HeadRoom Micro DAC
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
- 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
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.
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!
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.
*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.
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
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?
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
5 out of 7 people found this review helpful. Did you?
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!
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful. Did you?