Well, I placed my HeadRoom order for a HRT microstreamer earlier this afternoon, but I just came home from visiting a local authorized dealer about 15 miles away and I am listening to it right now. I have a System76 Lemur Ultra (lemu4 model number) with Ubuntu 13.04 64 bit GNU/Linux. It works perfectly with all of the modern GNU/Linux distributions on the market today on other test PCs that I have access to. It also works with Microsoft Windows 7 and 8 64 bit. I'm using the supplied 19" Micro USB cable with the ferrite core. Let's just say that I sold some very expensive Cardas cables and I replaced them with OEM cables from Volex and Blue Jeans Cable among other vendors and I heard virtually no differences. Having said that, this HRT microstreamer is neat and it meets all of my expectations and needs. I wanted a portable USB DAC and built in headphone amplifier with a digital volume controlled by the host PC and asychronous USB 2.0 mode of operation with 24 bit word length and up to 96 kHz including the somewhat difficult to find 88.2 kHz sampling frequencies that is bus powered and it costs under $500 dollars that is guaranteed to work with GNU/Linux distributions to boot. So, I am not the typical PC user and I know it. My music source is (wait for it)...Spotify Premium with high quality streaming 320 kbps Vorbis. My headphone is the AKG K 702 and my UIEMs are the Etymotic ER-4PT with the 4S adapter. The HRT microstreamer has no problem driving either one to very loud listening levels. It is very quiet and it does not generate self noise like pops, clicks, beeps, or background hisses. It's not exactly textbook accurate in terms of its overall tone, but it is worthy of its affordable reference caliber sound performance. Playing all of the warhorses like Bach's No. 5 Violin concerto and Chopin pieces reveals a precise, linear, and highly accurate sound that has a slightly sweetened treble that is a bit glassy. It's very dynamic and it handles detail retrieval and resolution with finesse and sparkling clarity. Tonal balance is nearly perfect with a certain je ne sais quois that makes pre-recorded music sound vibrant yet approachable to new customers not accustomed to listening to high performance portable sound on the go. I like the fact that it is made here in the United States of America and I also like the fact that it is moderately priced if not sensibly priced well within reach of a larger demographic. It's dead simple and extremely easy to learn how to use. It stays fairly cool to the touch after extended listening periods and the visual feedback from listening to various audio sources and sampling frequencies is useful. This is a plug and play product and it just works right out of the box. The best compliment that I can give the HRT microstreamer is that it is destined to be a classic in its era until something better comes along to dethrone it. I expect sales of this product to be brisk for the company as they definitely have an unambiguous winner on their hands.
I tried to like my Meridian Explorer, CEntrance DACPort, and Audioquest DragonFly, but I had to return them due to either their higher price points or the refusal from each representative company to support GNU/Linux users like myself. Audioquest's DragonFly does not work right out of the box and neither does the Meridian Explorer for GNU/Linux users because it is either an unsupported operating system or the ALSA version is too old (version 1.0.23 or higher is required which means that Ubuntu 13.04 64 bit is required for compatibility with the Meridian Explorer). The closest competitor is the CEntrance DACPort, but it is priced $110 dollars higher and it does not perform better than the HRT microstreamer and it is bulkier and heavier in comparison. At this league within this niche product category, it comes down to compatibility with the host operating system of the PC and personal preferences. I took a chance with the HRT microstreamer and I am glad that I did so because I wound up saving $110 dollars by returning my CEntrance DACPort. For GNU/Linux users, choices are more difficult and limited which means that official supported products are harder to come by. We wind up paying more money when we have to go with a closed proprietary source for hardware or software choices to get something that just works right out of the box. In this case, this was not necessarily the case for me as an Ubuntu user. I wound up spending considerably less money to get an equally competant product in terms of sound performance that just happens to be more compact and portable. This is definitely a win win scenario. I feel like I'm traveling with a portable high end PC audio system that is very minimalist. I also feel like I don't miss my very high end home audio high fidelity system when I travel on the road. This is it:
Resolution Audio Cantata Music Center with C50 power amplifier
Ray Samuels Audio Emmeline HR-2 headphone amplifier
AKG K 702 headphones
Etymotic ER-4PT with 4S adapter
Ultimate Ears Ue-18 PRO
Volex 17604 B10 power cords
Blue Jeans Cable RCA stereo interconnects
System76 Lemur Ultra (lemu4) with Ubuntu 13.04 64 bit GNU/Linux
The HRT microstreamer does not leave me wanting to return home any time soon just to listen to music on Spotify or any other source. Out of all of its competitors that I bought and tried, I returned the rest and I kept the best which is the HRT microstreamer. This is the one that tries very hard and it came up the shortest in terms of sound accuracy and PC hardware and software compatibility especially for GNU/Linux users. It makes it possible to travel in high fidelity style without cutting your trip short just to go home to listen to your big expensive rig. It is a real genuine gem.
I will not be returning mine and I will not sell it to someone else in the near future. This one is a keeper.
I do not plan to test mine with a Google Android device like a tablet or smart phone in the future. Let's just say that as a former systems administrator and security analyst working as a penetration tester, Google Android has yet to ripen to fruition upon its potential to become the most secure mobile operating system in the world. It's getting better with each successive release, but there are still too many non-starters such as security vulnerabilities and attack vectors and malware to make it a safe and secure mobile platform to synchronize my cloud accounts and my personal confidential data on any Android device. Times may change where this statement becomes moot, but we're not there yet at the time of this writing. So, I can not comment on compatibility with Android devices with the HRT microstreamer.
Edited by Leslie Dorner - 7/29/13 at 5:19pm