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HeadRoom Micro DAC

Discontinued
MSRP $319.00
This product is no longer available for purchase.

The Information Age brings easy electronic access to worldwide streams of audio, but those streams do not always emphasize beautiful sound. For music lovers demanding dynamics, detail and clarity, the Micro DAC delivers vastly improved acoustic performance from computers or other digital-out audio devices. Featuring top Cirrus Logic digital-to-analog converter (DAC) internals hot-rodded with our own secret HeadRoom sauce, the Micro DAC smoothly processes digital audio signals for a deeply accurate, liquid sound you've never heard from your PC or MAC. Use Micro DAC with HeadRoom Micro Amp. Made in Montana USA!

HeadRoom Micro DAC accepts input from three types of digital sources: USB from any computer; mini-sized 1/8" [3.5mm] co-axial or Tos-Link Optical S/PDIF digital input.

Reviewed by LA Audio File, May 2010



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Product Features:

  • Produces high-fidelity audio from digital sources -- a great computer USB DAC!
  • Stacks securely & neatly on the Micro Amp; a perfect pairing!
  • Accepts ALL valid digital Optical and digital Coaxial S/PDIF formats and rates; accepts USB up to 16/48kHz
  • Features 'Mini' B-type digital USB input
  • 100% engineered, designed & built in Montana USA

What's In The Box:

  • 1 'Brick' Power Supply

Applications:

Today's audiophile and music lover lives surrounded by gadgets filled with 0s and 1s, but getting them converted into an audio signal that sounds beautifully detailed and musical can be a feat. Not any more! Plunk down a HeadRoom Micro DAC next to any digital audio source, whether it's a computer, that inexpensive portable DVD player or the SqueezeBox in the bedroom, and listen to beautiful-sounding numbers fly by. Want to make your laptop or PC feed into your home stereo? Simply use a mini-to-RCA interconnect cable to send the Micro DAC's line-level output to any unused RCA input on your stereo receiver or pre-amp -- BAM! Your computer music now pumps cleanly and effortlessly through your entire home theatre or audio system speakers. Partner the Micro DAC with HeadRoom Micro Amp and enjoy a little 'Micro Stack' of audiophile headphone sweetness tucked into any nook on your desk, workstation or nightstand. And if you're looking for some serious 0's and 1's audiophile magic, please check our flagship reference HeadRoom Ultra Desktop Balanced DAC [aka 'UDAC'] with ESS Sabre 9018 upsampling topology.

How it Works

The Micro DAC is simplicity itself to use: just plug in your computer to the USB input, and/or other digital sources to the optical and coaxial S/PDIF inputs; select the desired source using the front panel switch and -- voila'! -- a carefully decoded and lusciously clear analog signal appears on the rear panel line-out. From there you can take that line-out and plug it into another headphone amp, pre-amp, or integrated amp. Keep in mind the HeadRoom Micro DAC is a 'stand-alone' (non-amplified) device and MUST be connected into a dedicated headphone amp stage for final amplification to your best audiophile headphones.

Electronics

Cirrus Logic engineers may scratch their collective head if they saw their flagship DAC squeezed into the tiny HeadRoom Micro DAC. The CS4398 is the best performing DAC chip in the CL line-up with numbers like 120dB dynamic range and -107dB THD+Noise. And the 4398 is not alone in there: the Micro DAC also contains fully independent power supply regulators for all analog and digital sections. Digital decoding is handled by a dedicated CS8416 digital receiver chip before passing numbers off to the DAC itself. A TI PCM2902 handles the computer USB-to-S/PDIF conversion before sending the numbers to the DAC (the analog outputs of the 2902 aren't up to the task for our sweet Micro DAC!). The isochronous data sent via USB interface is then converted to S/PDIF signal by the 2902. S/PDIF routs to a digital receiver which converts signals to separate reclocking and data interpolation stages. The clock/data signals are then finally sent into the CS4398. Local decoupling with ultra-low ESR polyphenylene-sulfide film capacitors is provided at each active analog stage; resistors are low-drift, low-noise, 0.1% metal film parts throughout. A HeadRoom multi-layer circuit board holds it all together while keeping the signal paths isolated... Boy, hard to believe we fit all that in there! The Micro DAC USB input handles up to 16 bit/48kHz. Optical and co-axial SPDIF connection support up to 24bit/192kHz.

For a photo of the HeadRoom Micro DAC circuit board and more information about the electronics take a look at our DAC Features page linked here.

NOTE: iPod / iPhone do not have digital output. A headphone jack remains 'analog' out, so a DAC will not recognize that connection. You'll need a DIGITAL optical, coaxial, or computer USB output for Micro DAC. Apple iPad has digital output available with use of the Apple Camera Kit adapter!

Accessories

A standard 120-volt AC power-supply 'brick' is included with the Micro DAC. International customers can select a 220-vac power supply for international or overseas voltages for a $50 upcharge. Also, a nicely upgraded 'international-use' (all voltages) Astrodyne Power Supply is optionally available for audiophiles wanting to fully maximize the sonic performance of the Micro DAC. 

