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uDac disappointment

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

After many years away from the headphone game, i re-entered the realm by purchasing a pair of Grado 325is about a month and a half ago.

Straight out of my computer's soundcard, with WAV files and MP3s (minimum 192bit), the phones sound very neutral, open, dynamic, clean, clear and play quite loudly without distortion.

Having been into higher end audio since i was an early teen (i'm 38 now), i have lots of experience with gear and know what to listen for (i'm big on neutrality, more in the 'clean and clear' camp than in the 'euphonic' camp). Hence, my grado 325is purchase (which to me sound like very, very good quality speakers. Fast, crisp, accurate). Over the years, i've come to realize that without a good source, everything else falls apart.

So, after a bunch of reading on USB dacs, i decided to try out the NuForce uDac. Hell, my entire Motherboard wiht incorporated sound card cost only marginally more than the uDac, so i was anticipating the uDac to be MILES ahead of it in sound quality.

Upon recieving the uDac yesterday (after more than two weeks of waiting for its delivery), i connected it and was... very disappointed.

IMO, this uDac must be made for 'lesser' phones. I say this because of the following: The Grados have a very neutral response, with a bit of tipping up in the highest registers. Most 'lesser' headphones, however, have a frequency response in the shape of a U; bass and treble are tipped up, midrange is recessed. This gives the listener an initial 'wow' upon first listening, but becomes really tiresome really quickly. The uDac seems to have the opposite; its frequency response is an upside down U, with the bass and treble attenuated and with the midrange emphasised. Given what i just stated about 'lesser' heaphones having a U-shaped response curve, i can understand why some people (perhaps less experienced audiophiles) like the uDac; it brings forward the recessed midrange that many heaphones possess, making them more 'neutral' sounding.

However, since the Grados already started off neutral, this upside down U frequency response of the uDac attenuates the bass and treble of the grados and brings the midrange too far forward, resulting in a clammy sound, not unlike being inside a metal garbage can (not that i've been inside a metal garbage can in a while, but you know what i mean). At lower volumes, the more forward midrange is not too bad. At moderate volumes, the midrange just sounds too forward compared to the rest of the range. At higher volumes - forget it. The midrange is too forward by far. I tend to listen at lower to moderate volumes, since my hearing is very sensitive, but this midrange boost is very ...displeasing.

Beyond that, the phones can be played more loudly and more cleanly straight out of the sound card. With the uDac, at higher volumes, the bass seems to start to break up sooner than straight out of the sound card.

After waiting so long for its arrival, i hate to say it, but i'm very disappointed.

Having said all of that, i wonder if anyone has had similar experiences.

Also, does anyone know how much the uDac changes after break-in and how long it takes (i'm a firm believer in break-in. There is no doubt AT ALL in my mind that it exists. It's just a matter of 'to what degree').

I'm even more disappointed b/c i had been planning to buy a LD 1+ for the Grado 325is, but figured 'source first', so decided to buy the uDac first, with plans to get the LD 1+ thereafter.

To be honest, i bought the uDac based on what i read in here, but without offending anyone, i suspect that those who are 'wowed' by it have either A: significantly different gear than i do or B: are not particularly experienced with high end audio. Maybe it's a combination of the two.

This has made me leery of buying the LD 1+ as well, since i was going to purchase it solely on the recommendations of fellow head-fiers.

So, to sum up, what are others' experience with the udac and its break-in? does it change dramatically? Does it eventually open up and settle down?

Also, i wonder if the LD 1+ talk on here is all hype as well...Something tells me i should have gone with my gut and bought the amp first. But, I sure as hell don't want yet ANOTHER disappointment from another online purchase for which i'll have to wait several weeks. And beyond that, given my financial circumstances, i don't really want to throw money down the toilet by buying something and reselling it at a loss shortly thereafter.

Opinions? Thoughts? should i give the uDac more time? Should i just sell it and put the money towards a LD 1+ amp? ...i'm so sad... Meh.
post #2 of 38
first rule: don't believe everything you read.

the uDAC is based on a $0.98 DAC chip and there's no opamp...being a FOTM it'll be dead easy to sell anyway
post #3 of 38
Yes, give any new equipment a few days to settle in. I can't explain all the possible causes but I have noticed a great improvement in one of my recent audio purchases.
post #4 of 38
If you consider the SR325is neutral then your ears clearly favour the high/upper register centric sound than many others here. This is probably the first time I've ever heard anyone from head-fi call this particular headphone as neutral. But of course, our listening habits differ and so does our preferences... and whatever sounds good to you is the correct one for you. In that case, the uDAC is clearly not for you as it definitely does have a midrange/bass emphasis to a degree. I'd look for a more neutral DAC/amp. No idea how the LD1+ sounds, but if my old EF1 (also a hybrid style) is anything to go by then it'll definitely be more neutral than the uDAC.
post #5 of 38
You should give time on your equipment only if you're QUESTIONABLE about it. If you're flat out disappointed get rid of it ASAP
post #6 of 38
I would not expect any big difference vis a vis onboard from the cheapest sources available. I am not surprised that it was even worse than your onboard. I bet that huge motherboard manufacturers have some engineers who happen to have ears and ideas, and squeeze everything that is possible in given price limits

