Styleaudio Carat UD-1 (Audinst HUD-MX1 and Ibasso D10 Comparison)

The Styleaudio Carat UD-1 is an entry level USB DAC from Styleaudio. A quick search revealed that Open Audio in Korea has it listed for 64,000 Won, which translates to roughly U$58. Depending on where you live, shipping and taxes may set you back another $15 to $20. Okay for $80, the price to performance ratio is very good indeed.

A good friend loaned me his Ibasso D10 Cobra portable amp/dac that comes with the WM8740 DAC chip, and since the Ibasso D10 is very popular, I’ll try to compare the UD-1 to it. Totally different price range, but it’s fine. Surprisingly the only information I was able to gather about the UD-1 on Styleaudio’s website is this:

Chart from www.styleaudio.typepad.com

Styleaudio doesn’t list the specifications of the UD-1, but thanks to wwenze at the VR-Zone forums, I was able to find out that the UD-1 comes with Burr-Brown’s PCM 2704.

PCM2704 Datasheet


Styleaudio Carat UD-1 (Audinst HUD-MX1 and Ibasso D10 Comparison)
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31 Comments

  • Reply April 18, 2010

    MFC

    Great review. Thanks for taking your time to do this.

    So do you consider/experience that the Audinst HUD-Mx1, only related to sound quality and ability to power both lower and higher impedance headphones/IEM's, to match up with the Ibasso-D10 or even perform/sound better. Just to help me do the right choice.

    • Reply April 18, 2010

      Mike

      Hi. Yes, I find the sound quality of the Audinst HUD-MX1 to be better the Ibasso D10, either headphone out quality (not considering output power), or as standalone DAC. Keep in mind that the HUD-MX1 is a desktop unit though, as it requires an external power supply, while the Ibasso can be used for a portable system.

  • Reply April 18, 2010

    David

    Mike, what you found with Carat UD-1 and iBasso D10 is confirming that electronic design is not just about putting high quality components together to get something good. WM8740 chip on iBasso is a much superior (at least technically) than the DAC section on PCM2704 on Carat. It is back to how they are implemented, how good the board layout is designed and the choice of components value and quality, play very important on the final sound of a DAC. The PCM2704, being a single chip, have the benefit that the data bits received by the USB receiver would be internally converted into meaningful input for its DAC, sans the I2S conversion whatsoever. The internal picture of UD-1 on http://www.benchclub.com/board/dir_img/vgaclub_re… showing that Styleaudio is seriously design their product. The value choice of bypass capacitors (1uF) seems following the recommended value on PCM2704 datasheet, but they use high quality WIMA caps there. The Carat board seems to be well thought with a large ground plane on the top of the board (basically permitting a star grounding flow) and added with the use of hole mounted components. On the other hand, looking at the picture of iBasso D10 board show that the DAC section must share the space with the usb receiver section, battery charger section and the headphone amplifier section, all squeezed in about the same space as Carat (http://img147.imageshack.us/i/d101.jpg/ and http://img294.imageshack.us/i/ibassod10014.jpg/)….. look at that messy groundplane?. WM8740 benefits of having differential output, turn out into a limitation in such a small space. iBasso D10 design is seems to optimistic…. which lead to unoptimal DAC implementation.

    • Reply April 18, 2010

      Mike

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the deep and insightful comment.

  • Reply April 18, 2010

    MFC

    Mike,

    Thank you. I am aware of that the HUD-MX1 is a dedicated desktop unit.

    To me, $179 certainly looks like a very attractive and reasonable price and I will give it a shot. I look forward to read your forthcoming reviews.

    • Reply April 18, 2010

      Mike

      Hi MFC,

      I will be doing more comparison involving the Audinst HUD-MX1 with the Nuforce uDAC and the HeadAmp Pico DAC. Quite different in price, but interesting nonetheless.

      • Reply May 2, 2010

        theo

        great review, im almost sold on the audinst, id love to read a carat topaz. vs audinst hud mx1.

        thanks this is much appreciated

        • Reply May 3, 2010

          Mike

          Hi Theo,
          Still no news from Styleaudio about the rest of their line up. 🙁

  • Reply April 18, 2010

    wahyuwahyu

    Hi, Mike.
    thanks for your poisonous review.. 😀

    I want to ask something, mike. Is the output on the back panel RCAs the same as the headphone amp output?

    And I just wonder, what if you compare some DACs under $100 such as govibe, uca202, or anything else.
    Just my wonder, mike.. 😀

    best regards..

