CEntrance: Dacmini and Dacport

dacmini_dacport_01

Are we late to the game? You bet.

Many have asked me to do a review on the pencil-DAC aka CEntrance DACport, perhaps the single USB DAC that makes the biggest name in 2010 and puts CEntrance on the map. Do you even need an introduction of the DACport? It’s a pencil shaped DAC that takes USB input on one end, headphone out on the other, and does 24/96 over USB. There is a class-A headphone amp built in on the DACport, powered straight from the USB bus’ 5V supply. Requiring no external power supply, the DACport is as plug and play as it gets, and that’s what makes it so popular. Building on the success of the DACport, CEntrance continued with releasing the DACmini, a Mac-mini shaped DAC/Amp box with better DAC and amplifier section promised to give an added level of detail and resolution. The DACmini requires its own 15V power supply to run and in that sense is less convenient than the DACport. But it’s also a more versatile box as it takes analog RCA input, S/PDIF digital inputs in Toslink and Coaxial, and USB input as well. It also come with a pair of RCA outs to send analog output from the DAC into a separate amplifier.

Now that we have both CEntrance DACs in the house, courtesy of Alvon from Jaben Networks Indonesia, it’s comparison time.

DACPORT VS DACMINI

Whenever you have two products from the same manufacturer, one priced higher than the other, the result is easy to guess. The DACmini obviously is going to be the better performing product, and it is. Less coloration, more detail, better frequency extension, cleaner sound (less noise), blacker background, cleaner separation, better articulation. Overall, the DACmini is a more precise DAC than the DACport, and it doesn’t take long to see that. The DACport, however, scores a few extra points in my ears, such as being the warmer sounding unit with more body on the midrange. The soundstage is slightly narrower, but with better depth in the sound. The sound on the DACport is more smeared (imagine taking a drawing charcoal, draw a line and then smear it with your thumbs), and more blurry on the edges of the highs and lows. But somehow, my ears were more welcoming of the DACport’s less precise sound. It had warmth, and the less black background was more analog sounding than the DACmini’s. Add to the fact that the DACport is cheaper and is simpler to use, and takes the same 24/96 over USB, I think this is going to be the one that I choose for my personal use. After all, who uses S/PDIF inputs these days? Well, I still do, but USB is much more convenient. In all, I’m not totally missing the added detail I get on the DACmini, but perhaps the only compromise that I care about is the less articulate bass and the bass roll off on the DACport when compared to the DACmini.





Having thrown that out of the way, I begin to look for other competitions for these two. Since, I have the Burson HA-160D, let’s pitch it against the the DACmini.

BURSON HA-160D VS DACMINI

Both are DAC/Amp boxes and so it should be legal to compare them. The Burson is a little more limited in digital inputs with only USB and Coaxial, but with all the bad things being said about the Toslink connection, no self respecting audiophile guy is going to be using Toslink anyway. The Burson prides itself in an all-discrete approach, a contrast from CEntrance’s claims on their expertise in USB data transfer, jitter management, and their background as chip designer for the big IC vendors such as Texas Instruments and Analog Devices.

I don’t know for sure what D/A chip the DACmini uses but the voicing of the Burson can be said to be quite in the same range as the DACmini. The two are quite colorless, in contrast to some of the warmer sounding DACs I’ve heard. The Burson is a tad warmer and with more body in the bass, the DACmini is flatter and is less colored. The difference in character is bigger though. The Burson has an edge in the articulation of the individual notes, shorter decay, more noticeable impact on each notes. The DACmini has a more coherent sound where different notes blend together more to produce the music. The DACmini also has better extension on the top and bottom, slightly longer decay, and slightly better ambiance.

What I want to emphasize here is that if you do an A-B between the two, they would sound fairly similar (say in comparison to a warm sounding DAC like the HRT). During longer listening time, however, even when I’m not doing critical listening (say while web browsing or typing), I definitely know that I want to listen to the DACmini when the music is less demanding on PRaT and bass, and on the other hand I would grab the Burson if I am listening to Rock or something else with beats and percussion (even Piano). Imagine two cars, both painted in white color, but one is a luxury sedan with soft suspension while the other is a sports sedan with very stiff suspension. Briefly they may look similar, but when you go and take them for a ride, you’ll realize that the character is very different. I think what happens here is that the brain sub-consciously picks up the little details, and it’s one of those things that makes some people go for Pepsi rather than Coca Cola, even if they don’t have pro-grade taste buds.

If you are using the DAC section only and is pairing them with a separate amp, you can choose the DAC that will help cover your amplifier’s weaknesses better. For instance, the Zana is a bit weak in bass articulation and PRaT, and so I’ll use the Burson DAC with it. With the Graham Slee amps, however, I would opt for the DACmini’s DAC section as it gives me a more open sound than the Burson.

DACMINI VS MEIER STAGE DAC

The Meier Stage DAC has a more or less similar voicing to the DACmini: both being fairly colorless, slightly bright, transparent DACs that strives for clarity and precision. Between the two, the Meier Stage DAC was slightly more detailed than the DACmini. I did prefer the DACmini’s more natural presentation of the details, where the Meier DAC had a sensation of the details being forcefully pushed out, leaving a slight unnatural decay. On the other hand, the DACmini’s transients were faster, but it has a more natural decay than the Meier, another area that I prefer the DACmini’s presentation. Lastly, while the Meier Stage DAC has a wider soundstage, depth was not as good as the DACmini, and I would give the DACmini the upper hand in the overall soundstage three dimensionality. I need to also mention that while the DACmini is totally capable of 24/96 resolution over USB (and likewise all the other DACs in this article), the Meier Stage DAC is the only one being limited to 16/48 over USB.

