The quantization cat in the DAC


QNKTC from Norway has launched the AB-1.2 USB DAC (digital to analogue converter) with a price tag of just £110. The AB-1.2 from QNKTC (quantization noise killed the cat!) is a “compact, elegant and robust DAC that brings superior performance to an entire class of audio products, significantly out-performing the standard DACs found inside these [computer] devices”.
The DAC has its roots in an open source project, as a hardware implementation of the Audio Widget venture. The project was started by an online group who wanted to develop the very best solution for a USB DAC. AB-1.2 is the third analogue board from the project, it lets you play high-resolution audio (up to 24-bits at 192kHz) from Windows, Linux and OSX computers.
The analogue section puts equal focus on the three areas that have a fundamental influence on audio quality. It uses an AKM4430 DAC chip from Asahi Kasai, the clock is made from two precision crystal oscillators from Golledge and the power supply uses low-noise regulators from Analog Devices. The DAC “generates its own negative power supply, something that makes the whole design less complex and easier to implement”. The asynchronous USB receiver “minimizes jitter errors and further improves on sound quality”.
QNKTC was founded by Børge Strand-Bergesen, who is an expert on electronics filter design, circuit board layout and design for manufacturing. Critical analogue signals are kept on short tracks and away from the digital section. We are told that the board design has an obsessive focus on controlled return currents and builds on Strand-Bergesen's experience with radio frequency and analogue ASIC layout.
And the crazy name? Well, on a dark night in an electronics laboratory when Strand-Bergesen was a young engineering student, he was soldering together what he thought would be a revolutionary D/A converter. The sound was spectacular, but the device also randomly kicked out huge electronic noise. Stunned by this surprise observation he went home disappointed. It was only the day after that he realized that the particular combination of digital and analogue filters in this DAC would give the low-frequency quantization noise an enormous gain. And then out of the blue it struck him that, indeed, quantization noise killed the cat!
The AB-1.2 USB DAC can be purchased from with free international shipping.


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