GNU/Linux compatible USB DACs and headphone amplifiers
Mar 3, 2013 at 9:37 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5

Leslie Dorner

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I know the CEntrance DACport works with Linux kernel 2.4+ and the latest Ubuntu 32 and 64 bit is compatible, but that's all that I know for certain. I've read that the new Meridian Explorer is also compatible with Linux kernel 2.6+ and ALSA 1.0.32 which won't be available until Ubuntu 13.04 is released on April 26th, 2013. My question is what else is compatible with Linux? I'm looking for a USB DAC and headphone amplifier with stereo inputs or a 3.5 mm line in jack for portable devices. Let's just say that I'm not worried about prices. I'm more concerned with compatibility and user friendly design or interface if closed source and proprietary software applications are available for Ubuntu or any other GNU/Linux distribution. I don't want to install device drivers as it's a pain in the ass with Linux kernel modules. It needs to be plug and play.
 
I'd like a clear division between portable and desktop models. I'm going for portable models so that I can slip it inside my messenger bag. I'm looking for USB 2.0 bus powered DACs and headphone amplifiers.
 
Thanks.
 
Mar 4, 2013 at 9:48 AM Post #3 of 5

Leslie Dorner

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I got the HiFiMan HM-101 for $32 on Amazon. It should be here this Friday or sooner.
 
I didn't want to spend hundreds or thousands for a USB DAC and headphone amplifier. I've done that. I listen to Spotify Premium which uses Vorbis 320 Kbps or my Fraunhofer or LAME 320 Kbps MP3s at 16 bits 44.1 or 48.0 kHz resolution most of the time. I don't need a high resolution portable USB DAC because I won't hear any improvements to my source music.
 
Jul 28, 2013 at 11:39 AM Post #4 of 5

Leslie Dorner

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I need more help. The HiFiMan HM-101 is decent, but it is not up to par with my AKG K 702 or Etymotic ER-4PT/S. I have a System76 Lemur Ultra (lemu4) with Ubuntu 13.04 64 bit GNU/Linux now. I deleted my entire media library including my music, movies, videos, electronic books, digital magazines, and my pictures to save disk space. I use Spotify Premium to listen to music now because I like the vast music library. I'm looking for portable USB 2.0 or 3.0 bus powered DACs and a headphone amplifier in one compact unit that works with Linux kernel 3.8.x.y 64 bit and Ubuntu 13.04 64 bit.
 
I am intrigued by the recently released Meridian Explorer. It requires ALSA driver version 1.0.23 or higher. I have ALSA driver version 1.0.25 right now. There is not a lot of information about it available for GNU/Linux users and what little I have been able to find points to a low volume output deficiency right out of the box. I prefer a digital volume control rather than an analog knob. I need 24 bit 96 kHz resolution at the minimum and I also need asynchronous USB 2.0 compatibility without requiring the installation of device drivers for GNU/Linux operating systems. Finally, it has to be portable. I am not looking for a desktop model. I need a headphone jack and a line out jack. I need a USB 2.0 or 3.0 female input jack. I do not need analoge or optical or S/PDIF inputs. I would like to spend $300, but I am willing to spend up to $500.
 
What are my options?
 
I was also thinking about the HRT MicroStreamer, CEntrance DACPort, Meridian Explorer, HeadAmp Pico USB DAC/Amp, and the FiiO E17 Alpen. The one that I really am focused on right now is the HRT MicroStreamer since it checks off most of my boxes and it is moderately priced.
 
I think I'm on the right path toward a high end portable USB DAC that works with GNU/Linux, but I want to hold off until I get more replies and other ideas to consider.
 
Jul 28, 2013 at 12:18 PM Post #5 of 5

Leslie Dorner

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I placed my HeadRoom order for a new HRT MicroStreamer. I have never heard this product previously. I read the product information on the HRT website and I read the reviews and it seems to be a good choice that meets my needs and it is priced less than my budget. This is for streaming music services. I should get it this upcoming Wednesday. When I do get it, then I hope it will work right out of the box and I will share my thoughts about it. This will allow me to travel and take my high end mobile audio system on the road. I was thinking that it might be more than I need in terms of features and performance, but my main concern was compatibility with Ubuntu 13.04 64 bit. It uses the native audio class 1.0 USB drivers which I know Ubuntu supports. This should be right for the bill. I kind of knew that I would get it eventually. I hope it doesn't disappoint me like the HiFiMan HM-101 did. You get what you pay for most of the time.
 

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