DACMINI, DACPORT VS HRT MUSIC STREAMER II+

The HRT Music Streamer II+ (and likewise the Music Streamer II non +) noticeably has a different sound signature, and one that is warmer, darker, and more analog. The DACmini stood out in the comparison as being the cleaner sounding and more precise DAC. Details also stood out more with the DACmini, transients are clearer cut, the background blacker, and articulation from top to bottom better on the DACmini. In terms of technicalities, the DACmini is definitely superior over the HRT Music Streamer II+, except in the way the two portray soundstage. The HRT Music Streamer II+ had a wider and deeper soundstage that also positions you more in the middle of the music where the DACmini’s not only narrower but also takes on a more backseat, more spectator-like view of the soundstage. While the DACmini would be a better DAC for spotting out details in the music, or helping push an extra level of clarity on veiled systems, the looser sounding HRT was more pleasing to the ears as it offers warmth, mids and low end body, and an overall more analog sound reproduction.

A lot of people have also asked me how the DACport compares to the HRT Music Streamer II+. Primarily, the same differences that I listed between the DACmini and the HRT MS II+ also applies here. Less grainy sound on the CEntrance devices, wider and more enveloping soundstage on the HRT MS II+ are among some of the principal differences. Then you can also add in the fact that the DACmini is very colorless while the DACport has a warmer and fuller mids, but slightly less precise sound. The HRT is wamer, slightly darker, and the presence of the grain seems to enhance the feeling of a more analog reproduction from the HRT. These should give you a good idea of the different voicing of the HRT and the CEntrance devices. Personally I think they are all good DACs, and I would base my choice more on the sound signature factor, i.e HRT for a more Sennheiser like sound and the DACmini for a more Beyerdynamic sound.

DACPORT VS AUDINST HUD-MX1

This is where the comparison gets a bit upsetting. The DACport is listed for $399.00. The Audinst is $189.00. What’s the basis of this comparison? Well, first I want to put things in a better frame of context. What kind of a performance jump are we looking at here? Second, the Audinst has been my favorite USB DAC/Amp box (I know I called the Yulong as the “New Recommendation”, but its software and driver is buggy especially with a Mac, and so I kinda withdraw it from the recommendation list.). Like the DACport, the Audinst likewise runs solely on USB power, provides a simple compact solution where you can plug in the USB cable at the back, and plug in your headphone at the front, and have a nice sounding set up. Both also does 24/96 over USB. The Audinst comes with extra features such as two headphone outs, rollable op-amp, digital out, and a pair of analog RCA outs. Of course the DACport has a better build quality and is smaller in dimension. But if you are tight on budget and don’t mind the dimension of the Audinst (it’s still pretty tiny), I think the comparison can be valid. So let’s see how the two compares.

Sound signature wise, the Audinst is more laid back and is darker. The DACport is more mid centric and has a fuller mids while the Audinst has fuller lows. Sound quality wise, the Audinst is grainier while the DACport is cleaner from top to bottom. However, the amount of detail extraction is roughly the same, and the Audinst has an edge in soundstage creation as it gives a wider and deeper soundstage, where the DACport sounds more tunneled in comparison. On first listen, the smoother and less grainy sound of the DACport strikes me as being the “better” sound. But after longer listening time, I begin to put extra weight on the Audinst’s soundstage, as the DACport “tunnel-vision” soundstage is quite bothersome. Voltage swing seems roughly equal as well, as I find myself listening to both DAC’s headphone out at maximum volume with the HD800 when the recording level is quite low.

Overall, I would put the DACport as the better DAC mainly from the cleaner and less grainy sound. But when you start to take a longer time listening to both DACs, it becomes more noticeable that the DACport didn’t score a clear win over the Audinst. The things I mentioned on the previous paragraph shows that on certain things I do prefer the Audinst over the DACport. There is also the difference in sound signature as the Audinst has a fuller lows and the DACport fuller mids. The Audinst is also slightly darker and warmer than the DACport. So in this case it becomes a choice of system synergy.

Although the comparison was done on a stock set up Audinst, I know that op-amp rolling won’t quite change the result of the comparison. The grainier sound of the Audinst seems to be a part of its D/A converter and PSU section design, and an op-amp change is not going to erase it.

 

GEAR USED FOR REVIEW

  • Transport: Powerbook G4, CEC TL51XZ, Onkyo ND-S1
  • Amplifiers: Burson HA-160D, DACmini, DACport, Schiit Asgard, Valhalla, Meier Concerto, Graham Slee Solo SRG II, Solo Ultralinear, Zana Deux
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, HD598, Audio Technica M-50 among others
AVAILABILITY

 

 

 

CEntrance: Dacmini and Dacport
4.33 (86.67%) 3 votes

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110 Comments

  • Reply July 7, 2011

    TheMiddleSky

    Nice and very complete review Mike.

    So, how powerful is DACmini compare to DACport?

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      I can’t believe I missed that part! Thanks for asking. The DACmini is a little more powerful than the DACport.

      • Reply November 9, 2011

        Michael Mercer

        An EXCELLENT and thoughtful review as always Mike!

