Audioengine D1 DAC/AMP review

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by Godmachine, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Godmachine

    Godmachine [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,511
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2003
    Here is a bit of info on the product first for those who don't know anything about it (a link as well : http://audioengineusa.com/Store/Audioengine-D1#overview) :

    Specs :

    DAC Chip : AKM4396

    USB controller : TI1020B (able to process up to 96/24-bit)

    SNR : >110db

    Power source : USB 5V (meaning bus powered and they do offer an optional AC adapter if you require it)

    Full-scale output : 2.0V RMS (RCA and Headphone)

    Output impedance : 47 ohms RCA, 10-300 ohms headphone impedance (this is excellent for a vast array of growing low impedance cans out there). It won't run any 600 Ohm monsters but you should really be looking at a beefier solution for those kinds of can's anyway , such as a dedicated headphone amp.

    Input data rate : up to 192KS/s (optical), 96KS/s (USB) (tested both and they are 100 percent functional without errors or static popping).

    Now for some sexy pics :

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Very sleek and low profile which I personally enjoy. Solid construction as well , doesn't feel like a small brick of cheap ass plastic. All in all very minimal and well designed. The white LED button in the front (power on and off button in reality) is also not overly bright.

    Now onto the sound , this DAC/AMP solution is mostly aimed at being portable. Its also designed to sound great and let me tell you , it does this quite well. It excels at high end detail , I'm noticing cues in music that I often find harder to hear (if at all) on lower end DAC's and without any required critical listening on my part to observe. For me this is a make or break feature for a DAC , if it can't pick out detail than that's a deal breaker (unless its dirt ass cheap) and really if you plan to invest in a higher end pair of headphones you should want all the detail that can be revealed without costing an arm and a leg.

    I find the sound from this DAC quite effortless and all ranges of sound are well represented without any lacking points that I can find for a DAC in this price range. Overall high marks for Audioengine for its implementation. Genre's the D1 excels at : Classical , anything Acoustic and Rock/Electro.

    It uses "adaptive mode" USB instead of asynchronous. In reality these two features ultimately are very hard to distinguish apart from one another in anything other than response. I've used both technologies and I find them both indistinguishable in reality. Some people "claim" they hear a difference but I find this is another audiophile "snake oil" ideal. So latency is not an issue.

    The headphone amp is also quite surprising. I was able to achieve very satisfying results with my HD650's (well known for being "fussy" and very "picky" with headphone amps) and this all being done via power from my USB bus , impressive feat. My Denon D2000's are also well powered and sound amazing from this DAC/AMP. The D2000's are extremely efficient so more often than not headphone amping does little to benefit it , yet I did notice a subtle but present difference that will make my D1 the go to solution for my D2000's from this point on.

    Comparing the D1 to other DAC/AMP's that I own (The Fiio E7 , E9 and ASUS ST) I would rate the D1 as the most natural sounding and at times with certain genre's of music even besting the ST. The D1 is an easy recommendation coming from the E7 , both are excellent DAC's but the detail revealing ability of the D1 makes it a superior choice (however the E7 strikes back with its ability to be independent of a power source thanks to battery operation so its not an easy comparison). The D1's headphone amp is better at handling lower impedance headphones than the E9 but it is unable to compete with the E9's ability to power higher end impedance cans by a long shot. If you own a pair of 600 Ohm cans , this is not the solution for you. The ST provides tough competition to the D1 with a stronger on-board headphone amp but the ST falls short when it comes to properly powering low impedance headphones , so the D1 has a slight edge here.

    The D1 also has the advantage of being an external solution not enslaved to a PCI bus so it has a wider array external options and the advantage of being portable. But the ST has the advantage with its huge list of Swiss knife features and options.

    I tested the D1 through my Xbox 360's optical output and found it to be quite decent. Gears of War sounded as gritty and bloody as it properly should.

    I don't have my speakers currently setup so I can not give any kind of results of their performance in that kind of environment. Considering Audioengine makes some pretty kick ass monitors I would imagine its quite good.

