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Is the uDac overrated? - Page 3

Poll Results: Is the uDac a good source in your opinion?

 
  • 59% (52)
    Yes
  • 40% (35)
    No
87 Total Votes  
post #31 of 56

DACs are quite important and vary a lot. This is a rapidly evolving technology. A tiny $100 DAC with current technology will sound sweeter and be more silent than one made 3 years ago that cost quite a bit. DACs are a bit of a wormhole. Not easy to understand why one is better than the other at all. Follow the pros.

 

 

post #32 of 56

If I might contribute...

 

I ordered a uDac-2, after getting fed up with the rather dark audio I was getting through my DT770 Pro-80's through the onboard sound from my work computer (a 2008 iMac). The sound card wasn't bad, per se, but I found myself regularly running the volume around 60-70% for normal listening, and it seemed a little lifeless. I got better results with a kit cMoy amp, but replacing two 9v batteries constantly got old really fast, and an 18v linear-regulated DC power supply is not such a common or cheap thing to come by.

 

I went through countless reviews and discussions of every contender in the sub-$150 price range from Creative Labs X-Fi to iBasso and Fiio to Little Dot hybrid tubes to crazy $50 Chinese tube amps on eBay that you have to modify right out of the box. Eventually I decided that while the Little Dot I+ seemed like a cute piece of hardware for under $150, it left me with a large, fragile piece of desktop stereo equipment that still relies on the quality of the computer's headphone output. I went back and forth for weeks and eventually settled on the uDAC-2 due to its great reviews, sturdy build, USB power (no wall-warts! no batteries!) and totally clean, minimalist, miniscule, pocketable form-factor. I could throw it in the smallest pocket of my backpack at the end of the day and use it at home.

 

Long story short, I like it. It's a rock-solid little chunk of kit (I mean rock-solid... I opened the front panel and it's so packed with circuitry, resistors, caps and chips that there's nary a cubic centimeter left.) It's small enough that it's pretty inconspicuous, but dense enough that it doesn't really want to move around too much. It's handsome, with a smooth black volume knob and a dim white power LED that doesn't blind you when it's sitting directly below your monitor.

 

Mostly, though, it puts out good power. My Grado SR225's require less than 25% throttle, with a subtle but noticeably larger soundstage, and my Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro-80's need just a little more to deliver tighter bass and more treble detail than was possible without an amp. The most dramatic difference, interestingly, was with my modified Koss Portapro which seemed to expand just a bit in every direction and deliver MUCH more detailed treble than I had access to before.

 

My experience with USB DACs is limited to this one, and my experience with headphone amps isn't much better, but I feel that this is a VERY worthwhile affordable and portable all-in-one solution, better than my kit CMOY and a huge improvement over no amp at all. Before this, I was looking into a DAC with a separate power supply and a stationary desktop amplifier with the same. Two boxes, two cables and two wall-warts (or power cords). This has exceeded my expectations in the form of a tiny little aluminum box with one short USB cable for everything. I can't promise that I won't add a tube-amp down the line, but for now I'm very satisfied with every aspect of my noise nugget.

 

Also, if you need to know, I'm almost certain that the red ones sound the best.


Edited by DocBlasto - 3/30/11 at 3:30pm
post #33 of 56
Thread Starter 

I got a Gamma1 for $140. It beats the uDac to the ground.

post #34 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mralexosborn View Post

I got a Gamma1 for $140. It beats the uDac to the ground.


 

I looked into those, but you first have to track down electrical components and solder them all to a PCB. If you're good, it works like it's supposed to, and if you're not then there's no warranty. Also, it's twice the size of the uDac (and uDac2). Also, no guarantee on how much it's going to cost. You have to find the parts yourself, and ship them from various suppliers, never mind the labor of assembling them.

 

Whew, it's finished! Where do I plug my headphones in? You can't. It's a dedicated DAC, now you need a headphone amp. I don't doubt that you've spent time listening to the uDac-2 and the Gamma1 and detected a real difference, but surely the type of amp you add to your $140 homebuilt DAC makes all the difference in the world.

 

Do you really think they're comparable devices? Because I think it's only fair to compare it to larger, more expensive commercial dedicated DACs rather than extremely tiny ones with built-in amplifiers that cost less and arrive in one piece, from one source, fully functional and with a warranty.


Edited by DocBlasto - 3/30/11 at 4:09pm
post #35 of 56
Thread Starter 

...I didn't build it. I bought a prebuilt one from a Head-Fi'er. My source feeds into a vintage Marantz receiver and gets audio via USB from my laptop and it feeds either my Stax SR-404 of my Fostex FE126's. No use of the onboard amp on the uDac.

The Gamma1 clips a hell of a lot less. The only reason either source clipped was my laptop. But the Gamma1 clips once out of the ten times the uDac would. The Gamma1 also has less noise, there is still noise due to USB (I will start using optical soon) the uDac uses USB for power which just multiplies the problem. 

 

I know lots of people are critical of digital sources but I will say upon upgrading from my $70 uDac (I bought used, as I always do) to my $140 Gamma1 there is not a huge difference but the soundstage seems expanded and the level of detail is increased, well worth an extra $70. 

 

Don't be rude. It isn't nice.

post #36 of 56

Not sure how broken is everyone's uDac is but aft nearly 150 hours, it's quite nice.  I've been listening to the uDac2 for the last couple of hours while working on my Mac and am quite impressed.  Volume wise, I'm running it at about 1 o'clock.  It's open, airy and drives the Senn 600's nicely at a moderate level.

 

I've been mildly disappointed with it up until the last few days.  About a month ago, I got the FiiO E7 and ran both the E7 and the uDac2 for about 100 hours straight.  Even after that, I decided to get the E9 to mate with the E7 to drive my 600's.  The uDac2 is now just coming to life. It may be just a matter of giving it a chance.