        Having just started working w/ CEntrance – I can also offer a bit of information that paints a real picture of the level of involvement on the part of CEntrance in the advent of Hifi computer audio (which is one of the reasons I came to work for them):

        They have, in addition to their own Hifi line (which is only a few years old now) been providing USB/computer solutions/firmware as a pro-audio/consulting/co-development firm for a decade!  Some of the companies they have written firmware/USB solutions for : Bel Canto, Playback Designs, Waves, Korg, amongst others!! So, they not only know how to build and engineer a proper product (w/ both pro and Hifi experience in their toolbelt) but they also LOVE music, and are all musicians (everybody on the team)!!  I’m pumped to be on-board and look forward to lacing you w/ more product to review Mike!!!!

        • Reply November 9, 2011

          Michael Mercer

          Also: we have to remember that EVERY component will sound different in all of our own individual systems!  We reviewers can always always provide a roadmap, but as a fellow Hifi journalist (which I do when not working for CEntrance now, writing about gear that is NOT like CEntrance products, and music) – I always stress that system synergy is EVERYTHING – meaning use professional writers like Mike’s words as a guide, and let your own ears be the final judge!

          Mike, however, is truly one of the most honest and accessible writers out there when it comes to personal audio – which is why I have been loving watching his site, and his audience grow!!

  • Reply July 7, 2011

    Anonymous

    Very informative review as usual, thanks! Really liked all the comparison sections!

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Thanks!

      Do you find it to be too condensed?

  • Reply July 7, 2011

    joe

    mike..great review, i really appreciate the comparisons you made with other many DACs.. its very helpful..
    but..i have a question..whats wrong with spdif? isnt it supposed to be better than the jittery USB??

    looking forward to your meier comparisons..

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Joe,
      S/PDIF comes in two formats: Coaxial/RCA and Toslink/Optical (also BNC but that’s less common). Between Coaxial and Toslink, the old audiophile “wisdom” has always says that Toslink is inferior to Coaxial. Now between Coaxial and USB there is still a debate going on. The old establishment seems to still doubt that USB can be as good as a solid Coaxial, whereas you have people like High Resolution Technologies and CEntrance continue pushing on USB technology.

      On the DACmini, for instance, I find that the USB connection is more detailed compared to Toslink. Toslink on the other hand sounds softer but more natural.

      • Reply November 9, 2011

        Michael Mercer

        USB also (and it ALL depends on implementation) has the potential advantages of better re-clocking, A-sync, and other behaviors over TOSLINK – though I find when a DAC is designed well, TOSLINK can still give you a musical sound (like when I feed my AppleTV to my Music Hall DAC25.2 DAC for example)

        • Reply November 10, 2011

          Anonymous

          Mike,
          From what I’ve compared I even think that USB is now starting to be better than Coaxial. And agree on your comment on Toslink as well.

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Joe,
      S/PDIF comes in two formats: Coaxial/RCA and Toslink/Optical (also BNC but that’s less common). Between Coaxial and Toslink, the old audiophile “wisdom” has always says that Toslink is inferior to Coaxial. Now between Coaxial and USB there is still a debate going on. The old establishment seems to still doubt that USB can be as good as a solid Coaxial, whereas you have people like High Resolution Technologies and CEntrance continue pushing on USB technology.

      On the DACmini, for instance, I find that the USB connection is more detailed compared to Toslink. Toslink on the other hand sounds softer but more natural.

      If want to do more reading you can use the Apture feature. Just highlight any word and click on “Learn More”
      http://www.headfonia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/apture_screenshot.jpg http://www.headfonia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/apture_screenshot2.jpg

  • Reply July 8, 2011

    eugenius

    Nice review,  just as I predicted, dacport – good enough, dacmini – not good enough.  🙂

    Mike, I wanted to ask you to try to get an Onkyo SE-300pcie for review,
    both as a source and as a headphone amp. It’s a dual pcm1798 with
    discrete opamps on the stereo output and discrete headphone amp. It also
    has the X-Fi chip and it’s 400$.

    It might be the biggest bargain in mid-fi audio if they didn’t screw it up somehow. 🙂

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Damn that sounds like a killer sound card.

      Okay will look into it.

    • Reply September 30, 2011

      Roker

      Dacmini not good enough?  I don’t remember reading that anywhere.  The Dacmini is great piece of audio equipment.  You should give it a spin before jumping to conclusions.

      • Reply September 30, 2011

        Anonymous

        I understand that was a response to eugenius’ comment. I am don’t know why he said that the DACmini is not good enough. Perhaps he can explain a little bit more on that. 

        • Reply September 30, 2011

          roker

          I’m telling I was torn between the Burson and DACmini for weeks and went with the DACmini because of the better preamp options.  I bought it from a play that has a no questions asked 45 day return policy.  So here I am, putting in a new song, then BAM the drum hits me.  It’s the sweetest thump I’ve heard.

          Nice decay, nice impact, … just beautiful.  I never thought I’d get this kind of sound from such a small box.  I always fashioned myself as a warm preferring listener, but man, hearing something like this that’s so transparent and electrifying (hard for me to call it neutral when the bass and decay do what they do).  It excels with natural instruments.

          Total blackness with the headphones plugged in.  Plenty of power to push my cans.  Details I’ve never heard before.  All I have to say before getting this amp, I was convinced it might be the wrong amp for me, but lately, it’s brought to life my whole collection.  I think I spent too much time listening to modern music, forgetting about all that great music that came out during the 70s and early 80s.