But I think you can't evaluate a DAC without proper amplification. In my quite limited experience, it is the amp section that does most of the difference. Once I compared my onboard RealtekHD with ESI u24, and u24 sounded miles ahead, because it has a better amping section. However, when comparing both sources through the dedicated amp, the differences were minimal..
post #7 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by dexter3d View Post
Once I compared my onboard RealtekHD with ESI u24, and u24 sounded miles ahead, because it has a better amping section. However, when comparing both sources through the dedicated amp, the differences were minimal.
humm, the realtek I measured was really junk: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/6512149-post17.html
post #8 of 38
The Grado SR325is is a quirky headphone. It is not neutral by any stretch. It is colored and fussy, very fussy. It is capable of sounding fantastic with the right music and sounding absolutely horrid with the wrong music. It is the fussiest Grado that I have heard (other than the original version of the SR325).

The problems you hear may be more about that's how the SR325is is supposed to sound than problems with the uDAC. I have never heard a uDAC. I have no idea how well it pairs with a SR325is or other Grados. I could be all wrong about it.

I do own a SR325is. I like it for what it is. But I'm also very respectful of its quirks and limitations. I treat it as a "dessert" phone. Something used in moderation for flavor with selected music. It's not a headphone to be used all the time for all music. You should probably be thinking about a more well rounded headphone as your main phone. Keep the SR325is if you like it for "dessert" use. It does depend though on what your music taste is. If your music library is stuff that gets along well with the SR325is the Grado can be addicting.
post #9 of 38
try putting a real headphone amp on it, the uDAC is first and foremost a DAC.
post #10 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by K_19 View Post
If you consider the SR325is neutral then your ears clearly favour the high/upper register centric sound than many others here. This is probably the first time I've ever heard anyone from head-fi call this particular headphone as neutral. But of course, our listening habits differ and so does our preferences... and whatever sounds good to you is the correct one for you. In that case, the uDAC is clearly not for you as it definitely does have a midrange/bass emphasis to a degree. I'd look for a more neutral DAC/amp. No idea how the LD1+ sounds, but if my old EF1 (also a hybrid style) is anything to go by then it'll definitely be more neutral than the uDAC.
To my ears, these 'phones, for the price, sound like high resolution speakers. To acheive the type of sound quality (tight bass, crystal clear midrange, extended upper frequencies). To acheive this sound in a home audio system would cost a LOT of cash. I certainly do no think the 325is is a perfect headphone; however, I do know that to replicate its sound in a home audio system can be difficult (to put things into perspective, my most recent audio system consisted of a Unison Research Unico, Rotel RCD971 with MSB Link DAC III with half Nelson upgrade and Neat Mystique/ StudioLab Reference 1 and NHT 2.5i speakers). This simple system was the cat's meow, but just didn't work in my current residence, where the acoustics suck the life out of EVERYTHING (hence my move to headphones). I am actually shocked when i hear others' negative comments about the 325is. Then again, i appreciate that everyone hears differently and has different preferences.

I appreciate your (and others') responses... I will definitely give a heaphone amp a try and perhaps test out a different DAC (maybe Cambridge?). Sadly, i don't have a lot of money to throw around (hence my high hopes for the uDac), but i think i've come to realize that, in the long run, i just can't afford to buy cheap stuff.

I truly appreciate all your comments here... Thanks a lot ppl... Keep 'em coming!
post #11 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by leeperry View Post
first rule: don't believe everything you read.

the uDAC is based on a $0.98 DAC chip and there's no opamp...being a FOTM it'll be dead easy to sell anyway


The udac crazy is still pretty rampant. I will be buying one eventually because of all the talk and I have no expectations. Yes, some members say it's almost as good as a $500 dac that's highly unlikely.
post #12 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by leeperry View Post
humm, the realtek I measured was really junk: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/6512149-post17.html
Agreed, but u24 is not that far..
post #13 of 38
Thread Starter 
So, does ANYONE here have experience with the uDac insofar as its break-in?

I stress this because over my last 25 years of audiophilia, I have noticed HUGE changes in sound after break-in of some components. Mostly, it has been noticed with speakers (and to me, it can be night and day with speakers), but I also noticed it with electronics (my Unico sounded good straight out of the box, but became quite a bit better after a bit of run-in).

My MSB Link DAC, on the other hand, did not need much break-in at all. Problem with that thing was that it kept breaking down (the auto input selection) and dealing with MSB was more than difficult, to say the least.

And further to the uDac's break-in potential, what is the general consensus on the likes of the DACMagic by comparison?
post #14 of 38
its a $100 cheap dac O_o what do you expect from it. btw i own one love the little thing don't care for the sq just needed a usb dac that's tiny using for by my bed from a 16ft usb cable
post #15 of 38
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by momomo6789 View Post
its a $100 cheap dac O_o what do you expect from it. btw i own one love the little thing don't care for the sq just needed a usb dac that's tiny using for by my bed from a 16ft usb cable
It's a 100 dollar cheap dac that does not sound as good as my 115 dollar entire motherboard with onboard sound card. THAT is the issue. I did not expect miracles from it, especially given the sound quality that i'm accustomed to having at home and i most certainly expected it to at least somewhat outperform my onboard sound card.
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