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Stoner Acoustics UD110 V2

Posted

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***Note: this product is no longer available for purchase from Stoner Acoustics and has been replaced by the UD120***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)
Recently just sold my UD110v2, so I wanted to post my overall impressions and experiences. I wrote this review while the UD110v2 was in my possession, but did not publish this review until after the sale. This is a personal subjective review and your experiences may vary. I purchased the UD110v2 at full retail price and was not solicited for this review. I did really like the UD110v2, so my review is a bit biased, but I tried to be as objective as possible. Hope this is an enjoyable read! :)

 

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).

 

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Full Tech Specs:

  • RECEIVER : SA9027

  • LDO : LP5907

  • CLOCK: AK8133E

  • 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

 

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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.

 

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Sonic Performance:

 

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.

 

Value Judgement:

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. 

 

Conclusion

 

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.

 

Product Links:

http://stoneracoustics.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/StonerAcoustics

Posted

Pros: Size, portable use, Sound quality, price, plug and play, and customer support

Cons: Lacks features that some people like on the more expensive and larger DACs but honestly you cannot complain

    The ud110 was recommended in a few different serious threads in the audio community, and I was intrigued to say the least, myself looking for more affordable options with out sacrificing too much and getting nice audio quality. I have tried a handful of DACs that some would consider the best value for your money in the 100-300$ price range. I know everyone has a preference as far as the flavor of audio, warm, cold, sterile and detailed, smooth and warm, etc. I have yet to really find a specific preference, but this not that I have not found I what I prefer with my actual DAC as in I like a more spacious, detailed, and transparent representation of the music. With this being paired with a slightly warmer but accurate amp and or headphones. WIth that said I think you can appreciate what Stoner has brought to the forefront with their products, these past couple years have been exciting and rapidly changing times for audio gear. With more and more DAC's being lessened to a minimal and small footprint of a device, all extra features and connectivity cut from the fray being left with usb asynchronous connection. This opens the doors for much more affordable high quality audio devices to be used for a minimal desk set up or on the go with a tablet/laptop or in some instances a smart phone. I appreciate and respect both sides in this ever growing and changing audio revolution, because I feel the more I hear about it the more it is becoming known and marketed which can be an awesome thing for the average consumer looking for the best deal. 

 

The UD110 v1 and V2 do something fantastic at a incredibly low price point, being that I can buy computer games for more than this audio converter... which given the quality of sound that I am about to delve into is really impressive, and for some people it may be all they need paired with their favorite headphones and a respectable amplifier. I know for some who always want to try something newer and potentially better, and even being a 3 percent margin difference they take the 150$ price leap. I have nothing against either side if this can be your end game then fantastic, if this is used for on the go and put away at home for something bigger and better, and believe me more expensive then great.

 

It starts out I did not know what to expect when receiving the replacement V2 for the V1 that was not usable even with my installation of windows 7, and to save frustration of always commandeering my girl's computer to use the V1 I was sent the UD110 V2 from the amazing and quick customer support of Stoner Acoustics(great people and company). I already how an idea how this unit sounded being the UD110 v1 and v2 sound the same and the only real differences lie in that one is plug and play and the other original needs special drivers to be used on certain os. I cannot explain that I still somehow was unprepared for what uninterrupted listening of this device would do to me and my opinions... 

 

I was pretty much blown away that a device I have listen to here and there could make an impact on me used on my computer for prolonged periods of time, and it did just that with out prejudice made all my tracks sound more transparent and detailed. I was surprised how closed the sound quality came to two more much more expensive units I had previously reviewed .The tracks and amp that I used with this device for review and comparison consisted of 16-24bit and 44.1-96khz FLAC files, used on both Foobar2000 and MediaMonkey music player. As far as amps I am much more limited to than the DACs I have on hand currently, being the Schiit Vali(used in most tests and comparisons), Gemini Doctor's WS1.2 Bluebird amp, and the govibe 5. The UD110 sounded great with all three of these amps, hands down best DAC I have used under 100$, and this unit comes very close to stepping in line with units that are considered great buys for their price of around and under 150$, such as: ODAC, CDAC+, Modi, Audioquest D.F. 1.2, and HRT MSII. I have used and or tried all of those but the DF 1.2, and I can honestly say that this unit comes very very closed to the ODAC and sounds better to my ears than the HRT MS. It is the fact that it goes for 50$ before shipping and sounds so much more than anything in this price point so far having heard perhaps one or two units.  

 

It comes down to the quality with the mix of detail, transparency, the snappy and tight lows, and very honest staging dependent of course on the headphones used. I am not going to claim to know if there is no other DAC better at this price point, but I will say I would be surprised if there was something better and priced the same. I think if you this is a great if you an affordable DAC that has great quality, small footnote, minimal and simple in it's purposes, and finally portable. Paired with a nice entry amp like Vali, O2, or perhaps something like the Asgard even.I believe if someone was deciding between the ODAC and this trying to consider their options and budget, I would buy this and put the extra into something like the M-Stage Amp, Darkvoice, Project Ember, V-Can Mk2, etc. I believe you would neither be to let down if at all with the difference in audio quality with the two DACSs.

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Stoner Acoustics UD110 V2
Description:

Stoner Acoustic's second version of their second budget model which was just an updated version of the V1 in that you no longer need any driver's to run on Windows, along with it being plug and play on most operating systems and devices.(tablets, phones, etc). Being a very small footprint of higher quality audio for under 60$ after shipping is some serious competition.

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