Endler Audio: Stepped Attenuators, Behringer 2496 Mods, Speaker Cables and Interconnects, Speakers

Behringer 2496 direct out mods

Behringer 2496 direct out mods
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DEQ Direct out mod
Nothing between you and the music but a high quality cap

AK 4395 sounds fantastic
Close up of new dac chip and regulator

2496 direct out mod and AK4395 swap pricing installed.
DEQ2496 single ended with 4uf stacks of foil coupling caps     $245.00
     (Pin 3 left open. For use with an XLR to RCA adapter)
DEQ2496 balanced                                                               $285.00
DCX2496 single ended with 4uf, 3uf and 1uf                             $345.00
DCX2496 balanced                                                                $395.00

The direct out mod eliminates all of the circuitry after the dac chip, taking the analog output straight out of the chip through a stack of foil coupling caps to the xlr pins. The ribbon wires between the digital and output boards are cut to get the audio signal before being polluted by any cheap coupling caps,balanced to single ended conversions, active filters and single ended back to balanced conversions with servo shifting output. This eliminates a series of 4 opamps and countless capacitors and resistors which yields unbelievable sonics with a slight loss of gain. If you want to try it yourself, the wires that you need starting from the red are 7,8,10,11,L+,L-,R+,R- for the DEQ. 3-14 6- to 1+ for the DCX. The Dayton foil caps were chosen in listening tests over several other popular film type caps. In general I can safely say that a foil cap will sound much better than any film cap in a critical application such as this. The AudioCap Theta or ridiculously over priced boutique types such as the MIT should also give good sonics but the Daytons maintain a price performance advantage of 500% over the next reasonably priced contender, the Thetas. There is limited empty space under the hood of the 2496 Behringers so the maximum amount of capacitance is limited to what will fit which is 4uf, 3uf, 1uf for low, mid, high in the DCX and 4uf in the DEQ. The output pins are cut where they come up from the board. in order to accept the signal wires from the caps. Only bend the cut pins on the board side to create the open space. If you bend the pin side it will snap off way up into the plastic. I like the paired strands of the 1701a for hook up wire. I run these in a 6 foot length for my interconnects. They sound great and have replaced my Nordost Interconnects so the 1701a should make a nice hook up wire. The pairs are perfect for a balanced output or can be used with one carrying signal and the other floating ground to shield a single ended implementation where pin 3 will be left open for use only with an RCA adapter or adapting cables. The 4395 dac chip is installed along with a dedicated voltage regulator using an LT1085 in a heatsink and bypassed on all pins.

AK4395 Dac swap is now included in the pricing for the direct out mods.      I finally took the time to develop the circuit mod that the AK4395
needs in order to supply it's 5v ( the 4393 uses 3.3v). It turned out
to be a very straight forward matter of adding another voltage
regulator. The new chip is unbelievable! It adds another quantum leap
in sonics to the one that the direct out accomplishes. The sound stage
is wider, deeper and taller, with a blacker background. Dynamics and
bass slam are an incredible improvement. Air and acoustic decay are
increased in fine detail giving the instruments a more realistic and
musical presentation. I have always liked AK4395 but had put it on the
back burner for years because it seemed that it would need an all new
board to make it more reliable as it was finniky when running on 3.3v.
Now I find that all that was need was to lift pin 2 and supply a
dedicated 5v. The sound is so much better! I am Psyched! Whereas the
4393 benefited from a slight amount of ultrasonic filtering, The AK4395
sounds incredible running straight out to the coupling cap, eliminating
the last few components in the way of the most pure sound I have ever
heard at any price.

