Review: KORG DS-DAC-100 – chop chop

Disclaimer: I purchased this DAC from a Japanese online retailer. I spent around 190$ USD plus shipping on it. Thanks to Japan’s amazing private shipping milieu, it arrived the next day. It does DSD, and has both XLR and RCA outs, and comes with a surprisingly useful piece of software called Audio Gate. All for 190$ USD. You can find out all about it here: KORG DS-DAC-100.

In case anyone is wondering, Headfonia isn’t my career. I shoot jewellery, audio stuff, alcohol, and architecture for a living. I’m a photographer, not a writer. And Headfonia, a blog dedicated to headphones isn’t a big, corporate publication with dozens of full-time writers, editors, and narrative framers on its payroll. I make mistakes in my second but best language. Lieven speaks four languages, and writes at least as good as me. We’re audio lovers running a blog, not professional writers supported by an army of grammar nazis.

But there’s a righteous wank out there that thinks we are. His name is Mike. No- not our dear founder. That guy’s pure sugar. This mike is a loop head. He’s ripe mad about my PS2000e review. Ripe, but right about one thing: I, Nathan Wright, photographer of things, write. I never said I was a great writer. And I don’t piss on people that write worse than me. At times, I ‘murder the English language’ as you, Mike, said in an English-language email that was perfect as a matter of course. And that’s okay, not everyone can cast sentences as well chosen as:

I strongly recommend you sell your Grado cans and sue the neglectful education system that allowed you to somehow graduate after developing writing skills that will only serve to murder the English language for the rest of your “career”.

Mike, I make mistakes. I do all my own editing. So does Lieven. So does Dave. So does Berkhan, and everyone else here. We’re hobbyists writing about headphones. And stylistically cool or not, we play with words, make things up, and try to have fun. Believe it or not, I had fun writing that review. I had fun writing this review. Your supercilious education and the attendant fleet of nazis behind your fingers have earned your email a special place: at the bottom of every drop-em potty I find. Where it belongs. And because I’m such a traditionalist, I’m gonna lovingly murder the English language, the bulk of which came from French, with the guillotine of another review.

Chop chop.

The reason I purchased this bad boy was twofold: because it looks awesome; and because reviews for it from typical pass-em-stamp-em audio publications made no sense. What HiFi said the following about Audio Gate:

There are sonic benefits in doing such a conversion – there’s an increase in sonic fluidity, for example. But there are also compromises when it comes to rhythmic precision.

Later on, they say:

There’s a likable fluency about the sound and a good degree of insight.

Rhythmic precision™. Sonic fluidity™. Likable fluency™. Degree of insight™. Florid, thy given name is What. Thy surname is HiFi.

Want a good second opinion or two? Check out Amazon’s user reviews.

Want a good English moider? Look below.

Not sound

Sexy shape, thy name is KORG DS-DAC-100. Sexy like something B&W dreamed up, but in conservative obeisance decided to bin. Plug-and-play perfection and clearly labelled ins and outs like a classic Leica M. Nothing could be simpler. Left and Right outputs are reverse oriented, matching your perception when sitting in front of the DAC. This makes it really easy to blind plug and unplug the proper cables. And both are pretty good performers. In fact, there’s nary measurable difference between the two.

And they are locked down tight. Neither the front nor the rear panels flex or bow when pressed. The front curves gently inward, bulging out most right behind the attenuator. Its power and sampling rate indicating LEDs are tiny, bright points. Squinting your eyes and dropping apertures turn them to cute stars. But they are bright- too bright for a sleeping room.

On the flip side, the KORG DS-DAC-100’s three feet are darling. But they don’t keep the DAC still. You’ll need two hands to push in and pull out headphone plugs. Even then, you’ll have to press hard down with one to keep the DAC from scratching up your furniture any audio gear you have directly under. This brings me to wonder about the DS-DAC-100m, which lacks the feet, and appears to sit flat on bulldog-like cheeks.

Feet like these only a mother could love.

