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Optoma NuForce uDAC-3 DAC/amp review

NuForce uDAC-3 DAC/headphone amp

£75
8.3

Build quality

8.0/10

Design

8.0/10

Ease of use

8.5/10

Performance

8.5/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • Small
  • Light
  • No nonsense set up
  • Improvement to computer audio
  • Price

Cons

  • Shows up poor quality audio
  • Could make you buy better headphones

nudac-3 HEM4 Yoga 2 ProIt’s too easy to be tempted by shiny, expensive gear. But, what if you were looking for a DAC/Amp for under £100? Well, the NuForce uDAC-3 has the right price tag.

When you start getting in to the world of audio, some of the prices can be daunting.

The thing is, you don’t necessarily have to spend big to get a decent sound. Still, there is always the old “you get what you pay for mantra” too.

I have had some bits from Optoma NuForce recently – some IEMs and a projector, to be precise. Both of these seemed to punch above their asking price, but will the uDAC-3 do the same?

The Optoma NuForce uDAC-3 is an A-synchronous, 24-bit, 96 kHz, Digital to Audio Converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier. Basically, you run your digital music through this from your computer and it should sound better when it reaches your ears.

NuForce uDAC-3 design

The uDAC-3 is compact. Very compact.

nudac 3 frontMeasuring a mere 68 x 38 x 21 mm (WxDxH) you could pop it in your pocket or bag and take it to work quite easily. Tipping the scales at 90g also means you would hardly notice the extra weight.

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The version I have to review has a silver-coloured body and black fascia. It is also available in red or entirely in black.

At the rear of the uDAC-3 you have RCA and Coax outputs and the USB input for data and power.

nudac-3 rearThe outputs get gold-plated connections as well. Which is nice.

On the front, you have a large knob, so to speak. As you would expect, this controls the volume.

Next to the knob is the a 3.5mm headphone jack.

There is also a status LED. With that, I reckon I’ve covered everything about the externals. There really isn’t much else to say other than it appears well put together. Believe me, when devices get passed between journalists, you know if the kit has been built to last.

NuForce uDAC-3 performance

Set up

To use the NuForce uDAC-3 you simply connect it to your computer’s USB port.

Once the USB cable is plugged in, Windows whirred away and installed everything I needed. If this doesn’t happen automagically, just grab the driver.

Dive in to your output menu and make sure that 96kHz is set as the default output. Now you’re golden.

Sound quality

nudac-3 topI have separate DACs in my main and computer system. I even take a portable DAC/amp for listening on the move in the form of the Oppo HA-2.

They are all there because the little audio chips that live in your PC, laptop, table or phone are generally just OK. Sure, they’ll do for most people who want to hear some music. The thing is, listening to music is a different thing altogether.

So, does the little uDAC-3 improve the music coming out of my tech?

This is where I generally say that I was surprised by just how well the little thing performed. The only problem is, my expectations had been raised by the NuForce HEM 4 IEMs.

Thankfully, the little DAC didn’t let the side down.

Streaming services

nudac-3 HEM4 Yoga 2 ProKicking things off with Tidal and the uDAC-3 already was providing better clarity and a deeper, richer bass.

Heading over to enjoy some Boris Blank and, compared with just shoving my headphones direct in to my laptop, there was plenty more detail and separation.

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ also sounded much clearer with the uDAC-3 working its magic.

NAS

I have a fair amount of FLAC, as well as the now deceased format known as MP3 (RIP) on my network attached storage.

Low bit rate rips are handled very unceremoniously. So, when selected your tracks please be very selective. Any lack in fidelity will be shown the glaring light of day thanks to the uDAC-3.

On the other hand, however, your lossless tunes will be unveiled as the beauties they are.

It’s in the can(s)

Switching between the open-backed Oppo PM-1, to the closed PM-3, the sound through the headphone amp was delicious.

This is the little DAC that could. Everything is treated evenly and with balance. As should be expected, the HEM 4 were equally well catered for.

The volume was smooth and I didn’t experience any extraneous noises or distortion when altering the levels.

NuForce uDAC-3 review conclusion

It certainly looks like Optoma NuForce have done it again.

They have managed to produce something that is available at an extremely reasonable price that performs as well, if not better, than other devices at a much higher price-point.

The uDAC-3 is light and small, which makes it extremely portable. Even more-so as it is powered by USB – no need to charge it or find a power socket.

Its friendly plug-and-play nature makes it very simple to set-up. This is a blessing if you intend on taking it with you and use it on different machines.

If you are considering taking the plunge and adding a DAC to your digital audio system, or simply looking to add one to your computer-based set-up, the NuForce uDAC-3 is certainly worth checking out for the money.

NuForce uDAC-3 price and availability

You can buy the uDAC-3 now from the amazing price of £75 from Amazon.

Scan even has it up for £70 at the moment.

Optoma NuForce uDAC-3 DAC/amp review

by Jay Garrett time to read: 4 min
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