          But yeah, reviews are always nice since we can’t walk into stores and try stuff out.  But one review throws everything off.  Even if the review’s tilt is towards a different sound.  I just want to finish this off with Mike hell of a review and still don’t see the part where the DACmini “failed”  This thing is amazing.  If I could get into the Burson loan program, then I could give you guys another point of view of these two wunder Amps.

          -Roker (same handle on head-fi.org)

          • Reply September 30, 2011

            Roker

            no editing.  Sorry about that.  what I meant to write at the end was this:  

            just want to finish this rant., Mike did a hell of a good  review and still don’t see the part where the DACmini “failed” 

          • Reply September 30, 2011

            Anonymous

            Thanks, Roker. I think that was my overall impressions too. I don’t remember saying anything about the DACmini coming up short or anything. Or maybe I don’t remember what I wrote.
            Anyway, enjoy the DACmini.

  • Reply July 8, 2011

    hh

    Hi mike, i was looking at many reviews with regards to which cans suits the DACport. Having heard the HD600, can you advise on what sound can i anticipate with a burnt-in set since I do not have access to one. Nice review by the way.

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      DACport with the HD600 should be a nice set up. The sound should be
      mostly unchanged since the DACport is fairly colorless except a slight
      warmth in the mids.

      • Reply July 11, 2011

        Donunus

        How is the power on the dacport for the hd600 when compared to something like a FiiO E9? 

        • Reply July 11, 2011

          Anonymous

          Never compared directly, but I think the Dacport was awesome driving the
          LCD-2, better than the E9 did.

          BTW have you checked the Burson loaner article? A unit will be shipped
          out to you next week. Congrats!

  • Reply July 8, 2011

    tom

    are you familiar with Music Hall’s dac25.3?  it is also a DAC/headphone amp and has similar specs to the DACmini, but is a hybrid solid state/tube design.  i’ve read some solid reviews of Music Halls DAC and i’m wondering if the DACmini is worth $200 more than the dac25.3?

    http://www.musichallaudio.com/detail.php?p=68

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Tom,
      No unfortunately I’ve never heard of the Music Hall.

  • Reply July 8, 2011

    Yoav

    Hi Mike, how does the dacport and dacmini compare to the Dr.Dac dx? Which of them has better amp?

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Yoav,
      Don’t have the Dr. DAC2 DX around anymore.. but from what I remember the
      DACmini’s amp is the most impactful of the three. The Dr. DAC2 DX is
      warmer and though the sound is nice it is not as clean sounding as the
      CEntrance.

  • Reply July 8, 2011

    Mast3r_5ega

    Nice Mike, another wonderful job 😀

    Btw, what about Yulong? Still comparable with DACPort? 😀 

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Thanks,
      If you read the Yulong article then you can see how it compares to the
      Audinst (and I’ve written about the Audinst vs DACport in this article).
      I suppose the Audinst is rightly priced at $180, the Yulong at ~$200,
      and the DACport is at $300-$400.

  • Reply July 8, 2011

    Dookie182

    what a disapointement for the dacmini, 
    in the end, what would you advise as a “pleasing dac”, because I thought the dacmini would be a nice one…. yes it is very technical….but in the end, not that inspiring/involving to my ears!?
    how did you find the amp part compared to the asgard?
    in your review of the HP-P1 you are talking about a “mind blowing” sound quality… with very fun fun involving dac…. Do you stick on that? would you recommand it as a portable and or desktop source to connect to a amplifier and speaker system?
    kindest regards.
    Quentin 

    • Reply July 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Quentin,
      Well I don’t think it’s quite a disappointment since some people prefer
      clean sounding DACs over warmer ones.

      The amplifier section is also very colorless, true to the character of
      the DAC. The Asgard on the other hand has a slight warmth to it, and I
      do like the Asgard amp much more.

      The HP-P1 is also quite colorless, but it’s very smooth so in a way it
      can be more pleasing than the DACmini. If you’re looking for something
      warm and pleasing, why not get the HRT Music Streamers?

      http://www.headfonia.com/hrt-music-streamer-ii-2496-usb-dac/
      http://www.headfonia.com/the-hrt-music-streamer-ii-asynchronous-2496-for-149-95/

      • Reply July 9, 2011

        Dookie182

        the HRT music streamers Yes, I almost added them in the question but wanted to let you free of advise.
        Do you think that the MSII+ and the burson HA-160 could be a good mach, both of them having good amount of mid-low mid bass body? could the superior prat articulation and bass impact of the burson kind of conterbalance the more mellow side of the MS2+ but respecting more of a natural decay?
        could it be a good mix or a one that doesn”t make sens?
        now that I had time to experience the dacmini I guess that I’m looking for something with a real big and fat body and presence. I just listened to a live recording of a french singer and It”a as if the singer was on the exact same level of the other instruments, and as a result my intention focus almost more on individual instuments than being drove by the whole thing…if you can undertand what I’m trying to translate.

        is there any chance that you’ll have the occasion to get a unit from the rega dac wich gets really really nice review here in europe.

        kindest regards.
        Quentin

        • Reply July 11, 2011

          Anonymous

          Quentin,
          The Burson and the MS2+ would be a good pair, yes. They’re actually not
          the same mid-low mid bass heavy.. it’s a bit difficult to explain now
          but they should do fine together.
          Yes the MS2+ gives a natural decay and the Burson should be good with
          the articulation which the MS2+ is not so strong on.
          I also think that for french vocals the MS2+ & Asgard would be just as a
          good pairing, albeit not at the technical level that you get with the
          Burson.