Sound after the jump:

Review: KORG DS-DAC-100 – chop chop
2.7 (53.95%) 43 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

11 Comments

  • Reply June 13, 2017

    BigC

    Forget the naysayers, Nathan, keep up the great reviews. This Korg beast is a very interesting product, indeed. Can you run it from an android phone or a Chromebook or does it only mate with Windows and Mac OS?

    • Reply June 14, 2017

      ohm image

      As far as I understand, if you can power the unit from a USB splitter (mains), you can run it from iOS. I don’t have such a device, so I can’t say for sure. The DS-DAC-100m version runs straight from portable devices.

  • Reply June 13, 2017

    Minitt

    WhatHiFI and some major sites are just scam with no concern on consumer rights but only care about receiving fees from advertisers.

    Thanks for bringing this up to reveal some hidden cool budget device for the music-lovers.

    • Reply June 14, 2017

      ohm image

      This is one of the biggest hits among budget DACs I’ve ever encountered.

  • Reply June 14, 2017

    dale thorn

    Someone beat up on you for less-than-perfect English? Wow! I’m sure glad that nobody in this business ever criticizes me.
    /jk

    • Reply June 15, 2017

      ohm image

      It’s not the ‘beat up’ that bothers me- it’s that they didn’t point to a single thing. If you’re going to rant and rave about the murder of the English language, at least get together some examples of what specifically was murdered and why it hurts you so.

      I sent back a nice email.

  • Reply June 15, 2017

    Matti

    Hi Nathan,

    Seldom post here, nor do I even read that much audiosnob related stuff these days, but I’m a fan of your Ohm-Porridge blog, your vitriolic tweetstorms, and your comments that put em halfwits in their place over at DiaperReview…. oh, and also liked your Fauxtaku iMovie vids of that Cambo+GFX rig. Always dreamed of owning a technical camera to take ultra high-res stitched close-up images of driftwood. Reckon I could sell giga-prints of the most mundane textures for big wads of cash and call myself a fine-fart photog one day after I retire (or get retrenched, whichever comes first). The gullibility of the average Audeze or Focal Utopia buyer gives me hope.

    Just clicked the Headfonia bookmark today on a whim, and was surprised to see KORG stuff mentioned. I have the “mobile” version of this baby, the DS-DAC-100m along with the Phonon headphones they get recommended with (check the Korg website). Great combo. Punch well above their price-level to my ears. I don’t even use the Audiogate software for upsampling. Just straight up listening to files at their native resolution; usually either lossless redbook for my bandcamp purchases, or 320/mp3 for whatever mixes I get from SoundCloud.

    In terms of value, I reckon the KORG offerings are the audio equivalent of your command of the English language – Genre Busting.

    • Reply June 15, 2017

      ohm image

      Matti,

      I had no idea that anyone at all read my Twitter. Finding out that someone does, and that he sees my interchanges there as vitriolic, I’m flattered. That’s a word I strove to personify.

      The GFX and Cambo combo is good. Both are a little less good than what I previously used, but they work, and are much lighter. I think you’d have heaps of fun there.

      You have the KORG that I’m super interested in now. The non-m is amazing. But as you read, its feet suck. I will have to check out the m version as I think you’re onto something. Enjoy.

  • Reply June 15, 2017

    phantomrunner9999

    Given you are a photographer, some professional criticism, your DOF is terrible on your photos. Nice technical shots, but you would be better taking photos further away with a longer lense, you can then get more of the device in focus. Your review is ok, but not a audiphreak review. Thanks for the try anyhow.

    • Reply June 15, 2017

      ohm image

      Phantomrunner9999

      Just so you know, I rarely, if ever take photos for reviews that are anything other than snapshots. All I do is get them in focus and shoot, like a normal person. It isn’t my design to get more of anything into focus. I just want to snap it. Now if you think that your advice is new or helpful, you need to try harder.

      You’re right about this: I’m not an audiophreak and try not to write for or to audiophreaks.

  • Reply July 12, 2017

    Michael

    A very nice write-up! But, do you think it is a fair comparison to iPhone… How about budget DACs like Dragonfly, mDSD, HRT microstreamer etc? I’d simply like to get the idea of this product’s class/league.

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