Author Topic: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/54/55/64  (Read 10241 times)

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Offline rascal101

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Parallel input DAC - PCM53/54/55/64
« on: Apr 22, 2011 at 04:18 AM »
Just wanted to ask the other advantages of these parallel input DACs compared to their serial input counterparts besides the obvious conversion time and easier implementation of NOS (non-oversampling).

Most DACs use serial input followed by a shift register so timing is critical on these type of DACs. The shift register operation also causes glitches thus requiring de-glitch circuitry.
« Last Edit: Jun 16, 2016 at 05:46 AM by rascal101 »

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #1 on: Apr 22, 2011 at 04:28 AM »
Do you get better monotonic performance with parallel input or is monotonicity strictly dependent on architecture?

Offline lncc63

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #2 on: Apr 22, 2011 at 10:05 PM »
Hi Bro.  If I remember correctly, the monotonicity of a DAC does not depend on the digital frontend circuity but rather on how well matched the internal analog components are.
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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #3 on: Apr 22, 2011 at 10:09 PM »
Newbie question bro:  these DACs are used to convert a digital stream from a CD for example into the equivalent analog signal for input to a power amp - is this right?
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Offline Stagea

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #4 on: Apr 23, 2011 at 01:46 PM »
Do you get better monotonic performance with parallel input or is monotonicity strictly dependent on architecture?

I don't think that it's a determinant for good monotonic performance, especially for new DACs. New DAC designs are typically double-buffered, and don't really care how they're fed (as long as the interface supports it). Serial-fed designs now dominate, as it keeps noise down (fewer data lines) and can be quite a bit cheaper.

Older designs were more primitive (minimal or no logic circuitry), and relied on being parallel-fed.

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #5 on: Apr 23, 2011 at 09:12 PM »
I don't believe noise is dependent on being serial input. If one is to look into the total harmonic distortion+noise (THD+N) this is strictly based on architecture and number of bits. Further, the glitch caused by the shift register operation on the serial to parallel block (for serial input DACs) was a concern during the early days of DAC development.

Parallel input DACs did not really dominate when they were introduced some time ago. Due to cost consideration and real estate there are very few P/Ns even now. They are mostly used in military, industrial and test equipment applications where conversion time is critical.

The advantage of parallel input is you do not have the serial to parallel interface block which is typical for majority of DACs. Without this block there is a definite improvement in conversion time.

Offline lncc63

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #6 on: Apr 23, 2011 at 10:20 PM »
Architecture and the number of bits do play a significant part in the THD+N figures.  This is because number of bits directly relates to the number of devices or in some architectures to the the level of tolerances that have to be achieved.  Burr-Brown DACs are still laser trimmed I suppose.  Its been a long time since I had a databook in hand.  Laser trimming is what makes these devices so expensive to make.
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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #7 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 01:39 AM »
I don't believe noise is dependent on being serial input. If one is to look into the total harmonic distortion+noise (THD+N) this is strictly based on architecture and number of bits. Further, the glitch caused by the shift register operation on the serial to parallel block (for serial input DACs) was a concern during the early days of DAC development.

Parallel input DACs did not really dominate when they were introduced some time ago. Due to cost consideration and real estate there are very few P/Ns even now. They are mostly used in military, industrial and test equipment applications where conversion time is critical.

The advantage of parallel input is you do not have the serial to parallel interface block which is typical for majority of DACs. Without this block there is a definite improvement in conversion time.

Parallel lines cause noise on the digital signal due to capacitance between the lines. I'm not talking about the analogue performance, I'm talking about the digital signal fed to the DAC (rise and fall time, ripple, etc.).

They are used for military purposes mostly because they need a simpler chip design for robustness (mission-critical application), not because they are inherently superior in conversion performance imo. The same way how flash memory for military purposes are based on more mature processes. Most new DAC designs buffer the data (whether it's connected to a parallel or a serial interface), and they don't care how the buffers are filled as long as they get filled on time.
« Last Edit: Apr 24, 2011 at 01:45 AM by Stagea »

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #8 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 06:02 AM »
I believe you have not fully considered that at audio electronics clock freq is so much lower than digital electronics in microprocessors and micro-controllers. Pin to pin and track to track spacing is well defined among PCB layout and IC layout engineers and as such only few pF capacitance is achieved. Even a simple test of 100pF capacitance in parallel with a high freq clock, you are still able to achieve 20V/uS slew rate or pass 20MHz signal. As such, your concern for capacitance is good but not that critical.

