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New Valab NOS DAC 'Luxury' version

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Valab (Vintage Audio Lab, Taiwan) has just started selling the (Teradak) version 3 with a better power supply for $260 USD delivered. Calling it the "Luxury' version. They're still selling the latest update of version 2 for $200 delivered. Both are available only through eBay.


If you're new to the Valab NOS DAC saga and interested, search the CA forums for past mentions and the Head Fi org Valab Forums for excellent in-depth information. They're relatively inexpensive and a rich sounding excellent value in stock form with huge DIY modification potential. They aren't particularly difficult to work on if you know the basics of soldering electronics. There are some advantages and disadvantages to the design depending on your perspective and needs, but the new version 3 should be by far the best design for anyone not interested in modifying it.




This link should be good while the unit is in stock (and later restocked). Current stock may be short because it's a brand new item.


- Rand





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What bit rates and sampling rates can the VALAB DAC playback? For instance it seems that some NOS DACs are limited to 16 bit files while other can playback 24 bit files. Likewise some NOS DACs are limited to 44.1 kHz while others can handle sampling rates to 96 kHz.


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I don't know for definate but some detective work has got me that the VALAB uses the TDA1543 DAC chip and the DIR9001 SPDIF receiver.


The DIR9001 receiver is spec'd as being up to 24/96 capable.

The TDA1543 is only 16 bit but input is 176.4 capable (designed for upto 4 times external oversampling)


Therefore the absolute maximum (lowest common denominator) would be 16bit and 96kHz - so I think it's probably best to consider it only for CD quality 16/44.1 material.


I'm not 100% on this information but as no-one else more knowledgeable had replied thought I would give the information I had.





...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I would have thought that someone else who either recommended or who has a VALAB DAC would have that basic information. I appreciate your stepping in. I went to the eBay website and was pleased to see that the seller was honest enough to post the limitations of the VALAB DAC with respect to SNR.


It does no one any good to read rave reviews of a product only to find out later after a purchase that the product does not live up to expectations. Unhappy customers and product returns are not in anyone’s best interests. I always appreciate those review sites that try to rank equipment or music with stars or classes in addition to comprehensive descriptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment or music. Thus on the CA website, if the leading Berkeley Audio DAC is ranked a nominal 10, all the other DACs can be ranked accordingly, with no slight to any manufacturer or misleading reviews to any customer.


Of course I encourage all customers to take reviews with a grain of salt and be wary of any manufacturer that does not provide either local dealer support or 30 day no questions asked returns. If not, as they say, buyer beware.


As for the VALAB DAC, based on opinions from people I respect, I would assume it is a good DAC for the money. But the key phrase here is for the money, don’t expect miracles that a $200-$300 DAC will better a DAC costing 5 times as much. Some of the customer comments such as those posted on the head-fi.org site leads me to think that this is a great DAC for the DIYer who is interested in modding something inexpensive, but the discerning non-DIY audiophile may not be satisfied.





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Those specs sound right to me. It's really not noisy. I have a decent high res system and noise hasn't been a problem.


I've modded my Valab with nice output caps and I intend a couple more small changes but I'm not one of the regular contributors at Head Fi doing everything imaginable to improve it. Those guys are knowledgeable tweakers and very capable with a soldering iron.


Some people consider the Valab to be a novelty because of its simplicity in design and nearly disposable at the relatively low cost. It's a non-oversampling, unfiltered 16 bit DAC with no output stage. It achieves sufficient output by paralleling eight 20-year old technology DAC chips. And yeah, it has no filters, so you can be guaranteed all that high frequency stuff is there and something some people would definitely want to avoid, but folks with nicer equipment would probably want a cleaner, more capable DAC anyway.


The Head Fi Valab forums cover several production revisions of the DAC and one of the regular contributors discusses mods with Steve Nugent. There's very little fumbling with the modifications. It's very good in stock form and much improved with progressive modifying, some are relatively simple by anyone with half decent soldering skills. Consensus is it requires at least 200 hours of burn-in to open up properly.


All versions of the Valab have a reclock circuit on the USB channel that's of similar value (expense) to the DAC, which is to say it's no big deal. Later versions have a second reclock circuit at the DAC chips. I went into it intending to avoid the USB input and I'm glad I have a version without the second clock because I have a sure low jitter source by SPDIF. Understanding that SPDIF has its own jitter issue, my experience is the SPDIF channel here can perform very well. It's possible the second clock will degrade an already low jitter source, although it will undoubtedly improve a higher jitter source. Both USB and SPDIF channels go through the second clock. (USB goes through both clocks.) There is no test data for reclocking effect or jitter for any of the DAC versions.


I got a March 09 Valab intending to feed it by coax SPDIF a 16/44.1 source, software upsampled to 48kHz (Secret Rabbit, Foobar, cPlay) and reclocked by an Empirical Audio Off Ramp (converted to 24 bit). I thought it would be fun to see what it could do with a few of the basic mods. It's been good enough to use in my rig almost all the time.


- Rand



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