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M-Audio USB Duo

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Not sure if this should go under amplifier or
source as I'm using it for both now.

I recently picked this up after going to Guitar
Center for a M-Audio USB Audiophile. They
didn't have the Audiophile but offered me
the Duo at a discount with the promise that
I could return it and exchange it if I didn't
like it.

I mostly got this for use at work and wanted
it to feed my X-CansV2. Well it's surprised
me greatly! I had it set up, using MME mode
and listening to music from my computer through
the X-Cans. The sound was much cleaner than
through the computers soundcard--I was a
bit worried about the quality of the DACS--the
device seems to put forward it's ADC as its
strength--but its sounds great.

While listenening I decided to plug my HD600's
directly into the DUO and see what the result
would be---boy was I surprised! It not only
drove my Senn's but it sounded very good!
I'm thinking I might be able to take my XCans
home and just use this device with no other amp
at work =)

I'm interested in other's opinions. Anyone else
tried this as an amp?

Also anyone here know the difference between
the DACS on this and the new USB Audiophile?
I have a letter in to their tech support but haven't
heard anything back yet.

post #2 of 4
Here are some observations. I do not have direct experience with these two units.

The Duo is older, more expensive, and built more solidly for pro use. While the Duo has older, slightly lesser DACs, it may very well have a better analog output and/or headphone output, but we don't know that. The Duo has two full featured balanced inputs and outputs with phantom mic power and SPDIF out. The Duo sampling rate appears to be set by DIP switches on the bottom of the unit.

The Audiophile USB is newer and cheaper but has a flimsier case and knobs. While it has slightly superior DACs, we do not know how the analog and/or headphone out compares to the Duo. The Audiophile has MIDI and SPDIF in/out as well as AC3 surround sound support, but no balanced connections. The sample rate is set in software. In contrast to the Duo, it has separate volume knobs for headphone and line output.

It comes down to features, construction, and analog quality. Read the online pdf manuals for more information on the features. I would try to find out what opamps are used in the analog signal path for both units. This may be hard to do as I have tried asking M-Audio about this recently with regards to some of their other cards and have gotten no replies. You can also try to arrange a listening comparison between them if you can find an Audiophile USB to hear.

Don't let the DAC quality sway you. Both DACs are great, but trading a slightly better DAC for lesser analog components is a bad idea. Be sure the analog quality is comparable if you plan to switch units. While either will make good sources, you need to make sure the Audiophile will drive your headphones directly as well as the Duo if you are set on going ampless.

Having said that, you will probably get better sound out of either unit by using a good headphone amp.
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
You're right about the build quality. I should take that
into consideration...the Duo is built like a tank. Very
sturdy and with the balanced outputs, obviously made
to carry a clean signal at the analog level.

I'm not sure about needed an amplifier though. I have my
XCans connected to it and I've done A-B comparisons
with my Senn HD600 and ety-4s. If anything, I hear a bit
more detail when I'm connected directly to the Duo. I'm
still using stock tubes in the XCans--maybe that makes
a bit of difference.

What is the difference between the DACs? I sent
M-audio a note on monday but haven't heard from
them yet.

post #4 of 4
I wasn't going to say anything, but X-Can does not equal good headphone amp in my book. It is also a testament to the quality of your Duo analog output.

As for the DAC difference, just read the M-Audio website and you will know as much as I do. Don't forget what I said about not letting the difference in DACs sway you - both DACs are great, the analog out is what counts.
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