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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

Doodski

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Thanks for clarifying about R2R DACs, which makes sense but is unfortunately the sole conclusion I could glean from your text—I tried my best to get through it, but it was obviously an example of the sort of insider jargon commonly spoken amongst high level audio scientists. I’ve been around here for quite awhile, and I hope I’ve been sufficiently transparent that I’m not an electrical engineer, just a lifelong enthusiast with an excess of curiosity about what’s going on under the hood. I am for sure always eager to learn.

But through no fault of yours, your explanation soared way over my head—it kinda brought to mind what would happen if I read my progress notes to one of my patients in an effort to educate them about their diagnoses and prognoses. My shop talk would offer them minimal insight, but could easily terrify them.

Perhaps the intimidating tone was due to some perception that I was being snarky to you in my original question, which was absolutely not my intent—and if I came across that way I apologize. I hope you’ll make note that I did start by asking if this power supply requirement was specific to R2R DACs, as it didn’t make sense to me for DS DACs. And thankfully you eventually got around to confirming that in your final sentence, so all is well! :)

I’ll never have the fund of knowledge to comprehend the rest of what you wrote, but that’s ok. The most important lesson I learned from the exchange is that there’s just one more byzantine, technological complication with R2R ladder DACs that renders them all the more tragically inelegant and obsolete, and baffles me even further that some folks still treat you like hopeless rubes for not shelling out ten grand to own one. What could they possibly be thinking, really? Anyways, peace and happy holidays! —Steve
I was trying to simplify as much as possible although it's difficult to do that when we have new buzzwords and concepts involved. The easiest method to explain I suppose is to revert to the water analogy. The R2R DAC power supply is the main water reservoir supplying all the ICs and circuitry with water. As digital circuitry uses square waves there are issues that results each time a square wave draws water from the reservoir. So imagine many times per second that the square waveforms in the digital circuitry are switching ON and OFF and each square wave when switching ON and OFF can send water pressure feedback all the way back into the main water reservoir. That water pressure change in the main reservoir would affect the other square waves in the device and so this feedback must be eliminated or minimalized as much as possible. To do this a coil of wire (inductor) is placed inline on the water flow and that prevents feedback from the digital circuitry from going back into the main water reservoir and polluting the water reservoir with energy that we don't want in the power supply water reservoir. Kind of like pinching off a garden hose and then the water pressure wave goes back inside the hose all the way to the main water system and it will affect the water pressure at the bathroom and kitchen etc. So the water pressure will pulse with each pinch of the garden hose. Imagine thousands of pulses/pinches per second and things can get messy and stuff happens that is unwanted. So to stop this water pressure pulse from traveling back up the hose to the kitchen and bathroom we could install a pressure regulator inline to dampen or eliminate the water pressure pulse.

The R2R DACs are power gobbling monsters that have many issues and one of them is the power supply needing to be able to supply a steady uninterrupted flow of electricity/water to the ICs and other circuitry. Hence the maker of the Ladder Schumann R2R DAC made a pretty heavy duty power supply for their DAC. Whether that toroidal transformer is required I don't know but they are usually smaller in size than a regular iron core transformer. That saves space. That and toroidal transformers look ace-cool and this model is all about the cool factor for some people.

Happy holidays. :D
 

zajogungster

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Interesting that they even machined a branded lid for the transformer!
Thanks for the review!
i know people what they like is that it is packed with parts, in a nice sleek layout and more than the sound they enjoy and love the interior and the cosmetic features.
nice machine :)
 

JMP68

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Ladder Schumann "FPGA" (R2R) balanced DAC. It was sent to me by Shenzhenaudio and costs US $1,399.
View attachment 250084
The box is solid and has fair bit of heft to it, likely due to power supply transformer. The interface is pretty simple with the exception of the "Mode" button which I could not figure out. There is no manual supplied in my sample (which came back in July), nor could I find one online. It seems to select one of a few oversampling modes (2X/4X/8X) but I could not figure out how to get it to do that (seems to do something in setup). There is a dedicated button and turns off oversampling and filtering.

The main notable thing on the back panel is inclusion of XLR balanced out which you don't always see on R2R DACs:

View attachment 250085

Ladder Schumann DAC Measurements
Let's start with our dashboard using USB in/XLR out:
View attachment 250087

Distortion spikes match the noise floor of 16-bit content. By traditional DAC standards, that is rather poor but by R2R standards, it is not bad. Performance suffers with RCA due to more power supply noise:
View attachment 250088

I was about to stop the review here thinking the rest would be along the same line. But I am glad I did not as the noise floor is extremely low:
View attachment 250089
Clearly good attention was paid to clean circuit design.

IMD graph shows the variable distortion as one would expect in such architecture:
View attachment 250090

Then again, when levels are low, distortion-floor is rather low:
View attachment 250091

There is jitter but as noted, is below audible levels:
View attachment 250092

Linearity naturally suffers at very low levels but otherwise is competent:
View attachment 250093

Here is the DAC filter response in the two modes I could figure out to activate:
View attachment 250094

And impact on frequency response:
View attachment 250095

So there is no mode with flat response. People with good high frequency hearing will likely notice lack of that in highest frequencies and may confuse that with better sound.