AK4395 vs. AK4396 listening comparisons...The AK4396 has been around for a couple of years now and I have had a lot of people asking me about it as a possible upgrade to the AK4393 that comes stock in the Behringer 2496 audio gear but I have just now been able to get my US distributor to supply them. I installed an AK4396 dac chip in a direct out modified DEQ in order to compare it with the AK4395 that I have been recommending. The 4396 drops in to the board space vacated by the AK4393 and works fine on 3.3v with no other mods whereas the 4395 needs an extra regulator to provide 5v to pin 2, assuming that you don’t want to share the analog 5v with the digital pin. It’s interesting that the two chips do sound quite different. Although I usually have little trouble picking one component I like best from listening trials, it has been very difficult for me to choose a clear winner this time. These chips both offer stratospheric performance. It’s funny that I actually started to feel some pressure from my indecision. I also swapped the boards into the opposite chassis to make sure that I was minimizing the variables and tried both 4k and 20k stepped attenuators even though the 20k attenuators don’t work as well with my 22k amps.  The 4396 has a more powerful sound even working into my 4k stepped attenuators despite it’s lower stated power consumption. It throws it’s soundstage closer to the listener, more toward the front line of the speakers and actually plays about 1db louder depending on the program material. The 4395’s bass was heard to extend much further than the stock 4393’s, along with a big improvement in resolving ability, and the 4396 has just as much extension, with a higher level, up into the mid bass. This makes the 4395 sound a bit lean in comparison. On the other hand, the 4395 throws it’s sound stage much deeper, starting just behind the plane of the speakers and going back beyond the front wall of the room. The 4396’s stage is pleasantly a bit taller. The 96 lights the stage more brightly, making each instrument stand apart from the others but lacks the ultimate resolution of the 95’s ability to follow the sounds right to the fine end. Some tracks favor the 4396’s closer presentation as feeling more involving and easier to follow. On other cuts I preferred the 4395’s extra ability to resolve reverberation tails and ambient information, making the 96 feel like it is leaving something behind. So the trade offs went back and forth causing one of those listening binges where you just keep pulling one cd after another off of the shelf, and can’t wait to get home the next day to do it all over again. At this point, with my current associated equipment, I will have to choose the AK4395 for it’s extra resolving ability even though I was hoping the 4396’s more focused and powerful sound would win as it would be easier to install. With different equipment I can see where this might go the other way so I will check back on the 4396 as things in my system change.

Behringer, Benchmark Dac1 comparison.
(And this was with the old mod. The new mod with the ak4395 chip and no filter is another level better than before and would make this comparison no contest.)

I had a great oportunity to compare my digital sources to one of the reigning champions in the price/performance catagory when I was able to borrow a Benchmark DAC1 this week. Listening comparisions at home are of course the best way to know how any of the components in your system stack up against any potential upgrades.

The DAC1 has a quick sound with instuments emerging from a quiet, black background. I found very little difference when flicking the switch between the fixed output and the volume control so the Benchmark would work well with no additional pre or volume control. The stock Behringer DEQ2496 sounds a little thicker but when fed with an upsampled digital feed isn't totally embarrased by the more expensive DAC1 which always makes me wonder what the detractors of the DEQ could be doing better. Neither the DAC1 nor my modified DEQ2496 underwent major changes when switching the upsampling from the SRC2496 in and out showing the effectiveness of the onboard upsampling. The DAC1 should be more insensitive to the quality of the transport that precedes it than other non upsampling DACs. The Modified DEQ (or DCX), however, has the edge in sonics with a nicer sense of bloom and fine resolution as the sounds decay. The background isn't quite as black as the Benchmark, which is exceptional in this regard, but the modified Behringer throws a wider and deeper soundstage with better resolution resulting in more body to vocals and instruments. The DAC1 a little more cardboard cut out by comparison, solid and pasted in place on that black background. The DEQ excels in the bass as well with the superior resolution adding the final touch of detail that makes it seem as though you hear the individual swings of the string as it passes the pickup of well recorded electric bass. The Bechmark a bit dryer.

The DAC1 has worked it's way onto the short list of often recommended digital sources making it, indeed, a benchmark for comparison. That the Behringers, when modified, can surpass the sonics of such a well known contender is good news for those of us that appreciate using the immense power of their digital signal proccessing.