I’m very happy to see that the bar on the $100+ USB DAC has been raised by the HRT Music Streamer II. When you move to a bigger and more expensive high end DAC, one of the thing you notice is the improved soundstage performance, and in that area the MS2 is quite superior than the Audinst HUD-MX1, which is my previous favorite $100+ DAC.
The Audinst is very nice as I can hook it up to my laptop and have a very nice system that’s able to drive heavyweights such as the HD800 or the HE5LE. With the MS2, you need another headphone amplifier, another power outlet, an interconnect cable. So ultimately it depends on what you’re looking for. If you already own a good quality headphone amp, then you probably want the MS2, which is the better quality DAC. If you want a simple entry level system, then the Audinst is the better choice.
System used for review:
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, Hifiman HE5LE
Amplifier: 2-ch Beta22
DAC: HRT Music Streamer II, HRT Music Streamer II+, Audinst HUD-MX1
Transport: Acer Aspire One Netbook.