USB DAC budget recommendations please!

Discussion in 'PCs & Music Servers' started by KentTeffeteller, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Gimpus Stereophilus!

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    Hi to all AK and the PC audio and server brain trust. I have a Lenovo ThinkPad T410 i which is a great laptop, but needs a better DAC partner for music playback, the on board sound is not quite to taste. What is the best USB DAC I can buy for less than $100. I am interested in your thoughts, opinions, and perspectives. Many thanks to all here.
     

     

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  2. Alobar

    Alobar Pulling out of the Last Chance Texaco.. Subscriber

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    Being sort of a Schiit head, I have to at least put the Modi in the hopper here for consideration. I have the original modi as well as the much more expensive modi multi bit and while the MB does have a certain depth that the original didn't, the regular modi is a very good sounding dac for the money. One thing about my original however that I didn't care for is the lack of its own power supply. I believe a good bit of RF can come across from the computer supply USB power. I would maybe get a powered USB hub to go with any USB powered dac. Better still get a self-powered USB made for audio that had filters particularly if it is warranted (some USB may be clean enough). Schiit makes the Wyrd which worked well with the original Modi.
     
  3. PAGS

    PAGS AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'm happy with my SMSL Sanskrit 6. $108 on Amazon.
     
  4. E.Auer

    E.Auer Super Member

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  5. EngineerNate

    EngineerNate AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I just bought one of these based on this review:

    https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds/budget-dac-review-behringer-umc204hd.1658/

    I'm in general a fan of the pro-audio type interfaces. I run an audient ID14 on my primary machine.

    The various incarnations of the AudioQuest dragonfly are also quite nice and are pretty easy to find on the used market for cheap. I paid $50 for my Dragonfly Black from a Head-Fi'er.
     
  6. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Gimpus Stereophilus!

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    Thanks. A nice idea of where to begin.
     

     

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  7. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

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  8. americannigh

    americannigh Active Member

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    For my music server setup (PLEX) I am using a Galaxy Tablet running Plex Android and a Jolida Glass FX DAC mini. The DAC mini is out of production but could be found used for under $100 if you look on Audiogon, etc. The later models also had a headphone jack on them in addition to an RCA output. Mine does not have that feature but a friend's does and I can see how that would be useful for the laptop application here. I find it a good sounding DAC but in all transparency I haven't done a lot of DAC listening comparisons. I just know it sounds good to me, especially compared to the tablet's internal DAC. Here is a link to a review of the model I'm referring to. Although I like it, this reviewer found it so-so and so it may not be for everyone's taste. I will say I like the simplicity of it. It has a .8V output which could be a bad thing for some applications but is a very good thing for my application which is cabling to classic 60s and 70s receivers which typically don't do well with more modern, hotter, 2V line outs, etc. Also with it being easy to drive, the Tablet battery will last for days of listening before charge. It is advised to unplug the tablet from the DAC when not in use so it doesn't drain the battery. Review here:

    https://www.techradar.com/reviews/a...sories/jolida-glass-fx-mini-dac-674040/review
     
  9. Wildcat

    Wildcat Audio Sommelier

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    USB only? The Topping D10 would fit the bill, and it's $90. The D30 is a slight upgrade and is only slightly over your budget ($120)--it adds the optical and coax digital inputs. There are a couple of Topping threads in the forum--seems many members here really like these!
     
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  10. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

  11. RTally

    RTally AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    It is important to note that the above tests were done with two different data streams. One stream was computer USB to DAC. The other stream was computer USB to S/PDIF to DAC. His test results include the effects of an additional device. The test results would have been more valid if the computer supported optical S/PDIF natively, along with USB and if he had tested multiple S/PDIF sources (either different S/PDIF devices or computers with optical outputs).

    Regardless, his conclusion that "none of these measurements indicate any audible difference" indicates it really does not matter.
     
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  12. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Others have shown that If you use SPDIF, it will consistently be noisier than USB, period. You have to deal with the background illumination of the laser for SPDIF and that is partly where the higher background is from. Also the phase problems with SPDIF is something that also makes music sound meh.
     
  13. mprince

    mprince AK Subscriber Subscriber

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  14. winters860

    winters860 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'm pretty pleased with the Pro-Ject DAC Box S USB, which is a 24/96 DAC with USB, optical, and coaxial inputs. Power comes from a switching wall wart.

    While retail is over twice what you've got to play with, this DAC should be available used within your price point, especially since the launch of the Pro-Ject Box S+
    line. I paid $125 for mine new in box.

    Taking a broader view, yesterday's $225 new DACs are today's sub-$100 used DACs. Since I haven't chugged the the hi-res Kool-Aid yet, and I really don't give a damn about the difference between two inaudible noise floors, I have no trouble taking a gamble on an aging piece of digital technology with no moving parts. There's DACs from the early '00s that would put me in good stead, as long as I keep my Musical Fidelity V-Link USB-to-S/PDIF handy.
     
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  15. Ol' Ken

    Ol' Ken Super Member

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    Dragonfly Black. I use one in my basement rig to great effect. Laptop/Dragonfly to NAD C325BEE to speakers or Senns HD598 from either the NAD or directly from the Dragonfly. The reviews available have got it right. One of the best purchases I have made in a long time. Does MQA too....
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
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  16. +48V

    +48V hi-fi or die

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    :beerchug:
    each their own
     

     

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  17. NeedForSpeed

    NeedForSpeed Hands Off The Stereo Subscriber

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  18. GSS61

    GSS61 Super Member

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    The new Topping D10 USB DAC can be purchased for about $90 shipped on ebay and AliExpress - handles up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM and native DSD up to DSD256. USB powered (no wall wart).

    http://www.tpdz.net/en/products/d10/index.htm

    I got one last week and it sounds great... I like the display, too - it automatically dims to a soft amber glow after the file starts playing. Huge value for the money.

    d10-en-02.jpg Topping D10 back.jpg
     
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  19. Wildcat

    Wildcat Audio Sommelier

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    I'm not sure what @KentTeffeteller is using the DAC for, but having RCA jacks is certainly preferable to a 3.5mm jack if connecting it into an audio system. Likewise, using a DAC for headphone use only, the Dragonfly Black makes a lot more sense. Plus I would be concerned about an impedance mismatch using a headphone-based DAC into an audio system, plus additional noise being added by the headphone amplifier. (That is why I won't use my Dragonfly in my audio systems, but it has proven fantastic for planar headphone use. :) ) Just my two cents worth, and you know how much that'll buy in today's world...
     
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  20. KentTeffeteller

    KentTeffeteller Gimpus Stereophilus!

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    In my case, the RCA jacks are necessary (as well as full line output) due to this being a playback application (Lenovo ThinkPad T 410 being used occasionally as a music server). I want to run that line output into my main system as a source for playing off that machine. And I am considering installing Rivendell Radio Automation on this box for that job.
     
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