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Questions about the NuForce uDAC-2 (HP)

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 

I acquired this device finally as of yesterday, have put around 8 hours into it now, and I have some questions about it I was hoping other users could help me with.

 

- Does the stock USB cable it comes with need to be replaced, or is it sufficient? If I were to get, say, NuForce's Impulse USB cable, how much of a difference would that make?

 

- Is there a burn-in time for portable DAC/Amps? If so, any estimates on what it would be for this NuForce?

 

- Is there an option or setting that needs to be adjusted so that the laptop outputs material straight to the soundcard in the NuForce, or is this automatic? The reason I ask is because I can adjust volume of the device from my computer in the taskbar volume control, so it seems to me like the computer sound card is still being used as in in-between.

 

- With just 50 OHM headphones (Sennheiser HD 595s), should I still notice a substantial difference in sound quality as other reviewers seem to be achieving with this NuForce?

 

Thanks! :]

post #2 of 29
Thread Starter 

Bump. :3

post #3 of 29

I tried the impulse usb cord, but for $30 on amazon, I dont think its worth it. It doesnt make any discernible difference.

 

Between my laptop's output and the udac2, I immediately noticed a substantial difference using the udac2 using HD600s and dt770s. It sounds like youre not hearing any difference. What kinda soundcard do you have on your laptop?

post #4 of 29
Thread Starter 

    Quote:

Originally Posted by addo View Post

 

Between my laptop's output and the udac2, I immediately noticed a substantial difference using the udac2 using HD600s and dt770s. 

 

Well, those are 300 and 80 omh headphones, respectively, yeah? Based on what I know about headphone powering (and I don't know much) you should find a bigger difference in amping phones which really need the juice, right? The HD595s are 50 ohms. I guess that's close to the DT770s, but I dunno.

 

That being said ...

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by addo View Post

 

It sounds like youre not hearing any difference.

 

Well, I am, but I would never use substantial like you did--or any of the other day-and-night adjectives I found in reviews which led me to purchase the amp ... =P

 

The main thing is ear fatigue. With the NuForce, songs seem to "hit" my eardrums less, I guess. When using the laptop's internal amp, turning up the volume brings about sharpness to some tones which can be painful-sounding and harsh. With the NuForce, I can notice a reduction in that bite-your-ear feeling normally associated with higher volumes on just the laptop. I call this ear fatigue, or lack thereof, but I'm not sure if I'm using that term in proper context.

 

Something else to note: my headphones aren't quite burned in. I don't know if that's a factor. Do you need to burn them in to tell the difference between amps? My Sennheisers probably have close to 50-60 hours on them now.

 

The differences (marginal as they are) are as follows: more subtle details, more clarity, more spaciousness. I again emphasize that I use these terms alongside mentioning that the benefits of each are minimal at best. It's close enough where it could easily be placebo. The only thing I'm (almost) sure isn't is the ear fatigue.

 

EDIT: Honestly, I've done some more testing back and forth over the past 20 minutes, being more scrutinizing than I was before, and dang are they close. They sound so very, very similar.

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by addo View Post

What kinda soundcard do you have on your laptop?

 

 

IDT High Definition Audio CODEC (24/96) w/ Dolby Advanced Audio: http://bit.ly/e7TODc

post #5 of 29

I got my uDAC2-HP about a week ago, it's got a little over 70 hours of burn-in and I'm not hearing a difference. I'm like you - not day & night, but I'm hearing very subtle new details coming from the stock sound card, especially in the treble.

 

I can also confirm that it's not going through the sound card. The sound setting on my desktop make no difference to the DAC at all (I'm using Linux).

 

My Impulse cable is in the mail and should get here tomorrow, so I'll report back when it arrives. I got it just for having a nicer cable as well as improving the sound, so I'll be happy with it even if the sound doesn't improve. The stock cable's a little light and flimsy.

 

This is with the AKG k240's if you're wondering.

post #6 of 29

Actually, I have the 250 ohm version of the dt770s (which im selling), and I have a crappy laptop soundcard, so that might be the difference. They were completely underpowered from my laptop output, and even with the udac2, even though they sounded better and louder, theyre were still underpowered, so I got a dedicated amp using the udac2 just as a dac. Dont doubt yourself, it may just be that there really isnt any difference worth $130 using the udac2 and your hd595s.

post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by addo View Post
Don't doubt yourself, it may just be that there really isnt any difference worth $130 using the udac2 and your hd595s.


