Stoner Acoustics UD120: The Mini DAC

Disclaimer: I received the Stoner Acoustics UD120 free of charge for this review directly out of Malaysia. The UD100 they released in 2012, I bought myself.

 

box HFN Lieven round kader

 

The Stoner Story

Stoner Acoustics is located in Malaysia and it basically is one guy’s DIY project that got out of hand. I mean that in the most respectful way, what Stoner Acoustics has done over the last few years is impressive and most important it’s all for the community.

In 2012, that’s a long time ago in the audio world, I listened to my friend Erik’s UD100 at a small meet we had. At that time the UD100 was brand new and Stoner Acoustics had only just released their very first unit. After having tested it with my Violectric V200 and Bottlehead Crack at the meet, I decided to order one right away. I think it cost me $49.

And there you have it. With a minimalist and affordable design, Stoner Acoustics wants everyone to be able to enjoy better sound than that your integrated PC sound card is delivering. In 2012 most USB DACs weren’t that small and I’m pretty sure Stoner Accoustics is still making one of the smallest USB DACs on the market at this time.

Not The First

The UD120 is their latest creation but as I just said they started with the UD100 and there even was an UD110 in between. A Small overview:

UD100

100

Bit depth / Sampling Rate (max): 16bit / 48kHz.

USB Receiver used was the TI PCM2706 and the ESS Sabre ES9023 was the DAC chip

UD110

110_2

Bit depth / Sampling Rate (max): 16/32bit @ 32/44.1/48/88.2/96Khz

USB Receiver used was the Saviaudio SA9027 and the DAC chip changed to the TI PCM5102A

UD120

120

Bit depth / Sampling Rate (max) 16/24/32 Bit @ 32/44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/(352.8/384asio) kHz

More specs below

UD120

Most of us audio lovers are never satisfied and Stoner Acoustics noticed that as well. They kept receiving suggestions and requests from UD100/110 owners wanting a higher playback resolution, more bit depth and a better case. The UD120 was born.

I for one am very happy with the new mini-jack connector. The one on the UD100 just is so fragile I fear I’m going to break it each time I connect or disconnect my 3.5mm to RCA cable.

The UD120 has these specs

-True Async
-USB Audio Class (UAC) 2.0
-16/24/32 Bit @ 32/44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/(352.8/384 asio) kHz
-DAC PCM5102A
-Ultra Low Noise TPS7A4700 LDO
-Output Impedance at 470OHM
-$ USD69
-Attenuation, -6dB/STEP
-Windows (Driver provided) | MAC | Ubuntu
-1 Year limited warranty

The new UD120 still is tiny. Sure it’s a little bigger than the original and yes it has like 10cm of cable connected to it but it’s still extremely portable when traveling. That being said you will most likely need an external amp to go along with that but the DAC itself is very small.

The new UD120 doesn’t look as cool any more than the yellow shrink wrapped UD100 but you do get better sound, easier connectivity and extended life time. I’ll take that over its looks every day. One thing to mention, but Stoner never made that a secret, is that the UD120 gets quite warm when it is being used. I wouldn’t even say it gets hot and you can touch it without burning yourself but it do is the warmest mini USB DAC in my possession.

I, for some strange reason, expected the UD120 to do DSD before I read anything about it but of course it doesn’t and that is more than ok. The UD120 however does even works on some Android devices but I can’t say I tried it with my Samsung S4.

Sound and much more on the next page

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

19 Comments

  • Reply November 18, 2014

    Erik Wijnands

    Nice comparison! I have both in use as well. I really like the UD120 because of the more “professional” build quality and the included 3.5mm connector. I can’t say the sound differences are night and day though. It really depends on the headphone I’m using. I’m still trying to make it work on my phone, but I’m running a custom Android rom so it still needs some tinkering. Would make a great portable DAP if I get the UD120 working flawlessly. 🙂

    • Reply December 3, 2014

      ktan90

      Hi Erik,

      Just got my hands on a UD120. My first DAC ever, but the sound is simply amazing! What phone & custom ROM are you using? I have a spare rootable phone lying around so I’d love to get this onto a portable device.

