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Audio-gd’s R2R 11 is another $350 R-2R DAC

  • Audio-gd is no Johnny-come-lately. The Chinese company has been making DACs, headphone amplifiers and two-channel components for well over ten years with the value quotient delivered by their PCM-1704-K DAC designs remaining largely unsurpassed to this day. The catch? For the majority of territories, customers buy blind; direct from the factory.

    Some listeners prefer the sound of an R-2R DAC because of its native handling of PCM data. Delta-sigma chips must first move the incoming 16-bit or 24-bit data to a lower bit depth but higher sample rate before it can be decoded.

    In contrasting the sonic flavour of both D/A conversion topologies, Audio-gd CEO and product designer Kingwa likens delta-sigma to a hi-res digital photograph and R-2R to an oil painting and invites us to choose our own adventure. He makes both types of DAC.

    But what to do now that PCM-1704 chip supply has all but dried up? Like many other manufacturers in the same sticky situation, Kingwa has taken to designing his own R-2R decoder modules.

    As its name suggests, the Audio-gd R2R 11 is an R2R DAC with three digital inputs – coaxial, TOSLINK and native DSD-capable Amanero USB – but also a dual-gain-mode headphone amplifier whose 6.4mm socket is governed by an ALPS volume pot.

    Further, the R2R 11’s rear-facing single-ended analogue output can be clicked from fixed to variable output (and back again) for digital pre-amplifier functionality. Just add powered loudspeakers.

    The R2R 11 features “Built in 2 groups DA-8 R-2R modules with 450MHz ultra speed CPLD”. According to Audio-gd’s website, sourcing precision made resistors is only half of an R-2R DAC’s story. The CPLD digital wizardry compensates for the inaccuracies in resistor manufacturing which Kingwa claims is a long way from good enough for even 16-bit audio.

    It also looks like this R-2R DAC’s output stage is fully discrete (no op-amps) with its power supply remaining independent of the digital board’s.

    At US$350, Audio-gd’s R2R 11 lands right next to the Airist Massdrop DAC but without the six month wait time.

    Further information: Audio-gd

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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    Airist Audio’s R-2R DAC: $350 via Massdrop

    OnSight: a video view of HEDD Audio