I got the HP version, so I paid $99, but I still might return it. Here are the reasons I would keep it:

 

- My laptop's amp makes a faint buzzing or hissing sound which comes every once in a while. It's not very apparent, and music covers it up, but I'm OCD and it bothers me. =P

- Having an analogue dial to control volume is very much preferred.

- Having a DAC/AMP to bring around would ensure wherever I use my headphones, they have this clarity and definition of sound, on other people's laptops.

- It's just cool to play with. lol

 

Uhhhh.. I don't know. I returned the FiiO E7 when it failed to make a difference, and the volume controls on that suck.

 

EPIC UPDATE:

 

Wow. Anyone wanting to compare the NuForce uDAC-2 to their on-board sound card should try using this song:

Green Light (Quartus Saul & Kaney Remix) - Roll Deep

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obcKMF9Spck

 

First 13 seconds is all you need. The day-and-night difference has been found (and unfortunately, the laptop wins! =P)

 

As the vocals slowly fade in and the bass roars in the intro, the NuForce plays this with crackling, vocal distortion in the form of volume loss and tonal differentiation, and just a sour flavor. If the volume is lowered to 8 o'clock, most of the distortion goes away, but some is still present.


BUT


When played on the laptop's on-board card, no distortion or tonal variation is to be found! The whole transition in during the first 10 seconds is smooth and perfect. Even when I turned the volume up 4 more clicks on the laptop in an attempt to distort it, no distortion!

 

It's just this one song that had any distortion. I've tried many other bass-heavy songs with no problems.

 

FURTHER UPDATE:

 

If I set the computer volume setting to 75 or lower when using the NuForce (I had it at 100 before), and turn the knob on the NuForce higher to compensate, there is less distortion, but still a great deal. Once again, it is just this one song with any problems. I don't get it ...

 

Other people should try this track with their laptops and tell me what happens.

post #8 of 29

Are you listening to the Youtube video or a version with a better bitrate? And are you sure that the NuForce isn't just more revealing, and the sound card is smoothing out all of the errors? I'm just really surprised that the uDAC is falling short here.

 

EDIT:: Because of this thread, I decided to do an A/B test with a few songs... and I actually like the stock sound card better. My headphones aren't the most expensive so it's probably a preference in sound signature, but I'm sending it back now. I'd rather have $100 towards a headphone upgrade.

post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 

     Quote:

Originally Posted by macrocheesium View Post

Are you listening to the Youtube video or a version with a better bitrate? And are you sure that the NuForce isn't just more revealing, and the sound card is smoothing out all of the errors? I'm just really surprised that the uDAC is falling short here.


Believe me, friend, I wanted to believe it was revealing errors! This was my initial thought, but even then I could hardly believe that. It's just not that type of sound. It's not distorted because of a clearer look at it, it is distorted because of an inability to the complex song. It's just ....

 

Wow, what the f***?

 

I just tried the song again, on the uDAC. It sounds perfect. No distortion. Whaaaa???

(The version I have is 320kbs, by the way. I used the YouTube version to sample the song for you guys)

 

But yes. I'm sitting here, and the song is no longer distorted. I just double checked to make sure I wasn't using the laptop's on board, and I'm not. xD


Someone explain this to me! =O

Yesterday, the intro would have the vocals clipping in and out, various crackles and distortion all around, and the actual tone would change from the distortion. The NuForce was running a little warm yesterday, was it overheating and malfunctioning?

 

 

     Quote:

Originally Posted by macrocheesium View Post

EDIT:: Because of this thread, I decided to do an A/B test with a few songs... and I actually like the stock sound card better. My headphones aren't the most expensive so it's probably a preference in sound signature, but I'm sending it back now. I'd rather have $100 towards a headphone upgrade.

 

 

Ha, well I'm happy that I could help you there by drawing it to your attention. It is a pricey thing for $100 considering what it does.

 

I'm on the fence. Sure, it's not distorting now, but it still sounds oh-so similar to my on-board .. =/

post #10 of 29

Maybe you have minor defect in  your uDAC board ? 

Otherwise may be some distortion issues due to magnetic waves from your pc or other electronics around. Because the stock cable doesn't offer much protection i guess.

