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Emotiva Stealth DC-1 | Balanced 24/192 Fully Differential DAC

  1. audiobean
    Top quality sound at a stunning price.
    Written by audiobean
    Published Feb 18, 2017
    Pros - Immaculate detail retrieval. Balanced capabilities. Remote controlled. Outputs galore. Beautiful piece of hardware.
    Cons - While the amp is strong, it is overshadowed by the DAC's greatness...as expected. 2 x 3.5mm Headphone inputs :frowning2:
    The detail, imaging, and sound-staging are accurate and bring your headphones the neutral platform they need in order to perform the way their engineers intended. The DAC is the high point of this product. The amp is great but there are better options for sure. But for anyone who wants this system alone, then so be it; you'll be very pleased.
    What was I looking for?
    I wanted a DAC with the ability to run balanced and not have to kill my wallet. So I looked around and found some good insight around the forum and went with the DC-1. This is an affordable choice for what I was looking for and does not leave me wanting for more...but then again, we are talking about a hobby, where "it" is never enough. 
    I have paired this DAC with the O2, Bravo Ocean, Little Dot MKII, Stax 252s, and the NuForce HA-200...All showed improvements against the ODAC and SMSL Sanskrit 6th edition. The Emotiva sounded airier and a feeling of expansiveness hit me immediately, as if I could reach further into the music. Also, there were nuances I could hear in songs that I had not noticed before. Instruments sounded more detailed. Of course, I have not heard the more hi-end DACs but I was very impressed and hope all high-end DACs share this kind of quality. My odac and smsl are great and I still use them because they pair well with my amps but I am excited with how well the Emotiva deals with music. It delivers.
  2. JoeDoe
    Hands Down, One of the Best Values in Head-fi
    Written by JoeDoe
    Published Jun 25, 2016
    Pros - Build Quality, Input Options, Balanced Design, Headphone Amp, Neutral Sound Quality
    Cons - 1/8" Headphone Out?
    The Emotiva DC-1 Stealth DAC is frankly, an incredible value. The only other products I can think of that offers such a complete and capable skill set for such a low cost are the Koss KSC75, SennGrado, Chord Mojo, and Cavalli Liquid Carbon. Here's why:
    The Breakdown:
    The Chain:
    MBP running JRMC21 > DC-1 > Cavalli Liquid Crimson > GH1, GS2000e, Alpha Prime
    *other gear used for review: Mojo, Liquid Carbon, PS1000, Tralucent 1+2
    Test Songs (all ALAC either 16/44 or 24/96):
    "Limit to Your Love" - James Blake - James Blake
    "Grown Folks" - Snarky Puppy - Culcha Vulcha
    "Best for Last" - Adele - 19
    "My Hero" - Foo Fighters - The Colour and the Shape
    "Sky Spills Over" - Michael W. Smith - Sovereign
    "Make It Mine" & "Butterfly" - Jason Mraz - We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things
    "Time Out" - Hiromi's Sonicbloom - Time Control
    "Jupiter, from The Planets" - Gustav Holst - Sir Adrian Boult and the LSO
    Sound: In a word: neutral. I realize that this is a loaded term when it comes to our hobby, but here's why I chose it. The DC doesn't emphasize any parts of the spectrum to me. The low end is present and controlled, the midrange is clear and balanced, and the treble is detailed and extended. In my music-ings with this DAC, I never felt like there was any information missing. It's all there, and it's all in proportion.
    Bass: The low end on this guy is pleasantly clean and full. In my experience, you often are stuck with a choice. Full low end with rolled off treble or detail for days with just enough bass to know it's there. In this case, Emotiva gives us a product that yields both. I used the DC to feed the Carbon when I had it, but with my SE headphones, I often alternated between the Carbon and the headphone-out of the Emo. With easier to drive cans like my Grados and 1+2, the bass was more extended on the Carbon, but not by much. If I wasn't A/Bing them, I wouldn't have noticed. There was a more appreciable difference between DC and Carbon for my Alpha Primes, but that shouldn't surprise anyone as the Primes love the power that balanced connections can yield. 
    In comparison to the Mojo, I could not hear a difference between the Emo and the DC through their respective headphone-outs. So take that for what it's worth.
