Audinst HUD-MX2

audinst_hud-mx2_01

 Disclaimer: The HUD-MX2 sample unit is supplied by Audinst, site sponsor of Headfonia.

 

Arguably the most successful USB DAC I’ve seen now returns bigger and with more ammo, but this time in a world more packed with competition.

Even now, I still think that the HUD-MX1 is still incredibly competitive for the price bracket that it’s competing at. For a high $100 price, what other DAC can compete to it? I’ve seen it take on famous DACs during its time and come out superior. What is there left to improve?

The return of the HUD-MX1 as the Audinst HUD-MX2 brings a lot of new challenges as it’s priced quite higher than the original. At $248, it’s $70 more than the original. Not exactly bank breaking number, and if we were looking at a $1,000 DAC we won’t even consider that difference to be there. But at the entry level range, that $70 brings the Audinst well into the $200 bracket, and really close to the range of DACs from Centrance and Topping, for instance.

The addition of a toslink input is quite handy for those who needs them, but hardly a major enough point to push sales. It nicely adds support for 88.2kHz sampling rate, which for me is clearly the best all around sampling rate for music listening. High enough to beat a typical 44.1 and analog enough compared to 96 and up. I still lament, however, the missing gain toggle switch, though gain can be changed by opening the case (very inconvenient) and changing the jumpers inside.

One of the most worthy addition is the explicit ability to run from i-Devices and Androids. The older MX1 supposedly ran on i-Devices, but not on Androids. I haven’t been able to test it on those configurations, so I’m going to talk more about the sound quality and what that $249 means in today’s world of USB DACs rather than a feature review.

audinst_hud-mx2_02

 

Sound Impressions

Though based on mostly a lot of different new chips (a VIA USB receiver, a PCM1796 DAC, an OPA2227 opamp and a TPA6120 headphone amp), the sound doesn’t stray very far from the Audinst DAC house sound I’ve heard on the HUD-MX1 and the HUD-Mini. A relatively spacious, warm dark sound with good bass, mids and unoffensive treble. There is some grain in the sound and that does bother me as a lot of the DACs I’ve been reviewing lately are relatively cleaner in this aspect. The Audinst sound however never fails to capture the musicality aspect, and though not tube based its warmth is always preferable for music listening compared to some other DACs that may be cleaner sounding but at the same time clinical.

The MX2 is still relatively laid back, but more forward than the MX1. Midrange is fuller on the MX2 and though that gives an impression that the sound is less spacious than the MX1, its generally better and more suited for general music listening. Pace is quite moderate, not going too fast or too laid back. I find it, for instance, better in pace than the ultra mellow Topping D20 but it’s not as forward nor as fast paced as say Centrance’s Dacport line up.

Bass is there and present, relatively good body and control, though not very detailed or articulate. Punch and impact is just decent and nothing to brag about.

 

audinst_hud-mx2_03

 

End Words

Ultimately I find my overall impression somewhat similar to the JDSLabs C5 amplifier I reviewed recently. And though there are improvements in terms of features, in this case I personally like the HUD-MX1 sound better. It’s a good all rounder sound, but I really wasn’t able to really connect with it. The addition of the TPA6120 chip doesn’t really change a lot in terms of dynamics, and I’m mostly lukewarm when driving big full size headphones like the HD650. Though I like the simplicity of being able to run the DAC from a simple USB port, I find that plugging in the power adapter improves the dynamics even when listening from an IEM. I don’t find the MX2 to offer a substantial enough improvement to warrant the additional $70. Yes, extra features and the toslink input is welcome, but sound quality wise I don’t think it’s a clear upgrade from the MX1.

 

 

  • moodyrn

    Yeah it is a bit disappointing given its price point. That price point puts it in the class of the dragon fly and the the new meridian. Both of those are said to compete with products at twice their respected price points. For a 70.00 increase it needed to be a substantial upgrade over the original and compete with the dragon fly and meridian.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Have you listened to the HUD-MX2?

      • moodyrn

        No I haven’t, my comments were based on your words in your review. You wrote and I quote: “I don’t find the MX2 to offer a substantial enough improvement to warrant the additional $70.”
        So are you changing your stance that is is in fact enough of an improvement to warrant the additional 70.00?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          No, I was just wondering if you’ve heard it.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Regarding to the $70 figure, well here is some more thoughts on that.
          I think they’ve added some worthy additions in terms of features. Android pairing capability is a big one, given how much Android has gained in terms of mobile devices.

          It’s just that from my review standpoint, which I really is not a feature focused user but rather an SQ guy, I don’t really think that it’s a significant upgrade.