    If you are looking for a DAC/AMP solution that is portable , bus powered and sounds phenomenal than this is it. At $169 on Amazon , this is a great DAC and I don't really see any path to an upgrade without at least doubling if not tripling your budget for a dedicated DAC with a different chip entirely.

    If you are looking for a long term all in one solution that offers a "plug in and go" style interface that works effortlessly across platforms (PC/MAC) than this is the DAC/AMP you've been waiting for. I'm keeping this baby :cool:
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  2. 450

    450 Pick your own.....you deserve it.

    Messages:
    21,271
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    I'd love to see this compared to the EMU line of cards and external devices.
     
  3. Impulse

    Impulse [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,262
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2001
    Nice review, thanks. I'd seen their desktop amp before but didn't notice they'd also come out with a DAC. Audioengine continues to put out solid no-fuss solutions at attractive prices... I might have to weigh this as an option against the Xonar STX I was planning to buy when I upgrade my headphones, price is nearly the same... Didn't see you comment on this, do the RCA outs automatically mute with headphones plugged in or what?
     
  4. Godmachine

    Godmachine [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,511
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2003
    Thank you :) If I had more DAC's to compare it to I would gladly comment but right now I just don't. I'm going to probably be buying the ODAC whenever that's released and down the line perhaps something higher end. I'll update my review overtime to reflect that.

    Yes they do automatically mute. Pretty important feature and I'm glad Audioengine didn't skip over it in the design phase.

    If you plan to use the STX for gaming purposes (Dolby Headphone) then I would give it the edge for overall usage and quality. But if you just want to listen to music and movies then I would give the D1 the edge.

    I'm pretty impressed with Audioengine's designs in general , the D2 wireless DAC is also really interesting. I haven't read a lot of reviews on it. It also features a wireless USB-to-SPDIF converter which is bar none a pretty damn good feature if you need it. The price point is where I would probably opt for a different dedicated setup ($599 for the total package).

    Little blip on the D2's wireless ability :

    Can be paired with up to 3 receivers , nice.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  5. sn0man

    sn0man Gawd

    Messages:
    609
    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2007
    So how would the D1 compare to something like the X-Fi Titanium HD for:

    MUSIC ONLY usage, connected to active studio monitors.


    I've currently got the HD and M-Audio CX8's, and I'm looking towards external DACs as an upgrade.

    I don't do any production, just listening. I can connect via USB or optical, whichever is best. Looking to spend under $300, but really just looking for the best bang-for-the-buck upgrade from what I have now.
     
  6. jacqg

    jacqg Gawd

    Messages:
    864
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2009
    I wish this was truly portable though, battery powered and all, like the e17/e7. Otherwise, it makes a good laptop DAC.

    But I've heard a lot of good things about this product and I wanted it initially. Now I'm currently set on getting the E17 as I've seen a few comparison reviews that said the E17 is a bit more superior than this.

    Thanks for the review though, OP. I wanted to see a comparison between this and the E7 that I'm gonna get next week.

    sn0wman, I think the D1 would be your best choice, the E17 is like out of stock everywhere and everyone's jacking up the prices.

    Scratch out what I said, I just read that it also has a headphone amp lol oops.
     
  7. Q1DM6

    Q1DM6 Gawd

    Messages:
    713
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2012
    Currently considering the audioengine n22 amp. Have any experience with it?

    edit: naw, decided to stay with the Topping TP41
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2012
  8. viralcow

    viralcow Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    312
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    How does this compare to the e10? Considering it's almost 1/2 the price...
     
  9. EPOQ

    EPOQ [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,073
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    I'm less interested in headphone audio and moreso high end speakers. I'm curious as to how this would compare to another small DAC like the Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100 (which retails for around $369).
     