    Mids: Clean. To put it briefly, the midrange on the DC is just clear. It's neither forward, like the Bladelius or Starting Point DACs I used to have and it's certainly not recessed. In comparison to the Mojo with lower impedance cans, I could not really detect any differences in the midrange. Now when I used the Primes, the Mojo edged out the Emo in the midrange with regards to presence and weight, but not by a lot. Once again, if I wasn't A/Bing them, I wouldn't have noticed.
    Treble: Extended, yet non-fatiguing. It seems like FOTM products nowadays are all about hyper-detail retrieval and treble energy. To my ears, that's not necessarily what live music sounds like. When I go hear a band, either in studio or at a live venue, I can't hear a cockroach break wind from behind the stage, and neither do I want to! The DC gives me just the right amount of treble presence. It's extended, clear, and very realistic. No digital glare nor tube-esque syrup. The neutrality of the DC pairs wonderfully with my Crimson, adding just enough sparkle to make the Grados sing without making me wince.
    In comparison to the Mojo, the most noticeable difference between the two products was here. The Mojo did not quite reveal the same amount of upper level stuff (think cymbal nuances, finger squeaks, etc.) as the DC. Now, in most cases, the Mojo does just fine, having just the slightest smoothing of that upper end is going to make most rigs way easier to listen to, especially for long sessions. However, since I was able to compare the two, I'd give the nod to the Emo in this instance if you're considering either for mostly desktop duties.
    Soundstage/Imaging/Separation: Great, not brilliant. Once again, the DC excels in 'rightness.' The soundstage and imaging capabilities are very good. Now I'm sure if I ever hear a $3k+ DAC, I'll feel differently, but for now I'm plenty satisfied. When I'm running the Emo with my Crimson, the soundstage is beautifully and accurately represented. That's all I have to say about that!
    Aesthetics/Build Quality/Accessories: This is one place where the DC beats a lot of it's competition. The build quality is simply fantastic. It looks and feels like the DAC that Batman would use. Heavy duty construction, tight input/output jacks, and gratifying knobs that don't feel like they belong on a kids Fisher Price radio. I've learned that as you ascend the head-fi ladder, sound quality improvement certainly comes in smaller increments, but build quality really follows the price curve. The Emo's heft and sturdy construction (not to mention it comes with an equally well-done remote!) feels right at home with my Cavalli amp that retails for 6x as much!
    I would like to say a quick piece about the headphone amp in this little guy: it's superb. Very balanced, clean, and offers quite a bit of high current power (something like 1.2W into 32 ohms I think...). Many times, the headphone circuit in a DAC is merely an after-thought courtesy. I'm happy to report that if you're a head-fier who'd like a neutrally-tuned, all in one design that really wouldn't require upgrading for a while, this is a product you need to look at. When using the Grados through the DC, I noticed very little improvement when I plugged them into the SE out of the Carbon or Mojo. Now it's not going to power an HE-6, and for the most part, a fully dedicated amp is going to offer more sonic improvement for cans like Audezes, Senns, and Hifimans, but the DC-1 really can hang with lots of headphones of mid to low impedance and power requirements. 
    Qualms: No real qualms, but there are a few things that the potential buyer may want to know. First, the volume is stepped in .25 db steps. That means I can really dial in my sound, but if you're using the remote or knob, things can take a few seconds to get moving. Second, the included headphone outs are 1/8" not 1/4". Now I've come to learn that that was by necessity as there's simply not enough room in the chassis to fit larger plugs, but the smaller jacks do take away from the otherwise premium feel that this DAC delivers. And finally, the power-off sequence when using the knob takes forever. I've got to hold my finger on the knob for several seconds before it goes to standby mode. Not a real issue, but annoying nonetheless.
    JD's DAC Ranking list: I'm only including this since a lot of initial research was done by typing 'Emotiva DC-1 vs...' This list in based on overall value - not purely SQ.
