High-End audio DAC, multiple ports

I wonder if it’s possible to cram high-end DAC chips inside the dimensions of the expansion module. I’d like to see something like a PCM5122 or an AK4458 with a variety of audio ports exposed.


I don’t really get the need. When you can buy so many DACs that just plug in anyway. As mentioned you would want some amplification in there too for those that like running such headphones. Asking a lot from such a small module size.

Like folks buying the HDMI port. Why when you can use a USB C to HDMI cable?

In response to the last point, HDMI cables are still very very common, and personally I’ve never seen or considered getting a type C-HDMI cable when i can just have a swappable HDMI port and use normal HDMI-HDMI cables. The whole point of the expansion cards is to reduce dongles.


So…instead of dongles…you carry expansion cards? :thinking:

I’m only talking about a cable. No need for a dongle or card.

I’m thinking of hacking apart a USB speaker bar to possibly attach via the bays… Complete with amplifier, headphone jack, and volume knob.

Now, a high quality DAC? I got no idea. But the accessories available for SBC’s like the Raspberry Pi… Those are at least much smaller, and all 5V…

So I don’t think it’s asking too much to fit in one bay… But you ought to expect possible overhang.

I know no matter how I do speakers, they will add a sizable chunk to the case.

I do see this as nothing more than an extreme exercise in managing PCB floorplan and design considering the form factors of those chips, as well as managing 6 or 8 layers with relatively high signal fidelity. HDI design anyone?

And yes, I do want a single-slot module with no overhang xD

Honestly, I get the desire, but I’m totally fine with the 3.5mm output that’s already there and the audio circuitry built on the mainboard. What I’d really love is a DAC with inputs for instrument pickups, in my case violin and guitar. 6.5mm input would be amazing, but the internal dimensions of the socket wouldn’t fit, let alone the female port and all the circuitry you’d need to fit in the module.

I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the Creative Play! 4.

Dirt cheap, drives my IEMs and Audio Technica M50x just fine and has some really handy extra noise cancelling features for voice and video calls. Cost around £20!

By the way, what is the audio spec built into the Framework? I noticed the driver didn’t install from the driver pack and it just sits as a standard audio device in Windows.

Realtec or not? It’s okay did some digging it’s an inherited IDT/Tempo chip.

I realize that USB DACs are the “new hotness” (presumably due to compatibility with smartphones and tablets as well as lacking a need for external power), but I never could help but think they’re technologically a step backwards from optical S/PDIF since one of the main benefits of optical was isolation from RMI and EMI which I would imagine to be more problematic on something like a small laptop than a large full ATX desktop.

So, yeah, that’s always something - an optical S/PDIF output expansion card.

Folks that are into Hi-Fi forget that the computer gear they mostly use now is designed to far higher standards and by people all much smarter than anyone in the Hi-Fi industry. I moved away from a lot of the Hi-Fi world when I saw the same kind of voodoo BS being applied to computer gear as was being applied to the ‘garden shed designed’ audio stuff we’d been buying 30 years previous.

And this is coming from someone that had a all Meridian Hi-Fi system by the time they were 23 back in the early 90’s.

But you know, burn your audio CDs at x1 speed if you got the time to waste. :joy: :rofl:


Well, I am doing some homework on the chips I want to cram in there, and the physical dimensions aren’t looking too good in terms of PCB real estate. Definitely speaks to my lack of experience in designing boards, but I do wonder what the real engineers say.

AK4458: AK4458VN | Audio D/A Converters | Audio Components | Products | Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM)
PCM5122: PCM5122 data sheet, product information and support | TI.com

That can be achieved if I use a codec chip that supports both inputs and outputs, thankfully TI and AKM or (insert vendor here) have those options as well. The amp stages are what I’m worried about, unless they’re already built into the chip.

If you showcase some teardown photos, I’d delightfully try and use them as reference. Then again, if it exhibits high levels of chinesium build quality, maybe not.

