Connect with us

Basic DAC Question

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by [email protected], May 25, 2007.

Scroll to continue with content
  1. Guest

    I have three questions about theoretical THD+N distortion while
    sine waves with DACs.

    First question: Assuming a perfect DAC with perfect analog
    obviously a DAC with fewer bits will create a sinewave with larger
    and thus will have a higher percentage of THD+N, but how do I
    the exact percentage?

    Second question: I know about the Nyquist limit and it seems to me
    as the Nyquist limit is approached the sinewave will have bigger
    no matter how many bits it has and thus will have a higher percentage
    of THD+N, but how do I calculate the exact percentage?

    Third question; In the real world I wouldn't have perfect analog
    components; in fact I would purposely introduce a lowpass filter
    at the output of the DAC to attenuate the switching noise. How
    much would that change the answers to the questions above?


    We need to replace an old system that generates 20 Hz to 20 kHz sine
    waves with a 12 bit DAC that puts out a 4096-step sine wave -- the
    same number of steps whether it is putting out 20 Hz or 20 kHz.
    A variable oscillator changes the clock rate of a counter that
    gets the values from an EPROM lookup table.

    We were discussing replacing the above with a modern DAC -- either
    16 bits at 44.1 ksps or 24 bits at 96 ksps. The objection was
    raised that at 20Khz we are putting out 4096 x 20,000 sps, or
    81.92 Msps. I am guessing that 96 ksps with a added filter at
    the DAC output is good enough. The final power stage starts
    slew-rate limiting at 30-40 kHz with large signals and the small-
    signal response is 3dB down at 50Khz and way down in the mud at
    100KHz. I just don't see how it needs over 80 megasamples per
    second to keep the THD+N reasonably low. Am I right?
  2. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    If you just want a sine wave, use an Analog Devices DDS chip. For
    under $10, the whole job is done for you, DAC and all. The effective
    sample rate will be so high, 20 MHz maybe, that the most primitive
    output filter will do.

  3. What is this being used for ?- ie what specs do you need to meet ?

    You are right that 20KHz is easier than 20Hz, because the upper
    frequency can have post filtering, to push any harmonics down.
    Having said that, going from 82Msps to 96Ksps is a drop of
    nearly 1000:1, which is a large system change. Will it matter that
    you now have just over 4 samples per full cycle at 20KHz ?

  4. Good idea. They also have an ARM variant ADuC7128), with DDS included,
    so you might be able to take that, and clone part of the present
    system interface, into a one chip retro-replacement.

  5. Phil Allison

    Phil Allison Guest


    ** It depends on the nature of the digital signal the DAC is converting and
    the bandwidth of the post filter.

    At the expense of a small increase in noise, THD at the output can be almost
    eliminated by "dithering " the incoming data stream.

    ** Wrong - s/n and linearity are not affected. Sampling theory shows that
    just over two precise samples per cycle *fully* characterises a sine wave. A
    sine wave only has three parameters to capture - amplitude, frequency and

    No others.

    You need to read tests results from CD players to get the idea in your head
    of how nearly perfect the process is.

    ** A "reconstruction filter" is essential to any D to A.

    ** Converting at over 80 MHz is quite a feat.

    Care to name that DAC ?

    ** No - you are totally wrong !!

    The sampling rate of an audio DAC is fixed.

    The term is " samples per second " - not " samples per cycle "

    Go read Nyquist and Shannon again, cos you have missed to most important

    Pun intended.

    ....... Phil
  6. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    It's not necessary to hit every step in a sine lookup table, which is
    why you can get a high-resolution 20 KHz sine wave at a mere 44 KHz
    (CD) sample rate. At higher frequencies, you can start making
    many-address hops in the table without penalty. The filter fixes it
    all up.

    The advantage of higher sample rates (say, 96 KHz instead of 44) is
    that the filter need not be so good, and the zero-order-hold (sinc)
    rolloff is mostly eliminated.

  7. I have been curious about that chip since it was released - do you
    happen to know what it was actually designed for?
  8. The press release says this " For smart sensing applications, the
    ADuC7128 features a 32-bit on-chip DDS that operates at 21 MHz." -

    there are some sensore, like LVDS, that like sine drive.
    But there are some things they seems to have overlooked, and
    you get the impression this was a simple cut and paste job.

    For example, quadrature sine drive could have been useful,
    allowing Sin/Cosine meters to be drivem using the Sine ROM.
    They also have no digital phase path, from the DDS.

    It seems you must read the DDS via the ADC, and do the
    same with a response channel, and then use SW to
    calculate the Phase.

  9. Guy Macon

    Guy Macon Guest

    With the specified large signal slew rate limit of 30 kHz and small
    signal rolloff at 50Khz, most of the frequency cmponents that make
    a 20 kHz 4 samples per cycle stepped waveform different from a pure
    sine wave are too high for this system to reproduce. Add a filter
    at the DAC output (which you have to do anyway) and it gets even
    better. Factor in the fact that THD+N is specified over some
    frequency range and 4 samples per cycle looks even better. If the
    THD+N meter was perfect and measured only up to, say, 30kHz, a
    harmonic at 40 kHz would not be measured. Real THD+N meters will
    let a bit of the out of band harmonics in, but less and less as
    the harmonics get higher.

    That being said, I have to admit that I also don't know how to
    calculate the theoretical THD+N in percent starting from the
    number of bits and the sample rate. I have seen lookup tables
    for number of bits vs. THD, but not for the sample rate to
    signal frequency ratio vs. THD. There must be a formula for
    calculating those numbers, but I can't find it.
  10. Guest

    I just got in a sample board of the old design and looked at it with
    scope. I was told that it had a 12 bit DAC that puts out a 4096-step
    sine wave at 20Hz to 20kHz. On the board I saw an Analog Devices
    which isn't fast enough.

