USB DAC recommendations

britain4

Well-known member
Sep 25, 2013
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I’m currently using the system in my signature. CDs and vinyl are all sounding lovely through it but I now need a solution for a USB DAC.

The CD player is a heavily modified Marantz CD63 KI - if you’ve ever heard a fettled one you’ll know how good these can sound. Currently, I use an Audioquest Dragonfly Red and Jitterbug. Playing FLACs from my laptop sounds flat as a pancake next to the CD player.

Does anyone have any recommendations for particularly good value USB DACs including modded options? whatever it is it’ll probably be getting some work done to it either way :D
 

anort3

Moderator
Dec 8, 2019
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The Aune S8 Magic DAC, X1S ( also a headphone amplifier ) Topping E30 and D50S, Geshelli Labs ENOG 2 Pro and SMSL SU 8 V2 are all standouts that aren't crazily expensive.

 

anort3

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Dec 8, 2019
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It's fairly new but the reviews have all been excellent. Let me know if you get one. I'm looking at tube headphone amps and I was thinking about getting one myself.
 

abacus

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Sep 24, 2008
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Better off getting a proper computer audio interface rather than using a Hi-Fi one, currently the Motu M series https://motu.com/en-us/products/m-series/ is getting some cracking reviews, (It’s a pretty new product) plus you won’t need to modify the hardware in any way as it comes with software that allows you to get it sounding exactly as you want.

Bill
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
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Better off getting a proper computer audio interface rather than using a Hi-Fi one, currently the Motu M series https://motu.com/en-us/products/m-series/ is getting some cracking reviews, (It’s a pretty new product) plus you won’t need to modify the hardware in any way as it comes with software that allows you to get it sounding exactly as you want.

Bill
I like the look of the M2 Bill, only £151 from Bax the other day with one of their 5% discounts - albeit with a 25 week wait!....can see why it's popular.
 

djh1697

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2008
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The MARCH USB DAC is excellent, can play most PCM resolutions, and DSD64, it is one of the best kept secrets. It will knock you for ten! I have my PC with Tidal/Roon on it, they all work seamlessly together!
 

abacus

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Sep 24, 2008
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Behringer UCA 202. Cheap and as good as any, but zero hifi snob value and best hidden away.
Great for the money, (And would suit most normal HI-Fi) but he is looking for an improvement over a standard set up so it is worth paying the extra (Motu etc.) for lower distortion, lower noise, greater dynamic range and a more complete software package.

Bill
 

TrevC

Well-known member
Jun 12, 2013
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Great for the money, (And would suit most normal HI-Fi) but he is looking for an improvement over a standard set up so it is worth paying the extra (Motu etc.) for lower distortion, lower noise, greater dynamic range and a more complete software package.

Bill
I doubt anyone can hear the difference.

 

abacus

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Sep 24, 2008
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I doubt anyone can hear the difference.

It depends how you use it, but in the pro world it can make a big difference when you are mixing and mastering, also you can make better use of the supplied (Or purchased) software to get the sound that you want. (There is a reason that pro studio equipment is expensive, and that’s because it does make a difference and so does the various entry level pro audio interfaces)
If you want the best selling go for Focusrite as they are also top value for money, but getting a bit long in the tooth now.

Bill
 

Hawkmoon

Well-known member
Feb 19, 2020
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I’m currently using the system in my signature. CDs and vinyl are all sounding lovely through it but I now need a solution for a USB DAC.

The CD player is a heavily modified Marantz CD63 KI - if you’ve ever heard a fettled one you’ll know how good these can sound. Currently, I use an Audioquest Dragonfly Red and Jitterbug. Playing FLACs from my laptop sounds flat as a pancake next to the CD player.

Does anyone have any recommendations for particularly good value USB DACs including modded options? whatever it is it’ll probably be getting some work done to it either way :D
Interesting that you find the Dragonfly Red a boring listen - I'm enjoying it a lot with my Windows laptop and Tidal - but then I listen on Grado SR80e headphones that are known to be bright and emphasise the treble.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
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Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
663
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5,270
The MARCH USB DAC is excellent, can play most PCM resolutions, and DSD64, it is one of the best kept secrets. It will knock you for ten! I have my PC with Tidal/Roon on it, they all work seamlessly together!
As you no doubt know, the March is based around the Khadas Toneboard.
I've just ordered one - no fancy case like yours though!
 

britain4

Well-known member
Sep 25, 2013
40
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I’d not considered solutions like the Motu- that is an excellent suggestion and will take a close look at it. Will also take a look at the Khadas/March as I’m definitely into my DIY at the moment (lots of lockdown projects going on!)

Interesting that you find the Dragonfly Red a boring listen - I'm enjoying it a lot with my Windows laptop and Tidal - but then I listen on Grado SR80e headphones that are known to be bright and emphasise the treble.
I actually use my Dragonfly Red with my SR80is as well and it’s really superb there (modified ones of course) I’ve recently put some Nhoord drivers in which are more neutral and the Dragonfly has been superb before and after the swap. Will be keeping it around for headphone duties.

It’s interesting it doesn’t seem to work nearly as well feeding my amp and speakers, couldn’t really say why that is.
 

12th Monkey

Well-known member
Aug 31, 2015
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The CD player is a heavily modified Marantz CD63 KI - if you’ve ever heard a fettled one you’ll know how good these can sound.

Does anyone have any recommendations for particularly good value USB DACs including modded options? whatever it is it’ll probably be getting some work done to it either way :D
Slightly off topic, but what areas have you modified?
 

britain4

Well-known member
Sep 25, 2013
40
2
10,545
Slightly off topic, but what areas have you modified?
Probably easier listing what hasn't been modified on it :laughing: it's got 2 clocks with their own transformers, full recap/upgrade, with big smoothing caps, all signal path caps/resistors, low noise regs+extra ones on all the ICs, opamps, unnecessary circuitry removed, loads of other little component/layout changes besides.

Perhaps I'm asking too much of the Dragonfly.. but would be nice to have a USB source to compete with it!
 

britain4

Well-known member
Sep 25, 2013
40
2
10,545
You ever think about buying stuff that doesn't need modification? Or do you just like modifying stuff ?
It’s not about sound quality, that’s for sure. :)
I don’t think any of my gear has ever “needed” it, it’s all well regarded stuff on its own, it’s just another hobby tweaking it as well as listening to it.

There is the bonus that the price/performance ratio goes through the roof once you start getting into modding stuff, compared to spending the same money on something else new/used :D
 

marekslc

Member
Jun 23, 2020
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I suggest you take a look on Scarlett 2i2 gen 3 by Focusrite. It's DAC and ADC, max resolution is 24bit/192kHz, average price is $159.00 and parameters are better than many DACs with price tag > $1000.00
I bought this unit to convert some vinyl LPs to FLAC.
I have the Scarlett connected to tape loop in my McIntosh preamp, in most cases I use 24bit/48kHz.
In my opinion >48kHz is pointless, good LP has only 60 - 70 dB dynamic range, 48kHz will work up to 24kHz
per channel, it's more than human ear can hear. 24 bit depth will give up to 144 dB dynamic.
Most of CDs on the market are 16bit / 44.1 kHz...

You can download information about the Scarlett from
 
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