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Apogee mini-DAC vs Apogee Duet - the shootout begins.

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
See the full review here, as part of a mini-meet report:

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f45/co...1/#post4515237

I have to say that the Apogee mini-DAC is probably my most important piece of audio gear in my home. As my primary source it forms the foundation of everything I hear, and as they say, "Garbage In, Garbage Out". With the Apogee mini-DAC (or the Duet), one doesn't have to worry about what they are feeding their amp and headphones - if there is something that sounds wrong, the problem is likely your program material, the interconnects, amp or headphones.

For the past few weeks I have been feeding my Macbook optical into the Apogee more frequently, and then sending the audio on to feed my Stax SRM-1 Mk2 Pro stat amp and maxed out Woo WA6 dynamic amp (and now my Woo GES stat amp). My Pico and Predator have been seeing less and less use as a laptop DAC (unless I am traveling), and more use hooked up only to iPods. With a simple flip of the switch, I can listen to my Marantz CD Player via Coax, without disconnecting the Macbook or iRiver H140 from Optical. I have the Apogee's XLR-out set up as a pre-amp out and controlled by the volume knob (which goes to 11 I might add), and configured this way the mini-DAC also does a remarkable job driving my HD600 in balanced mode with an APureSound V3 cable.

So, when the opportunity came up to compare the mini-DAC to Blutarsky's Duet, I jumped on the opportunity. I wanted to hear what all the fuss was about, because I really haven't much that is negative about the Duet at all. See the results of the mini-DAC vs Duet comparo in the thread linked above, and feel free to post there, or here with your experiences.

The Apogee Duet Appreciation Thread can be found here: Apogee Duet DAC ROCKS!

And here is a great Apogee mini-DAC review, which at the end goes on to re-evaluate the initial review while using better interconnects: apogeedac

I hate to say this, but when I travel I am going to want an Apogee Duet with me, so now after I finish paying to upgrade my GES I have to come up with the greenbacks to get a Duet. I highly suspect that in the future I will be selling a Pico to get the funds. We'll see...
post #2 of 23
Nice review, However theres one thing I don't agree with you :P about the HD600's sounding good out of the balanced out of the Mini-DAC. A fellow Head-Fier and I tried the balanced outs with a stock HD650 re-terminated balanced cable and found that it sounded unrefined, we actually preferred it out of the headphone jack, which was a disappointment ): but then again the balanced outs are just variable unamped line outs aren't they?

I was also quite surprised at how good the headphone amp is on this thing ! it even made me consider selling my earmax pro

Things on my check list:

Sigma 11
New Digital Cable :]
possibly interconnects.

*edit* terrible spelling and grammar
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Caution View Post
Nice review, However theres one thing I don't agree with you :P about the HD600's sounding good out of the balanced out of the Mini-DAC. A fellow Head-Fier and I tried the balanced outs with a stock HD650 re-terminated balanced cable and found that it sounded unrefined, we actually preferred it out of the headphone jack, which was a disappointment ): but then again the balanced outs are just variable unamped line outs aren't they?

I was also quite surprised at how good the headphone amp is on this thing ! it even made me consider selling my earmax pro

Things on my check list:

Sigma 11
New Digital Cable :]
possibly interconnects.

*edit* terrible spelling and grammar
No, we might actually agree. Like you, I also hated the HD650 balanced out of the Apogee mini-DAC, but I also didn't like the HD650 very much with any other amp either. The HD650 sounded better on my maxed Woo WA6 than out of the mini-DAC balanced XLR, but I still didn't like them enough to keep them. It seems everyone is posting how much more demanding the HD650 are than the HD600 - seems strange to me, but possibly true.

The Apogee definitely drives my balanced HD600 much better than it did HD650. After the HD650 were sold (I think), Blutarsky did listen to the HD600 balanced at my house, and they sounded pretty close to our high end Grados that way - fast sharp punchy crunchy detailed! This is with an 8 foot APureSound V3 XLR cable though, not stock.

I actually got the HD650 from Blutarsky back in March, and driven by his Zana Deux at his house they were okay, but still sounded like a stock HD600 to me, even when he was using an APS V3 cable. I just didn't like them.
post #4 of 23
ah I was actually using the HD600's with the HD650 cable

I didn't like the HD650's either
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Here is my comparison of the Stock HD600 cable to HD650 cable (both on the HD600), and the APureSound V3 (single ended) on the HD600: REVIEW: APureSound V3 Silver Cable with Copper Core for Sennheiser vs stock HD600 & HD650 cables

The APS cable made my Dark Voice 336i sound like a $1000 amp. Well, you know what I mean...
post #6 of 23
=D I've actually heard the HD600's driven out of my rig with a APS V3 cable :] this was the "older" HD600 that were black when you looked inside the grills. They were the reason I bought my HD600's but I can't remember what the APS cable sounded like ):

I actually preferred the stock HD600 cable to the 650 cable, as the HD650 cable made the HD600's darker thus making it lean more towards the sound signature of a HD650, which is a no go zone for me :]

I'm going to try the comparison between the stock and hd650 cable again, to see if my opinions have changed.