    I set the output to 20Hz, and measured the DAC clock at 82kHz. That
    seemed right (20*4096=81,920.) As I raised the output frequency the
    DAC clock went up, but at 626 Hz and 2.6MHz the DAC clock suddenly
    dropped in half -- but the output frequency didn't. This happened
    again at 1251Hz, 2501Hz. 5001 Hz. and 10001 Hz. At the top end I
    saw little stair steps in the output. About 128 of them in each

    It looks to me like the board is going to a different part of the
    EPROM for a sinewave with fewer steps each time it drops the DAC
    clock in half. So the 4096 steps are only at low frequencies.
    There are only 256 steps above 5kHz and 128 steps above 10kHz.

    Here is how I think they are doing it:

    20*4096 = 81,920
    625*4096 = 2,560,000
    1,250*2048 = 2,560,000
    2,500*1024 = 2,560,000
    5,000*512 = 2,560,000
    10,000*256 = 2,560,000
    20,000*128 = 2,560,000

    They also sent me a manual, which is a good thing because they also
    misinformed me when they said it always puts out sine waves. There
    is also a setting labeled "PEAK-RMS 1.246" that looks like a sinewave
    with some hard clipping. It looks nice and clean at 20Hz but at
    not so nice at the output. I need to find out how high they need
    to go with it. No official word but one of the technicians claims
    that he has only seen the PEAK-RMS 1.246 setting used at 50, 60,
    and 400 Hz. Ain't discovering customer requirements grand? I wish
    they would just tell me what they are trying to accomplish instead
    of giving me specs that are wrong.
  11. CBFalconer

    CBFalconer Guest

    If you want serious discussion read the following sig and the URL.

    If you want to post a followup via, ensure
    you quote enough for the article to make sense. Google is only
    an interface to Usenet; it's not Usenet itself. Don't assume
    your readers can, or ever will, see any previous articles.
    More details at: <>
  12. That being said, I have to admit that I also don't know how to
    Some (most?) spice engines allow table entry, and will do fourier plots,
    so you could enter the sine LUT into a table and
    run the fourier ?
    I recall ~1yr ago, bumping into a table limit in B2Spice,
    and got them to fix it for this type of use, but no, I have
    not done this specific table usage.

  13. CB: do us all a favour and get a newsreader that threads. Then we can look
    forward to your signal-to-noise ratio improving significantly.

  14. Guest

    There seems no(?) easy way to estimate the THD based on DAC bits and
    the number of points per cycle and a final filter form.
    At 20Hz there's a massive number of points building up a each precise
    single cycle and at 16bits, distortion will naturally be about 0.02%.
    The filter though will only be stripping off harmonics beyond the
    1000th and at a rate dependant on it's rolloff and shape. Up at 20kHz,
    the reduced points per cycle may be giving an intrinsic 3% THD but the
    filter will now be biting very hard on the 2nd harmonic and all above.
    Final distortion entirely dependant on the particular filter used. Pro
    rata for all intermediate frequencies. It smells like some kind of
    balancing act is going on that is sufficient to always give a low
    distortion figure.

    Maybe do the new design just the same way as the existing but using a
    modern 16 bitter. Maybe speed it up as well. The binary dividing
    method has similarity to the workings of a DDS chip but has a far
    superior output waveform as there is no distortion added due to
    (unfilterable) non harmonic spurs and jitter.
  15. It wouldn't do any harm for C.N to include a little context for us
    latecomers. :)

  16. ^^^^

    Please take the time to learn that there is no apostrophe in the
    possessive its.

    It damages your credibility.

  17. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    The usual expression is that

    s/n = 6.02N - 1.249 dB

    and is independent of sample rate if the usual sampling rules are
    followed, and assuming an ideal dac. This assumes that the signal has
    a gaussian distribution and averages 1/4 of ADC full scale. Whatever
    the definition of "signal", the improvement in s/n remains 6.02 dB per
    added bit.

  18. Phil Allison

    Phil Allison Guest

    "John Larkin"

    ** For the full scale sine wave case (as in the OP's question) the formula

    Quantisation noise for an ideal DAC

    = 6.02N + 1.76 dB.

    = about 3 dB better.

    ........ Phil
  19. Why do you want to know the _total_ _harmonic_ distortion for a
    sampled audio? system ?.

    There is always the classical formula for SNR in dB = 1.76 dB +6.02n,
    in which n is the number of bits.

    Some of the noise components are outside the required audio passband,
    especially when some form of noise shaping is used and thus filtered

    In a sampled system, you will only get strong _harmonic_ components,
    when the produced waveform is a subharmonic of the sampling frequency,
    at other generated frequencies, the same noise power is distributed
    among a very large number of frequencies, creating a noise floor.

    Look at the spectrum for a DDS system, there are usually a noise
    floor, but at some frequencies, the noise power is concentrating on a
    few discrete spurs, while the frequencies in between are very quiet.

  20. Phil Allison

    Phil Allison Guest

    "Paul Keinanen"

    ** Funny how so many folk are interested in the linearity of an audio system
    and wanna know the THD figure - maybe they know more than you.

    Good old THD testing is the simplest measure of linearity and when done
    across the whole audio band is very informative.

    Sometimes two high level, high frequency tones are used for DAC and ADC
    tests (where the difference signal is noted) to avoid the post filter
    enhancing the THD figure.

    ........ Phil
Ask a Question
Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?
You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.
Electronics Point Logo
Continue to site
Quote of the day