USB DAC recommendation


2008-04-15 11:30 am
As per title, I'm looking for a USB DAC for use with a netbook running Ubuntu. Could anyone recommend a device please? I was considering the Cambridge DacMagic at around £220, but would consider a kit-based or DIY DAC. An S/PDIF and/or optical interface would be useful (for another PC) although not essential.

Thanks in advance.

My suggestion is purely out of self-interest; AMB u1. I like the small size and seeming full features and would love someone to give one a test run.


Well, if you mean the Gamma 1 (aka y1) , it works fine with Linux. I have a Gamma2, which uses the inputs of the Gamma 1 (s/pdif and USB) and it works great (Gamma 2 is a modular add-on to Gamma 1)
I recently picked up a Hlly DMK II Dac-Preamp on eBay for $294 shipping included. Has USB, Coax & Optical ins plus analog, does up to 96K/24 & a remote for source selection/volume/balance. This lets you handle a wide range of digital sources and vinyl with an outboard phono preamp. I'm very pleased with the sound & convenience of this compact unit.:cool:
Very happy with a cheap "Muse" brand Chinese e-bay unit. Clearly better than my high end Rotel. I do want to build a better power supply for it. Not USP powered though. Small enough you could build a battery pack. Cambright and PS are well received, but one would have to convince me they actually sound better, or if the bucks were better spent on cans or more music.


2010-12-25 9:37 am
Well, give the Magic a chance.. it will not be disappointing. I compared it with an Fidelity M1. For me the Magic sounds a lot better. Also with a Bel Canto, and the Bel was a little bit more fluid. But considering price/performance, the DacMagic is a outstanding piece of equipment. Give also the ps audio DL3 a look. At the moment a nice offer for this from PS. Look at the site for more info.
you might want to look into the ackolabs AKD-22S, or AKD-26 hiface OEM based hirez async USB dacs

both appear to be exceptional value for money, I havent used these as they are new products from acko, but I have the ackodac and love it. the AKD-22S is a hiface module with integrated ESS dac ES9022 and i2s connection to the dac module. digital volume control and onboard low noise regs. the AKD-26 is based on the higher grade ES9016 chip, which is the little brother to the highly acclaimed 9018 and 9012. the 9022 has voltage out for direct connection via line driver, the 9016 based module has low noise IV and buffer stage.

will be as simple as supplying a transformer and unregulated power supply for either as everything else is onboard.


2008-04-15 11:30 am
I've finally made a decision and bought an Arcam rDAC after considering many alternatives. This product is plug & play with Ubuntu Linux and has resulted in a decent media server, running xbmc on a net-top PC.

The sound quality is quite comparable to that of the Marantz CD6003 CD player (according to my ears) using a FLAC file format for comparison, so I am quite happy for the moment!

Thank you everyone for all your suggestions and advice.

A £300 DAC that is comparable to a £230 CDP? Blimey.

Risking raining on your parade, and spoiling your fun... A £300 diy dac in a well implemented PC based system should be comparable to a £3000+ cd player.

The Buffalo II from Twisted Pear can be built for this price, including a power supply, output stage, USB reciever. If you also added a MUX reciever then you could switch inputs and use it for your cd player as well. The ES9018 chip is thought to be the best by far (if well implimented).

Check out the "Diskless Circle" over on . They are nuts for PC based servers. They are even modding computers to make them quieter. They are pretty cofident that a modded dac and a modded Mac Mini ($2000 total) will better any cd player at any price. This is probably true as the info is buffered bit-perfect, rather than played "live".

Check out Vortexbox too.
I too just bought an Arcam rDAC based on my dealer/friend's recommendation. My first DAC, so no comparisons.

After 72 hr., the (free) Tara Lab 200 cable sounded only slightly better than the TOSLINK; will re-test later. 'Puter probs at the moment, so my music server is not up. USB results then.

After 1 week, the lower bass of my Conway IIa's has increased volume & provides a solid backdrop (esp. with organ & drums). Notably, there was exceptional detail in mid/upper bass that I'd never noticed before in the material.

The high-end seemed tighter & not as "bright". The mid-range seemed more restrained. This also applied to female voices of which I prefer more fullness. Am concerned with "soundstage". It's not quite right, so I'll have to move speakers around.

Hopefully, as the unit continues to break in, improvements will extend up the frequency range & also to soundstage.

A better coax would prob help, but why bother. The USB is gonna do the heavy lifting.

I'm already starting research on a new power unit & mods.

Humbled to be in such fine company..............Ed, a newbie