least doesn't generate a lot of ultrasonic noise like the newer D-S chips.

 

It will generate a lot around the multiples of the sampling rate. Since Naim runs it at 705.6/768 kHz they obviously wanted to have a reconstruction (anti-imaging) filter where the attenuation is >144 dB at the first alias band. As it should...

 

Any DAC will create digital images (aliases) around every multiple of the sampling rate.

 

You can for example look at PCM1795 with typical analog reconstruction filter:

TEAC_UD501-sweep441-sharp.png

 

And compare level of the aliases around every 352.8 kHz coming from the ladder side to level and extent of the noise bump coming from the delta-sigma modulator.

 

Of course another difference is that the noise bump sounds like hiss while the aliases sound like garbled distorted music. Thus intermodulation products of the hiss will also sound like hiss, while intermodulation products of the alias will sound like messed up music (due to inverse spectrum etc).


Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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It's easier to filter out the first 352.8kHz than right at the 20.05kHz...

 

I just don't follow how is that related? Naim DAC uses double that rate, but since the analog roll-off is "just" 36 dB/oct it reaches > -144 dB at 683.55 kHz which is where first image of 44.1 kHz source appears (assuming the digital filter has >144 dB attenuation above 22.05 kHz). -3 dB fc being somewhere around 25 kHz.

 

With 352.8 kHz you should of course have 144 dB attenuation by 330.75 kHz for RedBook sources. Again assuming perfect brickwall digital oversampling filter. 52 dB/oct analog filter would give you that if I calculated correctly.


Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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What it does show is, if DSD can be provided for $149.00 and it sounds good, then there is a lot of DAC's out there costing a whole lot more than they are worth. Any way it's a great entry level product for the person that only has limited DSD material.

 

So that is pretty much everyone out there then..


Roon Rock running on a Gen 7 i5, Akasa Plao X7 fanless case. Schiit Lyr 2, Schiit Bifrost upgraded with Uber Analog and USB Gen 2, Grado RS1s, ADAM A3x Nearfield Monitors.

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So that is pretty much everyone out there then..

 

pretty darn close


The Truth Is Out There

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Sasaki,

Please give me some details on how to hook up RaspyFi with Loki so that it can do both Hi-Res PCM and DAD Decoding.

 

Thanks,

 

 

I got my Loki, thanks Jason.

I hooked it up with Mac with Ardirvana first. Roki sounded natural and harsh-less while retaining good details and solid imaging. I felt it as fairly DSD-ish sound signature.

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]7820[/ATTACH]

 

I next used RaspyFI 1.0 with Roki. RaspyFi is a Raspberry PI + MPD distro which is able to use USB DAC. RaspyFI also supports native DSD playback. I tried both of DSF and DFF. RaspyFI works very well with Roki.

They cost only $35(Raspberry PI) + $149(Roki) but they playback hires and also playback native DSD, sound quality is impressive. This is an awesome $200 setup.

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Sasaki,

Please give me some details on how to hook up RaspyFi with Loki so that it can do both Hi-Res PCM and DAD Decoding.

 

Thanks,

 

Smileallways,

 

I believe I asked the same question earlier*, but from closely reading what he's saying, the Loki is playing DSF/DSD files, not transcoding PCM->DSD. I highly doubt the Rasbpi has the processing power to do that; if anyone can prove me wrong, I'd be estatic.

 

I am going to order one of these soon, I've been fixing up an old Magnavox tube amp, building a passive volume attenuator, and using my old 1820m; I'm going to throw a Loki in the mix since the price is so nice and I've been blown away by my Asgard 2.

 

*EDIT: Asked in the Raspyfi thread...

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Hey Miska,

 

Do you have any longer term comments on the Loki? How do you like the SQ? Did you ever grab any test data you'd want to share like maybe where they filter at (50KHz?), jitter 60/120 Hz leakage, or anything else? I just ordered one and will have it tomorrow so I am very interested. Thanks!

 

Based on my measurements, main areas where Loki seems to lose to more expensive competition is jitter and isolation performance. I measured it connected to my desktop computer, now I'll need to compare how it performs with ARM-based NAA powered from linear PSU...

A Digital Audio Converter connected to my Home Computer taking me into the Future

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