Dr. DAC2 DX

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.

Size comparison with the Audinst HUD-MX1 and the AMB Gamma2.

 

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 close up.

 

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.

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53 Comments

  • Reply May 11, 2010

    Earfonia

    Pretty good comparison Mike!

    Would be interesting to include some Op-Amp rolling in your review, it might provide some improvement for a little money 🙂

    • Reply May 11, 2010

      Mike

      Yes, I'm really sorry I couldn't write anything on opamp rolling. 🙁

  • Reply May 12, 2010

    dw1narso

    No wonder that this DR. DAC2 DX sounds differ than the other DR. DAC… because I believe they are OEM'd from different companies.

    The other Dr. DAC seems OEMed from Jineung Elecom (JAVS) http://www.jineung.co.kr/

    This site has list their products long before Dr. DAC (prime and nano) come to the surface.

    All the JAVS products have similarity (except for small Nano streams)… they all use Tenor chip for the USB receiver, PCM179x DAC chip and TPA6120 amp chips.

    • Reply May 13, 2010

      Mike

      I talked to David about this issue, basically trying to find the answer to: "Who OEM for who?". According to him, the JAVS started to appear earlier than the Dr. DAC, which is around end of 2008 or early 2009. Based on that, it would be logical that JAVS is the OEM.

  • Reply May 14, 2010

    jendol

    hos is this compared to matrix since the price range is the same?

    • Reply May 14, 2010

      Mike

      I've been comparing the two and found the DAC2 DX to be more detailed than the Matrix. But that's not the full story. I'll compare the two when I write the Matrix Mini review.

      • Reply May 15, 2010

        wwenze

        Eagerly waiting for your review of the Matrix.

        Waiting to see if my guess of the Matrix's sound signature is correct.

        • Reply May 15, 2010

          Mike

          Ah, that's no fun! You should try to guess first. 🙂

  • Reply May 22, 2010

    Scrivs

    I've been looking for a DAC/Amp for quite some time now to use with my KRK RP5 speakers + RP10s woofer and to power my Ultrasone HFi-780 headphone, and I recently stumbled across this review…

    Very good and helpfull!

    I'm defenitely considering this one atm.

    But I would like to know how you think that it would perform with the above listed equipment?

    Do you think it would serve the 780 well? I've seen that you've done some other tests on the 780 aswell so I was wondering if you perhaps had a listen to it used on the Dr DAC2 DX…

    Could you give me some impressions?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply May 22, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Kevin, I really have no experience with the speakers you mentioned. They should work, but how good is the sinergy, I can't say. The Dr.DAC2 DX has a wonderful detail level and so if you want more detail out of your speakers, you can try it out.
      I didn't use the HFI-780 for this review. I personally would go with something like the Matrix Mini-i for the HFI-780 as I think it can use some boost in the midrange area.

      • Reply May 22, 2010

        Scrivs

        Hmm alright, thanks for your advice!

        Though, considering the fact that I'm quite a basshead and I listen to bass-heavy electronical music only (which is one of the reasons why I bought the 780 in the first place), what could you tell me about how both amps will change the 780's soundstage?

        I do agree with you that the 780 could use a boost in the midrange area, but I wouldnt want that to cause a decrease of its bass performance…

        So how would both differ from eachother if it comes to changing the sound signature of my 780?

        I know you didnt try the 780 out on the Dr DAC2 DX, but could you make a guess?

        Thanks! 😉

        • Reply May 22, 2010

          Mike

          If that's the case I think you would be happier with the Matrix. The Dr. DAC DX2 is quite neutral, but the Matrix has a little low end boost. The soundstage depth should be better with the Matrix as well.

  • Reply October 7, 2010

    Francisco García

    I recently discovered this site which has wonderful reviews. Based on one of them and some other information gathered on the net, I have purchased the Dr. DAC2 DX a few days ago, but I feel strangely disappointed about its sound quality. I have a contact that feels the same, a great disappointment with his Dr. DAC2. We found the bass to be the weakest point, not much punch and a “plastic” ring to it. I connect my iPod iTouch 2G via LOD and silver (and expensive) cables, and the iPod bass are sadly and strangely much more convincing that Dr. Dac’s ones (this is of course my subjective opinion, shared with my contact).
    Any suggestions as to how improve the sound, maybe via some well chosen op-amps? Of note, I am now in Tokyo, so I have Akihabara within arm’s reach, a nice place to get amps.
    Thanks a lot for reading this and congratulations for this great site!
    Francisco

    • Reply October 8, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Francisco, thanks for the compliments.
      I'm sorry to hear that you were not impressed with the bass (punch, I assume?) I am more surprised that you said the Ipod Touch's Bass to be more convincing. Good DACs doesn't necessarily have better bass punch, or quantity, but the quality and control of the bass should be much better on the Dr. DAC than through the Ipod Touch. What we look for in a good DAC, ultimately is a better technicalities that includes frequency extension, detail, separation, bass control, layering, etc, and it has nothing to do with bass quantity or punch. Although some good DACs do come with an "extra bass", the majority just isn't so. I advise you to understand the audiophile terms better, so you can make the most out of reading reviews, including ours.

