Review: Audinst HUD-DX1 – The Update

Disclaimer: We were sent the new Audinst HUD-DX1 free of charge, Audinst is also a site advertiser but that doesn’t mean we can’t be critical. Keep reading.

It is hard to believe that, in 2010, a decent sounding DAC/amp for under $200 was a big deal.  What a cute, simple world this used to be.  Mike’s review of Audinst’s HUB-MX1 is rather quaint now.  A very fine sound can be had these days for under $100, which is all to the good.  After the MX1 (which is still available), Audinst has thrown two other products into the DAC/amp ring, the HUD-mini (which Mike quite liked with the opamp change) and the HUD-MX2 (which Mike was a little more lukewarm about).  Now here at the end of 2015 (beginning of 2016 by the time this review goes gold), Audinst is bringing out their latest release, the HUD-DX1.  Like the MX1 and MX2 before it, the HUD-DX1 is a DAC/headphone amp unit that can be powered by a computer USB port, or an included AC adaptor (preferable). The big noise surrounding this latest offering is it now can process DSD, which you all know is my favorite format (*rolls eyes*).  It also offers a sleeker look, and some new chips inside.  How does this unit stack up to today’s competition?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Well, the first thing one notices about the DX1 is that its styling has been updated since the 2013 MX2.  The all black or all white look is more sleek and just a touch more high end looking than the older models.  It doesn’t have a build that is quite as sturdy as something we might see from Matrix or Fiio (like the E10k, for example), nor does it feel flimsy.  As long as you aren’t using it for Frisbee, it should hold up well.

Once you get past the new style, the second thing one notices about the DX1 is that it looks exactly the same as the MX2.  It has all of the same switches (or lack off), inputs and outputs and in all of the same places.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  The unit is very well labeled, and I enjoy having the input selection switch right up front, as well as the headphone/preamp out switch.  I love that the DX1 retains both the 1/8 and ¼ inch headphone outs.  As this can be used as both at home, and as something transportable, you never know with what headphones it might be paired.  This is a great convenience.  What isn’t a great convenience, you ask?  The need to remove the PCB board in order to switch gain.  What was a nuisance in 2010, and shouldn’t have been around in 2013 is still here at the end of 2015 (now 2016).  You have to unscrew the volume knob, then unscrew the rear panel and remove the PCB board (it’s a tight fit both in and out).  You then remove, or replace, the jumpers, and then repeat the process.  It takes a few minutes to do.  Fortunately, neither the HD650 nor the HE400i needed high gain, or else I would be even more angry about this.  Still, it needs to go.

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The back is also identical to the previous model with USB and optical inputs, an optical output and RCA preamp outputs.  Although I am strictly a USB guy, I am always happy to see other options available.  One option I would have loved to see is the addition of a true line out for those who might just want to use this as a DAC connected to another amp.  It can only be used as a preamp out, meaning that were I to hook the DX1 up to my V100, both volume controls would be in play, not just the amps.

As for the guts of the unit, it uses the popular Sabre es9018k2m.  That chip has been well used by iBasso and extremely well used by Resonessence Labs.  One of its main selling points is the native DSD decoding.  So, to those of you who want that feature, here it is.  The DX1 can handle up to 32/384, so if you have it, chances are the DX1 can play it.  On the amp end of things we have a MUSE8920 opamp and a TPA6120 headphone amp [making a return from the MX2], the sound doesn’t seem to be straying very far from the Audinst house sound.  It has a relatively spacious warm dark sound with good bass, mids and inoffensive treble.  There is a hint of grain to the sound, however the sound never fails to capture the musicality aspect and though not tube based its warmth is always preferable for music listening compared to some other DACs that may be cleaner sounding but at the same time clinical.  Bass is there and present, relatively good body and control, though not incredibly detailed or articulate.  Punch and impact is just decent and nothing to brag about.

It continues on Page 2 after the click HERE or below.

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It continues on Page 2 after the click HERE or below.

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4 Comments

  • Reply January 26, 2016

    Bogdan Gherghel

    Is it possible to input DSD via USB and output PCM 24/96 through the optical?

    • Reply February 22, 2016

      Dave Ulrich

      Sorry, I missed your question earlier. I think that should work, but I don’t have a receiver any more with which to test that now.

  • Reply February 19, 2016

    alfa42

    Thanks for the review!

    I’m trying to decide between this one and the Matrix M-Stage HPA-3U for pairing it with Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro and AKG K712 :__

    • Reply February 22, 2016

      Dave Ulrich

      Sorry for the delay. Will it be used at home, or are you hoping to use it on the go? Tough call. I have been using the DX1 recently with the Soundmagic HP150 and the Sennhesier HD630vb (both fairly easy to drive) and it does extremely well with both of them (I especially like it with the HP150). It seems to struggle more, and get grainier with harder to drive cans. I would worry about it not doing well with the Dt770. The Matrix will have a lot more power on tap, and will have the ability to plug in a better DAC in the future should the need arise. As always, see if you can find a place with a good return policy, as it is always best to hear things for yourself.

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