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Hifi Forum TDA-1541A DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 95 48.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 67 33.8%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 26 13.1%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 10 5.1%

  • Total voters
    198

PeteL

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Not bad at all really. I will dare a more philosophical question here, bare with me. IF we do take as a premisse that there is an audible difference with modern dacs with better technicalities. Considering digital recording of the late eighties where mastered using a rendered analog signal acomplished with a dac with the limitation of their time, this here being a quite good example, would this be correct to say tthat when we are listening to eighties CDs, we are listening to an analog waveform that is modified a bit from what was the output signal that was heard and considered the reference final product then? Then which is more “HIFI”? Again the question is does it sound different.? Likely not much, but as soon as this answer is yes it’s hard to argue that it has to be better now because of better specs if this improvement was never heard when taking artistic decisions. Again I am just talking when listenning recording of this era. I don’t know the answer neither, but interesting to me.
 
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PeteL

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wow posting reviews as per your convenience. did you even check linearity of pagoda dac? or schiit bifrost dac ? or audio gd r2r11 ? these are measured in this forum. and are they by any means 80s dac ? can you explain how r2r dacs are better despite poor measurements ? for your ready reference.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...nd-review-of-schiit-bifrost-multibit-dac.2319


I never said R2R Dacs where better.
 

aj625

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my take on r2r dacs is like this. human brain finds it easier to process less details. even in many live performances with no amplification or mic system, brain can get confused in busy passages. r2r dacs makes easier for brain by presenting less details due to less bits of linearity and overall lesser sinad too. no wonder some very best measuring r2r dacs like holo may starts sounding closer to DS dac to many.
 

aj625

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as someone here rightly said try putting a ds chip inside r2r chip shell and then ask to audition to R2R lovers. :p
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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my take on r2r dacs is like this. human brain finds it easier to process less details.
How do you account for the fact that there is no research at all to back that and the entire industry as moved on to delta sigma DACs? How is it possible that audiophiles have such superior knowledge of psychoacoustics that eludes the best researchers in the field?
 

Veri

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So you mean in 80s they used to have dac too ?
So now you understood what I wanted to say ? Since this is a pure dac devoid of cd playback it couldn't have been made in 80s. It's a new product but with old dated tech.
What? "Pure" DAC? This Philips chip pulled out of the CD player still holds the same purpose: digital to analog conversion. So no I don't understand what you were trying to say, even back then it was a DAC. That's literally what it is..
 

aj625

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How do you account for the fact that there is no research at all to back that and the entire industry as moved on to delta sigma DACs? How is it possible that audiophiles have such superior knowledge of psychoacoustics that eludes the best researchers in the field?
Exactly that's why I keep on asking what makes r2r special except because of some kind of measurements anomaly. As many i believe in objective role of measurements. There can be no reason for R2R dacs sounding different except having poor measurements in certain tests. Isn't it ?
 
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aj625

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What? "Pure" DAC? This Philips chip pulled out of the CD player still holds the same purpose: digital to analog conversion. So no I don't understand what you were trying to say, even back then it was a DAC. That's literally what it is..
Ok let me tell you in detail. When the chip is so old tech why there was a need to use it in stand alone dac box which clearly is not from 80s? Just because old technology has some magic despite poor measured performance ? Now you must have understood what I meant !
 

Wuzel

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Use a elder 'quad switch' (AD550) R2R Design - the voodoo people will love it ... :cool: :):)

Or better - DATRAC, a tube DAC from 50's - must sound like Beethoven live on stage :)

For the Philips side - i recommend a DAC08 ( https://pdf1.alldatasheet.com/datasheet-pdf/view/17629/PHILIPS/DAC08.html ).
That thing kills them all - a nice tube buffer at the end.... and sell it for 10k bugs ... i have an idea :cool:

Not bad at all really. I will dare a more philosophical question here, bare with me. IF we do take as a premisse that there is an audible difference with modern dacs with better technicalities. Considering digital recording of the late eighties where mastered using a rendered analog signal acomplished with a dac with the limitation of their time, this here being a quite good example, would this be correct to say tthat when we are listening to eighties CDs, we are listening to an analog waveform that is modified a bit from what was the output signal that was heard and considered the reference final product then? Then which is more “HIFI”? Again the question is does it sound different.? Likely not much, but as soon as this answer is yes it’s hard to argue that it has to be better now because of better specs if this improvement was never heard when taking artistic decisions. Again I am just talking when listenning recording of this era. I don’t know the answer neither, but interesting to me.

Yes. Modern DAC pull out more information. The reason is, they can reconstruct tiny little fragments and bring them out to the analog side.
Funny thing is, ADC was not such a problem at all - in the old PCM is more information as u thing.
The difference is the precision and the shape of information. In the old files it lock like a mess, but no problem for modern designs. The elder DAC Design have more trouble, special with the tiny fragments.

A modern DAC is like a wizard, its pure magic what these Chips can pull out from a PCM file. And still highly impressive.

I have no idea, why they use these elder DAC Chips - technically it's like a Intel 66Mhz 486 against modern Intel i7 in a game Benchmark :cool: ...
 