« Last Edit: Apr 24, 2011 at 06:08 AM by rascal101 »

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #9 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 09:10 AM »
I believe you have not fully considered that at audio electronics clock freq is so much lower than digital electronics in microprocessors and micro-controllers. Pin to pin and track to track spacing is well defined among PCB layout and IC layout engineers and as such only few pF capacitance is achieved. Even a simple test of 100pF capacitance in parallel with a high freq clock, you are still able to achieve 20V/uS slew rate or pass 20MHz signal. As such, your concern for capacitance is good but not that critical.

You are correct, I forgot about the slower clock rate. It comes down mostly to cost, then (in terms of manufacturing cost and board space). With no obvious trade-off in performance for newer designs, it just made sense for manufacturers to start going serial.

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #10 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 10:18 AM »
On the surface as far as specs are concerned, you are correct that newer designs appeal to most companies as specs and costs are met. However, as far as some people are concerned not all are specs. Some are also concerned with how many steps it takes you to attain the good specs. For these people, the less number of steps with good specs is better.
« Last Edit: Apr 24, 2011 at 10:26 AM by rascal101 »

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #11 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 11:00 AM »
On the surface as far as specs are concerned, you are correct that newer designs appeal to most companies as specs and costs are met. However, as far as some people are concerned not all are specs. Some are also concerned with how many steps it takes you to attain the good specs. For these people, the less number of steps with good specs is better.

I guess that boils down to preference, then. I personally don't think that buffering the feed is all that intrusive, especially since the data still remains intact. Of course, some people might think otherwise.

I pass my data through many stages before it even gets to my DACs, and getting a few extra ticks of latency on top of that doesn't really bother me.

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #12 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 11:12 AM »
Just wanted to share this ...

There are 4 application types that I know - commercial, industrial, military and JAN (only tested in the US). At Final Test, the lot travellers for these are very similar and the only difference is the temp and # of tests. The JAN application is same as the military however, the lot traveller is very thick and on close inspection, it is basically military but the tests are repeated over and over. The one that distinguishes industrial, military and JAN vs commercial is the package. Hermetic package is used such as metal can and ceramic as these have much more stable performance over a wide temp range.

The very first process to make DACs is the wafer fabrication where the parts (wafers) are laser trimmed to distinguish the grades. Since IC layout is the same for all the application types of a specified P/N, the laser trimming ensures that the different grades meet specified performance levels.

At Final Test to get JAN, the wafers that pass top grade military application are used.  On first pass testing on JAN lot traveller, yield is typically around 1% to 25%. And after all tests are completed (based on information that I know) yield is typically less than 50% of first pass yield. Yield is quite low for JAN but gradually increases in Military, Industrial and Commercial application. In Commercial application, yield is typically in the high 80s and 90s.

For a design to meet all four application types is very tough. The design process and development is long and hard. Only outstanding electrical designs make it. Things such as:

(1) The IC layout compliance with the wafer fabrication processes and requirements

(2)  Short test times both at Wafer fabrication and Final Test
- There is a trial run on all designs. And, one need to justify test set-up costs. Test times must also comply with standards - with test time for one part taking from >30 seconds to a few minutes depending on DAC P/N and tester used, it takes much time to complete lot size of 500. Since tests is typically done at 3 temperatures it becomes frustrating if one encounters problem during testing. Add the QA test after Final Test and you know how precious time is for DACs.

(3) Overall yield and yield to grade should justify development costs to ensure ROI

This make the DAC designers job very difficult.

It is with this reason that I look at the architecture, specs and history of a particular DAC. There is a story behind each one and for me it is good to know what people went through to develop it.

