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DAC - DAC comparison January 2013
(January 2013)


I continue the quest to find a resonable priced DAC, and believe me, it is difficult ! In addition to the musical performance, I need a high quality USB input (meaning most of the time, an asynchronous DAC), and if possible a high quality headphone output. Since I own the NuForce HDP, I desperately look for a serious competitor, or even a better device, in the same price range. I face a lot of difficulties to find one, and I regret that the HiFi golden age is behing us...

The American or British magazines make the buzz on a few DACs that seem to beat most of the other products. So we have decided to review, or more exactly to listen to these DAC and to compare them with the NuForce HDP using an A/B approach with the same headphone (our reference Sony MCD-3000). These DACs are the: TEAC UD-H01, the CAMBRIDGE Audio DAC Magic Plus and the AUDIOLAB M-DAC.

The last two ones, the CAMBRIDGE DAC Magic Plus and the AUDIOLAB M-DAC have received a lot of awards from the British magazines, meaning that they are supposed to reach the best musical performance.

As previously, we still use the same dematerialized system setup in order to have the same permanent base for comparing the devices. Here it is:


Brand Bits DAC chip
Teac 32 Burr Brown 1795
Cambridge Audio 24 Dual Wolfson WM-8740
NuForce 24 ???
Audiolab 32 ESS Sabre 9018

As you see, NuForce does not communicate on the chip they use, officialy because they do not want the customer to be influenced by the chip reference...


Front view:

Rear view:

CAMBRIDGE Audio DAC Magic Plus:

Front view:
Rear view:
NuForce HDP:
Rear view:




Brand Connectors Manufacturing Price (€)
Teac 2 3 399
Cambridge Audio 3 4 549
NuForce 1 1 449
Audiolab 4 2 799


Because we use to read many magazines explaining that they have discovered « the best DAC in its price range », even that the «Reference DAC » of the previous month (...), we are always very cautious when we listen to a product that has got an award, particularly if we suspect the magazine to give its award too easily...

So I began to listen to my best records, 24bits WVM on my NuForce HDP that I perfectly know. Then I have listen to the same records on the reviewed DAC(s). And the results were surprising...

IV-1Teac UD-H01.
To be honest, it was not satisfactory at all... Of course, there was some musical performance, but no rythm, no beauty, no magic... It was borrowing, and I quickly decided to switch to another DAC: the Cambridge.

IV-2.The Cambridge DAC Magic Plus.
Well, this is not the same story ! Much better !
The Cambridge is very dynamic, with a full bodied bass. It is able to follow the music accelerations easily and is not borrowing. There is some meat around the bones... The question is : is it better than the NuForce HDP ?
It is effectively better in the bass, but unfortunately, the voices are not as beautiful as on the NuForce HDP (too much acidity). The link between the different sounds is in the average, no more. The sense of rythm is equivalent to the NuForce, but globaly the NuForce offers a more beautiful presentation of the music and seems globaly a bit better.
IV-3.The Audiolab M-DAC.
It is the most expensive of all, but also the one that has got the best reviews in the British magazines. Since the first minute of listening, I thought : « OK, this is the right one ! », but after 5 mn of continuous listening, something was disturbing me... This Audiolab is a bit too clear in its sonic presentation, its sens of rythm is in the average (no more), and even if the music is beautiful through it, it is never extraordinary beautiful.
I have stopped the listening session during a few hours, and I restart in order to confirm (or not) my first feeling. And unfortunately, it has been confirmed.

Once again we have to conclude than the NuForce HDP will not be beat by these competitors, even if some of them are 2,5 times more expensive...Its musical performance is probably the result of a serious engineering and optimization, and we remind you that this is kept secret to the people and reviewers.

NuForce HDP
(taking its price in consideration)

DAC Magic Plus


TEAC UD-H01 TL_2.jpg

This review has been written by Florent - January 2013.

Creation date : 19/01/2013 @ 18:28
Last update : 12/01/2016 @ 19:17
Category : DAC
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Reactions to this article

Reaction #2 

by provence13 05/01/2014 @ 12:08

Pour connecter un Mac Pro soit une sortie USB directement vers un DAC en USB et ça marche mais uniquement à la perfection avec Audirvana comme logiciel surtout pas Itune très "mauvais"
Dans votre cas c'est différent car le Sonic Frontiers est seulement en SPDIF. IL faut donc trouver un convertisseur Firewire ou USB vers SPDIF. Il en existe plein à plusieurs tarifs.
Le Weiss INT202 est le meilleur (Firewire) mais un peu cher ensuite le Halide Bridge (USB) et enfin m2Tech Evo (USB). Enfin un bon cable RCA entre le DAC Sonic et le convertisseur.
Le gain en musicalité sur le DAC Sonic Frontiers peut être moyen ou pas, il faut faire un essai et acheter ou se faire prêter le convertisseur.

Reaction #1 

by nag74 03/01/2014 @ 14:24

bonjour, je cherche à améliorer la qualité de son entre mon mac book pro et ma chaine rega brio + rega ela. Je possède un convertisseur sonic frontièrs sfd1 mk2 . Comment l'incorporer et y a t'il un intérêt merci.
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