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Edirol UA-1EX or Cakewalk UA-1G

post #1 of 2
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Hi, I'm looking for the best DAC I can buy with 100$ or less. I've read good things about Edirol UA-1EX. Now there there is a new version , Cakewalk UA-1G but I can't find much information. As far as I know this one still has the odd switch button to select the sampling rate. Is the new version really an improvement over the old one?. Well, I'm interested in these models, but other options are welcome. I plan to use the DAC with my Audio Technica M50 headphones so good headphone out is a priority.
post #2 of 2

Need to write a quick post on the cakewalk. A bit of background first. When I auditioned M-Dac a year ago, it beat Rega, M1, Dac Magic and rDac in auditions I did at the time. I like a detailed revealing sound and the M-Dac brought out more detail, tighter bass, than the others - it was very noticeable. Audition was using ALAC files on an ipod classic through a wadia dock and into a 100w creek amp  to $5k bookshelf speakers at the lhfs. M-Dac has been running in my main system since then - sony bdp-s580 -> mdac -> arcam a75+ -> p35 -> whatmough p11, with a REL t3, chord cabling. On this system using the sony blu ray to play cds through the coax with the mdac in fixed output mode, I got the best sound compared to alac files played by foobar to the usb and the optical. I preferred this sound to a cd37 that I auditioned at one point a year or so ago - but it was different speakers (much more expensive b&w floor standers) so not sure if that was the speakers or the cd player. 

 

Fast forward to this year and I got sick of turning up the treble on movie sound tracks when listening them through the mdac. The voices are always too indistinct in quiet scenes, which I think is the speakers being voiced for music and not movies. Anyway I went to my local hi fi and listened to oppo 103->mdac vs oppo 105 stereo outs. Predictably, the 105 and mdac were close, with the mdac slightly better and both beat the 103 sound by a margin. This was into a top line denon power amp driving some sonus faber $5k speakers. So after listening to 'blowing in the wind' quite a few times at the store and with the memory still fresh, I went home and listened to this on my system and it didn't sound as good.The guitar was noticeably less distinct and realistic. Hence I started playing around with different sources into the mdac again and biamped the speakers, repositioned things, adjusted the sub. Improved things a bit, but still not up to the standard in the store. I also tried the mdac direct to the power amp. That made things worse.

 

I had my cakewalk ua-1g that I bought back in 2008 when I was djing plugged into a mac mini as an itunes jukebox for a second system and had not listened to it separately for years. So I plugged it into my laptop, loaded the driver and fired up foobar. Running alac files and wasapi into the ua-1g and with my current fav headphones of hd25-13s I was amazed as I compared this with the headphone out on the mdac both from cd and from foobar. With these headphones the UA-1g which is principally a recording device and bought several years ago prior to the recent boom in dacs, sounds significantly better to my ears. I was comparing with Dylan still so I switched to the more layered music of Tracy Chapman and the gap only grew. 'Mountains of Things' through the mdac is very good, but through the ua-1g it is noticeably better.  

 

So I pulled out my vinyl and then normality was restored, the vinyl played on a vintage technics turntable with original cartridge sounds better than the ua-1g, more detailed, organic and natural. Still leaves me wondering, can I ever listen to a CD again? Will try this compro again at more length as I find it amazing that a $250 pro usb only dac can beat an mdac, but for the moment, I am in awe of the ua-1g. Listening to Little Birdy, Confetti with it right now and it is bloody brilliant - there must be magic dust in there somewhere or some super competent engineers to thank. This is my first post so thanks for reading!

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