  • Reply July 9, 2011

    Dave

    Very helpful review!Thanks Mike.
    The car metaphor makes a lot sense to me 🙂

    • Reply July 11, 2011

      Anonymous

      Thanks, Dave 🙂

  • Reply July 12, 2011

    cex

    very nice review mike.

    i moslty agree with all of your opinion on the comparison between dacmini and dacport except for the personal preference :D, for me clear sounding and extended low and high are more important than analog sound, since with dacmini we can clearly see the diff to each changing we make in our sistem. 

    other thing is, dacport + T1, i need to turn up the volume till almost full to be able listen it at my normal listening level, not like with dacmini which just take till 1 oclock, maybe its because dacmini have more gain i think

    anyway i am very glad that we still able to see headfonia while audi server is down 😀

    • Reply July 13, 2011

      Anonymous

      Thanks man.

      I have just received your Bryston DAC but I haven’t yet opened the
      packaging.

  • Reply July 13, 2011

    Steve

    Hi Mike, nice review, i have 2 questions:

    1. How do the dac mini and dacport compare to Matrix mini-i?

    2. Can any of them (dac mini, dacport and mini-i) be used with house speaker? My set up gonna be macbook pro->DAC-> Nakamichi amp-> JBL house speaker.

    Both the nakamichi and JBl are old school, but they’re sized like you know, one of those oldies, that would sized up quite big.

    Thanks.

    Steve

    • Reply July 13, 2011

      Anonymous

      Steve,
      1. I think both DACs are better than the Matrix.
      2. Sure. As long as your Nakamichi amp is up to it.

    • Reply July 13, 2011

      Anonymous

      Steve,
      1. I think both DACs are better than the Matrix.
      2. Sure. As long as your Nakamichi amp is up to it.

  • Reply July 16, 2011

    TheMiddleSky

    Hey Mike, what you think Dacmini compare to “older brother different parents” the Lavry DA11? 🙂

    • Reply July 16, 2011

      Anonymous

      I don’t know, it would be interesting to compare them wouldn’t it?

  • Reply July 17, 2011

    Valtopps

    with a hifiman ef5 and the bright hifiman he-4 headphones what dac would you recommend

  • Reply July 18, 2011

    Valtopps

    thanks i just bought one, the hrt ms2+

  • Reply July 20, 2011

    ssqqssqq

    I have RS1i and HD 598 at hand. And,more enjoy the RS1i for its warmth and focus on mid which makes vocal better. Between HRT MS2+ and DACport, which will you recommend? For HRT MS2+,I may temporarily use with a RCA->3.5 converter for the time being? Thanks in advance

    • Reply July 20, 2011

      ssqqssqq

      Also, add the HDP into comparison. Which is better?

      • Reply July 20, 2011

        ssqqssqq

        Also*2,I may pair HRT MS2+ with schiit asgard, will the combination fit for me?

      • Reply July 21, 2011

        Anonymous

        Never listened to the HDP, sorry.

    • Reply July 21, 2011

      Anonymous

      The DACport will give you a slight boost in mids — and that seems to be
      something you like.

      Personally I think I will recommend the HRT MS2 and Schiit Asgard
      combination more with the RS1. I think it’ll make the RS1 a better
      headphone overall.

      • Reply July 21, 2011

        ssqqssqq

        Does HRT MS2 have a big difference with MS2+ as the price? Can you give a approx rate of the quality?  If the difference is not big,  I think will take the advice to have MS2 with Schiit Asgard as a good cost performance choice. Thanks;)

        • Reply July 21, 2011

          Anonymous

          If your budget is limited just go with the MS2+Asgard. It’s a very good
          DAC already.

          Cheers.

  • Reply July 28, 2011

    NeoDiNardo

    I’m getting the Audeze LCD-2 and Westone ES5 Headphones. My sources are a late 2011 MacBook Pro, PS3, and the Wii. So, I plan on USB for Mac (movies and music), Optical for the PS3 (games and Blu-Ray movies), and analog RCA for the Wii (games). This leaves the Coax, which I will use for something in the future. Ideas are Digital iPhone dock or a Blu-Ray Mega Changer, or just a better high end Blu-Ray device. 

    The DAC headphone amps I’m looking at are the 160D, the DACmini, or the Grace M903. I can’t decide, but the 160D might already be out do to no way to connect the PS3, unless there is an adapter or some sorts for the optical to coax. The Grace is expensive, but provides a second headphone port, better looks, possible better volume dial, possible better sound. Any thoughts?

    • Reply July 28, 2011

      Anonymous

      I own the Grace m902 which was a great one-box set up. Between that and the DACmini, the DAC section of the DACmini is clearly better as the Grace was introduced some 10 years ago. The amplifier section however is nicer on the Grace. Controls, build quality and everything is also better on the Grace.

      However, I really can’t say on the DAC section of the new m903 as it supposed to be a much improved DAC section over the m902. I agree it’s a very fine looking box. I’d probably go with the m903 if I have the money. Neverthless the DACmini is a very nice solution as well.

      • Reply July 31, 2011

        NeoDiNardo

        Decided on the HA-160D after all. It’s lack of Optical is a drag for my PS3, but I believe there might be a way to get USB audio out, I might have even seen precedence on this with other products, and I can always do Blu Ray from my PC tower with USB. The Grace is too much money for my humble wallet. 

