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Hardware teardown of FX-AUDIO DAC-X6 USB DAC

amirm

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#1
This is a hardware review of FX-AUDIO DAC-X6 USB DAC. For measurement and listening tests go to this article: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...c-compared-to-topping-d30-and-fiio-e10k.2097/

As noted in that review, this is an ultra low cost $58 DAC and headphone amplifier. They provide the overall block diagram thusly:

upload_2017-12-3_18-48-45.png


And that matches what is inside:

20171129_173141-Edit.jpg


I have indicated with arrows the flow of signals. Following the USB input, we go into Via VT1603 USB interface. The digital data is then handed to Crystal Semiconductor CS8416 which is also the S/PDIF interface. The provides the serial interface to the heart of this device, the Cirrus Logic CS4399 DAC which costs about $6 in volume. The analog output then gets buffered through Ti/Burr Brown OPA2134. From there, this path splits. One goes to the rear RCA jacks and the other, to TI6120 Headphone amplifier. This path is rather optimal, keeping the analog output way away from digital path. Such is not true of RCA output which has to then travel way back to the back of the unit. This makes it more susceptible to noise pickup. In a larger enclosure, this could have been laid out more optimally.

Interesting to see a dedicated protection circuit IC (C1237HA). This guards against shorts in the headphone output causing damage to driver IC.

One of the concerns with Chinese products at these price point is usage of used or counterfeit parts. That concerns shows up clearly in this rusty switch:

20171129_173208-Edit.jpg


It doesn't show up as well in the picture but that entire side is rusty red. Components like this would not rust so fast so my suspicion is that this is a used switch that lost its good life in another component. Or alternatively it is a poor quality switch as to rust so easily.

This story continues in another component:

20171129_173737-Edit.jpg


We see the top of the capacitor is literally dented! Maybe it got damaged in manufacturing but whatever the cause, it doesn't inspire confidence.

At the other extreme, I was shocked to see an FX-Audio branded oscillator in there:

20171129_173218-Edit.jpg


Maybe they have an employee with spare time and an engraver :).

And oh, this is the revision number of the board in my unit:
20171129_173235.jpg


Wonder what version 1 looked like.

They advertise high quality Elna capacitors in there:

upload_2017-12-3_18-59-24.png


Well, I see no sign of that. Here is what is there:

20171129_173301.jpg


Even if it said Elna on it, I am not sure I would trust it.

The backside shows flux that is not cleaned and solder job that barely passes:

20171129_173537.jpg

20171129_173553.jpg


Summary
FX-Audio DAC-X6 is an impressive device as far as feature set and components at such low price. Underneath though it "smells" like low budget construction and suspicions of used parts. But what the heck, at these prices you could throw it away should it break. More money would have surely bought one better quality. My suggestion is to not open the box and look at it! :)
 

watchnerd

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#2
I have to admit it's pretty impressive you get that many parts and weight for $58.

I've built Raspberry Pi systems for ~$90-100 that didn't have that many parts or a real metal case.
 

amirm

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#3
The economics of this thing is an unsolved mystery. Even with used parts I am not sure how it is remotely feasible to make this in another country, ship it here, give profits to Amazon, and have it shipped to me for $58!
 

Sal1950

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#4
It doesn't show up as well in the picture but that entire side is rusty red. Components like this would not rust so fast so my suspicion is that this is a used switch that lost its good life in another component.
I find it beyond amazing that it's possible for a market to exist for used $.005 parts salvaged out of other components. Envisioning a factory full of Chinese ladies and kids with soldering irons and piles of old circuit boards. What do they get paid, half a bowl of fish heads and rice at the end of a 12 hour day? Socialism at it's very best.
 

amirm

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#5
It is a horrific process that goes on in China and third-world countries to extract these parts and recycle them. Just do a search for e-waste recycling and you won't believe your eyes:


 

Wombat

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#6
Rusty switch: possibly poor plating and damp storage?
Dented capacitor: simply the board dropped in production?

It is one thing pulling parts but the logistics involved in sorting salvaged parts from a myriad assortment of PCBs for reliable bulk supply of specific items for production are surely too costly and such parts would be out of dimensional spec. and not clean enough for automated placement.

Individual components with high audiophile fashion status are worth recycling.
 
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Sal1950

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#7
It is a horrific process that goes on in China and third-world countries to extract these parts and recycle them. Just do a search for e-waste recycling and you won't believe your eyes:
Beyond my worst imagined.
 

Wombat

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#8
Rusty switch: possibly poor plating and damp storage?
Dented capacitor: simply the board dropped in production?

