recommendations for USB DAC's
I'm patiently (i swear!) waiting for my set of Arx A1b's to arrive. I'll be using them in a 2.0 configuration with an AudiSource Amp One/A 160w 2ch amp. My source is a windows 7 PC playing mostly HD tv shows and 720p movie rips; I also have my music collection ripped as 320kbps MP3s. it's been a while since my last pair of decent speakers (DCM TF-600) and i'm very excited to listen to the Arx.
I have an Auzentech HDA X-Plosion 7.1 I used in my last HTPC. It would be a step up over the on-motherboard sound I'm using now, but it's main draw was the realtime DTS encoding for a 5.1 system. Since this setup will be a 2.0 system, I feel I can get an outboard DAC for under $200 that would be better then a similarly priced sound card and much beter then whatever they put on my PC's motherboard.
I started researching and came across USB DAC's like the Audinst HUD-MX1. Does anybody have any experience with inexpensive outboard DAC's and USB ones in particular?
Why must it be USB?
You do realize that even if you use Optical/Coax out via your X-Plosion or even your motherboard (some higher end mobos have this), it is transporting the audio to your DAC. A USB DAC should only be used if you really dont have a means of transporting out via Optical/Coax imo.
I have used a few... ranging from cheap intro Chinese amps like the Zero DAC, the NuForce uDAC, and the Matrix Mini 24/192. Some are more easy to modify if you are into that kind of stuff... like rolling opamps switching caps, etc. There are literally hundreds on the market that more or less advertise the same features. At the end of the day, I just stuck with the Matrix Mini because it has the option to pass audio at line-level (acting strictly as a DAC, and not a Preamp also) to my Integrated Amp...
I'll add that going with a USB DAC that is cheaply made, you can have jitter and other timeclock-related issues that better chipsets don't have. If you're using a Win7 PC and you have more than one processor core, I typically recommend setting processor affinity for all audio devices (soundcard if not on-board and all audio USB devices) on one dedicated core, and leaving video for another core. If you can swing this, I've found that it contributed to audio clarity and the overall stability of the signal.