        • Reply August 1, 2011

          Anonymous

          Congrats! The Grace is indeed quite expensive.

  • Reply July 28, 2011

    NeoDiNardo

    I’m sold on the DACport no matter what, the perfect travel companion to my MacBook Pro.

  • Reply July 29, 2011

    Julsjazz

    Hi Mike, i want to ask.

    What is the best matchpair DAC for HD650 + Woo Audio WA6?
    Is it HRT MS2+, DACport, or Cambridge Audio Dacmagic?

    I’m listening live recording, fusion n modern jazz. Also like warm n intimate vocal. Sometimes i listening philharmonic orchestra.

    Thanks for your suggestion

    • Reply July 29, 2011

      Anonymous

      I think the HRT MS2+ for that set up would be best.

  • Reply July 30, 2011

    Julsjazz

    Ok mike.

    Thanks

  • Reply August 2, 2011

    bokis

    Hi Mike, do you think the dacport will be a good first step to dac world? i’ll be using it with iem(westone um2, shure se215), so they’re fairly easy to drive and some $50-$60 at most computer speaker. Or do you think the dacport will be too much?

    thanks

  • Reply August 8, 2011

    louiscipher

    hi mike, i wonder if dacmini is good enough alone to take on hd800? i plan to buy high-end source and amp later though

    • Reply August 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      I think the HD800 doesn’t start to really sing until you go up to a $2K source and $2k++ amps.

      The Dacmini would do a fine job with the HD800, but other headphones would probably be a better choice at that level.

      • Reply August 9, 2011

        louiscipher

        well looks like i have to got my high end source first :))
        how about hd650/600?

        • Reply August 10, 2011

          Anonymous

          The HD650/600 with the Dacmini and Dacport? Should make for a pretty good pairing.

          I think the key with the Dacmini and Dacport is high quality sound at a convenient package. If you go to a separate, higher end boxes, things of course would sound better.

  • Reply August 29, 2011

    will

    How about SRA SR-71A, it seems the Dacport is smaller and more portable, but I would like to know the performance, will Dacport be able to do the same job like SR-71A or even better?

    • Reply August 30, 2011

      Anonymous

      The SR-71A has a better amplifier section. The DACport, well it’s a DAC/Amp box.

  • Reply August 30, 2011

    Younjulius

    Any experience with DACPort LX, which is DAC only model?  Even with DACPort, how do you see it pairing with Denon D7000? Thanks.

    • Reply August 31, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes I’m working on a Dacport LX review. If you want to pair it direct with a headphone, better get the original Dacport.

      Yes I think it should pair just fine with the D7000.

      • Reply August 31, 2011

        Younjulius

        Any early finding? Yes, I want a spoiler.

        • Reply September 1, 2011

          Anonymous

          Actually I haven’t had the chance to do an A-B to the regular Dacport, so I really can’t say. The LX works great, I can drive a headphone right into its output, but I’m not getting a good punch out of it since it’s only designed for line level out.

  • Reply August 31, 2011

    ivankarr

    hi mike, ive just recently purchased a dacmini. My source is PC and LG DVD player.
    Both my pc and dvd player have 2 digital outputs (coaxial and optical).
    And i am using gs solo srg II. So which connection do you think is the best for my setup,
    1 From PC to dacmini, coaxial / optical / usb?
    2. From DVD: coaxial / optical?
    im asking this because i dont have any digital (coax and optical) cables yet, and im planning to get one. And i found it is hard to find a cheap coaxial cable in jakarta (above 1million Rupiah).

    • Reply September 1, 2011

      Anonymous

      For now just use whatever connection is convenient. USB is nice since USB cables are abundant. As for Coaxial, just use a regular RCA cable, they work just fine.

      • Reply September 8, 2011

        ivankarr

        Mike, ive got problems with the rca cable use for coaxial. the rca can be used for connecting my dvd to dacmini via coaxial out. but when i plug on my pc coaxial out, my pc didnt recognized it.

        • Reply September 8, 2011

          Anonymous

          Can you try using the USb cable?

  • Reply September 2, 2011

    Themiddlesky

    Hey Mike, between 160D and DACmini (both via HO), which one has more treble presence, more mids body, and bigger bass impact?

    Just FYI, I’m falling in love with your Burson (except the 7 kg part), if DACmini can keep this level, I guess with that price the DACmini is really steal.

    • Reply September 2, 2011

      Themiddlesky

      just adding info if it’s a matter, I use the Burson in low gain mode, I think it’s sound better (at least on my PRM)

      • Reply September 3, 2011

        Anonymous

        The low gain is darker, less forward, more composed, blacker background, more laidback. Depending on the headphones and recording, I would switch around the Lo and Hi outputs.

    • Reply September 3, 2011

      Anonymous

      160D and DACmini:
      Treble: DACmini
      Mids: 160D
      Bass: 160D

      The resolution of the DACs are quite comparable with the DACmini being a line better, but I think the HO is more sterile on the DACmini, the Burson more organic and musical.

      • Reply September 3, 2011

        Themiddlesky

        Thx for the info Mike, last night I also already read much about them and I found the same conclusion as what you wrote.

        Looks like I will like the Burson more than DACmini, which is not good to me because the Burson is simply bigger in size and more expensive 😀

        One more thing, the Burson really know how to make product with good built quality, there’s no “hiss” at all on my PRM even at max volume (in low gain mode) which is awesome, and the stepped volume control is really free of imbalance. A little bit disappointed about the static sound that coming when I change the volume, but that’s not really a big matter I guess.