    EDITED since I've owned a few more DACs since this review: Teac UD-503 > Gumby > Emotiva DC-1 > Chord Mojo > Resonessence Concero HP > ALO Pan Am > Audio-gd NFB 11.32/15.32 > Schiit Bifrost Multibit > Centrance DACport LX > ODAC > Cambridge DACMagic 100 
    Final Thoughts: While Emotiva has been around for a while, we don't often see their products being touted as often as other American companies like Grado, Woo, and Schiit. I'd like to report, that if Emotiva's other products are built with the same quality standards as the half-rack DC-1, then they need to quickly move to the front of your mind when it comes to shopping for hi-fi gear. From the plethora of input options and neutral sonic signature to the very capable head-amp section, the fully balanced DC-1 represents one of the best values in head-fi. Period.
      daerron likes this.
    1. alota
      thank you for your eview.
      i´m looking for an amplifier for my oppo.
      i have another product from jadedesign(the group of emotiva)that is the sherbourn sr-120
      incredible q/p relationship
      alota, Jul 28, 2016
  3. Audiobahn808
    Great price to over the top performance DAC Preamp
    Written by Audiobahn808
    Published Apr 13, 2015
    Pros - Built quality, sound, features and remote
    Cons - I did not get it sooner
    I think there is absolutely no DAC Preamp out there that can touch this unit in this price range and even between the $500.00-$1,000.00 mark. From the built quality, sound, the ease of use, the features it provides and to the convenience of the remote. I just can't be more grateful to have all of it at such a great price. Everything I need is in it and I couldn't ask for more. I also increased it's performance by swapping out the stock power cable with the Pangea AC9 MKll and the change is so significant that I won't be replacing this for a long time. I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for an all in one package with a price and performance to be reckoned with.
    UPDATE: 04/18/15
    This review deserves more than just a short one, and I'll start with Emotivas packaging where I sometimes find myself in disbelief at how much protection there is such as the triple boxed Emotiva Stealth DC-1. So in short...a box(original) in a box, in a box. Simply five star packaging! So rest assured that your package is always well taken care of. Now I've had this unit for almost a month now and earlier I had the DC-1 power supplied by a Pangea AC14 SE MKll power cable specially made for source components and to be honest I wasn't too impressed with the outcome. As one reviewer mentioned and I find it spot on and on the mark, this cable after proper burn-in had made my system brighter, thinner and decreased the bass significantly but still somewhat tight. I wasn't satisfied with the performance but from previous experience I knew I had to call upon the beast to remedy this unwanted and unpleasant sonic signature.. So I ordered the Pangea AC9 MKll from AA (excellent customer service there as always by the way) and upon receiving it I immediately installed it and whhaaala! And as I mentioned before...the increase in performance is so huge I love what I'm hearing from my Stealth 8 speakers. Headphone amp performance increased significantly with this power cable as well that I find myself using it more. So speakers on day and headphones by night, lol.
      pressureworld and m002d2 like this.
    1. MLGrado
      How many other DAC's from 500 to 1k have you heard?  Since no DAC in that range can touch the Emo?  
      Just curious.  
      MLGrado, Sep 22, 2016
    2. sanvara
      An upgraded power cable changed the performance of a $500 DAC? So many people say power cables make no difference. I'm really surprised. Are you sure it wasn't something else?
      sanvara, Mar 28, 2017
  4. megawhacko
    Great sound and perfect size for a computer desk.
    Written by megawhacko
    Published Nov 1, 2013
    Pros - size, build and sound quality
    Cons - remote
    I recently purchased the stealth dc-1 as an all around solution to my akg k702 annies and emotiva stealth 8 speakers after my desk was getting cluttered with equipment. This device has cleaned my desk up tremendously without sacrificing anything. My main concern when buying the dc-1 was how it would do with my k702s but it powers them perfectly. I came from the o2+odac and the only thing I noticed was the slight bass increase which is fine with me since I'm mainly using them to play games like bf4. One thing I will add is that I have had amazing support from Emotiva as a company. I bought this shortly before the sale started and they were happy to refund me the 200$ it dropped. For 500$, this thing is a steal. My main gripe with the entire system is the remote. Although its completely solid metal, when adjusting the volume, one click only changes the volume .25 and and you have to hold it down for a good second then it changes around 2.00 very quickly. I wish it was more leveled out. I'm either changing the volume very slowly or very fast. Other than that, I find the dc-1 to be an amazing buy.