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What to get - Apogee mini DAC v Benchmark DAC1 v Apogee duet

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
Ok it's time for me to upgrade my dac. I use hd600s and a graham slee solo, with ALAC ripped with MAX played with itunes set bit perfect from my imac. Unfortunately my current DAC is a usb fed (power and transport) mbox 2, which is also A/D and mic pre amps (i record). For sound it's a 5/10. The worst bit of it is that I have to use the pre-amp outs designed for powered monitors for an output into my headphone amp.
Anyhow I know this DAC is letting down the rest of my set-up. And a upgrade here would be an upgrade for my monitors and phones. However I'm a student and could only just, at a squeeze afford the DAC 1.

I've found an apogee mini dac going on ebay for $699.00 which would be cheap even with shipping to the uk. What's the head-fi consensus on this? Is this a good price?

Beyond that I could get an apogee duet which is cheap, if the SQ is really there, but AFAIK there's no aux out (just hookups for powered monitors and a headphone jack). This would be inelegant, but would it actually harm SQ? Furthermore I'm put off by lack of a digital in or out.

Does anyone have any particular recommendations on these three?
post #2 of 43
I really like the duet and was a former apogee mini owner. I have heard the benchmark and while some may like its sound I find it to be bright and sterile.

I would so some research and see if an older dac may suit your needs. You can find older theta, meridian and micromega dacs for a good price.
post #3 of 43
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your help!
post #4 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarkovsky View Post
Ok it's time for me to upgrade my dac. I use hd600s and a graham slee solo, with ALAC ripped with MAX played with itunes set bit perfect from my imac. Unfortunately my current DAC is a usb fed (power and transport) mbox 2, which is also A/D and mic pre amps (i record). For sound it's a 5/10. The worst bit of it is that I have to use the pre-amp outs designed for powered monitors for an output into my headphone amp.
Anyhow I know this DAC is letting down the rest of my set-up. And a upgrade here would be an upgrade for my monitors and phones. However I'm a student and could only just, at a squeeze afford the DAC 1.

I've found an apogee mini dac going on ebay for $699.00 which would be cheap even with shipping to the uk. What's the head-fi consensus on this? Is this a good price?

Beyond that I could get an apogee duet which is cheap, if the SQ is really there, but AFAIK there's no aux out (just hookups for powered monitors and a headphone jack). This would be inelegant, but would it actually harm SQ? Furthermore I'm put off by lack of a digital in or out.

Does anyone have any particular recommendations on these three?
I just received my DAC1 USB 2 days ago. I also have the Apogee Mini-DAC on order so that I can compare the two and keep one of them. I'll be sure to re-visit this thread to share my impressions. I'm purchasing these DACs because I'm moving overseas. I'd like a one-box solution to cut down on the gear that I'll be taking, but I love the Slee Solo and I'm having a hard time with the idea of parting with it.

I wish I had received both DACs at the same time though. The DAC1 USB has been ringing every last bit of detail out of my music. It's been very enjoyable and it's quickly becoming my favorite piece of gear.
post #5 of 43
I'd love to hear your impressions, illkemist.
post #6 of 43
The duet doesn't have digital ins and outs because they're already there on the mac. It doesn't have "aux" outs, but there are headphone outs and 1/4" outs, and have a custom built cable made, and your outputs can be whatever you want them to be.

A big advantage for the minidac, if you're a recordist, is that you can use the minidac to transfer digital recordings to your computer (if you get the usb or firewire versions). You plug the digital out from your playback device to the minidac, and iti sends it over firewire/usb to your computer. It's the only dac I know that does that.
post #7 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Solan View Post
I'd love to hear your impressions, illkemist.
Well, I just got the Mini-DAC last night. It looks like this particular unit has been used before, as all of the accessory bags were already opened. I have only hooked it up to make sure it's functional, but I can point out a couple of things early.

