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NuForce µDAC 3 d/a-converter

As always I evaluate the device under test in three sets. Normally I would have started listening to the µDAC 3 on Set 3, given its price. But due to circumstances I now started with Set 2. 

 I expected to hear the normal artifacts you hear when you connect a low cost d/a-converter to a higher quality set: some sharpness in the highs, sibilance control lacking, deep end lacking, limited stereo image and so on. But not in this case. Now, read carefully: I’m not saying that the µDAC 3 performs on par with d/a-converters in this class, but it certainly performs better than could be expected given its price. The point is that within that budget you do get limitations and artifacts. In this case they are hidden extremely well. The designer must have been very skilled, very lucky or even both. Openness is limited and especially the range between 100 and 200 Hz was muffled, compared to Set 2 level products. It results in a slightly warm, pleasant sound you could listen to all day without fatigue. Switching to a Set 2 level d/a-converter gives you deeper insight in what develops musically, which is more fascinating but it will come at a six to tenfold price. On set 3 these artifacts were absolutely inaudible which makes the µDAC 3 a very good converter in this set. Even in Set 1 the µDAC 3 remained very pleasant to listen to. Although the limitations became obvious immediately, they were in no way irritating. No harsh highs, nasal mids or limited lows. The subwoofer in Set 1 is set to only reproduce from 35 Hz down to where it ends (16 Hz according to REL) and was addressed properly by the µDAC 3. I know far more expensive d/a-converters that perform less.

 

To conclude

 

It’s not so long ago that a decent sounding d/a-converter would set you back a grant. The µDAC 3 cost 85% less and might sound better than many € 1.000 d/a-converters of, say, a decade ago. The µDAC 3 sets you back € 149, that’s even less than the VAT (European sales tax) over a grant!!. Find yourself a cheap laptop, buy a µDAC 3, install a software player like Foobar 2000, follow the instructions that can be found on the NuForce site, rip your cd’s and be surprised about the quality! Yes, I know, use a headless Mac Mini, replace the harddisk for an SSD, buy a copy of Audirvana and a d/a-converter and you get real high end audio. But that’s not the point here. Amazon offers sub € 200 laptops, so you could be playing for under € 350 at a level you could have been dreaming about a decade ago. This is the first of a number of small, affordable d/a-converters and it impressed me heavily. 

 

To the video review-> 

Price: € 149

Manufacturer: NuForce 


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