And yes, this is definitely terrible value for time and money. Just wanted to see if the physics even allow it to happen.

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Oh, this chip looks promising. The chip’s form factor will be a PITA to hand-solder, but it looks doable (I can hand-solder SOIC/SSOP/QFP at smallest).

The 6.35 mm jack will impose an overhang, but that’s what asked :slight_smile:

Would mini-XLR work better for this scenario instead? There’s a lot less connector needed inside the expansion card iirc. (Though because you asked for 6.35 mm jack you probably want standard inputs on the expansion card imho)

And should that exp. card come into existence, you’d probably end up with the rear end of a Learjet on your FW.



You take the Play! 4 and simply plug it onto your headphones. This it’s just ready to plug into your laptop, like you would headphones into the laptop.

No need to turn it into a card. You’d be carrying headphones anyway…

This is a change they made due to supply constraints, so yours must be one of the newer laptops. My batch 5 Framework has the Realtek codec, and the firmware is noticeable, as well as a few software doodads that were included. The Tempo chip is a “dumb” DAC, where the Realtek was a “smart” one. I remember seeing somewhere that it was a supply issue, they simply couldn’t get the Realtek ones anymore, and so they switched to something that was available.

And in regards to high end DACs, my Fiio BTR5 is working wonders, and while it is certainly a high-end piece of equipment, I can say that the onboard codec of the Framework isn’t noticeably different. I may not be an expert in the field, but I can’t tell a difference, and I’ve gone to not even using the BTR5 with my laptop. It was mostly so I could use audiophile-grade headphones (Grado SR80x’s) with my phone, which has regrettably been stripped of its audio jack.

TL:DR, the Framework DAC is actually rather good, without a noticeable difference in quality from my dedicated one.

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I must say I’ve been playing my IDT/Tempo Framework at home for music to break in the speakers (if that’s a thing really) and on it’s own its not too bad. Miles Davis and Ladyhawke etc. did not sound offended. I added some tape to dampen the tops of the speaker units. No vibration or such when pushed to the max. I might get some 1mm thick sorbothane pads to further dampen/isolate stuff.

That pair exactly

I suppose I should specify here that I wasn’t speaking of the output capacity of the laptop, the Grados are only 32 ohm, you could run them out of an original iPod, so that’s not what I was commenting on. That being said, plugged into my laptop, comfortable volume for me is 4 or 6 (out of the 100, on windows), so there is certainly some power hiding in there. I don’t actually have high-impedance headphones, but I would love to see a test with 200-300 ohm ones.

There are some small USB-C dongles that have high end DACs inside, such as the Hidizs S3 Pro that I have. It manages to squeeze in an ESS9281C, which supports 384/32 PCM, DSD128, and full MQA unfolding. I’ve tried on my Framework; it’s a very small improvement over the built-in Realtek, though it might move ahead a bit more for playing DSD because of its native support for the format.

The circuitry inside the dongle could probably be squeezed into a module. But heat dissipation might be an issue; the S3 Pro gets rather warm if I drive my planar headphones with it, and a module won’t have that exterior metal surface to act as a heat sink.

Of course you can also just use the dongle as it is and not bother to squeeze it into a module. It’s an extra thing to carry, though.

@Nich_Trimble Using the HDMI port is a common enough thing for a lot of us to justify dedicating a port to it. People who use their laptop for presentations are a good example; HDMI is usually what the conference provides, so if your laptop has the port you can just plug in with no muss or fuss.

The same idea applies to the USB-A port. USB storage sticks are ubiquitous, and having the ability to plug one in to move files to or from the Framework is handy. Yes, USB-C sticks exist, but the USB-A ones are far more common and they’re likely to be what somebody hands you at a conference.

My usual travel configuration is 1xUSB-A, 1xHDMI, and 2xUSB-C. For extended battery operation I’ll go to 4xUSB-C for minimum idle power, and if there were blank modules to put in place of a couple of those USB-C I’d probably do it.