USB1543 DAC - Review #1

Stewart McLellan of Stewart McLellan Productions:
Records and mixes audio as well as performs critical listening tests for professional audio manufacturers.

  • I think it's definitely an apples and oranges thing, as to which one I like better. From a pro standpoint, I like my Delta card because the sharp transients (snare drum especially) come out a lot clearer. However, those same snare sounds on this DAC are far smoother and more listenable.

  • Distorted guitars sound especially good on this DAC, since the upper mids between, oh say, 6 and 8KHz are much less harsh than on my Delta.

  • This DAC would be a good choice for long listening sessions, because it's very agreeable in the high end. The Delta is more defined in the highs, but this DAC is more enjoyable because it is a little less harsh. Perhaps there's a little electronic compression in the signal path naturally. Hi hat cymbals are particularly better to listen to. (I've used it for listening all week thus far).

  • The bottom end on this DAC is full and warmer than my Delta - the Delta is punchier and more defined, but the bottom from about 100-250HZ is smoother on the DAC. Haven't heard any Hip Hop on it yet. That shite's hard on gear in the bottom.

  • On the Sarah McLaughlin, 'Possession' is a really dense mix, bordering on muddy. It's meant to be undefined. On my card it is fairly clean. This DAC smoothes the breathiness of the voice, but the background ride cymbal gets a little buried. It pumps along with whatever compressor they used in the studio, but it's noticeable. The keyboard pads are about the same on each - thick, dense and somewhat undefined.

  • Overall, I'm not finding it particularly colored or hyped - good quality all around. The main thing is the upper mids are not harsh - very musical.

  • My stock AC97 card sounds like crap by comparison - it's very noisy.

  • I also have a USB audio card (M-Audio Quattro). I think there's a distinct advantage to having the support of AC power on the board rather than a wall wart and 9 volts.(Quattro). The quattro will do two outs at 24 bit 96KHz. Haven't tested that one yet, but it's likley similar to the insides of the Delta.