Pros: Great value DAC and DAC/AMP. This thing is musical!
Cons: Sensitivity to poor USB source. DAC will drop-out due to repeated timing issues.
HRT microStreamer is a small silver box, powered by and fed audio via USB input, with separate 3.5mm outputs - one output to feed headphones directly using an internal amplifier and a second output for exclusive line-level to feed an external amplifier. It uses USB Audio Class 1.0, meaning the microStreamer has no drivers for Windows, yet is capable of audio playback up to 24-bit at 96kHz.
But none of this is what I want to write about - this thing is musical man And what does that mean
It holds onto a fine edge:
- Engaging, but not overbearing.
- Detailed, but not etched.
- Enunciating bass lines, but not boosting them or adding a delayed decay.
- Allowing for the airy high frequency details, but not throwing them at you like icy blades.
Plug in your USB, plug in your headphones, set your volume, and hit play. Music streams out of the microStreamer - it is just that simple. The microStreamer seems like a box that someone took care to design, build, listen to for a while, and tweak, tweak, tweak until they got it right. It is not uber-anything, yet it does everything just about right
And...the above is pretty much all I wanted to say. I apologize for having such a short review - more just a personal preference, insight, whatever you wish to call it. I'll quickly run through a few other USB AMP/DAC for at least a brief comparison:
- CEntrance DACport HD - these two DAC/AMP choices are quite close in sonic quality. I would estimate the CEntrance simply has better parts, with less grain - less aural strain. Though the delta is ever so slight.
- Geek Out V2 (output through 4-pin XLR) - much more detail retrieval, but also more scientific, microscopic. Less alive in its presentation of the music.
- Meridian Explorer 2 - more 3-dimensional, less harsh. Also what I would call less detail-obsessed with regards to any grit in the recording. For me, sometimes it works - and sometimes I need more grit to feel the musical intent.
- Schiit Fulla - similarly musical, just sharper - this one comes with teeth. The Fulla has a little less compromise for things like large impedance variation or inherent headphone treble emphases. The microStreamer smooths these issues over, just a little. I like the Fulla on a balanced headphone, like the AKG K7XX. The musical detail in the microStreamer is present, and less pronounced - more subtle goodness for you to seek, when your ears are ready to listen.
And now I normally add upgrade options. To my ears the (twice the cost) Apogee Groove and (four times the cost) Chord Mojo both have easily heard upgraded sound. Each keeps what I feel is the best attribute of the microStreamer - a musical and balanced sound with at least a similar level of detail. There is particularly more detail with the Mojo, yet it retains the musical value more so than the GOV2. By moving from the microStreamer to either the Groove or Mojo, I am allowed to dive even further into the music, likely due to what I am certain are better parts. I can listen louder (not usually my preference) or longer (this is what I like) without tiring.
If you own the microStreamer, would I advocate you upgrade to those - depends on your wallet. And - no, in that there is nothing either of the two upgrades I have listed does that makes it twice the goodness of the microStreamer. My final thoughts - do not discount this older DAC/AMP. It is still a good choice even when compared to the modern onslaught of DAC/AMP options.
Just my brief thoughts - and always, YMMV