Build Quality:
I guess I suspected as much from all the pictures aI have seen, but the DAC1 USB feels like a much more solid piece of kit. The Mini-DAC is light and hollow. I suppose this makes it ideal for transporting wherever it is needed. But the DAC1 inspires a bit more confidence in this regard.

Also, I prefer the volume pot on the DAC1, with its steps. It has a satisfying stop with every turn. Meanwhile, the Mini-DAC has a smallish flat knob (that goes to 11!) that does not feel as sturdy.

Headphone Out:
I did a short listening test to ensure that the DAC was operating correctly. The sound out of the Mini-DAC was very warm an full. It actually reminds me a bit of the Slee Solo that I own. On the other hand, the DAC1 has a level of detail that the Mini-DAC didn't. This was evident in the upper reaches of the music I was listening to.

That's about as much as I'm able to say with certainty right now. I'm going to attempt to do some listening tonight. I'll try to come back and post some additional notes.
post #8 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by illkemist View Post
Build Quality:
I guess I suspected as much from all the pictures aI have seen, but the DAC1 USB feels like a much more solid piece of kit. The Mini-DAC is light and hollow. I suppose this makes it ideal for transporting wherever it is needed. But the DAC1 inspires a bit more confidence in this regard.
The DAC1 has an internal PSU with transformer, while the Mini-Dac uses an external PSU, so that's where the weight difference comes from.

Quote:
Originally Posted by illkemist View Post
(that goes to 11!)
Awesome isn't it?
post #9 of 43
Ilkemist, I would appreciate it if you would comment on how you compare these two DACs compared to your HR MicroDAC?

I like the size of the MircoDAC but I havent seen anyone compare it to the well known DACs in performance.

Thanks
post #10 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by musicmind View Post
Ilkemist, I would appreciate it if you would comment on how you compare these two DACs compared to your HR MicroDAC?

I like the size of the MircoDAC but I haven't seen anyone compare it to the well known DACs in performance.

Thanks
I liked the size of the HR Micro DAC as well. However, as soon as the DAC1 arrived and I listened to it, I realized that I wasn't going to keep the HR. This has as much to do with features as performance. As you know, we're always trying to get the best of both worlds. We want the most dynamic sound possible. From my experience in the past few days, the DAC1 USB came closer to that when paired with my Slee Solo.

Unfortunately, I sold my Micro DAC last week when the DAC1 came. So I won't be able to do any direct tests between the three.

I'll try to do some listening today to compare the DAC1 USB and the Mini-DAC.
post #11 of 43
Thread Starter 
I thank you all for feedback! I've got an apogee duet on its way. I think it will be a reasonable upgrade on my mbox 2, and as I'm into home recording anyway it just makes sense. I'll give it a review and compare it to a number of other dacs - the one in my azur540r, the dac in my mates £1000 cd player and my trusty mbox 2.
post #12 of 43
fwiw I did not like the apogee mini. there are a number of USB DACs that you get used and they'll do better... looking forward to duet impressions.
post #13 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by melomaniac View Post
fwiw I did not like the apogee mini.
Why's that?

Quote:
...there are a number of USB DACs that you get used and they'll do better...
Can you be more specific? I've been using a MiniDac for months now and I've been thrilled with it myself.

I feel like someone would be very hard pressed to show me an appreciably better DAC for a grand or less (at least) then what this thing does.


Quote:
... looking forward to duet impressions.
As am I.
post #14 of 43
The mini is a very good dac.

The best way to tell what people think of the duet:

count the number that are forsale.
post #15 of 43
Thread Starter 
Yes I'm usually one to buy second hand if I can however seeing no apogee duets on the market I was spurred on to buy new, which is a rare occasion for me. I saved a few bob by getting it off ebay (£35) but I'm going to have to wait a bit longer then.

Something that's bothered me is that there's yet to be a massively indepth review from either the hi-fi or pro audio camps. I want to know how it measures up against the benchmark dac1 and a few other dacs.
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