The rising trend of computers as transports makes all-in-one standalone external audio devices a very lucrative market. The ESI Audiotrak Dr. DAC Prime amplifier and DAC combo unit is a new offering from ESI with 192 kHz upsampling and 24/96 native USB input. ESI is probably not a widely known name in the casual consumer market at least for now but this German manufacturer has been producing professional audio gears and soundcards for quite some time. Now let us find out in this review whether their new excursion is successful or not.
The Dr. DAC Prime is surprisingly quite tiny for all the features it packs. Sporting a dimension of 10cm in length, 15cm in width and 4cm in height it makes a perfect transportable unit. The entire unit is adorned with a rough-hewn grey matte finishing which makes it perfect as it does not attract dusts and fingerprints while looking classy in its presentation. The Dr. DAC’s roundish shape as opposed to the traditional blocky form also helps in this respect. All in all, the whole package is classy with obvious homage to Mac products.
The I/Os and switches options of the Dr. DAC Prime are arranged in a logical fashion with the switches and headphone outs adorning the faceplate and the input jacks at the backplate. The Dr. DAC accepts USB digital input, Coaxial S/PDIF digital input and output and RCA input and output. One slight inconvenience is that the potentiometer has no marker in it which is a bit perplexing given the attention of details that ESI has given to the unit.
It is also worth mentioning that the Dr. DAC Prime can do multiple outputs simultaneously. For example, one can use the Prime’s headphone outs and the RCA lineout together at the same time. This feature is very convenient as one can connect the output connections of the Dr. DAC to multiple units. There is also a switch near the DC jack to set the line output level to a fixed or variable position. The fixed position is used when one uses an external amplifier as it will disable the Dr. DAC’s potentiometer and ensures that the signal is at its highest volume. The variable position is otherwise used when one uses the Dr. DAC’s internal headphone amplifier unit. I am impressed with this simple and yet ingenious feature as ESI obviously pays attention to the smallest details that makes the Dr. DAC Prime a Swiss Army Knife of DACs.
Perhaps the most impressive of the Dr. DAC’s numerous features is it is able to accept 24-bit/96kHz native USB signal which is achieved via the Tenor TE7022L USB controller and the option to upsample the audio signal to 192kHz with the Texas Instrument SRC4382 upsampling chip. These features could theoretically reduce jitter in the audio signal to ensure that we get a cleaner audio signal which will result in a better overall sound. This nifty feature will come useful if you possess 24/96 recordings which will not have to be down-sampled if you use USB straight from your computer.
this looks just like the dac 1 overture
id like to try the
better cause it has the toslink input and still has coaxial output, if only the dr dac had the toslink input,, but it looks almost identical to the dac 1 overture
good review id been wanting to read a review on this dac for along time
Yes, the Dr.DAC Prime does seem almost "identical" tot he JAVS Overture. I'm guessing that Audiotrak OEMs for JAVS.
The Dr. DAC Prime does come with a Toslink input. If you look at the backpanel: http://www.headfonia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/… you'll find inputs and outputs for Coaxial and Toslink. The Toslink input can be accessed by plugging one of the supplied mini-Toslink adapter. I'll take a picture of it later to illustrate it better.
Very nice review, i'm thinking of buying the dr.dac prime, but i have a few questions i wanted to ask you.
did you hear that at low ohms(around 50ohms) headphones the headphoneamp can cause a very silent buzz. Did you expirienced something like that.
And my second and most important question would be, could you name me an alternative DAC at around 300-370$, but it should be with an integrated headphoneamp.
oh and there is this dac which costs around 200 € its called the trends audio ud-10.1. it would be interesting how it compares to the audinst hud-mx1.
anyways i enjoy especially your dac reviews very much. keep it up.
Hi Paul, sadly I no longer have the Dr. DAC Prime around, so I can't test for that buzz/noise. Now as for other recommendations, there are some other choices: http://www.headfonia.com/dr-dac2-dx/ http://www.headfonia.com/matrix-mini-i-balanced-d… http://www.headfonia.com/beresford-tc-7520-review…
The Dr. DAC2 DX is quite similar to the Prime in built and size. Its sound is mostly warmer than the Prime. The Matrix Mini-i has a slight midrange oriented sound. And you can check the Beresford review as well for the sound, I can't seem to sum it as well as the others.
I haven't had the chance to audition the trends, so I can't say much about that one. Sorry.
Thanks for your answer Mke , will look at the other reviews especially the beresford and matrix mini which i haven't read.
And i wanted to say that the comments section in your reviews is very informative so i read them all with great interest.
all the best
I can verify that the Dr. DAC prime produces some kind of buzz when used with high sensitivity phones. I found a weird workaround for this problem: Feed a signal to the line in so loud that it clips. The buzz will be gone until you put the DAC into stand-by.
To get a loud enough signal, I simply connect the headphone out to the line in and then play RMAA's calibration signal with the volume knob turned up all the way.
Thanks for sharing, Julian.
thanks for the tip. Will definetly try it when i get the Dac Prime.
Now I’ve got a question: Do you know the impedance of the headphone outputs? My triple.fi 10 sound a bit weird, which could be a sign of a too high output impedance.
Sorry Julian, I don't know what the impedance of the headphone out put is.
Do you know of another device with similar functions and quality as the prime, but with a 0 Ohm headphone output?
I did some measurements yesterday, and it seems the triple.fi have a treble roll-off of about 4dB compared to a 0 Ohm output.
Hi Julian, nothing that I know of at the moment.
Wow, thats a very informative article for me. I like your wordpress blog. Maybe you should write more articles of these type. By the way, sorry for my bad english 😉 (=
Thanks, Josh. What do you mean by "these type"? 🙂