Don’t be expecting miracles of a unit this size and price but do not underestimate the power and sound quality of the Stoner Accoustics UD120.
The UD120 is quite the improvement over the UD100. That last one didn’t do anything wrong but the music wasn’t the most exciting to listen to. With the UD120 you get a bigger sound stage, more detail, more musicality, better imaging and better dynamics.
The sound stage still isn’t the biggest but it has no problems competing with the Fiio E10K in that area. It’s sounding les aggressive as the UD100 as well, hence me calling it more musical and smooth sounding. Overall the UD120 is pretty neutral and clear sounding with a touch of smooth. It’s not the most neutral and analytical DAC implementation and everything stays musical and easy to listen to.
There’s no real focus on the bass or treble and I find it to be a good linear DAC. Some have reported the mids to be a bit withdrawn but I can’t really agree to that. Mids have good body just like the bass section. Another big point of improvement over the UD100 is the treble. With the latest version it’s nice and soft and a lot less aggressive than on the UD100. At the same time it’s not the most extended and detailed and I don’t think the real treble fans will love this mini DAC. You just can’t please everyone.
You might have realized the UD120 scores incredibly well for its price and size but it is no giant killer. No one expects it to be one either. It does sound better than the outdated (?) UD100 and it certainly sounds as good as the Fiio E10K. The big advantage the E10K has is that it has a built in amplifier with a gain setting and a bass boost switch. And that for only $6 USD more than the UD120. Again, that doesn’t say anything bad about the UD120, that says more about Fiio’s incredibly price/quality ratio, it’s almost too good to be true.
As I explained in the sound part, the UD100 can’t touch the UD120. The new unit beats it on all fronts with more detail, a bigger sound stage, more clarity less aggressivity and especially more musicality.
Compared to my favorite on the go DAC, the Resonessence Labs Herus it still is quite a bit behind. Sound stage, detail retrieval and musicality are so much more better but at 7 times the price of the UD120 it would be a shame if it wasn’t.
The Geek Out 450 I have here is on loan from Headsound.de. I won’t be doing a full review of it (I should have sent it back already) but I have to say this little thing is pretty neat! It’s tiny, it’s an amp/dac combo and it produces good sound. Technically this unit is way ahead of the UD120 and it does a lot more sampling rates, DSD included. I do think the 450 sounds even more neutral and I’m missing the musicality in the end. It’s a very tight and fast sounding unit. Personally I’m not the biggest fan of the sound signature though. Oh, and it gets even warmer than the UD120.
The way more expensive CypherLabs Picollo, like the Herus, is playing in another league. Of all the smaller sized DACs I have, the Herus and the Picollo are my favorite ones. Superb clarity, detail and a wide and deep sound stage while remaining musical and dynamic. The UD120 isn’t there yet but who knows…maybe a future UD1X0 will really put these units to the test.
To get the UD120 working you need to install a driver if you’re on a Windows PC. Once that’s done you’re ready to go. Remember to not plug in your headphones to the 3.5mm plug directly, unless you have a desire to go deaf quickly.
The tiny UD120 does a really good job and for the minimal price of $69 you will always get better sound than the onboard sound card of your laptop or desktop. I can quite enjoy using the UD120 on a daily basis at the office but each time I switch back to the Herus in example, I do hear the lift in sound quality immediately. The UD120 sounds really good however and to me the biggest contender is the Fiio E10K, and you all know how much we love that little unit.
Because I have a lot of DACs I don’t tend to use the UD100/120 in my setups unless I’m testing something specific. To me it however is very useful to let people who are not occupied with personal audio, experience the difference such a little device in their setup can make. Each and every one I borrowed my UDs to admits their sound got lifted to a higher level and that is exactly why Stoner Acoustics, and the UD120 specifically, is a success.