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Good USB DAC for the budget-constrained?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

First post, so be gentle with me. ;-) Since both my laptops came with decent/generic sound cards I'm looking for a good USB DAC. Budget is around 200 USD although I might be tempted to go to higher.

Current setup:
- Audioengine A5 active speakers
- Grado SR60 headphones
- Windows XP (most of the time), Ubuntu (occasionally)

Future upgrades will probably be:
- Grado SR225 or closed ear Sennheiser headphones
- Windows 7 or Mac OS X

Requirements:
- 24/96
- headphone out
- RCA out
- built in volume control (knob)
- no messy/wonky driver issues under most/all OSes

I realize that I'm probably not going to fulfill all my requirements given my budget but 3 out of 5 wouldn't be too bad. From browsing the forums the following come to mind:
- Audinst HUD-MX1
- Firestone Audio Fubar 2  
- HRT Streamer II
- Musiland Monitor 02 US

Thoughts/recommendations/corrections/additions? Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 23

I believe the uDac2 will fit the bill nicely.

 

http://www.amazon.com/NuForce-uDAC-2-Black-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B003Y5FRNS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=miscellaneous&qid=1284038625&sr=8-1

 

Enjoy

post #3 of 23

Stretch your budget to $275 and you can get a Beresford 7520. DAC, preamp, headphone amp and good quality on all three fronts.

 

P

post #4 of 23

Do you listen to 24/96 content?

post #5 of 23
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FallenAngel View Post

Do you listen to 24/96 content?

On occasion - so not having 24/96 wouldn't be a dealbreaker.

 

Also, most of it is (are?) 24/96 vinyl rips done by a friend on high-end equipment. I sometimes wonder if it's even necessary to use such a high sample rate for transfers of vinyl-only stuff, but that's a completely different discussion.

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeatFan12 View Post

I believe the uDac2 will fit the bill nicely.

 

http://www.amazon.com/NuForce-uDAC-2-Black-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B003Y5FRNS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=miscellaneous&qid=1284038625&sr=8-1

 

Enjoy

That looks perfect, thanks! Can't believe it works on only USB power, but the reviews are stellar. Off to locate a European (re)seller now....
 

post #8 of 23

post #9 of 23

I think you will enjoy it...I do, although I did have to use a ground loop isolator to get rid of noise from my system. I'm pretty sure the sound was coming from my computer vis USB.

post #10 of 23

The uDac 2 seems to be easily one of the best options at the <$200 range. Enjoy!

post #11 of 23

The upcoming Creative Titanium HD USB sound card seems to promise more for cheaper but there is no review yet.
 

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by moonsurf View Post

The upcoming Creative Titanium HD USB sound card seems to promise more for cheaper but there is no review yet.
 


Ya, no reviews of USB Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi HD until now but there is one review about Titanium HD:

http://www.techradar.com/reviews/pc-mac/pc-components/sound-cards/creative-x-fi-titanium-hd-712750/review
 

Well, I have to say USB Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi HD really looks like Creative X-Fi Surround 5.1 USB... Still wait for some reviews. 

post #13 of 23

I don't want to start such a similar thread immediately in the wake of this one, so if I may I'd like to include my very similar question:

Building a work setup, with new phones and an amp thanks to fellow head-fi'ers oggle and riverlethe:

 

Work laptop --> ______ --> shanling PH100 --> AKG K701

 

As I'm sure you can guess, I want a low-budget blank-filler.  I am considering the:

-NuForce uDAC-2

-Maverick D1 (used only)

-AUNE or similar 

-echo indigo DJ

-(used) headamp PICO

 

I have a Macbook Pro at home, so OS X compatibility is necessary.  I don't have any SACD or DVD-A content, so high sample rates aren't necessary.  My other headphones are some Ultrasone PROline 650s, which I've used unamped.  

 

Only difference from the OP's post really is that I don't care about the quality of the headphone amp - I just need USB --> RCA, and that done decently and done cheap haha!

 

Thanks a bunch in advance, not really sure if pirating a living thread like this is the best policy or not, so feel free to correct me,

Cam

 

-EDIT-added info about my other 'phones (ultrasones)


Edited by camms - 9/13/10 at 8:13pm
post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Palpatine View Post

I think you will enjoy it...I do, although I did have to use a ground loop isolator to get rid of noise from my system. I'm pretty sure the sound was coming from my computer vis USB.

OK, that's good to know. Still looking for a "brick" store near me, so I can test it. The Aune (thanks for the tip, Lazerboy2000) is going for 110 GBP on eBay, but I quite like the portability of the nuForce. Pondering....

An aside: noticed in your sig that you own HD555's. How do you like these? My girlfriend owns HD500's which are comfy but falling apart - and although I like (the sound of) my Grado's they're wearable ear-torturers.
 

post #15 of 23

I think the HD555 are fine for movies through a receiver or for using EQ settings. Other than that, I find them kind of lifeless. My sr225i are getting more comfy all the time.

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