Saturday, 14 November 2015

Small update

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Sorry for the lack of updates but there has been absolutely no progress whatsoever! However, I have my WaveIO now! This means that with the DiYinHK power supplies, I can start prototyping the Soekrates at last but my Wire PSUs still haven't arrived so I can't guarantee that the DAC will sound exactly as it does as a final product.

Friday, 9 October 2015

I'm not dead!

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I'm just waiting on stuff to get delivered. The WaveIO I had customized is coming and I was sent the wrong regulator boards for the DAM1021 power supplies so I'm waiting on those too. I can't really make any progress until those two arrive so sorry for the lack of updates lately!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Soekrates initial test update

Finally got a chance to test most of the electronics involved with the Soekrates build.

The DAM1021 was already updated to firmware version 0.99 so all I have to do now is wait for the Wire LT3042 PSUs and the WaveIO to arrive before I can get music coming from the DAM1021.

I got a nifty USB to RS232 adapter cable with no plug so I could simply connect them to J10 without having to fool around with the plug. I'll probably use something along the lines of this along with a small connector on the back panel of the Soekrates to allow for firmware updates without having to open up the Soekrates enclosure. I did have to install drivers but I can easily put a guide up for anyone who buys the Soekrates.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Soekrates Update 13

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Had a chat with a nice chap and have decided on reverting to a single-ended configuration because of Soren's quote that balanced doesn't add much if at all to the sound:

diyAudio Member
Join Date: Jun 2009
Although I don't see the big need for the DAC resistor string to be balanced, balanced signals are most useful for box to box interconnect.... You will get 3 db better S/N ratio, not that it's needed, there should already be 126 db S/N ratio at the resistor string....

This will shave off roughly $500 off the total price of the DAC as well as let me make it a lot less tall than what it is currently, so that's exactly what I did. (9in x 7.5in x 3in or 228.4mm x 190.5mm x 75.4mm).

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Small project update and wooden headphones side project

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As the Soekrates boards are still stuck in America, I finally caved in and burned roughly $500 to import some DAM1021-2 boards from the Soekris EU distributor. While I wait for them, the transformers and the LT3042-based power supplies to arrive, I'll show you a little something special: another little glimpse of a side project I've been working on.

These are wooden headphones based around a very special headphone driver (which I shall not mention in order to avoid driving up prices). Down below, you can see the basic plans. Wooden cups reinforced with a metal ring around the outside with metal gimbals connected to each other with a single metal wire. Shouldn't weigh too much and it should sound good too.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Progress update

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Apologies for not posting much at all.

The project is stalled for now, as I had both my proto boards sent to a friend in the US to save on shipping (as I planned to have him ship many things at once). I had everything planned out until I found out I couldn't pay for the shipping label with my PayPal then it started falling apart from there. In addition to that, he can't send them on with his own money due to very complicated reasons so I pretty much have run out of things to do without touching the boards themself.

That said, I'm thinking about the different engineering challenges and compromises that is involved with the use of one board verses the use of two. Use of a single board means that differential output has to pass through two opamps via a single-ended to balanced buffer and it'll have a noticeable (adverse imo) affect on sound quality due to the opamps. This can be somewhat remedied if I swap the opamps but it adds another element of failure for the manufacturing process and then we'll have a whole new debate over which opamps different people want. This can be somewhat fixed if I stick a socket there but it will add noise and then I might as well not change the opamps.

However, having two boards adds its own challenges too. I have to parallel each of the digital inputs and supply power supplies to each board (I'm not sure what effect paralleling the same supply will have as per the latest plan I have), connect the serial lines to each other and increase the height of the enclosure significantly to take the two boards. This is without taking into account any other mods I may or may not perform for sound quality (as detailed on the blog) as twice the number of boards means twice the failure rate.

The reason why I'm troubling over this is because I would much prefer to offer either SE or differential options only as offering both would mean having to increase the price across the board due to smaller production runs meaning more expensive per-unit costs. Overall, I still haven't decided on whether to use dual or single boards (especially because an extra board also increases the price by a large chunk).