To utilize a standard digital coaxial cable with the mini 1/8" [3.5mm] digital coaxial input on the Micro DAC, please add this RCA Mini coax adapter to your order.

*The Micro DAC does NOT include any interconnect cabling. If using the optical digital input, you will need an optical cable. If using coaxial digital input, you'll need a 75 Ohm coax interconnect cable found here. (To utilize your standard coaxial cable with the mini 1/8" [3.5mm] coax input on the Micro DAC, please add this RCA coax mini plug adapter to your order.) To connect Micro DAC to the HeadRoom Micro Amp, you will need a 'mini-to-mini' audio cable. We recommend the superb ALO Audio mini interconnect cables. For additional cables and lengths, please browse all of our stocked cables.

The HeadRoom Micro DAC is lovingly hand-built by HeadRoom technicians in Montana, USA to painstaking perfection. The free 2-year Micro DAC warranty is serviced exclusively at HeadRoom in Bozeman Montana.

Reviews At A Glance
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Average Rating 
(Showing 3 of 13 reviews)



Subtlety and sophistication
Posted by Bloody Gus from Kosd, Hungary on 2013-02-03

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Clarity and detail
Cons: needs a brief settling-in time

Two months ago I bought a Micro Amp to partner a Fiio E17, intending to follow up with the DAC at a later date (v. my review "European Experience.") Although the two worked well together, I got the hankering feeling I could make it even better with the full stack, so I sent for the DAC earlier than originally intended. First listening was disappointing: it sounded woolly and blurred, not only no improvement, but worse than what I already had. I was distinctly disappointed and unimpressed, thinking I had wasted my money. Glad to say that after a brief while (just a day) it settled down and the full benefits came through. Much more clarity, definition and detail, generally more subtle, I am quite awed by its sophistication. It has added a whole new dimension to my listening. Unlike most of the dudes on this website, I don't have a whole stable of headphones, just Etymotic ER-PT/S and ATH M50's. The qualities of both were much enhanced, but particularly the M50's, which I had thought over-rated before.
The design is on the ancient side insofar as modern technological development goes, and there may be more up-to-date integrated DAC/Amp combos that don't need a couple of house-bricks to run the power supplies, but I strongly doubt that they could beat this quality at anywhere near the price.


2 out of 2 people found this review helpful. Did you?


WOW, what a combo
Posted by MXM from Newark, Delaware on 2012-03-13

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: very accurate, detailed sound
Cons: very revealing of the limitations of compressed music

I just upgraded from the Total Bithead to the Micro AMP/Micro DAC combination. I use them to drive Etymotic ER4PT headphones and some Acoustic Energy Aego M powered speakers from my computer's USB port. I listen mostly to music ripped to Apple lossless files. I can say I never was that impressed with the difference the Total Bithead made to the sound. I think it is more important for those with harder to drive headphones. However, this combo absolutely blew me away. I could not believe the improvement in all aspects of the sound. These are phenomenal components. In particular, there is much more detail and texture at all frequencies. The bass is lower and tighter and the highs are much more detailed. The midrange is a little forward but it grabs you with all the detail and texture. Ambiance, imaging and dimensionality are all improved. It is possible to hear the music as spatial layers that were compressed before. Finally, the music has wonderful rhythm and pace. It is hard not to tap your toes. Very analog in this respect but with way more detail and neutrality. I was very surprised that these also made my relatively inexpensive speakers sound dramatically better as well. WOW all the way around. I will warn you that the combination of the Etymotic ER4PT's and this AMP/DAC is very revealing of every musical nuance but also every flaw. I can tell the instant one of my 128 kbps MP3 files comes on and it is not pleasant. This combo really reveals the limitations of compressed music. To really see what these components can do, you need to listen to high resolution files or perhaps use less revealing headphones that are more forgiving. For example, the difference is not as obvious on my speakers as it is on the Etymotics. However, on high resolution files of well recorded music, the Etymotic/Headrom combination is glorious.


5 out of 7 people found this review helpful. Did you?


Excellent addition to my headphone setup
Posted by Elnrik from Denver, CO on 2012-02-27

Recommend Product: Yes
Pros: Adds detail and clarity I didn't expect to get
Cons: None so far!

I just purchased the HR Micro DAC and connected it via TOSlink and I'm noticing little things I couldn't quite pick up before, and the music seems so much more... hard to describe it... it sounds more full, detailed and natural. Teamed it with Senn HD650's and the Micro Amp. Now I'm on the hunt for higher bit rate/sample rate sources - the better stuff I find, the better these things sound! (Go figure, huh?) Connecting my iPhone to the setup really reveals how crappy compressed audio is, even from purchased tracks at higher bit rates. Needless to say, I'm pleased as could be with the entire setup.


3 out of 4 people found this review helpful. Did you?


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