Pros: Amazing budget price for solid performance, small size & cool design, works w/ Android devices supporting OTG usb for mobile use
Cons: No longer available, no hard casing, my other mid-fi desktop dacs from $350-$550 have noticeably better detail resolution
Stoner Acoutics UD110v2 Review
***Note: this product is no longer available for purchase from Stoner Acoustics and has been replaced by the UD120***Disclaimer (Click to show)
Stoner Acoutics was started by a Malaysian audiophile/engineer who designs and builds his own dacs. His products chronologically were the UD100, UD110, UD110v2, and now currently the UD120.
The UD110v2 is one the of most inexpensive stand-alone asynchronous USB dacs you can find at only $59 (including S&H to the United States). It uses the highly rated PCM5102A dac chip, which is the same one found in the $1,000+ desktop WA7 "Fireflies" Amplifier/Dac combo. The other primary alternative budget brand stand-alone enthusiast-designed dacs on the market that I know about is Hifimediy. I choose the UD110v2 based on its price, positive reviews on its appreciation thread, and its dac chip as I really wanted the "Fireflies" at that time, but could not afford it. The UD110v2 was my first audiophile dac product! I've owned the product since 2013 and used this dac with all types of headphones (including the AKG Q701, K545, K550, K7xx, ATH M50x, Audeze LCD-X, Hifiman HE-400, HE-560, Oppo PM1, Sennheiser Momentum, Sony MDR-1R, V-moda LP and M100, and all types of budget earbuds & MIE2).
Full Tech Specs:
RECEIVER : SA9027
LDO : LP5907
DAC : PCM5102A
OUTPUT : 2Vrms @ 10kohm load
RESOLUTION : 16/32bit @ 32/44.1/48/88.2/96Khz (note: update states the lowest 32 kHz sampling support removed)
SPECIAL FEATURES : Comes with ASIO driver for windows.
Works with Windows 32/64 with native driver. (Plug and Play)
Works with Mac Os supporting Playback @ 16/32bit:44.1/48/88.2/96kHz
Works with Android devices that support OTG USB
WARRANTY : 1 Year
Build Quality & Design: The unit has a very minimalist bare-bones geeky style. The circuit board, dac chip, usb receiver is all fully visible and wrapped in a transparent heat-shrink. It features a male USB 2.0 on one end and a 3.5mm headphone out coming towards you if you plug the device into the left-side of your laptop. Its total length is only 5cm. I personally found its aesthetics to be quite appealing as a gadget geek. I have used it on-the-go with my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S5) connected by a OTG usb cable without any issues. It is extremely small & light-weight with an unobtrusive design that easily fits into your pocket along with your phone. My only concern was that there was no hard protective case (though I've heard of people modding usb flash drive cases over it), so you just need to be careful when using it portably. For desktop usage, its minimally-protected design is not an issue at all. It does get a little bit warm after extended usage, but never to a point where I was worried about it.
The UD110v2 performs very well. I would describe its overall sound signature as generally very neutral and transparent with a subtly warm tone. It is pretty laid-back and forgiving compared to forward brightness of the ESS Sabre chip-based dacs I have tried. The biggest noticeable sonic improvements of the UD110v2 will be improved detail retrieval and resolution, improved treble clarity, and increased bass presence and body. You can also notice a subtle improvement in slightly wider sound stage and more precise imaging. There was a very small touch of smoothness added to the treble which made poor source files sound much better along with an extra sense of warmth throughout the mid range. You can better detect subtle textures in your music that you did not hear previously. It also gives your music better sense of control over the dynamic range (the changes between volume levels within a song is more noticeable). The amount of sonic improvements vary depending on the headphones being used and the previous sound card/dac used. Did noticeably improve the sound quality from all my devices: my Dell XPS m1530, Samsung Galaxy S5, and Nexus 7 tablet (gen 1).
