Anyone have any more thoughts on these? Might pick one up for use with JH16s and possibly LCD2s.
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Head-Fi Buying Guide (Portable Amps, DACs, & DAPs)
Last edited: 1/22/15
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ALO The Island USB DAC! - Page 2
Gear mentioned in this thread:
Thanks. Not very familiar with the 702s, but from what I've read they seem less forgiving.
What about the match up didn't work with K702's? I'm curious, as I've now acquired K712's...
You took the words right out of my mouth. I think its a power thing. The 702s are great fed by my Schiit Lyr. They are supposed to be hard to drive.
It was just plug in and play with my Mac Mini system. I wonder why.
Showing some love for this little DAC/amp combo.
I just got a silver Island to replace an aging E-MU 0202 USB (which has a CS4392 DAC that I like the sound of) and I am quite happy with it. After looking at a range of portable DAC/amps ranging from the O2+ODAC, Geek Out 450, Hifi-M8, and many more, I decided to go with the Island for a few reasons.
- Small, portable size (I travel a lot)
- Powered by USB port (this eliminated the O2+ODAC and HP-P1)
- Volume pot (more of a preference but eliminated all the cheap USB thumbdrive-size DAC/amps like Dragonfly, Explorer, etc.)
- Gain switch so I can switch between headphones and IEMs (eliminated Geek Out)
- Enough power to drive even the most demanding headphones for future upgrades (haven't tried yet but have read it pairs well with the Audeze LCD-X/C)
- A flagship DAC chip (CS4398 in this case)
- Bit-perfect output with no noise (using Audirvana + integer mode 1)
- Good sound quality (output is very clean and powerful, I only have to turn volume to 10-15% on low gain for my IEMs)
- Affordable price (my budget was $1000 but I didn't feel the need for all the extra bells and whistles of the Hifi-M8)
- Good build quality (solid machined aluminum body with good weight)
- Balanced headphone output (for more power to drive demanding cans)
- Up to 24 bit/192 kHz support (nice upgrade from my 0202's 24/96)
- Silver matches MacBooks' aluminum casing
- Not a big issue but the DAC/amp gets pretty warm (not burning hot) since the aluminum body acts as a heatsink
- Gain switch sticks out a bit and could be damaged, not sure why the designer didn't make it flush or used a more sturdy switch
- Lack of other inputs (only USB)
- 1/8" (3.5mm) single-ended headphone out (in case you prefer a 1/4")
- Lack of cheap options available for the RSA/ALO balanced headphone output (I don't believe in paying $$$ for cables, may have to DIY)
- No DSD support (this wasn't an issue for me as I don't have or plan to get any DSD music)
- Could probably use a bit more power for higher impedance headphones (only 330mW balanced output @ 600ohms)
- No battery for use with DAPs (see the Hifi-M8 instead)
For the price I paid ($300 CAD), what I got was a surprisingly solid piece of gear. Despite its size and appearance, it does feel/look quite nice and sounds equally great. I don't have a lot of DAC/amps to compare to though it is very similar to my E-MU 0202 USB but with fuller, punchier bass and a wider soundstage, both of which I welcome. All in all, it's a DAC that outputs a clean signal and an amp that can pump out the power when needed. What more can you ask for?
I'll be happy to answer any questions.
Edited by supermoo - 10/21/14 at 9:59pm
hi, this is my first post! A few months ago I acquired a black ALO the Island and a lightly used set of Grado sr325si (in immaculate shape, from a local reputable dealer) - once the equipment broke it
I was no longer equalizing - (at first the sound was too bright/aggressive in the upper mid/treble but this settled down and I listen w/out eq now. I must say
I am totally satisfied - I was at the local TAVES show and heard the 325e's as well as the fancier Grado's - my fave of the bunch was the PS500e - but the
my 325's are superb. What I heard was a more neutral mid bass and balance from the 500e's - and a more spread out sound stage while the 325's more in the head
by comparison. Mids just as good.
Right now I'm grooving to Amorphous Androgynous The Cartel Volume II as well as Boards of Canada - Music Has the Rights to Children - both absolutely
100% through this combo! Also, Bill Bruford's Random Acts of Happiness is an album I totally enjoy. Everything sounds coherent, solid bass and sound stage..
refined and smooth yet detailed...perfect to my ears!
Back to the Island - this little device, properly matched is a true giant killer - nothing I heard at the show makes me want to upgrade my gear!
I do use Pure Music on my Mac, set to Upsampling. Together with the Grados and the right recordings - killer combo!
looking forward to hearing from hearing from some other members!
Holy moly! I just fired up The Island with my Ultrasone Pro 900's and... wow! Bass is far more controlled and harder hitting than anything my Meridian Explorer ever produced. Also, the overall warmth of the dac has toned the highs down a bit and is a pleasure to listen to. Currently, I'm rocking out to Beck's Go It Alone track off of Guero. Lossless. Audirvana Plus. Bass lines are dreamy. What's the word ALO used... chewy. :)
I'm using The Island with my Pro 900's (40 ohm and sensitivity of 96db) on medium gain with plenty of headroom to spare. I'm blown away that The Island hasn't received more love.
- ALO The Island USB DAC!
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