It is one thing pulling parts but the logistics involved in sorting salvaged parts from a myriad assortment of PCBs for reliable bulk supply of specific items for production are surely too costly and such parts would be out of dimensional spec. and not clean enough for automated placement.

Individual components with high audiophile fashion status are worth recycling.
Um, er, found this: http://www.retronix.com/sectors/electronic_material_recycler/
 

amirm

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#9
Indeed it is routinely done. I needed some HRC fuses. They are pretty expensive. Then I find them on Amazon from a third-party seller at something like 1/3 the price. I buy them and when I received them, they were all yellowed and metal portion tarnished. No question they were used.

With labor being so cheap in China, it makes economic sense for them to do that. In the video I posted you can see the lady sitting there taking out individual components (likely resistors) and putting them in their respective bins.

That said, yes, I am not sure these are used or counterfeit parts. I am just suspicious. Either way though, these kind of flaws should not occur in brand new equipment.
 

Crocodil

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#10
Hi,

I came across a different device that looks the same externally: Dilvpoetry DAC-X6. Unfortunately there's little to no information about it. According to the seller, it's an improved version with following replacements:

FX Audio:
DAC chipsets: CS8416+CS4398+OPA213
Headphone amplifier chipsets: OP275+TPA6120
Dilvpoetry:
DAC chipsets: CS8416+AK4452+JRC5532
Headphone amplifier chipsets: N5532+TPA6120

There's also a picture of the internals that's very much different than FX Audio's:
Dilvpoetry-DAC-X6.jpg

Can you judge if this is really an improvement or not?

Best regards,
Crocodil
 

amirm

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#11
First, welcome aboard.

That is an interesting find. Definitely an attempt to copy one another. Who came first is had to tell. As is knowing which is better without a bench test.

Looking at the component, the one you found uses 25 volt capacitors. The one I tested uses cheaper 16 volt ones. Given the 12 volt supply both are fine choices but maybe the 25 volt one lasts longer.

The designs are very different by the way so I don't expect them to perform the same.
 

Crocodil

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#12
@amirm Thank you for a quick analysis :) I guess I will buy FX Audio for my first DAC as it gets mostly good reviews and as I said there's almost no information about Dilvpoetry...
 

Dismayed

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#13
I appreciate the efforts to identify low-cost DACs that perform well. But hopefully you'll move up a bit in price range - I would rather buy something made from quality parts and assembled by a workforce that isn't abused.
 

Sal1950

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#14
I appreciate the efforts to identify low-cost DACs that perform well. But hopefully you'll move up a bit in price range - I would rather buy something made from quality parts and assembled by a workforce that isn't abused.
AMEN, no matter where you live, attempt to buy domestic products whenever possible.
 

amirm

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#15
I appreciate the efforts to identify low-cost DACs that perform well. But hopefully you'll move up a bit in price range - I would rather buy something made from quality parts and assembled by a workforce that isn't abused.
Welcome aboard. I do like to test higher end products but budget has been a problem. Now that we have a way for the members to donate through Patreon and Paypal, hopefully there will be more money to play with.

For now, feel free to suggest candidates for review. I think the last one that fit your criteria was the Teac: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...asurements-of-teac-nt-503-networked-dac.2028/.
 

stunta

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#16
Hello amirm,
I happened upon this website by chance. I used to live in Seattle up until a year ago and would have gladly brought over extremely overpriced DACs I used to own back then :)

I have gladly made a donation (its via a different email address, so not sure how to get it linked here) given the content and intent of this site.

Meanwhile, I spotted a post somewhere where you mentioned you now have the Topping DX7. Are you going to review it soon?

Also, when you do your listening tests, are you doing them before the measurements to minimize bias?

Thank you for this website. Its a huge time sink given i am late to the party, so hopefully I will scrape by at work.
 

amirm

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#17
Welcome aboard Stunta. Great to have another (past) native here! And thank you so much for your donation. When you upgrade your account, the system automatically keeps track of it and gives you that Donor banner.

I do have the Topping DX-7. I will do the review soon when I clear my backlog on some loaned equipment.

Also, when you do your listening tests, are you doing them before the measurements to minimize bias?
My listening tests are done after measurements. But I conduct them "blind" by randomizing the AB test. It is not very rigorous test. I do it because it was requested that I provide listening impressions.

Welcome again. :)
 

stunta

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Thanks Amir. Where did you order the DX7 from? Amazon listing says it ships from China and ETA is February. How long did it take to get yours? What is the return policy?

I should have my Topping D30 this week and I will be comparing (subjectively) it with the Oppo Sonica.
 
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