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #13 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 11:35 AM »
Hi Bro.  If I remember correctly, the monotonicity of a DAC does not depend on the digital frontend circuity but rather on how well matched the internal analog components are.

That is correct. It is not at the front end.

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #14 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 11:36 AM »
Newbie question bro:  these DACs are used to convert a digital stream from a CD for example into the equivalent analog signal for input to a power amp - is this right?

Yes. The DACs convert the digital data stream from CD to analog signal.

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #15 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 01:04 PM »
I think the next question is why bother with these DACs when there is so much more to choose from. These DACs are obsolete and only vintage CDPs have them.

Unfortunately, this is all true. However, as somebody who has tried my fair share of CDPs and DACs, I have observed that DACs with so many circuit blocks do not sound as natural or organic as those who have less. This is my opinion. As such, I have come to prefer these DACs which fortunately my current CDPs have.
« Last Edit: Apr 24, 2011 at 01:05 PM by rascal101 »

Offline lncc63

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #16 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 01:22 PM »
Thanks bro.  First time for me to hear about "JAN" grade IC's but maybe this is the grade for medical applications.
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Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #17 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 01:27 PM »
JAN actually means Joint Army Navy. These are strictly for US military use only  :)
« Last Edit: Apr 24, 2011 at 01:28 PM by rascal101 »

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #18 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 02:15 PM »
Thanks again, bro.

....

Did some more searching ... it seems this is a big thing in the audiophile world.  Took longer than usual to find the references because more often than not this is referred to as JANSPEC.

Interesting.  One less "itch" to scratch :).
« Last Edit: Apr 24, 2011 at 02:44 PM by lncc63 »
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Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #19 on: Apr 24, 2011 at 03:06 PM »
You're welcome  :)

Yes. Specially with tubes many are looking for JAN grade.

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #20 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 06:52 AM »
Why bother with these when they are obsolete?

The only reason and the best is, because we are music enthusiasts. We dont care how old the design is, only that it takes us closer to our music nirvana. The ones who takes specs and puts them in the waste basket - we judge by what we hear not what the specs are.

The people who still swear by vinyl, tubes and various vintage design. Unfortunately, when people get lost with specs, people forget to focus on the most important thing - how does it actually sound? Does it really sound better? More natural?

Newer designs sound more and more artificial compared to the real sound such as the sound of the voice and various music instruments. Old CD players with all the irritating digital artifacts sound more natural than the new 24 bit players.

Offline lncc63

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #21 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 08:09 AM »
Actually, there is a perfectly scientific reason why vacuum tubes can produce better, more natural sound.   The reason is that their transfer characteristic (physics) is more linear than other devices such as bipolar and MOS transistors, and linearity directly translates to accurate (thus more natural) reproduction.  The less linear a device is the greater the distortions it will introduce. 

Be that as it may, I like UPGRADES :).  I started in vacuum tubes, and admittedly do enjoy the nostalgic moments, however I do enjoy Class D amplifiers, variable bus voltages, feed forward DSP compensation, etc. 

By the way, the world is INHERENTLY non-linear.  So maybe the audiophile's holy grail of perfect reproduction is actually a delusion.  PEACE.
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Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #22 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 08:44 AM »
To a certain degree, I can accept that tube designs tend to sound "better". But I also notice that there are less parts with tube design. However, this does not mean that solid state is inherently worse. Maybe the right word is "different". Of which can mean, "less better" or "just right" to some.

This is what I emphasized in this thread, the word less. DAC architecture with less circuit blocks (translating to lesser number of parts) and still meeting good specs tend to sound "better" or much more natural (organic).

Yes sometimes we all get lost. Sometimes it is with specs, sometimes it is the subjectivity. That is why I think it is always good to have some balance. This way we have can the best of the different points of view.

Offline rascal101

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #23 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 08:53 AM »
So maybe the audiophile's holy grail of perfect reproduction is actually a delusion.  PEACE.

Not really because when we are contented and happy the "perfect" reproduction can exist. It is when we hear other set-ups or start realizing some things and start doubting that our view of "perfect" reproduction is eroded.

