Audioengine D1 DAC Review
Audioengine D1 DAC Review. We’re going to check out the D1 digital-to-analog converter, or DAC, from Audioengine. They claim the DAC will improve the sound of my music, so let’s find out if that’s true. First let’s start with a quick disclaimer, I’m no audio expert, I’m just an average guy that wants some good sounding music, so hopefully I don’t make too many audiophiles mad. With that in mind let’s continue.
Inside the box there’s some product information, a setup guide, a USB type A to type B cable, the DAC itself, and a microfiber bag containing a 3.5mm cable. I was pretty disappointed with the included USB cable, it’s just 60cm or 2 feet long, which is nowhere near long enough for me to plug the DAC into my computer under my desk. Luckily I had a spare longer cable, so I’ve just been using that.
The DAC is 3.5” by 4” by 1”, so it’s fairly small. Overall I think it looks great, the aluminium build keeps it lightweight and the materials have a premium feeling, the unit feels quite solid. On the front of the DAC we’ve got the volume knob, which turns very smoothly and feels nice, as well as the power button which lights up to indicate that the DAC is on. Finally there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, you can plug headphones straight into the DAC, which is also a headphone amplifier, which will mute any speakers if you’ve got any plugged into it.
The headphone jack was one of the main reasons I was interested in this DAC, I like being able to just plug into it on my desk rather than having to go under the desk to my PC. On the back there are two analog outputs for right and left channels, an optional SPDIF optical input which I haven’t been able to test, and the USB type B input which both powers the DAC from your computer and is used for data transfer.
The bottom has some small rubber feet, although I didn’t really find them to help much, the DAC still moves around very easily on my desk when I go to turn the volume knob or plugin a cable. The DAC is completely plug and play which was nice, you just plug it into either a PC or Mac via USB and it just works. Essentially the DAC converts the digital signal from your computer into analog signal which our ears can hear.
By having an external DAC like this, in theory it’s not subject to as much interference as the built in one within the PC would be, and is supposedly higher quality, which should improve the audio quality, and that’s what you’re paying for – higher quality than the in built options. I’ve got the RCA outputs connected to my Audioengine 5+ speakers and they sound great, I’ll be doing a post on those in the future so keep an eye out! I admit I haven’t got any other external DACs to test this against, it’s my first one.
Essentially I chose it because I already planned on buying Audioengine speakers so figured I’d get the DAC to go along with them, that and I wanted something directly on my desk to plug my headphones directly into. In terms of sound quality, my ears probably aren’t refined enough to notice the difference between the output on my Blue Yeti microphone which is what I was using before the D1 DAC.
Personally I found it difficult to determine a difference between the two, keeping in mind that the yeti is essentially acting as a USB DAC too. With some careful listening I was able to determine that sounds were slightly clearer with the D1. If I plug my headphones directly into my computer the sounds from the external DAC is noticeably better to me. Take all of this with a huge grain of salt though, each person has different ears and will notice different things. What sounds good to me might sound terrible to you, and I’m not talking about my taste in music.
Something I did notice was that when I had the DAC on maximum volume I could hear a bit of background noise, it was faint but definitely noticeable. To avoid that I just leave the DAC around half volume then adjust the volume on the computer instead which I found worked better for me. Here are the rest of the tech specs. The DAC supports up to 192kHz sample rates through the optical SPDIF input and 96kHz with USB, unfortunately I don’t have optical outputs to test with, oh well, I probably wouldn’t be able to notice the difference.
If you do plan on using it, keep in mind the DAC doesn’t come with a cable for it. After a while of use the unit only got a little warm to the touch, no issues there. I got the D1 DAC for $250 AUD, which is about $180 USD, however I’ve seen it for as little as $129 USD on Amazon, I’ve left a link in the post description if you’re interested. So the question is, is it worth it for that price? Honestly probably not, but I’d say it depends.
As I was going to spend significantly more in speakers and a subwoofer I wanted something that I felt would be adequate for these expensive purchases. With that said, it is a great little unit and I think the price is fair compared to other DACs that I’ve seen for sale, overall I think it sounds great. Technically Audioengine were right, the DAC did improve the sound of my music.
Listening to music is so subjective though, which seems to be why Audioengine provide a 30 day audition period with the D1 DAC, where you can listen to the D1 for 30 days and return it if you decide that you don’t like it if you buy directly from their store, I think that’s a pretty good way of letting you try it out for yourself and determine if it’s worth it. Keep in mind that Audioengine suggest using the DAC for 40-50 hours to break it in before doing any critical listening.
So what did you guys think of the D1 DAC by Audioengine? Overall I think it’s pretty decent, the quality is nice, it sounds great, however it is a little pricey and hard for me to say that it’s worth it as I’ve not yet tested any other DACs with a similar price to compare against. Other than that, it would have been nice to get a longer USB cable included. Be sure to let me know your thoughts down in the comments, and leave a share on the post if you found it useful. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to bookmark for future tech posts like this one.