Disclaimer: Optoma/Nuforce sent the uDAC5 for the purposes of this review and continued evaluation. It does not have to be returned. uDAC5 goes for about 200$ USD. You can find out all about it here: uDAC5 USB DSD DAC.
Apart from the DAC-80, which I reviewed in this article: Nuforce DAC-80: Cornerstone, my direct experience with nuforce DACs is minimal. I touched a few back in Korea from 2009 – 2011. I also played with one at CES2011, and talked at length with Nuforce marketers whilst still in Canada. In the end, it’s the uDAC5 rounding out my experience which, with the DAC-80 began solidly from mains-hugging desktop audio.
Not only does the uDAC5 fit a hi-res Sabre ESS DAC inside, it sports the now-familiar uDAC output trinity of headphone, coaxial, and RCA. The latter fires out to external amps or powered speakers. Its volume is controlled just like the headphone output, via the attenuator, which also acts as a power switch. Coaxial connection is a bit different, requiring you first to switch the uDAC5 off, before it spits 1s and 0s.
The uDAC5 natively handles 24-bit files up to DSD256 or PCM @384kHz. It’s also pretty damn powerful. Currently, I’m enjoying Armin Van Buuren’s Universal Religion through MyST’s power-hungry OrtoPhones, which the uDAC5 can take to ear-bleeding levels.
That the uDAC5 does what it does and powers what it powers from such a small, and well-built a package, is incredible. Its RCA and coaxial leads are anchored better than a number of high-end desktop DACs I’ve used. Each is bolted down, and fitted secretly in its niche. Labels are legible and logical. The front plate of my unit bends out from the body slightly and the attenuator plays a bit, grinding slightly against the case. But this is a 200$ do-it-all DAC that’s smaller than an AK100. Like the BE6i, its engraved logo is perfectly machined and brilliantly positioned. Apart from the awful Hi-Res logo sticker across its top, Nuforce uDAC5 branding is top notch.
But what’s with the USB-B port? I kind of poo-pooed micro USB ports about three years ago before being set straight by Lachlan. But that was three years ago. USB-B might make sense in desktop audio, but feels and looks out of place in compact, bus-powered DACs. The Chord Mojo and Grace m9xx use micro USB. As do many Android phones, Vorzüge’s PURE II/+, as well as many other amps and DACs. USB-B isn’t suited to bus-powered audio. Interested in upgrading or replacing your uDAC5’s USB cable? You’ll have to reach pretty far into the past to do it.
Perhaps it’s trite to complain about a cable, but it’s a vital part of the interface. And, for a product at this price point to ignore relevant trends, and the market at large, is a notable miss.
Sound and more after the jump or the click HERE: