Model S4 is coming


As I wrote in the October 2011 series of TDA1541A articles, back at that time, when I designed Model S USB, I did not plan to design new DACs with TDA1541A anymore, nor to redesign existing ones in any significant way. AYA DACs were already discontinued, and my plan was, once the TDA1541A Taiwan series I was using is spent, to move the other ways. And there were no major changes in the Audial Model DACs design since those days: only some passive parts were replaced, and PCM/I2S direct input was added to the Model S Mk3. Similar small changes were done with late AYA II limited DIY runs.

Now, being faced with depleted TDA1541A Taiwan stock, things look a bit different. It is definitely the best TDA1541A series so far, and I don’t have to add anything here. However, some other series are still available, with performance that is not up to Taiwan production run, but the differences are not that important, to justify dropping such a great DAC designs completely at this moment. That is the first thing.

The second is, back at the same time when I’ve been designing Model S USB, one of my goals was to prove TDA1541A not sounding murky. So the Model S USB was tuned to sound open, with maximum resolution and definition. However, the feedback I had from some Model S USB customers was that, even if it is the highest resolution DAC they’ve ever had or heard, with generally natural tone, it can get a bit too open with some recordings. A comment I’ve never received about S/PDIF Model S, or AYA II DACs.

In the meantime, after Model S USB release, I kept working on USB stage. As good as it originally was, it took me some years to tweak its details. Now, in its current shape, this USB front end can play everything original Model S USB front end could play, and even more than that – and it can play it all in very calm manner, easily, with improved transparency and sound stage positioning.

Obviously, it is a chance to apply these later USB stage developments in the Model S (USB) too. In addition, such a USB / TDA1541(A) setup now can be made to work up to 384 kHz.

The third thing is, with this revision we are making a major step to surface mount parts. Audio critical passive parts not available in SMT will be excepted – so no compromises here. Mind you, SMT does not only facilitate production, it also makes some further layout improvements possible.

Speaking about parts, the good news is, the analog supplies will use Rubycon ZA for local bypasses – my favorite Rubycons that were sadly discontinued several years ago – I came across some stock, that will last for some time.

So, Model S4 is coming, and it will be released this May. It will have USB and S/PDIF input and, with the above described changes, the rest of topology you know from previous Model S DACs.

Until 15th May, Model S4 can be pre-ordered, for an introductory price of €1,800, and price that will apply from 16 till 31 May will be €1,850. Regular price will be 1,950.

Model S USB will be discontinued, whereas Model S Mk3 will remain available, for the time being.




2 Replies

  1. 26-05-2018

    Hello. Just so I’m clear.
    1. The new S4 will be using the tea1541 dac.
    2. The S4 will have spdif and usb inputs.
    3. What sampling frequency will both spdif and usb support.
    4. What is the cost in US dollars for the base model.

  2. 28-05-2018

    Hello Chad,

    Yes, S4 is TDA1541A based DAC, with S/PDIF and USB input.

    At S/PDIF input, max sampling frequency is 96 kHz.

    At USB, S4 with master clocks 11.2896 / 12.288 MHz supports sampling frequencies up to 192 kHz. With master clocks 22.5792 / 24.576 MHz it supports sampling frequencies up to 384 kHz.

    Some people, including myself, prefer to use the lowest possible master clock frequencies. In that way, if you don’t plan to go beyond 192 kHz ever, then I’d suggest the first option. If you however plan to listen to the 352.8 kHz and 384 kHz, then it is the second. The best sound I’ve ever heard came from 352.8 / 384 kHz recordings, but the problem here is that there is not a lot of such recordings around.

    If you choose to pay by credit card / PayPal, it will automatically convert the currency. For payment by bank transfer, the price for the unit with classic capacitively coupled output, which applies until 31 May, is US$ 2150.


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