Originally Posted by Poimandres
Of the three you have which dac do you prefer?
Tough, tough choice. The ODAC is my favorite due to it's neutrality, resolving ability, dynamic range, and clarity. The Meridian (which I currently have paired with the O2) sounds terrific. Smooth, slightly warm, full, and rich. It's my go to as far as portable use. The sound reminds me a bit of a nice Amperex tube in my desktop rig. My (anax-modded) HD800 sounds very very engaging with the Meridian/O2 combo, too.. I was really surprised by that since many people don't like the O2 with the HD800. The Meridian isn't dead neutral or anything.. but the coloration and contrast is 'artfully' placed, IMO.. and it makes for a very fun listen.
There's been a fair amount of (echo chamber) bashing of the UHA's DAC.. I've always gone to bat for it as I found it quite good given the price point (and not all that far off from the ODAC, in fact). The USB input is nice, but using the UHA's coax/TOSLINK is really where it's at. Initially, I was quite skeptical of the supposed differences between the digital inputs (even Nick L., the designer, said they should all sound the same).. but I got a cheap USB-to-SPDIF converter a couple of weeks back and gave the UHA's coax a spin for the first time.. and was thoroughly impressed... and surprised by the difference. Better soundstage depth & imaging were two aspects of the sound I found most noticeably improved. Not night & day vs. the USB, mind you.. but distinguishable enough to the point I hesitate going back to using the USB. The coax also dropped the gain a bit so I can use it with very very sensitive IEMs (where even the stock/unity gain is unusable), which is nice.
So.. back to your question.. my favorite? Depends on my mood and listening environment. I could be perfectly happy with just the ODAC.. but the Meridian serves as a really nice change of pace as a portable all-in-one. The UHA is right there, too. I'm really interested to see where the PCStep lines up between this gaggle of well-respected portables, though.. Jan's products are really well regarded, but there's just not that many reviews/comparisons between the more visible/notorious amp/dacs that seem to dominate the conversations here.
Edited by FlySweep - 3/17/13 at 2:07am