        • Reply September 5, 2011

          Anonymous

          Glad you’re liking the Burson. One thing about the stepped attenuator, I think all stepped attenuator have that problem when changing the volume, it’s sort of inherent to the design, I suppose.

  • Reply October 8, 2011

    Js

    As an  all-in-one DAC/Amp box, which of the HA-160D or DacMini do you think would be a better match for the Beyerdynamic T1? Also which would be a better match for the HD800?

    • Reply October 8, 2011

      Anonymous

      Js,
      It would depend on the music you listen to. I wrote about the HA-160D and DACmini above and so it comes down to the type of a sound that you’re looking for. 

      “I don’t know for sure what D/A chip the DACmini uses but the voicing of the Burson can be said to be quite in the same range as the DACmini. The two are quite colorless, in contrast to some of the warmer sounding DACs I’ve heard. The Burson is a tad warmer and with more body in the bass, the DACmini is flatter and is less colored. The difference in character is bigger though. The Burson has an edge in the articulation of the individual notes, shorter decay, more noticeable impact on each notes. The DACmini has a more coherent sound where different notes blend together more to produce the music. The DACmini also has better extension on the top and bottom, slightly longer decay, and slightly better ambiance.

      What I want to emphasize here is that if you do an A-B between the two, they would sound fairly similar (say in comparison to a warm sounding DAC like the HRT). During longer listening time, however, even when I’m not doing critical listening (say while web browsing or typing), I definitely know that I want to listen to the DACmini when the music is less demanding on PRaT and bass, and on the other hand I would grab the Burson if I am listening to Rock or something else with beats and percussion (even Piano). Imagine two cars, both painted in white color, but one is a luxury sedan with soft suspension while the other is a sports sedan with very stiff suspension. Briefly they may look similar, but when you go and take them for a ride, you’ll realize that the character is very different. I think what happens here is that the brain sub-consciously picks up the little details, and it’s one of those things that makes some people go for Pepsi rather than Coca Cola, even if they don’t have pro-grade taste buds.”

      • Reply October 8, 2011

        Js

        From reading that passage, I can get an idea of the differences in the general sound between the two devices. However, I was wondering more about synergy and compatibilty with particular headphones.

        I was seeking a possible firsthand account about the synergy / compatibility between the DacMini / HA-160D with the T1 / HD800 assuming that the choice of musical genre is pop / rock.

        Also, I think I heard somewhere that the DacMini produces slightly less volume than the HDP. Is it possible that the DacMini would not be able to produce sufficient volume for the 600 Ohm T1?

        • Reply October 8, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yes, I understand. However in this case I think both DAC/amps work relatively well with either the T1 or the HD800, and it boils down to the character that you’re looking for. 

          Personally, for Pop  + Rock, I’d go with Burson + T1. 

        • Reply October 9, 2011

          roker

          I’ve heard the opposite. I’ve heard that the DACmini is a more capable amp than the HDP. I was stuck between the Burson and DACmini as well and I eventually went with the DACmini for less obvious reasons:1) smooth volume pot – not a fan of stepped volume pots2) optical input – my computer doubles as my gaming hub, I wanted a digital input for my 3603) I appreciate a lot of their design cues such as the methods they employed to keep the digital and analog sections separate. Also the springloaded input selection is a nice touch and shows how much effort went into making the device noise-free. 4) Grade A customer service. Theyve been a great help in answering my questions even AFTER I purchased it. Last and nitpicky … A soft white light. No blue lights. No it wasn’t the deciding factor but man is it nice to not be blinded/annoyed when I listen to my headphones at night. IF you find the amp section to be “weak” (which isn’t the case, IMO) you can send it into CEntrance to have the gain raised.

          • Reply October 10, 2011

            Anonymous

            roker, 
            what exactly do you hear the opposite to? We’re discussing the Burson and the DACmini. 

          • Reply October 10, 2011

            roker

            I didn’t mean for that post to become compact like that.  I wrote it in notepad and pasted it, then it became that mess.  

            I was referring the to Js’s comment about about the HDP having a more powerful amp than the DACmini.  From what I’ve read, the DACmini has a more powerful built-in amp.  I’m not sure why people keep harping on the in built amp.  I think the compact design is what scares some people away.  But from the impressions I’ve read from various users on the internet, the headphone amp is more than capable of doing the job for a plethora of headphones.  If anything, you can consider getting the gain raised from 8 to 10 by CEntrance if you want more power.I hope that clarifies what I meant.  I own a Phonak 22 IEM and Denon D2000.  Both of which have more than enough power from the DacMini

          • Reply October 10, 2011

            Anonymous

            Cool. I was just confused trying to understand your post. 

            I agree that the amp in the DACmini is plenty for just anything you want to throw at it. What’s important to me is that it sounds good when I plug a headphone into it.

  • Reply October 9, 2011

    David

    Hi Mike. I’m thinking the dacmini amp section is not as competent as the Burson 160H amp. Is this true? 

    • Reply October 10, 2011

      Anonymous

      Maybe yes, primarily since the Burson’s amp is build on beefier discrete parts, but I’ve never done an isolated amp-only comparison on the two, and I don’t think I would look at it that way. In my opinion the two should be seen as a complete DAC/Amp box.

  • Reply November 30, 2011

    Omar Kouzy

    Hi, can I use the DAC section of the DACmini without utilizing its internal amp? and how?
    for if I connect it tp my PC, the outputs will always be amped, right?

