Just reading a review of a Swiss made DAC from CH Precision, and for the DAC duties, after oversampling they use “ Burr-Brown’s PCM1704 R-2R ladder DAC chip”, same as the current ND555 and its predecessor the NDS.
This DAC is not a copycat however, with some serious engineering and eye-watering pricing “ CH Precision C1.2 D/A Controller ($43,000 as equipped), aided at the moment by a complete CH Precision digital front-end: the X1 power supply ($20,500), the T1 clock ($24,500)”.
When the designer was asked why use this chip (4 of them, per channel) he replied “The fact that it is a monolithic chip makes it both consistent and wonderfully accurate to work with, something that a discrete ladder cannot achieve even with the highest precision resistors,” Cossy answered. He also wrote, “Even though it is an ‘old’ chip, it more than meets current requirements.”
So a new DAC design, operating in the upper atmosphere of HiEnd using the same DAC technology and designs as our Naim equipment despite all the ‘modern’ alternatives.
My NDS is from 2016 (manufactured late 2015 according to the SN) and is just great, just used just as a UPnP streamer playing uncompressed WAV within a Roon system.
Here the Roon Core handles all manner of formats (MQA to 1st unfold, DXD, DSD 128-512, etc.) and services (Tidal incl. Tidal Master with the MQA support, Qobuz etc.) and gives my Roon Display on a screen I can see from across the room i.e. my TV, and the SonoreUPnP Bridge interfaces with Roon and sends the UPnP stream in WAV to the NDS.
The NDS/555DR combo has no more processing to undertake with no multiple format or internet services support required, just performing a function it was designed and optimized to do.
I have suggested that Naim strip out the Tidal, Spofity and iRadio functionality from the NDS firmware and just provide a ‘UPnP only’ stripped down mode and see how this sounds.
Plus the Roon setuo also plays into a bunch of Chromecast devices elsewhere in the house, plus the Mobile endpoint, Roon ARC for listening in original format while out and about and in the car.
The chips themselves were graded at manufacturing by BB/TI with U, J and K designations. U being the chips measuring the worst values but still capable of being shipped and used in finished goods.
Despite the pedigree and status of the component, supply is the main issue. Longer term looking to the next 10-15 years of product design, Naim will have to consider what to do next. Ideally they would take the NRE hit and invest in doing their own design in-house with contract manufacturing of components.
They could always buy the IPR of the 1704 off of TI perhaps and make their own as an alternative.
Naim allegedly stockpiled enough of these DAC chips to ensure sufficient stock to produce the ND555 despite it being discontinued. That begs the question, how did CHP subsequently obtain stocks of the same chip. Perhaps stready demand has persuaded TI to continue production after all.
Perhaps Naim will engineer their own ladder…when supplies dwindle…I suspect when the next big update comes for the ND555 … it will showcase a new platform…time will tell. I recon thats at least 2 to 3 years away.
At the very least you’d expect some R&D cycles to evaluate the “art of the possible” given currently available technology, adapting technology currently available to a Naim design or even developing something fundamentally new and done in house.
There’s plenty of praise to be aimed at what is currently in mass production and available but eventually it no longer makes sense to maintain a platform or implimentation based on availability of components, platform support in firmware/software or more general changes in the market and consumer expectations.
Aqua Hifi, TotalDAC, Monarchy … a number of very fine DAC:s have been build around the 1704.
I have some trace of memory saying they were built with a chip build-process not being used anymore. Perhaps having something to do with the new PSU not having the voltages needed for the nDAC etc … just guessing.
Well cost per yield is quite significant. IIRC, Naim had two grades. CD555/ND555 and nDAC. Something like only 10% measure within Naim’s tolerance for the 555 series. And of what’s left, 50% measure acceptable for the nDAC. And the remaining chips are not used or possibly resold.
I might have the rejection ratios a bit off but I don’t think by much. So take that into account, including the time and expense of testing and grading them makes each chip quite expensive.
In fact a lot of Naim components go through a grading process with a high degree of perfectly in-spec rejects simply because the components are not within “Naim specs”.