DIY Circuit Design?

So I’ve been thinking about building my own USB Soundcard/DAC recently because my internal laptop soundcard sucks. I know there are a bunch of retail solutions that I could go with but I’ve got this itch to build it myself.

So I did some digging and found that this chip is supposed to be a decent DAC and has a bunch of USB functions to boot. The specs even have a sample circuit to boot.

So the questions I have are this:

A. Is this a possible DIY thing? For reference I’m pretty technically minded(code C/C++ for a living).
B. Is there any decent reference for this type of stuff? I took two EE classes way back in my college days but I remember little to none of it.

It looks like they give you enough information that you should be able to wire it up yourself on a breadboard or wire wrap board without too much trouble. If you want an actual circuit board, that’s a bit more complicated, especially when an IC is involved.

What are you trying to get out of it, though? Just the satisfaction of having built something, or a deeper understanding of electronics? A simple circuit like that, where most of the electronics is just to support the IC, won’t really give you much of the latter. Introductory books like this would probably be your best bet as a starting point; most of the info on the web seems rather disjointed and not specifically organized for teaching.

(Disclaimer: I’ve taken a bunch of electronics and digital logic courses, but that was a looooong time ago.)

I got into building electronic control boards for paintball markers a couple of years back, and also only had a few EE courses from college to start. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I was expecting it to be. Google was my best friend, and it let me to a number of good newsgroups. Digikey also has some help service that will help you in the part selection if you get stuck on things. You can get awesome help if you convince them that you are prototyping, and plan to build many of these, and the parts orders will come through them.

If you want to design the hardware on the cheap, look into They have a free design application that allows you to layout and then submit PCB designs directly to them to have them turn out some PCBs very quickly. I used them for all my prototyping. I personally had no problems giving them small amounts of cash to save me from etching a PCB myself. Their software doesn’t output standard Gerber Format (or atleast it didn’t when I used it), but since it sounds like you don’t plan to turn out 1,000s of these by a different PCB house that only accepts GBRs, that should matter to you.

These suggestions are perfect! Thanks a ton!

I was planning on trying to take it further if I get the initial project working so your book suggestion really helps. TI supplies a DSP chip that you can use to adjust Bass/Treble/etc I think it would be fun to have a full blown headphone amp.