    • Reply December 1, 2011

      Mike

      Omar,
      Yes you can use the DAC section without going through the internal amp, via the RCA output in the back.
      PC what?

      • Reply December 2, 2011

        Omar Kouzy

        I got a pc and macbook.

        • Reply December 3, 2011

          Mike

          No I don’t understand the last part of your question there.

  • Reply December 30, 2011

    P845286

    i’ve got a great sound with my Grado SR325is 

  • Reply March 30, 2012

    itineranti

    Hello Mike,I have thoroughly read your review on the Sennheiser HD650,/Beyerdynamic DT880/AKG K701, and although the AKGs are well critiziced, I happen to own a pair of K702s, and I’m not yet prepared to get rid of them and buy new a new pair of cans.I have been trying to read my way to the better Amp to drive them, capable of enough current and voltage to get the very best out of them.As far as I have been able to read and ask around, the Amp that keeps appearing in relation to the K702s, is the Burson HA-160. I don’t know If you could give me some advice here.I have also thought about the Centrance Dacport LX as a suitable DAC to pair with the Burson, using Centrance’s Reserve RCA interconnect cable, and taking advantage of Centrance’s superior DAC technology.My second option would go for Centrance’s Dacmini and get more DAC quality and versatility for the money, and obviously including the 1 Ohm mod that they offer.As usual, we head-fiers are faced with the problem of buying equipment that you can’t audition anywhere and taking a pretty big risk. It is of course not a great feeling to spend your money in such a blind way, and we are all thankful for good reviews and advice.I hope you can give a couple of good leads here, since among the reviewers I respect (NwAvGuy, Srajan Ebaen from 6moons and you), you are the only one I had not written to yet.Thanks in advance for your help.Best Regards,Camilo

  • Reply May 29, 2012

    Tom Haryono

    hello mike
    i bought dacmini yesterday
    quite satisfied with it

    want to know, what ampli should i buy
    if i want to combine it with sennheiser hd650
    or hd800

    when i test it on jaben
    i can hear nice soundstaging positioning from hd650
    but different soundstaging from hd800 especially the witdh
    still i like hd800 better , give better performance than hd650

    unfortunately i test SRG II separately (want to know the tube feeling) , so i don’t know how good from both combination

    if i want more tube feeling (more than SRG II), but not ruinning the instrumental sound quality
    is it good idea to combine dacmini with yamamoto ha-02?
    especially with Sennheiser hd800?
    any suggestion?

    • Reply May 29, 2012

      Mike

      The Graham Slee Solo SRG II actually sounds warmer and mellower than many tube amps. I think I know the sound that you’re looking for, and if it’s indeed the mellow and thick sound, you can go with either the Yamamoto or the SRGII.

      The Yamamoto is thicker and mellower than the SRG II. I think the SRG II hits a nice spot in terms of getting the mellow sound, but not excessively so. It’s your choice.

      Anyway if you read this review, I just want to point out the fact that not all tube sound the same. Some are very clear and dynamic with no mellowness at all.

      http://www.headfonia.com/the-minute-45-amplifier-by-sac-thailand/

  • Reply October 15, 2012

    Eyal Sade

    as a DAC, how does it compare to the Yulong D100 ?

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Alan Tan

    would you recommend that i sell off my dacport LX and get a dacport or dac mini? as discussed before, i lack an adequate amp, and this might be a good choice, i have been loving the LX for some time already, and might be a good choice to go further with centrance

    • Reply October 30, 2012

      Trent_D

      What amp do you have? You could always get a better one.

      • Reply October 30, 2012

        Alan Tan

        currently using only a hippo cricri+ and the thing is i dont know any amps that can pair with dt770 250 ohm that is transportable in size and not exceed $200

        • Reply October 30, 2012

          Trent_D

          A simple cMoy, like the one from JDSlabs actually does very well with high impedance headphones. You will have to ask Mike or L on synergy with the dt770, but a cMoy would have no trouble driving them.

  • Reply November 20, 2012

    Apogee

    Im looking at maybe getting the dac mini now and maybe a woo wa2/wa6se later on. Would the dac mini be suitinle with the AKG Q701 and hd700.
    Also i was wondering if either of you had head the audio m-dac

    • Reply November 20, 2012

      Mike

      Dacmini is a bit bright, I would go with a darker sound with a beefier low end for the 701 and HD700.

      The M-DAC is also a bit bright and a little v-shaped.

      If you have the budget, Neko’s D100 is a superb DAC with a dark sound for about $1500. We were listening to a Stax SR-009 + BHSE system which were unlistenable until we switched the $4,000 Embla DAC on it to the Neko D100. That, with the WA2 and the HD700/Q701 should be extremely good.

      Otherwise one step down would be the KingRex UD384 + UPower.

  • Reply February 19, 2013

    aras87

    Hi Mike,
    Can you compare DAC sections of Dacmini and M-dac? Which one would you buy? I would also like to get some feedback on headphone sections.. Great website, thanks in advance!! I mistakenly posted this on matrix dac review page too. Sorry for the confusion

  • […] CEntrance: Dacmini and Dacport | Headfonia […]

  • Reply September 27, 2014

    Hector MacTavish

    Hi Mike, I’m deciding whether to upgrade to this dac. My current dac is Dr Dac 2 te version. Is it going to be a night and day difference or just some different characteristics? Many thanks!

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