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solderdude

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Did these oversample to 8x the way they are used in this design or can it also work at higher sample rates like 176.4 khz? Not asking for you to retest it, just maybe feed it 88.2 or 176.4 and see if it works on that.

You would have to feed the DAC chip an I2s signal after the SAA7220 (upsampling digital filter).
The input for the SAA7220 does not accept high bitrates. After all these were designed to work in CDP's.

Good performance for an ancient R2R 4x oversampling DAC. Not many CDPs from that era will have equal performance.

For around $1k you can get the same DAC but with a nicer enclosure, display and BT receiver !
 
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Veri

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Ok let me tell you in detail. When the chip is so old tech why there was a need to use it in stand alone dac box which clearly is not from 80s? Just because old technology has some magic despite poor measured performance ? Now you must have understood what I meant !
Ok, got it. And yes sure, there is no real "point". Except that the chips are not thrown in the garbage bin but still hold value and can be repurposed, I think that's pretty cool! But to say it has any magical properties, of course not ;)
 

DSJR

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I'd suggest it's part of the nostalgia kick that's going on right now. Of course it's not 'better' but the late 80's was in my experience when the first really good top line CD players were being sold by a few manufacturers often for around a grand (£/$ - I'm not including the original Sony two-box player from around 1986 - things moved VERY quickly back then). The fact you can beat these often complex devices for £120 or so doesn't matter really. Lord I feel so old now :eek:
 

filo97s

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well, for an R2R chip that is 35 years old, designed to decode a CD stream at most (handled even well since it almost clears the bar for 44/16), mounted on a PCB probably designed in someone's house basement with no industrial support of any type, beating even today's multibit from schiit like the yggy... this thing was gold at that time.
Is still the Nirvana as we often read in audio forums? Of course not, it's a myth that lives up to its good reputation, but I think that in judging its performance we should also take into account that was something born 35 years ago. That's why I chose "fine": it's like judging a big tube computer by today's standard, maybe today is terrible but for that age was a supercomputer. And this thing is good even compared to a discrete bunch of actual dacs.
 

Azathoth

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There was someone who did this about 10 years, but in a much worse way. They had put someone else's CD player inside their own case - literally a case within a case! I can't remember which brand it was, but it was something expensive, and they were caught out and shamed. I wish I could find the picture.
Ah, found it!

image_preview2


It's a Blu-ray, actually. This is a Lexicon BD-30 with an Oppo BDP-83 inside. You can see from this picture of the bottom that they just re-cased it and cut ventilation holes.

The source of this is Audioholics from January, 2010:

There are more pictures in the article. The author noticed that the Lexicon's external layout looked very similar to the Oppo. First he opened the case, then he realized it was in fact the Oppo player just inside a new case!

Oppo retail price at the time: $499
Lexicon retail price at the time: $3,500

@Azathoth, you underestimated how rich you could get.
Nice find! Haha in this case they didn't really change much on the board side, I was thinking you know trying to obscure the chip more by making it so that even if you prod about and measure it it'll show different? That's probably more work than it's worth but then what do I know haha.
 

ousi

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Hopefully there will be review of the SMSL PCM1704 DAC soon :) This would be interesting to the R2R crowds.

Really thanks Amir taking the time to measure this almost-antique-definitely-ancient DAC, and put real shame on some boutique DACs (Schiit multi-bit for example) selling for much more than this "black box" from China with 36 year-old tech. Since it is only optimized for processing CD PCM signal (16/44.1), it might be possible to use it with something like the an RPi with Allo Pi hat running Roon bridge and have Roon core downsample to 16/44.1 before sending out; aside from being a dedicated DAC for CD transports.

To say the TDA1541A has a cult-following might be an understatement. You can read about all these here: https://dutchaudioclassics.nl/Philips-TDA1541/

And the associated digital filter: https://www.dutchaudioclassics.nl/type_differences_saa7220p_a_b_c/
 

ousi

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This confirms my suspicions of digital gear producing analog sound. I often read the virtues of antique DAC chips producing analog sound (original Sony Playstation console, etc) is they dumb down the source signal so much it is comparable to analog sound reproduction. With a corresponding loss of detail and clarity.
I have a friend who works as sound engineer and music director. He told me that he sometimes uses the ADC -> DAC of old Sony DAT recorders and back to his master recorder to make music "sounds analog" - for some specific group of audiophile :) And he did sell quite a bunch of copies of these "special remaster" edition CDs
 

LTig

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I have a friend who works as sound engineer and music director. He told me that he sometimes uses the ADC -> DAC of old Sony DAT recorders and back to his master recorder to make music "sounds analog" - for some specific group of audiophile :) And he did sell quite a bunch of copies of these "special remaster" edition CDs
:D:facepalm::rolleyes:
 

LTig

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I wanted to vote poor (for measurements of a "new" DAC) and fine (counting in that this DAC uses a very old chip to its highest potential) at the same time which is not possible, so I ended with not terrible. Still I think many people would be unable to differ between this and a SOTA DAC in a controlled blind listening test.
 
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