  10. Godmachine

    Godmachine [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,511
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2003
    I've spent some time with the F10 and hated the static that occurred whenever I changed the volume pot knob. I also like optical over Coax since I have more gear that is optical only. Sound wise the D1 sounds cleaner but that of course is subjective. However the E10 has a pretty weak headphone amp , you can't push anything big with it. The D1 can actually push my HD650's to nice levels without any distortion which is a big bonus. The Fiio E9 , E11 and E17 are all have better headphone amps than the E10.

    My review is just how it sounded to "me" so its from my point of view. However your results will differ.

    Again , DAC's are subjective as I stated above. If you spend $369 for a DACMagic than you've pissed money down the drain. DAC's are often overpriced and there is a lot of bullshit audiophile nonsense attached to them. If you spend hundreds on a DAC you are spending 99 percent of it on a pretty case with cute switches and inputs and 1 percent on the actual cost of the chip which is the entire point. If brushed aluminum makes you happy then hey , its your money. Go for it. But don't think that its any better than a much cheaper DAC sound wise.

    I would never pay more than what I did for the D1 , for a DAC. I would HIGHLY recommend waiting for the ODAC to release and seeing how it pans out.
     
  11. Q1DM6

    Q1DM6 Gawd

    Messages:
    713
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2012
    I've seen ODAC this and ODAC that lately and have no idea what the deal is...so whats the deal? I'm honestly pretty enamored of this music streamer, I can't see myself getting another dac soon, but was wondering anyway.
     
  12. EPOQ

    EPOQ [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,073
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    I am waiting on a review of this, yes. An ODAC with an enclosure is $150. If it's good at that price, great. I don't think you could just say a DACMagic at $369 is a total wash and waste of money, seeing as it has more input selection. I'm sure it costs more to add stuff like toslink and spdif, as well L/R analog inputs. Is it overpriced? Probably, most DAC's are. But it's not as simple as just flushing your money down the toilet.
     
  13. Godmachine

    Godmachine [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,511
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2003
    The DAC Magic 100 offers a few more inputs and 192/24 audio through Async USB. You can't even tell the difference between 192/24 and 96/24. You would never be able to prove in a blind test that you could even as there so much information packed in 96/24 that the human ear does not detect. So short of offering 192/24 USB 2.0 Async support and some extra inputs what exactly makes it worth $369? Nothing.

    There are tons of fancy "Audiophile" terminology being thrown around with little actual understanding. Async and Adaptive for instance , people seem to think Async is better yet they can't tell the difference. There isn't one test proving that Async USB is better sounding or performing. So they pay more for it because everyone else did. Its the same bullshit over "Super enhanced Oxygen free silver lined" cable bullshit in reality that people buy into. I know people that have spend hundreds on recabling and spent months convincing themselves of the difference. Sad really.

    But if you spend extra money on a DAC because it supports 192/24 Async then you are flushing that extra money down the toilet. Hell do the ABX test in Foobar with a 48/24 .FLAC and a 96/24 .FLAC and tell me the results , I bet you would be surprised.

    If you wanna know about the ODAC and NwAvGuy then check out this link : http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/

    Read as much as you are willing. He makes awfully good points and while he lacks a serious amount of social tact and there is always "some" bias involved , he manages to bring to light how bent the audiophile industry is.

    Just because something is more expensive doesn't mean its automatically "better". The audiophile industry is exploiting this entirely. If your into headphones than buy more headphones and stop wasting money on more expensive DAC's and Amp's. If your into speakers than buy more speakers and enjoy the gear you have unless you have some kind of "Functional" reasoning for upgrading.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2012
  14. Q1DM6

    Q1DM6 Gawd

    Messages:
    713
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2012
    Dude this is a computer site, sometimes its just fun to upgrade. heh.
     
  15. Impulse

    Impulse [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,262
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2001
    I'd like to think that as serious enthusiasts we'd all like to get our money's worth with any upgrade tho, that's part of why we OC stuff and why we discuss upgrades at all. Otherwise I'd just convert my entire ecosystem to Apple gear and just upgrade to the current year's model regardless of what's changed, specs be damned. :p

    What Godmachine says doesn't fly in the face of upgrading for the hell of it either, he's just saying if you're gonna upgrade you should generally focus on your headphones and speakers as it's gonna provide a far more tangible effect (up to a point).

