Is the Pico (as a DAC/Pre-amp) really all that?
Mar 15, 2008 at 3:24 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 27


100+ Head-Fier
Mar 5, 2005
I've read a few rave reviews of the Pico (particularly concerning the DAC) and am wondering if it meets with the hype. One reviewer stated something along the lines of the Pico DAC "is comparable to DAC's in the thousands". Is this true? I'm looking for a DAC ($800 or less), should I just stop looking?

(My planned rig: computer USB to <<DAC in question (up to $800 in value)>> to likely a Singlepower extreme or Zana Duex to likely Audio Techna ATH-AD2000's)Attachment 2957
Mar 15, 2008 at 4:08 AM Post #2 of 27
I have the Pico and really enjoy it. It's a great value IMO.

But, I don't think you can say it equals a DAC worth thousands. Not even close. The Pico is very musical and enjoyable and I rarely think about the sound quality when listening. That said, if I listen to my modified Sony directly after the Pico, the Sony is obviously much richer sounding and every bit as musical. Remember that's not really a fair comparison as my Sony is a $1400 piece of equipment that gives a tremendous bang for the buck.

I'd audition some of the better dacs out there before relying on some of the reviews of the Pico. It's good and is a tremendous value. But methinks some of the comments about its absolute performance are simply over the top.
Mar 15, 2008 at 4:15 AM Post #3 of 27
The sound on the pico is amazing. When used to feed a good amp it sounds great. It's not very flexible, because it's only usb input. It's way too small to work well conveniently with a home setup. But judging on sound alone, it's the match for any source under $1000 I've heard when used single ended, personal preferences aside.
Mar 15, 2008 at 5:25 AM Post #4 of 27
If you are looking for a dac in that price range you might want to use the Headroom Ultra Microdac. It does 24/192 upsampling using an AD1896 to the dac (CS4398). It has inputs for optical and coax, and usb and is in a nice looking small form factor. It hasn't been reviewed much, as it came out recently, but I love mine, and everyone else who has listened to them seems to have a similar opinion.

At 700, its a tremendous value.

Heres mine sitting next to my PPA v2

Mar 15, 2008 at 6:08 AM Post #5 of 27
I've had my Pico for a week or so. Long story short, it's good for the price, and impressive given its size and functionality as a portable DAC/Amp (best out there IMO). It seems that you aren't after portability or small size though, so for $800 you could pick up a second hand Benchmark DAC1 which sounds better and has greater functionality.

The Pico isn't the 'magic kill all other devices' product you may have thought it to be after reading the odd review around Head-Fi. It's an awesome product that out performs its competitors. You will still get better sound from one of many other 'desktop' or 'home' solutions.
Mar 15, 2008 at 6:09 AM Post #6 of 27

Originally Posted by n4k33n /img/forum/go_quote.gif
If you are looking for a dac in that price range you might want to use the Headroom Ultra Microdac

At 700, its a tremendous value.

What other DACs you compared it to, just curious as I used to own 2006 MicroDAC, same circuit as Ultra minus upsampler?
Mar 15, 2008 at 1:18 PM Post #7 of 27
The amp in the pico is good for a tiny portable but not a giant killer. It's when you use the pico to feed a good quality home amp that you realize just how good the dac in it is.
Mar 15, 2008 at 2:03 PM Post #8 of 27

Originally Posted by grawk /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The amp in the pico is good for a tiny portable but not a giant killer. It's when you use the pico to feed a good quality home amp that you realize just how good the dac in it is.

I agree with the above. The Pico will not embarrass itself in a home set up.
Mar 15, 2008 at 4:17 PM Post #10 of 27
joay, I don't have many words of advice on this, but when a had another primary setup, I used the Pico (at noon-2) as a DAC to an Extreme Platinum. Never once did it feel compromised (hearing tracks I was used to through the Lavry DA10). I haven't A/Bed it against the Lavry, but the fact that it's half the price (and also the Benchmark) it's got great bang for buck. In its price range I can only compare it to the Scott Nixon TubeDAC+, which I feel it betters in all traditional measurements and the underrated, but less expensive, Squeezebox 3/Classic, which would be another interesting shoot-out and it's a high price/performance ratio too.

I say don't let its size full you. [EDIT: typo - let it full you, just not fool you
] Although the DAC is the Picos strong point, if the AD2000 performs similarly to the W5000, you'll have a very nice DAC/amp combo when out and about. I'm house-sitting for the next month and I'm using this setup and not worried about missing better gear at all.
Mar 16, 2008 at 1:05 PM Post #11 of 27
How is the Pico's small size "inconveniant" in a home setup? :O
A larger amp/dac would be "more" conveniant?
Mar 16, 2008 at 1:13 PM Post #12 of 27
It's so small the cable weighs more than the pico. If you put some nice strong velcro on it, and attach it to something heavy, it would be less of a pain. You are also stuck using the minijack, which is a drawback in a home setup.
Mar 16, 2008 at 6:16 PM Post #15 of 27

Originally Posted by grawk /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Not even close.

The closest one would be standard MicroDAC but Pico is clearly better (haven't had a pleasure auditioning Ultra, but it's $700 anyway) . If you can stretch your budget you can get Stello DA100, that one is a full scaled desktop DAC with USB and SPDIF inputs, 192 upsampling and does sound better, but SQ gap from the Pico is not that big. Otherwise Pico is a safe bet, plus convenience of having a great portable amp in one package is a nice bonus.

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