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #24 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 09:02 AM »
I could not have said it better myself bro.  Some are however content with always feeing uncontent.
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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #25 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 09:56 AM »
Why bother with these when they are obsolete?

The only reason and the best is, because we are music enthusiasts. We dont care how old the design is, only that it takes us closer to our music nirvana. The ones who takes specs and puts them in the waste basket - we judge by what we hear not what the specs are.

The people who still swear by vinyl, tubes and various vintage design. Unfortunately, when people get lost with specs, people forget to focus on the most important thing - how does it actually sound? Does it really sound better? More natural?

Newer designs sound more and more artificial compared to the real sound such as the sound of the voice and various music instruments. Old CD players with all the irritating digital artifacts sound more natural than the new 24 bit players.

How do we define a "natural" sound? High fidelity reproduction should be more or less faithful to the recording. Just because it sounds good doesn't mean it's correct, and very few people actually know how the recording should sound like. Specs and measurements help us put some things in rough numbers, which serves as an indicator of product or component performance. I agree however that spec sheets don't reveal everything, as a big chunk of the relevant data is often obscured from the end user's view.

Also, I consider CD players as 16-bit players (because of the media's resolution), including those that do upconversion. We both know that it can't just make data out of thin air. I'd like to add that most of these don't really handle 24-bit depth internally, but offer equivalent resolution (by running the usual delta-sigma approach). I find upconversion often unnecessary (though I use it), however upsampling and/or oversampling is usually beneficial in my opinion (I'm not a NOS advocate).

I could not have said it better myself bro.  Some are however content with always feeing uncontent.

I think personal contentment with audio gear can only be achieved after deliberate acceptance --- acceptance that what one has is not the best, but does the job satisfactorily. Whether this is a desirable trait, is really up to each individual.

On the other hand, product developers should never be contented with the status quo. Their job is to push the boundaries of cost, performance, and overall product desirability. As such, they are always looking for opportunities for improvement in the current product line.

Actually, there is a perfectly scientific reason why vacuum tubes can produce better, more natural sound.   The reason is that their transfer characteristic (physics) is more linear than other devices such as bipolar and MOS transistors, and linearity directly translates to accurate (thus more natural) reproduction.  The less linear a device is the greater the distortions it will introduce.  

I think the proper use of negative feedback can help solid state designs enough to diminish this disadvantage significantly, at least for typical audio use (we're not talking ultra-minute signal levels).
« Last Edit: Apr 25, 2011 at 10:30 AM by Stagea »

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #26 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 10:50 AM »
I think the proper use of negative feedback can help solid state designs enough to diminish this disadvantage significantly, at least for typical audio use (we're not talking ultra-minute signal levels).

Which is one reason why solidstate designs have so many more parts. 

What do non-linearities have to do with "ultra-minute signal levels", bro?  Noise, if I remember correctly, is the greater concern when dealing with for such signals.
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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #27 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 11:11 AM »
What do non-linearities have to do with "ultra-minute signal levels", bro?  Noise, if I remember correctly, is the greater concern when dealing with for such signals.

I didn't mean it that way. It's about negative feedback, since it reduces gain (closed loop gain in this case). A design with little or no negative feedback (or utilizing positive feedback) may be better for very minute input signals, as there might be less need for more gain stages.

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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #28 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 12:25 PM »
I see, now I understand what you meant to say and I agree 100% ... not that I can agree about using positive feedback ... too messy in analog I'd think.   Nearly 20 years ago, I had a hand in an ECG.  Its all rather rusted up so I'm glad for these discussion.  Off topic but I wonder if anyone is applying modern control systems such as those used in fighter flight controls to audio system ... some audiophiles don't seem to care about money anyway :).


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Re: Parallel input DAC - PCM53/44/55/64
« Reply #29 on: Apr 25, 2011 at 02:14 PM »
The lack of objective standards for proper evaluation of audio performance is most telling in audio electronics.

This is why things such as negative feedback are such hot topics for discussion.

Until we get to the level that different disciplines in electronics have in place specially in auditable objective standards I'm afraid we may never see an end to such discussions.