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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 4  

post #46 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

 

The ODAC is nice entry-level hardware, but can it really compete in this class?  I'm willing to listen to others' opinions on it, but I've done some research on that unit as a backup/portable DAC, and I've never seen credible analysis that shows it to be competitive with the big boys. 

 

RANT ALERT!!!  I've generally found that the folks gushing about the ODAC usually are comparing it to stock computer sound-card DACs or low-fi DAPs, so it sounds great in comparison.  And that's a good thing -- they should be commended for making an affordable product that introduces people to better sound than they can get straight out of their PC.  I also admit that I've seen a couple of reviewers who love everything sent to them free gush over the ODAC; however, they aren't really doing critical analysis.  Sorry for the rant, but I find it really frustrating when I want detailed, critical analysis of a product and I find nothing but generalized fawning.  I hate to tell you how many times over the past 40 years I've read "the XYZ can compete with units many times its price" and then when I try it, I find it gets thoroughly thrashed. 

 

If others think it would be worth including the ODAC I'll add it, but if most here think there's no way it can compete I'm not willing to throw it to the wolves.  It's not fair to the ODAC.  It was designed for a certain market segment, and should not be asked to "compete with DACs many times its price".

 

Rant over.

 Appreciated your rant and thought the same when comparing the ODAC to the relatively inexpensive but excellent Dacport LX. 

post #47 of 1331

@Gary in MD - Leave the ODAC out, it doesn't belong in this category like you said.

post #48 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by brunk View Post
 

Gary,

 

I am willing to offer you my beloved HE-6 or HD-800 for this comparison. I will make the case for HE-6 because your amps are compatible, and you are accustomed to planars/orthos. The problem with loaning various headphones for DAC comparison in general is that it really adds complexity/bias on your part you may find undesirable if you catch my drift lol.


Brunk:

 

Let's hold off on additional cans for now.  It is already going to be difficult to find time to compare/write up 10 different DACs.  I can use my ESP-950s if people want to hear about something completely different than the LCD-3s. 

 

Note that there's a DC-area meet on January 18, and if it was being held a few weeks earlier I'd be willing to bring a lot of this hardware there for people to try, but I'm pretty sure that most, if not all but one, of these DACs will be gone by then.  Nevertheless, given that this is a unique opportunity for the community -- nearly a dozen mid-level DACs in one location for a couple of weeks and no marketing people around -- I might be willing to host a mini-meet at my house sometime between ~12/20 and 1/5.  That way folks can bring their own cans and amps and try them with these DACs, and also can try the speaker amps I've been blabbering about for the last couple of months.  Just let me know if anybody is interested.

post #49 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by brunk View Post
 

I don't know, it's hard to knock that BMC if you want the added features. IMO, we need to try and find you a NOS DAC manufacturer that is stateside.

 

 

This, already on the list, but not confirmed, pending inputs from the group:

 

http://stereodesk.com/collections/dacs/products/metrum-acoustics-octave-mk2

 

They have 30-day returns, shipping cost only from Massachusetts, which should fit my limit.

post #50 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

 

 

This, already on the list, but not confirmed, pending inputs from the group:

 

http://stereodesk.com/collections/dacs/products/metrum-acoustics-octave-mk2

 

They have 30-day returns, shipping cost only from Massachusetts, which should fit my limit.

Perfect! It gets my vote.

:beerchug: 

post #51 of 1331

@anoobis - For your peace of mind, the ODAC is, in my opinion, inferior to two other ESS9023 DACs I've spent considerable time with, but superior to a third.  Here's my ranking, from best to worst - these are all ESS9023 DACs:   

 

Resonessence Concero

 

Audioquest Dragonfly (which is a DAC + analog amp)

 

JDS Labs Objective DAC

 

Stoner Acoustics UD100 


 

More info regarding these entry-level USB DACs (Click to show)

I wish I could say this was not also a ranking from most expensive to least expensive, but that's perhaps not a coincidence for this grouping.

 

The greatest distinction in sound quality as you go up this list is in the frequency of power-related glitches, crashes, or dropouts during playback - when the USB power from the laptop is not meeting the USB 2.0 specification perfectly (5V at 500mA).  The better ESS9023 DACs have better power management - with the Concero being especially forgiving in this regard.  Next is the quality of the treble - from having glare and even momentary "splashes" in the high frequencies, to the very detailed, well defined, non-fatiguing treble of the Concero.  Otherwise, down in the mids and the bass, these ESS9023 DACs all sound quite similar to my ears.  

 

Another distinction, of course, is the feature sets of each of these DACs, despite having the same ESS9023 chip.  The UD100's receiver chip can't even receive 96/24 data.  So... pick your price and go for what you can afford.  

