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