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Soekrates detailed labelling

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Back to single small chassis for the Soekrates

1 comment:
I'm excited! I found this thing while browsing the web the other day.
It's called 'The Wire LT3042 Parallel Reg PSU' and is, fittingly, a LT3042-based power supply with two rails per board. The thing is, it's sized at 74mm x 26mm for a DUAL RAIL! That means I need only two for the Soekrates if I parallel the bipolar supply into each DAM board and this allows me to use only one transformer and therefore shrink the size of the Soekrates to a very manageable size.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

DAC updates (this is revision 11!!)

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I've just realized that the number of times I've updated the DAC design so far is quite daunting. I've again reverted it to the dual chassis design due to not liking the large form factor of the single chassis design.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Backplane board for the Soekrates

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I've decided to design my own backplane board for the Soekrates. Here's the circuit diagram that I intend to use (which might change at any time):

The J1, J2 and J3 headers follow this format, and there are two of them because of the dual DAM1021 balanced setup:

Sunday, 23 August 2015

WaveIO cost updates

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Lucian and I have been exchanging emails and we've managed to work something out:
  From what I understand so far, you need only the isolated I2S port thus
the parts from SPDIF and non-isolated outputs will be removed. Given
this, the price for one board became 94.6 Euro.

  As for discounts, first I would like to tell you that, in order to have
an affordable price for this board while offering the best audio quality
at the moment of designing (which is reflected in good layout and best
components for this board) I'm acquiring parts for quantities of 250
WaveIOs at a time. Anyway, there are some margins that can be bend so we
all can have financial benefits and here they are:

  For orders of 20+ boards: the discount is 3% per board. This means that
for an order of 20 boards, you'll pay 91.762 Euro per board.
  For orders of 50+ boards: the discount is 6% per board. In this case,
for an order of 50 pcs. the price for one board becomes 88.924 Euro.

  In case of 100+ orders: the discount is 9% per board. Here one board
have a price of 86.086 Euro.

  I hope my mathematics are okay at this hour :-)
  Anyway, to put it simple, on orders of 50+ you'll pay for maximum 47
WaveIOs and get minimum three WaveIOs for free. At orders starting with
100 pcs. you'll pay for maximum 91 boards while get minimum 9 for free.

  In addition, for ALL orders over 20 pcs. you have the chance to have
your own customized drivers meaning that you can change the "WaveIO"
name on Windows installation and firmware and put the name of your DAC
there, for example! In addition, the image used at instalation process
can be changed with your own one: changed from Luckit/WaveIO to the name
of your DAC.
It would be awesome to sell 20 of the Soekrates DACs and have it be called Soekrates when it's recognized by the computer!

Friday, 21 August 2015

DAC update, transformer update and rough bill of materials for parts

Small update to the DAC. Just some size and layout changes. Its size (and colour!) has been changed to be a little larger to accommodate all the electronics.

As the below picture shows, I included the footprint of all the parts that will be attached to the front and back panels which necessitated the slight size increase.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Short interest check

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Just a short interest check.

If you are still interested in maybe having a Soekrates made by me, do use the contact form or email me directly at waltertsowalter@gmail with the subject soekrates. Thanks!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

New mouse, new DAC updates, new switches and WaveIO

I was delighted to find a parcel waiting for me today. Opening it up, I found myself with a new mouse, and damn if this one isn't perfect for the kind of work I do. Anyways, with this post and the new mouse comes my motivation, an end to the filler posts and a new major update. Here we go!

Firstly and most importantly, thanks to my great friend Ralph (@thatBeatsguy on Head-Fi), we have a logo for our Philosophy of Sound high-end brand that I'm actually happy with. Isn't it beautiful? He's also the one behind how well formatted and nice my blog looks and I thought I'd give him a shout-out for it now. I really appreciate the effort he's put in for me so far and I hope he'll be happy to continue working with me.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Misc projects

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One problem that many DiYers have is that they have a multitude of projects going on or planned at once and I'm no exception to this rule. Since my new mouse still hasn't made its way to me and I'm forced to twiddle my thumbs between waiting for manufacturer quotes, here's a round-up of two of the other projects I have going on, either in my head or physically.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Transformer and $200 ($300) amplifier update

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Because of the requirement to power two Soekris boards instead of one, I need a new spec for the R-core transformers and can no longer buy off taobao or ebay. Its now $65 per transformer from what I can tell (ouch) when custom-made to be:

30VA Transformer: 30/(12.5VAC + 12.5VAC + 12.5VAC + 12.5VAC + 4.5VAC) = 30W/54.5VAC = 0.55A per channel.