    • Reply April 19, 2010

      Mike

      Hi wahyuwahyu,
      It seems that the RCA out and the headphone out takes the same output pin from the PCM2704.

      The Behringer UCA202 is fairly cheap at ~$50, but it looks more like a device that's designed to provide additional input/output functionality for a recording set up, rather than a dedicated audiophile DAC. Reviews? Perhaps, if I can get a hold of one. 🙂 The Govibe DAC would be more appropriate to compare to though.

    • Reply May 2, 2010

      theo

      yea ive also been super curious to see how the go vibe magnum's compare too,, i think there is two different model thou

      cheers

      • Reply May 3, 2010

        Mike

        The Govibes huh? Let me talk to Jaben about that.

  • Reply April 19, 2010

    johnny

    korea and china are producing a lot more audio gears lately, and the more important thing seem to be the fact that they produce those gears at relatively cheaper prices with matching or even higher quality. I am looking forward for more of such reviews

    • Reply April 19, 2010

      Mike

      Even some high end audio brands, such as the Japanese CEC brand is actually made in China, according to their specs and designs. So, it's clear that the chinese have the capability of high quality production. The problem with the chinese brands is that they're still novices when it comes to product design, user interfaces, and such. It's only a matter of time before they'll mature though.

      The korean, on the other hand, I find to be better than the chinese product in the sense that their build quality and overall product design is superior. Cowon, iriver, and styleaudio being very good examples.

  • […] The Styleaudio UD-1 (PCM2704), the Audinst HUD-MX1 (WM8740 chip), and the Dr. DAC2 DX (PCM1798) all use very different […]

  • Reply June 23, 2010

    FLACvest

    Well Folks, I don't know about you, but I've been living with my iRiver H120 & H140 and iBasso D10 for years.

    I just upgraded to HiFlight's v.3 Topkit for the iBasso D10 consisting of an adaptor for the LR amp socket, a custom, Class A Biased TLE2141 opamps in a dual mono module if i guess at the config right from the way it looks, and the nice EL8201 opamp buffers.

    voicing, dnamism, and realism are enhanced with this… not that the D10 with its excellent Standard Topkit or choices for opamp rolling was a slouch for starters.

    I used to prefer the elastic bass-to-stretchy-treble signature of the LMH6643 in the LR, with the AD8656 as BUFFERS, but now I'm in nirvana, as everything is sounding studio accurate and organic, and I primarily listen to Electronic Music.

    HOWEVER,

    I WOULD like to comment that competition is good, and I'm interested in Styleaudio's product line becoming more easily available.

    • Reply June 24, 2010

      Mike

      Hi FLACvest,
      I'm not familiar with the D10's internals, but from what you're saying, the mods really seem to take the D10 to a whole new level. Would love to hear it one day. 🙂

  • Reply June 11, 2011

    harsya

    hey mike have you ever tried the dac section of corda 3move? how is it compared to ud1?

    • Reply June 11, 2011

      Anonymous

      It’s hard to do a real A-B comparison cause you can’t isolate the DAC section of the Corda 3 separate from the amp. But the UD-1’s DAC is actually very good when compared to the built in DACs on most portable amps. It’s definitely superior to the Ibasso D10 and even D4 with dual Wolfsons.

      • Reply June 11, 2011

        harsya

        this ud1 is really tempting lol. about the corda3, actually ive never tried the dac section of this particular amp from meier audio, can you give a short impression about the 3move in term of the overall sq of its dac section?

        and where can i get carat ud1 here in Indonesia?

  • Reply August 17, 2011

    DodgersKings323

    This is where it gets confusing, would it better to go with say the Headstage Arrow + UD-1 or just the MX1 to do both jobs?

    • Reply August 18, 2011

      Anonymous

      I would just go with the Audinst and keep the Arrow for portable duties.

  • Reply October 23, 2011

    CCE

    How does it compared to E10? According to your description,the amp seems certainly inferior.  But how about the DAC? Their price is pretty close..

    • Reply October 24, 2011

      Anonymous

      I am pretty sure that the DAC section is better than the E10.

      • Reply October 25, 2011

        CCE

         Just emailed the local distributor, too bad it’s discontinued.
        It’s replaced by the HD-1V with almost 3x the price.

        • Reply October 25, 2011

          Anonymous

          Aww that’s too bad because the UD-1 was a very nice entry level DAC unit.

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