  • Reply November 18, 2014

    hansi91

    very interesting! I am mostly listening to music on a macbook air going into a harman/kardon amp with two nice canton speakers. Would a DAC even increase the soundquality between the laptop and the amp and and how does my amp deal with the much higher input from the DAC then? sorry for this very unprofessional question but maybe you can help me out…

    • Reply November 19, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      A DAC will always improve the SQ. Don’t worry about the power. Didn’t Dale reply to this or did I dream he replied?

      • Reply November 19, 2014

        hansi91

        then you were dreaming 😉 you think in this case which is like a classic setup – will the improvement be worth the 70 bugs?

        • Reply November 19, 2014

          dalethorn

          A small USB-powered DAC that drives headphones might not make a worthwhile improvement over a Macbook Air – hard to tell. Even harder to tell through speakers. If the speakers have their own amps with volume control and use the Line Out of the DAC, then most of the improvement would be lost in the cables and the lower quality speaker amps. If you use the DAC to output to a good speaker amp which powers non-powered speakers, you have a chance of improving quality, but keep the USB cable very short, and the DAC-to-amp interconnect very short also. Then there’s the speaker cables – much loss potential there.

          • Reply November 20, 2014

            hansi91

            ok thanks! i a have a really really nice old harman/kardon HK1200 and two non powered 70s speakers. when reading what you say I am wondering for which setups the UD120 is actually the real deal…?

            • Reply November 20, 2014

              dalethorn

              Trial and error. But whatever the case, you’ll find that the cables from source to DAC, cables from DAC to amp, and cables from amp to speakers, will have 10 times more effect on the sound than any improvement from the DAC. In my system I set the laptop, the Microstreamer DAC, and the amp all together, so the cable to the DAC is about 6 inches long, and the cable from the DAC’s Line Out to the amp is also 6 inches long (and very high quality), so there’s an absolute minimum of quality lost between the computer and the amp. I’m not sure if the UD120 has a true Line Out, or whether it’s simulated in software.

              • Reply November 20, 2014

                hansi91

                thanks for your detailed reply!
                then probably the E10k makes more sense with a true line out…

                • Reply November 20, 2014

                  dalethorn

                  The E10k is good if you like that style of box and volume control. A good flat box with digital control is the E07k.

                  • Reply November 20, 2014

                    hansi91

                    I am just really wondering if the SQ of a macbook air (2014) can be increased substantially by a USB powered DAC but if you don’t have a macbook air you probably can hardly tell…

                    • November 20, 2014

                      dalethorn

                      I have a Macbook Pro Retina, and I did have 2 of the Air’s. The sound can be improved slightly, but it can be subtle if you’re not experienced in finding the differences. The Macbooks have a big, spacious sound – very unlike the narrow and more constricted (by comparison) sound of their i-devices. But part of that big spacious sound is the “enhancements” made by iTunes. Some of the better more expensive players get a more accurate sound, where the DAC does the most good.

  • Reply November 19, 2014

    Vaibhav Pisal

    can you tell me where audinst hud mini dac stand compared to ud120?

    can I use it in future if I make a better setup like crack or other good SS amp?

    • Reply November 19, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      Couldn’t tell sorry

    • Reply November 19, 2014

      dalethorn

      With a choice of op-amps, you could probably do better with the Hud Mini.

      • Reply November 20, 2014

        Vaibhav Pisal

        i switched to BB 2134. Its improvements across the board. but I think its for amp stage.

        I want to know about dac.

        • Reply November 20, 2014

          dalethorn

          I really like the Audioengine D3 and the HRT Microstreamer as DACs, especially the Microstreamer since the headphone jack is separate from the Line Out. These are less than $200, and have good electronics.

          • Reply November 20, 2014

            Vaibhav Pisal

            ok cool.

            by the way if anyone prefers dark sound (by that i mean pitch black) and on a budget, i recommend hud mini with bb2134

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