 

For the money, I think the ODAC does a great job when supplied with power from a USB hub that itself is powered by a 5V PSU.  Many people's laptops and PCs are compatible with the ODAC's less than stellar power management, but my laptop's poor quality USB power gave the ODAC "fits" - causing momentary "crashes" that were very annoying.  I returned it to JDS Labs, paying a 15% restocking fee, and was told that I was not alone in discovering that the ODACs power management is not very robust.  

 

With DACs, more than other components, it seems you get what you pay for, but there is still a lot of variability in bang for the buck.

 

Just going by my limited experience, my favorite USB DAC under $250 is the CEntrance DACport LX - available for only $199, currently, at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=878402&Q=&is=REG&A=details (and elsewhere). I would place the DACport LX as #2 in my list of four DACs, above - but it is not an ESS9023 DAC - it uses a CEntrance proprietary technology and has no fewer than FIVE separate power supplies designed into its circuits - it is famous for its excellent power management.

 

 

 

Mike

post #52 of 1331

Gary,

 

Here's another DAC just to look at and see if it fits your criteria. You'll have to contact Simple Designs LLC about trial/return policy as I am unable to find that info.

http://www.sonore.us/index2.html

 

EDIT: It's a totally unique DAC chip. Info here;

http://www.audiostream.com/content/sonore-simple-design-exd-dac


Edited by brunk - 11/11/13 at 2:13pm
post #53 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Interesting... has anybody around Head-Fi actually heard it?

post #54 of 1331

Wow this is an awesome initiative. I am looking forward to seeing the results.

post #55 of 1331

1 more vote for the Nad M51.

post #56 of 1331
Thread Starter 

The NAD M51 is in the mix.  Crutchfield even has a 60-day return policy for the holidays, which aids logistics.  As of now, it is competing with the Benchmark DAC 2 and BMC PureDAC for the final 2 spots, assuming I limit this to 10 competitors.  The number is actually pretty arbitrary, it really comes down to how many DACs any person can reasonably compare in 30 days or less without going absolutely whacko (and I admit I am already at least partially whacko... I mean, I'm volunteering for this, right?). 

 

One other note:  as of now, nobody has volunteered to send me any Audio-gd stuff yet... but there's still time!  The list can stay open to changes until the first week of December.  At that point all the equipment will have to be ordered if I hope to get it here by 12/15

post #57 of 1331

I have a Nuforce DAC-100 I could potentially send down, but it's a pain in the tuckus to bring it back up past Canadian customs again. :confused_face:

post #58 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the offer Armaegis, but I would prefer that we not donate your DAC to Canadian Customs.  On the other hand, I could order one for the testing if folks think it should be included.  Any comments on adding the Nuforce DAC-100 vs. the Benchmark, BMC or NAD? 

 

I did notice on the Nuforce website that the DAC-100 is listed as discontinued, replaced by the DAC-80, though you can still buy the -100.  Don't know that this disqualifies the DAC-100, but does make it slightly less appealing to test since it might not be as helpful to future viewers of the thread to have analysis on hardware that is no longer available new.

 

Discuss?

post #59 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post

Thanks for the offer Armaegis, but I would prefer that we not donate your DAC to Canadian Customs.  On the other hand, I could order one for the testing if folks think it should be included.  Any comments on adding the Nuforce DAC-100 vs. the Benchmark, BMC or NAD? 

I did notice on the Nuforce website that the DAC-100 is listed as discontinued, replaced by the DAC-80, though you can still buy the -100.  Don't know that this disqualifies the DAC-100, but does make it slightly less appealing to test since it might not be as helpful to future viewers of the thread to have analysis on hardware that is no longer available new.

Discuss?

I agree. DAC technology moves pretty fast as compared to amplifiers, pre-amps, etc. Focusing on products that should have good future availability sounds like a good idea.
post #60 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post


One other note:  as of now, nobody has volunteered to send me any Audio-gd stuff yet... but there's still time!  The list can stay open to changes until the first week of December.  At that point all the equipment will have to be ordered if I hope to get it here by 12/15.

I, too, hope someone volunteers an Audio-dg DAC, but take note that they offer three distinct series... those based on ESS chips, Wolfson chips, and PCM1704UK mono chips (the SA series), which are described as being more "musical". The latter has a huge fan base and would give you something other than yet another ESS9018 or WM8741 DAC.

I hope someone can lend you one of these:

NOS-1704 - $859 - http://audio-gd.com/Pro/SA/NOS1704/NOS1704EN.htm

SA-2 - $1550 - http://audio-gd.com/Pro/SA/SA2/SA2EN.htm

Mike
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