          Between features and SQ, however, I can’t really say that one is more important than the other. Toslink input, for instance, if it doesn’t have one, then it doesn’t matter how good the sound if you can’t get it to play in the first place.

          So yes, they’re both equally important, but I just tend to be more biased towards SQ.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          It’s almost 1AM here so forgive the lousy grammar.

  • http://www.facebook.com/damianmb Damián Bonadonna

    Well Mike, I applaud you for the review. Sample is coming from a site sponsor and, you liked better the cheaper version :).

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks :)

  • obli

    I’m little suprised that you said that Audinst 1 sound better to you in end of review. Cause you said before that is more forward, more mid body. So what Audinst 2 doing worse? Do you tested DAC section alone? Is it competitve against Dacport LX, HRT MS2+ etc?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Better to me implies purely a personal preference.

  • icecoffemix

    I like how you don’t sugarcoat anything Mike, thanks for the review.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      You’re welcome :)

  • HP17

    Hi!

    I was just wondering, will you guys ever do an Aune T1 review?

    I have half a mind to get a HE-400, and l’ve been wondering which amp/dac i could pair it with under 200..

    Have a good day.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      A lot of people has been asking about the Aune but they didn’t reply to my request, so I can’t help there

      • HP17

        Oh, well that’s a shame.

        In the MM stack review, i saw a comment from you that said you wouldn’t “suggest” the T1 or Magni/Modi with orthos.

        So my question is, for pairing with an HE-400… Are there better amp/dacs combos under $200?

        I have a Fiio Andes with Senns HD558 right now and crave better dynamics and detail.

        Thanks for everything.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dave.ulrich.7 Dave Ulrich

          The Fiio e9k is fantastic with the HE-400. You can get the e9k and the e7k together for under $200.

          • HP17

            Oh, really? Well i already have the E7K, so i’d only need to get the E9K…. Sounds nice!

            My one fear is that since the HE-400 is leaning towards dark, and the E7K/E9K seems like it would be warm… I might be overloading things on that side.

            Though i gues Aune T1 would also be considered warm.

            Thanks for the help!

            • http://www.facebook.com/dave.ulrich.7 Dave Ulrich

              I actually didn’t love the e9k with any of my other headphones, but it was really awesome with the HE-400. With the music the HE-400 was intended for, anyway.

  • Bozon

    Did you took the time to burning the MX2 unit before reviewing it? I heard that the MX1 sound improved a lot after burning it.

    Did you compared the MX1 and MX2 at the same time? or just how you remembered it sounded? I have seen a lot of times on my own case listening to audio products that thinking that something is better than the other based on past experience is never fair as the more you listen the more critical and “refined” your hears/brain turns….

  • shsss

    Need to improve the grammar and writing skills mike..

    • Dave Ulrich

      Your sentence is missing a subject. There needs to be a comma before “Mike.” You need to capitalize the “M” in Mike. The ellipsis has three dots, and isn’t really appropriate here. If you are going to tell someone to improve on their grammar, make sure you do so with solid technique.

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        Good one D.

        • Dave Ulrich

          I literally have no problem with others pointing out grammar issues. It just bugs me when they do this with poor grammar.

          • shsss

            Fine now? I just wanted to point out where this site can be improved, ya know. I like all the good works Mike and the guys here do. It was just a suggestion.

            • dalethorn

              Was there a suggestion? I need to improve my audio skills, so I came here. Maybe there’s something better?

      • dalethorn

        Yowza!

  • clsmooth229

    Hello headfonia,

    Could you let me know about the difference between a #Output Transformer Coupled like WA 6 in comparison to a #OTL like WA 3? Technically as well as sound-wise… What does “single ended” mean?
    thank you

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      It’s actually been explained in our reviews before. Look up some of the the tube amp reviews

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      OT amps have transformers at the output just before the signal reach the headphone/speakers. It’s used for impedance matching so maximum power can be delivered. OTL amps don’t have those transformers. The result is a shorter signal path, better resolution etc but no impedance matching, lower power output.
      With single ended, current is only delivered on one side of the alternating phase, the opposite is push-pull, where current is delivered on both sides of the alternating phase. Single ended generally has a lower power efficiency and lower power output but less distortion and higher fidelity.
      Headphones don’t require a lot of current so in most cases single ended is best.

  • Trennam 67

    Interesting Mike, like all subjective reviews regarding sound, you can either like something or not. Nothing wrong with that.

    This other reviewer actually prefers the HUD-MX2: http://www.head-fi.org/products/audinst-hud-mx2/reviews/8629
    From the article: “The mx2 simply does soundstage, drive, clarity, and pretty much everything else, better than the mx1.”