  • Reply November 11, 2010

    Justin

    Hi,

    Any thoughts on using this for analog to digital recording? I want something external that will serve both to connect my computer but also to record vinyl with.

    • Reply November 11, 2010

      Mike

      Ah, will it work for that purpose? I don’t think the Dr. DAC is designed for analog to digital conversion purposes. You’ll need an ADC device for that.

      • Reply November 12, 2010

        Justin

        Was afraid you would say that. Since it has the analog line-in inputs I figured it must be able to convert both directions. After researching for a very long time yesterday, this seemed like the closest I could find for what I am looking for, but obviously it needs to also be able to do ADC.

        Ugh, maybe what I want doesn't exist in one device…

        • Reply November 12, 2010

          Mike

          Justin, if what you're looking for is to rip your Vinyl collections, I think they make USB turntables that is designed for that purpose.

  • Reply November 14, 2010

    J

    Hello Justin,

    maybe this link helps:

    Lake People 2-ch A/D + 2-ch D/A CONVERTER ADDAC F446
    http://www.lake-people.de/index.php?id=2&lang

    by the way pro-audio equipment maker Lake People is making also very high level stuff for High-End and Hi-Fi under the VIOLECTRIC trademark which product line is specially intended to supply the Hi-Fi and High-End market with its specific requirements…

  • Reply December 1, 2010

    Alex

    Mike,
    can you compare the sound quality of dr.dac2 dx vs. audinst mx-1+imAmp, modded with HD Opamp (you told in other thread, that Burson makes imAmp sound more "mature")? They are the same price around 400$, but audinst+imAmp are USB and battery powered, so can be used far from sockets…

    • Reply December 1, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Alex,
      I think the sound would roughly be about equal, with the Dr. DAC 2 Dx system having better DAC resolution, but the Audinst MX1 and ImAmp having a better amplifier section. If you value portability (i.e not having tied down to a wall socket), I'd just go with the MX1 + ImAmp and not worry about it. Or just skip the ImAmp and just get the Audinst, it should be good enough except for the most power hungry headphones. 🙂

      Sorry I no longer have the gear to do the comparison. 🙂

  • Reply December 1, 2010

    Earfonia

    Hi Alex, just fyi, I have Dr. DAC2 DX, and I changed the FDO op-amps, the 3x NE5532, with 3x OPA2107. The improvement is quite significant, it just sounds better, better detail, depth, the sounds has more air and body. I tried to change the OPA2604 with AD8066, but I hear hissing noise, maybe the AD8066 is not stable in the OPA2604 position. I will try to change the OPA2604 with other op-amp when I have time.

  • Reply January 4, 2011

    Bernard

    Hi Mike

    I am interested in the Dr Dac2. I have iems: Brainwavz M1, Westone um3x, Audeo pfe 012 PB and the V-Jays.
    Would these phones sound ok with the dac2?
    Is it advisable to use an adaptor to reduce the 6.5mm to 3.5mm?

    • Reply January 5, 2011

      Mike

      I think those headphones should be okay, Bernard. For the IEMs, you'd probably need to use the 6.3mm to 3.5mm converter. 🙂

  • Reply March 30, 2011

    Eric C

    Hi, this is a very informative review. I would like to know how does the dac of Dr. Dac2 compare to the dac of Icon HDP, Matrix Mini i and DacMagic.

    • Reply March 30, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Eric,
      I compared the Dr. DAC2 DX to the DacMagic and to the Matrix Mini-i on these articles:

      Matrix Mini-i review (read page 2 and 3)
      http://headfonia.com/matrix-mini-i-balanced-dac/2/

      Cambridge DacMagic (read page 2)
      http://headfonia.com/cambridge-dacmagic-review/2/

      I haven’t heard the Icon HDP, so I can’t comment on that.

      • Reply March 30, 2011

        Eric C

        Thank you very much for the reply. I took some time and read your articles. Currently I’m looking for a dac and an amp within 600 dollars to pair up either denon d5000 or beyerdynamic dt880. It’s also my first time purchasing a dac. Since there are so many options out there, I would like to seek some advices and directions . I do feel that either Dr. Dac2 or MusicStremer II is a good choice to me. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for my new setup? Thanks a lot for the time 🙂

        • Reply March 30, 2011

          Anonymous

          Hi Eric,
          I think they are all good DACs. My personal favorite is the HRT MSII+ as
          it gives the most pleasing, analog sound to my ears. But it doesn’t come
          with an amp, and so you have to add in an amp to the budget.

          The Dr. DAC2 and the Matrix Mini, on the other hand, comes with a built
          in amp and that’s a nice convenience — and probably good for the wallet
          too. The Dr. DAC2 can be opamp rolled, so that’s another plus, while the
          Mini-i has none but comes with balanced outputs.

          I think the Dr. DAC2 is a good buy, and afterwards you can try rolling
          some opamps to make the sound even better. My friend Bram, who is a long
          time op-amp veteran, has used different opamps with his Dr. DAC2 — and
          he settled with:
          3x OPA2107 for the FDO (Full Differential Output) Op-Amp from the stock
          NE5532
          2x OPA1642 for the Line Output and the Headphone amplifier, originally
          from the OPA2134 and the OPA2604.

