Hi-Fi Kit Building

DAC Kit 2.1 Build - Homepage


My finished DAC Kit 2.1 Level B Signature with USB interface


This section takes you through the build of the newly released DAC Kit 2.1.

I was originally waiting for official upgrades to be released for my DAC Kit 1.1 but instead, the DAC Kit 2.1 was released. I could have upgraded by DAC Kit 1.1 to the new one as there is an upgrade package coming out soon (check with AudioNote Kits) that will upgrade either a DAC Kit 1.1 or 1.2 to the new 2.1 (including new chassis). Instead, however, I decided to go for an entirely new build as I am trying to get together enough components for a decent second system.

This really is an exciting new product - one that I thought I would never see, in fact. Who would have thought that Audio Note would have allowed such a kit to see the light of day.

It sports two separate power supplies; one dedicated to the digital section and one dedicated to the analog section. The digital PSU is actually the one from the older DAC Kit 1.1 that used to be used for the entire DAC. The analog PSU is same M2 power supply that is used in the Kit1 Phono Stage Signature that I built previously. This uses the AudioNote Trans 0103 Mains transformer/Choke combination and Audio Note's M2 power supply board taken, I believe, directly from one of their production models. The M2 power supply board uses both a 6X5 and ECL82 tube for rectification and current regulation respectively.

This means that there are a total of two mains transformers. The two power supplies are even switched on and off independently - yes, there are two mains switches.

The digital board is very similar to the one in my DAC Kit 1.1 with a few changes. The first change is that there is now no analog filter - just like the latest production model DAC's from Audio Note. The second is that the Crystal CS8414CP input receiver is used instead of the older CS8412CP. The signature version of the kit (i.e. this one) comes with the Signature Digital Board. This adds on some Black Gates and a Digital Input Transformer to the digital board.

The analog board is silver hard-wired (although there is a PCB version going to be made available for a simpler build). This board uses an individually heated 6922 valve per channel in SRPP mode. This signature version also has Copper Foil output capacitors, tantalum resistors and Black Gates. I believe that the Audio Note finished product DAC's up to and including their Level 3 DAC's use these same valves.

Information Update: I have been informed that the hard-wired analog board has been dropped as a standard option. This is because many of the less experienced builders have had problems building it correctly and too long has been spent supporting them - making it non cost-effective. A new, high quality PCB board is now supplied as standard. The hard-wired option will still be available, however - but only by special request from the more experienced builders.

Now for the I/V circuitry. From level B, this DAC uses Audio Note I/V transformers for the I/V section as used in Audio Note's finished product DAC's from level 2.1 upward (as far as my web research tells me).

I also went for the USB interface option. This interface is actually bought in from another company by AudioNote Kits. It consists of an add-in board. This allows you to connect the DAC to your computer.

I am building one of the very first DAC Kit 2.1's - from the very first batch, in fact. So some things may change in the time it takes you to build one.

The arrival / First impressions

Extremely well packed, as I have come to expect from AudioNote Kits. The parcel took 6 days to arrive in the UK from Canada.

As you can see from the picture, the parts are separated into functional bags to make component sorting easier.

For the sake of the picture, I removed the packing from around the transformers and choke. The digital board and a few other components were also packed into boxes of their own. All components were cleverly inserted into the chassis, along with packing, and was closed with screws and wrapped in bubble wrap. The chassis was laid on a bed of packaging materials and totally surrounded with more packing. All this meant that the parcel could take some really heavy duty handling that would not affect the contents (despite having very delicate tubes etc.).

Another nice surprise about the kit was the quality and detail of the manual. They seem to improve each time I get one of their kits.

About the DAC Kit 2.1 Range

There are currently three different base models in the range (at time of writing). These can be further upgraded with component options or add-ons like the USB interface. These are:

For more information and pricing, please visit the AudioNoteKits.com website.

A Note on Wiring

Please note that on the remaining pages you will see me use some wiring techniques that you may find off-putting. This is simply the way that I approach wiring jobs. Using simple tie-wraps and/or twisting wires will yield results that are just as good. So, it is up to the builder as to how he or she approaches wiring.

First Steps M2 Power Supply Build M2 Power Supply Secondary Wiring Digital Power Supply Preparation Analog Board Build M2 Power Supply to Analog Board Wiring Digital Board and I/V Transformers USB Option Board Build Final Wiring Finishing Off and Testing Miscellaneous Pictures DAC 2.1 Review

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