Optoma Nuforce µDAC5 Mobile DAC Review
Optoma may be recognized in the technology world primarily for their work on great projectors like the HD25-LV and HD27, but did you know they’ve got a department filled with audiophiles too?
Determined to offer the perfect combination of both high quality audio and sound for your complete home theater experience, the company’s latest mobile Nuforce µDAC5 mobile DAC is a pocket-sized powerhouse that delivers rich, boisterous sound on the go.
So is there anything not to like about this cramped amp? Read on in my Optoma Nuforce µDAC5 Mobile DAC review to find out!
Price: $199 on Amazon
Model #: µDAC5
Summary: The Optoma µDAC5 delivers incredible sound out of a super-small chassis directly into your headphones, but probably isn’t beefy enough to power a pair of speakers any bigger than that.
What We Liked
- Great sound in over-the-ear and earbud tests
- Super portable design
- Simple to setup and use
What We Didn’t
- Sound wasn’t great on larger speakers.
Optoma Nuforce µDAC5 Pro Specs
|Highest Resolution Format||DSD256ESS, 384Khz|
|Outputs||1 Coaxial, 1 L/R, 1 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Total Harmonic Distortion||0.01%|
|Output Impedance||RCA 100ohm, Headphone 4.7 Ohm|
|Dimensions||2.67 x 1.77 x 0.82|
Unlike the majority of the other DACs out there which are either meant to stay on your desk or actually live inside the desktop itself, µDAC5 is first and foremost designed to stash inside a small pocket on your backpack, and could even fit in your jeans if you wanted the best possible mobile listening experience.
Its small size limits the number of ports down to just five, which we’ll get into in the next section. Other than that, the silver powder coat and subtle etching of the product’s name on the top accents only a lone volume knob, which doubles as the switch used to turn the unit on and off.
The Optoma uDAC5 is a DSD DAC and external USB-powered headphone amplifier, with the ability to play formats in as high resolution as DSD256ESS.
It features one 3.5mm headphone jack output, one coaxial output, one L/R output pair, and a plug for the USB. At only a little over 2.5″ wide and 1.7″ deep, this is undoubtedly a mobile DAC at heart, especially considering the whole thing only weighs a mere 3.5 ounces altogether.
With the Nuforce µDAC5, you don’t actually need any extra software to get it working. Windows 10 will automatically find the drivers, and from there you only need to plug in your headphones to get off to the races.
If you even want to install it, the NuForce software package that came with our unit isn’t really too much to write home about. It still uses that ancient “Windows XP” theme that so many people hate, and the only real thing you can change is the size of the buffer from your computer to the unit.
This option could be important if you’re running on a slower or older laptop that can’t handle tons of buffering on its own when dealing with high bitrate files, but other than that select scenario, you’re better off leaving everything here alone.
Testing on both a pair of Sennheiser 598 open-backed headphones, Klipsch S6 earbuds, and a closed-back Kingston Cloud II gaming headset, it’s obvious there is a clear upgrade in sound between using a stock audio output and plugging into the µDAC5. Bass sounds deeper and richer, but also more tactful in its restraint as highs and mids both come through with the utmost crispness and clarity.
For our control, we were plugged into the SABRE HiFi audio output on an MSI GT73VR laptop, which is already a supremely impressive DAC on its own. We used this laptop and its specialized audio port as the control because with both devices sharing the SABRE Hyperstream file conversion technology, it would be that much easier to gauge exactly how the external µDAC5 was improving quality through the tests.
Through and through, the µDAC5 beat out the control without breaking a sweat. Whether it was TV, movies, music or games, there was a marked improvement in the sound we heard coming out of the headphones on the laptop, and even our external speakers got a healthy little bass boost when we plugged them in (though this is a headphone DAC first and foremost).
Most of the audio formats we tested would pump out a similar level of increased performance across the board, but where the µDAC5 shone its brightest was when it came to the one that all audiophiles love the most: DXD, audio that plays at a sample rate of 384kHz.
Because this is a DXD-ready DAC, and playing songs which bore the same name in their files was to put it quite simply, a revelation.
That said, because it’s a smaller amp, you’re likely to hear more flaws in the sound if you move to a system as large as a pair of tower speakers, for example. Headphone amps are great on the small stage, but start to show their small size whenever you try and bump things up to room-sized sound.
With an ultra-portable, discreet design and budget price, this is the best pick for anyone who just bought a pair of headphones over the $100 mark and want to be sure their laptop or desktop is holding up its end of the high-end audio bargain.