    It's no different than suggesting someone upgrade a SSD or GPU rather than say, going from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge.

    Looking forward to a future comparison between Audioengine's DAC & the ODAC...
     
  16. Godmachine

    Godmachine [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,511
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2003
    Thank you and yes you've summed that up nicely. Everyone is welcome to do whatever they wish with their money. If you want to spend hundreds or thousands on DAC's or Amp's than go right for it. Post your thoughts , your tweaks , your love or your hate about it. That's why these forum exist , as a center to converge collective thought and to encourage the enthusiast life style.

    I guess I spend a lot of time injecting my personal opinion on matters such as this but I just don't want to see anyone with buyers remorse and or get taken advantage of. We all know how that feels and it sucks plain and simple.

    I'm pumped for the ODAC and I'm VERY curious how it will fair against the D1. Its about $20 more than the D1 so I'm hoping there is a difference.
     
  17. lundrog

    lundrog [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,234
    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2001
    I am looking to game with a pair of UltraFocus 8000 Active Noise Canceling Headphones, thoughts on this vs other Headphone Amp's?
     
  18. FinalAura

    FinalAura [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,123
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2008
    Thanks for the review. I currently use a udac v1 with krk rp8 monitors, and occasionally with audio technica ath m50 headphones. I'm wondering if these would be a nice upgrade for my monitors.
     
  19. Godmachine

    Godmachine [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,511
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2003
    I'm still loving my D1 and can't recommend it enough. Its a great all in one package for almost any application.

    And your welcome on the review :)
     
  20. Godmachine

    Godmachine [H]ardForum Junkie

    Messages:
    10,511
    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2003
    Well just my impressions pretty much. For an all around package the D1 is hard to beat at the price point as they even power my Sennheiser HD650's (which are well known for being power hungry beasts) pretty damn well. I really don't have any complaints with it at all , I've taken it over to more than a few friends homes and let them demo it and even made some believers on the spot. Sound is of course user subjective so I can only give you my personal impression which may differ from yours. I recommend buying the D1 on Amazon so you can return it if you don't feel satisfied (but I think you will be).

    The 8000's should sound very nice through the D1 but the 8000's are not hard to power at 32 Ohms.
     
  21. Tj-Max

    Tj-Max n00bie

    Messages:
    17
    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2007
    Does this DAC have a way to display what sampe rate is being used?
    Also does it auto detect the sample rate or do you have to pre-select it in windows?
     
  22. TroyX

    TroyX [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,464
    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    does anyone know if D1 can be connected to the dedicated sound card using Optical?
     
  23. Andyk5

    Andyk5 [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,144
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    I want to listen to this thing through my Audioengine A5's. I am very pleased with the speakers even with onboard/$15 audio card and i want to see what this external dac can do
     
  24. raptorxrx

    raptorxrx Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    382
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2012
    This thing is tempting. Now to find my wallet... :p
     
  25. TroyX

    TroyX [H]ard|Gawd

    Messages:
    1,464
    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    i read that Nuforce Dac's are better than these.
     
  26. kdu

    kdu Limp Gawd

    Messages:
    265
    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2005
    I've been sparking interest in possibly replacing my current setup. I'm using a Creative X-fi Titanium HD > Fiio E9 > HD600 + M-Audio BX5a speakers.

    Honestly, I don't play games all that much so a decent 2.0 setup is really all I need. Is going from a titanium hd/e9 setup to a dedicated dac/amp going to be worth it? I was about to pull the trigger on the Schiit Magni/Modi combo but then I realized the amp doesn't have a second output for my speakers.

    Some input on these Audioengines would be great, I've been looking at the Yulong U100, Nuforce uDac Icon HD, and the Audio-gd NFB series.

    Thanks