Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Silverstone EB01 vs Headroom MicroDAC
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Silverstone EB01 vs Headroom MicroDAC

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
The purpose of this discussion is to evaluate the performance of the Silverstone EB01 as compared to the popular MicroDAC. This was requested in the EB01 thread and I decided to post it as a new thread for reference. The MicroDAC is three times as expensive, and it is also a more versatile device, so this is not apples to apples by any means. For most head-fi folks into computer-as-source though, these two DACs serve a similar purpose. More than sound quality will influence most purchases, and for those looking to save on a good USB DAC…

Equipment
Primary Source: Foobar 2000 w/ ASIO dll version, ASIO4ALL, resampling off
AMP: Rockhopper Home M^3 w/ AD843 opamps and internal STEPS PSU
Headphones: SA5000
Other Cables:
-EB01: Stock USB and Headphile Standard Copper IC
-MicroDAC: Headroom mini USB and RnB mini-RCA
Music: Travis, Muse, .hack//SIGN OST, smattering of other things. Three listening sessions over two days.

Technical Differences. For those who don’t know, The Silverstone EB01 is a $100 bus powered USB DAC with RCA outputs. The Headroom MicroDAC is a $300 portable DAC with mini USB/Optical/Coax inputs and a mini-jack line-level output. It uses an external power supply or two 9volt batteries. Due to these differences I couldn’t use identical cables for comparison.

The EB01 requires a high power USB port and thus may not work on certain laptop USB ports or convenience ports (front/top) on some desktops. It does work fine with a powered hub.

The first big difference between these amps is their behavior when plugged into your computer. The MicroDAC is discovered simply as a “USB Audio Device”, and bypasses the primary system volume control, providing fixed level output. Individual application volume control continues to operate though. The EB01 on the other hand behaves more like most USB audio devices. While also using the system USB Audio driver, it is detected by its chipset or as “USB Speakers”. The system volume control still works, and has to be cranked to maximum to provide line level output.

The above is also true under OSX, and under Windows when using ASIO4ALL.

I will not get into the bit-perfect discussion here, that’s covered elsewhere.

Sonic Differences. An obvious difference that doesn’t make much difference to most people: the MicroDAC line out is louder than the EB01 at full volume. No surprise there, the MicroDAC is a bit louder than most of my sources. Unfortunately, since the MicroDAC has fixed output, this meant I couldn’t volume match the two DACs on my amp’s switched inputs for better comparison.

The EB01 on this setup had a slight noise floor (not ground loop) that might be noticeable on certain amps/headphones at high volumes. The MicroDAC also has a slight noise floor, but only at insane volumes. For all intents and purposes it’s black.

And here comes the meat of the subject… basically, the MicroDAC is a little bit better at everything.

Most notably, the MicroDAC has better separation of L/R channels, and individual instruments. The EB01 has a little channel crosstalk which makes the soundstage smaller and brings the instruments closer. It would seem the mini-jack isn’t hurting the MicroDAC much in this regard.

The MicroDAC also has better detail, providing more textural detail that brings out the reality of string instruments and background components. Quick guitar strumming, etc. is better defined. Because of this the EB01 sounds smoother and may be preferable for some computer source material.

The EB01 lacks ever so slightly in both treble and bass extension. Depending on the headphones you may not notice at all. The EB01 has a little more bass volume but less control over it, resulting in more “thumpy” bass.

Otherwise, the MicroDAC and EB01 have fairly similar sound signatures. I wouldn’t dare try to dissect it any further because I simply don’t trust my ears past a certain point thanks to listening fatigue, etc.

Result. So what does this say? Well, the $300 DAC is better than the $100 DAC. Shocker, I know, but it’s not by a huge margin. Every difference I mentioned above is fairly small. The most noticeable difference when not trying to A/B would be the soundstage and bass thump. With most other headphones the detail gap would have been less, and I used a pretty heafty amp, because my goal was to listen to the source.

The real point here is that the EB01 is indeed an excellent value for its price. Aside from feature set and performance it has a classy aluminum case available in black or silver well suited for a desktop with little cable clutter. And as far as performance goes, it performs admirably, especially for a bus powered device. I bought mine for my work configuration with portable amp and frankensenns, and it will be perfect for that, unlike the MicroDAC which would be serious overkill. It was my best alternative for the price range, for that situation, and I imagine the same will be true for many.

The real question next is what the potential of a modded EB01 is .
post #2 of 27
Thread Starter 
Repost of pictures from other thread because I know the question will come...







post #3 of 27
Thanks for the comparison. I have the EB-01 which I purchased for the office but I find myself using it at home (untill I have my MF X-CanV3 modified).

So far I am very happy with its performance and at $105 delivered it is a bargain.
post #4 of 27
thx, devwild.

sounds like a good performance/price gadget. definitely tempting...
post #5 of 27
How would you say this DAC will compare to a soundcard like AV710?
I don't wanna make my sweetie obsolete yet
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SonicDawg
How would you say this DAC will compare to a soundcard like AV710?
I don't wanna make my sweetie obsolete yet
I don't have an AV710 to compare against, the closest I have is the Revo in my G5, and that machine is too noisy to trust for comparisons.

I doubt it will be obsoleted by this though, $20-25 unmodded is a whole other level of cheap for a respectable source in its own right.
post #7 of 27
It seems the Silverstone is quite the performer, but indeed it would be great if someone took it against the Indigo DJ and Fubar II for a price matched comparison. Someone not bound by money ...
post #8 of 27
this vs the emu0404? im looking for a upgrade (from an onboard..) was hoping to get the emu0404 and shop around for a used glite

would this be a better choice?
post #9 of 27
I'd like to see a head-to-head comparison between the Silverstone and the DAC-AH. An emu-0404 vs silverstone would be interesting also.
post #10 of 27
Bravo devwild

HeadFi rules 'cause of contributions like these.
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ypoknons
It seems the Silverstone is quite the performer, but indeed it would be great if someone took it against the Indigo DJ and Fubar II for a price matched comparison. Someone not bound by money ...
Indigo DJ will probably outperform it, as it is just very slightly behind MicroDAC.
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew_WOT
Indigo DJ will probably outperform it, as it is just very slightly behind MicroDAC.

really...in terms of price, echo dj is a bit behind the micro dac but in terms of performance, are you sure???

someone in the forum who has a dj thinks that a dj is only a marginal improvement over onboard laptop sound card. on the other hand, from devwild's comments, the eb01 will be a significant upgrade over any onboard laptop soundcards.

when you states that the dj will probably outperform the eb01, i'm not so sure...
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by manhattanproj
really...in terms of price, echo dj is a bit behind the micro dac but in terms of performance, are you sure???

someone in the forum who has a dj thinks that a dj is only a marginal improvement over onboard laptop sound card. on the other hand, from devwild's comments, the eb01 will be a significant upgrade over any onboard laptop soundcards.

when you states that the dj will probably outperform the eb01, i'm not so sure...
Check the sig. And being a marginal improvement.
post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manhattanproj
someone in the forum who has a dj thinks that a dj is only a marginal improvement over onboard laptop sound card.
Not to step on any toes (and yes, the EB01 is definitely a big step up over any laptop sound card I've heard), but I would guess that such a comment would be in regards to the DJ's onboard headphone amp, not as a dac source. Note I haven't heard the DJ, though if anyone wants to loan me one for more comparison I'd be glad to give it a shot.
post #15 of 27
Thanks for the comparison devwild. Will you be keeping this? Maybe for a meet, say...
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Computer Audio
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Silverstone EB01 vs Headroom MicroDAC