 

Other than that it should sound much better than the on-board card.

post #11 of 29
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ingyang View Post

Other than that it should sound much better than the on-board card.


I know, right? When I first started researching the uDAC-2 (regular version), it had all 5-star reviews on Amazon and nothing else.

 

It does sound good. It sounds darn good. It just doesn't sound "better," by comparison, to my on-board sound card, especially not to the degree all the reviews for this thing would have you believe...

 

In the general sense, bass seems more "powerful" with my on-board but more, I don't know what word to use, "secure" or "tighter" on the NuForce? I also think sound is more spacious in general on the NuForce, with a better sense of separation. There are some songs, though, which seem sharper and more defined with the on-board.


I have a generic black USB cable around here. Do you think it would be better than the one the NuForce came with? Aren't shorter cables better?

post #12 of 29
My experiences from previously using the udac2 were quite positive . In general it is supposed to offer a tighter bass and a wider soundstage as well as more defined song details . And i guess the reviews were correct. What you might wanna try is getting songs which are lossless , as well as try some vocals like diana krall etc .

Regarding your distortion issue , i had problems with it and might be good if the udac is further away from your pc . I would think that short cables do not help much , instead a cable that is of a good quality and well protected. The impulse does a decent job in that aspect .

However overall you might want to take the advice from the pros around here .. because the bottleneck in this case may very well be your headphone. Depending on your sound taste maybe invest the money in better ones such as grados hd600/650 sennheisers or akg or beyers .
(:
post #13 of 29
Thread Starter 

     Quote:

Originally Posted by ingyang View Post

My experiences from previously using the udac2 were quite positive . In general it is supposed to offer a tighter bass and a wider soundstage as well as more defined song details.
(:

That sounds spot-on. Tighter bass, wider sound stage, more defined details. For some songs, the vocals sound like they lift away from the rest of the music, particularly more so than the on-board.

 

 

     Quote:

Originally Posted by ingyang View Post

My experiences from previously using the udac2 were quite positive . In general it is supposed to offer a tighter bass and a wider soundstage as well as more defined song details . And i guess the reviews were correct. What you might wanna try is getting songs which are lossless , as well as try some vocals like diana krall etc .

Regarding your distortion issue , i had problems with it and might be good if the udac is further away from your pc . I would think that short cables do not help much , instead a cable that is of a good quality and well protected. The impulse does a decent job in that aspect .

However overall you might want to take the advice from the pros around here .. because the bottleneck in this case may very well be your headphone. Depending on your sound taste maybe invest the money in better ones such as grados hd600/650 sennheisers or akg or beyers .
(:
 

 

How presumptuous of you. u_u

 

Kidding. But yes, I have 10 songs I got as free samples of how 24bit/96khz music sounds. I also rip almost all of my CDs in Apple lossless, and if not, 320kbs mp3.

 

 

     Quote:

Originally Posted by ingyang View Post

... it and might be good if the udac is further away from your pc ..
(:
 

 

For this reason, I'm going to use the longer USB cord I have for a while. So far, I can't tell any sound difference between it and the stock.

 

 

     Quote:

Originally Posted by ingyang View Post

However overall you might want to take the advice from the pros around here .. because the bottleneck in this case may very well be your headphone. Depending on your sound taste maybe invest the money in better ones such as grados hd600/650 sennheisers or akg or beyers .
(:
 

 

Essentially all the top reviews for the uDAC-2 are from users who had the Sennheiser HD595s. =/

 

And wouldn't the NuForce not be capable of powering the upper Sennheisers anyways?

 

I'll say this again: my headphones have 40-50 hours on them max, and that's not a conservative estimate. I dunno. More experimenting I will do.

post #14 of 29

Hope you are successful in experimenting. However if it still does not seem right do think about upgrading the headphone  (:

 

As for powering , it is able to power HD600s , i've seen before. But it can be used as a dedicated DAC and paired with a headphone amp !  ^^

post #15 of 29
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ingyang View Post

Hope you are successful in experimenting. However if it still does not seem right do think about upgrading the headphone  (:

 

As for powering , it is able to power HD600s , i've seen before. But it can be used as a dedicated DAC and paired with a headphone amp !  ^^


Would doing this bypass the amp inside of the NuForce or is there a piggy-back effect?

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