Overall Comparisons to Other Gear I've Owned: The UD110v2 has a warmer sound signature compared to the Schiit Bifrost Uber with USB gen 2 and the Resonessence Herus. The biggest difference in sound signature was that the Bifrost and Herus both had crisper, sharper, and more detailed treble over the UD110v2's smooth treble presentation. The Bifrost and Herus both provided a larger overall improvement in spatial effects like sound stage, imaging, and instrument separation. They were both clearly more resolving and detailed than the UD110v2 with a telling superior technical prowess over Stoner Acoustic's budget dac. However, they are also almost x7-10 times to price. During direct side-by-side blinded comparisons against the Woo Audio WA7+WA7tp dac/amp combo which utilizes the same dac chip, I honestly had difficulty reliable picking the correct dac. The UD110v2 offers a staggering good value for its sonic performance, though it is noticeably technically outclassed by the $350-520 mid-range dac options. However, I do feel like the most noticeable difference between them was simply sound signature variations with the brighter presentation of the Bifrost and Herus vs the warmer presentation of the WA7 and the UD110v2. I could see people personally preferring one implementation over another regardless of price point or sound quality improvements simply due to the listener's preferred presentation, tone, and sound signature.
The Stoner Acoustic UD110v2 is a great option for people looking to spend the least amount of money possible for a stand-alone async USB dac. Only options I know of that can compete with its price was the old Dac Destroyer (~$50, no async, AD1955 chip) and some products from Hifimediy's line-up ($35-60: async, ES9023 sabre at the time).
While researching budget dacs in 2013, I compiled a giant list of sub-$200 portable dacs with their chips & prices as a reference guide and personally felt that there was no other portable standalone async USB dac that provided a better value. Do note that the spoiler information about flagship dacs had some errors & is definitely out of date by now. There are also a lot of new options currently out on the market.
With the flood of new usb dacs following the Audioquest Dragonfly's popularity, there are more options than ever for the budget-conscious audiophile. Hifimediy has updated their line-up with more dac chip options & styles. Besides Hifimediy, I am not currently aware of any newly released USB dac sticks that beats the UD110v2's price point. The cheapest alternative that I know of is the AQ Dragonfly v1.0 at $99. The new Dragonfly v1.2 goes for ~$150 and other USB dac sticks provided by Audioengine (D1, D3), HRT (micro streamer & music stream I, II, II+, III, HD), LH Geek Out (100/450/1000), and Meridan (Explorer 1 & 2) all are at least $150-$400. Schiit has released their Fulla, which is a usb dac/amp combo at $79. Fiio provides great prices for their line of portable stand-alone dac, stand-alone portable amps, and portable dac/amp combos (all sub-$200). The Resonessence Herus and Herus+ at $350 and $425 respective would be among the most expensive compact portable standalone usb dacs currently on the market.
Even amid all this new competition, the UD110v2 provides a package that cannot be beaten in terms of price for sound quality. This entry-level dac will give you a noticeable improvement to your sound for a minimal investment. There are obviously dacs out there that beat this in terms of overall sonic performance and technical ability, but very few other dac options out there that can beat it in terms of performance:price ratio. One of the best hidden gem values out there for stand-alone dacs. For people on a fixed budget who agree with my philosophy that you can always get more sound quality improvements by allocating the majority of funds into headphones & improving their source files, this inexpensive option is a great way to maximize sonic improvements per dollar spent. The UD110v2 brings a noticeable improvement to sound quality for desktop or portable usage. Highly recommended for budget-oriented audiophiles who want to get the best value for their money and dislike the idea of spending more for high diminishing sonic returns per dollar. For audiophiles simply looking for the best possible sound without budget restrictions, there are more technically capable options out there that should warrant consideration.
Update: the UD110v2 has been discontinued by Stoner Acoustics and replaced by their new UD120 (MSRP $79 including shipping). The UD120 has a proper casing & an extension cable tail for the 3.5mm input along with higher playback resolution support.