I was pleased to see that there is little frequency dependence in our wideband noise+distortion test:
View attachment 250096

Conclusions
It seems that frequently when a company decided to make an audio product with a new architecture, they use that as an excuse to butcher the response across the board. They talk about "low feedback" but then give us high levels of noise for example. I was pleased to see such was not the case with Ladder's Schumman DAC. The excellent dynamic range indicates that there is good engineering there, but is saddled with limitations of inexact, R2R DAC architecture. At least they are doing their best to deliver on what audiophiles ask for.

I see no benefit to R2R DACs so I can't recommend the Ladder Schumann DAC. But if you have the itch to get one, this makes a decent offering.
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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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I think the DAC sounds great! Measurements dont concern me if device performs.
 

JMP68

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Thanks, @amirm.


I praise them for this. Better have dealers/distributors that play the game of transparency that way.

R2R crowd won't care for measurements anyway. This unit in particular... far from the worst we've seen in that market. At least, it is suitable for 16bits content.
Did you listen to DAC or commenting blind
 

JMP68

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Hello,

The measurements are fine with me.
I don't know what you have.
To be honest, I find it presumptuous how you deal with things like this!

As I said, the measurements are OK, but where is Amir's assessment of the sound, which is usually found everywhere else?
There is not a word about it and the thread is torn to shreds about any measurements, assumptions, even lies.
If it was a Holo Audio Dac, you would have heard it for sure, wouldn't you?

On YouTube there are a few positive reports about this R2R Dac, up to a sound sample between 2 other devices that are higher priced and purely sound-wise the Ladder does a good job.
The Ares 2 looks less good in direct comparison and people still buy the Ares 2 just to save a few $/€,which is okay.

Sure, it almost looks like an Ares 2, but it's not.
It also has some technical stuff that is better than the Ares 2.

Another point to note is that it will probably work a lot better under I2S.
Ladder is also not a Shenzenaudio brand, as there are other products from the Ladder company.
You would know that if you had looked into it.

The only thing you can really criticise is that the spec data is missing, as well as the missing manual.
The Ladder Schumann DAC sounds very very good. I purchased it, after trying 5 dacs under 3000 dollars.
A review on measurements is useless. How it sounds is what counts. You are sooo right, the so called reviewer left out the most important spec, the SOUND to the human ears.
 

VintageFlanker

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Did you listen to DAC or commenting blind
I both listen and measure, FYI. :rolleyes:
The Ladder Schumann DAC sounds very very good. I purchased it, after trying 5 dacs under 3000 dollars.
A review on measurements is useless. How it sounds is what counts. You are sooo right, the so called reviewer left out the most important spec, the SOUND to the human ears.
funny-troll-face-meme-aji9e2f34iy32p2q.gif
 

Robbo99999

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The Ladder Schumann DAC sounds very very good. I purchased it, after trying 5 dacs under 3000 dollars.
A review on measurements is useless. How it sounds is what counts. You are sooo right, the so called reviewer left out the most important spec, the SOUND to the human ears.
A DAC doesn't "sound" like anything, that's the point, you don't look to your DAC to tune your "sound". Measurements are the the sum total of a DAC because they're so easily understood from a scientific point of view - all they're doing is changing zeros & ones into an analog electrical signal, it's very easy to measure DACS to make sure everything is being translated accurately without any unwanted elements being added to the music. Focus on your speakers & room if you want to achieve great sound, but by all means keep listening to different thousand dollar DACS & continue to imagine that you're tuning your sound if you want to waste your time/money and go nowhere in reality. Your mindset & approach is why snake oil manufacturers exist. It would be better for you if you forget everything you think you know about audio and start from scratch again here on ASR.
 

BDWoody

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A review on measurements is useless.

I'm going to give you one day off from this thread so you can hopefully stop repeating yourself over and over, and so you can maybe do a little more reading and less trolling.
 

Billy Budapest

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I think the DAC sounds great! Measurements dont concern me if device performs.
I think you are in the wrong forum. All DACs sound the same unless they are doing something really wrong. Any measurable differences in modern DACs are going to be beyond the threshold of hearing, by and large.
 
Last edited:

zajogungster

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I think you are in the wrong forum. All DACs sound the same unless they are doing something really wrong. Any measurable differences in modern DACs are going to be beyond the threshold of hearing, by and large.
many products are combo products. As for the DAC, it's clear that it's impossible to hear anything there, if it does what it's supposed to and is transparent. Another problem is the implementation of the preamplifier, pushing Lamps into the signal path, various bad solutions that characterize the sound. but people often don't understand that, and the average user, when he visits ASR, says that the DAC sounds better and others worse. but it must be explained, not condemned and humiliated!
 

YSC

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The Ladder Schumann DAC sounds very very good. I purchased it, after trying 5 dacs under 3000 dollars.
A review on measurements is useless. How it sounds is what counts. You are sooo right, the so called reviewer left out the most important spec, the SOUND to the human ears.
it could well be due to psychology effects that the magic of R2R have you fell like that. Don't get me wrong, I myself have been using a $1300 Holoaudio Spring 2 R2R DAC and enjoyed it a lot. yes, back then when my purchases decision was made it was due to the tempt to try the R2R magic, which, it did sound good but not distinctive/discernable from my previous ESS 9018 dac, but since it was set up, looks great and functions well, yet still measuring better than 16bit at ?100db SINAD I just don't bother changing again for impercievable improvement
 
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