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Ladder Schumann R2R DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 42 19.4%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 111 51.2%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 48 22.1%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 16 7.4%

  • Total voters
    217

Blockader

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One can simulated filterless NOS DACs using DS chips. There are several of those around.
I didn't look into them, as far as I know the UD501 dac provides such a filter, right? Can they output exactly the same stepped waveform as the NOS R-2R dacs have?
 

Purité Audio

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When you have genuine point source designs, Genelec and KEF for example the imaging ( the positioning of elements within the recording) tend to be absolutely pin point , similarly IME designs with relatively narrow dispersion also image well, sitting further away from the speakers and wider dispersion designs tend to be less precise.
I have heard odd outside of speaker effects, the last time here was with B&W800s.
Keith
 

Snoopy

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I can't imagine spending 1400-1500 euro on this R2R DAC if I could just buy a topping E70 Velvet for 495€.

(Or a SMSL Su-9 , D300 , DO200MK2, Gustard X16 and many more).

My only experience with R2R DACs was the Hifiman EF400 DAC+headphone amp and I couldn't hear any of the magical advantages of r2r DACs.
 

Veri

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My only experience with R2R DACs was the Hifiman EF400 DAC+headphone amp and I couldn't hear any of the magical advantages of r2r DACs.
And my experiences with (OTL) tube amps is the same for that matter. Where's the magic sound?
 

solderdude

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I didn't look into them, as far as I know the UD501 dac provides such a filter, right? Can they output exactly the same stepped waveform as the NOS R-2R dacs have?

They just look at the sample values and (kind-off) hold them as an R2R would but of course it is emulated as DS DACs usually have just 4 to 5 bits in 'steps' to work with and operate at a very high frequency.
Because of this there is always a small low-pass alike filtering but R2R also have this.
It is really silly to want this though for many reasons.
Even the good old CDP with R2R chips al had oversampling and had steep analog filters after them. No CDP would ever have shown a stair-step signal on the output.
I can't understand who ever came up with the idea that filterless would be a good thing.
 
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Blockader

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They just look at the sample values and (kind-off) hold them as an R2R would but of course it is emulated as DS DACs usually have just 4 to 5 bits in 'steps' to work with and operate at a very high frequency.
Because of this there is always a small low-pass alike filtering but R2R also have this.
It is really silly to want this though for many reasons.
Even the good old CDP with R2R chips al had oversampling and had steep analog filters after them. No CDP would ever have shown a stair-step signal on the output.
I can't understand who ever came up with the idea that filterless would be a good thing.
I can't be the judge of that, honestly. If some people like NOS sound, good for them.

Can I make my DS dac to have close-to-NOS output if such filter was not implemented inside the dac?
 

solderdude

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I can't be the judge of that, honestly. If some people like NOS sound, good for them.

Can I make my DS dac to have close-to-NOS output if such filter was not implemented inside the dac?
you would have to do that in software with oversampling to the max bitrate of the DAC itself.
The question would be why ruin a perfectly good DAC by not making it adhere to the sampling theorem and introduce ultrasonic garbage in the signal that wasn't there.
 

Blumlein 88

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It is odd, that in an effort to do something different people in the high end boutique world go toward fully multi-bit NOS as some kind of original purity that was corrupted by delta-sigma converters even sometimes foregoing the filters altogether. Yet all of this is to avoid digititis which of course the very word originated when earlier multi-bit DACs were more the norm. So how does it help to go backwards? Seems it just gets thrown in with the "old school is better" ideal. Same as tube amps, LP's and now early digital. Enough of the audience now is too young to remember those early days of CD and the complaints it generated.

Of course the other direction of purity, is the single bitstream super high sampling rates. Run at very high rates and then output into a transformer or simple transistor circuit and filter.

Yet whether high one bits methods or low multibit methods these ideas of purity fail to provide exceptional performance. The regular few bit with oversampling approach of sigma delta seems the sweet spot for performance. Which apparently can be wiped out by good stories and a cultured placebo effect for audio bliss.
 

Purité Audio

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A bit of audible distortion and droopy treble.
Keith
 

Blumlein 88

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sound which is full of aliasing.
I'm being pedantic so forgive me. Actually on playback on the DAC side you get imaging. Unless it causes IMD in the rest of the system, all the artifacts are ultrasonic. Which is why it doesn't sound as bad as you might think. Our hearing acts as enough of an imaging filter you won't hear it. Plus most speakers if not bothered by the content above 20 khz also act as something of a filter.

