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Looking for a DAC - price range 150-300$

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by djaiss, Sep 15, 2012.
  1. djaiss
    Hello there,
     
    I've been browsing this forum for a few days now. I'm looking for the best possible DAC for a budget in the range of 150$-300$, and there seems to be so many possible alternatives that I'm completely lost.
     
    One year ago I wanted to enter into the world of audiophiles. My wife has offered me the Ultrasone HFI-580 (upgraded from the Grado 80i) )which has blown my ears multiple times. I have to have a DAC/amp now.
     
    Most of the reviews describe the nuForce uDac-2 as a great device. Is this the one you would recommend? And would it be worth it to try to spend more on the DAC and buy something around the 500$ mark?
     
    Thanks so much for your help.
     
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Quote:
    If this for a computer and only for music, the Fiio E10 ($70), USB-DAC, should improve the audio quality.
    I've heard some good things said about the NFB-12.1 DAC ($215+shipping).
    SMSL SD-793II DAC, $80 (eBay)
     
  3. Slickman
    You could get the Dacport LX for $250 shipped, supposed to be one of the best dacs in the price range you specified.
     
  4. mikeaj
    Keep in mind that some DACs are DAC + headphone amp combos, while some are just DACs (can't run headphones directly; need to be plugged into a dedicated headphone amplifier or receiver or speaker amp or pre-amp or whatever else).  Something like DACport LX is a DAC only.
     
    DACs and amps have much less effect on the sound than headphones.  That is, there's much more difference between headphone models than between the electronics components these days.  There's not much justification to get something in the $150-300 range or higher, unless you've already got a high-end headphone to your liking and are going about chasing the last bit of performance you can get.  Actually, there are other last bits of performance to chase first, but that's a topic for another day maybe.
     
    uDAC-2 has a couple of issues like channel imbalance at low levels—worse than many models, but dependent on the sample you get—and issues with handling peaks in the music up to 0 dBFS, which a lot of modern recordings get to.
     
    Just get the FiiO E10.  Or whatever strikes your fancy and your budget.
     
  5. skyline315
    Audinst HUD-mx1.  Solid DAC with a competent headphone out and the price is right ($179).
     
  6. Currawong Contributor
    I'll throw in the Audioquest Dragonfly and Audio-gd NFB-16 as great units within your budget. The former is the size of a USB thumb drive and the latter is more a battery or USB-powered transportable unit. Both have great sound.
     
  7. djaiss
    Thanks so much for all your replies.
     
  8. ArmAndHammer
    Quote:
    I don't know...when I had just headphones out of my computer, Beyerdynamic DT770/80 Pros, the sound was ok. I added an amp and the sound changed some for the better, but when I added a DAC, the sound improved GREATLY. Of course that could be and probably is because my source was pretty crappy to start since it was just the integrated sound from the mother board of my computer, not an actually upgraded sound card. 
     
    So, IMO, depending on your music player, a DAC can certainly make a very large difference. Now how much difference DACs in the different prices ranges make, I do not know. I am currently using a Keces DA-151 that I bought a couple years ago and I am perfectly happy with it. It was a $200+ DAC at the time and there is also the DA-131 which is a nicer DAC that can decode 24-bit/192kHz vs the DA-151 at 24-bit/48kHz.
     
  9. icecap
    If you trust Chinese-made products (well, how few things in the world nowadays are not Made in China? [​IMG]), maybe you can consider XiangSheng DAC-01A.. it only garners a few mentions here in the past I think..
     
    if you managed to get an agent to help you ship back from taobao.com, surely that is within you budget: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a1z10.1.11.2.4ec530&id=2480001131 (of course you might need a translation to the site if you cannot understand Chinese)
     
    USB input is only limited to 48Khz, while both digital and analog SPDIF inputs support the full spectrum from 44.1 to 192.. you can use it as an amp with the headphone out.. I use it as a DAC/Pre in between my USB-SPDIF and my tiny tube amp right now though..
     
    I changed the opamp inside from the default OPA 2604 to AD627-biased-modded to sound clearer in the higher frequency for my cans.. the tube 6N3 is upgradeable too (although not many choices to make it worthy enough other than 5670) if you outputting the lineout to a dedicated headphone amp.. the tube line out gives it more warmth, something I don't need as my tiny tube amp can provide that.. so I am outputting from the opamp out..
     
    I have no other DAC to compare too, so I cannot vouch for much, although to me right now I am quite impressed with what I am hearing.. I have no background in electrical engineering either, but swapping tubes and opamps without hiccups so far, I am happy.. [​IMG] after upgrading the cables to connect them, is really surprising to me how far this DAC has come and where it can still go in other areas of modifications....
     
  10. lugnut

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