BTY.. it really rocks with the Senn HD25-1 II's.

 

It's a tough call between the uDac2 & the FiiO E7 but I'm leaning toward the E7.. a little smoother. Can't wait until the E9 comes in.  Anyway, I'll be keeping both as I have multiple machines.

post #37 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mralexosborn View Post

...I didn't build it. I bought a prebuilt one from a Head-Fi'er. My source feeds into a vintage Marantz receiver and gets audio via USB from my laptop and it feeds either my Stax SR-404 of my Fostex FE126's. No use of the onboard amp on the uDac.

The Gamma1 clips a hell of a lot less. The only reason either source clipped was my laptop. But the Gamma1 clips once out of the ten times the uDac would. The Gamma1 also has less noise, there is still noise due to USB (I will start using optical soon) the uDac uses USB for power which just multiplies the problem. 

 

I know lots of people are critical of digital sources but I will say upon upgrading from my $70 uDac (I bought used, as I always do) to my $140 Gamma1 there is not a huge difference but the soundstage seems expanded and the level of detail is increased, well worth an extra $70. 

 

Don't be rude. It isn't nice.


Oh, I don't mean to be rude. I'm just pointing out that it's really not comparable at all. Whether or not you found one that somebody else built for a reasonable price doesn't really put it into the same league as a less-expensive production Dac with a built-in headphone amp. Starting from scratch, it's not just a few bucks more expensive or a little more of a hassle. It's a complete DIY project that you have to build it yourself, and then you have to buy or build an amp as well.

 

Interestingly, I don't hear noise at all through my uDac-2, and clipping seems a non-issue. Did you have the first or second uDac?

 

post #38 of 56
Thread Starter 

The first uDac. They are comparable because many around here say that there is little to no difference between DAC's in the sub $300 price range. I was just pointing out that the differences are far from subtle (well it is still subtle but, hey, it's audio). I was not using the uDac's amp, let me reiterate, the uDac's amp was not involved. The uDac has RCA outs that fed to my receiver. 

 

Sure the uDac is worth the $70 I paid but for what is a minor expense (an extra $140) in the audio world I got something quite a bit better, I think. 

 

Also there are builders on this site that build the Gamma1 for ~$160. 

post #39 of 56

I got my uDAC2 off e-bay for less than $100 and it's one of the best buys I've ever made for listening to music through my PC. The sound stage increased along with bass extension, the sound was smoother and on first listen it gave me a very happy feeling when listening to music. I ran it through my Shure SRH840s but now I am also using it to drive my 2.1 Edifier PC speakers/sub and it has made a huge difference to them. For less than $100 it is definitely not over rated.


 

post #40 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by mralexosborn View Post

The first uDac. They are comparable because many around here say that there is little to no difference between DAC's in the sub $300 price range. I was just pointing out that the differences are far from subtle (well it is still subtle but, hey, it's audio). I was not using the uDac's amp, let me reiterate, the uDac's amp was not involved. The uDac has RCA outs that fed to my receiver. 

 

Sure the uDac is worth the $70 I paid but for what is a minor expense (an extra $140) in the audio world I got something quite a bit better, I think. 

 

Also there are builders on this site that build the Gamma1 for ~$160. 



That's a little disingenuous Alex since you were using it to drive a pair of headphones when you first got it. The reason the uDAC is so popular is because it provides a significant improvement over onboard sound. It's a budget DAC in a nice little compact package that is solidly constructed. Is there better stuff out there, no doubt. I think my Sparrow for $183 is a signifiant improvement over a uDAC. Then again the Sparrow doesnt have any RCA outs like the uDAC, it's a lot bigger, requires it's own power source, and is something that is unlikely to get toted around with a laptop. It's a great piece of gear that would be absolutely useless in your rig, but absolutely works for me. 

 

How awesome is a uDAC for a guy that wants to boost his onboard sound at home and at work?

 

The value of any particular thing is the features and benefits it offers it's user, on that level the uDAC is a great value to most people. I imagine that's why Nuforce has sold so many of those little gizmo's. It has great resale value too.

 

 

 

 

 

post #41 of 56
Thread Starter 

I am saying for the past two weeks I have not been using the onboard amp on the uDac. 

 

Also I started this thread after seeing a couple people with a uDac in their high(er) end setups (Nothing in excess of $1000) and I was just kinda baffled. It is a good investment but meh.

post #42 of 56

After comparing the Musiland Monitor 02 US to the NuForce uDAC, I found that I preferred the Musiland by leaps and bounds to the uDAC.

post #43 of 56
Thread Starter 

Considering I've seen the Musiland for sale around here for $70...my point still stands. 

post #44 of 56
Udac is massively overrated. It was hyped to death by some people who i will not mention for their sakes in the udac thread, how it compares favorably to $500 DACs and all sorts of other stupefying shill-like statements. I got rid of mine, don't miss it at all. In fact I think the E7 is far superior. Its cheaper yet does more. Farewell udac. There's a certain headfi member I hate for hyping all these nuforce products, frankly should not have believed the silly hype.
post #45 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mochan View Post

Udac is massively overrated. It was hyped to death by some people who i will not mention for their sakes in the udac thread, how it compares favorably to $500 DACs and all sorts of other stupefying shill-like statements. I got rid of mine, don't miss it at all. In fact I think the E7 is far superior. Its cheaper yet does more. Farewell udac. There's a certain headfi member I hate for hyping all these nuforce products, frankly should not have believed the silly hype.



Ouch. I think there is a bit of truth to what you say here Mochan, I've actually had some of the same thoughts with regard to the hype the uDAC got in that thread and the purveyor of those thoughts.

 

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