Aliasing is a thing on the ADC side where ultrasonic signals show up down in the below 20 khz band.
 

Ninjastar

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I'm curious about the background/origin of these companies like Ladder, Denafrips, and Musician Audio.

They all seem to share the same design language and philosophy (R2R DACs with similar looking casings) and they are all from China.

I thought I read somewhere that Musician Audio was started by a former designer from Denafrips, which would make sense.

But this Ladder DAC also really looks like Denafrips.
 

DonH56

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DAC fundamentals showing images: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ital-audio-converters-dacs-fundamentals.1927/
ADC fundamentals showing aliasing: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/digital-audio-aliasing.1920/

A potential problem with DAC images is that, while high-frequency content is usually low-amplitude, low-frequency content can be large and ends up around the sampling frequency of the first image. That means a large 100 Hz signal from a 44.1 kS/s DAC will have a large image around 44 kHz, which is within the bandwidth of some tweeters, and in others simply turns into heat when the driver cannot respond fast enough. Depending upon the DAC, you may be applying a fair amount of power to the tweeter if there is no anti-image filter at the output of the DAC.
 

Robbo99999

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Kind of a pointless offering, when there are so many better and significantly cheaper DACS out there, just a waste of time & money.
 

MBL'er

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I'm curious about the background/origin of these companies like Ladder, Denafrips, and Musician Audio.

They all seem to share the same design language and philosophy (R2R DACs with similar looking casings) and they are all from China.

I thought I read somewhere that Musician Audio was started by a former designer from Denafrips, which would make sense.

But this Ladder DAC also really looks like Denafrips.

Last year I read an article in which the owner of the plant where Denafrips are manufactured reported to have outsourced some excess design / production capacity to a sort of "cousin company" named Musician Audio. Musician and Denafrips seem to share some overall design and components.

The article looked credible but could have been manufactured just to give Musician Audio some "pedigree".

(PS - in my system the Pegasus performed much better than the Pontus, but markedly less detailed and "engaging" than the Topping D70S - still my favourite dac)

Best,

M
 

Christoph-ASR

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R2R was a technology from the 90's and are replaced by the far better ∆∑ technology. But this audio "electricians" don't understand the technology and open the IC, and place the resistors from the old-fashioned chips to the outside and generate so quantization error from the 70's (and hear them, perhaps it look also better [like the cables in the internet advertising]). Unbelievable. Look at the webpage for example of analog-devices for modern far better DAC for perhaps 5$ (DAC from an example company: AD). And they hear it. I call this objektophilie halluzinations. I don't understand why FPGA digital designers have no background in the history of the DAC design (∆∑ can be really easy implemented in Verilog or VHDL), but design parts for the really easy audio world...

By the way, in the frame of the "Historically informed performance" the electrical current can be generated with a more contemporary thermal power engine?
 
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Thermionics

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I'm curious about the background/origin of these companies like Ladder, Denafrips, and Musician Audio.

They all seem to share the same design language and philosophy (R2R DACs with similar looking casings) and they are all from China.

I thought I read somewhere that Musician Audio was started by a former designer from Denafrips, which would make sense.

But this Ladder DAC also really looks like Denafrips.
Well, except that the Denafrips ARES II measured well.
 

srkbear

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I don't think this is really very different from, say, Topping's strategy of making DACs with ever better measurements. Their improvements are completely inaudible since their previous products were already perfect. We are entertaining ourselves with sophisticated engineering, the lab measurements that reveal it, and audio gear for its own sake as a hobby. It's fun.

Perhaps Shenzhenaudio set out to engineer the best R2R DAC on the market for people who like that kind of thing. And maybe they are proud at having done a good job. And a review from Amir is pretty good evidence. More sophisticated engineering, lab measurements, and audio gear for its own sake = more Fun.

Shenzhenaudio also distributes Geshelli gear, doesn't it? Same kind of thing, isn't it. Some people want vacuum tubes (valves). Some people want R2R. And others want 30 dB more SNR than they could have heard in an iso booth on a good day when they were young.
I’m pretty sure Shenzhen Audio is simply an online e-commerce storefront that specializes in a niche of Chinese brands—SMSL, Gustard, Topping, Sabal, XDUOO et al—not a manufacturer/designer. Am I mistaken?
 
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