Now you made me want to recable my HD600's, get a sigma 11, and upgrade my interconnects. I hate you!
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Caution View Post
=D I've actually heard the HD600's driven out of my rig with a APS V3 cable :] this was the "older" HD600 that were black when you looked inside the grills. They were the reason I bought my HD600's but I can't remember what the APS cable sounded like ):

I actually preferred the stock HD600 cable to the 650 cable, as the HD650 cable made the HD600's darker thus making it lean more towards the sound signature of a HD650, which is a no go zone for me :]

I'm going to try the comparison between the stock and hd650 cable again, to see if my opinions have changed.

Now you made me want to recable my HD600's, get a sigma 11, and upgrade my interconnects. I hate you!
That's okay, I almost have Covenant convinced to buy the Edition 9.
post #8 of 23
i thought this was a miniDAC vs Duet thread?
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by elbuzzard View Post
i thought this was a miniDAC vs Duet thread?
Sorry - it went from discussing driving HD600 right out of the back of the mini-DAC, to the HD600 cables, to being accused of enticing someone to want those HD600 cables, to admitting I made someone buy the Edition 9 too. And it happened in a record low number of posts too. Oh look, a bunny rabbit!
post #10 of 23
so... how 'do' they compare

edit:
oh wait, they sound almost the same, but the duet is like twice as cheap...
duet wins... i like this thread

i took the liberty to quote HeadphoneAddict, posted in the other thread, so this actually becomes an informative thread ...
Quote:
I did try to keep my Macbook on the lossless playlist most of the time at the 7/26/08 meet. But, that matters not because we both have done the work for you with comparing the mini-DAC vs Duet. They are hard to distinguish from each other in terms of sound quality and sound signature, whether via line out to an amp or headphone out to headphones.

They each have unique features that separate them - with the extra digital inputs and outputs of the mini-DAC making up the doubling in the price:

1) The mini-DAC has optical, coax, USB and AES digital input, the Duet is firewire only.
2) The mini-DAC has balanced outputs, as well as 1/8" line out and 1/4" headphone out, while the Duet has a line-out umbilical and 1/4" headphone out (line out is with a plug used for active powered near field monitors).
3) The Duet also includes analog inputs and an analog to digital converter to act like a mini recording studio. You need to add the mini-me to the mini-DAC for that feature.
4) The mini-DAC can be used as a stand alone DAC/Preamp/headphone amp, the Duet requires a Mac computer.
5) The mini-DAC with firewire or USB is Windows compatible with the right firewire chip onboard, Duet is not.
6) However Duet Firewire is a 24/96 DAC and the mini-DAC usb is only a 16/44.1 DAC, but with upconversion so it sounds the same as the Duet firewire or mini-DAC optical.
7) mini-DAC is a 24/192 DAC with coax, and 24/96 with optical toslink

As a DAC feeding a desktop amp, I like these better than the Pico feeding a desktop amp, and I like the Duet just about as much as the mini-DAC. As a headphone amp with DAC I think they soundly beat the portables like the Pico. The Pico is better as a DAC than it is a headphone amp, to my ears.
now where is the shootout?
post #11 of 23
I have been waiting for more feedback on the Duet. This thread has helped me make up my mind to begin saving up for one as i need a good DAC and desktop amp. My only concern is my Mac only has 1Gb of RAM and I believe Apogee recommends 2Gb for the Duet. Anyone using it with less than 2GB of RAM?
post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 
I know I have 2Gb of RAM in my Macbook, but it only cost me $49 at circuitcity.com for the chips to upgrade the RAM from 1Gb.
post #13 of 23
Thanks.... I will see if what Best Buy sells it for here in Toronto. Unfortunately there is no Circuit City here.
post #14 of 23
I'm using it with a mac mini, using only 1gb of ram, works fine. Just don't open all your programs at once. I think the 2gb recommendation is more in case of recording.
post #15 of 23
I'm running my Duet on a 1Ghz Powerbook G4 with 1.12GB (1GB + 128MB) of memory under 10.5.4, with no playback issues. I haven't tried recording...

nine
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