Halide Design Cable DACs: Devilsound and DAC HD

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Last year Halide Design updated their cable DAC line up with the DAC HD, and I decided to ask them for a sample, not only of the new DAC HD but also the devilsound. The devilsound, as far as I’m aware of, is the first DAC cable concept in the market, and throughout the years I’ve heard people say nothing but good things about it. So I was very thrilled to hear Aaron from Halide Design agreeing to send both DACs to me.

Upon receiving the products a few months later (mainly waiting for the DAC HD), I was very excited to hold the two cables on my hand. I’ve done a review of Headstage’s USB cable DAC last year, but judging simply from the build quality, these two DACs seem to offer a bigger sound from what the Headstage cable DAC offers.

Build Quality

Both the devilsound and DAC HD modules are housed in the same custom milled aluminum enclosure, though the circuitry inside them are very different. With the DAC HD, you get a better quality Wireworld Starlight USB cable versus the generic USB cable used in the devilsound. I know that some people go into a skeptic mode the moment they hear about boutique USB cables, and this part of the DAC HD review can very easily lead to comments questioning the merit of such cables. However, we all know that even digital signal are sent as electrical currents, and until it’s been proven that boutique cables indeed don’t affect the electrical signal in any possible way, I would just accept the fact that the DAC HD comes in a very nice USB cable.

At the analog end of the cable, both the devilsound and DAC HD use a high quality Eichmann Silver Bullet RCAs to terminate the silver cabling. Again, leaving the debates out of these, the Eichmann Bullet Plugs are very highly regarded among DIY cable makers, and it’s nice to see that the Halide Design cable DACs come equipped with the silver variant of the Eichmann Bullet Plugs.

Both cable DACs come in a standard length of 2 meters, though custom lengths are also available upon request.

The Design

The selling point about these DACs is the simplicity of the set up. You plug in the USB end of the cable to your computer, and the RCA end of the cable to your amp, and somewhere in the between, a digital-to-analog converter circuitry converts the digital signal to an analog signal. Power is drawn from the USB bus, and no additional power supply is converted. Simply, it works just like a regular cable, except that it comes with a digital-to-analog conversion built in. Plugged in to my Mac computers, no additional drivers are needed for either of the cable DACs.

The $295 devilsound DAC is a non-oversampling DAC featuring the popular Burr Brown PCM2706 as the USB receiver, paired with the not so common AD1851RZ-J D/A chip. The use of the PCM2706 USB receiver chip limits the devilsound DAC to take only 16/48 files. The devilsound has been in the market for quite a few years now, and it’s probably a good time for Halide Design to upgrade the USB receiver chip to something that supports 24/96.

The $550 DAC HD supports up to 24/96 data, using the TAS1020B receiver in conjunction with Wavelength Audio’s Streamlength™  Asynchronous USB technology. Digital to analog conversion is performed by another not so common, Wolfson WM8716 chip.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/negakinu Erik Wijnands

    Really nice review Mike. I particularly like the way you address reviewing DACs  in general in the last few paragraphs. Great job! A DAC cable is such a convenient tool for a transportable rig. It’s also an awesome addition to an Android tablet (with USB HOST capability) or iPad.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I’m relieved to hear your approval Erik. :)

  • http://www.audioexcursions.com/ Austin Morrow

    Mike, does the HD800 sound decent with the Halide Design DAC HD hooked up to some of your top end gear like the Dark Star? I keep hearing that the HD800 needs a 2K DAC or it doesn’t sound good, and I beg to differ on that regard. Your thoughts, please?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I think it’s sufficient. It’s not going to be as resolving as a $2K DAC, but it’s a set up that I can definitely enjoy.