The uDAC is a pretty looking DAC, as I’m sure most of you will agree, but for those of us looking for the best sound, how does it compare to other DACs in a similar range?
I’ve been very familiar with the Audinst HUD-MX1 ($179), the Ibasso D10 ($240), and the Carat UD1 ($80) DACs, and so I’ll be doing a comparison of the uDAC to those three. Looking at the numbers, the uDAC is very similar to the entry level Styleaudio UD-1, and the Ibasso D10 (USB), all three only capable of 16 bit depth and a maximum 48kHz sampling rate. It’s not bad, actually, considering that CDs are at 16/44.1 kHz. However, high resolution files download services, such as the one from HDTracks are becoming more common, and so offerings like the Audinst HUD-MX1 which is capable of 24/96 over USB does give an added benefit over 16/48 DACs like the uDAC.
The UD-1’s headphone out is the weakest of the bunch, utilizing the PCM2704 analog out, and it’s fairly weak for just about anything except IEMs. The uDAC is much more powerful, and at 1 O’clock, the uDAC is powerful enough to drive my HD800 at a higher than average volume level. In comparison, the Ibasso D10 provides the same loudness at roughly 4 O’clock at high gain, while the Audinst HUD-MX1 has the most gain, driving the HD800 at 1 O’clock low-gain setting.
The uDAC also works very well with sensitive IEMs, like the Unique Melody Mage that I’m using. Although there is a constant, very low hiss that’s almost inaudible from the power on position all the way to 3 O’clock, it’s far to low in volume to get in the way of the music, but keep in mind that the UM Mage is very sensitive to hiss, and I’ve never found any amplifier that’s completely silent with the Mage. After 3 O’clock, the hiss level starts to become significant, but no one will be listening at that level, since the Mage gets fairly loud at 9 O’clock. I did find that the uDAC didn’t drive my UM Mage as well as the Audinst HUD-MX1. The quad-driver UM Mage does require quite a bit of power, otherwise the midrange section sounds a little congested, and that’s what I’m hearing through the uDAC.
Thanks for the review and comparisons Mike. I was set to get this, but then I found out about the Audio-GD Sparrow. Its a bit more expensive than the MX-1, I guess I'll wait for reviews before I decide.
I'm glad you find it helpful.
I have talked to Kingwa about the Sparrow, and he said he's still doing some final testing before releasing the product. It shouldn't be too far away though.
another good review, i have been considering the udac for ever, but i wonder how the prodigy cube compares to it, considering how close in size they are.
uDAC-2 review soon? I read it's a good upgrade over the first one and might give the Audinst MX1 some competition 😉
Hehehe, everyone's been asking for an uDAC-2 review. I still have trouble getting the product though. I think demands have been very good for the uDACs.
I have a uDAC-2 right now. It was an impulse buy because I got tired waiting for a used Audinst MX1 to arrive (not even sure if it will, been 2 weeks). I'll try to compare the two if the MX1 ever shows up in the mail but I'm sure you'll get your hands on a uDAC-2 some day even though it is probably flying off shelves.
I forgot to ask, how many hours did you have on the uDAC-1 and MX1 when you reviewed them?
Have you compared the UDAC to the HeadAmp Pico DAC?
If you have can you do a quick comparison?
JJ: I saw the uDAC as more useful for the tiny headphone amplifier that conveniently runs off the USB port. As a USB DAC, its performance was not very impressive, as also confirmed by a lot of other owners. The Pico DAC is quite superior.
Simon: I can't remember as that review was months ago, but I normally let them have enough running time before starting a critical listening session.
Thanks for the reply!
I just bought the Pico DAC and waiting for
it to be delivered.
I enjoy reading your reviews and again
thank you for doing the comparison.
Hey Mike, Great review! Thanks! I love my Nuforce uDAC, is it possible to use with an ipod directly? or only with a computer? Thanks!
Hi Mark, glad you're enjoying it. I don't think you can use it with an Ipod directly. Only with a computer (USB port).
Thank you for the quick reply! Been reading through your reviews, you do a great job! What amps / DACs would you recommend for an ipod for about $100? Thanks! Mark
Mark, you can't use a DAC off an ipod. It's like hooking up a car engine to another car engine, they serve the same purpose and is not designed to be used together in one car. 🙂
Thank you for your patience! Am I mistaken or are :
Fiio E7 ($99)
Headstage Lyrix Pro USB ($149)
Battery powered Amp/DACs that can be used directly with an ipod? or is DAC a misnomer when describing the units?
Hi Mark. Amplifier is different than a DAC. Amplifier amplifies the signal, and yes you can use one with an Ipod. A DAC is a digital-to-analog converter and the Ipod already has one inside, so you can't use one with the Ipod. In the case of the Fiio E7 and the Headstage Lyric Pro USB, I think they are amplifiers and DACs put together in one package (a two-in-one deal). You can use the amplifier section with your Ipod, but not the DAC section.
Thanks for the quick reply! Been reading through your reviews, great job! Which amp/DAC would you recommend for about $100 for an ipod? Thanks!
Mike, Thanks for the explanation! Mark