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Old 23rd January 2010, 03:55 PM   #1
EC8010 is offline EC8010  United Kingdom
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Default Recommend a portable USB DAC?

When I'm travelling, I have a pair of Stax SRM-001 electrostatic in-ear headphones which I drive from the line output of my Sony D777 portable CD player. It sounds fairly reasonable, although the Stax sound much better from a proper source. However, the main bugbear is having to carry lots of CDs. It would be more convenient to play .wav files from my notebook - a 16GB USB stick could hold 20-30 CDs. But the onboard audio quality of a notebook is rubbish, so can anyone recommend a decent USB DAC that is ideally powered from the USB interface or its own battery? I don't need a headphone output or volume control, just line output.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 03:58 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by EC8010 View Post
When I'm travelling, I have a pair of Stax SRM-001 electrostatic in-ear headphones which I drive from the line output of my Sony D777 portable CD player. It sounds fairly reasonable, although the Stax sound much better from a proper source. However, the main bugbear is having to carry lots of CDs. It would be more convenient to play .wav files from my notebook - a 16GB USB stick could hold 20-30 CDs. But the onboard audio quality of a notebook is rubbish, so can anyone recommend a decent USB DAC that is ideally powered from the USB interface or its own battery? I don't need a headphone output or volume control, just line output.
Like so: Pacific Valve & Electric Company Pacific Valve Musiland Monitor 01 US ?

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Old 23rd January 2010, 04:06 PM   #3
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If you have a PCMCIA slot, have a look at Echo Digital Audio Corporation
It was recommended to me in this thread and the guy who bought is seems very pleased.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 04:25 PM   #4
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OK, so two possibilities I hadn't found in my trawls. The PCMCIA slot gadget looks ideal in terms of portability (but what does it sound like?), but even the Pacific Valve would be tolerable. I'll keep searching...
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Old 23rd January 2010, 04:41 PM   #5
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Hard to tell how it sounds, I’ve never compared it to anything else but :
The creators implemented 24/96 which indicates that they seemed to care about quality.
It must be pretty bug free, the guy that makes extensive use of it has no idea how PC’s work and he never ever called me to fix a non-working soundcard.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 05:07 PM   #6
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Putting 24/96 on an product is hardly a sign of quality. Any 30 euro/dollar DVD player has it on it, and even 5 euro/dollar PCI soundcards... I guess, this thing comming from Echo audio counts for a lot more

Even if it were a good product: PCMCIA is dying. You can't plug this in a normal PC (without extra hardware), and jamming lots of stuff in a very small package means that it will not be possible to use larger, often higher quality products. This does not mean that this is not a great product, but you should think about that.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 05:16 PM   #7
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They have smaller, too.
Echo Digital Audio Corporation
Note that I'm not affiliated in any way with echoaudio.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 06:13 PM   #8
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Please:
Echo Digital Audio Corporation
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Old 23rd January 2010, 06:28 PM   #9
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Hi!

I had a Echo Indigo I/O and I still own a Echo Indigo DJ pcmcia soundcard (the older ones, for pcmcia type II slot). For a really portable solution I think this is a very convincing card! The sound quality is really great for such a small piece of audio gear. Compared to an external high end dac it lacks a bit of naturalness and sweetness. But never the less the sound is fast, punchy, dynamic and precise over the whole frequency range, with great detail resolution.

If you buy the DJ version you get two analouge outputs, one variable and one fixed, suitable for headphones or for directly feeding an amp.
If you buy the I/O you get one variable output and one input for recording purposes.

The reliability is excellent, and the drivers are carefully programmed and updated frequently. It also supports asio natively!

Regards!
Martin
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Old 23rd January 2010, 07:16 PM   #10
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It looks as though the arguments about PCMCIA size and likely audio quality may be academic because the manual for my Advent 4211-B says the slot is a card reader, and doesn't mention PCMCIA. Looks like an external brick may be the answer.
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