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Best USB DAC under $150 that works in Linux

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I'm looking for a USB DAC, around $150 (preferably under) that works well with a laptop running Ubuntu 10.10. I have the Creative Xmod, just as something to use but the audio just isn't that great. Any and all recommendations are greatly appreciated. 

post #2 of 16

Look at the PurePiper A1 there is a review in the dedciated source component thread.

The unit is said to be a great external DAC for about $170,  Not too far outsite your budget.  Might be worth a look. 

Aside from that perhaps a DIY DAC might be a good options also. Buy and sell forum also could help you on your quest.

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

The PurePiper A1 looks like a beautiful DAC, the only problem with it is the fact that it doesn't have a USB input. After reading their review, it's understandable why a lot of people/companies opt out of a USB input. Unfortunately, for my needs, I need a way of getting audio out of my laptop that isn't through the headphone/line-out jack. USB is the first medium I thought of for this task, and buying the A1 and then needing another component convert the USB to coax/optical seems unnecessarily expensive. Are there any decent USB DACs that are priced somewhere in my budget, or should I just look for a complete audio overhaul and get a new laptop/desktop with a digital out?

post #4 of 16

Have you checked out the Audinst HUD-mx1? I would expect it to work under Linux (though you should confirm w/ someone). It's USD 179. No idea whether it's "best", though.

post #5 of 16

The HUD-MX1 works with Ubuntu. It is not a bad choice. Off of the top of my head the D2+ Boa, Music Streamer II, and Sparrow work with Ubuntu too.


Edited by dsissitka - 10/19/10 at 6:36pm
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the recommendations

post #7 of 16

As far as I know, all Linux distros support USB audio class 1.
The newest even support USB audio class 2.
Therefore all USB DAC’s should work with Linux
Only those who uses their own driver at the PC side will be a problem.
A couple of USB DAC’s can be found here: http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/HW/USB_DAC.htm
 

post #8 of 16

Hi, sorry to hiijack your thread, but I´m thinking to buy a MID/tablet, and I was wondering if it's possible to use an external USB DAC with a tablet like SmartQ V3 or SmartQ V5 + external USB power (DIY maybe), that uses a modded Ubuntu Linux distro? That could be a very actractive combo and I guess that with a good portable DAC it'll surpass all regular portable players.

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roseval View Post

As far as I know, all Linux distros support USB audio class 1.
The newest even support USB audio class 2.
Therefore all USB DAC’s should work with Linux
Only those who uses their own driver at the PC side will be a problem.
A couple of USB DAC’s can be found here: http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/HW/USB_DAC.htm
 

I was hoping that Linux would support any drivers for a usb dac, which is why I just (without thinking) ordered a creative xmod. It must have taken me close to an hour to finally get the driver to work under Linux, and when it finally worked, it literally was the worst sound I've ever heard. The music is actually close to unbearable and I regret the decision to get such a terrible DAC. I just want to make sure I'm getting something that will actually work well with Linux and not have the same problem. 
 

post #10 of 16

I've got a Leckerton UHA-3 working well as a USB-DAC under Ubuntu 9.10. No problem so far for 2 years, no need to bother terminal at all. Ubuntu will automatically recognize it.

post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 

Is the sound quality on the UHA-3 going to be able to rival the sound quality of buying a desktop with an optical out and connecting it to an amp through that connection? That's another idea I was having, but I don't know if I have the patience to wait for the budget of that project to grow large enough to buy decent equipment. I would like to be able to just buy a usb dac, and have that work, but if I'm going to be completely in awe of the sound quality of a new computer + desktop amp, I may have to wait.

post #12 of 16

UHA-3 is a piece of MONSTER! Google UHA-3 in this forum and I believe you will find a lot of threads (in fact I got mine after reading the reviews of it here). I've used it with an ER-4P with 4S conversion cable it blew me away immediately! Cannot describe it but really amazing (after using 4S cable though). But I don't know if UHA-3 could drive speaker systems. I've only used it with earphones.

post #13 of 16

I have Ubuntu 10.10 on my Asus Eee PC 1201N, and it recognized my uDAC the very second I plugged it in.

 

 

Screenshot.png

post #14 of 16

Firestone Audio Fubar II works in bitperfect under ALSA. I run Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic. Solidly built and upgradable opamps too. Great DAC for the $137 you pay.

 

Link

post #15 of 16

Just so everyone is talking about the same thing, a few things should be clarified...

 

In the strictest terms a DAC by itself is generally not capable of driving headphones directly.  There are some exceptions, such as the Gamma2 with the proper output caps, and the Buffalo 2 if you are using the Balanced outputs from the IVYIII, but both of those are in a different price range (G2~$300 and Buf2~$1000).  IF you have a USB DAC connected to your laptop, you are going to need a separate AMP to drive the headphones.

 

A DAC/Amp on the other hand is a DAC plus an amplifier capable of driving headphones directly, but typically not loudspeakers, although there may be exceptions there also.

 

There are pros and cons to both options. Separate DAC and Amp setups give you the option of upgrading one without changing the other, but are generally larger, need more cables, etc..  This is usually the case for desktop type setups.   A DAC/Amp combo is smaller, more portable, but doesnt give you the option to do individual upgrades.  The Lekerton UHA-3 is a portable DAC/Amp, and it is also discontinued, replaced by the UHA-4. The UHA-4 uses a PCM2706 DAC chip, part of the PCM270X family that is best considered a *starter* DAC.  The cool think about it is that at the low price point, it does double duty of converting the USB signal and then doing the DAC chores all in one chip.  DAC systems that are generally regarded as higher quality leave the USB to S/Pdif or I2S conversion

to a PCM270X (or CM103s etc..) and take the digital signal and feed it to a better quality dac chip, of which there are many variations(all with their specific sound signatures..)..     Implementation(the circuitry around the DAC, the power supplies etc) also has an effect on quality.

 

You talk about buying a Desktop with a Digital(S/PDIF) output instead of a USB DAC. Unfortunately that isn't an apples to oranges comparison, because you will still need a DAC(Digital to Audio Converter) with a S/PDIF input this time to convert the signal to something you can amplify.. 

 

The other thing is that unless you know how good the audio chipset is on the desktop mother board is, even if you are just using the digital out, you are not guaranteed that you will get better quality that way than using a USB DAC..  Some motherboard audio chips are really crap, that could be bettered by even a low cost USB dac. 


Edited by MrSlim - 10/22/10 at 9:38pm
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