          Here is the internal shot:
          http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v294/bpribadi/DAC%20and%20Headphone%20Amp/P1070835w.jpg

          And here are the opamps on a socket:
          http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v294/bpribadi/DAC%20and%20Headphone%20Amp/P1070841w.jpg

          • Reply March 31, 2011

            Eric C

            Thank you so much for the comment!! Much appreciated.

          • Reply March 31, 2011

            Eric C

            Thank you so much for the comment!! Much appreciated.

      • Reply September 24, 2011

        SoulSyde

        I’d love for you to demo the HDP.  I loved mine when I owned it.  I regret selling it, and may decide to buy one again.

        • Reply September 24, 2011

          Anonymous

          Thanks, Soul. Yes I’ll definitely listen to it when I have the chance to audition one.

  • Reply June 24, 2011

    Eyal

    For a Beyerdynamic DT880, do i need an external headphone amp. , or just plug the headphones to the dr.dac2 , and the headphone will “shine” ?
    Eyal.

    • Reply June 25, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Eyal,
      Don’t have the Dr. DAC2 DX with me anymore but I think the headphone amp
      is decent enough for the DT880, though it may not be the best.

      • Reply June 25, 2011

        Eyal

        ok, thanks!

        • Reply June 25, 2011

          Eyal

          ok, i just tried the dt880 with my audiotrak dr.dac2.. man, it sounds bad!
          what headphones in that level, will suit my dr.dac ?

          -Eyal

          • Reply June 28, 2011

            Anonymous

            What part of the DT880 was bad? What do you feel was lacking? Mids?
            Bass? What music?

          • Reply June 28, 2011

            Eyal

            I had a friend came over, with his 2005 dt880 250-ohm.

            When i plugged it to the port, no matter which one; it’s like the entire headphone just choked… everything was laid back.. it’s like the Dr.Dac2 has a (-) effect , and the beyer’s also have the (-) effect.

            Let’s say the grado’s (sr80i) are a (+) , they are very forward (?) .. so, a plus balances with the minus.. that’s why i hear the combo. good i guess (?)
            (should have been to school when they went over the “written expression” material) 😛

            • Reply June 28, 2011

              Anonymous

              Well you can try another headphone. I don’t think the DR.DAC is a minus effect, but the DT880 is. People normally refer to them as having recessed mids.

          • Reply September 24, 2011

            SoulSyde

            I call BS on Eyal’s whole story.  There should be plenty of power from the Dr. DAC2 to support all of the headphones he mentioned.  My (now since sold) Icon HDP would work wonders with anything I threw at it: HD600/650, Pro 750, DT880, several Grados (although they are very efficient).  The footprint and power supplies of the HDP and DAC2 are very similar.

  • Reply September 8, 2011

    Barun432

    What are possible OP AMP upgrades for the DR DAC2 DX, for the high impedance headphones ?Thanks

    • Reply September 9, 2011

      Anonymous

      Let me email Earfonia who had done some testing with opamp rollings on the Dr. DAC2 DX and I’ll get back to you.

    • Reply September 9, 2011

      Anonymous

      Let me email Earfonia who had done some testing with opamp rollings on the Dr. DAC2 DX and I’ll get back to you.

    • Reply September 9, 2011

      Anonymous

      Barun,
      This is what Earfonia uses on his Dr. DAC2 DX:

      For the FDO (Full Differential Output) op-amp, change the original 3x NE5532 to 3x OPA2107
      For the line out opamp (OPA2134) and the headphone amplifier opamp (OPA2604) is replaced with OPA1642 for both.

      Here is the thread, though you probably can’t understand the language, but the pictures should help: http://www.audiophile-id.com/index.php/topic,9825.msg310203.html#msg310203

      • Reply September 9, 2011

        Barun432

        Thanks…Will try them on..

        • Reply September 12, 2011

          Anonymous

          Yes, that’s quite a few opamp change.

  • Reply April 25, 2012

    Barun Chanda

    Hello Mike
    I am using a toslink optical cable with the DR DAC DX2 which is connected to my PC but up-sampling does not happen over 96KHZ as when I opt for the 192KHZ option the yellow unlock light turns on. 

    Am I doing anything wrong here?

    • Reply April 25, 2012

      Mike

      Sorry I don’t understand the question there. What are you trying to do? Up-sampling does not happen over 96?

      • Reply April 26, 2012

        Barun Chanda

        Yes, through toslink optical in, upsampling is limited upto 96Khz on my setup, just  read on headfi in a review done by project86 that up sampling over 96 @176.4 and  @192:disqus happens through coaxial only.

        • Reply April 26, 2012

          Mike

          I think the common toslink/optical has always been limited to 96, though it’s been extended to support higher data rates but such applications are quite uncommon.
          I don’t think it’s a big deal though. 88.2 and 96 are good for most of us.

  • Reply December 24, 2013

    STARSTERN

    Dr. DAC2 DX and Emm Labs Dac2X are in any way related ?

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