Any experience with DIYINHK DACs?

One of our design goals with the Roon API was to allow anyone to get the same experience that Roon Ready products provide within a DIY context. So when we designed the volume/source selection/standby/transport stuff in the API, we made sure that the capabilities exposed to the API were equivalent or better to what is available in the Roon Ready SDK.

So in theory, it should be possible to make a completely DIY DAC that delivers an equivalent experience to a Roon Ready device when you’re actually using it. Basically, the Roon equivalent of a Squeezebox, but with better sound quality and format support.

But no-one has actually tried to do it yet.

In principle, it should be able to take:

  • An inexpensive ARM SBC like a Raspberry Pi or FriendlyARM product
  • A display + transport buttons + ir remote support (all optional)
  • a DIYINHK DAC connected over I2S (+ I2C?)
  • Power supply bits
  • An enclosure

And make a really excellent networked DAC that does all of the PCM/DSD formats with a high quality volume control, transport, display with Roon.

DIYINHK has boards with many really high-end DAC chips including the ESS9018 and ESS9038PRO (both favorites of mine…), but also less pricey options like the ESS9018K2M and ESS9023 (and some non-ESS stuff too…). These take I2S input from an SBC. You can tweak some bits to improve clock characteristics and stuff too.

I’m sure I could figure out the displays/buttons stuff, and the API stuff, but I’m less confident that I’d successfully combine one of these DIYINHK boards with an SBC without breaking something or getting stuck…

Does anyone around here have experience with the DIYINHK stuff? Or other thoughts about this?

I think this would be a fun project.

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This sounded like a fun project to me too, so I talked to brian some and have now ordered a ESS9018K2M version to get started with. I think I’m committed to muddling through now, regardless of anything else :slight_smile:

I think the things we are the most in the dark and could use help about are:

  • How to get audio from the DAC PCB to an amplifier. Can I just solder an RCA jack or something on there and connect it up? Are there any other steps?
  • Power supplies in general. The web page for the DAC PCB I ordered says it needs 300ma at 3.3v, 100ma at 5v, and 100ma at “±12V”. I think as an attempt at doing the simplest thing that might work I’m going to start by using some converters from Adafruit to get from the 5v USB ports on the RPi to 3.3v and 12v, does anyone know how bad that’s likely to be?

is this the dac you are speaking of?

  1. under specifications you will find that it will output 2V RMS that is fairly standard single ended output. You could indeed terminate with RCA plugs. Maybe put some output caps in between.

  2. sounds not optimal but wouldn’t know.

sounds like a really nice project, would like to try it someday. it sounds quite similar to the Beaglebone Black/Botic project. Twisted Pear makes a cape for it which will reclock the i2s signal.