I then plan to use the five rails in this fashion:

+/- 12V bipolar supply (left mono channel):
  • 12.5VAC to +12VDC Left Channel
  • 12.5VAC to -12VDC Left Channel
+/- 12V bipolar supply (right mono channel):
  • 12.5VAC to +12VDC Right Channel
  • 12.5VAC to -12VDC Right Channel
3.3V digital supply:
  • 4.5VAC to 3.3VDC isolated I2S rails, toslink module

Also, the amp's price will increase by $100 but this will give me the perfect excuse to call it the Spartan. Perfect!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

New $200 amplifier

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I also have in the top of my head a ~$200 amplifier. Planned features are:

  • Swappable op-amps to modify sound based on user preference
  • 0.5x, 1x and 2.5x gain to allow use with a wide range of audio gear
  • RCA and 2 x 3.5mm (one in the front, one in the back) input with an input selector
  • 3.5mm and 6.3mm headphone outputs
  • Compact form-factor to fit on many desks
I haven't decided whether I'll use an external wall wart as a linear power supply or AC in with my own power supply inside yet; that will have to be determined later on after I design the amplification circuit.

NAMES! update

So now, we've basically got our company name: Bucket Audio, the name of a high-end brand within our company: Philosophy of Sound, and DAC name: the Soekrates, sorted out! We even have logos on the way! Now what we need to do is create a website for the our business and we're set. Thanks Joe for providing the DAC name and inspiration for our high-end brand name!



Saturday, 15 August 2015

Commenting enabled and Balanced DAM1021 firmware!

Another tiny update: I just found out why most people couldn't leave comments so now it should be enabled!

LED colour switch options and more budget case found

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My mouse broke! I got a Corsair M65 on the way but until then I can't do any CAD or circuit board design so I decided to make myself useful organizing the supply chain instead. I have set up a poll following my previous post on illuminated switches (there's green, blue, yellow, red, white and orange LED lighting options available, green shown here) so please do vote here if you want customizable LEDs on the pushbutton switch on the front.


Guys, I need your help for both a company name and the name of the Soekris DAC! So far I have:

  • Crescendo Audio Technology
  • Thunk Audio
  • Bucket Audio
For my brand and...the Grumple...for the name of the DAC, which granted is hilarious but is also absolutely ridiculous! I would appreciate some help to think of some names!

Another update to the Soekris DAC

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I decided to change the colour of the anodized metal panels from silver to black as I thought that this would match the Liquid Carbon more and looks a bit more sleek in general. Also, wood and silver metal is way overused!

Thursday, 13 August 2015


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When I'm bored, I make cables! Here are a few I've made:

From top to bottom:
  • 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter
  • 4-Pin XLR to 6.3mm adapter
  • 2 x Male to Female 3-pin XLR interconnects
  • RCA interconnect

Misc. information

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Updated the misc. information with a to-do list complete with pictures!

Progress so far

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The reason why I decided to start this whole set-up in the first place was because of the Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon being introduced as a new transportable option that still had the famous Cavalli house sound. The grey panels will be made of something like anodized aluminium and the wood out of ply as it's easier to shape than a solid block of wood. I plan to offer a more standard option in a generic enclosure (such as a Hammond) if the demand is there in order to keep costs down and simplify the manufacturing process.It's the same 5 by 7 inch footprint but as you can see, it's a lot thicker. A single power switch is on the front with an integrated LED so I don't need to machine a second hole for the LED. I think this could be as elegant as I can get while retaining the LC form factor.

Let's get this party started!

My thread on HF got deleted so for anyone interested in keeping up to date with my Soekris DAC implementation I've made this blog to post my updates on. I will also post stuff about my personal audio journey here!