I did mention before that the Dr. DAC2 DX sound fairly close to the Gamma2, and indeed they do sound similar. The Gamma2 does have a slight edge in a cleaner instrument separation, a slightly larger and more three dimensional soundstage, better sense of ambience, and clearer treble detail. All of those while still maintaining a nice tilt toward the direction of warm. That sounds like a clear win in sonic quality, and it should be, seeing that the cost of both items are very close, and the Gamma2 being a DIY product. Of course it’s important to remember that the Gamma2 is a pure DAC, without the headphone out feature of the Dr. DAC2 DX. The more I listen to the Gamma2, the more its sound quality shines. And it would be easy to choose the Gamma2 over the DAC2 DX if not for one thing, and that is the slight void in the center soundstage area of the Gamma2. The effect is like having an enhanced super stereo effect filter, where the left and right soundstage seems to exist on their own. This is personally a big turnoff for me, cause it’s like having a negative crossfeed filter applied, and I get really bothered by it. I don’t know if it would bother other people as much though, and if you’re using a different than the HD800, it may not be as obvious as what I’m hearing here.
I also did a comparison to the Audinst HUD-MX1, which is starting to be the crowd’s favorite these days. It has been doing very well in a lot of comparisons, and for $179.00 it does represent a very good value for money. The two DACs share a very similar sound signature, but they are similar in a different way than when I said the DAC2 DX is similar to the Gamma2. Anyway, moving from the HUD-MX1 to the DAC2 DX is like moving to a higher priced product in the same brand name, because the sound signature is similar, yet the DAC2 DX does things better than the MX1. The DX2 clearly had a better clarity, bigger soundstage, more detail, and better air between the instruments. Although the HUD-MX1 is a very great value for money DAC, it simply cannot compete with the Dr. DAC2 DX which retails for roughly double the price of the HUD-MX1. The HUD-MX1 does have more lower end and midrange presence, and a stronger bass punch. Although that bottom end sounds more a little boomy when compared to the Dr.DAC2, the added bass is actually preferable to my ears, depending on my mood.
The Dr. DAC2 DX is an ideal upgrade for someone who wants a better DAC than the entry level uDAC or Audinst HUD-MX1. I didn’t really compare the Dr. DAC2 DX to the Pico DAC because after writing the Pico vs Gamma2 comparison, it seems clear to me that the Pico has a very different sound signature that’s both very warm and dark, so it’ll be a choice of sound preference. If you haven’t read it, you can read the Pico vs Gamma2 article here. For $375, however, it does represent a very good value for money when viewed against other DACs.
System used for review:
Transport: MacPro, Itunes, WAV and ALAC 16/44.1 files.
DACs: Audiotrak Dr. DAC2 DX, Dr. DAC Prime, AMB Labs Gamma2, Audinst HUD-MX1
Amplifier: Audiotrak Imamp, RSA Protector
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, Balanced UM Mage.