NuForce uDAC5 Mobile DAC/Amp Review
The Optoma Nuforce uDAC5 is an excellent little DAC/Amp that cannot be beaten in size or sound for the price. It is a solid unit with a slightly smooth sound that is sure to please.
- None for the price
Aesthetics, Build Quality and Accessories
The Nuforce uDAC5 is a tiny little thing, that looks great with a clean metal housing and good sized volume knob. The casing is all metal with a LED light on the front indicating it is on, along with the volume knob and headphone socket, inputs and outputs on the back and that is it.
Built quality is excellent, with the all metal case and solid sockets this little thing is built to survive. The volume pot moves smoothly and everthing feels well put together, the finish of the case is impeccable.
Accessories are not really included, all you get is the DAC, USB cable and quick start guide. I would have like to have seen some rubber feet included, maybe a pair of RCA cables too. But most people already have interconnects so not a huge issue.
Ease of use and Features
The uDAC5 is simple and easy to use, with the latest Windows 10 update, it is plug and play with no need to install drivers. Otherwise the drivers are available from the Nuforce website, I had no issues getting the DAC to work and it just started playing music instantly.
The RCA outputs are controlled by the volume pot, and not a fixed line out. This means you can use this with active monitors, but if you are going into an external amp set the volume to 100%.
It can also be used to convert USB signal to a coaxial for use with an external DAC that has no USB input.
First off I will say the headphone output has fairly high gain and can drive the Beyerdynamic DT990 600 Ohm with ease, it also worked well with less sensitive IEM’s but won’t be the best match with very sensitive IEM’s unless you lower the volume in windows.
Out of the headphone output the uDAC5 has excellent sound throughout the range, it is not bright and clinical yet still brings out the detail in music. It is a big step up from on board audio out of a PC/Laptop, the sound is sightly warm and euphoric with good separation. I do find the internal amp to be fine for casual listening with easy to drive headphones, but you will notice a difference when going to a full size desktop amp with harder to drive headphones.
Everything is well placed in the mix, the lows hit hard and dig deep, vocals have a sweetness to them that is quite pleasing and highs have good definition and extension, lacking only the micro detail and air that higher end equipment offers.
As a pure DAC the uDAC5 is clean and clear without any real flaws, it works really well in any system providing a big step up from on-board audio. I feel there is still a slight smoothness to the overall sound which does get rid of any potential harshness but can slightly hide some micro detail.
For the price the Nuforce uDAC5 is an excellent piece of kit, it would be perfect for a coffee shop setup, or a small office rig, it is also perfect as a DAC for active desktop monitors and to feed an external amp at home.
It is not for driving really demanding headphones to their full potential, it is for casual listening and getting better sound out of a PC on a budget, and for this purpose it is a no brainer.